The Hero of Three Faces is a gag-a-day style webcomic by Paul Gadzikowski (Arthur, King of Time and Space). It mostly consists of one-off jokes featuring characters from film and TV series, with occasional Call Backs to earlier strips and even more occasional brief story arcs.
There are many crossovers, justified on the principle that All Stories Are Real Somewhere. The Doctor, whose TARDIS can travel to alternate universes, gets the lion's share of the crossovers and is usually the one expositing about the underlying mechanic. A recurring feature of the mechanic, and the basis of some of the jokes, is that TV shows and films don't always reflect precisely what "really" happened, due to being consciously or unconsciously influenced by budget restrictions, Executive Meddling, Moral Guardians, and copyright issues. (For example, all the episodes of Lois & Clark featuring a certain British time traveller are "really" somewhat-inaccurate reflections of the Doctor's visits to that universe.)
The webcomic's title, apart from being a nod to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, refers to the comic's minimalist art style that renders all the characters as triangles with faces, arms and feet.
It can be found here.
This webcomic provides examples of:
- Anachronic Order: The strips are posted in the order in which gags for various properties occur. There is also a chronological archive; however, Paul's crossover rules are based on date of broadcast/release/publication, so events in the chronological archive will be in anachronic order if the original properties were. (For example, the Fourth Doctor crosses over with Luke, Leia and Han ... and the Eighth Doctor crosses over with Annakin and Padme, which is earlier in Star Wars time but later in "outside" time.)
- Art Evolution: In earlier strips the characters' heads are the top third of the triangle; in later ones it's the top half. There was an experiment with giving some characters round heads that never quite worked and was abandoned.
- All Stories Are Real Somewhere
- Call-Forward: In a strip set immediately after the first episode of season two of Star Trek: Discovery (and unfortunately immediately contradicted by the second episode), Burnham explains to Captain Pike that Spock has been tracking the Red Angel. Pike says he wouldn't expect Spock to abandon his duty for a personal mission.
- Comically Missing the Point: Danny Pink suggests that if the management want to showcase a character who has many of the Doctor's qualities but isn't a white male, they should ask Guinan. The Doctor replies "Brilliant idea, Danny! Guinan will know just what to do!"
- Composite Character: The Monk and the War Chief are previous incarnations of the Master. Lee from "Fugitive of the Judoon" is the kid who pushed the Timeless Child off the cliff in "The Timeless Children", and is strongly hinted to also be the Master, subjected to the same mindwipe as the Doctor.
- Crossover Relatives:
- Hermione Granger says she has an aunt who's a vicar, and has no idea about the Wizarding World. The final panel reveals this to be the Rev Geraldine Granger.
- In another strip, the Doctor claims that in fiction planes where M*A*S*H and Supernatural both happened, Sam and Dean are related to Major Charles Winchester, but the Same Surname Means Related is a coincidence, since the relationship is through their mother.
- Cure for Cancer: Played for laughs. Kirk, discussing a piece of Forgotten Phlebotinum that appeared only in the first season of Star Trek: The Animated Series and never in subsequent series, says that the reason it didn't catch on was that it turned out to give people who used it cancer; the punchline is that in Kirk's time cancer can be cured with a simple (but mildly annoying) series of injections.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Invoked - the Doctor can't use the TARDIS to rescue the crew of the Destiny or the USS Voyager or the SS Minnow because the laws of dramatic necessity prevent it.
- Fix Fic: Several strips are based on "what should have happened", usually just a single line or scene, or adding things that don't affect the continuity (like a character isn't really dead but is still believed to be so), but one one occasion a complete rewrite of the end of Sleepy Hollow.
- Frame Break:
Angel: (waving a hand outside the panel) Hey! Fourth-wall-breaking material always goes outside regular panel borders!Wesley: No. That could have telegraphed the gag.
- In one strip, Giles tells the Scoobies they need to think outside the box, and Buffy takes him literally, producing a thought bubble that floats outside the frame of the panel.
- It's not uncommon for characters to step outside the comic strip frame to comment on themselves as fictional characters, the shows they appear in, etc.
- Lampshaded in one Angel strip which appears to be in-continuity until the punchline.
- Fully Absorbed Finale: This strip is the finale of Arthur, King of Time and Space, expanding on the single-panel summary that had been all Gadzikowski had been able to include in Arthur King of Time and Space itself.
- Funny Background Event: A talky strip will often have a sight gag playing out in the background, such as in this strip, where Giles and a friend discuss Willow's progress in mastering her magic while Willow uses her magic to steal honey from a beehive and suffers the consequences.
- Go Through Me: In one Doctor Who strip, Ace tells an alien villain that he'll have to go through her to get to the (currently unconscious) Doctor. The villain asks what makes her think he won't. She replies that he's misunderstood: it's not that she's counting on him not to try, it's that she's confident he won't succeed.
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: Discussed by Riker, Troi and Picard here.
- Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: Discussed in a strip where the Doctor, Geordi and Data have a conversation about how different fiction planes have different physical laws. Data speculates that if they traveled to the plane where Looney Tunes cartoons happen, they would also be able to do the "unwittingly walking on the thin air" trick; the Doctor takes them to that so they can try it, but insists Data go first.
- Lactose over Liquor: Played with. Superman, in keeping with his squeaky-clean reputation, drinks milk — which his Bizarre Alien Biology metabolizes into alcohol. "After all, lactose and alcohol are just sugar with ideas above its station."
- Lame Pun Reaction: In this strip, the Doctor's terrible pun causes Dr. Banner to Hulk out and chase him.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the strip depicting the Doctor's first meeting with Samantha Stephens of Bewitched, the joke is based on the fact that it's impossible to depict Samantha's trademark nose wiggle in the strip's minimalist art style (no noses).
- Literal Metaphor: In one strip, Kirk and the Doctor are imprisoned in a gray-walled chamber with no apparent exits. The Doctor remarks that there's a silver lining, Kirk says "Finally, some good news", and the Doctor clarifies that there isn't any good news, he was just making an observation about the composition of the walls.
- Meaningful Echo: The strip for the Sleepy Hollow season 1 cliffhanger has word-for-word the same dialogue as the strip for the Angel season 3 cliffhanger, highlighting the similarities between the cliffhangers themselves.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover
- Medium Awareness: When the Doctor explains to Radar O'Reilly that M*A*S*H has a Laugh Track, he's relieved to finally know where that's coming from.
- "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: This strip explains the headstone Gary Mitchell creates in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" reading "James R. Kirk" by saying that whenever Gary is mad at Jim, he says his middle name is "Regulations".
- Mutually Fictional: In-Universe Doctor Who is a TV show to Jim Kirk, but Star Trek: The Original Series is a TV show to the Doctor, and so on.
- Mythology Gag: One strip has Nebula from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Rip Hunter from Legends of Tomorrow in a bar commiserating about having their destinies meddled with by forces beyond their control. Left unspoken is that have another thing in common, being played respectively by Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, who starred together on Doctor Who.
- Never Heard That One Before:
- In a Bewitched strip, Darrin and Samantha are in trouble because another witch has transformed Samantha into a shape with no nose, preventing her from doing the nose-wiggle that activates her magic. On top of which, everybody Darrin asks for help immediately succumbs to the temptation to ask, "No nose? How does she smell?"
- Several strips end with the Author Catch Phrase "Everyone thinks he's the first".
- No Fourth Wall: In the frame-breaking sequences. Also, even within the setting, most of the characters know they're "fictional" somewhere and can comment on that.
- Once More, with Clarity: In this strip it's totally unclear what's causing Guinan's confusion in her conversation with Captain April. This strip shows that her Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory is struggling with the events of Star Trek (2009).
- Pstandard Psychic Pstance: Lampshaded in a strip featuring Professor X. "Why do you always have to put your hand there for telepathy? Is that where the on-switch is?"
- Race Lift: Some "presumed white by default" characters from non-visual media aren't, notably Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Sam Vimes.
- Show Within a Show: Before the Mutually Fictional concept was established, characters were fans of King Arthur in Time and Space and related "imaginary screen canon" from Paul's search-and-replaced fanfic that eventually became the inspiration for Arthur, King of Time and Space. This includes the "strangely familiar" variant, one strip shows the Scoobies watch St Pudentiana the Fairy Bane, the KAITAS Buffy analogy.
- Stealth Pun: In one strip, one of the Doctor's companions asks how Rockaway, New Jersey, came to have its name, prompting a Flash Back to the borough's founder asking a younger Doctor what happened to the interesting rock he'd been planning to use as naming inspiration. The strip ends immediately after that, without explicitly stating that the Doctor had thrown the rock away.
- The Tape Knew You Would Say That: A variation in in this strip, with the Doctor speaking through a communicator with no earpiece, and correctly predicting what the person at the other end will say.