”Breaking the Fourth Wall” Synchronicity

Cidu Bill on Jul 30th 2012

Robert sent these two Sunday strips:


Of course there was also Sunday’s Doonesbury; but Doonesbury’s fourth wall is even flimsier than Sally Forth’s

Filed in Bill Bickel, Doonesbury, Francesco Marciuliano, G.B. Trudeau, Greg Evans, Luann, Sally Forth, comic strips, comics, fourth wall, humor, synchronicity | 30 responses so far

30 Responses to “”Breaking the Fourth Wall” Synchronicity”

  1. yellojkt Jul 30th 2012 at 09:04 am 1

  2. yellojkt Jul 30th 2012 at 09:09 am 2

    Sorry for FUBARed hypertext.

  3. Ooten Aboot Jul 30th 2012 at 09:19 am 3

    Sally Forth is more about time than the fourth wall. As baffling as even Einstein found cosmic time, he might have gone mad trying to develop an equation that would account for comic time.

    For example, I’m old enough to remember a brief period when the Bumstead children Alexander and Cookie aged, albeit not quite in real time, then were abruptly frozen in their late teens where they have remained nearly half a century. Yet in the same comic pages we have Funky Winkerbean’s periodic time jumps whereby time stands still for years until suddenly a decade or so disappears overnight. Juxtaposed with those are the soap strips in which Mary Worth, Rex Morgan, Judge Parker and the octogenarian “girls” in Apartment 3-G can make a day or two last for a calendar quarter.

  4. Ooten Aboot Jul 30th 2012 at 09:21 am 4

    yellojkt clearly wins on succinctness.

  5. John Small Berries Jul 30th 2012 at 09:23 am 5

    I have some of the old Funky Winkerbean collections, in which they frequently break the fourth wall and explicitly acknowledge that they’re in a comic strip. I’m guessing that all went away when Batiuk decided to replace the light-hearted pun du jour format with alcoholism, cancer, and misery.

  6. 1985Fury Jul 30th 2012 at 09:46 am 6

    Also see “Comic Book Time” on TVTropes.

  7. Kilby Jul 30th 2012 at 10:19 am 7

    @ Ooten Aboot (3) - And you win for sarcasm. The sentence that yellojkt posted here may have been succinct, but the text it links to is an incredibly rambling tirade against Gene Weingarten that touches on the temporal issue only tangentially.

  8. yellojkt Jul 30th 2012 at 11:12 am 8

    @Kilby (7) I’ll give you ‘rambling’ and ‘tirade’ but I have to dispute ‘tangentially’. The whole premise of the post was that Gene Weingarten was giving Sally Forth grief for not having Hilary be about 30 by now. Now that Weingarten has his own comic strip with a precocious moppet, he’s backtracked on that a little.

    Sally Forth has lampshaded the Comic Strip Time problem several times. In a flashback to their househunting days, Sally tells Ted to keep with the current timeline.

  9. NotAL Jul 30th 2012 at 11:44 am 9

    When I saw Sally Forth an Luann yesterday, I was going to mention on this site (but could not get the the computer) that they really don’t break the fourth wall as does Doonesbury but just allude to it. I suggest that the are looking out the fourth window.

  10. DPWally Jul 30th 2012 at 01:48 pm 10

    This Doonesbury has no 4th wall at all. I think that’s different from the Luann and Sally Forth strips, where a character in mid-conversation punched a hole in the wall.

    Doonesbury has a long history of wall-less Sunday strips, such as the recurring “mailbag” strips where characters respond to alleged-reader mail. Wall-breaking strips are relatively rare, though I remember one from the 80’s (I think) where characters break off a conversation to yell at their creator about an ink spill.

  11. Paperboy Jul 30th 2012 at 02:07 pm 11

    Today’s “Lio”, has Lio going into a “cosplay” store that advertises “Dress like your fav [sic] comic character!”, and Lio comes out in a Lio costume. Okay, not a 4th Wall break, but it’s knocking on the door.

  12. Dan W Jul 30th 2012 at 02:48 pm 12

    …Doonesbury has a title character?

    Yeah I’ve never paid much attention to that strip.

  13. Elyrest Jul 30th 2012 at 04:16 pm 13

    Dan W - Michael Doonesbury, the father depicted above, is the title character of the Doonesbury strip.

  14. The Vicar Jul 30th 2012 at 07:39 pm 14

    And then there was (is? I haven’t kept up) Mike’s mother, who owned a farm. And for a while he was married to J.J., although I don’t know offhand if she took his last name. (Did he ever actually marry Kim? And are they still together?)

    I think Mike’s father also had some appearances towards the very beginning of the strip, when he was still in college.

  15. James Pollock Jul 30th 2012 at 09:48 pm 15

    In reverse order: Mike’s father did not appear (Mike’s mother is “the widow Doonesbury”). (You’re probably thinking of Mark Slackmeyer’s father, who has been a frequent visitor.) Mike and Kim are married. I don’t recall with certainty whether Joan, Junior (J.J.) took Mike’s name, but I don’t think so.

  16. Paperboy Jul 30th 2012 at 09:48 pm 16

    Clap-clap-clap to Trudeau for admitting there’s trouble recreating the characters’ noses in a semi-realistic way after years of cartooning their schnoz mostly from the side.

  17. Proginoskes Jul 30th 2012 at 10:07 pm 17

    I can’t tell the difference between Trudeau’s male and female characters without looking below the neck.

  18. The Vicar Jul 31st 2012 at 12:13 am 18

    @James Pollock:

    No, I know about Mark’s father. (It’s interesting that when Mark’s father first appeared, about half the strips were about Mark being a jerk to him, but gradually he — meaning the father — got more and more obnoxious and eventually became one of the most unloveable recurring characters in the strip. Seriously, five years into the strip he was someone I would want to avoid.)

    I went and looked at the first collection, and I think I must have been thinking of B.D.’s father, although the character I was visualizing was a bit more energetic than B.D.’s father is in those strips.

    In the first collection, Mike’s mother is at least not EXPLICITLY referred to as a widow, although there are no references to Mike’s father at all so she might have been. The “the widow Doonesbury” line comes from a Reagan-era strip, where she’s testifying before Congress. I went and looked that sequence up, thinking it might give some context, but it just says (a few strips after she calls herself that) that she is “the widow of a World War II veteran”, which doesn’t tell us much. (Although it does confirm that Mike’s father was not killed in WWII, since he wouldn’t have been a “veteran” if killed in action; but then, Mike was in college when the strip started in 1970, so working backwards the fact that he made it home from the war is fairly obvious.)

  19. Arthur Jul 31st 2012 at 12:37 am 19

    I checked Wikipedia. Their Doonesbury cast doesn’t mention his father as having appeared.

  20. pepperjackcandy Jul 31st 2012 at 12:52 am 20

    Mike is married to Kim now?

    Vietnam orphan Kim?

    Isn’t she, like, three or something?

  21. The Vicar Jul 31st 2012 at 03:23 am 21


    Kim was a toddler when she was introduced in the early 1970s. Doonesbury characters don’t always age in exact real time (isn’t that right, Zonker?) but they mostly come fairly close. This isn’t like Foxtrot or Sally Forth or Archie or Zits, where the characters are always the same age no matter how long they’ve been around.

    Of course, keep in mind that Mike is somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 years older than Kim, and when their romance started he was roughly twice her age. So there is a certain cradle-robbing aspect to their relationship.

    For that matter, J.J. was younger than Mike, too; I’m not sure offhand by how much, but he seems to have graduated from college before Joanie divorced her awful first husband, and she was still young enough at that point to be definitely a child, so perhaps 10 years?

    But I hold that it’s still better than the non-aging comics, where a teenager can have lived through D-Day, the Vietnam war, and the tech boom and STILL be basically untouched by world events (Archie), or a guy can work in the same apparently-dead-end horror-show job for longer than most people are alive at all (Dagwood Bumstead), or carry out an utterly implausible and insane pantomime thinking that he’s actually fighting crime since before America entered World War II (Batman).

  22. Cidu Bill Jul 31st 2012 at 03:36 am 22

    Mike is 10 years older than J.J. So figure Mike is 60, J.J. 50, and Kim just shy of 40.

    And for those of us who remember Kim as a toddler… yeah, we’re freakin’ old: it really was that long ago.

  23. Powers Jul 31st 2012 at 10:04 am 23

    Doonesbury’s near-real-time aging makes some events in the strip seem to progress lightning-fast. Alex and Toggle’s romance seems whirlwind, but in actuality they’ve been together a couple of years already. Jeff graduated from Walden years and years ago (and the only reason Zipper’s still there is because he’s the ultimate slacker; that was played with a bit when he met his old girlfriend Cricket, and she was married with kids and he thought she should still be in college).

    And then there’s Mark’s hair — he went WHITE really quickly. Pretty much right after his relationship with Chase ended.

    (Did anyone else find it weird that when Mark was interviewing Jeff-as-the-Red-Rascal, he gave no indication of knowing who “Jeff Redfern” was? He’s known Joanie for decades, surely he knows Jeff?)

  24. Mark in Boston Jul 31st 2012 at 11:53 pm 24

    Well, the Red Rascal IS a master of disguise …

  25. James Pollock Aug 1st 2012 at 12:36 am 25

    Uncle Duke hasn’t changed in 40 years. Jimmy Thudpucker hasn’t changed much, either.

  26. The Vicar Aug 1st 2012 at 01:49 am 26

    You have to worry that maybe the comic has gone on too long when the real people the characters are loosely based on are dead. (Hunter S. Thompson, for those who missed it, killed himself seven years ago.)

    I wonder if Trudeau has a secret stash of strips to run if he himself keels over, to cap off the characters’ lives — like Agatha Christie with Hercule Poirot and “Curtain”.

  27. Mark in Boston Aug 1st 2012 at 05:48 pm 27

    No, Jimmy Thudpucker is getting jowlly in the face. He used to look 20, now he looks 50.

  28. Lost in A**2 Aug 1st 2012 at 08:34 pm 28

    Actually, Trudeau acknowledged Thompson’s death: Hedley started to fade away.

  29. The Vicar Aug 1st 2012 at 10:16 pm 29

    Huh? The character based on Hunter Thompson is Uncle Duke.

  30. Lost in A**2 Aug 2nd 2012 at 08:18 am 30

    Ah. I mis-remembered who was fading. But he shook it off by the end of that strip. Thank you for the correction.

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