27 January 2008

Robin Breaks the Fourth Wall

This weekly Robin highlights a striking example of what I've called the comics style's freedom to "show the invisible" in ways that traditional book illustration usually doesn't.

These panels are from Robin, #112, published in 2003, with script by Jon Lewis and penciling by Pete Woods. (I cut an intervening panel, so the layout below doesn't look exactly like the magazine.)

In the lower panel, narrator and title character Tim Drake addresses us readers directly in the captions. We know those are Tim's words not just because he tells us, not just because the captions' green border matches his jacket, but because he apologizes for being impolite--a characteristic remark for Tim. (It's also characteristic that when Tim disguises himself and adopts another persona, he acts like a boor. But that's a matter for his writers or his analyst to work out.)

Tim's words reveal that he's undercover as a young hitchhiker looking for "hippie chicks." The art shows him winking to us. And most interesting, all the physical elements of his disguise--fake ponytail, false eyebrows, earrings, and stick-on soul patch--pop off his head for an instant.

Of course, that doesn't really happen, even within the reality of the comic book. But in comics art, we readers are allowed to see what remains unseen.

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