The Meta-Funnies

By | Saturday, October 15, 2011 Leave a Comment
Today's Pearls Before Swine had a double-comic joke, referencing both Family Circus and Cul de Sac. And it struck me that I've actually seen several comic strips lately that make reference to other strips. Beetle Bailey and Sarge showed up in Moderately Confused, Thatababy was talking about a Garfield strip... And I wondered what might happen if all the comic strips really did inhabit the same universe? It's not an original concept, certainly, but I was curious about putting such a page together. So I started hunting around for comic strips that could work together as a single page. Most interestingly, I found, was that I only had to go back about 30 days to get more than a full page's worth of meta-textual or consciously self-referential comics. I put some of them together as a faux newspaper page...
Now, some of these strips are extra-referential per se, but they still seem to work well in conjunction with the others. Popeye, for example, is called out in Mother Goose & Grimm and I managed to find a recent Popeye strip in which the fence background can carry through into Grimm. Similarly, the sidewalk Alice races down continues into Pearls which is sitting atop Circus. Marmaduke makes a sign reference, borrowing the theme from Garfield, while Heathcliff's caption is now both inter- and intra-textual. Admittedly, the B.C. and Dogs of C-Kennel bit is a tad forced, since the same guys work on both strips.

I tried setting up some strips around Shoe to make it look like that strip was happening at the top of the tree, the strip below it would be a little lower on the tree, and the one below that would be at the base of the tree. But that set-up caused some broader layout problems, and I couldn't find a dog-related single panel strip to drop in next to Heathcliff that even had a tenuous connection to anything.

One interesting thing I noticed was that Garfield was, by far, the most referenced comic while Davis' strip itself didn't directly reference anything else. I suspect that it has a lot to do with Garfield's broad syndication, making it an easy go-to strip that the vast majority of newspapers carry. The closest thing to a sure-bet that another comic strip writer could guess was running in most, if not all, of the same papers s/he was in. Further, the character is popular enough that, even if a paper didn't carry it, readers would still likely recognize the name.

As I said, though, I only went back a month or so for these and only worked on it for a day. (Quite a bit less than a day, actually!) I think it'd be fun to do a whole series of these over multiple days, if you expanded your range to the full runs of series, and could almost make each page about a broader story unto itself.
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