Nine Card Heathcliff

By | Monday, July 11, 2022 Leave a Comment
Here's yesterday'sHeatchliff comic...
Setting aside how funny you think it is/isn't, something I find interesting is that because of the way the narrative is constructed, you can place these panels in almost any order and still maintain the gist of the narrative. Here's a quick example where I've basically just swapped several adjacent panels...
No surprise that one works pretty well. The first two panels introduce the characters separtely, the two panels showing (presumably) the book's contents obviously don't need to be in a specific order, whether the birds look at the book first or say "check it out" first is irrelevant. Because each panel alternates viewpoints and there's effectively no dialogue (the birds' comments are simply statements which don't require any sort of response; hence it's not really a dialogue), switching the order around doesn't have any appreciable impact.

But what if you switched things up more?
The panels' individual meaning changes as we move them around, but the basic narrative remains. Now the "uh-oh" seems to just refer to Heathcliff's presence. The shot of just Heathcliff with the garbage can is now about him continuing to walk away, apparently oblivious to having dropped the book. The birds' flight is just down from the birdbath to the ground, and they seem to be more engrossed with the book's contents as it cuts back and forth between the pages and them staring at them.

Of course, one thing I've done with all these so far is to leave the punchline panel in place. Is it possible to move that around too?
Here again, the panels still work despit echanging the specifics of the narrative. The birds' flight now seems to be escaping from Heathcliff, as they discover what the book is about. And given that all the panels that don't feature the book and the birds both have no enivronmental context whatsoever, they could remain airborn for the remainder or the strip or sitting on a far away branch or dropped right back on the ground after Heathcliff left. The specifics change but we still have the basic narrative: Heathcliff drops a book while carrying out the trash, and two birds discover it to be a cookbook.

What about starting with the punchline?
Obviously, this sequence makes the least sense of any of the ones I'm presenting here, but does the narrative still work? Well, the birds now discover that it's a cookbook before Heathcliff drops it, but in this framing, we don't actually know the book that Heathcliff drops to be the cookbook. It could be seen as the birds discovering the cookbook first, and Heathcliff drops a different book as he carries off the garbage, which then attracts the birds' attention. It's not a great narrative, certainly, but it still kind of works.

I'm sure that a talented cartoonist could come up with a series of panels that do work well to tell a story regardless of what order the panels are placed, but I find it interesting how close Peter Gallagher seemed to have come (presumably) without any intention of doing so.
Newer Post Older Post Home