Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Windsor Knot in the Door

If the Date With Ellen plot was Garfield on story-overload, this week is shaping up to whittling the art and storytelling down to the barest elements. The table long ago reduced to a single horizon line, any unnecessary background detail eliminated, and increasingly, Garfield's foil does not even share space with him. Also more and more Garfield, who used to stand on the table more frequently, sits at the table, removing his lower half from the panel. The funny sight gags, and eye-pleasing rounded artwork is an underappreciated key to Garfield's success, but these gags are such an interesting experiment I wouldn't mind seeing a few strips with no characters in the panel at all.

Today and yesterday's sound-based jokes are a throwback to radio plays in that dialogue and sound effects alone form coherent stories. In other ways, since the reader does not actually hear the indicated noises, but mentally forms them from the onomatopoeia provided, they are like reading short anecdotal jokes in text form. However, the real power of these strips is a technique available specifically to comics.

The backwards logic behind the framing of the scene is not to aim the viewer's eye at the narrative, but to stubbornly leave the visual landscape exactly the same: the mise-en-scène necessarily includes whomever is sitting at the table because it always does. That nothing is so impossible to draw or outlandish to depict in this plot that it could not have been portrayed in pictures, and Garfield's remark that Jon has made "an entrance" would all ratiocinate a staging of the action within the visual space. Instead, we are given only a large amount of blank space and a bored character whose gaze is focused on the invisible space being denied us. The joke is less that Jon has asphyxiated himself by getting his tie caught in the door, than that the natural tendencies of the medium and desires of the audience are being subverted. A cat sitting alone in an empty room has never been so perverse.


DaveyK said...

At some point, and I decided this was the point, you have to has Garfield's life changed forever?

Liz seems like a distant memory, just 5 days removed from the blessed event. And Garfield's life seems even more banal than ever.

catastrophile said...

Presumably, though, next time Jon spends a week on the phone with a female trying to convince her to go out with him, the lucky girl will be Liz, not Ellen.

So that's something, anyway.

Loren said...

I hate to spoil the fun of an excellent entry, but I'm afraid the words for 'the setting ... of any ... action' (to quote the OED) are mise-en-scène, not mis-en-scene (despite the apparent popularity of the latter spelling).

K.T. Slager said...

I, personally, misread the word "Guck" at first, and was momentarily shocked. Then I realized. And was saddened. And then forgot about it.

Anonymous said...

Surely the joke is this: In the second panel, Garfield's lack of concern for Jon's welfare is illustrated by the fact that he maintains his bored expression while watching his companion get painfully strangled. Neither compassion nor even amusement interrupt's Garfield's inertia for a few long seconds, until eventually he thinks of an amusing comment to make about Jon's misfortune. Garfield is utterly desensitised to Jon's pain.

Anonymous said...

"Garfield, I'm hom...osexual."