iFanboy Video Podcast

iFanboy #47 – Comics That Break the Fourth Wall

Show Notes

If you have ever thought to yourself that your head just doesn’t quite hurt enough when you read your comic books, iFanboy has the show for you. This week, the guys get caught in a self-referential loop as they explore comics that break the fourth wall.

One thing that never happens in comic books is self-referential stories and humor. Ha ha, just kidding — that happens all the time! But how did it start and who has done it best? From creator as co-star to deep, meaningful examinations of existence, the iFanboys have got it all this week when it comes to fourth wall breaking, post-modern meta comic books stories.


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  1. Great show guys even though I haven’t finished reading Animal Man yet. Also, link on main page leads to last weeks episode.

  2. Fixed.

  3. One of the greatest, breaking the 4th wall scenes I

  4. Really interesting episode, guys. I really liked it.

    My favorite piece of Postmodern storytelling is in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. At the game’s second beginning, the main character of the story, called Snake, takes his mask off and reveals himself to be a character different from the Solid Snake we played in the previous game. At the end of the game the main character (renamed Raiden) learns that the whole mission was something of a real world simulation made out to resemble the events that took place in the first game. Raiden narrates how he went through VR Training missons, which is the game of extra material that came out between the first and second Metal Gear games. Then he explains how he went through VR training of the mission from the first game. At which point I start to think, “hey he is talking about the games I’ve played.” The villains go so far as to try and trick you into pushing the reset button on the console, because of a “glitch.” Then at the very end when Raisden tosses away his dog tags, my name and date of birth appears on them (programmed in at the beginning).

    Great topic guys and one of the reasons why this podcast is the best.

  5. Melissa Joan Hart used to break the 4th wall in Clarissa Explains It All. She used to break it ALL the time. As a young lad, I thought she was talking to me personally.

  6. My favorite Deadpool example is him standing alone on blank page and he apologizes to the readers for stopping the story, but the artist really wanted to draw a pinup pose of him.

  7. Hellblazer #120. Can’t say any more than that. Love the show, keep up the great work.

  8. But it would be helpful if you did say more, because I don’t know what happened in Hellblazer #120. Oh I suppose I could look it up, but then you’re just making work for me. Oh, look what you went and did.


    Ah, I remember this now. A Paul Jenkins from the past, who didn’t make me wince. Good call.

  9. Melissa Joan Hart used to mess with my head in that way too, the cheeky minx!

    Awesome show, fascinating to me as I’d never heard of Animal Man (thought for a second it was an adaptation of the 80’s show Manimal!!!) or Deadpool, so cheers for more enlightenment… and more books I have to buy now.

    Josh’s opening or Gordon’s rants… both comedy gold but I can’t decide which is funniest. Josh, have you acted in the past, because you’re scarily good at it?

    Cheers fellas!

  10. One of my favorite self-referential moments in comics is in issue 10 of Invincible. Invincible goes to a comic shop to get his collection signed, and has a discussion over a number of repeated panels of how cheap it seems when an artist repeats panels. Classic.

  11. I’m a huge fan of a moment in the original Heroes for Hire (or the one from the 90s, whatever), when She-Hulk ges accused of being a skrull and gets in an argument with the narration boxes. I always laugh when I read it now

  12. Enjoyed the show guys…it was great as always.

    It was interesting that I just watched this video because I just finisehd Scott Pilgrim Vol. 2 a few hours ago, and that book kind of tends to get metaphysical. There were several times where Scott tells characters who missed out on something to “Go read the first book.” It fits within the story of the book, but definitely edges toward that fourth wall.

    Animal Man sounds really interesting. It has been added to my list of things to check out.

  13. Neb, you’ve just reminded me I need to buy Scott Pilgrim!

  14. Great show guys! I hope that all of you that haven’t read Animal Man will. It is a stunning book. I had a very similar reaction to that panel of Animal Man looking at me. It gave me shivers. I never knew a comic could do that.

    Grant Morrison did some similar thing in his Invisibles series and also in Filth. Filth is not for everyone and I recommended if you start you have to finish. It works better in context. It is very dark and gritty and disturbing.

    Alan more did it very effectively in his Promethea series too. I really enjoyed that series. It might be too metaphysical for some people. Talk about head hurting.

  15. Fantastic show! After Animal Man, my favorite moment was at the end of Morrison’s JLA run, during the WWIII story. They’re in the middle of some incredibly hopeless situation. Superman starts talking about how they don’t have a chance, and then Batman says “SHUT UP CLARK! WE ALWAYS WIN!” Up to that point, we agree with Superman that it looks bad (Morrison is really good at making you feel hopeless), but then Batman uses a subtle 4th wall break to give us that rally moment Ron talks about. He references a storytelling rule (good guys win) to give the story an emotional boost.

  16. Back at the dawn of Disney TV Animation, everything was played straight no matter what the outrageous conceit of the show. When I created Darkwing Duck, the idea that he would routinely address the camera (in the manner of a billion old WB shorts) became a huge discussion. “It’ll destroy the reality of the story!”

    Unrelated to breaking the fourth wall but in a similar vein: “If he survives a safe falling on him, how will there be any jeopardy?” My answer was we would pretend the same safe would kill him if it happened right before a commercial break.

  17. A memorable fourth wall break for me was in Ultimate Spider-man, where Bendis actually appears, throttling an intern, who explains that the current storyline was ridiculous and that it was his idea. It was during the short 3-issue story where Peter and Wolverine switch places. While it wasn’t existential, it added humor to the explanation for such a weird story.

  18. AS for breaking the fourth wall. Little Nemo was doing it in 1905 guys!!

  19. Beauifully executed exploration on the topic of existence, another 5 Star show. How are you guys doing this? I’m starting to wonder if all of these great episodes are leading up to a rick roll video XD just to shake shit up.

  20. I would argue that DC was first to tear down the fourth wall in Flash #123 (1961). I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that that is the seminal issue which introduces Earth 2, and the concept that people on Earth 1 have been reading comic books about Earth 2; specifically, that Barry Allen grew up reading about Jay Garrick’s Flash, written by Gardener Fox, the same man who was writing that very issue.

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