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No. 375: Removing the Reveal

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Removing the Reveal

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Permanent URL: https://mezzacotta.net/itoons/?comic=375

Strip by: KelpTheGreat

Fritzi: I cleared out my closet, my attic, and my office, and I still feel unfulfilled.
{Nancy strolls by, with a conspicuous brown smear around her mouth}
Fritzi: What's Nancy's secret?
Nancy (thinking): I cleared out the fridge.

The author writes:

I'm going to go into way too much analysis of the original and my edit in these notes. I realize this is a bad idea, but I inexplicably derive personal satisfaction from doing so, so I will. The uninterested should move on to another strip.

The humor of this strip hinges on the reveal of the (presumably) chocolate smear around Nancy's mouth in the third panel. Therefore, for the joke's sake, the smear should not be visible in the second panel. But this creates a problem: the distance Fritzi is from Nancy is not so great that she wouldn't be able to see the smear. And there is clearly no smear in the second panel.

The reason Nancy needs to be in the second panel at all is to appear happy and fulfilled, which prompts Fritzi's question, setting up the punchline and visual reveal. In my opinion, Jaimes could have made this strip better by still having Nancy in the second panel, but without showing her mouth. This could have been accomplished by showing Nancy from the rear, with some musical notes denoting cheerful humming or whistling; by showing only the top portion of Nancy's face, with the eyes and eyebrows conveying her cheerfulness; or by having Nancy engaged in some entertaining activity. As none of these were done, to me, the joke doesn't work quite as well as it could have, since the smear appears around her mouth between panels two and three, which looks odd.

So my edit here has removed that oddity, and made the strip that much more realistic by having the smear visible all along. There's room for debate that it's actually funnier this way, despite not having the visual punch of the panel-three reveal: the smear in the second panel is rather unobtrusive, so readers could not notice it, then see it in the third panel, get the joke, and look back at the second panel to see that yes, it was there all along. Alternately, seeing it in the second panel could spark interest in the reader - "what in the world is around her mouth?" - and then the thought bubble answers the question. This is also arguably funnier, since it provides a visual set-up to the visual punchline, on top of the dialogue set-up to the dialogue punchline. But I'm no expert.

I briefly considered titling this strip "Nancy Minus the Reveal," but I'm getting tired of that naming convention.

Original Nancy strip: 2018-06-08.