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- I've been wanting to tackle a video about comic book
characters who break the fourth wall for a long time now.
The problem is that there's really just one main person
famous for it in today's culture,
and I've already done a Deadpool video.
Don't make me do another one.
But this trait isn't unique to Deadpool by any means,
many comic book characters have, at some point,
broken the fourth wall.
But there was one standout character who did
it so much that her comics were famous for it
before Deadpool was even created.
Of course, I'm talking about She-Hulk.
(rock music)
Welcome to Comic Misconceptions,
I'm Scott, and the fourth wall is a term
usually associated with theater,
so if you imagine a traditional box set
stage, you have three walls,
made from the backdrop and the left and right sides.
The fourth wall, sometimes called the proscenium,
is what we as the audience view the performance through.
It's an imaginary wall, obviously.
I mean if we all gathered to watch the outside of
a closed off room, then we wouldn't be able to see
what's going on inside, and that could be pretty boring.
But to the characters in the play,
the wall between them and the audience is very real.
They can't see us watching them.
But the fourth wall doesn't just exist in theater.
Instead, it's a term used to represent the window
through which we view and or experience works of fiction.
And this is when it starts to get a little more abstract
than the more literal theater,
but it should be made clear when I explain what it means
to break the fourth wall.
When a fictional character breaks the fourth wall,
they are typically in a situation where they show
an awareness of the fact that they are fictional.
Often this will include things like addressing the audience
directly or making references to how they are in
a movie or TV show or video game or comic book.
They could even acknowledge and use conventions
of their given medium, like traveling by map,
doing a training montage, hitting people with health bars,
or my favorite thing that She-Hulk ever did,
which was ripping through the pages of an ad in
a comic book, and traveling through it.
She-hulk demonstrates a sense of medium
awareness often, especially during the sensational
She-Hulk run from the late 80's and early 90's,
written primarily by John Byrne.
Take issue four for example.
I swear, an entire essay could be written
critically examining the themes in this one issue alone.
In the issue, she meets a Louise Mason, or Weezy for short.
She was a golden age hero named the Blonde Phantom,
and she too is aware that she is a comic book character.
The interactions between these two are hilarious.
When they first meet, Weezy talks about how she's
trying to get her boss to hire She-Hulk just so she
can be a supporting character in a comic book again.
And when Jennifer meets her new boss, she faints,
not having expected the introduction of a love interest
so soon into her new book.
But then, Weezy informs her that he's actually married
and has children.
Shocked, She-Hulk asks, "Since when is he married?"
To which Weezy replies, "Since now, I suppose.
this is the first time it's been mentioned."
Plus, there is a great bit at the end about how
She-Hulk's clothes never rip because they've
been approved by the comics code authority.
The two even make use of the mechanics of comic books
like when they walk between panels as a way of
traveling quickly to new locations,
when She-Hulk uses a montage to rapidly
try on different outfits in a fraction of the time,
or when they realize that there are two pages left
in the comic that need to be filled,
so they jump over to some sub-plot stuff.
There are a few other characters like this,
but for the most part, meeting another character who
can also break the fourth wall is pretty rare.
There are many instances where She-Hulk makes these
meta references while other characters around her are
either oblivious, or choose to ignore it.
There have also been times when other characters
react to her like she's crazy.
Like in Heroes for Hire number 14 when She-Hulk
fires the narrator of the story.
Luke Cage who is with her at the time is
super confused about who she's talking to,
and Scott Lang who is also there says that she
calls it "breaking the fourth wall", but he can't
explain it either.
Or one of my favorite moments in Damage Contol
number three when she declares outright that
she is a comic book character,
to which one member of the Damage Control replies,
"Boy, life sure feels that way sometimes, doesn't it?"
This might seem like a bit of a stretch,
but this makes me think about the philosopher Plato,
and his Allegory of the Cave.
For those unfamiliar, Plato was a Greek philosopher
and mathematician and was instrumental in
developing western philosophy.
He's a really interesting character who I unfortunately
don't have too much time to get into today.
But I do want to discuss one of his more famous writings,
The Allegory of the Cave, but I'm going to simplify
for uses today. Huzzah!
Let's say you have four people imprisoned in a dark cave.
They've been there their entire lives from childhood,
and are chained up in such a way that they can only
face the back wall.
They can't look around, they can't move,
their whole life consists of nothing but staring
at this one wall in this cave, forever.
Behind the prisoners is a bright fire.
When an object is in front of the fire,
it casts a shadow on the back wall,
sort of like a bat signal.
To the prisoners, who again have been locked
in this cave their entire lives,
the shadow of the bat on the wall is real.
How could they know the difference?
They've never seen a real bat before.
They don't understand that it's just a shadow,
nor do they understand that the shadow
was caused by a real bat.
Now imagine one of the prisoners is set free.
She's released from her chains,
and turns around to see the real bat that has
been casting a shadow on the wall.
At first, she wouldn't believe that this actual bat
is reality, the shadows are still her reality.
If she was forcibly dragged out of the cave,
she would be completely overwhelmed by
the outside world and blinded by
the intense light of the sun.
Slowly the prisoner's eyes would start to adjust
to the outside world.
It wouldn't be an instant transition though,
but a slow one, gradually being able to see the more of the
world around her the longer she's exposed to reality.
She would be amazed by this new world,
and would think it to be superior to the one
that she knew in the cave.
She would feel pity for the rest of the prisoners,
and go back down to the cave and try to drag them out
so they can experience the world for themselves.
But her eyes would have trouble adjusting back
to the darkness of the cave,
and when the other prisoners see that she's
stumbling around the darkness talking about what
seems like nonsense to them,
they might conclude that journeying outside the
cave harmed her, and they would want to avoid that.
If they could, they'd kill anyone who would try to
drag them out.
Gotta love happy endings.
Plato uses this story to illustrate a point.
If the objects are more real than the shadows,
then how do we know that there isn't something
more real than the objects?
With She-Hulk as the freed prisoner in the story,
we can start to bring everything together and see
how the Allegory of the Cave relates.
Unfortunately, we are missing a big chunk of her life
that's pretty important to the story,
the point when she first discovers
she's a comic book character.
When she starts to break the fourth wall in
Sensational She-Hulk it seems like she
has known for awhile and has already adjusted to it,
however, we know that she wasn't always this way.
It took her almost a decade before
she could make meta references.
We also know that there was a period of learning
about this sort of thing when she meets Weezy
in issue number four, She-Hulk is utterly perplexed
at how Weezy can travel across panels to get
to new locations.
This is a bit strange,
because we've already seen up to this point that
She-Hulk is aware that she's a comic book character.
She can talk directly to the readers,
capitalize on comic book tropes, et cetera.
But the fact that she's confused by walking across
the gutter between two panels shows us that this
knowledge doesn't all come at once.
This is like in the Allegory of the Cave where the
prisoner slowly adjusts to the real world
outside of the cave.
It's not instantaneous, it's a gradual process.
Weezy, as I said earlier, is really a golden age
hero named the Blonde Phantom.
She's been a comic book character for decades
before She-Hulk was even created.
Weezy can navigate the comic book world
better than Jennifer because she's had more time
to adjust to it.
And when She-Hulk breaks the fourth wall,
she's not talking to nobody, double negative.
She is talking to somebody, she's talking to the writers,
or the artists, or us.
There is a world outside of the one that she lives in.
She-Hulk is aware that her entire existence is
essentially just a series of drawings,
an imperfect rendition, or, shadows of our world.
While most other comic book characters see the comic
book world they live in as real,
they're really just like the other prisoners in the cave
who think that the shadows are real.
She-Hulk used to be among them,
but she was dragged out of the cave into the light,
and now can see what the real world really is.
But, as Plato proposes, who's to say that our world
is even the true reality?
What do you guys think?
When She-Hulk breaks the fourth wall,
is she demonstrating Plato's Allegory of the Cave?
Are you upset with me that I didn't talk
about Deadpool as much?
Let's talk about it all in the comments.
And if this is your first time hanging out with us
here at NerdSync, we make new videos every week
that ask questions and examine comics beyond the surface
because we believe that doing so can actually
enhance your comic book reading experience
and make comics just a little bit more awesome.
So make sure you hit that big sexy subscribe button
so you don't miss out on anything.
Once again, I'm Scott, you can find me on Twitter
and Instagram and I will see you guys right here
on Friday for a new video.
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"I Broke the Fourth Wall Before DEADPOOL!" || Comic Misconceptions || NerdSync

39 Folder Collection
Harry Huang published on January 27, 2020
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