Thursday, February 08, 2007

This is how they did it before the internet

In this scene from Showcase #37 (Mar-Apr 1962) the character of Col. Henry Casper doesn't just break the 4th wall he demolishes it with a wrecking ball.
Showcase #37 - break the 4th wall
At the end of the tale of the tragic first appearance of the Metal Men a character directly addresses the reader, urging them to write in and ask for more stories about the plucky robots. In the newsstand era letters from fans could give an Editor an indication of how a title like Showcase or a certain characters appealed to readers. In the Silver Age national sales figures could take weeks to be collected, and often Editors had to plan ahead and use their savvy to determine what would sell 6 months into the future. This helped make anthology magazines successful back then as an Editor could rely on semi-stable and predictable sales based on what was on the covers. It was in this era that the anecdotal 'Purple Gorilla' theory was applied to comics, in that Editors leaned towards cover art that had lots of purple and featured a gorilla, because in their experience that was what got noticed and therefore sold well. The DC Go-Go checks helped too, as the buyer could easily identify a DC comic sticking up behind others in a crowded rack. Today sales figures are almost immediately available and comic companies host their own forums, read blogs and other independent forums to gauge reader interest.

Doc Magnus is clearly in his own little brain-world mooning over his Metal Men Heroclix set in this panel so it isn't too odd that Col. Casper is acting as an outside observer to events. As far as this panel goes Casper actually may be a figment of the Doc's imagination at this point. The unreal aspect of the scene fits nicely with later characterization of the Doc being unbalanced mentally. That Casper's comments breaks the 4th wall is probably a mistake forced upon the creators due to space limitations at the end of the story. No room for a text box so they opted for Casper to chat up the reader.



  1. That was..... surreal. Who else would he be talking to? Frankly, I feel a little violated.

  2. That was jarring.

    It could work if Col. Casper was a Rod Serling-type narrator, or a Marvel-type WATCHER.

    Or... was a bit of undigested beef, cheese or underdone potato and haunted the psyche of Doc Magnus.

    Otherwise, that would have been a "what the heck?" moment reading it as a kid.


  3. No, you're overthinking it. There's no fourth wall breakage here. Casper is telling the Doc to contact DC because at the time DC was financing wacky robot research, so it's only natural that Casper should inform him how to contact his backers.

    Although suggesting he send a card rather than a formal letter seems overly casual to me.


Moderation enabled only because of trolling, racist, homophobic hate-mongers.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.