This month, I had planned to continue my countdown of the five best metafictional comic books. I really had. For those of you who have forgotten (or are too lazy to go read the previous posts), though, I wanted to preface it with a brief recap of metafiction. However, the recap got away from me and kind of became the whole post. But, hey, it's educational and funny, and it has lots of great clips of David Addison and Maddie Hayes playing Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd. So sit back and enjoy.
Metafiction, as the previous link explains, is any work of fiction that is, either overtly or subtly, aware of itself as a work of fiction.
There are essentially three types of metafiction. There's the metafiction in which the characters are literally aware that they are works of fiction. This is, perhaps, the type of metafiction that is by far the easiest to spot. Characters often "break the fourth wall" and speak directly to the audience or otherwise refer to themselves as characters in a fictional universe.
|Ziggy gets it.|
The second type of "fourth wall" metaficiton involves essentially destroying the wall. A character addresses the audience in such a way that leaves no doubt of the character's understanding of his/her role as a fictional construct:
Oblique metafiction is arguably the most common type of metafiction, though. In this type of metafiction characters say things that, while making perfect sense in the context of the story, also serve as a nudge to the audience that the author (if not the characters) is aware that he/she is creating a work of fiction. Where cracking the fourth wall is an overt wink to the audience that may or may not break the fourth wall, this oblique metafiction is more of a subtle cough, leaving the audience to doubt that the fourth wall has been touched at all. Think of it as a brushing against the fourth wall type of metafiction. In it characters may say things like "If this were a story, no one would believe it" or "This whole situation is made-for-television." This is most clearly evident in the first twenty seconds of the following clip:
However, it is the third type of metafiction I am concerned with here. This type is a kind of meta-metafiction in that the characters not only refer directly to their own fictional natures but blatantly discuss or critique the art of creating a story. They are aware, in other words, of the rules of story-making, the relationship between creator and creation, and, most of all, their own successes or failures in these areas.
|M. C. Escher gets it|
This is the type of metafictional comic I have been most interested in. They have all been comics that are not only are aware they are comics, but are also, to a greater or lesser degree, aware of the art of storytelling. These comics spend a lot of their time telling the audience how a story is told and/or critiquing, either directly or indirectly, the mechanics of their own stories.
Next Month: We get to number two on the countdown (I promise. I pinky swear)
Moonlighting even created a new type of metafiction:
Anticiating the irony of its main actor's future