Invincible Just Did a Perfect Adaptation of One of the Comics’ Best Jokes

As we learned earlier this week, adapting comic books can be a daunting task even for an accomplished work. Invincible has already taken more than a few creative liberties in how it has handled adapting the original comic, but its latest episode proved that it can still take a faithful moment from the books, and make it shine in its new medium.

This week’s penultimate episode of the sophomore season saw Mark take a brief distractionary break from the superhero life and his recent relationship struggles with Amber to go visit a comic book convention (it’s San Diego Comic-Con if you squint hard enough, even though the show dances around actually saying as much). But as Mark wades through legions of people cosplaying as his alter ego, he sets his eyes on his real prize: an autograph session with Filip Schaff, the writer behind his favorite comic, Séance Dog. As Schaff signs Mark’s book, he eagerly asks when the next season of its animated adaptation is coming out, only for Schaff to offer a reminder Invincible fans themselves have become all-too accustomed to: “Sorry, animation takes a long time.”

Of course, this in and of itself is a “fun” nod to Invincible’s own extensive breaks between seasons, and the push and pull of fans eager to see what comes next for the series while also acknowledging that yes, a show that looks like this takes a lot of work and a long time to make. But what follows the moment breaks the consistency of Invincible’s usual animation and directorial style enough to get the audience to take note.

As Schaff explains all the ways animation can cut corners to save time—from perspectives that block off mouth movement, to panning wide shots to convey movement that’s not really there, to even stylization inconsistencies—Invincible itself takes on these tropes for a moment. It’s not jarring, per se, but it’s intentionally different to the show’s usual approach to its house style and direction, to draw your attention to it beyond the meta-gag. Invincible doesn’t usually look like this, hence, you’re gonna be waiting a while for more once season two wraps up after the next episode. But it’s also a really smart way to faithfully adapt a similar moment from the comic.

This same scene takes place in issue 10 of the original series, by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree. The premise is much the same there, as is the context—it’s a gag about how early on, series faced stumbling blocks and months long delays between issues before getting back on track—but of course, this time, it’s not about the animated adaptation of Séance Dog (or Science Dog, as it was in the comics), but the making of the original comic book itself:

Image: Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree/Image Comics

The joke is much the same, playing on tropes of comic book art to save time, but of course, it’s a gag that’s unique to the medium and the moment here—it plays on the nine-panel grid format, and it uses what we as readers know as techniques to convey motion and conversation in what we know is static artwork, like repeated panels that our minds fill in the gaps for moments in between. And it’s also exaggerated for the comic effect, drawing our attention to it all even further—so we get to see just how well Invincible’s own adaptation translated the moment in turn. It takes the spirit of the original scene, and makes it make sense for the medium it now finds it in—while proving that the more things change in either comics or animation, the more stay the same.

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