Pencil And Eraser

When I saw the above illustration from ‘The Magic Pencil’ by Dwight Sturgess (courtesy Stripper’s Guide), the scene below came to my mind immediately.

This strip is from Willy Vandersteen’s Suske en Wiske comic ‘De Briesende Bruid‘ (‘The Roaving Bride’, 1968), in which Auntie Sidonia, an unmarried-but-hoping woman, finally gets a chance to find a mate. She travels through time to meet all kinds of legendary lovers, and in the end settles for a folk singer from her own time.

Which, to use Star Trek lingo, clashes with the Prime Directive of comics : “Nothing shall disturb the equilibrium”. In other words, the situation that the characters find themselves in after an adventure should be as similar as possible to the one they were in before it started. Now, how to end this story in a logical way (with Sidonia married) and still allow for new stories starting from the comic’s premisses (with Sidonia unmaried-but-hoping) ?

To solve this Gordian knot, Vandersteen used the same device that Sturgess used at the end of his comic : he draws himself simply erasing the story, and starting anew. An extra nice touch is the way Vandersteen explains himself to his readers (and, in turn, his characters) :

“I know Sidonia’s desires and after having her faithfully play her part in my stories for years and years, I simply had to make her very happy for once. But I really can’t miss her, and so nothing will come of this marriage. Tomorrow they will all be on paper again, and they will remember nothing of what happened here. Those are the benefits of the job !”

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