As we observe this scene, the primary action has already occurred…the burglar is already unconscious, the bump on his head already formed, the bag of coins already at rest on the floor, the loose coins already scattered about, Richie Rich already present, hands smugly on hips, delivering his pithy bon mots. All of the objects of the cover gag, as they are drawn here, are already at rest. The gag has happened, and we are seeing the results.
However, the cover contains an incongruous action element; there are motion lines tracing the path of the falling bag from the broken shelf, to the burglar’s head, and to its stopping point on the floor. This motion is out of place, though perhaps we can forgive the motion lines around the pieces of shelving and the bag itself, perhaps representing some residual “wobbling” from the event. What we are seeing is the end result of a sequence of events; the action is completed. The motion lines more rightly belong in a theoretical “previous panel” to the cover’s “current panel” – a scene in which the burglar, still conscious and upright and in the midst of his crime, is impacted upon his head by the falling coin bag, perhaps even with an exclamation of “Ow!” or “Hey” or “What’s all this, then?” That is an action scene, and that is where the motion lines should come into play.
As it stands now, the motion lines only seem to serve as a hint to the less astute members of this comic magazine’s readership, spelling out the joke for those who can’t look at the broken shelf, who can’t infer that the large bag of coins once sat on that shelf and are clearly the only item in that room able to cause such a goose egg on the burglar’s head, and who can’t even take the hint from Richie Rich’s own dialogue.
A secondary problem in this cover image is the position of the robber. Only a moment’s consideration will reveal that the burglar’s head, when he is standing, is above the shelf in question.
Let us assume, firstly, that the duties of Irona, the Rich household’s robotic maid, do not extend into the confines of the many walk-in safes on the premises. (I realize this may in fact be contradicted by other Richie Rich comics over the years, but a consistent continuity is hardly the franchise’s primary concern…wither “Super-Richie,” for example.) Thus, perhaps the scattering of coins upon the safe’s floor were not from the falling coin bag, but present on the floor to begin with…coins dropped in the Riches’ haste to store away their money and depart to acquire more, and never cleaned up by Irona. Those coins, representing an easy acquisition, attract the burglar’s attention first, causing him to bend over to pick them up.
Judging from the burglar’s current post-impact position, it looks as if he’d fallen backwards against the wall. However, if he had been bent over in that general position when the coin bag fell, it would have impacted his lower back, if it would have hit him at all. Going by the motion line path presented on the cover, the coin bag didn’t make it that far away laterally from its starting point. Its path was primarily straight down, until it made its impact upon the burglar and bounced to the side.
Alternatively, the burglar could have been bent over facing the wall with the shelf. The coin bag falls, hits the burglar…and in the burglar’s moments prior to lapsing in unconsciousness, he perhaps could have spun around, plopped himself down back against the wall, and passed out.
The third option is that the burglar was already sitting underneath the shelf when the coin bag impact occurred, which not only explains the burglar’s position as Richie Rich finds him, but also works with the coin bag’s presented trajectory. Why he was sitting we can only theorize: tired from entering the Rich mansion, he needed to sit and rest, or perhaps he had a bad back, and it was easier for him to sit down and pick up the spilled coins rather then bend over. Who can say?
This third option also answers another question implied by the image: would a bag filled with coins falling from that short of a distance from the shelf to the burglar’s head really be enough to render him unconscious? It would certainly be an unpleasant experience, having that much weight fall upon one’s head, but would it strike with enough of a sharp blow to knock out a full grown adult?
There is a possible solution to this as well, and one that may perhaps even incorporate the seemingly out of place motion lines discussed earlier.
At first glance, the cover presents us with a burglar knocked out by a falling bag of coins. But consider this alternative sequence of events:
1. Burglar enters walk-in safe.
2. Burglar spots coins on the floor, sits to pick up coins with his back against the wall just beneath the shelf.
3. Burglar stands up quickly, possibly alarmed by the noise of someone (most likely, Richie Rich) approaching.
4. Burglar’s head impacts the shelf above, hard enough to not only break the shelf, but to also render him unconscious.
5. The breaking of the shelf dislodges a precariously placed bag of coins, located somewhere off to the side (instead of directly above the burglar’s head). The bag of coin rolls over and falls down through the break in the shelf, off the burglar, and onto the floor.
If this is the sequence of events, then this resolves the cover’s contradictory “completed action” of the unconscious burglar with the “current action” of the falling coin bag. The falling coin bag is not ultimately responsible for the burglar’s unconscious state; he is already out when the bag falls. The falling bag (which is occurring, and we — along with Richie Rich — are observing, in the “now” of the cover image) is simply adding insult to the implied off-panel shelf-impact injury.
And really, “coin-ked out?” I don’t have any explanation for that…that’s just stupid.
Additional thoughts, opinions, and arguments from my fellow scholars are, as always, welcomed in the comments section.