1. I think the skull on Liō’s tricycle is an irrelevant red herring. The billboard is supposed to be a clever advertising gag, using a mirror with superimposed text to encourage people to call the number (the implication being that there is something “wrong” either with them or their vehicle). A careful comparison of the grass on the billboard shows that Tatulli has actually mirrored a section of his drawing to produce the repeated image.

  2. Original suggestor here.
    I disagree with Kilby, I don’t think it’s a mirror, precisely because the image fits perfectly with the reality: It seems to be a perfect replication of the scene, so what would the billboard warn against?

    I agree with dvandom, it seems the image of Lio riding his tricycle is used as a negative example / for it’s show value. But, what exactly is meant by this? Lio just riding from A to B does not seem to be very scary or should-not-happen to you. Do people on the road turn randomly into Lios likeness and start building city destroying robots? If so, how would the billboard help? I’m at a loss.


  3. It’s very existential . . . whatever IT is, IT has already happened to Lio. And there’s nothing he can do about IT, except call that phone number. Very clever merchandising. Or phishing.

  4. It’s a mirror. It’s warning against whatever the viewer is in order to draw anxious phone calls, after which comes the sales pitch. A perfect example of George Meyer’s observation that an advertiser is someone who will happily make you feel bad about yourself if that will make you buy, say, a Bic pen.

  5. For a few years I’ve been noticing fancy billboards that use active display graphics, like a computer monitor or TV flat screen. These are sometimes huge ones beside an expressway, sometimes more modest.

    AFAICT they are always prerecorded video clips, whether animated graphics or including videos of actors or pitchmen. But it isn’t much of a leap to think of one with mounted camera, aimed so as to show the approaching person or vehicle, maybe greenscreened into another scene or with text overlay.

    If the billboard in the cartoon were literally a mirror there would be problems with which angles see what. Instead, think of it as a “video mirror”.

  6. @ Mitch4 – There’s one of those billboards near the Autobahn that leads into downtown Berlin. The thing is huge: I think it’s nearly a half-mile away from the freeway, but it’s still perfectly legible; in fact, it’s so bright (at night) that it’s almost a danger to road safety. I know of a much smaller one that was right next to a major road, but that one got shut down, it really was too bright to be safe.

  7. I don’t think it’s a mirror. I think it’s supposed to be discovering that by others standards you’re at a rock bottom, the perfect example of something gone wrong.

    Imagine it were Charlie Brown rather than Lio.

  8. When I used to drive on highways, I found them dangerously distracting, even without the lights. I’m a compulsive reader and would find myself looking longer at the billboard[s] than I should be to be a safe driver.

  9. I hadn’t thought about the mirror or camera idea, both of which are interesting, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on. The camera would be noticeable, and a mirror wouldn’t work very well. I agree with dvandom, “Liō’s got a reputation around town.” Liō sees the sign and is completely mystified.

  10. I agree with Bookworm that a mirror would not work at all in real life (the functional range would be far too narrow even at tricycle speeds, and effectively nil for a car), but this is a case of “cartoon physics”, in which Liō is permanently trapped in a snapshot of time.

  11. @Grawlix: aren’t numbers in 555-xxxx fake? They’re used in movies so real people won’t get harassed by fans.

  12. @ Olivier – The 555-exchanges used to be completely reserved for such “fake” purposes, except for “555-1212”, which was for directory assistance. However, in part because of a shortage of numbers, and also because there was a (small amount of) demand for specific numbers for marketing purposes, the rules have been changed: “Only 555-0100 through 555-0199 are now specifically reserved for fictional use; the other numbers have been reserved for actual assignment.” (this would cover the number used above). However, Wikipedia also adds that “The 555 exchange is not reserved in area codes used for toll-free phone numbers.“, which means that the 800-number in this comic might be a valid number.

  13. I once asked an actress for her phone number. When she gave it to me, I saw that it was one of those “555-” numbers.

    (I might have stolen this joke from Steven Wright or Mitch Hedberg or …)

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