The category of (anti)climactic humor includes instances in which the effect is given by thwarting the reader’s expectations of a series of connected panels or actions. It can also occur at the end of a build-up, creating a surprise, and sometimes paradoxical, ending to an action or piece of dialogue. While it may appear similar to the “self-undermining” category discussed above, I have chosen to differentiate them by categorizing under this typology all the instances which do not strictly involve major characters or, for that matter, any characters at all; if it does, it does not contribute to the development of the characters involved and is usually used as a one-off gag or, if recurring, is confined to one issue.
In PKNA #14, PK and his arch-enemy the Raider have just been debriefed after an unlikely allied mission, which involved a lengthy explanation of time travel paradoxes and similar sci-fi issues. PK, from the twenty-first century, has difficulties grasping all the concepts common in the twenty-third century and wonders out loud how the Raider can possibly cope with all of it. The answer (“cachet”), in the third panel, is the punch line to the build-up, thwarting the reader’s expectations and achieved through the combination of verbal (“cachet”—used to indicate medical pills, usually painkillers) and nonverbal signs (the expression of both characters’ faces). As “cachet” is not used in the same way in English, the translator may consider changing this to “painkiller” or “aspirin.”
The translator’s aim for this type of humor, then, is to maintain the tension between the verbal and nonverbal elements of the source text; in order to achieve this, adapting the comic effect of the panel would be a useful strategy. The nature of the humorous mechanism is to create a build-up through either referential material or dramatic tension, usually via nonverbal reinforcement or sign-play. The visual elements, therefore, should be used as prompts for the translation.