Our moods, the four points of a compass:have you ever wondered why the number four is so special? The four seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter; the four points of the compass: North, South, East, West; The four cardinal points; the wreath, the labyrinth, the spiral, the plait. All very celestial and beautiful and spiritually significant. But, when I think of four, I usually look more towards such things as the four rivers of Hades: Acheron, Styx, Phlegethon, and Cocytus; or the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. But that's my life. Welcome to the cell. The four cells of our moods.
You don't see these terms used often in comics, because it of course breaks down the fourth wall*, but using the four cells is a common way of explaining to someone what one's mood is. So let me lay them out for you.
If I tell you that I'm in the first cell today, well that means that I'm feeling adventurous. It signifies a new start, and an optimism, maybe a hope that it won't be the same old thing as it is every day (which sadly for most cartoons it is). In fact it seems that the only cartoons (not that they are few) who feel they are "in the first cell" are the ones most doped up on Prozac.
If I were to tell you that I'm in the second cell... well, that more means that I'm just having "a day". Not good nor bad, just a day. The facts are there, just look at it. What ever happens in the second panel? Nothing. More continuation from the first panel. More same-old same-old.
in the third cell is usually where I find myself. It is the contemplative cell. Often times the border is invisible (trust me, it's still there holding us in), signifying thought or pause. It is common to find not much being said in the third cell, but it can produce many words, such as in the case of my writing, which I mostly do when I find myself there. Likely the reason I bombed with the syndicates is that it seems that melancholy, subdued, intellectual thoughts cannot find a home on the daily comics page. In fact, the more docile strips eliminate the third cell altogether, and move directly on to cell four.
The fourth cell is of course a state of playfulness, or at least of merriment. I make that distinction because more and more humor in the cells has changed from playfulness and happiness of all parties, to solely the merriment of the tricksters, based on humor derived from some act of cruelty. Sometimes I think that all cartoonists are becoming complete sadists, but I occasionally find the same streak in myself, so I don't point fingers.
Besides, pointing fingers is an accusation, a decision, an ACTION. And you won't usually find that where you find me, tapping away on the typewriter keys in cell three.
*in theater sets, there are generally the accepted three actual walls and then the "fourth wall" (or the non-existing wall) between the audience and the actors, which if not broken, suspends the disbelief in the reality of the created world. Of course in the two dimensional space, where we are essentially "one wall" we use the term "fourth wall" with some amount of irony.