Done With Paul For Awhile
I followed a link to the Houston Chronicle today, which had For Better or For Worse strips archived on-line going back to September, 2001. It was about a 1 ½ years before the 2003 on-line archive at the FboFW website. I have to admit that I remember reading the stuff, but back in those days I was paying only a minimal attention to the characters as I read in them in the paper and I certainly was not as emotionally involved then as I am now. But I did find the chronology of it interesting. It is difficult to tell how things work out age-wise with the collections because they mix the strips up and remove the dates of publication.
In September, 2001, Liz suspected Eric was cheating on her, and Rudy and Candace told her this was the case. She was in her second year of university. The fascinating part to me was the way the physical language was between Rudy and Candace and Eric and Liz. Rudy and Candace really kissed each other and so did Eric and Liz. Not only that but Liz told Eric she loved him several times. Here is the other interesting part, Mike and Dee really kissed each other. In fact, there was one great strip when Weed finds Mike and Dee an apartment where Dee gives Weed a really nice kiss as a thank you. Even more frightening are the strips where John gives Elly a big kiss. The strip is very different today, in its nonsexual approach to everything.
During the holiday period of 2001, I got to see the part where Anthony meets Liz again for the first time since high school. I suddenly realized that Anthony tells Liz that he proposed to Thérèse after he learned that Liz had moved in with Eric. He proposed to Thérèse in his second year of university, which means he was 20 or 21 years old. That’s so young. Then as he is telling Liz this, he has his hands all over Liz. The body language and the dialogue were striking. This was a storyteller in full control of her art.
Then came the strips of February, 2002 and it was like being hit by a sledgehammer. This is when Lynn Johnston turned the art and possibly the writing over to someone else. Prior to this point, there were actually silent panels as the final panel to tell a joke visually and not a pun. After that always a pun. We went from a strip written by a woman who was firing on all cylinders at the top of her game to some hack substitute. And as I read through this sequence, I realized why the people who used to love the strip became so upset when this change occurred. This is not to say that there have not been some funny things in the strip in the last 4 years, but whole tone of the strip was altered and the person who took over was not nearly as talented as Lynn Johnston.
Because of this, I feel almost certain that Constable Paul Wright is headed down the same primrose path as Eric, and Warren, and Rhetta Blum before him. He will be portrayed as yet another man who betrays Liz and reveals himself to be “not Anthony.” I have really enjoyed doing the Ojibway and Ontario Provincial Police research on Paul, and when I do that, I realize what a great character this could have been. Lynn could have explored race relations, the treatment of the Ojibway in modern society, and the way First Nations people distrust whites and policemen. It’s sad to see a great idea poorly handled. But I enjoyed doing Paul Wright, with little mixtures of Ojibway words in his language and his unique perspective on things. We have probably seen the last of him in the strip, not counting his final farewell where he reveals himself to betray Liz so she can marry Anthony without a guilty conscience. But so long as he is still considered to be Liz’ boyfriend, then I can still play with him.
Tomorrow’s strip: Someone claiming to be Jesse Mukwa pops in and sprays Liz with yet more Mtigwaki smackdown. After Vivian and Paul beat up her, I think Liz is going to be really happy to get out of that place.