Sunday, December 24, 2006

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

I had predicted that Saturday’s strip would be a cliff hanger over the weekend, where we see Michael grab the laptop and faint in the smoke. Then Monday, we would see the firefighter rescue him. That would have been good comic strip writing, and we would get a focus on the rescue. Of course it didn’t happen that way.

I suspect that on Monday, we are going to get Michael, not at the hospital getting treated, but Michael and his family already at Elly’s house celebrating Christmas Day, and talking about how lucky everyone was. If it happens that way, then I can appreciate that the monthly letters for anticipating the extraordinary confusion over what is going on, since they are obviously written well before the strip was published. The letters covered what happened to the Kelpfroths, the source of the fire, what the sleeping arrangements are, the issues with the insurance, how work transportation was being handled with the Pattersons who only have one car, Deanna telling Michael off for endangering himself, where they were getting resupplied for their losses, and why Michael did actually know about proper backup procedures. There is no way all of that could fit in the strip, and so the letters are actually fulfilling their purpose, but moreover, the letters’ authors are covering the ground which the author of the strip is clearly ignoring. The part the reader would like to see is the emotional content of the story. In other words, we want to see Deanna relieved Michael survived. We want to see Michael upbraided by Deanna for his stupidity. In the letters we get that. In the strip we do not. It is the emotional content we are missing, and that was very evident in today’s strip.

Michael being carried down the fire escape is so tiny in the strip background, I could barely see it, even magnifying the strip 5X. You can’t see Deanna’s or the children’s faces when they realize Michael has made it. You don’t get to see Michael realize how stupid he is when he hands Deanna the laptop. What we get instead is the kids’ and Deanna’s face as they look at the fire alone, without Michael. Those panels spoke a lot, particularly when compared to the prior panels which were drawn so poorly and obscured the action.

In tomorrow’s strip, we have very clear evidence that the fire plot for Christmas Eve was conceived in the 2 weeks’ time delta between when the Sunday strips have to be written and the daily strips have to be written. There was some evidence of this anyway, when Howard Bunt’s trial conclusion was postponed until January, making his trial last a ridiculously long 3 months. If those kinds of changes are being made at the last minute, then there is some doubt as to how much of the plotlines for For Better or For Worse are fixed over the next 9 months before the strip's end. In order to tie up all the loose plot lines before September, things need to be organized, or it will be messy. Judging from tomorrow’s strip---expect messy. Very messy.


Blogger April Patterson said...

Oops--sorry, Howtheduck, I didn't see your post about hints until this morning. I couldn't agree more about the missing emotional content. I loved the "meta" stuff you tucked into the latest Michael dispatch. :)

4:57 AM  
Blogger howard said...

Thanks for the kind words. I felt the "meta" content was necessary to cover what will be the discontinuity with the daily strip on Monday. It's Lynn's own business how she does the strip, but one of the weakest points of the monthly letters was the way it tried to cover the Sunday vs. the daily. In other words, the fire at 2 am and arriving at Elly's at 4 am, so Merrie could still do her Sunday / Christmas Eve sneaking. It would have been easier to just have Mike admit it wasn't really on Christmas Eve when the fire occurred, and so that is the way I retconned.

1:07 PM  
Blogger April Patterson said...

Yes, and we sort of need to retcon that anyway, since Mike has been talking about the night of the fire throughout this past week. From a strip perspective, they can decide that an event occurs on the date in which its sequence ends (see the birth sequences for instance, with April's birth April 1 1991, Meredith's October 10, 2002, and Robin's November 1, 2004). But from our perspective, this approach just messes with our continuity. :)

5:30 PM  
Blogger howard said...

I trust the continuity goddess will find a way to make it work, if having people pretend it happened on Christmas Eve, even thought it didn't, is not satisfactory.

10:10 PM  

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