Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holiday Break

Tomorrow I am headed out for Texas to spend some time with my wife’s relatives and my kid’s cousins. Unfortunately, the relative with whom we are staying has virtually no computer access, so the Howard Bunt Blog will have no new entries for a week. I am deeply disappointed that I will not get to comment on what obviously appears to be Anthony’s proposal to Elizabeth. However I can see the moment now:

{Anthony pulls the car over to the side of the road.}
Elizabeth: Is there something wrong?
Anthony: Yes, Elizabeth. There’s something wrong…something wrong with my life, if it’s without you.
Elizabeth: Oh my goodness. I had hoped and dreamed this moment would come, but I never imagined it would be like this.
Anthony: Yes, Elizabeth. I didn’t imagine it would be like this either, but I know I couldn’t live one more moment without putting this ring on your finger.
Elizabeth: Oh, Anthony. This is so romantic. Here we are on the side of the road, with cars whizzing by us, and my brain is whizzing too. I can’t believe you’re asking me to marry you.
Anthony: Well, actually I haven’t asked yet, but here it comes: Will you marry me Elizabeth Patterson?
Elizabeth: Yes. Yes. All my patience has finally paid off. Your ring on my finger, passing traffic honking at us. If this is what love is, I’m loving it.
Anthony: Not "is this what love is", this is what “engagement” is.
Elizabeth: Oh, Anthony. You say the sweetest things.
Françoise: Daddy, is everything over?
Anthony: Yes, Francie. Elizabeth said she would marry me.
Françoise: OK. I’m going back to sleep then.
Anthony: I knew it would be like this with you. Thérèse made me take her out to an expensive restaurant to propose to her. I knew I could just ask you on the side of the road.
Elizabeth: I’ve gone roadside, and I’m loving it.
Both: {Laugh}

Note to aprilp_katje. For April’s Real Blog, feel free to have fun with the Jeremy / April romance as much as you like.

Merry Christmas from me! Bah Humbug from Lynn!

As a singer, the month of December is a difficult month. My church does 5 services on Christmas Eve and I just finished a sequence of 3 Holiday Pops concerts with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and Chorus after having done 4 performances of Handel’s Messiah 2 weeks prior. December is a busy time for singing. Nevertheless, one of the joys of the Holiday Season is to participate in concerts that by and large are not considered to be “serious” classical music, but fun. As the Mariachi Aztlan performed Feliz Navidad this past Sunday, the Symphony Chorus in darkness behind them, starting waving cell phone lights in time to the music and the audience went right along with it and started waving cell phone lights back. It is a festive time of the year, and at least concert-going folks are in good spirits, and I am in a pretty good mood.

Apparently Lynn Johnston is not in a good mood this Christmas, as she has decided to use For Better or For Worse take a shot at people who do long prayers through her standard villainess Mira Sobinski. There is no joke in the strip, just this attack, and certainly this kind of statement could be made on any other occasion where family is gathered. However, Lynn has chosen today of all days to make it.

In the United States, two separate Christmases have developed. One is a devout religious veneration of the birth of the Savior. The other is a secular winter holiday based on highly commercialized pressure to give presents, exchange cards, and party. Usually Lynn Johnston plays to the secular crowd, and the joke at Christmas is how Elly is glad it is finally over, or some joke with the grandkids having to do with Santa Claus and presents. I cannot think of a time before when she has used her Christmas strip to attack someone representing the perspective of devout religion. The net effect is that the Patterson characters are saying that on Christmas Day, doing a long prayer before eating is irritating, rude, and perhaps even wrong.

My response would have to be: Lynn Johnston, if you can’t do a long prayer on Christmas Day, then when can you do one?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

April, the Put-Upon Instant Babysitter

I remember Thanksgivings with my children when they were small. We would get together with my sister, whose children were also small. And who was the responsible person to supervise the little ones during dinner? Was it my youngest sister who had no children of her own, or was it the parents of the children? If you guessed the parents of the children, you are right. If I had asked my youngest sister to sit in the room with the kids and take care of them while the adults are in the other room talking, she would have been shocked and angry I would even ask such a thing.

Making sure the children are eating, or have something on their plate they will eat, or cutting up their food or not throwing food at the walls or at each other, is a full-time job for someone. April is not going to get to eat, particularly the way the Patterson kids have been shown to behave in the past. It’s a good thing she had all that pie and cookies before she came to Deanna’s house.

I am not sure what is going on with Lynn Johnston in the writing of today’s strip in For Better or For Worse. Is she trying to show that spending time with the adult Pattersons is so loathsome; April would rather be a servant to 3 small children over dinner time?

The whole sequence also does not make sense with the characters who are there. Mira Sobinski hasn’t been shown to be around her grandchildren in over a year. There is no way she is going to have them shunted off into another room so she can listen to Elly and her family talk, which would have to be a torture for Mira. Likewise, April hasn’t seen her grandfather since he had his second stroke. She’s not going to want to spend time taking care of her niece, future niece, and nephew; when she could be spending time with her favourite grandfather.

Obviously, Lynn Johnston wants all the adults in one room to accomplish some story-telling purpose, perhaps Anthony’s proposal to Liz. I can understand why Lynn might want the assembled Patterson adults together for that moment; but does Lynn have to do it by putting another example of poor parenting on display? We have gotten several in a row this December, and my head is starting to reel from it all. It is a sad state of affairs when the best parenting shown over the last month comes from Thérèse.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

All Piché All the Time

When the hybrid for For Better or For Worse started in September, 2007 and Lynn Johnston said she was going to mix new material with old material; she also said she was not going to imitate her art style from back in 1979 and 1980. I couldn’t agree with her more on that decision. She has grown too much as an artist to have to be forced to regress to imitate her style when she was just starting and didn’t know jack diddly. There has been some new art which was supposedly drawn somewhat like the old style in order to frame the reprint strip stories and the initial premise was that Lynn was doing that too; but the more I looked at it, the more I realized the art matched that of the background artist Laura Piché.

As a point of history, I remember seeing the hybrid strip on September 14, 2007 and this was the one that caused me to realize that Laura Piché had done all the art and not just the background character. I looked in panel 2 at the passenger beside Elly, and this character looked just like a Laura Piché background character. Having that character side-by-side with the pseudo-old style drawing of Elly drew attention to the fact that the line work and the style of drawing was the same. I concluded that Laura Piché drew both the background character and Elly.

The only reason I bring this up, is that with today’s For Better or For Worse, it appears that there another artist at work other than Lynn Johnston, and this is not pseudo-old style Lynn. Right off in the first panel, little Merrie is too big-eyed, and the socked feet are not the standard Lynn Johnston “duck bill feet” she likes to do when her characters wear socks. The eyes on the characters are circles. The mouth shapes are different, etc. In the final panel with Mike and kids right beside the background Christmas display, the similarity of the line work could not be more obvious to me. Background artist Laura Piché did this strip’s art all by herself. The question then is why?

The answer comes from the notes Lynn Johnston made about the Hybrid strip on her website:

The strip's current storylines will be interlaced with Patterson family remembrances until sometime in 2008. At that point, time will stand still for the Patterson family, but not for their stories! Earlier story arcs will be expanded upon and relived by a current generation of fans and introduced for the first time to a new generation.

So, if the Patterson family remembrances are still going to occur to frame the reprints after time is frozen and it is all reprints all the time, Laura has to prove that she can draw the modern version of the characters in a style similar to Lynn Johnston. Having proved that she can draw in pseudo old-style, she has now proved with today’s strip she can draw in modern Lynn style. She is all set to do the art for the framing sequences all by herself, assuming she passed the test today.

This means Lynn Johnston is free to retire completely, and move her body as far away from her studio in Corbeil, Ontario and her cheating ex-husband as she wants. You go, Lynn! And congratulations, Laura!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Putting Me Off Patterson Food

My wife was raised by her father, and she is fond of telling us stories about his infamous pranks he played on her when she was little. One time he put a shoe in a pillow case and told his daughter that he put the family cat in the sack, and shook it around a little to make it appear like the cat was alive in the sack. Then the sack went into the dryer, and my wife panicked as my future father-in-law made jokes about how the dryer should loosen the cat up a bit. The joke worked to the point where my wife started crying about how the cat was getting hurt and so my father-in-law had to show her it was really a shoe.

On other occasions, whenever the traveling ice cream truck came to my wife’s neighbourhood playing its music, my wife’s dad told her it was “the music truck”. Some time later, one of her other neighbourhood friends told her the truck’s real purpose, and she realized her dad had told her the story, because he didn’t want to buy her ice cream.

Although my wife is old enough to have forgiven her father for these tricks and thinks of the moments fondly as a memory of growing up, she told me that back in the day when they happened, she was pretty angry with her dad.

It appears Anthony Caine is cut in the same mold as my wife’s father as in today’s For Better or For Worse strip, we get to see the second time he has played on little Françoise’s innocence. The first time was when he convinced Françoise that Santa would be angry if Liz cried. The second time he is pulling the old removed finger trick. I know a trick where you can make it seem like you are talking off your finger and putting back on, which works pretty well since it is an optical illusion and gives the viewer no sense of permanent damage. This one that Anthony Caine does, I am not sure how he is pulling it off, so to speak. Even, if you bend your middle finger back, the angle at which Françoise is looking should be able to see the bent back finger.

So, taking it for granted that Françoise does not see the bent back finger, you then have Anthony’s other hand rummaging through the salad, putting me off eating any and probably Françoise too considering his loose finger is supposed to be in there. Why does he have his hand behind his back with the finger still bent? Why does he make a pun off the meaning of “finger food” which Françoise is probably too young to understand? Who knows?

What would happen at the end of the strip had he pulled this kind of trick with my kids? Well, my kids would be sticking their hands in that salad to help him find his finger. If someone tried to carry the salad off, as Anthony does in the final panel, they would raise a ruckus because his finger was in there. Then Anthony would be forced to reveal his joke, and my kids would have that betrayed look little kids get when they get really worked up over something only to find an adult has tricked them. Fortunately, my kids are also very forgiving like most kids Françoise’s age, but they would think twice before they would fall the same kind of trick again.

After all, we went to Sea World in 1999 when my son was 4 years old, and I tricked my son into the sitting in the Splash Zone for the Shamu show. He was eating his Shamu popsicle, which was ruined by the splashing. Until this past spring when we went back to Seaworld and I got him another Shamu popsicle, he had continually maintained for 8 years that I owed him one Shamu popsicle because of that trick.

The moral of the story is: Anthony may think he’s funny with his trick, but Françoise will not.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Eating April

One of the odd things I have noticed is that ever since the hybrid started in September in For Better or For Worse, every time April Patterson appears she is eating or has food in her hand. The one exception is when she is at Lilliput’s getting her book signed. Today’s strip is more of the same. Of the Patterson women, April had the best figure; so I am not sure why, in the post-hybrid state, she is the most gluttonous. Then again, I may have just answered my question.

In April’s Real Blog, I had Michael Patterson make a joke about how no desserts were going to actually make it from Elly’s house to the Christmas Dinner, and now I am not so sure that was a joke. The Pattersons seems to be wolfing down everything Elly is making as fast as she is making it. You know it’s one thing to have a little sample of something you are making for a family dinner, but to start eating away at them with ice cream added makes me wonder. After all, hasn’t this whole week been Christmas Day? Aren’t these people supposed to finish making this food and then walk it down the road to the main event? How are they going to have any appetite later on, or are they simply planning to say, “No dessert for me. We ate a couple of pies before we came here and we’re stuffed.”

On the other hand, it’s nice to see John Patterson appear in the strip again, and not come off badly. Maybe Lynn Johnston is calming down a little about Rod Johnston, after his girlfriend left him and went back to her husband. Sometimes the best revenge doesn’t come from public humiliation in over 2000 papers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Stroke #2?

The appearance of Grandpa Jim in today’s For Better or For Worse strip shows him getting into his wheelchair without assistance and with a cane hanging off the edge of the kitchen counter, implying that is what he was using to get to the wheelchair. For a guy who had his second stroke just 2 months ago, that is a fairly remarkable recovery, considering the guy was immobile the last time we saw him on Remembrance Day. Unfortunately, it makes me wonder if Lynn Johnston gave Grandpa Jim a second stroke more for her habit of repeating a story she had done before, than to actually address the situation where someone who has had a stroke can have another one. I was expecting to possibly see that Jim had gone to the Sunset Manor mentioned back in October, but if he has recovered this much, he wouldn’t need to go. I wonder if Lynn got some backlash from her elderly friends due to her obviously unresearched mention of a 2-year waiting list.

Another odd thing about this strip is the mention that the great grandchildren get on Grandpa Jim’s nerves. There have been precious few instances where Grandpa Jim interacted with his great grandchildren; but I have no recollection of us ever being told they got on Jim’s nerves. There were even 2 strips of Meredith spending time over at Jim and Iris’ place, but in both cases she was not actually doing anything with Iris or Jim. I wonder if the great grandchildren get on Iris’ nerves and she is projecting it onto Jim, or if this is the first mention of a whole new storyline of Jim vs. Merrie and Robin.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Importance of Relatives

I found it more than a little ironic that the discussion of Liz and Anthony in today’s For Better or For Worse strip turned into a discussion about how getting married means putting up with your spouse’s relatives, when we have yet to see Liz interact with Anthony Caine’s family. Lynn Johnston has made it no secret how she preferred Rod Johnston’s family to her own, and this is reflected in the fact that I cannot remember a single occasion where Deanna and Elly ever clashed over anything. Part of this has to do with the fact that once Mike and Deanna moved into the Sobinski apartment, the almost only time Deanna and Elly had any conversation was when Deanna and Mike were visiting them in Milborough. Elly came to Toronto precious few times from 2001 to 2006. The other part was that Elly invariably agreed with the path that Deanna planned to take; the most significant of these was her decision to stop breast-feeding and return to work back in 2003, much earlier than mother Mira wanted.

With the return (and eventual humbling) of Mira Sobinski, the question arises again, “Where are Anthony’s parents?” and more importantly, "Will Elizabeth prefer them to her own family, as Deanna did?" We know in advance that Anthony is going to get along beautifully with the Pattersons, since they were pushing Liz to Anthony all during his marriage. The only possible exceptions would be April or Iris and Jim, who have never expressed an opinion one way or the other. Traditionally, when Liz brings home a man, April asks the “so when are you getting married?” question, and thinks some comment to herself that she has fulfilled her important role of the younger sister in asking a rude question which everyone wonders, but most have the good taste not to ask. And, of course, we never get to see the question answered.

June 11, 2004 – She asks, “Are you in love?” to Warren Blackwood.

July 5, 2006 – She asks “Are you and Elizabeth going to get married?” to Constable Paul Wright

If Lynn Johnston decides to follow that same course, then we could have a moment where Anthony Caine decides to answer April’s question in the affirmative and then goes on to propose. Lynn likes repetition, but I don’t know if she will go that far in this case. April is 16 now, after all. Maybe, Merrie or Robin will ask the question instead, showing the circle of life.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Random Christmas Thoughts

Judging from today’s For Better or For Worse strip, I was correct in my predictions about the 14 people who are going to make up the Patterson Christmas Dinner. As I said yesterday, I am excited about the possibilities of finally seeing the Mira Sobinski’s reaction to Deanna’s new place, and the Patterson’s reaction to her reaction.

In today’s strip, Meredith and Deanna have a conversation, where we get to see that Meredith is portrayed as a present-hungry child. She’s a little over 5 years old, so that seems appropriate to me. I remember my daughter’s first birthday, where she was oblivious about what was going on. Then there was her second birthday, where she was quite content to let her older brother and other older kids help her open her birthday presents. Then there was her third birthday, where she let out a wail if anyone of those other kids tried to touch one of her presents. Based on that experience, Meredith doesn’t seem out of line for her age.

The sad part of the strip is the look on little Meredith’s face in the final panel, where she seems to realize, once again, that the adults in her family would rather make a joke than give her a straight answer to her questions. That sad face almost caused me to overlook what appears to be an attempt to age Meredith a little. Her face in Panel 4, in particular, looks longer and a lot less like her usual Becky McGuire kind of look. It makes me wonder if Lynn Johnston is trying to push her to be a little older-looking to contrast Meredith with the younger Frànçoise, when they go for the Patterson family photo shoot.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas is Coming and April’s Getting Fat

Please put a penny in the old Foob’s hat. Having gotten that Thérèse trouble-making out of the way, it’s time for Lynn Johnston to officially and completely establish the “circle of life” which has caused Deanna and Mike to move into the old house. Deanna is now the hostess. By listing the number of people attending as 14, I feel pretty certain we will get to see the Sobinskis again, who attended Christmases in Milborough from 2003 – 2006 and Grandpa Jim and Iris will reappear, after having been left out last year. Also appearing will be Anthony Caine and Frànçoise, with a very real possibility we will have a big, public, proposal to Elizabeth. Those are my predictions. Of course at the summer picnic, the Sobinskis were not there and the Mayes’ were; but if that were the case, then the total number would be 16 and not 14. Therefore, I pick Sobinskis.

Ever since Deanna and Mike moved to Milborough, and thus thwarting Mira Sobinski’s long time desire for them to live close to her, I have been curious what Mira’s opinion on the move would be. She may also have an opinion on Mike quitting his Portrait Magazine job, which would allow Mike to throw a sales statistic of Stone Season at her. However, the Sobinskis have traditionally been very well-behaved in Milborough. After that last week with Thérèse’s reappearance, I expect nothing less with the Sobinskis but the same quality of writing from Lynn Johnston. In other words, Mira and Elly are sit down to finally have it out and then we cut to something else completely unrelated.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lazy Children

Unlike yesterday’s For Better or For Worse strip, which was the diametric opposite of my real-life experience, today’s strip (even though a reprint) is something that I have personally experienced. My kids like daddy or mommy to hold everything for them. The worst case is when they go to a county fair or the like, and get some stuffed animal, and then daddy or mommy get to carry the giant stuffed animal around for the rest of the day, because the stupid thing is big and bulky, my kid can’t handle it for long. After the big animal, then it’s everything else. There’s always some souvenir from some event, even if it is a little free prize ribbon from participating in the pig races and the like. I have gotten to the point where I have had to say, “I can’t hold anymore. You are going to have to carry that.” If I am loaded down, my kids are usually pretty responsive to this statement, and turn into little helpers, which is nice of them.

And here we come to the differences between me and Elly Patterson:

1. If my kid had ever said, “Meany!” to me in that situation, my kid would find that I could drop the source of contention in the nearest trash bin.
2. I would not ever attempt a long walk with a kid strapped on my back and carrying two bags of groceries.

a. When I was in university and had no car, I had my groceries double-sacked and I carefully arranged the groceries in the bag, so I could carry two bags on top of each other, with the lower one adding stability to the upper one. Paper bags are too fragile and two precarious to do what Elly Patterson is doing in this strip.
b. Baby strollers usually have these little storage areas on them, where you can carry diapers and the like. If I were desperate, I would find a way to put groceries in those storage areas, and use a stroller to carry the kid instead.
c. Kids’ wagons are a wonderfully easy way to carry things for distances, because of the single handle control. My daughter and I wheeled Girl Scout Cookies around her neighbourhood using one of those. I could put a kid on my back, if I were pulling one those along.

3. I would not scream, “No!” My favourite phrase is, “What did I just tell you?" I think it is a lot more polite, and you can say it with quite a bit of parental menace. I save screaming “No!” for when my kids are about to burn themselves or do some other kind of serious injury to themselves. If you don't scream at a child all the time, you can get their attention more effectively when you do.

All in all, today's strip is not a bad reprint. The visual joke doesn’t work though, because the parts of Elly with the groceries and the kid on her back are not covered by these items in the prior panels. A key element of the "great reveal" kind of visual humour is where everything looks the same, until the viewpoint pulls out for the reveal. Now that I think about it, Lynn Johnston almost never uses “the great reveal” for humourous effect in her strip anymore. I wonder why.


When my father was married to wife #2, she had two little girls who were much younger than I was. I remember times when those little girls would go to visit with their father. My dad hated those visits, because whenever the dad came to drop the girls back with him and their mother, they made a huge scene, crying and weeping about their father having to leave them. Let me tell you the one person those girls never went to for comfort in that situation—My dad. Even though he had married wife #2 well after she had been divorced from the father of those girls, he still took the blame. His presence in their mother’s life was solid proof that their parents were never going to be together again.

When I saw today’s For Better or For Worse strip, I was reminded of that moment in my life, when I had to watch my father trying to be a good step-father to those girls. Based on that experience, the one person Françoise would avoid after Thérèse left, would be Elizabeth, particularly with Anthony there. It makes no sense to me whatsoever, that after Françoise is making a scene by hanging on her mother and saying, “Mama!” she would even consider going to the person whom she just last week was afraid was replacing her mother.

Françoise’s affections for her mother can’t just be moved from mom to daddy’s girlfriend. There is no basis for it. I have been railing on about this ever since Elizabeth and Anthony got together. There has to be at least one scene with Elizabeth and Françoise together, enjoying each other’s company, with Françoise accepting Elizabeth on her own merits. Without that scene, this story simply does not work.

I could go on about how the story is cheapened with the pun Liz makes at the end. I could prattle on about how Liz’s status as being a better mother than Thérèse is based solely on her ability to hang around Anthony. I could even go on about the bizarre apology Thérèse makes at the beginning of the strip. Those are weaknesses, but the worst part is writing a strip with just the emotional payoff of the climax of the story, without writing all the stuff that has to go before it to make that climax work.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Françoise and Her Bucket of Guilt

Today’s For Better or For Worse took an unexpected turn for me. I had expected Thérèse to reject Françoise, leaving Liz to pick up the pieces; but instead we have a Thérèse presented who has spent enough time with Françoise to bond with her even better than she has bonded with her own father (if the body language in the strip is to be believed).

I am going to take it for granted that Lynn Johnston is going to present Françoise acting like she is the same age as Meredith Patterson or older, and not as her real age of 2.75 years old, otherwise the strip will be impossible to digest, and I will sit here wasting my time railing on about how Lynn Johnston has no idea how old the character is or how she should act.

Françoise begins dishing out the guilt:

1. She hasn’t seen her mother for a long time.
2. She prefers spending time with her mother than getting toys from her mother.

The natural conclusion to draw is that because Liz was there with Françoise, it should have been Thérèse taking Françoise to see Santa. After all, it is clear that since Thérèse is at the mall, by herself, then she is intentionally not spending as much time with Françoise as she could. This is the same old problem with Thérèse and her daughter that we have had since before her birth.

It is a popular complaint with snarkers of this comic strip, that Lynn Johnston has something against career women. This is not true. Elly Patterson was presented for years as a person who always regretted not getting her degree and taking every opportunity she could to establish some kind of career, even against John’s wishes. Lynn Johnston is not against career women. She is against women who don’t take care of their kids, no matter what career they have. Today, she is taking one step further by making the statement that the women should take care of their kids, even if they don’t live with their kids.

Even though we have been told that a part of Thérèse’s agreement with Anthony from the first day of Françoise’s conception, is that he will be the primary caretaker; this has been presented as the true indication of Thérèse’s poor character, even before she started cheating. It appears that in Lynn Johnston's opinion this is an agreement which no decent mother would ever consider offering. Whether or not you think Anthony should stick by his agreement is a moot point. The whole idea of it is wrong; so it is not Anthony’s fault for complaining about something to which he agreed. Likewise, because of this, Françoise is wholly in the right with her complaints.

The idea appears again in today's strip. There could be a whole host of reasons why Thérèse has not spent time with Françoise and sent gifts instead, not the least of which could be the presence of Elizabeth in Anthony’s life. However, those reasons are unimportant. The message being sent is that even though Thérèse does not live with Françoise, does not take care of Françoise daily, and has a job which has been shown in the past to keep Thérèse very busy; she should still be spending as much time with Françoise as Françoise would like.

If this line of reasoning continues, then Liz becomes the ideal mother figure for Françoise, for no other reason than when she marries Anthony, she will be around. Based on this idea, anyone who marries Anthony is a good mother. Can Liz’s importance in Françoise’s life sink any lower? We shall see tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Welcome Back Thérèse!

Modern day Thérèse makes her first appearance in For Better or For Worse today since her baby shower 2 years ago, and this is her first confrontation with Liz since New Years, 2005. Needless to say, I am quite disappointed that Lynn Johnston is not going to allow Françoise to have her moment with Liz alone, without bringing in Thérèse. This puts Liz in the situation of being the woman Françoise only likes because her mother rejected her. That is hardly a stirring endorsement for future happiness with Elizabeth.

Today’s strip has a number of ambiguities. However, what can we tell for certain from this strip:

1. Françoise is able to recognize her mother at a long distance. This has to happen for the scene to work, but once again it raises all kinds of issues with the story Lynn Johnston has been telling about the Thérèse who threw away Françoise and Anthony.
2. Françoise likes her mother well enough to ditch Liz and run to her calling “Mom”. Of course I have to wonder what people in the mall would think watching this scene. “Hum! It looks like the little girl is escaping from her frumpily-dressed kidnapper to the arms of her mother. Should I call the police?”
3. The August retcon about Thérèse made it appear she would be leaving for the city, which has obviously not happened. I think the retcon ignored little things like Thérèse’s career and boyfriend which might keep her in Milborough.

Well, Lynn Johnston. I had hoped you were not going to have Thérèse be smacked down in this mall, but once again, you have made my plotting fear come true. The obvious sequence of events is going to be:
a. Thérèse rejects Françoise.
b. Françoise gets upset.
c. Françoise is comforted by Liz.
d. Françoise decides she likes Liz after all and tells this to Anthony when they get back together.

Over and above this, I am not sure I am not exactly sure what direction the smackdown is going to take. Thérèse does not appear to be repulsed by Françoise, although her “No!” is a clue she is unhappy about the situation. Will Thérèse be painted as an unrepentant villainess, or a parent forced into the uncomfortable situation of explaining her divorce in a public venue to her child? The August retcon was fairly kind to Thérèse, but did put in some sharp barbs about Thérèse’s low opinion of Anthony and how she left him in debt after the divorce. On the other hand Lynn Johnston may not be able to make her point about Thérèse, unless she is painted with the darkest brush possible.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Liz and Françoise

In today’s For Better or For Worse, Liz and Anthony put on a demonstration of how not to get your kids a toy for Christmas without them knowing; but it is beside the point. What is really important is that for the very first time we see Elizabeth Patterson take the initiative to spend time with Françoise without Anthony, including the first time Liz has held her hand by herself. Since there is a tendency in this strip for Pattersons to become successes with a minimal amount of effort, I had feared that Françoise would love Liz without a cause and just because she was a Patterson. Although it would be fun to snark something like that, there is a point with For Better or For Worse, when I hope my predictions of bad plotting don't come true.

That having been said, I sincerely hope that this is not the point where Thérèse makes a reappearance. Elizabeth needs to have the one moment with Françoise to establish some kind of relationship with her; before we can give her any kind of pass on being a mother to this hyperintelligent little girl before the marriage occurs. Technically this moment should have occurred months ago; but I will take it now. Lynn Johnston just didn’t have much time with 2 of the last 4 months stuffed with hybrid strips.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Positive Vision Problems

In yesterday’s comments, Anon NYC provided the following challenge:

In the spirit of the season, I challenge the snarkers of FBORFW to make one positive comment about tomorrow’s strip.

I accepted, of course. Let me start off with the easiest one. Today’s strip in For Better or For Worse was positively not the worst For Better or For Worse strip I have ever seen. The construction of the strip is fairly straight forward, i.e. each character asks another one what they are thinking. The final character asked, has an answer to question which is the punch line. In this strip, the final character is little Françoise and her punch line has to do with the idea she can only “smell” legs. The strip is therefore funny because not only can Françoise only encounter legs at her height, but she goes for the word “smell” instead of the one most adults would do of “see”. We then have humour based on her childlike choice of words, in the “Kids Say the Funniest Things” kind of style. This is a pretty standard source of humour for Lynn Johnston, but it is the first time she has used Françoise instead of Robin or Merrie. Welcome to the family, Françoise!

However, I was struck by this choice of joke for a different reason. Last week, I snarked a strip where it showed little Françoise going to her room to go to bed and she had her hand in front of her, as if she were trying to find her way by touch. I made a note then, jokingly, that perhaps Françoise had vision problems. Then this strip pops up and she says “smell” and not “see”, and my thought is “Well, that’s mighty coincidental. I wonder if Lynn Johnston is leading up to something.”

Now, there are those of you people out there that may think I am leaping to conclusions, but I will point out that this strip predicted an apartment fire, how the Pattersons would escape, and the source of the fire and this strip predicted Deanna and Mike would move into John and Elly’s house. Lynn Johnston has had her moments of subtle hinting before. However, I will admit it seems a little late in the game to introduce a whole new medical problem for a For Better or For Worse regular character. Anyway, just to find out for sure, this is the letter I submitted to the Coffee Talk:

Dear Lynn,

On Wednesday, December 5, you had a picture in the first panel of Françoise trying to feel her way to her room. On Tuesday, December 11, you had Françoise talk about smelling legs, instead of the more obvious joke about seeing only legs. It’s subtle, but I think you are trying to clue us readers in that Françoise has vision problems. Although I feel sorry for a character having vision problems at such a young age as Françoise, I am also looking forward to the first rate way I know Lynn Johnston will handle this important medical issue.

I positively expect it will not be selected for the Coffee Talk.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Thinking Things Through

I have this image in my head of one of Lynn Johnston’s workers dropping the line, “It’s OK if snow gets in my hair, because it hides the gray.” I can see Lynn telling the worker she’s going to use the joke in For Better or For Worse and she says, “OK”. Lynn then decides to use the joke in today’s strip with Anthony dropping the line, even though I believe Anthony is Liz’s age of 26 and Anthony has blonde hair, making it difficult to see gray in the first place.

All I can is that at least Lynn Johnston thought this sequence through enough to make sure Anthony wasn’t wearing a hat, like Elizabeth and Françoise are, so snow could actually land on his head. I sometimes wonder if Lynn Johnston just gets so excited about something, she just has to do it without thinking whether or not it will fit, or make sense. That's happened to me before, certainly. I get a bee in my bonnet, and I have to do something, no matter how ridiculous it is.

I remember the odd sequence with Connie Poirier and Iris, where the Connie Poirier reprint strips were thrown in at random. I remember just this past week where Anthony Caine's appearance altered from panel-to-panel. Does Lynn Johnston get so excited about the things she is doing, she simply cannot think them through so they make sense? Can she not draw something she is excited about without considering the possibility of correcting it?

I remember seeing the CBC documentary where she showed how she drew the pencils for a strip, and it was so haphazard, and loose. I thought it must have been the way she did it for the sake of the documentary, but now I begin to wonder, if that's not the way she does it every time. So in today's For Better or For Worse, I have the impression Lynn wants to tell a joke, and nothing is going to stop her.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

John Patterson is Different From Me

I remember well when my kids were really young, and when I came home from work, there would be 2 little faces running at me as soon as the door opened. My habit then, because they were a lot lighter, was to pick them up and swing their little legs so far backwards that they would angle toward the ceiling. They loved doing that and I loved doing it, until they got bigger. Even then, I developed techniques of picking up the kids which allowed me to continue the practice for some time. It was a great time in my life, and I remember it fondly, particularly now they don’t rush the door to me anymore. Now, they are older and surlier, and oftentimes don’t even notice I have come home. I, however, still get a little rush of pleasure seeing them when I get home, even if there isn’t the accompanying body lifting.

Today’s For Better or For Worse is a reprint, it looks like without any hybridization. And the point of the strip is that John Patterson takes all the abuse he receives at the office and unleashes it on his little boy when he comes home. Of course, he unleashes it for comic effect, with a giant “Growl” , but the effect is still the same. His boy who was excited to greet him, is going to think twice about doing that again, and a moment where a cute son could be a balm for a miserable day, ends with the son taking “Growl” abuse. The “Growl” for comic effect is once again, something that Lynn Johnston lifted off the Peanuts comics strip, but for some reason seeing a father “Growl” at a son, doesn’t seem as funny to me as when Snoopy would “Growl” at something. I guess I am too close to the subject.

Liz and Anthony end of week 1

This week in For Better or For Worse is really the first week to address the Elizabeth and Anthony relationship since the ice cream shop strip sequence. Lynn has introduced the following things:

1. Françoise has reversed on her opinion of Liz from something to be adopted to something trying to take her father away from her. On the one hand I congratulate Lynn Johnston for responding to the complaints that Françoise was far too easily accepting of Liz. My guess is that Lynn supposed her ideas for how Liz and Anthony reacted to Françoise, were considered to be good parenting on her part. At best, it was flawed parenting.

2. Liz and Anthony spend a lot of time with each other, and they, at least, do domestic things together like the dishes. Unfortunately, all the things they do together are awkward and stiff including doing the dishes; but I don’t blame the story for this, just the story-teller.

3. Liz and Anthony’s affection for each has changed from what is was at Shawna-Marie Verano’s wedding. This one really is the story-teller, who could have simply imitated the romantic poses from the wedding story; but has instead chosen to have Liz and Anthony take on a different set of romantic behaviours, and ones that don’t involve kissing, which I frankly find a little surprising, because I had marked that characteristic as the one which separated Liz’s relationship with Anthony vs. her and Paul or Warren, who she very rarely kissed.

4. Liz and Anthony’s conversation indicates that they have every intention of being around each other for a long time. They still haven’t said they love each other, but we’ll take our advances in the relationship how we get them.

One of things the strip sequence suffered from, was the use of the hybrid reprint strip. Liz and Anthony’s reactions to each other, like the long farewell sequence of today’s strip are a lot cuter when the relationship is pretty new. 4 months into it, the farewell sequence seems a little odd and out-of-place.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Bribery and Santa

When my boy was very young, he liked to take the books off his book shelf, look at the pictures, and then leave them on the floor. So, I decided, as a means of convincing him to put his books up, to tell if he didn’t put his books up, then I was going to throw the books on the floor away in the trash. The books were expensive, so my real plan was simply to remove the books where he couldn’t find them and then hope that their loss would make an impression on him that he needed to put his books up. Then I would restore the books as new gifts later on.

Naturally, this particular threat meant nothing to my son. In fact, when I gathered up the books on the floor to throw them away, he saw me gather them up, and picked up more books off his shelf in his arms, and proceeded to follow me out of his room to “help” me throw them away. When we got to the trash can, I put my books in there, plus the books he had been carrying. Then my son went back to the bookshelf to get more books. He was having a grand time, helping his daddy. He didn’t learn his lesson, but I did.

In today’s For Better or For Worse, Anthony Caine tries his version of trying to take something away in order to coerce his daughter to “let” him spend time with Elizabeth. Aside from the obvious problems of granting that his daughter has that authority over him and Elizabeth, there is also the problem of the way he has to threaten her with Santa Claus to get her acceptance.

Some people when they are single parents, use their children as a sort of litmus test as to whether their date is going to be a good potential spouse. When I was a single, young man; it was the “Woo the child and get the mom” philosophy. Anthony acts like this is the situation he is in, only he is trying to skew the final outcome, by threatening to take away Santa from Françoise. You would hope that eventually Françoise would like Elizabeth on her own merits, and not because dad had to bribe her all the time.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

How Each Adult Is Dealing With Françoise.

Anon NYC has specially requested that we address this particular issue.

Françoise shows up on Monday in her pyjamas. It is unknown whether or not she had been in bed before, but the sneaking around the corner and her eventual destination by Thursday’s strip sort of implies she was in bed. So the situation would be that Liz and Anthony and Françoise had dinner, put Françoise to bed, and then were preparing to read over Mike’s new book together. We see toys out on the floor, so it appears that Anthony is not strict with Françoise about putting her toys up.

Then when Françoise arrives saying she wants to see Mike’s book, Anthony enthusiastically tell her she can see Mike’s book. He doesn’t say, “Go back to bed.” So, it appears that Anthony is not one to restrict the things Françoise is or is not allowed to see. Liz, on the other hand says nothing, but she does lean away from Anthony when she realized Françoise is there, as if to say she considers physical contact with Anthony in front of Françoise to be inappropriate.

Without anything to lead into it, Françoise is between Anthony and Liz and saying, “My daddy!” Despite this clear attack, Liz takes it lightly and by deferring to Françoise as to where she sits, actually seems to be giving her the authority to do what she just did. So, these are two things Françoise has asked for which she gets from the adults. Anthony is showing her the book and Liz gets and leaves Françoise alone with her father. These actions cry out for one of these two to put their foot down to this girl.

Anthony makes a move to discipline by telling her Elizabeth was sitting there first, but Françoise completely rejects the discipline to Anthony’s face. This is what I would call backtalk in my house. Anthony caves in, and instead of discipline, tries to reason with her.

Elizabeth reacts to Françoise by leaving Anthony to explain things to her. As I mentioned before, this would have been a perfect time for Liz to say, “I am not trying to take your father from you.” Instead she is leaving all the discipline and all the punishment and all the soothing conversations to Anthony. What is presented then is the idea that Liz Patterson is leaving the parenting to Anthony, and this is appropriate because she is the girlfriend and not the fiancée yet. I agree that Elizabeth should not usurp Anthony’s parenting, but if there were parenting which needed to be usurped, it is this stuff. Anthony as a parent is trying to reason with little Françoise, which is not going to work because the fears she has about Liz are not rational thought.

After this, Françoise heads off to bed (presumably Anthony tells her to, but we don't get to see it), but then she doesn’t get very far before she is back. We don’t see Anthony, the parent or Elizabeth try to tuck her in bed, so it is not too surprising she is back out again. Anthony blames Françoise’s behaviour on her inability to accept another woman in the house. Liz, on the other hand, plans to do nothing about the situation and assumes Françoise will eventually come to her. Somehow Françoise gets in Anthony’s arms and shoots Liz a dirty look. Françoise is running all over both of them, and they don't even seem to be trying to stop her.

In Thursday’s For Better or For Worse, once again both Anthony and Liz stop what they were doing to deal with Françoise’s demands.

Anthony as father: Gives into Françoise at every turn. The only hint of any parental discipline is when he tells Françoise she is not being nice. The only hint of understanding is when he tells Françoise she can’t substitute for Elizabeth, because he wants a big girl. Why he can't explain to Françoise that he likes Elizabeth, I don't know. It makes it seem like he only likes Elizabeth because she is a grownup.

My viewpoint: Just awful parenting. The kid is running all over him, so he can’t enjoy his time with Elizabeth. He is not even trying to deal with her overpossessiveness.

Elizabeth as girlfriend, since she is not trying to be mother: Her only interaction with Françoise was to ask her if she could still sit by Anthony, which is in deference to her rudeness, which Liz does not appear to be taking seriously. Liz’s overall plan seems to be to leave the parenting to Anthony and wait for Françoise to come to her. In other words, she is taking the laziest route possible. There is no action there at all, except inaction. I can't see how her plan will work, but I know it will.

In any case, these two are a long way from getting Françoise to call Elizabeth "mommy" instead of Thérèse.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I Think I Missed Something

Today’s For Better or For Worse had dialogue and domesticity between Anthony and Elizabeth which heavily suggested that if Elizabeth is not living with Anthony, then they are pretty close to it. Naturally, my reaction is, “I think I missed something. Weren’t they just dating and taking it slow?”

Sunday, July 22:
After the Shawna-Marie wedding is over. Our first view of Anthony and Elizabeth and Françoise is the park date, where Elizabeth says being with them is like a walk in the park. {Drum beat}
Status: A date has occurred.

Monday, August 6 – Saturday, August 12:
A repeat of the park date sequence for the daily readers, ending up in an ice cream shop and little Françoise asking her father if she can keep Elizabeth.
Status: Françoise has given her approval for Anthony to continue with Elizabeth.

Sunday, August 13:
Anthony and little Françoise are at the Patterson outdoor picnic. Françoise picks some flowers for Anthony, and that’s all they do.
Status: Acceptance of the relationship by other Pattersons, even if they don’t interact with Anthony or Françoise.

Sunday, August 19:

The list comparison date. Ends with Anthony and Elizabeth asking for the check quickly in order to make a joke about having said “check” in every panel prior.
Status: Anthony and Elizabeth have decided they are suitable partners. They decide to be physically intimate with each other.

Monday, August 20 – Saturday August 25:
Elizabeth discusses why Anthony’s marriage to Thérèse failed (the retcon version). Candace declares they are a couple. Elizabeth says it’s still friendship. Rule of thumb: When Elizabeth says it is friendship, it is never friendship. Candace predicts the future: (1) The ex-wife will show up and cause problems (2) Angelic Francie goes anti-Liz and (3) Liz is into recycling. We have seen (2) happen; but (1) and (3) are yet to come. After telling the Anthony and Thérèse story, Liz comes to the conclusion the relationship failed because you can’t change people. The end of the sequence has Liz telling Candace that Anthony is only starting to trust again, with a very sly and mysterious smile says, “Trust me…. he does (trust me)” to Candace.
Status: Anthony and Elizabeth have done something together which showed Liz that he trusts her. Is it the invitation to move in? Countering that idea is that Liz is clearly still in her apartment, talking to Candace.

Saturday, October 6:
At the end of the “Grandpa Jim has another stroke” sequence, Liz calls Anthony to take her driving and he does. At the end he tells Liz to lean on him for strength.
Status: Anthony listens to Elizabeth talk about her problems.

Then we have a Liz laundry sequence, which implies that Liz doesn’t do her laundry at Anthony’s place; but not much more than that, since Liz doesn’t mention Anthony the whole time she is talking to April. After having gone through this, I can make a case for Anthony and Elizabeth considering themselves to be a couple and having had sex. However, I don’t see where they went from that point to the comments they make in today’s strip about how Liz is “another woman in the house!” and she plans to be patient, so “some day, she’ll (Francie) will come to me”. That implies they are living together and plan to do so for the foreseeable future.

Is Lynn Johnston pulling the same kind of stunt she did with Eric Chamberlain, where Liz and Eric live together in university but have separate bedrooms? Then in the meantime, Lynn says in interviews Liz and Eric were intimate, but she will never state that in the strip.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I Was Here First

Surprisingly enough, my expectation that in today’s For Better or For Worse, Elizabeth Patterson would be making an effort to win over little Françoise Caine did not come true. I suppose I should have expected a passive Patterson to passively the leave the area of conflict, but I am disappointed I don’t get to see her at least try.

I have never had to deal with the stepparent issues as a parent, but only as a child living with a single mom. During my dating days, whenever I dated a single mother, I was well aware that I was wooing not only the mother, but the child, and the relationship was going nowhere if I didn’t please both. That’s trickier than it sounds. Sometimes, the kids loved me, but the mom felt neglected. It’s a lot easier to date someone who doesn’t have children.

With very little effort I found a site offering a single male parent with a daughter advice on how to handle his daughter who was possessive of him and resented his new girlfriend. Following is the advice he was given. I have reworded it to be appropriate for Elizabeth and Françoise.

1. Try having Françoise spend some one on one time with Elizabeth for girl stuff, to help them to bond to a deeper level.
2. Elizabeth needs to be the one to re-assure Françoise she does not want to take her daddy away from her.
3. This is a normal stage for Françoise as all little girls at one stage in their life falls in love with their daddy even feeling threatened by their own biological mothers (sometimes resenting the mother).
4. You need to get Françoise focused on more outside activities and encourage her to develop interests aside from and away from you. This will give her other healthy relationships to teach her it is OK to care about others as not everyone will leave her, and it will show her that daddy will not leave her while she is away from him.
5. Most of all, you need to stop coddling Françoise and stop focusing on the things that can't be changed (her mother leaving). Françoise needs to get beyond what happened with her mother but as long as you make allowances for adverse behavior excusing it because of what happened then she will become to believe it is worse then it is and intensify it within herself.
6. Françoise's overly possessive obsession with you must be handled now unless you want to remain single for the rest of your life with no chance of an intimate relationship and a daughter going from one relationship to another.

I don’t know if I agree with all that advice. However, in Anthony’s favour, it appears he is working on item #6. Elizabeth, on the other hand, could stand to do some of #1 and #2 and stop making Anthony her sole focus. I have still yet to see Elizabeth show me anything that would impel me to root for her to get together with Anthony and Françoise. Hopefully there will be something this week.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Elizabeth and Anthony, Lovers or Wood?

In today's For Better or For Worse, Anthony and Elizabeth are sharing two cups of coffee (Pattersons are unable to speak without coffee) and they’ve had a bowl of something, all while looking together at Mike’s new book. I can think back to all the times I and my wife have sat on a chesterfield and read a book together. I think the number of times is zero. Magazine articles, yes. Books, no. What they are really doing is trying to see if they can come up with dialogue even more leaden and wooden than the other one. How well to they do? Let’s see:

Anthony: “Your brother writes well, Elizabeth.”
1 point for saying, “Your brother” instead of the more familiar “Mike.”
1 point for saying, “Elizabeth” instead of the more familiar “Liz.”
1 point for saying the least possible descriptive compliment “writes well”.
3 points total for Anthony on the wooden-meter.

Can Elizabeth do better? Let’s see:
Elizabeth: “Thanks. It’s something he’s always been good at.”
-1 point for saying “Thanks” instead of the more formal “Thank you.”
-1 point for saying, “he’s always been good at” instead of the more formal, “at which he’s always been good.”
+1 point for not elaborating on Anthony’s statement.
-1 points total. I am giving this wooden round to Anthony.

This is a majour problem in the relationship between Elizabeth and Anthony. We know that in the case of Eric Chamberlain, Constable Paul Wright, Warren Blackwood, and Mason the best man; Elizabeth’s interest in those guys was based on lust. These were considered to be good-looking men and Elizabeth would make a comment to that effect. Anthony, in contrast, is supposed to the solid, dependable, not-as-good-looking guy. In order for this to work, the dialogue between Elizabeth and Anthony needs to show that Elizabeth is more relaxed and at ease around Anthony than her dialogue with any of those other guys. Instead, we get yet another strip today where Elizabeth and Anthony speak as though they are on a blind date, meeting each other for the first time.

Lynn Johnston. If you are reading this, look at these two words: Pet Names. She’s Liz, or honey or sweetie, not Elizabeth. And the same goes for the way she talks to Anthony. Freckle face or honey or sweetie or numbers guy or something other than Anthony. That simple change will do wonders for these two stiff-necked, unromantic, boards of wood.

Late Night Eating

There is a member of my extended family who is quite large, and she gets up in the middle of the night to eat. It is a very serious problem for her. Today’s For Better or For Worse strip reminded me of her, and is on the verge of being offensive to persons who have that particular eating disorder, especially with unusual face Elly has in the final panel, being done for comedic effect, as she eats the pie and the chicken leg. However, when the strip was originally published, I am sure such things were never considered.

As far as the strip story is concerned, we have seen that Elly Patterson cannot control her eating on several occasions, and this is the reason she looks the way she does. In contrast, Lynn Johnston looks pretty thin to me, in her pictures, and in her old videoed interviews I have seen, so I wonder where the image of big-bottomed Elly comes from.

As for comparing John to Elly, John clearly exercises more often and more effectively. Elly occasionally goes on a jog with Connie Poirier, but the destination is usually a coffee shop. I know there are a lot of women who can relate to this model of exercise and eating, but I wonder if this is an area where Elly diverges from Lynn Johnston in her physical appearance. It is possible, I suppose, that Elly does not diverge from the way Lynn Johnston thinks about her physical appearance.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Silhouettes and Poiriers

Earlier in the year, Lynn Johnston did a podcast interview (sorry I don’t have the link) where, among many topics covered, she discussed criticisms leveled against her handling of For Better or For Worse. One of these was the decision to have April Patterson perform a song she composed at the Hearts Together Telethon, and yet have no other Pattersons in the crowd watching her perform. Lynn’s response to the complaint was that she didn’t have space to draw the other people in.

As we have completed the story arch this week with Michael Patterson and his Lilliput’s book-signing, I have tried to avoid complaining about persons who did or did not attend until I could have a full view of the whole affair. The persons who were conspicuous in their absence were Elizabeth Patterson and the Poirier family. Lawrence Poirier has missed all 3 of the “celebrate Mike the author” parties, and has been mentioned only when Mike called him up to offer him a free book. Likewise one next-door-neighbour Anne Nichols shows up, but the other one, Connie Poirier does not. Even more amusing was the appearance of Lilliput’s employee, Beatrice Alfarero, who was shown two times in the strip only in silhouette, even when Michael was speaking directly to her.

The question is: Was there space for these people? I believe that there was. Gordon Mayes made an appearance only in a single panel in the Tuesday strip. However, in all of the Lilliput’s strips running from Monday to Thursday, there were silhouettes. 14 panels of silhouetted people all together. That’s a lot of space.

It looks like Lynn Johnston is simply picking some of these old characters for situations and then dropping them in when it suits her purpose. Anne Nichols and Jean Baker showed up, but without mentioning their last names or their relationship to Mike, like Anne’s kids. That has them covered.

As for the prominently missing people, Connie Poirier, for example, went with Elly to visit Grandpa Jim in the hospital, for no other reason than to introduce a few reprint strips with Connie Poirier in them. That’s her appearance. Mike mentions Lawrence Poirier in the strip where he calls him to tell him about the free book. That’s his appearance. And Elizabeth Patterson can’t make any appearance anywhere without having to dive into her romantic life, just like when she went to Mike’s party back in March, and it was all about her romance with Warren. You can’t put in Elizabeth, because it will distract from Mike. As for Beatrice Alfarero, well, it would be too much trouble to look at an old strip and figure out what she looks like.

Lynn Johnston. I disagree with your decision. Less silhouettes and more characters makes for a strip that makes more sense.