Days of Expressive Hands
Lynn Johnston has traditionally had a hard time drawing hands, and for whatever reason, usually ends up drawing deformed claws where hands should be. However, in today’s For Better or For Worse reprint, we can see that this was not always the case. The hands are not perfectly drawn, by any stretch of the imagination, but they are expressive.
In panel 1, we see Elly holding a small-looking Farley with just 2 fingers and a thumb, while Thelma Baird is pointing at the dog to make sure Elly is looking to see he is a runt.
In panel 2, Elly’s hands are snuggling Farley to her face with his little paws so cute on top of her right hand. Thelma has her hands clasped as if she is begging Elly to take the dog.
In panel 3, Thelma’s hand very clearly indicates the aside to John Patterson about her secret plan to help him get the puppy.
These hands are so expressive, I would say that if you stripped off the dialogue, you could have a pretty good guess what this strip was about just by looking at the hands. This is one of the key things that Lynn has lost in her cartooning art – the ability to tell the story by using the hands of the characters. Even if you go back 2 Sundays ago to the dialogue-free Sunday strip where Lizzie is assaulted by the ugly, old lady, Lynn resorted primarily to emotion lines off Lizzie’s head to tell the story. Looking at that strip, the hands have the fingers either all together or all apart with respect to what they meant for the story. Lynn Johnston seems to have lost that hand art.
As for the content of today’s reprint, it forces me to eat my words about yesterday. Mrs. Baird is still the conniving dog breeder we remember from 1980 and Farley is still a runt – a runt which will require no special care. I thought Lynn would fix those problems from 1980, but they are still there. It’s just as well. I liked Mrs. Baird pulling a fast one on Elly. It was my favourite strip of the sequence.
Just to let you know I got some correspondence with Lynn Johnston's Coffee Talk I will share with you:
My question: Dear Lynn,
We all know that the dog Farley was based on a real-life dog you once owned. Since Mrs. Thelma Baird has also come back to your comic strip, was she based on a real-life person in your life, and if so, what was the relationship between you two?
Thelma Baird is based on a number of ladies I have known over the years. She's most like my mom's British war bride friends..people I knew as a child.
Thanks for writing and all the best,