Sunday, November 30, 2008

Anne Nichols : Funny in the 1950s

In the beginning Anne Nichols was into eating healthy. History in the strip of For Better or For Worse has shown us that this was just a trend Anne was following and that within a short period of time, she was no long into eating healthy, and don’t believe it was ever mentioned again. After all, Anne was the one who provided the infamous prime rib used to determine that Grandpa Jim actually had a stroke and was not pretending to be asleep. Anne also provided the food for the Caine / Patterson wedding.

In today’s For Better or For Worse, you see Elly playing a role very common for her in the early strips. She sits and doesn’t say a word, but you are to read her opinion from her reactions. She has her hand over her mouth in surprise at the book “ Fun with Wheat Germ.” She looks concerned at Anne while holding the book, “The Victorious Vitamin.” She stares in disbelief at the giant loaf of bread in Anne’s hands, and from this we derive the punch line. The viewer can tell why Anne cannot lose weight, and empathizes with Elly’s position as she resists telling Anne why it is that she cannot lose weight.

Elly is supposed to represent the every-woman, and she was to be surrounded by persons more extreme in their viewpoints. In this way, Lynn could make fun of the health nut housewife with Anne, and make fun of the women’s liberation movement with Connie Poirier. As I have mentioned before in this blog, this setup is identical to that which Cathy Guisewite had for her comic strip Cathy. In the early days, Lynn Johnston shamelessly ripped off other comic strips.

More interesting at this time is Lynn Johnston’s very old-fashioned view about health nuts. I remember seeing an episode of My Little Margie, years ago, where Margie and her dad are trying to get along with a health nut for their own nefarious purposes; and the humour of the situation is the long series of unpleasant things the health nut inflicts on them, like eating plain white yogurt out of a giant jar, or having to do impromptu exercises. At that time, people who tried to eat natural or organic foods were ridiculed.

When the strip was originally published in 1980, this was time near the beginning of Jane Fonda’s video workout, and Olivia Newton-John’s Let’s Get Physical. The health craze was beginning and where was Lynn Johnston? She was mocking Anne Nichols as a health nut, using a style of humour that was 20-30 years old when she started. This is a trademark of For Better or For Worse, i.e. old-style humour. For example, much of the humour for John Patterson relied on his sexist remarks and his male chauvinism, a type of humour which was popular in the early-to-mid 1970s and had faded by the time 1980 rolled around.

As I see these kinds of jokes repeated in 2008, I am reminded of when I saw those episodes of My Little Margie. Nickelodeon had started doing its segment called Nick-at-Nite, which specialized in rerunning old TV programs. When they first started doing it, there was this whole pile of TV shows they used I have never seen before. I Love Joan, Bachelor Father, the Burns and Allen Show appeared almost every night. It was fascinating to see shows from the very early years of TV. I would notice things like how much the characters would smoke or drink or say outrageously racist or sexist things as points of humour. Modern humour was so much more politically correct in its sensibility.

This is what makes For Better or For Worse interesting with its reprints. The jokes and the forms of humour Lynn Johnston was using in 1980 were, even at that time, hopelessly outdated. Seeing them reprinted almost requires that you have a little guide to go along with it. For example, with today’s reprint, you would need a little sign that says, “Before the fitness craze of the early 1980s, it was considered to be funny to make fun of people who ate healthy foods. This strip should be considered an artifact of its day, and should not be construed to assume that Lynn Johnston has a negative viewpoint towards the immensely popular organic food movement.”

Saturday, November 29, 2008


What does “GROWL” mean? It was a pretty common term in the old For Better or For Worse and was last used in a reprint on 12/9/2007. In the 12/9/2007 strip, I can assume that it means one of the parents yelling at the kids about something that has no particular worth or meaning, otherwise actual words would be shown. However, in today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse, John Patterson actually uses “GROWL” to send his son running off in terror and claims that “GROWL” was “the best reason (he) could think of” for young Michael to go to bed.

Having encountered this situation in real life on more than one occasion, I can tell you the answer I give my son or daughter usually is: “You are doing (this) in the morning and if you don’t get enough sleep you are cranky the whole day long, which no ones likes, especially me.” This usually works, because it is an effortless task to recall a moment when my kids didn’t get enough sleep and were cranky. Comparatively speaking, John Patterson’s reaction is yet another example of poor, parenting on the part of a Patterson. You can tell from Elly’s sideways glance at John’s explanation for the “GROWL” she does not necessarily approve. Of course, from an historical perspective, Elly did quite a few “GROWL”s herself, so she really has no leg to stand on.

Ultimately, we end up with a strip, where the punchline of the strip is that the father says that he was not capable of coming up with one good reason why his child couldn’t stay up late, and so he resorted to making a noise that the son would consider so threatening that he would not only go to bed, but run to go to bed. It’s almost like the argument “Because I said so” or “Because I am the daddy”, except the panel where Michael is running to go to bed makes John’s answer less benign than those answers. When I think to my own time as a parent and think, “What would I have to say to my son to get him to run like that?” It would be a pretty severe response. From this perspective, “GROWL” may be a much better choice than John Patterson saying, “If you don’t go to bed right now, I am going turn your bottom red.” The effect may be the same, but “GROWL” is less threatening to the reader, who probably won’t think too hard about what “GROWL” really means. They will just think, “Oh, I’ve done that before, when my son challenged me and I couldn’t come up with an answer. This comic strip is so funny, because it is like Lynn Johnston has a camera in my house.” This is the mainstay of this strip: Things are funny not because they are funny, but they are funny because they happened to me the same way.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Young Michael Patterson Likes Wearing Girls' Painting Shirts

In today’s For Better or For Worse new-run, little Michael’s interest in Deanna takes a step into the creepy. In the old versions, Michael would antagonize Deanna and she would usually strike back physically or call the teacher on young Michael. These stories had the advantage of not only seeing Michael’s method of getting to know Deanna better, but also showed the perspective of Deanna. This modern version is 2 strips into it, and so far we have seen nothing about Deanna Sobinski which would inspire this attention from Michael, aside from the fact Deanna seems to be well-supplied in painting shirts. The way the story was laid out in 1980, Michael notices Deanna and insults Deanna, and then she slugged him. We got to see that Deanna was a cute, little girl who was not afraid to hit a boy to defend herself. That showed us some of her personality and you could kind of see why Mike might like her. In this new-run version, all you get is Mike’s thought balloons and Lawrence’s suspicions; but there is nothing to show why Mike has fallen so completely for Deanna that he would be ecstatic over the idea of wearing her painting shirt. It makes little Michael seem a little disturbed.

As for me and my family, we are off to visit my sister in Minnesota for Thanksgiving, so any Howard Bunt Blog entries for the rest of the week are going to be iffy. If you are celebrating US Thanksgiving or traveling, I wish you the best.

The Story of Jim Richards commentary

Beth Cruikshank has a new biography of Jim Richards. As usual, I will copy the parts in which I am interested and comment on them:

He signed up with the Royal Canadian Air Force and shipped out to England in the spring of 1941 to join the newly formed 408 Squadron in Yorkshire.

Actually No. 408 Squadron's history dates back to June 24, 1941; which is summer and not spring.

Jim trained as an instrument technician, a natural fit with his aptitude and inclination. Once the Squadron's first sorties took flight in August of 1941, he was kept hard at work preparing aircraft for the missions, mostly bombing runs, which flew across the English Channel in support of the Allied Forces.

First Operational Mission in WWII was 11/12th August 1941 : 2 Hampdens bombed Rotterdam docks & 2 more Hampdens aborted. This is correct.

At times, the tales of high risks, heart-stopping drama and gritty courage resonated so deeply, he felt he had been on those flights with them. In later years, he told the stories as though he had been. It was a measure of the rapport in the squadron that he felt he had the right.

This certainly explains some of the strips where Jim describes himself in combat. I cannot speak for the RCAF, but the servicemen I know would be very upset if someone took credit for something they had done in combat.

In 1943, 408 Squadron moved to the RAF base near the small town of Linton-on-Ouse.

12 August 1943-14 June 1945: Linton-on-Ouse. Again correct.

Where other men considered her cold, he saw her as courageous. Where many saw her as standoffish, he suspected she was lonely.

The interesting part is that if you read Marian’s biography and this biography you will discover that the other men were right.

By the end of the evening, she was laughing easily with him, her eyes warm and smiling.

Translation: She had an orgasm.

After that memorable evening, he drew her into his circle of friends, including her when they went pubbing or partying. Whenever their leaves coincided, the two of them borrowed bicycles and explored the dales and shires of northern England. On New Year's Eve of 1944, with a kiss and a promise, they became officially engaged.

New Years, 1945 was the year in Marian’s biography.

It had always been Jim's gift to make friends quickly and with ease. There were no shortage of new friendships in his and Marian's life. The new relationships never felt as close or as deep, though, as the intense, bittersweet camaraderie of wartime.

This is an odd theme presented that Jim’s best friends from the wartime and he couldn’t make any close friends who were not also associated with WWII.

He spent the next few nights sleeping on the couch.

Translation: Chesterfield

The best times of all were the evenings when the whole family gathered in the living room to play and sing. It touched him to the heart to hear his children sing the sentimental songs that had lightened the darkest days of the war.

In Marian’s version, they are singing 1960s protest songs.

The part describing the business, the birth of children, the marital strife is so close to Marian's version, it is not worth commenting on . Beth Cruikshank hit the exact same points for both Marian and Jim. One big difference in the two biographies is that Jim has no childhood except for watch destruction. His family life with his sister is not described at all.

Marian's Biography Comments

Beth Cruikshank has published a new biography of Elly's mother, Marian Richards. As usual, I will quote the part of interest to me and comment upon it.

No one in the family had ever forgotten the hideous scene when his second daughter, Emily, had brought home a young medical student with a Polish last name and introduced him as her boyfriend.

Well now we know why Sobinski was acceptable for Michael Patterson when Blum was not.

She had taken training as a stenographer and spent a dismal two years working in her father's import business.

Also Josef Weeder’s father’s business. I think Lynn must have something against the import business.

When the RCAF 408 squadron was established at Linton-on-Ouse in England, Marian was posted as supply sergeant in the depot there.

No. 408 (Goose) Squadron. RCAF was in Linton-on-Ouse from Oct 1942 to Oct 1943 and Sept 1944 to June 1945. This was not the only place the Goose Squadron went; however, someone appears to have actually done some research. These dates cover the dates in the story.

She took grim satisfaction in the struggle to keep her "boys" supplied with everything they needed to maintain the punishing schedule of bombing and reconnaissance flights that 408 Squadron flew.

It is a minor point, but the 408 RCAF Squadron did not fly reconnaissance flights until after the war was over. The aircraft they flew were strictly bombers. Probably someone just reading a history of the squadron would not know that unless they dug deeper into it.

It came as a surprise when Jim asked her to dance one night at a ball being hosted by their Squadron band in a nearby town. His clique usually chummed with the outgoing girls, the confident ones who laughed and flirted easily and were always ready for a good time.

Translation: Sluts.

Jim was a good dancer, and Marian enjoyed twirling around the floor with him. It shook her a little, though, when he kept hold of her hand after the foxtrot ended and led her into the slow, romantic waltz that followed. They danced the full set together before he let her go, and then it was only to return a short while later to claim her for another waltz.

Waltz, foxtrot? Sorry, Beth, but the popular dances in WWII England were swing, especially the jitterbug.

On New Year's Eve, 1945, Marian watched curiously as Jim walked up to the band stand and had a whispered consultation with the conductor of the Lintonaires.

The Lintonaires were a Royal Canadian Air Force dance band based at RAF Linton-on-Ouse. I am impressed that this was researched.

When the band struck up again, Jim was on stage with them. He sang Vera Lynn's beautiful love song "Yours" with heartfelt tenderness, his eyes warm and smiling on hers.

Vera Lynn was the most popular British singer in World War II. Another good choice.

There was talk, as the war in Europe ground to a hard-won resolution that spring, of Squadron 408 being moved to the Pacific to join in the final assault against Japan. Marian was among the contingent that flew back to Canada shortly after V-E day to prepare for the new posting, leaving a very worried fiancé behind in Yorkshire. For the staff involved with supply, it was a busy, urgent time. But before the squadron could deploy, the war in the Pacific ended.

This is an accurate story of the 408 RCAF Squadron. Again, impressive researching.

Up until then, he had been cheerfully unconcerned about setting wedding dates or making definite plans for their life together. "Let's wait and see what turns up," had been his invariable response to Marian's gentle prodding.

What does she expect? WWII was going on. These women are so hungry for marriage, it is scary.

Jim had some savings from his Air Force pay. He would move to Vancouver, find himself a cheap room in a boarding house and retrain himself in watch repair skills with part time work.

I guess they didn’t have a GI Bill in Canada, like they had in the US.

He cared little for people, but commerce was close to his heart.

People in import businesses are like that; because everyone knows a good businessman is someone that no one can stand to do business with.

A month before her wedding date in September of 1946, she took her savings and with Emily's delighted help, spent it on a bolt of fine white sateen that draped like a dream and several yards of an exquisite lace which was, fortunately, on sale.

I guess this is more proof that the dress Elizabeth had was not Grandma Marian’s old dress.

He was finally willing to admit that their little girl was getting out of hand. They agreed on a workable compromise between their different ideas on parenting, and made a pact to enforce the household rules consistently.

I really do not know what to make of this story about young Elly, particularly considering the idea that Lynn considered the real-life Marian to be physically abusive and blamed her father for not standing up to her. The way this story plays out, it’s almost as if the writer considers Marian to be the better parent because she disciplined Elly.

Sometimes Emily and Stefan joined in those cheerful evenings, along with her daughter Cheryl and later their son Jack. Over the years, the cousins became good friends.

Not quite. Except for Cheryl, not even close to strip history. Ron and Cheryl and their kids Jaime and Grant are in the "April and Elly’s visit to the not-dead-yet Grandma Marian" strip sequence in July, 2007. Elly says Ron is her first cousin in that strip sequence. Their kids refer to Grandma Marian as Auntie.

In the strips, Grandpa Jim mentions an Uncle Jay and Aunt Molly to Elly, and then mentions her mother’s sisters (unnamed) are here from the island. This means that Uncle Jay is Marian’s brother and Jay and Molly’s kid is Ron, who married Cheryl. Cheryl is featured prominently in the strip sequence and so it is not surprising this confused Beth or Lynn into thinking she was the cousin and not Ron. As for Jack, there is no mention of him anywhere that I can find. Beth usually does a much better job of researching names of relatives than this.

Even Jim put his foot down when Elly wanted to date a boy who drove a van splashed with crudely lettered "Make love, not war" slogans.

Back in those days, the problem was the van, and not the slogans. I remember vans with mattresses in the back were pretty commonplace.

Still, Jim pointed out to Marian, at least Elly had been inspired by the peace-loving, folk-song era to learn to play the guitar. Always an enthusiast of music in the home, he not only bought their daughter a second-hand instrument but learned to play it right along with her.

I seem to remember this was a failed effort on the part of Jim in one of the strip sequences where Elly recalls the past. Jim was unsuccessful in getting Elly interested in music.

Marian was less surprised. She had suspected for some time that Elly was tiring of her radical, weed-smoking chums and their extreme and often abrasive political views.

Poor deluded Marian. Although Vancouver was known for its Vancouver Committee to Aid American War Objectors in the 1960s, Toronto was known for its Toronto Anti-Draft Programme. I hate to break it to you Marian, but Elly was just like you. You went to WWII to nail a husband to get away from your dad. She went across the country to nail a husband to get away from you.

Although he was a social animal like his father and too fond of partying for Marian's tastes, he had been the easier of her two children to raise. Phil's moods were mercurial, but they never lasted long, and his default position was cheerful optimism.

Translation: Phil would stop shrieking. Elly wouldn’t.

Jim seemed to have lost his enthusiasm as well, and with it the cheerful interest in his customers which had helped build loyalty over the years. When their sales began to slip, she began to think it was time to quit while they were ahead.

Translation: Jim was faking his interest in his customers, which is kind of surprising.

Recently, Marian has suffered some painful bouts with gall stones and has eased back on her volunteer work as a result.

I hate to break it to you Marian, but removing the gall bladder is standard procedure to fix that back in 1980 and speaking from personal experience, I know it works. Either you just want to suffer or this is some kind of slam against the Canadian health care system.

It amuses her to see Elly setting exactly the same rules in her own home as she rebelled so vigorously against as a child. There is a special amusement in seeing her try to enforce them, especially with Michael, who is a mischievous male copy of his mother at the same age.

Holy crap! If Elly was like Mike was in the early strips, I suddenly feel sorry for Marian. On the other hand, if Elly is setting the same rules that Marian did, then judging from Elly's rules that means no rules?

Monday, November 24, 2008

New-Run Deanna, Run!

Here’s a childhood development aspect that I remember quite clearly. When I was in Grades 1 and 2, boys liked girls and vice-versa. I remember sending a note to a little girl I liked that said, “I love you. Do you love me? Sign Yes or No” and I put a little check box where the little girl could check "Yes" or "No". And she signed she loved me. I was quite excited by this, until another boy had shown me she had done the same thing for him.

When I was in Grades 3 and 4 (and part of 5), boys and girls couldn’t stand each other. They would not sit by each other in classrooms (if they had a choice) and definitely would not sit by each other in the cafeteria. After Grade 6, the separation of the sexes was pretty much over.

There was a part of Michael Patterson’s interest in Grade 1 Deanna Sobinski in the old strips that usually hit the nail on the head. He would nag Deanna. He would think things like he might marry her. He would send her a Valentine’s Day card. All that stuff matched me in my Grade 1 youth memories and I could relate.

As I see the new-run in today’s For Better or For Worse, my thought right off the bat is that Lynn should go back and read her old strips. New-run Michael doesn’t want to admit to Lawrence that he likes Deanna. Old-run Michael actually got into a fist fight with Lawrence in order to get a picture of Deanna. New-run Michael says he doesn’t like girls and he thinks he is doing a good job of concealing it. Old-run Michael would sit by Deanna intentionally and bother her. From what I remember about Grade 1 boys, old-run Michael is the accurate depiction. New-run Michael seems more like a boy in Grade 3 or 4 to me.

As for the depiction of Deanna, Lynn seems to be going with the way she appeared in her very first appearance in the first collection. Deanna used to sport the very popular 1970s Toni Tennille haircut, and in today’s For Better or For Worse, it looks like Lynn Johnston has decided to go with that except with more Shannon Lake-style bangs than Toni Tennille’s. Lynn was really inconsistent with the way Deanna looked in her early appearances. If you look at the Mike and Deanna strips on the webpage when they were young, you will see that Deanna’s appearance changed in every strip. Since Lynn was borrowing characters from other people’s strips back in those days, Deanna is probably closest to Patty (not with Peppermint) from early Peanuts. However, Deanna does not look that different from the one and only new-run previously featuring young Deanna. We have long been promised the backstory on why Deanna left Milborough by Lynn Johnston, as if we don’t already know that she left because her father bought a hardware store in another town. Maybe Lynn will twist it in some way to make it interesting. Well, I can hope, can't I?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Son Does This

My son plays the blame game, just like Michael Patterson does in today’s For Better or For Worse. Actually he doesn’t play it exactly like Michael Patterson. Mike realizes he is missing his painting shirt while he is on the school bus. My son would realize this a few minutes after he was in art class and the teacher would ask him to put on his painting shirt and he wouldn’t be able to find it in his backpack. In reality, my son’s school doesn’t have painting shirts. They have these long apron-like things they wear when the art in art class is going to get messy.

Assuming Mike’s school is not like that and they use painting shirts, then the question is: Whose responsibility is it for the painting shirt to end up in the backpack? For someone in Grade 1 and 6 years old, in my kids’ school, the responsibility fell to the teachers to inform the parents and to the parents to make sure the painting shirt was provided. While some 6-year-olds are very competent and responsible, the bulk of them are not.

Older kids are considered to be that much more responsible. This is yet another case where Lynn wants to do a joke and applies it to the most likely choice for the joke (in this case, Michael), without respect to whether the joke will make sense. Certain jokes go with certain characters. She did the same thing with Elly’s grandkids, where Robin got stuck with all the toddler eating dirt-kind of jokes, and Merrie got all the jokes with the kids misunderstanding words-kind of jokes. Given that this is the case, the next step is to evaluate the joke, assuming that Michael Patterson at age 6 is actually considered to the one responsible for making sure his painting shirt is in his backpack.

And that leads me back to my son. At 13, he is old enough to be responsible for his school work, but if something goes wrong with it, the blame game appears. “I didn’t have time to do that” or “The teacher didn’t teach us that” or “My sister distracted me.” The blame game is true-to-life with kids (and most adults). Does it work in this case? Here’s how it would work in my house:

My wife to my son: Are you sure you don’t need your painting shirt today? It is Wednesday.
My son to my wife: The teacher said we didn’t need it today.
My son’s teacher to my wife: Your son didn’t have his painting shirt for art, so we left him borrow of the ones the school has as an extra.
My wife to my son’s teacher: He told me he didn’t need it today.
My son’s teacher to my wife: Oh. That’s next week.
My son to my wife: The teacher told us it was this week. That's what she said.

In today’s For Better or For Worse, the joke is because of the ironic contrasts. We see Elly pushing a backpack, lunch, hat, gloves and pizza money on Mike. Look how responsible Elly is for all those things Mike should be handling himself! We see Mike missing his painting shirt and blaming his mom for it. The laugh is because we saw how Elly was so responsible for Mike, therefore the person Mike blames is the one person he shouldn’t blame.

The problem with the joke is because Elly is so responsible for Mike, he has no need to take responsibility for himself. After all, if Elly is going to handle his backpack, lunch, hat, gloves and pizza money; then why couldn’t she pack his painting shirt too? In fact, Mike’s attitude reflects this. He is ready to walk off without his backpack, lunch, hat, and gloves without a second thought. What is a painting shirt compared to that?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

So Tell Me…

So tell me… how it that a mom would let her 6-year-old son in the bath with the water running, when she knows he has never shown any aptitude with turning the water off? It’s been awhile since my kids were 6, but I have a pretty clear recollection of monitoring the water and the water level with my kids when they were in the bathtub by themselves pretty carefully. Let me get past that particular point to move on.

What Elly Patterson is struggling with is her understanding of her child’s capability. I know from time-to-time I will give my children something to do, which I know in advance will push them to accomplish it. For example, just today, we were loading up the back of our van and I asked my son to put the dolly in the back by himself. He’s stronger than he used to be and I thought he might be just big enough to handle it. He then promptly dropped the dolly on his foot, leaving a lovely bruise, and me shaking my head thinking, “What was I thinking? That dolly is way too heavy for him to handle. I was stupid to suggest it.”

I can understand Elly Patterson from that perspective. She thinks that if Michael can build space modules and crush pop cans, he should be able to turn off a water faucet. Yet, he can’t. It doesn’t appear to be a case where Michael is pretending to be weak to get attention from his mother. He seems to be genuinely asking for help to do something he can’t do. At this point, Lynn Johnston could have accomplished the same type of humour without making Elly appear like an idiot. Elly could think, “I guess that just because he can build intergalactic space modules and crush pop cans with his bare hands, doesn’t mean he doesn’t need his mom anymore.” It’s a similar kind of joke, but Elly comes off as understanding, and the strip might be slightly amusing. In today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse, Elly comes off as a woman who suspects her son is lying to her about what he can do, as she sits in her chair with an utterly downcast look on her face. Like many of the early strips, Elly makes a bad parenting move, and the punch line has to be about her poor decisions and why she made them. That was Lynn’s style in a lot of the early strips. The difference this time is that Lynn does not have Elly admit her error and feel guilt about it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Farley Abuse: Table Scraps Method

I think in my pet years (the years before my allergic wife and son), there were very few times when I had a puppy. They were kept nowhere near the dining room table. We always had outdoor dogs, and the few times we had puppies they were in the garage with the plan that they would move to the outdoors as soon as they were able. So, the issue with table scraps never came up. Consequently I had to do the old Google to find the advice on puppies and table scraps.

This website says:

3) DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT feed your puppy table scraps. Small dogs like poms are especially sensitive. If fed table scraps, your puppy will be doomed to tooth problems, health problems and will likely become overweight. Spicy foods like sausage can make a Pom puppy very ill and can even kill him. If you'd like to give a reward, a bit of liver, cheese or occasional healthy dog biscuit is O.K., but don't overdo.

This website has a similar, but slightly differing opinion:

While the simplest and safest solution is to not give your dog any table food, there are some foods that are fine for your dog in small quantities. Table food should never make up the majority of a puppy’s diet. Dog food is formulated with all of the nutrients and vitamins that dogs need. It is very difficult to give a dog all that he needs by feeding him only table food. But, as an occasional treat, or to break up the monotony of your pet’s diet, tossing him some of your leftovers is acceptable.

This website’s advice is even stricter:

Don’t feed your puppy table scraps. This turns a dog into a finicky eater and can lead to obesity. Changes in food can also cause diarrhea.

What is boils down to is that none of these expert people really recommend it, and none of them say, “It’s OK to do it after they are 6 months old.” I would say that this is yet another situation where Lynn did not properly research for her strip. However, medical science changes quite a bit over time, and it is possible that back in 1980 (when the strip was original printed), this may have been the advice veterinarians were handing out.

I know from my own dog experiences that if dogs are near where people are eating, anything that falls on the ground is fair game; and if there are kids at the table, it will be nearly impossible for them to resist sneaking some food to the dog. My sister keeps a dog in her house and that’s the way it is with that dog. Plus she lets the dog “rinse” the dishes in the dishwasher before she runs a load.

However, since the theme of the week in For Better or For Worse is Farley torture, it is nice to note that her plan to feed young Farley the dog table scraps falls right in line with the other means that the dog was tortured this week. As for Elly’s plan to finish her children’s leftovers herself, since Farley is too young, all I can say is that my mom got into very strange battles with my sister over whether leftovers were kept and eaten the next day by persons who refused to eat them the first time. Elly apparently is not aware of these food storage devices they have called refrigerators, and feels she must consume the leftovers herself.

Poor Elly. Having to make one sacrifice after another.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Farley Abuse

Now for day 3 of lessons on how to treat young Farley the dog. In today’s For Better or For Worse, Lynn Johnston is essentially doing a variation on yesterday’s strip. Elly lectures Mike and uses an analogy. Yesterday it was to treat young Farley the dog as if he were a baby. Today, she encourages Mike to treat Farley as if he were Farley. Specifically she asks him not to love Farley too much, i.e. squeeze him until he can’t breath. Mike relates this to his experience with Aunt Doreen, an unknown aunt I do not know. Clearly she is a big hugger, and there is no room for those in this comic strip.

Although Elly is still not letting Michael know that he is capable of killing or seriously injuring young Farley the dog, her performance today is an improvement over yesterday for the following reasons:

a. She is actually carrying on a conversation with Michael and is trying to make sure that he understands what she is saying.
b. She appears to be protecting Farley as she delivers the lecture.
c. She is not delivering the lecture as she attends to something else

In contrast, in yesterday’s strip, there was a lecture, but Michael did not participate or show his understanding of what Elly was saying, and ultimately Farley was in Michael’s hands as Elly concluded the lecture by walking off with Lizzie. Although new-run Elly was not delivering her lecture over her shoulder as she left, (a commonplace habit in the modern strips) it is pretty close. Elly talks and leaves Michael alone with the dog without any kind of acknowledgment. In an unusual situation, new-run Elly actually comes off worse than her old-run self. Typically the new-runs try to make Elly come off better than she originally did in 1980.

My favourite part of today’s For Better or For Worse is Panel 3 where Farley licks Elly Patterson on the chin followed by Panel 4, where Farley’s body appears to be dead.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Year of Spittle

I would like to say in today's For Better or For Worse that little Lizzie is too young to relate the comments Elly was making about young Farley the dog to herself. I would also like to say that little Lizzie is too young to understand what raspberries mean. However, in new-runs on 9/13/2008 and also 9/22/2008; she clearly understands them and what they mean. There is a precedence for her understanding, which is good, since the humour of the strip relies on it.

In fact, just for jollies I thought I would check the number of raspberries this year and there were quite a few of them. 2008 had raspberries used also on 2/7/2008 and on 7/25/2008. Using the AMU reprints search website I believe we have a winner in For Better or For Worse with the most raspberries used for humourous effect in a single year at 4. 1997 was the next highest with 2 occurrences. In Milborough this is the year of the spittle.

As for the strip itself, we are seeing once again a theme of Lynn Johnston with the new-runs, which is, Elly is not as incompetent as she once appeared back in 1980. In today’s strip she actually gives young Michael instructions on how to handle young Farley the dog and she even uses a metaphor that Michael is likely to be able to understand. Elly is such a good mother now. If we get enough of these new-runs correcting Elly’s formerly bad behaviour, I will no longer know what to make of the woman.

The downside of the strip is that although the setup depends on little Lizzie being extremely smart for her age, it does mean that 3 of the 4 panels are completely devoted to a lecture by Elly. Elly may be a better mom, but her strip is deathly dull. Call it For Better by Lecture. On the other hand, one of the nice touches is that young Farley the dog appears to fall asleep after listening to Elly deliver this lecture. I knew there was something I liked about that dog.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How Farley Really Died

It’s a good thing he’s a comic strip dog, other wise today’s For Better or For Worse would be the one where Farley dies, only he’s killed by Mike and Lizzie as they pulled on both sides of him. Today’s strip reminded me of the time when I was young, and my mother, who was teaching kindergarten at the time, took my pet guinea pig to school to show to the little 5-year-olds. My guinea pig did not survive the trip. You cannot simply assume that a child will know how to treat an animal, particularly a small and defenseless one. This appears to be the lesson learned by Elly in today’s For Better or For Worse. However it is not clear if Elly’s intent is to instruct her children on how to handle Farley so they don’t kill him, or if Elly’s intent is to stop the kids from fighting over the dog. We don’t get to see the aftermath. Instead we have a sort of “Can’t see the trees for the forest” kind of situation, where the humour is derived on the idea that Elly is so involved in the overall process of taking care of the dog, that she almost doesn’t notice her kids trying to kill the dog.

Elizabeth is Dirty

Oddly enough, the theme I see emerging for this week in For Better or For Worse is the idea that Elizabeth is filthy. Yesterday we saw that Michael much preferred the licking of young Farley the dog to his sister Elizabeth’s kisses, and in today’s For Better or For Worse, we get another hint why. Elly Patterson is lamenting that she only gave Elizabeth one cookie, and yet Elizabeth managed to make messes clearly beyond the capability of any human to create with just one cookie. What kind of cookie is there which allows a little girl to make 5 full-size hand prints? I could probably dip my daughter’s hand in India ink and she would be hard-pressed to do as much damage. Also, there are 4 splattery-looking messes that would require a liquid object to make the mess.

It makes little sense unless you consider the old story of Jesus and the fish and the loaves. If you are unfamiliar with the story, Jesus gets some fish and loaves of bread from a boy carrying them for his own supper and breaks them into pieces and hands them to his (Jesus’) disciples to give out to people who have come to listen to Jesus teach. When the disciples come back, they miraculously have fed all the people and yet managed to have even more fish and loaves left over than when they started. Perhaps Lynn Johnston has drawn Elly sitting in her chair contemplating this matter because Elizabeth has done something very similar. She only gave her one cookie, but Lizzie managed to create a mess that would have required not only far more than one cookie, but also other non-cookie-like materials. Not only that, but Lizzie appears to be in some kind of half lotus pose, either blankly staring at her mother or contemplating the full range of her destructive power with cute, circular confections.

Join us tomorrow as we see just how disgustingly filthy little Lizzie can get. In fact, stick around for the whole week to see how many ways Lynn Johnston can do jokes on this theme.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday to Monday

As far as the content goes, there is some similarity between Sunday’s and today’s For Better or For Worse. Today’s reprint is without Elly, and I am beginning to appreciate the strips which do not include Elly more and more. The relentless bad parenting she represents wears on you after awhile.

Farley – Sunday’s strip showed the benefit that Lynn Johnston has in hindsight of knowing how Farley is going to end up looking. Although Lynn can’t draw a consistent dog body to save her life, she had the fur texture and basic head shape pretty well down. In the Monday strip, that idea still seems to be in development, as Farley’s muzzle shape and length seems to vary from panel-to-panel.

Michael – New-run Michael and reprint Michael are not that far apart in appearance. In the Monday strip reprint, you can see the resemblance in head shape to Linus van Pelt from Peanuts, but the images are close enough to get the idea who he is.

Elizabeth - The images are significantly different. If I did not know that the little girl in today’s For Better or For Worse was supposed to be the same as the little girl in yesterday’s strip, I never would have guessed it. In the reprint, the picture is clearly a lift off of Sally Brown from Peanuts, but in the Sunday strip, the little girl with the giant mouth constantly open and the enormous eyes looks almost nothing like her.

The plotline: Sunday’s strip was Elly’s desire for her children to get tired and stop playing. Today’s For Better or For Worse is so very close to Sally Brown tackling Linus van Pelt and calling him her “Sweet Babboo”, I am surprised Charles Schulz did not make a bigger stink about the blatant copying. However, I find that I am still charmed by the idea of the strip, and I think mainly because there is no Elly interruption. Here is something 2 kids and a puppy may actually do, for a change. Not only that, but it is a strip that is timeless. You can probably read this strip 20 years from now and it will still play well. Charles Schulz was really good at writing those kinds of stories.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Farley: Misshapen Dog or Mystery Animal?

My initial reaction to seeing today’s For Better or For Worse is: What kind of animal is Farley anyway? He sure isn’t any kind of dog I have seen before. Here’s my take on it:

In Panel 1, Farley appears to be part anteater with a long tongue delving into the inner recesses of Michael’s ear looking for bugs, and yet also one part electric eel with the electrical shock balloon around him.

In Panel 2, Farley’s eyeless look as he grasps Michael’s sock makes me think crocodile.

In Panel 3, Farley’s running stance favours an animal that kicks off with its hind legs for its speed, like a kangaroo or a rabbit, instead of dog which usually uses a contrapuntal motion between its four legs.

In Panel 4, whatever kind of animal there is that can tilt its head completely back off its body? Decapitated animal, perhaps?

In Panel 5, the tiny head attached to the larger body makes me think rabbit.

In Panel 6, with those back legs and tail, definitely a sheep.

In Panel 7, intoxicated platypus having a nightmare about purple children instead of pink elephants..

In Panel 8: What do you call an animal whose lower half is standing up, but whose upper half is lying down? Very flexible. No wonder Lizzie and Michael look so astonished.

After 8 panels of this nonsense, it is suddenly very clear to me why the upcoming children’s book, Farley Follows His Nose has an extra artist on it aside from Lynn.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obsolete, but Absorbent

I remember some years back, there was a very funny show called The Dana Carvey Show. Dana used to have his show officially titled based on the presenting sponsor of the show, and he would devote one segment of his show to promote the product, kind of like old TV shows used to do. Of course, when I say, “promote the product” what I really mean is that Dana would do something close to the exact opposite of that. I remember in particular that at one point it was called the Mountain Dew Dana Carvey Show, and the joke Dana did was that Mountain Dew poured into a glass looked a lot like urine, only Dana did not call it that exactly. Nevertheless, it was no surprise to me that Mountain Dew stopped sponsoring the show. Needless to say, with Dana angering sponsors every week, the show did not last long. I wondered what would possess Dana Carvey to do such a thing. Were the laughs gotten worth the cancellation?

When I saw today’s For Better or For Worse, I was immediately reminded of the old Dana Carvey Show. The joke for today is that newspapers are not obsolete because they can be used to absorb animal waste. It’s almost akin to the standard joke where the man says that he found so-and-so’s awful book to be useful, because he used it to line the bird cage. Surely this is not the joke Lynn Johnston intends. Her business and her livelihood for the last 30 years have depended on newspapers and the idea that having her comic strip in them would attract people to buy them. This strip is kind of like biting the hand that feeds you. Is Lynn Johnston venting her frustration with the newspapers that continue to cancel the current incarnation of her comic strip? Is she really so ignorant that she does not how she is insulting the very people who publish her? Or is she just so anxious to do yet another joke about dogs and their bodily waste excretions, she has stopped thinking about any other ramifications of the joke?

At least, I can't say that this has been a piss-poor week. If anything, it has been a piss-rich week. We knew Lynn Johnston would do doggy body functions when Farley arrived, and Lynn has not disappointed.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

When I Was Your Age

I just about fell out of my chair laughing. Lynn Johnston actually put Elly Patterson out in a snow storm, walking the dog, with little Lizzie strapped to her back in today’s For Better or For Worse. The picture that Lynn Johnston is trying to paint of Elly’s suffering continues to be so broad as to be unbelievable. It hasn’t been that long since Elly said she put out the paper for John to read, but she was so busy with the kids she only had time to read the headlines. That was stupid then, but Elly in the snowstorm with Farley and Lizzie tops it in the stupid department.

I was reminded of the Weird Al Yankovic song, “When I was Your Age” where Weird Al tells the story of suffering by the singer in his youth who eventually ups the ante of suffering to impossible lengths. In the song, the humour is derived from the point where the singer’s lyrics step into silliness. I wonder if Lynn Johnston realizes that she has made that same leap with Elly and her suffering, or she really expects her audience to believe that Elly took young Farley the dog for walks in snow storms, with Lizzie strapped on her back.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Taking advice from this website:, what suggestions would I make to Elly Patterson about her actions in today’s For Better or For Worse?:

1. Always leash your puppy after every meal to go outdoors. I know Farley is a good dog, but if he starts running, he will surely outrun Elly Patterson.
2. Sniffing the ground is often the only sign the puppy will give that it needs to empty its bowels or bladder. This sniffing Farley is doing is what puppies do.
3. You probably want Farley to use a remote area for its toilet and not right there in the front yard. Puppy urine is acidic and burns grass.
4. Clean up after your puppy with a plastic bag or pooper scooper.
5. Yelling at your dog will only make it scared of you.

Of course criticizing Elly's behaviour with a puppy she just got, is a little like criticizing Elly's parenting skills. The fact she is terrible at it, and makes mistakes, is supposed to be funny. In fact, that is the the whole point of today's reprint. We are supposed to laugh that Elly is so impatient she yells at the dog, who is so suprised to be yelled at. Isn't bad parenting hilarious?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sizes May Vary

The joke of today’s For Better or For Worse is supposed to be that young Farley the dog chews on everything, except the thing he is supposed to chew on. However, the thing that really got me to laugh were the pictures of Elly in each panel. Oftentimes Lynn Johnston can’t draw the same character from panel-to-panel, and it’s little differences like the jawline is not the same shape or the nose is slightly different. In today’s For Better or For Worse, Lynn Johnston is going full up 4 different characters whose only similarity is their clothes and their hair colour:

Panel 1 has what looks to me to something like Olive Oyl from Popeye jogging toward Farley. Her clothes appear to be giant, bagging around her skinny frame and her features are tight, pressed and compact.

Panel 2 has an Elly who look like a man with a wig askew on his head peering around the wall.

Panel 3 has an almost muscular Elly with tight clothes, a giant head and a huge manga-sized mouth and eyes.

Panel 4 has Elly with an eye on her forehead and a jaw with such a severe underbite she looks almost like a muppet.

Panel 5 is silhouette Elly and is probably the best drawn of the bunch.

These Elly’s are so different from each other, my first impression was that we are viewing some kind of artist jam comic where a different artist draws each panel.

As for the content of the strip itself, it appears young Farley the dog has the complete run of the house and that little indoor fence has been completely forgotten. I suppose if I wanted some fun I could compare Farley sizes.

Panel 1 – Farley is about the same size as that shoe so about 25 cm long.

Panel 2– Farley is about the same size as that throw pillow so about 50 cm long.

Panel 3– Farley is about the same size as that stuffed animal so about 25 cm long.

Panel 4 –Impossible to tell.

Panel 5 – Farley is about halfway down that table so about 60 cm long.

That was not as much fun as looking at all the different Elly’s.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Jump to Conclusions or Jump the Fence

Remember that fence that Elly bought to keep the dog restrained from roaming the house freely? Remember you had to pass over the fence to get to the newspapers and cage where Farley is kept? Apparently Lynn has forgotten that, because in today’s For Better or For Worse, she has Elly quickly jump to the conclusion that pools of liquid found randomly in the house are dog urine. Elly has to go over the fence to punish the dog, and therefore she should realize that because of this very same fence she has had come to the wrong conclusion about Farley. Aside from ignoring this little detail, someone may need to inform Lynn Johnston that apple juice and dog urine do not smell alike. In fact, dog urine has a very strong, distinct odor to it, very difficult to confuse with apple juice. That’s the way it is in the States anyway. I can’t speak for good, Canadian dogs, like Farley, who urinates a sweet-smelling liquid easily mistaken for apple juice. I understand he also defecates gold.

It Makes No Sense

My family and I just got back from seeing Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, and the movie was filled with things that did not make any sense. And when I say they didn’t make any sense, it was one of those pictures where the car ride home was filled with my kids saying things like, “Why did they do that, daddy?” and all I could say was, “I don’t know. I guess someone thought it would be funny.”

Today’s For Better or For Worse is the same way. The rule Elly has established in today’s For Better or For Worse is that young Michael can play with young Farley the dog, so long as Michael prevents the dog from licking him. Dogs lick. Puppies lick. If you play with a dog, you will get licked. This makes no sense.

As for the use of saliva as a cleaning agent, I must admit in a desperate moment, I have used that method. Of course that meant being nowhere near a source of water and without my wife, who used to carry a portable packet of Wet Wipes wherever she went. Why Elly would clean Michael while he was in the middle of eating and with readily-available water is beyond me. This makes no sense.

What you have then is a strip where not only does the setup make no sense, but the punch line also makes no sense. I think the joke was supposed to be about Elly’s hypocrisy when it comes to cleaning with spittle and it was supposed to ring true with parents who have used spittle to clean a child. Instead, the joke comes off as “Elly is a crazy woman, obsessed with irrational cleaning urges.”

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Long Live King Richard

Today’s For Better or For Worse left me extremely confused. The Nichols boys, are Christopher and Richard. Richard was born in year 3 of the original strip continuity so he was 2-3 years younger than Elizabeth, but back in the September, 2008 new-runs he was established to be slightly younger than Elizabeth, while Christopher appeared to be slight younger than Mike.

Now, in today’s For Better or For Worse, Richard appears to be the same age as Michael and Christopher is nowhere to be seen. If 2 boys of similar age to back how they appeared in September appeared, I would say that Lynn just got the names mixed up. She is starting to get bad with that, when back in August she replaced Gary and Vivian Crane with the Crows.

However, the appearance of only one boy makes me wonder if it really is a simple mix-up of names. Lynn’s already played fast and loose with the Nichols boys’ ages, so there is no reason she could not have done that again. OR the other possibility is that Christopher is now gone and Lynn plans to write Anne Nichols as a mother with only one child from here on out.

The other thought that goes through my head is that Richard may have killed Christopher to take his place, and Michael is very lucky the violence did not have a chance to escalate much further, or Mike may have also been replaced by Richard.

To further confuse matters, we see Wow Komix and Komix Keen. There was a Wow Comics back in the 1940s and another comic book called Keene Detective is as close as I can find to Komix Keen. I seriously doubt that Lynn plans to set the storyline back in the 1940s, however, if it were set in the modern day, then these comics with their titles would be collectors items and not comics to leave for children to play with.

Friday, November 07, 2008

New-Run, Old Joke

Today’s For Better or For Worse new-run seems like an amalgamation between yesterday’s strip and the day before. In yesterday’s strip, young Farley the dog proved his worth to Lawrence by licking his face. In the day before, Elly explained to Connie why she took on Farley when she already had a lot to handle: Farley is cute. And now today, Elly is heading along the same grounds of quandary that Connie did 2 days ago. I have so much to do. Why did agree to do this? The answer is that Farley is cute, and this time Farley demonstrates it by licking Michael instead of Lawrence. The additional piece of information from the prior 2 strips is that cute = photogenic. It’s not just that young Farley the dog is cute, but that he does things worthy of putting on photography slides to be used to fill up a lot of empty space in her basement.

You would think this would hardly be worth another strip to cover this same ground. However, one of the new-run trends seems to be to recycle jokes from prior strips, and more startlingly jokes from strip just reprinted. The “Marie the hygienist has gone” was done twice. Farley peeing on Elly was repeated with John as the pee recipient. It’s one thing to set up a reprint sequence and then add strips to it which enhance that storyline. It’s another thing to set up a reprint sequence and then repeat the jokes from those same reprints.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Farley Uncaged!

When the fancy cage showed up in Tuesday’s new-run in For Better or For Worse, I wondered if Lynn Johnston would remember that she showed an entirely different cage for young Farley the dog in her original storyline. Since that strip is reprinted today without any noticeable alteration to the fence Lawrence and Michael climb over in Panel 2, I would say the answer to that question is “no.” Of course, from our new-runs back in September we know about the existence of Fred the fish, so we can presume that when Michael is deciding between Lizzie and Farley, Fred is not really even in the running. Poor Fred. In fact, I wonder if Fred is even going to make another appearance, or if he has gone the way of Fiona Brass, and is running a pool hall for fish, emphasis on "pool."

As for the strip itself, it is filled full of bad dialogue. “We’re callin’ him Farley” as opposed to “His name is Farley.” That’s just for starters. On the other hand, Michael’s last comment is a very nice swipe at Lawrence who has neither a sister nor a dog. Not to worry. Lawrence will get 2 sisters eventually to make up for it. However, he will have to wait until he comes out of the closet before his family gets a dog, and even then he won’t get to name it.

As for young Farley the dog, this marks the first strip where he actually appears to be alive and not just a little Puppy Wet-Me lump. He needed the appearance of Lawrence to bring him to life and show someone affection. I think Farley decided who he likes best - Lawrence or the Pattersons? I think I understand a little more about young Farley the dog than I did before, and I respect that choice.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Connie Rewarded with Rewording

Today is the first time we have seen a For Better or For Worse reprint with a significant rewording of text from its prior 1980 version. We had Cheryl Ladd replaced by Shania Twain a few weeks ago, but this time Lynn Johnston has actually reworded a strip and improved it. In the original Panels 2 and 3, Connie Poirier said:

This is psychological warfare! John has done this to keep you home! Don’t you see? – It’s a plot to curb your need for freedom and self-expression!

Now it has been reworded to be:

I thought you wanted more freedom! I thought you wanted less work! You’ve got enough to do without adding a puppy to the list!!

We still have the theme of freedom present in the rewording. A key change is the complete absence of blame on John Patterson for his conspiratorial plan to keep Elly home by ruthlessly forcing her to adopt a pet. Back in the early days, Connie Poirier was supposed to represent the women’s libber and Anne Nichols was supposed to be Mrs. Traditional Values, and Elly fell somewhere in between those two parts. As you can tell from the original dialogue, instead of coming off as someone promoting women’s rights, Connie came off as a nut. Even back in 1980, the idea of not owning a pet as a sign of women’s independence was a remote, possibly nonexistent part of the women’s movement. I seem to remember a number of those, “Why a cat is better than a husband” veins of humour from those days. Eschewing pet ownership just wasn’t the feminist way.

This was Lynn Johnston’s attempt to imitate the Cathy comic strip, because Cathy had her friend, Andrea the ultra-feminist, and her friend with more traditional values, Charlene. In Lynn’s early days, she stole from practically everyone. Her art style came from Schulz. Her style of stories for young Michael came from Hank Ketchum’s Dennis the Menace. Her stories of feminine interaction came from Cathy, a strip which preceded For Better or For Worse by a few years. Unlike that strip’s author, Cathy Guisewite, who could write an ultra-feminist successfully, I would be hard-pressed to think of a time when Lynn Johnston was able to pull that off with Connie Poirier. Eventually, Lynn realized that herself, and turned Connie into a clone of Elly. Lynn gradually wrote Anne Nichols out of the strip, and Elly took her place as the self-righteous traditionalist.

These changes make perfectly good sense to me, because the dialogue in the original strip stank. Today’s dialogue is much better and ties in with things already present in the new-runs – i.e. that Elly is so busy with housework she doesn’t have to read a paper. Obviously she wasn’t really that busy, and the adoption of Farley is proof of it.

Of course, now that I look back at the old pictures of young Farley the dog, he really is a lethargic puppy. I hate to say it (not really), but Fred the fish is more active than young Farley the dog. It’s a good thing he’s cute. Maybe we should have a Fred the fish plush toy and a new book called, Fred Follows his Fin.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Kids or Pets?

If you were reading For Better or For Worse back in 1980, you would have gone straight from the strip where young Farley the dog urinated on Elly to the strip reprinted today, where John Patterson wakes up in the middle of the night to deal with the dog, while Elly makes a comment to herself (or us as her audience) that John would have slept through a noise made by his children. Going from the urine to this comment, you might get the impression that Elly is still not happy with the dog, and John is jumping up to deal with him, knowing that Elly would not do that. Or, you might get the impression that Elly is unhappy that John would get up spend time with the dog when he won’t do the same for his children. Naturally, we are not going to get a strip where Elly says, “I’m glad he’s going to deal with that instead of me. I’m still pissed off at that dog.”

In any case, because we saw the new-run yesterday with the fancy cage and Elly’s attempt to be kind to young Farley the dog with a stuffed animal and T-shirt; you know that she is not quite the anti-dog woman that she was portrayed to be back in 1980. Once again, one of the themes of the new-runs appears to be “Make Elly look better” which goes along well with the other theme of the new-runs – “Make John look worse.” Of course making John look bad was one of themes of the strip as it originally appeared, and certainly it qualifies for today, as we see John Patterson has apparently only one nipple and it’s in the middle of his chest. It’s like a Cyclops nipple.

Well, it was a sad night here in Arizona, as our state senator failed in his attempt to be elected President of the United States. My daughter did not manage to stay awake until the speeches. My son made it through McCain’s speech but went to sleep before Obama did his. It’s been interesting to see them older and take an interest in politics this year. They even had a mock election at their school today. I think I was still blissfully unaware of Presidential elections when I was their age, although I seem to remember my friends and I had a healthy dislike for Nixon and we were pretty happy when he resigned. Nevertheless, it was great to watch the political coverage during the day and watch the election results come in. I realize that my children have witnessed history in the making with the election of Barack Obama and they will probably remember this day all the rest of their lives.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Lynn Loves Lines

Back when Laura Piché was doing backgrounds for Lynn Johnston, I used to blame her for straight-edging all the backgrounds and making them look like…straight-edged backgrounds. It wasn’t really until these new-runs where I realized that all Laura was doing was to fill in the straight edges already drawn by Lynn Johnston, because Lynn often would sketch out the backgrounds in her penciling. In today’s For Better or For Worse, Lynn Johnston actually takes the time to draw all the little bars and cross-bars in Farley’s dog cage. I was very amused by this. Look at how nicely that cage is drawn, and yet, the same artist can’t take the time to even out the stripes on Michael’s shirt, or draw eyes on Michael in panel 1, or arrange the scene in panel 2, so we can see Michael’s face and Farley the dog.

In order to understand this, you have to enter the mind of Lynn Johnston to discover the secret to her art. Then you can return and you will tell your great understanding of Lynn Johnston’s art. My guess is that you will have discovered that she likes drawing straight lines and she hates drawing people

She does also like to create strips that pose interesting and unusual questions like:

You have two things, one is soft to sleep with and one is something familiar to smell for an 8-week old puppy. Which of those two is John Patterson’s T-shirts? If you picked “familiar to smell”, then why?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Urinater II

Back on the 29th, Lynn Johnston did her new-run in For Better or For Worse, showing young Farley the dog either urinating on John Patterson or melting his heart. In today’s For Better or For Worse, we see the original discovery that Farley was a urinater, when he soaked Elly on the way home. There are a couple of ways to compare the 2 instances.

1. Elly’s reaction to being urinated on is wide-eyed shock and then she puts on the glaring eyes of the Charles Schulz’s Snoopy imitating a vulture. Back on 10/29, John is unable to tell the difference between urine and the emotion of a melting heart, and his facial expression is difficult to interpret, which is to say, extremely poorly drawn. I prefer Elly’s reaction. Even though it is loaded with anger, it makes more sense. After all, if a dog was peeing on you, would you really draw a comparison to your heart melting with sympathy?

2. Because of the new-run, we now know that John Patterson had foreknowledge of young Farley the dog’s urinating ways, and apparently failed to pass that information on to Elly so she could properly protect herself. Before, the situation was funny because it was unexpected. Now, the situation takes on another element of “My ex-husband stinks!” common to most of the reprinted strips featuring him.

3. In light of the idea that Farley the dog is a runt, and therefore likely to have health problems, 2 appearances of unexpected urination instead of one, change the outlook from humour to problem. Maybe Farley the dog has some kind of bladder infection.

What we did we get from the new-run? In case (1), the knowledge that John relates his emotions to dog urine. In case (2) that John should have warned Elly about urine and failed to do it and case (3), that Farley seems more likely to have the health problems of a puppy who is the runt of the litter.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Taking Candy From Babies

The joke is that Dr. John Patterson spends panel after panel railing about the evils of candy consumption on Halloween, when he himself has stolen candy from his son to eat on Halloween. I think most parents look over their children’s Halloween loot and sneak away the candy they desire. I know I do it. Of course, the difference is that I tell my kids I am going to do it, so they don’t need to do any inventory. The way I figure it, if I am going to have to walk them around the neighbourhood to get the candy, then I deserve my cut of the loot. Usually, my kids don’t have a problem with this, because the candy I like is often, not the candy they like. My boy has actually gotten to the point where he goes through his candy and separates out the candy I like and hands it to me.

As for the 1980 reprint strip of For Better or For Worse, we can say the obvious things. John looks bad, and so Lynn will pick that strip to reprint. Or I could say my usual thing of “It appears to be a 4-panel strip stretched into 7 panels, with several huge panels with virtually nothing in them except a wall of colour”. I can’t figure it for Lynn Johnston in her second year. If it were me, I would chafe under the 3-4 panels of dailies and I would lavish attention on my Sunday colour strips with longer stories. But then again, I am not Lynn Johnston.