Monday, August 31, 2009

Elly Has the Same Attention Span She Did in First Grade

Defying the promise of straight reprints comes the first new-run on the very first day of the second year of new-runs in For Better or For Worse. Elly and Michael are in attendance at Michael’s “First Grade” orientation. Wait a minute! Isn’t it called “Grade 1” in Canada?

In any case, we get an indirect introduction to the Story of Shelagh Campbell, who had the misfortune of having Michael Patterson as a student in her first year of teaching school. Despite this experience, Shelagh Campbell continued to work as a school teacher.

Lynn Johnston, on the other hand, is running in full silhouette mode, not even drawing in a picture of Connie and Lawrence Poirier in the background. By Panel 3, even Michael has gone to silhouette and disappears in Panel 4.

Elly spends the strip busy remarking how everything is the same in school since she went to school. I remember my own school experience with my kids. When we went to the kindergarten orientation, I realized that my kids were being taught things in kindergarten that I had been taught in First Grade. I guess Elly must have missed that orientation, given that Michael skipped straight from preschool to Grade 1. Looking around the classroom for my kids, I remember seeing things like the computer lab setup, the DVD projector, the white marker boards and the terrarium and thinking, “Wow! Things are lot more advanced than they were when I was in school.” Elly says the smell is the same, but that was not the case for me. In my day, the smell of chalk and chalk boards was commonplace. My kids have never seen a chalkboard in a schoolroom, except in the movies. So, once again, Lynn Johnston is going for a commonplace experience with the parents who read her strip, and it does not even come close for me.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sawdust in Meat

And thus endeth the first new-run year.

When I saw today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse and the mention of the word “sawdust”, my initial reaction was that either Elly Patterson (or Lynn Johnston) must have gotten confused about the great “sawdust in the pet food” controversies of years gone by, or I have missed a great “sawdust in human food” controversy. So, I did my usual internet search for “sawdust in meat”. I found this website article from 12 years ago, decrying sawdust in pet food.

However, what I found the most of was websites like this, advertising sawdust for use in curing or smoking meat.

Given this website, it changes my perspective on today’s reprint. Perhaps Elly is saying that when she buys sawdust to cure or smoke her meat for burgers, she doesn’t get any with quite the same blend as the restaurant where they are eating. Maybe, Elly Patterson is complimenting the restaurant on their fine cuisine instead of insulting the restaurant. After all, it seems clear from the big smile on Michael’s face, that he likes the burger and prefers it to Elly’s hamburgers. Would Michael have the same opinion if the burger he was eating was filled with sawdust instead of cooked with sawdust? The only thing which works against that is Elly Patterson’s 30-year history of whining and complaining.

Aside from the indeterminate opinion of Elly Patterson, the most fun part of Lynn Johnston’s early strips is her background. Look at the prices on the food. Everything is less than $2. I miss those kinds of prices. Then there are the names of the food. We have the Banger Burger, which I sincerely hope is an English food reference to bangers and not a sexual reference. Little Lizzie appears to be showing her family that she can, in fact, pat her head and suck on her finger at the same time. She certainly does not appear to be eating.

We also have 2 curly-headed boys, who appear to be brothers; one girl with bangs completely covering the front of her face; and the terrifying, bug-eyed kid wearing black who is staring directly at Michael Patterson. Yes, folks, I think this is probably the first appearance of Josef Weeder trying to make eye contact with his future university roommate.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The New-Run Year in Review

Number of new-runs per month since the reboot:

30 September
17 October
16 November
11 December
18 January
12 February
19 March
10 April
16 May
12 June
13 July
11 August
185 – total
182.5 – goal ½ 365

Lynn exceeded her promised goal by 2.5 new-runs. As you can tell, aside from September, which Lynn promised would be all new, the new-runs hit their peak in March, and we have been on a steady decline since May. I know we have one more day in August, but my guess is that, with the lead-in we had on Saturday, the strip is headed towards the “Mike starts Grade 1” set of reprints on Monday.

The new-runs were originally touted as stories which would fill in the missing pieces of stories or tell stories that Lynn did not have time to tell the first time. So, what have we learned?

September, 2008 –
1. We learned that before Farley the dog came into the Patterson’s lives, we had Fred the fish.
2. We learned that Jean Baker operated both as Dr. John Patterson’s front desk and as a dental assistant.
3. We learned that Connie Poirier used to tell people that she was married to Pablo da Silva, but that was a lie.
4. We learned that Anne Nichols had 2 sons, Christopher and Richard, who are about the same age as Michael and Elizabeth.
5. We learn that John Patterson regularly had conversations with Michael while sitting on the green-striped chesterfield.
6. We learn that Elly works so hard around the house, she doesn’t have time to read the paper.

October, 2008 –
1. We learn that John has hired a hygienist who looks like Shania Twain.
2. We learn that Michael goes to preschool.
3. We learn that the same day Lizzie learned to walk; she was capable of running around aside in the rain.
4. We learn that Farley the dog was adopted when Michael was in preschool (and not Grade 1).

November, 2008 –
1. We learn that Anne Nichols’ son about Michael’s age is named Richard, instead of Christopher, when he gets into a physical fight with Michael. Anne begs Elly to call the fight “case closed”, but since the older Nichols’ son disappears after this point, clearly the case was not closed. Christopher the younger son is all that remains.
2. We learn that Michael and Lawrence take the bus to preschool, and Michael is completely obsessed with fellow student, Deanna Sobinski.

December, 2008
1. We learn that Connie Poirier is completely obsessed with Phil Richards, even before she meets him, for no other reason than he is single.

January, 2009
1. We learn that Fred the fish has been replaced by Frank the fish, who never reappears in the strip, most likely because Michael has encouraged Farley the dog to drink water out of the fish bowl. Death by Farley, would be my guess.
2. We learn that Deanna Sobinski is moving to Burlington during her preschool year, instead of Grade 4.

February, 2009
1. We learn that Elly snores and talks in her sleep.
2. We learn that Connie is 35.

March, 2009
1. We learn that Dr. Ted McCaulay is generally reviled by the female population of Milborough, and has a drinking problem.
2. We learn the Dr. John Patterson’s dental assistant bears a striking resemblance to April Patterson.
3. We learn that Michael’s preschool lasts until 4 pm.
4. We learn that when John takes care of Lizzie and Michael, they sleep in the same bed.

April, 2009
1. We learn that Elizabeth was the result of John and Elly going out on a date with each other.
2. We learn that Connie married Peter Landry after knowing him for 6 months.

May, 2009
1. We learn that John and Ted would go to a bar to watch hockey games.
2. We learn that Anne and Elly were around to help Connie through her divorce from Peter Landry.
3. We learn that Elly spit at John after he left for the dental convention, which led her to go on an outing to try to attract men.

June, 2009
1. We learn that Lawrence Poirier has bowel shyness.

July, 2009
1. We learn that Elly is obsessed with making sure Farley the dog is clean.
2. We learn that Elly doesn’t like Michael to play in the sprinkler.

August, 2009
1. We learn that Farley the dog was put in a kennel while the Pattersons went on vacation.
2. We learn that Elly Patterson doesn’t like to buy cheap clothing.

Of all those strips, the only one I can genuinely say was a story fleshing out the original storyline was the one where Lawrence Poirier admitted to Mike that he has bowel shyness.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Continuity Schmontinuity

What an odd comic strip is today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse ! There are a number of strange things about it. I will list them:

1. It appears in from the design of the door behind Connie Poirier and Elly Patterson, that they are sitting on the front stoop of Elly’s house. And yet, the lawn area in which Lawrence and Michael are playing is enormous. We see them running with a squirt gun and climbing a tree at great distances from Connie and Elly. This is a lawn more like the size I am accustomed to seeing.

2. Lawrence and Michael are engaging in all-out battle, while Connie and Elly look on lackadaisically. When we have seen battles like this before, they were much more serious.

3. Elly and Connie talk about how Lawrence is looking to getting on the bus with the big kids.

This was one of the strips from last year which showed both and Lawrence and Michael getting on a bus, and you can see there are bigger kids on it than Lawrence and Michael. It appears that Lynn has forgotten she put that into her new-runs.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

To Shriek or Shreik? That is the Question.

We have another learning moment for Elly Patterson in today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse. Lizzie is somewhere between the ages of 1 – 2, which means that she probably has somewhere between 8 – 20 teeth. Chewing should be no problem for her.

Usually the difficulty most toddlers have with pencils at their age is in gripping them. There are larger-sized pencils with easier grips and blunted edges on the side of the pencil which does the marking. The thinner pencils are usually not a good idea because they are sharp, they break easily, and the child has a hard time holding them. For the chewing child, you want to avoid pencils with erasers on the end which can be chewed off. If you are going to try your child on a sharper pencil, then it is typically recommended that you monitor your child. Ultimately Elly learns a valuable lesson in parenting (she missed with her first child) and she appears to be fortunate that Lizzie has not injured herself with those pencils.

Artwise, we are undergoing an interesting trend with the button noses. Prior to July, there were almost no button noses in the new-runs and none in the reprints. In July, button noses started reappearing. In August, they are in full flourish. I wonder if the reprints coming up are taken from Lynn’s button nose stage of drawing kids.
Astute observers of spelling will note that Lynn chose the States’ spelling of “coloured”, without the “u”. What may get more of you is the spelling of the word “shreik”. According to AMU reprints, there are 3 other occasions in the strip since 1996, where the word has been spelled that way. The word “shriek”, in contrast, has appeared 10 times in the strip according to AMU reprints. I don’t which of these is considered to be the Canadian spelling.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


New Run Status: - ½ new-runs to go. Lynn made it to 50% with 5 days to spare before September. Yay!

Where did today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse come from? There are so many strange things about it:

1. John actually calls Michael on his bad behaviour and gives him a punishment.

2. John is not portrayed as an idiot, with little involvement with his kids.

3. You can actually look at Michael’s facial and body expressions in Panels 2 – 5 and read something there which goes along with the story.

4 You can actually read Lizzie’s facial and body expressions in Panels 1 – 3, and even Panel 5 to a certain degree. However, it would have been better if Lizzie had eyes in Panels 4 and 5.

5. Michael’s floral “sorry” is actually a unique and somewhat funny thing, not relying on a pun, bodily excretions, or looking down on someone.

6. John’s poorly-drawn face in all the panels, especially the mutant in Panel 4 doesn’t take away from the humour.

It’s been awhile since I have seen one of these – an original strip with original humour in it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back to School Supplies, or Weapon Against a Sister?

New Run Status: ½ new-runs to go - Almost there!!

Number of “‘an”s in the comic strip: 8. I believe we have a new record.

I remember when my kids learned to be possessive over gifts. At my kids’ first birthday party, they were oblivious to it all. Other kids opened their presents for them and they didn’t care one bit. At the second birthday party, that all changed. Little Lizzie is somewhere between the ages of 1 and 2, I think. It has never been very clear just what is Lizzie’s new-run age, especially since Michael was announced to be in preschool in the new-runs, while he was in kindergarten in the reprints. Back on July 15 and 16, Lizzie was very possessive. She violently protected her space and knew the word “mine”, a word normally associated with 2-year-olds. On the other hand, reprint Lizzie seems much less advanced, rarely says anything and still seems to be exploring things by grabbing them.

This is new-run Lizzie we have in today’s For Better or For Worse, so she acts older. She looks shocked when Michael informs her that she does not get any back-to-school stuff. All I can say about that is, “Oh Elly! If Lizzie were a real 2-year-old she would make you pay dearly for that slight.” Of course, I can’t tell if Lizzie is shocked by Mike’s statement or if she is simply doing an imitation of a Who from Whoville from Dr. Seuss or a Brooke McEldowney woman from 9 Chickweed Lane, with that button nose and huge gap from nose to mouth. I would go with 9 Chickweed Lane, if I were Lizzie. At least the material is well-drawn and all new there.

Of course, I am now confused about Hinkley’s Handy Haven, where we saw Elly shopping yesterday. Mike has back-to-school supplies, which you can get at Walmart. However, in the television advertisement, the outside display for the store, and inside the store shown in the last 2 days strips; it looked like Hinkley’s Handy Haven sold only clothes. I wonder if I am supposed to read between the lines and realize that anything true about Walmart is true about Hinkley’s Handy Haven.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hinkley’s Handy Haven or Alliteration Alive

New Run Status: 1 ½ new-runs to go

It’s hard to believe that a woman who, when she get older takes pride in getting a Seniors Discount and who is so cheap she shaves sheets, would have started out as the person in today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse.

It’s hard to believe that a woman who seems to wear clothes that are almost exclusively shapeless shirts and pants, would ever describe any clothing as “tacky” as in “shabby in appearance” or “not tasteful or fashionable; dowdy”. What is not hard to believe is that Lynn Johnston would write a strip where Elly is critical of something that Elly already does. After all, Lynn has done that before. My favourite example is the strip where Elly tells April, “Don’t chew with your mouth open.” which is hysterical in light of the Patterson’s slobbering and spitting eating habits.

Elly complains to Anne that the clothing in Hinkley’s Handy Haven is not very good quality, to which Anne responds that by the time the clothing falls apart, the kids will have grown out of it. I remember when my kids were the age of Anne’s and Elly’s kids, when we regularly went through my children’s clothing when they grew out of it to see if it could be handed off to another parent whose children were between my kids’ ages. The main factor in being able to do that was how badly the kids had trashed the clothing with food stains, not if the clothes had fallen apart.

It seems to me that the main point of the storyline is for Elly to complain about whatever store that Hinkley’s Handy Haven resembles. It seems like a Walmart kind of store. The alliteration is somewhat like the nickname for Walmart, "Wally World". Walmart does have a store in North Bay, Ontario near where Lynn lives. In the States, Wal-Mart has been around for awhile, but Walmart only started in Canada in 1994 and the Walmart Superstores started in Canada in 2006. I don’t know how old the one in North Bay is, but it seems a likely target for Lynn. Lynn Lake, Manitoba has no Walmart. Maybe Lynn could move there.

In defense of Lynn, my wife hates Walmart. My wife’s hatred though is not derived from the commercials or the tacky clothing, but because she doesn’t like the way the stores are laid out. It’s too hard for her to find things, which irritates her.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Hate Their Advertising

New Run Status: 2 ½ new-runs to go

aprilp_katje had predicted that we would have new-runs leading into the reprints of Mike going to school and she was right. In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, we see Elly and Annie sitting on a unstriped chesterfield, which seems to indicate that we are at Annie’s house. Beside Elly is Lizzie drinking a drink out of a straw. Little Christopher is doing the same, except he appears to have legs not unlike those of a ventriloquist dummy draped across Anne’s leg. You know if Christopher Nichols were really a ventriloquist dummy, there some strips which would make more sense.

Ignoring problems with the idea that there would be a program that all 4 of these people could enjoy, the point of the strip seems to be another Lynn Johnston slam at advertising.

There is this strip from 12/28/2008, where John Patterson decided to take an idiotic stance on how to deal with junk mail and this strip on April 5, 2009, where Elly used Whiffex cleaner while listening to a TV advertisement about Whiffex. Prior to this the AMU reprints shows no strips especially attacking advertising. I can only imagine why it is that Lynn Johnston would 3 new-runs on the subject in the last year. Naturally my imagination is of a woman who, thanks to taking long vacations every month, now spends more time than ever watching television. I can imagine this woman being irritated by these commercials.

After Big Boy, Another New Ploy

New Run Status: 3 ½ new-runs to go

I am getting a little nervous about the new-runs. In the month of August, 3 of the 5 new-runs came from the Sunday strips. I was counting on the Sunday strip to be new-runs. Today’s Sunday strip of For Better or For Worse is a reprint. Lynn only has 8 possible strips left in which to meet her promise of 50% new-runs for the first year of new-runs. Will she make it? The tension builds.

In today’s strip Elly convinces young Michael that he is a big kid, and uses that impetus to get Mike to do chores. Amazingly, this works with Michael. Even though Elly seems to speaking reasonably to Michael, we find out later that Elly considers this to be a ploy.
The final panel joke is that although Elly has been so successful, she has even merited praise from John; the next time she wants to get Michael to do something, she will have to think of another ploy to convince him.

There have been a number of strips like this over the last year of reprints. Elly has to trick Michael into behaving properly. John, on the other hand, usually resorts to brute force and threats. Neither parent seems to resort to asking nicely and then levying a punishment if the child fails to accomplish the task in a reasonable time. I guess such a thing wouldn’t be considered funny.

Friday, August 21, 2009

John Takes One in the Face for Fatherhood

New Run Status: 3 ½ new-runs to go

Today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse is in many respects like this new-run strip from last year. Every father learns just how dangerous a young kid with little muscle control can be. John takes one to the face from a ball thrown by Lizzie, but I give him points for playing with his kids. After all, when did you ever see a strip like this with Elly? I consider this to be like a parenting badge of honour.

My favourite story along these lines for me was an occasion when my son was 5 years old. We have a tire swing in our back yard and it is one of those kinds which goes around in a circle and is designed to make someone sitting on the swing dizzy. My son, in his younger and smaller days, loved to get on the tire and ask me to push him around as fast as I could. Thanks to my son having sensory integration issues, he loved the sensation of feeling dizzy, since it was almost impossible for him to feel that way. In other words, what would make most kids vomit and beg me to stop, my son loved and couldn't get enough of.

The only problem with this exercise was that my son also loved to lean his little, rock-hard head back and look at the sky while he was going around. This meant that the person pushing the tire around had to lean back to avoid getting clocked. On one occasion, he leaned back, and I didn’t react in time and I got clocked right across the nose. I saw stars. I went to my lovely wife and told her my story and asked her to look at my face to see if there was anything wrong. She declared there wasn’t. Later on though, the pain was not subsiding and I took a look in a mirror myself to find my nose was dislocated. Then it was off to the emergency room where the emergency room nurse took one look at me and said, “Broken nose.” My wife thinks this story is funny. I am not sure I agree.

As it turns out, if you break your nose, you want to find a doctor to put in back in the right spot before it heals broken. If it heals broken, then the doctor has to break the nose again to put it into the right spot. I ran around and found an Ear Nose Throat doctor who was willing to take me on short notice (not as easy as you might think) and my nose was set right. And all this from the head of a 5-year-old kid who leaned back at the wrong time.

What this boils down to is that today’s For Better or For Worse seems realistic to me. As to whether or not it is funny is a different story. It’s funny in the same way as those video shows of people having accidents are funny, where you might laugh and say “Ouch! That’s gotta hurt!” at the same time. In other words, not very funny. My wife might laugh, but I think I am too close to the situation.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Empty Nest Syndrom Starts Early With Pattersons

New Run Status: 3 ½ new-runs to go

Elly can see the empty nest already in today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse. Ironically, 30 years of the strip later, and Elly never gets to see her empty nest. In fact, all her kids move back in, and she moves out. That makes this strip especially funny.

When my kids were little, I would something think things like, “How old will I be when they go to university, or grad school, or get married, or have kids themselves?” Usually the answers to those questions were a little depressing. However, I can honestly say that those thoughts never occurred thanks to seeing my kids cross the street by themselves.

New-Run Count = 179

We have a new-run today in For Better or For Worse. This brings the total number of new-runs since September 1 to 179. Back when Lynn went to the new-runs, she promised it would be a return to a simpler style of drawing and she promised that for the first year, at least half of the strips would be new-runs and half would be reprints. As the month of August draws to a close, Lynn is now 3.5 new-runs away from meeting that goal. Half of 365 is 182.5. I have little doubt that she will make it, and probably surpass it. Just to make sure, I will be keeping a count.

In the beginning, Lynn did make an effort to imitate her old style of drawing, but it did not last very long. As it turned out, her imitation was less an imitation and more the use of a style of drawing that Lynn used primarily for background characters, which she often drew as what I call “mutants.” In other words, they were more like geometric shapes with eyes, mouths and teeth drawn on them. By January, Lynn was pretty much back to her old style.

Lynn’s old style was essentially an imitation of Charles Schulz’s work on Peanuts. As time went on she developed her own style, and the artwork improved. With the new-runs and reprints, we have able to compare and contrast them regularly.

It has been interesting to see the differences. In the modern style, Lynn much prefers to draw from a long distance perspective, oftentimes drawing the whole body of the characters. In the old days, Lynn much preferred close up, oftentimes drawing just the head and shoulders of the characters. Looking at the construction of the older strips, with characters’ bodies sticking in from the sides of the panels and the generous use of disembodied heads, I get the impression that Lynn did not like to draw the full body. The art is better in the modern style, but the story-telling via facial expressions is better in the old style. As in today’s strip, young Michael is supposed to be worried, but he is drawn so small in the panel, he has no discernible emotion on his face. If this were a reprint strip, his head would fill the panel with beads of sweat jumping off of it.

In the modern style Lynn loves the use of silhouettes for background and for characters. In the old style, Lynn sometimes would do one-panel strips and would fill the background with loads of details which would supplement the story with funny things going on. For example, the rotgut roadside strip from last week had funnier stuff in the background than the foreground, by showing little Lizzie struggling to handle her hotdog. In the modern strip, Lynn almost never does this.

One of the things both styles have in common are evident in today’s new-run. Lynn oftentimes ignores perspective in order to draw a character into the panel. In the last panel, the dog kennel lady is drawn looking on from behind Elly; because Lynn didn’t have the space to draw her anywhere else. However, if she were to draw her with her height relative to Elly’s, what we would see would be just the head and shoulders of the character. Lynn chose to draw her from the waist up, making her look like she had grown much taller, or had sprouted out of Elly’s butt.

The other style in common is the apparent inability to redraw a character mid-drawing. In the fourth panel, Lynn clearly drew the upper half and lower half of Farley separately, since the upper half is in profile and the lower half is a rear view. When I draw, I occasionally end up in this situation too. Mid-drawing you realize that you like a different perspective better. It looks better or it conveys the situation better. What you do then, is pick up an eraser, and redraw it so the whole body is in the preferred position. For whatever reasons, Lynn Johnston has never learned this skill. She just inks it in and leaves it. I see it in the old strips and I see it in the new-runs. This habit takes away Lynn's credibility as a competent artist in my mind more than anything else she does.

As the end of August approaches, the question that comes to my mind is “What next?” Lynn has said that her goal is to get the story strong enough to go to straight reprints. However, I can’t see her giving up drawing new-runs. I can see her drawing fewer new-runs. Her fans have grown accustomed to seeing the reprints, and a lot of them can’t tell the difference in the art style. If Lynn dropped the number of new-runs, I doubt they would know it. I will. And as long as Lynn continues to produce the occasional new-run, the syndicate can still offer the strip as a combination of new and old material. We will see what will happen in September.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Step Aside Deanna. Mike Has a New Childhood Sweetheart

Coming home from his camping trip in this reprint of For Better or For Worse, the thing that Michael missed most was the house. I think this is supposed to be something like those stories where the person gets off a ship after a harrowing trip and kisses the dirt on the ground. Only, it doesn’t quite work.

For one, Michael’s mental dialogue in the final panel (“Hi, house!...Did you miss us?”) implies that Michael thinks of the house as a living being of sorts. For two, John’s comment in panel 3 even more strangely affirms Michael’s thoughts (“What’s with Michael?...We were only gone a few days!”) as if hugging the house because you miss it is acceptable behaviour if they were only gone longer. For the third, this situation does not match any in my experience. I have never seen a kid hug a house after a trip away.

For the fourth, in the final panel, Michael’s face is way too Peanuts. Lynn could have traced that face directly off of a Charles Schulz comic strip with Linus hugging his blanket after a brief separation. This is the most obvious source. Linus in Peanuts often spoke to his blanket as if it were a living thing. With a blanket, it’s cute. You can carry around a blanket as if it were a companion. With the considerably less mobile house, it’s creepy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Going Roadside with Rotgut

The funniest parts of today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse are in the background. Setting aside what I may think of a 1-year-old like little Lizzie eating a choking hazard like a hot dog, her antics with the hot dog are pretty amusing, especially considering her parents seem to be blissfully unaware of her inability to handle said dog. Also amusing is the Burger cook in the background, flipping burgers in a room full of flies, and then taking a moment to (I think) smoke a pipe.

As to the point of the strip, which is that John, for some reason, thinks Elly wouldn’t like her roadside rotgut, and Elly’s explanation that she likes anything she doesn’t have to cook it herself, I draw the following conclusions:

a. John has only taken Elly to fancy restaurants before.
b. Elly’s cooking is so bad, that even Elly prefers the roadside rotgut to it.
c. John really knows very little about his wife and her eating habits.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

In Case of Rain: Pack Up!!

I have had to set up and break camp in the rain before. This is not very uncommon with the Boy Scouts, where there are usually timed activities that do not give you a choice about the matter. I have not had to break camp early because of rain before. The Boy Scouts trench so water flow goes around the tents and then they sit in the tents or under a shelter and wait out the rain until it slackens up. Rain is a great time for playing cards and swapping stories, not for packing up.

Looking at today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse, I can see what the Pattersons’ problems are. They have set up their tent too close to where water would collect during rain, i.e. not set up on high ground. There is no perceptible ground cover under the tent. Their tent does not appear to have a rain fly on it to divert the rain away from the tent. Also, comparing this modest little tent to the monster-sized one from last week, their tent appears to shrink in the rain.

As much as I get irritated by the Pattersons doing things out-of-character, this time they are completely in character. I can see it taking a long time for Michael finally to come up with something to do by himself. I can see John realize that girls in bikinis do not swim in the rain, thereby preventing him from doing his ogling camping activity. I can see Elly realize that it is impossible for her to cook and clean in the rain. With the alternative of sitting in the car or in the tent and actually spending time with each other, I can easily see the Pattersons making the decision to pack everything up and go home.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bad Advice for Young Girls

I am not really sure what to make young Michael Patterson. Some days he is willing to take vicious abuse from his sister Lizzie. And then in today's new-run of For Better or For Worse, he yells at her when she dumps sand on his sand castle.

The difference of course is art. When Lizzie was beating Michael over the head, he was just trying to get a shovel. But today, Lizzie is defiling his artistic creation. Lizzie’s sand-pouring disturbed his muse. That takes precedence over brotherly kindness or willingness to take abuse.

This part of the strip seemed pretty normal for me. When my daughter was little, she cared little about her older brother’s artistic creations. He got upset when she poured sand over something he had done, or coloured over some of his drawings (the most common thing). We usually had to compensate my son somehow for his loss, try to make sure his stuff was out of reach from his sister and then gradually let his sister know to leave his stuff alone, once she was old enough to comprehend that (not when she was 1).

Instead of that response, Elly Patterson says something a 1-2 year-old girl will not possibly understand. Elly seems to sense the final panel joke coming and adjusts her comfort for Lizzie based on that joke: Boys don’t want little girls around, but that will all change in a few years, when they are 8 or 9. They start really young in Milborough (Remember April had her first kiss when she was 11). How little Elly seems to know about her son, already obsessed to the point of violence over Deanna Sobinski. We have seen Michael girl-crazy, but he likes those childhood sweethearts. Lawrence, as we know, will have other interests.

The strangest part of the whole strip are the final 2 panels where, to illustrate the point of older women who will interest young Michael and Lawrence, we see 3 ladies, wearing different outfits, standing there and ogling young Michael and Lawrence. What is the message here? In a few years, Michael and Lawrence will be attracted to women who prefer very young men?

On a side note, notice that Lawrence and Michael in panel 3 have nearly identical sand castles. By the time they get to the final panel, Lawrence’s castle has completely changed shape. Which one of these two will grow up to own their landscaping business?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Nothing to Do or Bad Parenting?

In today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse, we see young Michael walking around while other people are doing things. Ultimately he says, “I hate camping, Mom. There's nothing to do." The joke is supposed to be that there is plenty to do, only Michael has decided not to do it. This is a pretty standard kid joke, when the kids are in familiar surroundings and make this declaration while sitting in a pile of toys. However, because Michael is in unfamiliar surrounding and does not know anyone, the joke doesn't make any sense.

Some kids are naturally social and outgoing. If they saw a lake full of kids swimming, they would jump in and make new friends. If they saw kids swinging on the swingset, they would jump on a swingset and go to it. If they saw a family going fishing they would probably not rudely intrude on the family, so I don’t know what the point is with that as an example in today’s strip.

My children, on the other hand, are not naturally outgoing. If we go to a beach to swim, one of their parents has to be in the water with them, or they do not feel comfortable jumping in with kids they do not know. I remember taking my kids to fast food playlands when they were little, where there would be a lot of kids running around. My kids would not play with the other kids, unless one of those other kids was naturally outgoing and invited them to play with them. My kids don’t like to go on the swingsets unless someone they know is on them. As for the fishing example, with little kids you really need an adult there to bait hooks and untangle lines. At least that’s what I spent my time doing when I went fishing with my son.

For any parents of shy children, the joke of today’s strip is that young Michael Patterson is not an outgoing kid, needs his parents in order to enjoy camping; but expresses his need by saying there is nothing to do. John is too busy ogling women to spend time with the kids, and Elly is too busy cooking and cleaning to spend time with the kids. Each parent is busy with their obsessions, and they expect their children to fend for themselves. The author apparently agrees with these attitudes, otherwise there would be no joke. I guess both Lynn Johnston's kids were outgoing.

On a side note, in the last panel, Elly is holding a frying pan and a bucket at the same time. What could she possibly be doing?

a. The bucket holds soup she taking off the camp stove before she starts cooking the entree.
b. Elly is unfamiliar with how to turn off camp stoves, and usually douses the stove with a bucket of water to accomplish the task.
c. Elly is startled by the Mike’s sudden change into a giant, and plans to use the bucket and the frying pan to defend herself.
d. Elly has lost her legs and is using the bucket as a balance.
e. Lizzie is swimming in the bucket, but Elly still has to cook.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Elly Patterson: Wilderness Maid

Today’s For Better or For Worse reprint is a mixed bag. The message is obvious that even out in the wilderness John makes Elly do all the work, all the while making comments about how wonderful it is to get away from it all. This is our 3rd day in a row of John being an oblivious slug. It seems obvious now that this is not a camping trip but a carping trip.

In the meantime, surrounding these comments by John are some odd images:

Panel 1: Elly is supposedly making bacon and eggs, and is managing to do so without any indication of the food preparation. There are no eggshells. There is no bacon package. There is no cooler holding the food. In order for this to happen, Elly would have had to have disposed of all of it before cooking the bacon and eggs.

Panel 2: John is talking about a crackling fire and a cool breeze all in the same breath. However we see neither breeze nor fire. Instead we see Elly doing dishes without indication of the preparation. There is no soap. According to Monday’s strip, there should be no running water, which means that the Pattersons have to have brought water to wash dishes. There should be a container of water somewhere.

Panel 3: Elly is sweeping out the tent. That means she brought a broom to a campout in order to sweep out what appears to be an enormous walk-in tent. That thing has got to be over 2 metres tall. The ones I have seen that tall hold 8 - 10 people. That's a little overkill for 2 adults and 2 kids. Personally, I prefer to shake the dirt out of my tent when I am taking it down. That’s a lot easier. I don’t take brooms on camping trips.

Why do I have the feeling that Lynn Johnston did this strip without ever having gone camping?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


My poor son has started high school. He is as geeky and awkward as a 14-year-old boy can be. In stark contrast to this are the girls his age, many of whom are fully grown physically and look frighteningly adult. We were at the beach in Garden City, SC for our 4th annual family beach gathering. As I and my son and my step-brother and my just-recently-graduated-from-high school nephew were sitting around, my nephew pointed out to me that all the bikini-clad young things running around the beach were about the age of my son, in other words high school age. I asked him if there were any college-age girls about, since those would be ones in which he was interested, and he responded, “No.” This was astonishing to me, because I can remember a time in my life when I used to be able to make those same kinds of distinctions myself. Instead, as I looked at the girls, I began to feel pity for my poor son, who is still growing and looks so awkwardly young compared to girls his age.

It is with these thoughts in mind that look at today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse. Not only am I appalled that John Patterson would blatantly ogle girls in front of his wife and kids; but I am also embarrassed for John that the girls at which he is looking are probably teenagers.

Possibly the girls are older than high school age. However, I remember very well this summer sitting with son and nephew, when my step-brother informed me that college-age girls were approaching and walking down the beach. I asked him how he could tell and he responded, “They’re drinking beer.”

There are also the other usual questions like:

a. Where is Michael?
b. Why isn’t John or Elly playing with Michael or Elizabeth?
c. How is going to the beach the same thing as camping?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

John Hogs the Driving or John the Driving Hog

It’s a rare moment when For Better or For Worse takes a camera into my world, but today’s reprint is one of those moments. I well remember the days on long car rides when my wife would insist on driving almost the whole way, because the alternative was keeping the kids happy. We have an annual trip to Texas to visit grandparents (and other assorted relatives) which ran about 16 hours in either direction, including bathroom and food stops, when my kids were little. Now they are older, there are fewer bathroom stops and a lot less stalling on getting back into the car once they have gotten out, so the trip runs closer to 14-15 hours. It was a long enough trip where my wife would eventually get tired and would be forced to let me drive. However, on many of these trips, I might drive no more than 4-5 hours of it. Our kids were pretty demanding and there was little relaxing when they were little.

The joke of the strip is that John thinks he is doing Elly a favour by insisting that she doesn’t have to drive, so she can “relax and amuse the kids.” I think any real parents would realize what is happening is John has taken the wheel so he can relax and not have to amuse the kids. Either John is clueless because he doesn’t know what it takes to amuse children, or John is selfish for not taking on that responsibility himself to relieve his wife. The first choice doesn’t work logically because John is there in the car and knows exactly what it takes to amuse the children.

That being said, the comic strip does cross out of my camera zone in the final panel. I would not ever try to entertain kids with a hand puppet over the back of my seat. That would be way too uncomfortable. Also, Michael would have a seat belt on, and my little one-year-old would not be handling a sucker. If it weren’t for those distractions, the giant smile on John’s face and the haggard look on Elly’s face would be pretty funny.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Michael the Voyeur

Today’s reprint in For Better or For Worse once again brings forth a youthful innocence which is a little creepy, which is pretty standard for Lynn Johnston these days. The last time we had this kind of youthful creepy was when we learned that Elizabeth liked to watch Michael urinate. Ick!

So, young Michael wants to watch his parents fall in love again. Actually, I don’t blame him. It would be interesting to see what John and Elly in love would look like. Of course, at the time this strip was written, the more interesting aspect of it is the idea that Lynn thinks John and Elly are not currently in love. This isn’t the first time Lynn has made this suggestion. Back in June, Elly asked John when the magic left their marriage. I often wonder what Rod Johnston thought when he saw this kind of stuff in Lynn’s comic strip. It's not too likely there are any marriage counselors in Lynn Lake, Manitoba.

Even more interesting is John’s belief that “rushing rivers and fresh air” would make two people fall in love. I would think it would be more like “starlit nights” or something more traditionally romantic like that. The sound of rushing water usually makes me want to urinate.

As far as the strip goes, Lynn Johnston has set up a nice comparison / contrast. First Elly confesses to Anne that she thinks the camping will end in disaster. Then we have John who, for some reason, thinks of the camping trip in romantic terms, even though they are taking the kids with them. In typical Patterson fashion, none of the adults ever seem to think of a particular venture as fun for the whole family.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Patterson Camping: Let the Fear Begin

With today’s reprint in For Better or For Worse, Lynn Johnston has given us confirmation that she does not plan to reprint the original finale to the story of "John has no fashion sense and is henpecked". Once again, a comic strip which would have shown John Patterson in a positive light has been eliminated, so the storyline ends with Elly and John yelling at each other about Ted McCaulay’s advice to John. Lynn may have promised to bring the funny back, but apparently that only means more bathroom humour in her new-runs. Her selection of comic strips to reprint to lash out at her ex-husband through his avatar of John Patterson continues right along. I wonder when she will finally give this habit up.

In today’s strip Elly tells Anne about her upcoming camping strip and begins the sense of foreboding that lets us know that although Elly hopes the kids will love the trip, she thinks they will hate it. Usually these are self-fulfilling prophecies, when it comes to the Pattersons.

I remember when my kids were about Lizzie’s age, which I presume is somewhere between the age of 1 and 2. Although they could walk, they still spent a lot of time crawling about when they were doing things. We took my son on an outdoors trip when he was in that age range and soon became quite aware of everything on the ground which could stick into, attach itself to, and otherwise pierce the skin of a kid when they decided to sit or fall directly on the ground. The reaction was quite different from that of sitting on a neatly manicured lawn with grass. Ultimately, we ended up carrying him a lot. I expect any similarity of experience depends on where you are doing your camping. However, it was not until my son was in the Cub Scouts (over the age of 6) before we tried outdoorsy type trips with him again.

As for the Pattersons, the trend of outdoor camping disappeared somewhere along the way. Checking the AMU reprints, which has archives of the strip back to 1996, for camping, I found that April went to a horseback riding summer camp in 2001 and went to a music summer camp in 2002. Aside from that, no Patterson has been camping since 1996. This is despite the seasonal graphic on the For Better or For Worse website, which currently features a picture of John and a young April roasting hot dogs over a campfire. It’s always fun to see a seasonal graphic or strip collection book covers which feature scenes that never appeared in the comic strip. Almost always, those scenes make the Pattersons look like a friendly family spending time together. I often wish those scenes had appeared in the comic strip.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Back on June 11, Lynn Johnston wrote in her blog:

I love being able to write about this time again, because I'm separated from the reality that made me so sarcastic and perhaps a little negative at the time. For me all the negatives have diminished with time, which is as it should be, and with the view I have now, I can focus on the funny stuff.

At the time my thought was that for Lynn Johnston, “funny stuff”= potty humour. Of the 23 new-runs since that time, 7 of them have involved bodily smells or excretions for the funny.

Consequently, it was not too much of a surprise to see another in this series for today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse. In today’s episode we have little Lizzie going to the toilet in her shorts before she can make it to the toilet. She goes to her brother, new-run Michael the kind and beneficent, for solace. He advises her to run through the sprinkler as a solution.

Ignoring the fact that little Lizzie is awfully young to be potty-trained and accepting the idea that a boy Michael’s age would equate running through a sprinkler as a viable method of cleaning someone’s clothing are vital to understanding the joke. Also crucial is the understanding that Lizzie wet her pants instead of defecating in them. This was the part I missed. In the panel where Lizzie is thinking of the toilet, the toilet paper is featured prominently. In the panel were Lizzie is climbing the stairs and then holding onto Michael and crying, there is a drawn shadow on Lizzie’s bottom and a darkened colour. My initial thought was that Lizzie had done more than wet her pants. So, when the final panel came up, I was very confused how Michael would consider that a solution. Ultimately, today’s strip turned out to be one of those strips where I had to think about it to get the punch line. Naturally when you do that, by the time you figure out what was supposed to be funny, then it’s not funny.

That only leaves the “camera in my house” scenario for appreciating the strip. Has something like this happened in my life, in the lives of my children (who are about the same age separation as Michael and Lizzie) or in the lives of anyone I know? Sorry, no. Never has my son recommended running through a sprinkler as a means of getting clean. Never has my daughter come to my son after she wet herself. My daughter has run through a sprinkler before, and I suspect this is the area to which most readers of the comic strip will relate. No “camera in my house” for this one.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Lizzie Prefers Her Bunnies to be Dirty Bunnies

The prediction by many had been that Lynn Johnston would finish out this reprinted story arc of John’s clothing transgressions in For Better or For Worse by showing the last strip of the sequence with Connie and Elly talking about Pete's (Connie’s ex) quirks over a cup of coffee and coming to the conclusion that men are pigs. Instead Lynn has chosen to reprint one of the more unusual strips of the early years actually showing little Lizzie going to John for a problem she has. As it turns out, Lizzie’s problem with something her mother did to her stuffed bunny, i.e. washing. Horrors! As a side note, I like the first panel where Lizzie is holding the bunny by its ears, and the bunny looks like it is in pain.

In order for the joke to work you have to accept:

a. Lizzie is able to recognize that because her stuffed bunny has been washed, there is something about it that is not what she likes about it.
b. Lizzie is able to recognize that the source of her problems is her mother.

With my daughter, her favourite stuffed creature was a Barney who wore footie pyjamas, whom we called Jama Barney. Back in 2001, we went to my sister’s wedding in Connecticut and my daughter left her Jama Barney in the hotel room where we were staying. She was distraught and cried every time she thought about it. She would have been 4 years old at the time. We went back to the hotel room when we realized what had happened and the Barney was gone. Not only that, but when we offered my daughter another Jama Barney (bigger than her original, because the foul manufacturers stopped making the one she had), she rejected it. After some effort, my wife located an exact duplicate on E-bay, had it shipped to us, and made surgical operations on it so that it matched my daughter’s exactly. We were nervous that she would detect some difference and reject the Jama Barney. Fortunately she didn’t. She was happy to have it back. And then a few months later, she somehow managed to leave the Jama Barney in a refrigerator freezer where it went undetected for a long time. This was a small party refrigerator which is not regularly used and the freezer section was just big enough to hold Jama Barney. After much searching, we finally found him again to the relief of my daughter.

And yet despite all this, we regularly washed that Jama Barney and my daughter never complained about it. Not only that, but she never blamed her mother or her father for any of her Jama Barney’s disappearances. I’m not saying that the events of today’s strip couldn’t happen. It just doesn’t match my own experience.

My son, on the other hand, is sensitive to certain kinds of detergents, and if we washed something of his in a detergent which gave him a rash, then he would complain about it. However, I do not think that Lizzie’s complain with her bunny is a complaint of that variety. Unless, of course, this was based on a real-life situation and Lynn Johnston simply did not understand why her daughter was complaining. That, I can easily believe, especially after the incident with her daughter and the unwashed carrots in Mexico.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Henpeck: Not a Noun

In today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse, there were a few things which jumped out at me:

1. John says, “The man still knows a henpeck when he sees one!!” This sent me off to the dictionary to see if “henpeck” could be a noun. It can’t. However I suppose this is a better word than John saying, “He still knows a bitch when he sees one!!”

2. If I am viewing this strip correctly, Elly is laying out John’s shirt for him to wear. This is surprising because John appears to be putting on the same shirt he wore on Wednesday, which upset Elly so much. The front pockets are different however (1 today instead of 2 on Wednesday). This makes me believe it is a different, Elly-approved, shirt John is putting on. To summarize: While John is complaining about not getting to wear what he likes, he still puts on a shirt Elly picks out for him to wear, that is very similar to the shirt she wouldn’t let him wear on Wednesday. Ow! I think I hurt my brain!

3. Elly is usually a little more subdued in her criticism of others. She does not mince words about Ted’s lack of qualification to give advice because he is a bachelor and an idiot. Is this one of those things like when people used to consider deaf and dumb to be synonymous? Is Elly actually equating bachelor with idiot? Considering how Elly thinks of her bachelor brother, this may not be too far from the truth.

4. John says Ted is qualified to know a henpeck, because he lives with his mother. Is this one of those things like when people used to consider deaf and dumb to be synonymous? Is John actually equating all mothers with henpecks?

5. John’s sleepy eyes when he talks about Ted living with his mother. This panel makes it look like John is dreamily thinking of the days back when he used to live with his mother. That's the funniest thing about this strip, which seems to be largely a story about 2 spouses yelling insults at each other.

Bad Advice from the Single Man

You can definitely tell that Ted McCaulay is a single man in today’s For Better or For Worse. Telling your wife to take a flying leap is almost always the wrong thing to do, unless she has wings.

I decided to look across the internet to see if there was advice on this subject and there is plenty. The advice ran in these 2 basic categories:

1. If your wife is nagging you, then that means she wants you to do something. Just go ahead and do what she wants. She is only nagging you because you told her you would do it, and you have not kept your word.
2. If you do something for your wife because she nags you to do it, then you are encouraging nagging behaviour. Therefore, you shouldn’t do it, because a wife does not respect a weak husband.

Neither of these pieces of advice addresses the main situation – nagging works. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. People throughout the ages learn that if they stay at something long enough, they will get what they want from the other person. Elly Patterson certainly knows that if she starts screaming and shrieking about something, the other person will usually give in to her, just to get her to stop. Whether you agree with Elly’s opinion or desire is less important than getting her to be quiet.

One of the nice things about old-style Lynn Johnston’s art was that she could draw emotion in the face much better than she does now. In today’s strip, you can almost see John Patterson’s mind working with the subtle changes Lynn drew to his eyes from panel-to-panel as he listens to Ted McCaulay rail on. He looks like he might actually be thinking what it would be like to tell Elly to take a flying leap. After due consideration, John comes to the conclusion that he can change. It’s better to wear the clothes Elly likes than to have to deal with Elly shrieking at him about it.

As for whether this habit works, we can tell from 30 years of the strip. John eventually reaches the point where he hears Elly shrieking and apologizes for spending too much time in the washroom. Elly continues to shriek even into the last year of the modern strip. Looks like #2 was right.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Too Ugly Even For Elly

I have often wondered if there was a fashion faux pas so heinous that it could surpass the bad taste limits of Elly Patterson’s fashion sense. In today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse, we see that limit. Moreover, the Yahoo colourist did a fine job of using the colours Elly describes, so we can get an even better feeling for how awful John looks. The best part is that the Yahoo colourist also did a purple / red colour combination on Elly’s clothing to make her look more than a little hypocritical for criticizing John’s choice of clothing. The fashion criticism and especially the “AAACK” put this strip easily into the “Cathy rip-off” category so common in the first few years of the strip.

From a long-term perspective, we know that in the 30 years of the strip to come, Elly will far surpass John’s outfit today in terms of some of the awful and frumpy outfits she will eventually wear, particularly in the years after she goes to the permanent bun in her hair. Elly’s concern for what other people will think is out-of-character for her modern self. Normally this is not anything that bothers the woman who regularly shrieks and screams at her husband, kids and animals in public forums. Ironically, Thérèse Caine will eventually be criticized for doing exactly the same thing Elly is doing here.

Monday, August 03, 2009

John Patterson: Not a Fink. A Pig

In today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse, we see the second reference to the term “male chauvinist pig” that we have seen in the last year. The last was in this strip from October 15, 2008, another out-of-date reprint strip from the 1980s.

In today’s strip John lectures Elly for not having a sense of humour about her role at home. The basis of John’s argument is that when he needles Elly using sexist terms, he is just joking. The reality of the matter is that John is not a male chauvinist pig. He is simply pretending to be a male chauvinist pig for the sake of humour. This is an interesting response. In yesterday’s strip, Elly did not call him a male chauvinist pig. She called him a fink. However, considering that John referred to the women who work for him as “girls”, I would say that the “male chauvinist pig” description is right on the mark. I like the fact that it is considered to be popular belief.

The only thing that might work in today’s strip is the nostalgia of seeing a bacon-related joke relative to “male chauvinist pig”. When the term was popular, jokes about it using bacon were very common. 1980s male chauvinism and pig jokes. That takes me back to the time when I was really sick of hearing those jokes. Back in 1980, this joke would have been well-used and quite tired. In other words, the perfect joke for Lynn Johnston to put in her strip.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Dentist of Id

One of the catch phrases in The Wizard of Id comic strip is “The King is a fink!” In today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse, we see a rare reference to the other strip with the word “Fink”. As proof of my assertion, a quick check over the For Better or For Worse archives in AMU reprints shows me no other use of that word since before 1996 (the AMU Reprints archive limit).

The king, in this case, is John Patterson as he counts the girls he has working for him at 9, which includes his wife Elly. Frankly, I am surprised the number is so high. The dentist I go to has 2 ladies at the front desk, 1 dental assistant and 1 hygienist. A total of 4 is all that I see. In my mind, the implication is that another dentist works with John; but I admit I don’t know how dentists employ people in the Canadian system of dentistry.

As King John relates the number of his subjects, Elly determines that it includes her, and she calls him a fink. In The Wizard of Id, this would cause Elly to be put in the dungeon with Spook. However, in this strip, what John has really done is take advantage of Elly’s intimate knowledge of his office. As we learned back in October, when John hired his new hygienist, there is an implication that Elly has to approve of any woman John hires. When John says “9 girls”, he knows that Elly will think to herself, “9? I thought there were 8. Let me count them.” In contrast, if I were to tell my wife I had 9 girls working for me, she would let me have it for calling them girls.

What we have then is John is making a little joke taking advantage of Elly’s control of his office. If he were able to hire and fire at his office at will without consulting his wife for approval, then it would be a different story. Elly would say, “9? Have you hired someone recently?” Then John would have to say sheepishly, “Um no. I was counting you.” At which point Elly would say, “If that’s true, then I want a raise.”

As for what John is doing, I used to do this kind of thing with my kids all the time. I would say something that I knew was wrong, just so I could have the fun of seeing my kids realize I had made a mistake and determine to correct me on it. It was cute when my kids were little. Now they are 14 and 12, it’s not as cute as it used to be. I have a hard enough time with the real errors they find. In the early days of the strip, John used to intentionally antagonize Elly with these kinds of sexist remarks. As he grows older, he learns that it is better not to anger his wife.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Brush Up Your Humour

Today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse

The Humour: Elly brushes Farley without realizing the dog fur is going on her neighbour’s clothes on her clothesline. Laughter ensues as the neighbour swears at Elly for ruining her wash.

The Logic: The reader must believe that the wind is strong enough to carry Farley’s hair over the fence from Elly’s yard to her neighbour’s yard.

The Problem with the Logic: There is a fence in the way. To solve this problem, Lynn Johnston moves from showing Elly picking fur out of the hair brush to showing Elly waving the brush around in the air, so it can gain the height necessary to scale the fence.

Why This Doesn’t Work: You don’t wave a hair brush around in the air to get hair out of it. It is usually so tightly lodged in the bristles of the brush, it has to be pulled out.

Why the Humour Doesn’t Work: In order for the joke to work, you have to be surprised that something happens to Farley’s hair. Lynn draws in the wind in 4 panels and draws Elly doing her hair brush dance with giant volumes of airborne air in 2 panels. Therefore you know that wind is going to do something with that hair and Lynn repeats it to make sure you know it, so when something does happen, there is little surprise.