Sunday, April 25, 2010

What Kind of Daughter Am I Raisin’?

I get back from a Boy Scout backpacking trip and what do I find? New material from Lynn Johnston. It figures she would do this while I was gone. Let’s take a look:

Panel 1: John is putting Elizabeth in a high chair with no straps and he doesn’t remove or lift the feeding area to get her in. The chair looks like it is built for lifting. This is John we are talking about, so maybe this is to indicate his ignorance.

Panel 2: John is tying a bib on Elizabeth while she is being kept occupied with a spoon which, judging from her eyes, seems to have put her in some kind of hypnotic trance. After this, the spoon only appears in the even numbered panels. I guess it is not an odd spoon.

Panel 3: John has a giant bowl of Oatmeal With Raisins! to feed Elizabeth. We don’t see John cooking said bowl, so who knows how we got here. Nevertheless, Lynn Johnston has wisely put the box there, so we will know what is is . To be honest, I wouldn’t know what John was feeding her – rice with peas? Yes, I know that the American Academy of Pediatrics has raisins on their choking hazard list. Once again, the Pattersons demonstrate bad parenting.

Panel 4: In this panel, the part of Lizzie is being played by Popeye the Sailor Man complete with popped eye and jowls. Lizzie thinks, “?” Popeye is a questioning kind of man, so it seems reasonable to do this homage. Nevertheless, this appears to be more proof that this is a food Lizzie has never tasted before, i.e. an indication of how rare this event is for John Patterson. In the meantime, Lizzie is still holding her own spoon and flinging food off of it. How did that spoon get anything on it, if John is feeding her by hand? Where did it go in Panel 3?

Panel 5: The talented Lizzie spits out 3 raising with one Ptooh!

Panel 6: Lizzie spits out 3 more raisins with Ptooh, Pttt, Ptoohh, Pfttt. 4 sound effects. 3 more raisins. And this while John is still trying to feed her. Also, our last appearance of the spoon, which disappears by the time we get back to the high chair in Panel 9, possibly eaten by the leftover raisins.

Panel 7: Seeing that his child doesn’t like the raisins in the oatmeal, John does the thing most parents do in this situation. He picks her up from eating. After all, if she is spitting out raisins, then she is obviously not hungry.

Panel 8: Upstairs John goes, and for some strange reason, it looks like he is going up on his knees.

Panel 9: In the meantime, Elly wanders by, coffee cup in hand, and sees the regurgitated raisins. Will she react as expected and start screaming about the mess John made with Elizabeth? Will she notice that the raisins have increased from 6 to 13, thus “raisin’” the question about whether the raisins have started independently multiplying?

Panel 10: No. She just eats them, except for the 2 she misses, while she appears to have hired her crotch hand to hold her coffee cup for her. Now, her son Michael, in essentially the same situation, turned the raisins down. Elizabeth on the other hand, has developed a new habit of spitting out raisins, which will appear again in this strip.

There were many things my son and daughter spit out during their high chair years, and I don’t recollect ever wanting to eat it after they were done with it. It is a rare strip when Lynn Johnston writes about Pattersons doing something disgusting but that seems to be the trend with her new material. After all, it hasn’t been that long since Lynn did the strip with John humping the Super Vac. Maybe Lynn thinks the strip should be "For Better EWW Worse".

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Even the Deer Don’t Get Any

New material already? I only managed to stay retired for a week. I wasn’t sure if Lynn would do new material on Sundays, and now I see she is. She has the potential to be doing new stuff on Sundays for awhile, so this could be a Sunday-only blog. The real question is whether or not we are in straight reprints for the dailies.

With today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, I was struck by a few odd things:

1. Anne Nichols is shopping for garden supplies.
2. Elly and Anne are in The Garden Center.
3. There are deer in Milborough.
4. Of the plants Anne mentions: Hostas, Hollyhocks and Irises, only the Iris is native to Canada.
5. Not Tonight Deer deer repellent is a real product and the drawing on the product is actually quite a bit funnier than the drawing Lynn did today of that demented, mutated creature (supposedly a deer) on the box Elly is holding.
6. When Anne says she doesn’t have a fence, that actually matches what we have seen in recent strips.

We know from this strip that Mrs. Baird has a garden. We know from this strip that Connie Poirier has a garden. We know from this strip that Elly was gardening at the time in 1981. As near as I can tell, there are no Anne gardening strips. Anne was into cooking. That’s way she starting working as a caterer. I am not sure why Lynn chose to do this strip featuring Anne and not Connie.

The one really known for gardening is Lawrence Poirier. In this strip, he makes it seem like there is only one landscaping business in Milborough and he plans to open another. With this strip, however, Lawrence appears to be working for Lakeshore Landscaping, the business he will eventually own. The implication is that Lakeshore Landscaping is the landscaping business in town. However, that is in the late 1990s. In 1981, the place may have been The Garden Center. North Bay, near where Lynn lives in Corbeil, has 3 garden centres and notice in the link it is spelled "centre" in every single case.

Finally a search for a “deer” using AMU reprints and the Comic Strip Catalog have netted me nothing – not one strip talking a deer outside of reindeer at Christmas. In other words, Lynn Johnston went throught the entire strip talking about Anne having a deer problem, just so she could do a sex joke with name of the deer repellent. Naturally, the idea that another species is not having sex would appeal to Lynn Johnston. Watch for an upcoming strip about beavers and fill in your favourite “not getting any beaver” joke.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Straight Reprints? We’ll See.

Today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse features the expected can opener strip, originally reprinted on April 6, 1981. Although Lynn Johnston has not officially announced it, I expect that since this strip lines up in time so well with our current date of April 5, 2010; we are seeing the first strip of Lynn Johnston’s promised straight reprints of For Better or For Worse. Lynn said she wouldn’t go into straight reprints until the story could stand on its own, and I can see that with this story. In the 13 strips which compose the storyline, Lynn touches on an issue which has been and probably always will be a struggle between husbands and wives – - the family finances, especially when one of the spouses claims priority because of being the breadwinner in the family. We also see Elly’s use of anger and outrage in full flourish as John struggles to placate her, a theme which will reappear continually for 30 years.

For fans of the strip, this is a well-known story. Over the years of blogging on this strip I have seen a number of die-hard fans make a reference to this storyline. Looking over the story in its entirety I can see why. It’s relevant. It’s funny. Elly does not avoid appearing a little silly. Although John Patterson takes a few shots in it, they are not as personal. He is not being called a bad father or a bad husband as a point of the humour, which is the way it was for much of the first 2 years of the strip. This is a good place for Lynn to begin the straight reprints. For those persons who have never read the strip before, straight reprints are the best thing for them. The comic strip will just get better and better until Lynn starts reprinting strips from 2000, the year I consider to be the turning point on the quality of the strip. After that, it will start getting worse and worse. With straight reprints, that will be 19 years from now. By then, who will care?

As for the Howard Bunt Blog, this is the point I have been waiting for since September, 2007, the date on which Lynn Johnston originally announced she was going to retire. I have no desire to continue blogging on the old material. However, if it turns out that I am wrong, and there is still more new material to come, then the Howard Bunt Blog will reappear to comment on it. Lynn Johnston has already reprinted most of the Sunday comic strips from April to June, 1981; so there is a good chance that she will continue to do new material for the Sunday strips for the next 3 months in order to line up the dates for them between 1981 and 2010. Until she makes a specific announcement of an end date, we will have to wait and see. If there is one thing that following Lynn Johnston’s work has shown me, it is that she is quite capable of changing her retirement plans.

As for the dailies, if you want to read in advance, the material is all there on the Comic Strip Catalog on Lynn’s website and can be accessed by ID, but not by date. The Date choice has been blocked out for the next 6 months to give you some surprise. For those you who don’t like surprises, the IDs are these in chronological order: 3676, 3987, 125-128, 3988, 129, 130, 3989, 3990, 131, 3991.

I have some regrets about not continuing on with comments on the daily strips. I have been doing it a long time now, and it takes awhile for a blogger to build an audience. If there is one thing that commenting on the reprinted strips over the last 2½ years has taught me is that I am not that fond of commenting on 30-year-old material that was done by a rank amateur in the comic strip field. Aside from being outdated, sometimes it seems like I am picking on someone too young and inexperienced to know better. It was much more fun to comment on the work of a seasoned 30-year professional turning out the worst material of her career.

Until there is something new, see you then!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Incomplete Chocolate Bunnies: Worth Eating, But Not Worth Giving

Today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse comes from the Easter strip from 1981 and is one of the few Sunday strips from April to June, 1981 which Lynn Johnston has not already reprinted. The theme of the strip is a variation of the old joke where a person devours or otherwise destroys a gift, and then tells a long story about the reasons why it was a good thing that happened. The gift in this case is a chocolate Easter bunny.

Lynn Johnston never repeated this joke that I can tell, but the comic strip Sally Forth has a recurring storyline of Sally’s habit of eating the ears off of her daughter, Hilary’s chocolate Easter bunny. I wonder if Greg Howard, the creator of Sally Forth borrowed this idea from Lynn Johnston when he created his strip in 1982 a year later.

As for the systematic eating of chocolate Easter bunnies, only this strip of For Better or For Worse brings the subject up again, but not in the same way. The part I find most interesting about the strip is the idea that 6-year-old Michael bought a chocolate bunny for his sister. The Pattersons often have money expectations of Michael, which I would consider to be beyond the capabilities of most 6-year-olds. Even Michael’s story today, while funny, seems to me to be very advanced. My son is 14 years old and I doubt he could put together an explanation as skillfully as Michael does in today’s strip. Now, if we are talking Dennis the Menace, then that is a different story. Dennis was a consumate liar, and if think it is Dennis that little Michael is channeling today.

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s strip. Will it be the can opener strip? In other words, will we be in straight reprints? The tension builds…

Friday, April 02, 2010

A While or In A Few Minutes? That is the question.

In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, we have a strip where young Michael expresses his preference for the phrase “in a few minutes’ versus “a while.” That seems very familiar to me, but I cannot find another strip making that same comparison. In this strip, Elly uses the phrase “a while” to be short when the time clearly will mean a more open-ended time. In this strip, young Michael compares “20 minutes” to “forever.” Those are sort of related, but not exactly.

All week I had anticipated we would see the last March, 1981 strip which was not reprinted, because it introduced the idea of John training Farley. Much to my surprise, we have hit the end of the week and that strip has not appeared.

Back on February 23, Lynn Johnston wrote to aprilp_katje in her Elly's Coffee Talk about the cello-playing “’Allo?” girl and said:

Some new stuff is on the way...but there is very little follow up on this story idea. At the time, I had planned a more complicated series, but did not know how to keep from detracting from the main family unit. I then left the readers with NO idea what was going there is a bit more info. Because I am working towards getting the story back on track, I am also short of time and space, so just mentioning who this person is, will have to do. Thanks! LJ

“Detracting from the main family unit” is the interesting part. Having seen the strips, I think I understand what Lynn was saying back then.

Sunday, March 14 – John slammed for going out with Ted. That’s Ted.
Monday, March 15 – Saturday, March 20 – Anne visits Elly and they discuss Connie’s trip to Montreal and the secret of the cello-playing “’Allo?” girl.. That’s Anne, Connie.
Monday, March 22 – Saturday, March 28 – John and Michael visit the car wash. That’s John, Michael.
Sunday, March 28 – Tuesday, March 30 – Elly and John try to train Farley. That’s John, Farley
Wednesday, March 31 – Thursday, April 1 – Elly visits Anne and Steve Nichols gets slammed. That introduced Steve Nichols.
Friday, April 2 – Elly spends time with Elizabeth .That’s Elizabeth.

These strips are making the rounds between the characters. The reference back to dog training was probably for no other reason than to have an opportunity to feature Farley the dog. Back in February 23, Lynn was saying she was trying to address the material to get the story back on track and that’s why there wasn’t time for a longer story about “’Allo girl?”” It seems clear now, but back in February 23, I had no idea what Lynn was talking about.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Final Return of the Malevolent Bath Duck

Although today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse could be interpreted as an indication of how a toddler loves to splash water, but hates to be put into a bath made of the same stuff; I prefer to think of it as the toddler’s recognition of the power of the Malevolent Bath Duck.

Of course, there are those who might say that little Elizabeth has an aversion to removing her clothes which poisoned all her relationships with men and this is the first appearance of that fear. They do have their point. After all, we’ve never seen grown Elizabeth in bed with a man, even when we knew she was doing it.

There are those who might say that the strip is a demonstration of how Elly Patterson fails to learn that her daughter gets into water and so things like toilet bowls, buckets of water and cleaning solution, and Farley’s water should be guarded from her. We see Elly constantly running to stop little Lizzie, which wouldn’t be necessary if Elly learned her lesson with Lizzie after the first time.

All these things are fine and dandy. However, my money is on the duck. You see, the last time the bath duck appeared, I rejoiced over it. I wrote the Coffee Talk saying,.”Give me more bath duck” and here you have it. My wish has been granted by Lynn Johnston. In what could be one of the last new comic strips from the pen and pencil of Lynn Johnston, the bath duck and Lizzie’s rightful fear of it have been illustrated. I am a happy man.

For those you may have missed my exposition on the subject of the Malevolent Bath Duck and its horrifying end in 2002, this is the link to the original Howard Bunt Blog discussion on the matter and a link to another strip I missed the last time where we see the Malevolent Bath Duck speak.

As for the joke in the strip, Lynn Johnston is once again reusing a joke she has done before, just not with Lizzie. Here’s one with Michael. Here’s one with April. Lizzie, on the other hand, likes baths, as you can see in this strip. We have had a theme of this mischaracterization lately with Farley the dog scratching the door the way Edgar the dog did, and with Steve Nichols undermining Anne’s authority the way John Patterson does with Elly. What’s one more to add to the list?

Finally, we must show the best bath strip of all time. Guard your eyes!