Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Father’s Day

Today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse could end up being the final new strip from Lynn Johnston. This strip is the strip originally run on Father’s Day in 1981, which Lynn has already reprinted. It's not very fatherly. We’ll find out next Sunday if Lynn chooses to reprint the Sunday strip corresponding to that Sunday in June, 1981 or creates new material.

The only strip outstanding which could prevent Lynn from going to chronologically ordered straight reprints in 2010 corresponding in date to strips originally printed in 1981 is the strip from July 19, 1981, which is the only strip left in 1981 she has already reprinted and has not passed in a date from 2010. The daily strips have been in straight reprints for a few months now, so it appears clear that Lynn Johnston has no intention of doing any more new material there. The Sunday strips are the only question mark remaining. Even if she does a reprint next Sunday, there is still the possibility that Lynn could decide to do new material just because.

I will not be around next Sunday to check it out as I am leaving tomorrow to go to the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico to backpack with my son for 2 straight weeks. Assuming I survive this, I will return and see what Lynn has wrought. So, even though the Howard Bunt Blog has gone to an “only new material” perspective (meaning only once a week), I will miss next week. Sorry folks.

Looking at the strip today, you can tell we are in the era before John Patterson developed his love of model trains. In 1984, which was also before this time, we had this strip, where John has a similar problem with a model plane. The impression I get was that John Patterson loved playing with models long before trains became his affliction. However, John in 1984 doesn't seem to have the patience of John in the strip today.

Today’s strip ending is closer in tone to this strip from 1999 featuring a model train and April, so once again we have a strip that is sort of a combination between old strip ideas. That has pretty much been Lynn Johnston’s method. Although this is new material she is drawing, there is really nothing new as far as the stories go.

These are the Father’s Day strips you can get using the Comic Strip Catalog and the keyword search on “Father’s Day”. Interestingly enough, the first For Better or For Worse comic strip that celebrated Father’s Day comes from 1982 and it is actually one of the best. Even though today's new-run is considered to be before this one in the chronology, it doesn't matter because today's strip doesn't actually mention Father's Day. Nevertheless, instead of the usual theme of the father wanting to spend Father’s Day away from his kids, which is the theme of most of the Father’s Day strips, in this one John wants to spend time with his kids and seems to enjoy it. It's not too bad a strip, even though Elly has to put her hand over her mouth in the final panel to keep from laughing at something funny. After all, mothers should never laugh on Father's Day.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Old Themes, New Themes

Today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse pulls out a lot of themes in the strip.

1. John can’t relax at home, which we see in this strip and this strip and this strip and this strip and (my favourite) this strip, where Elly has the same reaction as John after working at the office with John.

2. The kids like to fight as seen in these strips. There are a lot of these.

3. Farley makes a mess on the rug. Lynn Johnston loves excreted waste materials from animals.

4. John tracks in mud from the street as seen in these strips.

5. There is a list of chores. Actually this is a relatively recent trend with the chore list which can be seen in this strip and this strip. If you look through these strips, you can tell that in the pre-April days of the strip, Elly generally liked to tell people the chores and did not write them down.

6. Jokes about Monday as you can see in these strips. However, this is possibly the first positive joke about Monday. As you can see, Lynn generally went with the “Monday is a terrible day” theme.

7. Backwards musical notes for the second Sunday in a row. Like young Michael in last week’s strip, it appears that John thinks melodies that are out-of-tune, if we believe the answer given last Tuesday in Elly’s Coffee Talk of :

Sort of. Broken, bent, backwards or otherwise deformed music notes are common cartoonist code to signal a song sung or played (in this case, thought) out of tune.

After 2 weeks of this, I think Lynn Johnston has forgotten what musical notation looks like.

8. An outrageous list of things to be accomplished in a short period of time. This is another new theme, which we last saw in this recent strip. Looking down the list John has, I would be able to do one or two or those in a single weekend.

However, what I notice most particularly about today’s strip are the thought patterns themselves. At work and on the way home from work, John:

a. Thinks thoughts with words (and out-of-tune music), and
b. Hears and understands words from someone else.

Once he is home, John appears to:

a. No longer be able to think, and
b. No longer be able to hear anything from his wife and kids except lines spewing from their heads or a series of exclamation points and question marks.

I think the symbolism of those thought balloon comparisons works very well. John loses his ability to think at home and he can't understand what is going on there. Also, I congratulate Lynn Johnston for doing a strip which does not make John Patterson look like an idiot.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow (or That Dog-Gone Hair)

We are on well-worn ground with today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, but as in many of these cases, Lynn Johnston is doing variations on things which are not exactly the same as what she has done before, but takes parts of them and put them together. In this case we go from trimming a bush to trimming Farley’s hair. Both items have been in the strip before, but never together in one strip. Oooh! Aaah! Lynn’s originality!

This strip goes from trimming a bush to trimming John’s hair and is the closest connection to today’s strip.

This strip shows Michael trimming his own hair and Elly’s severe reaction.

This strip shows April trimming her own hair and Elly’s severe reaction. Before she trimmed her own hair, first Aypo trimmed her dolly’s hair and trimmed the hair off Farley’s ear. If only Aypo had seen Elly trimming a bush, we could have gone full circle. Of course, one of the problems with today's strip is that there is not a mental connection between trimming a bush and trimming your hair. You would think Michael would have trimmed another plant in imitation. That would make more sense. However, when you are combining elements from similar, yet different old comic strips, you are not really thinking that having Elly get John's hair trimmed after he trimmed a bush involves a different thought process than a child imitating something the parent did.

Elizabeth did something about the same as Aypo, although she prefers to use the electric devices. She used a curling iron on her doll’s hair in this strip. She used an electric razor on Farley in this strip.

Not to be outdone, April eats Farley’s hair off his body in this strip. Frankly I think this beats Robin eating dirt. However, Elly eating the phone book is still the all time best. The scary part is that my Anonymous poster once wrote in that the phone book incident was based on something Lynn Johnston did in real life. But I digress.

Cutting Farley's hair is not the only thing the Patterson kids did with his hair. Elizabeth likes Farley in a Mohawk in this strip. Michael was new-runned to have the same idea in this strip.

Don’t worry about Farley though. He has plenty of hair. As you can see in this strip and this strip and this strip, he loses more hair during a brushing than he does from anything Michael might do to him with scissors.

My first thought on seeing the strip, was that it was unusual for Elly Patterson to be trimming bushes. However, looking at this strip from 1981, I see there was another time when she did trim a bush. By the time it rolled around to this strip from 1989, it appears that John has taken over the job or it just won't get done. Michael does it once for Mother's Day in 1990 and I notice the sound effects are "Snip" and "Clip". The sound effects are also "Snip" and "Clip" when John trims the bushes in 2003. Today's strip has "Clip" and "Cut". "Cut" has replaced "Snip" for the first time. I guess Lynn Johnston wanted to make sure her readers got the joke. "Cut" is there so we know that Michael got the idea of cutting Farley's hair from snipping and clipping, I mean, cutting the bushes. That crafty Lynn has realized that since she has gone to new-runs and reprints, the intelligence of her audience has diminished and needs all the help it can get.