Saturday, July 31, 2010

August Date Check

Lynn wrote in her Coffee Talk Blog on July 6, 2010:

The Sunday strips continue to be new additions because I used so many retro Sundays during 2007. The new Sundays will cease in August and the retros will begin with new coloring and sometimes improved imagery. Thanks for asking! LJ

Now it's August, let's check it out:

Sunday, July 11, 2010 was a new-run.
July 12, 1981 was reprinted on Sunday, July 18, 2010.
June 28, 1981 was reprinted on Sunday, July 24, 2010.
July 5, 1981 is reprinted today on August 1, 2010.

It would appear that there is not really any part of Lynn’s statement that is true. There was one more new addition, not “new additions” which did not cease in August, but ceased the very next Sunday after her statement in July.

As for what is really coming up, I can suggest a few possibilities:

1. Since July 19, 1981 was reprinted way back on July 19, 2009; Lynn will start reprinting from July 26, 1981 next week and then continue that way with the strips off in date continuity between 1981 and 2010 by 2 weeks.
2. Lynn will skip 2 weeks and synchronize the strips by date as she did with the dailies where the August 9, 1981 strip will be published on August 8, 2010.
3. There will be at least one more new-run strip published in August, which will make Lynn’s original comment turn out to be true after all.

As for today’s strip, the kids come to Elly playing the blame game and expecting Elly to do something about it. Foolish children. Have you met your mother? Elly does not do anything about it, but she does pretend like she should be able to, with her line, “Since I can’t possibly know who’s at fault here…” Just to give you a clue Elly, the phrase “broke my house” is something that can be checked. Nevertheless, I don’t believe that it is the parent’s responsibility to assess blame in these kinds of situations, but more to assess damage and calm down the kids. Elly sends them to their rooms for 20 minutes as if that technique actually works. It may work for some families, but it never worked for mine. My kids almost never stayed in their rooms when they were upset with each other. It took some time for them to calm down and they usually had to be watched during that time, since that was not their natural tendency. As for Elly’s reaction, it seems perfectly in character for her to show off her non-parenting skills and put those disfigured sock feet of hers on display.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Two Years = One Treasury

Today's Sunday strip of For Better or For Worse was originally printed on June 28, 1981. Again, we do not have new material on the Sunday and since the next Sunday is in August, the only remaining thing to do is to check and see if the Sunday comic strip chosen next week is the one corresponding in time to the first Sunday in August, 1981. If it is, then we will be officially in straight reprints for Sundays and dailies. There is good reason for this to happen.

I suspect the actual last new work for Lynn Johnston will be the cover on the book Something Old, Something New: For Better or For Worse 1st Treasury. The description on the page indicates that what we are going to see in the Treasury is not like the chronological reprinting of the Complete Peanuts, but the new-run and reprint material that Lynn has printed since going to the new-runs in 2008.

The page length is close to the same as that of the Complete Peanuts series, which usually covers 2 years. Thus, we have an explanation to why the new-runs continued for 2 years -- Lynn Johnston wanted material to cover this new-run edition. If she continues on, then every 2 years there would be another treasury covering the reprinted (and occasionally slightly redrawn and recolored) strips. We also have an explanation to why the new-run Sunday strips stop in August -- to allow enough time for the publisher to put together the material for a November 9 publication date. Given that Lynn has to have her Sunday strips 8 weeks in advance, then that give the publisher at least 5 months and possibly more, if Lynn worked in advance.

The disappointment is that Lynn is not doing a treasury edition like the critically acclaimed Complete Peanuts, which published everything in exact chronological order and with a great deal of attention placed on a high quality presentation, as if it were the collection of a great historical document. This is a little bit of a surprise, because Lynn considers Charles Schulz so highly. You would think she would want to imitate the Complete Peanuts more exactly. You would think she would want to toss the awful new-runs of the last 2 years, because they were so full of errors.
Moreover, there were a number of good strips, she either did not reprint or she did reprint in the hybrid year of 2007-08. Without them, the For Better or For Worse first treasury is going to be a severely incomplete history of the early years of the strip.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Mysterious Calendar of Lynn Johnston

Today’s For Better or For Worse Sunday strip is a reprint from July 12, 1981. Lynn said in her Coffee Talk Blog last week:

The Sunday strips continue to be new additions because I used so many retro Sundays during 2007. The new Sundays will cease in August and the retros will begin with new coloring and sometimes improved imagery. Thanks for asking! LJ

As you know from last week's blog entry, I interpreted that to mean July 18 and 25 would be new strips and the Sundays in August would be reprints. Now that I see today's strip is a reprint, I am going to have to read Lynn’s message a little more carefully. Lynn does not say that the Sunday strips “will continue” to be new additions. She says that that the Sunday strips “continue” to be new additions. This is an explanation as to why she has not taken the Sunday strips to straight reprints as the dailies were taken to straight reprints. It is not a promise of things to happen in the future.

I also note that although Lynn does say that the Sunday strips “will cease” in August, she does not specify when in August they will cease. Based on this, it is safe to say that in order for something to cease in August, there must be at least one new addition which occurs sometime before then. So, we could get a new strip on July 25. Or we could get new strips from July 25 all the way to the second-to-last Sunday in August.

Another possibility is that last Sunday’s comic strip was our last new one and Lynn Johnston is simply lying. Certainly her recent response in Elly’s Coffee Talk would indicate that Lynn finds it very difficult to tell the truth.

Another possibility is that Lynn really doesn’t remember or know when the final strip is, because she did them so long ago.

I suspect what Lynn really means is that in August, the 2010 Sunday strips will start to be reprinted with dates that will be chronologically synchronized with the strips from 1981, as the dailies are done now. Technically, this Sunday’s reprint strip, even though it comes from July 12, 1981, is not synchronized by date. In other words, it is not the Sunday strip from July 19, 1981. Up until the time that the strips are chronologically synchronized, the strips could be reprints or new material. I guess we will have to see what shows up next week or any week up until the time when the dates between 1981 and 2010 match on Sundays.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Squeak, Squeak. The Comic Strip is So Old, It Needs Lube

Today I am with my family in Garden City, South Carolina enjoying a vacation at the beach. It's the end of the day and taking a look at Lynn's latest work, it looks like she may have drawn this comic strip while she had a spare moment at the beach. Today's new-run of For Better or For Worse is, according to the Lynn Johnston in her Coffee Talk 3 strips away from being her last new work. She said:

The Sunday strips continue to be new additions because I used so many retro Sundays during 2007. The new Sundays will cease in August and the retros will begin with new coloring and sometimes improved imagery. Thanks for asking! LJ

That means we have today, July 11, and then July 18 and 25 left.

Today's strip follows the same pattern as many of her Sunday strips of late. She recycles and combines ideas from old strips and then add lots of onomatopoiea. The squeaky tricycle strip is here. Here and here are 2 strips featuring Pattersons with creaking bones used for humour.

Artistically, Lynn continues her tendency to think in 4 panel sequences. John is in silhouette observing a squeaking kids' play thing in Panels 1 and 5, separated by 4 panels. Aside from that, Lynn's art suffers from her usual issues. The proportions are off in quite a few of the panels. In Panel 5, Michael and Lizzie are tiny compared to that enormous swing. In Panel 7, Michael's wagon is tiny in comparison to his body and the wagon doesn't look much like a wagon with its broken front axle. In Panels 1 and 4, Lizzie appears to be riding her tricycle without the benefit of a left leg. It's also pretty obvious in Panels 5 and 6, Lynn Johnston did not look at an actual swing set before she drew a picture of it. That's not how swings are attached to the swing set in the swing set in my backyard.

It will be interesting to see if Lynn plans to close her final new work with any kind of notice that it is her last new work; but the way she is going, I doubt she would want to . We have 2 more Sundays to see how it will all end. I expect more repeated old jokes from old strips and more onomatopoeia.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Save Me!

I am back from the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. Itinerary 30 with 81 miles of backpacking over 12 days. I am quite exhausted, but apparently not as exhausted as Lynn Johnston as we see with today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse. Lynn has once again gone to her usual theme of kids acting like kids, with Elly Patterson reacting as though she is being tortured. I would count up the number of strips we have seen with that theme for the last year, but why bother? That’s about the only kind of strip Lynn Johnston does these days.

Being around kids acting like kids is not torture. Try being with Boy Scouts who don’t bathe for 12 days, while carrying a 50-pound pack on your back, up and down mountain peaks, and eating dry backpacking food every meal! That’s real torture. I unloaded the clothes for me and my son out of the packs and my wife left the room the smell was so bad.

Speaking of bad smells, let’s talk about Lynn Johnston’s material. Lynn is now 2 Sundays past the point where she had already reprinted the 1981 Sunday comic strips whose dates correspond to the Sundays in 2010. It is curious that she is still doing new material and has not gone to reprinting the Sunday strips instead. I have 3 theories about the matter:

1. Lynn has decided she is not going to officially retire (This makes how many times now?) and she will continue doing new material on the Sunday strips. That’s 4 strips a month, which she could easily knock out in a few days, leaving her plenty of time for her vacation time, and still allowing her to keep the “new material” status, especially for those papers that only carry For Better or For Worse on Sundays. Lynn has said she enjoys doing the Sunday strips more than the dailies (now 3 months in straight reprints from 1981). Maybe she had a conversation with Bill Amend (Foxtrot) at the National Cartoonists Society Convention about how easy it was to do a Sunday-only strip. This is assuming she knows who he is.

2. Lynn has one more Sunday strip she has already reprinted from 1981 which she has not passed chronologically, the strip from July 19, 1981. Instead of keeping track of things and reprinting the unreprinted Sunday strips from 1981 prior to that time, Lynn has opted to do new material until that point. Then she will go to straight reprints.

3. There is no plan. Lynn has been replaced by a robot which does her strips for her and simply recycles bits and pieces from her old strips to create new strips for Sundays. Unfortunately for Lynn, the robot has not realized that kids are terrible demons, John Patterson is the worst man alive, and Farley the dog exists only to produce waste materials; so some of the strips seem strangely happy. Take today’s new-run of For Better of For Worse, for example. All the kids are playing together with the dog. No dog poop. No fights. No destruction of property. It’s almost like a different strip from the one we are used to. Clearly someone has left something out of the robot’s programming.

There are a few odd things about today’s strip:

1. Farley the dog is shown running like a dog, and not like a rabbit. Admittedly all the characters still hover when they run, which is a Lynn Johnston standard; but I was struck by Farley’s doggishness. Can it be that someone has finally read all our comments over the years and whispered into Lynn’s ear the magic words “Dogs don’t run like that.”?

2. Lynn has mixed the space man and superhero themes. Lawrence and Michael are running about with superhero capes on and yet their made-up adventure involves Lawrence being called Twirg and saving the world from a beast and the use of pressure chambers.

3. Lawrence and Lizzie are unexpectedly mute. All the verbal description of the play comes exclusively from Michael, if you don’t count Farley’s barking noises.

4. 4-panel structures. Panels 4 and 8 are both silhouettes of the 4 characters with motions unrelated to each other or anything in particular, with colorfully worded sound effects. Panel 4 is not too bad with this, but Panel 8 makes it very obvious that the 4 characters seem to be operating on different physical planes, the worst being Lawrence, who actually casts a shadow as a silhouette, where the shadow is level with Farley’s head.

5. The final panel noise balloon with its BAM, POW, BARK, and ZAP actually has dandruff and dust and smoke clouds on it. Taken by itself, it makes it seem like Elly is begging John to save her from a noise balloon that has taken on a life of its own.

6. The final panel gag is a weak pun, even for Lynn Johnston. It keys on the word “save” mentioned 4 times by Michael Patterson. So, Elly is asking John to save her from the kids who are playing a game where they are also saving things (the world or Lizzie). It could have been redeemed if Elly had simply used the word Twirg somewhere in there.