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 Lynn has been replaced by a robot which does her strips for her and simply recycles bits and pieces from her old strips to create new strips for Sundays.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.