Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day

Lynn Johnston’s website comic strip archive has a special collection of Father’s Day comic strips which covers most of the Father’s Day comic strip during the 29 years. However, it doesn’t include all of them and the ones it does include provide a curious history.

The first was this comic strip published on 1980-06-15. It’s curious because it features Elly on the plane with the 2 kids and no sight of John the father. Instead it features a man sitting beside Elly who plays with little Lizzie as she cries on the plane, while Elly thinks, “Now and then when you least expect it, you meet an angel.” The man is balding and fat and so Elly expects the worst from him (displaying Lynn’s early prejudice against the ugly), and so she is surprised when he is nice, i.e. he becomes a surrogate father to Lizzie.

1981 Father’s Day strip was published on 1981-06-21 and does not mention Father’s Day, but it does feature Elly and John eating out at a restaurant while Elly slowly consumes most of John’s strawberry mocha parfait one little teeny nibble at a time.

The 1982 comic strip was featured today, and has the first ever direct mention of Father’s Day in the comic strip.

1983 Father’s Day strip was published on 1983-06-19 and returns back to not mentioning Father’s Day. Instead it features Elly and John talking about the past.

1984 Father’s Day strip was published on 1984-06-17 and starts off with Elly looking in a jewelry store for a watch, which the jeweler thinks will be a gift for someone other than Elly (probably because it’s Father’s Day, but he doesn't mention it). Elly responds that the watch is for her. The comic strip is so out-of-character for Elly, I have the feeling there is a message being sent to someone.

1985 Father’s Day strip was published on 1985-06-16 and shows Elly and Lizzie out on the street observing 3 girls dressed in the Lynn Johnston interpretation of the style of the day. Lizzie stares at them, and when Elly tells her not to stare, Lizzie retorts, “Isn’t that what they want us to do?” There is no appearance of John, nor a mention of Father’s Day; but there is a biting judgment of 1985 fashion. It is not the only time during the comic strip when Elly had harsh words for the fashion choices of young women, but it was one of the first.

1986 Father’s Day strip was published on 1986-06-15 and shows Elly complaining that Farley won’t eat the dog food. John is there and suggests that the reason Farley won’t eat it is because he thinks it’s for dogs and not people. John says that Elly should make the dog food look like people food. At this point, Elly dumps the dog food on a plate in front of John and says, “Here. Make it look good.” Again there is no mention of Father’s Day; but the dad's opinion and suggestion is clearly dumped on.

The 1987 Father’s Day comic strip is in the on-line archive and actually looks like a Father’s Day comic strip. From this point on, the comic strips shown on Father’s Day mention and display a character in the comic strip who is a father, most often John Patterson.

What happened? Well, it’s around this time Lynn Johnston moved from Lynn Lake, Manitoba, a place she despised with a passion and her husband’s home town to Corbeil, Ontario, where she lives today and her mood changed. I have often speculated that the transformation from the very negative tone of the comic strip in the early years into the nicer and funnier tone of the middle years was due to this change in Lynn's life. In the Father's Day comic strips we have proof.

The only exception to this was Father’s Day 2002, which shows John and Elly eating out, but no mention of Father’s Day. 2002 is when the comic strip moved into the darker, serious final years and once again Father's Day shows the effects of it. What happened in 2002 was Rod Johnston, the real-life John Patterson, sold his dental practice and retired with the expectation that Lynn Johnston would do the same. She didn't but the pressure invades the comic strip in this year.

The other Father’s Day comic strips not shown in the on-line archive are these from 1988 and 1996. They are both from the time when Lynn Johnston was at the height of her powers and naturally, I consider them to be two of the best Father’s Day comic strips in the whole 29 years.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Lynn's Travels Reuben Weekend

As usual, I will quote the text and then comment on it.

My daughter Katie, along with her husband, Lane, and I have just returned from the Reuben Awards, an event which was held in Boston this year.

In the old days, Lynn might bring a staff member to these occasions. I guess when you get right down to it, Katie is really her only staff member left that actually works on Lynn’s published material.

This is the "Oscars" of the comic art industry and an opportunity for all of us to get together, renew old (some amazingly old) friendships, make new ones and come up with new ideas; everything from web marketing to how to stay awake during the lectures.

Somehow I have the feeling that web marketing was one of those lectures where Lynn was falling asleep. By mentioning age, she is also emphasizing her stature within the organization. You will see this reference to age over and over in this travelogue.

We bunked in at the beautiful old Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel - the elegance of which deterred us from the usual olive toss and beer chug at the bar (the prices for booze and munch were astronomical anyway) and created a spectacular backdrop to this cheesy and chic annual event.

Lynn seems to be saying that she doesn’t like to drink at places which are too fancy (i.e. too expensive). I can only imagine why she would say something like that, as in, how many Reuben awards ended up with Lynn getting loaded at the hotel bar. It is fairly amusing to me that she manages to mention drinking in virtually every one of her travelogues.

We had ample opportunity to explore the city and took a "Duck Boat" tour. This vehicle looks like a tank, drives like a 56 pickup and rolls into the water as if it had webfeet. They were made for the military - and I guess they didn't want them. Anyway, we got some views of the harbor and some Boston history and returned to dry land where we sought libation.

It appears that Lynn is not familiar with the phrase "military surplus". I have done the Boston “Duck Boat” tour just recently, and the part which Lynn fails to mention is that the drivers of these tours are usually very funny. Lynn may have been too interested in the libation to pay attention to the jokes. Or maybe she didn't like the competition.

Katie, Lane and I rarely gussie up like this, so photos were a must. We lasted for about six hours before taking off the shoes and loosening anything that stretched.

6 hours? That a long dinner. I like the pictures though. Katie looks a lot happier when Lane is in the picture than when she is standing along with her mother.

Here's Cathy Guisewite with yours truly - two retired ladies with lots on the go (some has gone already, but we're cool!)

Traditional picture taken at every Reuben award dinner and notice that Lynn had to mention the retirement. You will notice that of all the cartoonists Lynn meets, even the ones a lot older than she is, Cathy is the only one who is retired like Lynn.

Richard Thompson was our Reuben award winner this year and to learn more about him, please go to: He received cheers and a standing ovation for his work in 2010. We were all so pleased to see him win.

Naturally Lynn knows Richard Thompson after they did their picture together back in March, or does she? Lynn’s praise of Richard Thompson is a little odd with the website link (not her usual style), when you compare it to the textual praise she is going to give the next series of cartoonists, many of whom also have websites.

Lee Salem has been my editor and friend for 30 years and has now taken the position of CEO for Universal Uclick. I asked him if he found it daunting and he said "No, it's been fun!" Somewhere in there lies the truth, but everything he takes on, he does well!

I guess the question now is, “Who’s going to be Lynn’s new editor?”

His wife, Anita, was a university math professor for many years and has now taken on the title of Grandmom to four beautiful grandkids.

Anita has 4 grandkids? Got that Katie? Anita has now taken on the title of Grandmom, with a capital G. And they are beautiful grandkids too. Anita retired and she got to be a Grandmom. Hey Katie. Did you know your mother has retired too?

Bunny Hoest and John Reiner produce "The Lockhorns" and continue to do a number of single panel magazine cartoons as well. We have been friends since my first day as a member of the NCS (National Cartoonist's Society) over 30 years ago.

As well they should be. Lynn likes the old school cartoonists, i.e. anyone doing comics longer than she has. Besides, there has been many a For Better or For Worse cartoon whose punch line was uncannily similar to one used in The Lockhorns.

Kate and Lane took in some of the large, beautiful parks in the city. People at the Boston Common had placed hundreds of flags before one of the statues; a Memorial Day tribute to the fallen soldiers of Massachusetts.

Don’t you mean M-ass-achusetts, Lynn?

Mort Drucker, one of our heroes and the man who established a style of caricature in Mad Magazine with his many movie spoofs, was unable to come this year due to poor health. Sergio Aragones (you have to know Sergio if you are a comic art fan - his work has graced Mad for as long as I can remember and his comic books starring "Groo the Wanderer" are hilarious!) happened to have a large piece of poster board in his car and we used this to send Mort a loving "Get Well" card. Wiley Miller of "Non Sequitur" is signing here.

No praise for Wiley Miller? Naturally, it’s because Wiley launched Non Sequitur in 1991, post For Better or For Worse. As for the other cartoonists, I am surprised Lynn Johnston knows Groo the Wanderer. It’s a comic book and it was launched post-Lynn. Maybe Sergio Aragones counts because he did Mad Magazine pre-Lynn. Possibly it's because Sergio Aragones received the National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award for 1996 for his work on Groo and Mad Magazine, and Lynn remembers it.

Lucy Caswell was presented with the silver T-square for her ongoing help, support and careful archiving of the largest collection of cartoon art in America. She has been to every Reuben, worked with every one of us to help us catalogue and care for our work and has been one of the most steadfast advocates for this unique art form. If asked, Lucy would say "YES! This is definitely art!" (And a whack on the head for asking!)

And yet Lynn’s work is not archived by Lucy Caswell, but with the Canadian Archive, as I recollect. Nevertheless, Lucy gets points for being in the NCS pre-Lynn.

All in all, it was another remarkable assembly of cartoonists and folks who make the industry happen, and a great time was had by all. I am so lucky to have been a member of the NCS...which reminds me...I still have to pay my dues!

Oh, Lynn. What a kidder. Liuba Liamzini does your finances and she probably paid your dues months ago.

Happy sketching to all the young cartoonists out there - who knows, we might be adding you to our membership list some day!

This is a pretty funny statement. Lynn is saying that she is a member of the NCS and the "young cartoonists" aren't.

After reading Lynn's comments, it was interesting to get another perspective from Scott Kurtz who does the PvP webcomic. His comments are here.

He says that 5 webcomic creators were in attendance at the Reubens, Dave Kellett (Sheldon, Drive), Kris Straub (Starslip, Chainsawsuit), Kate Beaton (Hark A Vagrant), Randall Munroe (XKCD) and Scott Campbell (Great Showdowns) and participated in a Webcomics Seminar as a part of the weekend. I suspect this is what Lynn is referring to when she said, "web marketing", unless there was another seminar on the subject.

Scott's best line is, "I’m 40 and I was younger than most of the 'young' NCS members. No joke, at one point I was asked 'who’s son are you?'" It's no wonder that Lynn closes with the line about the young cartoonists they may be adding to their membership list some day. Kurtz's opinion was that members of the National Cartoonists Society realize there are no print cartoonists coming into the industry anymore, and his impression was that the NCS members were happy to see representatives of webcomics there, so there will be an NCS in 10-15 years. Clearly Scott did not speak to Lynn Johnston, who has expressed the opinion on more than one occasion that the younger cartoonists need to knock her off the page, if they want to get into the industry.