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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in The FOOBiverse!'s LiveJournal:

[ << Previous 20 ]
Thursday, September 21st, 2017
12:15 am
Saturday, 23 September 2017
For some reason, Annie seems to envy men the "ability" or "right" to take piss-poor care of their health.

(Strip Number 5022, Original Publication Date, 23 September 1988)

Panel 1: Later that day, we find Annie congratulating Elly on getting John to go see the doctor because men simply don't go as often as women do.

Panel 2: This is because dealing with what Smug Throwback To The Fifties Lynn calls "feminine hijinx" and what normal people call "having children and undergoing pap smears and mammograms and the like" means that unlike men, women know what's going on in their own bodies.

Panel 3: The two of them agree that men spend most of their lives in ignorance as regards their own well-being.

Panel 4: When Annie says that she's coming back AS a man if she's given a choice the next time around, Elly's sudden realization that not only does Annie believe in reincarnation but that she's afforded a choice baffles her.

Summary: It's bad enough that we're going to be clobbered over the head with her wailing about it's a man's world without the fear something like this raises: her cheering on GPs who take women with legitimate problems aside and go "There, there, Dear" at them. We know from the mess with Jim that most of the idiots believed that he was a vegetable because a neurologist who only saw him once said something vague while ignoring the therapists who saw signs of life in him because they were JUST GIRLS so Mrs Female Hijinx is going to set back the cause a decade or five with any Lynnsight.
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017
12:59 am
Friday, 22 September 2017
Elly engages in rather excessive candor when she reminds John that he doesn't actually know what her treating him like a recalcitrant child would have to look like.

(Strip Number 5021, Original Publication Date, 22 September 1988)

Panel 1: As John fixes what I'd like to think is one of the children's toy cars but, knowing him, stands a good chance of being his, Elly picks up from where she left off last night and asks if he's made that doctor's appointment yet. He says that he'll get around to it.

Panel 2: He gets all irritated when she tells him to just pick up the phone and get it over with.

Panel 3: Since he remembers that one of the things she wants him to get over with is a vasectomy and since he doesn't like having a woman tell him what to do in the first place, he bellows that she's treating him like a child. She angrily denies this.

Panel 4: When she reminds him that if she were treating him like a kid, she'd have made the appointment for him, the reminder that he married a woman who regards him as her oldest child comes as a shock to Captain Oblivious.

Summary: Given that the strip's premise is that Elly's corrosive nagging, treating the kids like shit-heels and butting in where she's not wanted comes from a place of love, it's easy to understand this one but difficult to understand tomorrow's without also having to remember that Lynn envies anyone who isn't her.
Tuesday, September 19th, 2017
12:57 am
Thursday, 21 September 2017
When John tells Elly that he can easily put off a check-up, she has a Hell of a great point when she asks him why he'd say that given how he (over)reacted to a loose part on his ride.

(Strip Number 1348, Original Publication Date, 21 September 1988)

Panel 1: We find John and Elly in bed that night. Noticing that he's got that deer in the headlights look he gets sometimes, Elly asks him what's wrong. Since what Lizzie said affected him more than he cares to admit, he asks him to listen to his chest to see if she thinks his heart-beat sounds okay.

Panel 2: Having done so, she doesn't think there's a problem but tells him to see a doctor anyway.

Panel 3: When he blows that suggestion off because he doesn't wanna waste the doctor's time if it's not serious, what looks a lot like (because it most likely IS) his refusal to listen to her suggestion because she made it irritates the fuck outta her.

Panel 4: She explains WHY when it bothers her that a man who rushed to a mechanic because the ashtray on the Overcompensationmobile rattled treats his car better than he treats himself.

Summary: I don't expect the notes to be about how John never listens to Elly. I expect her to complain about that car Rod didn't need and shouldn't have been made because why would anyone want to have fun in a car?
Monday, September 18th, 2017
12:55 am
Wednesday, 20 September 2017
We edge closer to the premise of the arc with John's revealing that he's not immortal sending Lizzie into a state of existential horror that makes her want to put all the coins ever into his meter.

(Strip Number 1347, Original Publication Date, 20 September 1988)

Panel 1: We find Lizzie and John in mid-hug as she tells him that she can hear his heart beat.

Panel 2: She sets up the punchline and arc by asking what'd happen if it stopped. Since Daddy is a knuckle-dragging imbecile who doesn't 'get' what frightens kids, he smiles broadly as he acts way out of character and tells his eight year old daughter that he'd 'stop'.

Panel 3: Since John isn't insulting someone or making a joke about a troubling issue to preserve her ignoranceinnocence, Lizzie realizes that this means that the Daddy she's fixated on is going to keel over and die some day. Since being told about Connie's clusterfuck love life made her into a panicky loon begging Elly to PROMISE that she and John wouldn't just up and divorce out of boredom, her unresolved issues with Thelma Baird's passing manifest themselves as the panicked state she's in now.

Panel 4: El Sensitivo shows us where Mike got having his head up his ass from when he's astonished by Lizzie's plea about wanting his heart to beat forever and ever. This is because he doesn't realize that she might have thought that he'd prove his point by having a fatal heart attack on the spot.

Summary: As I said, this does not lead to an examination of Elizabeth's abandonment issues or doing something stupid and irrelevant like "reassuring a child" because children are 'resilient'. This actually leads to the yuppie scum dentist angsting about having to have a checkup because he doesn't want to eat his spinach.
Sunday, September 17th, 2017
12:52 am
Tuesday, 19 September 2017
Now that howtheduck has established that Mike is too blasted self-absorbed, ignorant and stupid to know who he can and cannot trust, I return to the stand with a week-long arc that has John tend to want to put off having a check-up. We start things off with Lizzie getting all clingy and needy again and asking him if he's got any hugs to spare for a girl who's feeling low.

(Strip Number 5020, Original Publication Date, 19 September 1988)

Panel 1: We start things off with Lizzie being her usual unhappy self in need of reassurance. She ain'ta gonna get it from Kid Dumbfuck because Mike, who's pretending to do homework, tells her to bug off.

Panel 2: She also gets no joy from Elly who cannot even be asked to look at her when she delivers her pious "Not NOW, Honey....I'm trying to get supper on" speech.

Panel 3: When she comes up to John with that sad little look on her face and asks something of him, he asks her what she wants.

Panel 4: When she asks if he's got any hugs to spare, he's so gobsmacked, he almost puts down his newspaper.

Summary: This SHOULD be an entry-point into an extended arc about why Lizzie felt like crap most of her childhood but it's not. What happens is that Lizzie makes an off-hand comment that makes John just worried enough about his ticker to get Elly to start nagging him about getting a check-up.
Saturday, September 16th, 2017
9:37 pm
Monday, 18 September 2017
Today Michael decides it’s bros before hoes, or Michael hath measured the quality of Martha’s kissing versus her telling her giggling friends about him and has decided that Martha art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

(Strip Number 1346, Original Publication Date, 17 September 1988

Panel 1: Michael moves himself back to his thinking spot near the lockers and thinks to himself, “No wonder Martha an’ her friends were giggling when they went by me – she’s told them everything!!” First of all, it’s nice to know that Michael drops the “d” in “and” even when he is thinking it.  Second of all, they did not go by you, Michael.  You approached them, they turned to acknowledge you, Martha smiled at you and talked to you, and then they giggled as they left you.  Michael is doing a little revisionist history in his brain to make him feel a little more mistreated than he actually was.

Panel 2: Michael puts his hand to his chest and apparently hit the button that causes his left arm to snap off his body.  What is up with that?  It looks like Lynn Johnston drew the left arm in, and then realizing she did not have enough room in the panel for Michael’s giant thought bubble, drew the rest of his body lower in the panel without taking the time to redraw the arm.  When I see stuff like this, it makes me think thoughts like, “How stinking hard is it to erase one arm?!!!”  But for Michael he thinks thoughts like, “She told them we kissed!  She probably told them every dumb thing I ever said to her.  And I thought she liked me!! …I feel like a grade A, first class FOOL!!!”

Not grade A first class fool.  That’s a Grade 6 fool.   Although Michael will turn 13 next year, which would imply that he is 12 years old this year, typically it is Grade 7 where the kids start off 12 years old and turn 13.   However, Michael and all his friends had to repeat Grade 5 and that is why he is only in Grade 6.

It occurs to me now that Grade 5 was Aaron’s last grade in Lynn Lake.  I wonder if Michael repeated Grade 5 because Lynn had some fond memories of the time in Lynn Lake when she used to act like a parent and she wanted to stretch that out.

EDIT: aprilp_katje has pointed out to me that Michael is actually in Grade 7, because he was in Grade 6 last fall.  So, Michael is a Grade 7 fool.

Aside from the kissing, let’s look at all the dumb things Mike said to Martha at summer camp and see if any of them can be considered embarrassing:

Friday August 18, 2017 – “I dunno. How come you’re not at the campfire?”

Intelligence rating: Pretty good.  A nice response to Martha’s accusation that he is crazy.

Saturday August 19, 2017 – “What’s your name?”  “Yeah, I got named after one of mother’s high school friends.  I never even met the guy…and I have to be named after him!”

Intelligence rating: Pretty high.  He is making conversation and sharing interesting information and his “and” even has a “d” in it.

Monday August 21, 2017 – “Me, too!” “Me, too!” “Yeah!”

Intelligence rating: Not so good.  Nothing embarrassing, but not impressive.

Saturday August 26, 2017 – “Only one day left Martha an’ then we hafta go home.””I, um…What I wanna say is...uh…that I” “I don’t know.  My lips won’t work.”

Intelligence rating: This one is bad.  He can’t speak.  He can’t put together sentences.  He even drops the “d” from “and”.  What’s worse is that he was talking this same way when he greeted Martha in the hall.

I can see Martha telling her friends, “I got a boyfriend at summer camp named Michael.  He really liked holding hands and marching in silence.  He is a good kisser.  But, he has a hard time speaking with words, so if he speaks to me, try not to laugh too much.” All things considered, the issue for Michael is not so much dumb things he told her, but dumb things he was incapable of telling her. 

Panel 3: And in just two short panels, Michael decides to give up girls as he thinks, “That’s it.  I’ve had it with girls.  From now on, I’m just gonna hang out with the guys!!”  Back to the He-Man Woman-Haters Club.   Gordon and Lawrence have known Michael forever and this is clear because they stood there and waited the whole time Michael was leaning against the locker thinking.  It takes a real friend to stand there and wait while you are having a long think.

Panel 4: As it turns out Michael was there thinking by the lockers for such a long period of time, Gordon and Lawrence had enough time to wander off and find paper, marker and tape so they could tape, “Call me Hot Lips!” on his back.  Michael thinks, “…at least you can trust them.”  Obviously he can’t.  He will either have to live with being associated with a M*A*S*H character or he will suffer the horror of being known as the guy who kissed a girl.   Maybe both.  How will he live down the shame?

Later on, Lynn Johnston will retcon this so that Michael is upset that Martha told people that he kissed her and not the other way around, which makes me wonder if people saw the comic strip and said, “What is wrong with you Lynn?  Boys are not embarrassed to be kissed by girls.  They brag about it.   They announce it.  It is a source of great pride.”  Then Lynn turned to Aaron and said, “Is that true?” and Aaron said, “Mom.  That was me talking.  I wasn’t lying to you.”

Summary: Somehow Michael associates talking about kissing and conversation to be a betrayal.  Was there some point in there where Michael assumed that Martha would keep what they did and said to each other an absolute secret?   I must have missed it.

“I know she hates me because she told people we kissed and talked to each other.  That is the sign of hatred.  She is now my mortal enemy.”  This is the sort of thing which makes me think that John and Elly are doing a very poor job of modeling a healthy relationship.

As for enemies, I would think Gordon and Lawrence would jump to the top of the list with that sign on the back and they do.  We will see Martha in two weeks so I am handing this back to dreadedcandiru2 until then, but it will be a few months before Gordon and Lawrence reappear.
Friday, September 15th, 2017
11:20 pm
Sunday, 17 September 2017
We take a break from the relationship between Martha and Mike to visit the relationship between Lizzie and Mike in the Sundayverse, where unlike the dailies the characters are still wearing short sleeves.

(Strip Number 6733, Original Publication Date, 18 September 1988)

Panel 1: Michael is at the refrigerator door to get a drink. The refrigerator sports a moon magnet, a heart magnet and a bunny magnet holding a note that says, “Call James.” Michael turns toward Lizzie as she screams, “If that’s the last pop in the fridge, it’s MINE!!”  There is no indication as to why Lizzie has any claim to the last pop in the fridge except her screaming voice.  There is no, “You got the one last time” or “That’s my favourite pop mom bought for me.”  It is just plain old screaming.  I wonder who she learned that trick from.

Panel 2: Michael agrees to give Lizzie the pop, but shakes it up first, with a vigorous hand motion near a certain part of his body that actually makes me glad for once that Lynn put in the “SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE” sound effects.  Lizzie looks horrified because while she is old enough to know that shaking up a can of pop will cause it to spew outward if you open it, she is apparently not old enough to know that if you let the can sit for a few minutes or release the air from the pop slowly, the beverage is perfectly drinkable.

Panel 3: The cloud of comedy battle ensues, which shows that Michael has still not learned his lesson about beating up on girls that are 4 years younger than he is, and Lynn has still not learned her lesson about how male/female violence is not funny.    Of course, given that Michael’s punishment for doing that last time was to be sent to summer camp, it is easy to see why he did not learn that lesson.  Lynn Johnston is more difficult to understand.

Panel 4: Michael has Lizzie around the neck and has lifted her off the ground.  Lizzie has got a handful of hair.  These kids don’t mess around.  A normal parent would come in, stop them, and make sure they knew that such behaviour was not going to be tolerated.  However, instead of one of those normal parents, we get Elly Patterson..  She is doing her best imitation of a peacemaker.  She says, “Stop it!! Why can’t you two get along?!!” while approaching them with a hand gesture that says, “The fish was thiiiiiis big.”

Panels 5 - 7: Separating them and bending down so she can…. OK.  Elly’s physical positions over the next three panels are dumbfounding.  I am pretty sure Lynn Johnston was going for a “I want Elly to get down on the kids’ level to look them in the eye” moment, but it appears like she doesn’t know how human bodies bend when they squat.  Here are two pictures of a person squatting.  Now compare them to Elly Patterson.

In the squatting position, the legs are bent but the upper torso is generally vertical in order to keep balance, which is not what Elly is doing in any one of these panels.   The way it is drawn, Elly has her hands on her kids in order to keep herself from face planting into the floor.

Elly delivers the speech, “Look at you.  You’re brother and sister.  You mean the world to each other!  Michael, if anything happened to Lizzie, you’d be devastated.  Elizabeth, if anything happened to Michael, you’d be lost!!”

Let’s think about this for a moment.  Is this really true?  The major disasters I remember happening to Lizzie were when she broke her leg slipping on the ice in January, 2005 and then being attacked by Howard Bunt later in 2005 and testifying at his trial the next year.  Remember all the strips with Michael being devastated over Lizzie?  No?  That’s because there were none. Lizzie’s support was only John, Elly, April and Anthony.   Michael did not make a single appearance or show of support.

Panel 8: Standing again, Elly, Mike and Lizzie move to the far sides of the panel to make room for Elly’s massive speech balloon.  For cartoonists out there, when your speech balloon takes up the whole panel, this is a sign your speech is too long.  Elly says, “Think about how special your relationship is and find something you can do together that you both enjoy!” This is the speech you would give if you truly believed that the only reason your children were fighting was because they had nothing better to do.   It is the “find a new activity” speech and makes no sense in the context of the last soda pop in the refrigerator or the injuries that her children received because of the fighting.  Neverthless, it sets up the final panel joke and that is really what it is all about in Lynn Johnston’s world.

Panel 9: Michael and Lizzie look at each other in silence.  Will they heed Elly’s speech and will they find an activity they both enjoy?  Will Elly stick around to make sure that they don't immediately start fighting again?  The answer to both questions is "No!"

Panel 10: The joke is that the activity they both enjoy is fighting each other.  Honestly, with Michael’s size and weight advantage, I do not see this being an activity that Lizzie would enjoy.  She is just going to take a beating from her older brother.   To Lynn Johnston, the two combatants are equals in strength and size and are incapable of hurting each other.

Summary: Lynn Johnston has told us before that her kids never fought this way and from what I have observed from their social media, Kate and Aaron get along great.   Usually in the “kid fight” strips, Lynn will tell a story about her and her brother Alan, who were separated in age by 2 years, where Lynn was the older.  That would be a more even battle and is the most likely reference for this strip, because Lynn has admitted on more than one occasion she willingly got into physical fights.  L’il Lindy was a bully who liked beating up other kids and forcing grass into their mouths.  In fact, the cover of Lynn’s proposed book “When I was Lindy” in The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston is a drawing of herself doing just that.

On Monday, back to Mike and Martha.

Thursday, September 14th, 2017
11:16 pm
Saturday, 16 September 2017
Gordon confesses everything he knows about Martha and Michael at summer camp and it turns out Michael can’t handle the truth.

(Strip Number 5019, Original Publication Date, 16 September 1988)

Panel 1: Here you can see the effect of Elly on Michael.  She grabbed him by the shirt front to threaten him and now Michael is doing the same to Gordon, while yelling, “All right.  Wait a minute.  I want to know exactly what you heard!!”  Clearly this is the result of parenting Patterson style.

As in the case with Elly, there is no need for the grabbing and the screaming.  Gordon probably would have spilled the beans without threat of violence.  Not only will it turn out that Michael is a poor boyfriend, he doesn’t seem to be that great of a friend either.  Lawrence looks genuinely afraid that Michael is going to punch Gordon.

Panel 2: Unflappable Gordon puts his shirt back together as he explains, “Well –We heard that you were really crazy about her, and that you kissed her on the beach!”  Michael is shocked!  Shocked at this horrible news and he wants to know who is responsible by saying, “Who told you that?”  You notice that Michael is not denying the story, but if he was only interested in honesty, he would.  After all Michael and Martha kissed behind a building not on the beach as you can see in Panel 1 of this strip:

Also Martha kissed Mike, not the other way around.

You would not think that would be an issue for any boy, but shockingly enough, for Michael Patterson, this is a big deal.  He doesn’t want to be known as a guy who kisses girls.  In other words, he is different from practically every straight guy on the planet.

Oddly enough, the exact same thing is going to happen to April Patterson with Gerald Delaney/Forsythe and I would imagine that April’s words are the same thoughts that young Michael Patterson is bizarrely having as he hears these words from Gordon.  To Martha, young Michael is a "score".

Panel 3: Apparently the litany of people who told Gordon and Lawrence about Michael and Martha is so complex that Gordon has to count on his fingers to list the whole information trail.  Only this trail doesn’t make sense because both Lawrence and Brian were there at the camp making fun of Michael for being with Martha.  Lawrence does not need to be told.  Why wouldn’t Lawrence be the source?  Why would Lawrence have to get his information from Jessie/Meg/Laura telling Kelly telling Brian who then told him?  At this point, I began to wonder if Pale Lawrence at camp and this Lawrence today were different people.  It could work except Lawrence was the kid who recognized Martha from yesterday, which he could not do if he was not the Lawrence who was at the camp.

Panel 4: Michael looks downcast as Lawrence says, “Hey- Don’t worry, man – we can keep a secret!”  Michael doesn’t believe him and as we will learn with Monday’s strip, Michael is right.  So, yesterday these guys are surprised to see Martha at the school in the first place, but somehow they have developed this communication network with Martha and her friends, which would imply they knew she was there all along.   I get the impression that Lynn Johnston was making this story up as she went from panel to panel.

Summary: Now that Michael knows his secret is out and he has suffered the horrible fate of essentially being called a loose man, what will happen next?  As you would guess, Michael is going to imitate his creator and hold a grudge - a long stinking, unrelenting grudge against the girl he likes, who kissed him and greeted him with a smile and giggle.  Why have a girlfriend when you can have a lifelong enemy?

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017
10:46 pm
Friday, 15 September 2017
Lawrence and Gordon arrive, spot Martha and right away start mocking Michael for having a girlfriend at camp.   Apparently Gordon and Lawrence have not read the manual entitled, “How to be the Coolest Boy in Junior High”, where the instructions clearly say:

There is nothing cooler for a boy that will improve his status more in junior high than having a pretty girlfriend.  At this stage of your life, less than 1% of boys have girlfriends and those that do are the coolest of the cool.  They are the gods of junior high. 

(Strip Number 5018, Original Publication Date, 15 September 1988)

Panel 1: Either some time has passed since we saw Michael in yesterday’s comic strip or Martha managed to pass some of her giant bundle of papers she was carrying to Michael.  Here she is carrying papers and Michael is not.  Today, Michael is carrying a bundle of papers.  Who knows where Lynn Johnston got the idea that this is what kids do in school.

Lawrence arrives and for the first time in a while, he is back to his normal skin colour.  You can tell from the composition of the panel that Gordon was drawn in between Michael and Lawrence as an afterthought, since he has no body and he is just a head.  Instead of this anomaly attracting Lawrence’s attention, he sees Martha and says, “Hey, Mike – isn’t that Martha?  Your girlfriend from camp?” Michael responds, “Uh…” as if he is unable to decide to admit that.  Michael has also not read the manual entitled, “How to be the Coolest Boy in Junior High”, or his answer would be, “Hell, yes!!!”  Instead he is going to act like Martha is the girl in junior high that no boy wants to admit he likes.

Panel 2: Michael puts his head down, while Gordon and Lawrence look at Martha passing with Janet.  Lawrence says, “It is her, man!  You never told us she was goin’ to our school!” Lawrence assumes that Michael knew Martha was going to their school and had intentionally not told them about it.  He is assuming that Michael and Martha have maintained contact since summer camp and when you think about it, why wouldn’t they have?  They ended the camp on a high note.  They go to the same school.  They live in the same town and later on we will learn that their homes are not far apart.  At this moment in time Lawrence is acting as though he was completely unaware that Martha went to their school.   As we will find out, this is a complete lie and Lawrence is just playing ignorant.

Panel 3: Either Gordon finds something about what Lawrence just said to be hilarious or he was supposed to say something here and Lynn ran out of space in the word balloons to put it in.  Not only that but Lawrence has a big smile on his face like Gordon just said something funny.  Michael’s reaction to this unknown Gordon bon mot is to say, “Cut it out, guys.  Martha an’ I were just friends.”  Oh, Michael. "were"? Past tense already?!  You spent the last 2 strips stalking her and the relationship is over, because Martha and her friends giggled and whispered at you?  You are a hard man, Michael Patterson.

Panel 4: Gordon now reveals that he and Lawrence have been playing Michael for a fool and that they are not nearly as ignorant of Martha as they have been pretending.  Gordon says, “Come on man..That’s not what we heard!”  Lawrence laughs and again Michael has the horrified look of a person who has not read the manual. 

Summary: What has Gordon heard?  If he has heard the truth (which as we will find out tomorrow apparently he has), it will be about Michael and Martha marching around the camp showing everyone that they were holding hands and then secret kissing behind a cabin.  The shame!  The horror!  Michael’s reputation will be ruined.  People will no longer think he is the nicest boy in town!  He won’t be able to marry into the best family.  His job prospects will be ruined.  His family will have to endure the catty comments from others about how their son kissed a girl!! 

This was John’s reaction when Mike was caught being an actual peeping tom.  If anything, on hearing news about Michael and Martha, he would slap Michael on the back and congratulate him for getting some loving at camp.

Is there any part of Mike’s reaction here that makes any sense for Michael Patterson, pre-teen boys, or really anyone at all?

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017
12:17 am
Thursday, 14 September 2017

Mike and Martha engage in a conversation and Mike actually says more to her in speech balloons than he did the whole time he was at camp.   This is an improvement for Michael.

(Strip Number 1345, Original Publication Date, 14 September 1988

Panel 1: Martha is now surrounded by her friends Janet and Megan as Michael finally get the nerve to talk to her.  He says, “Uh, Martha?  Um…Hi!!” Mike doesn’t seem to be sure that this girl is actually the Martha he knew at summer camp and why would he?  Summer camp Martha is alone and thinks nobody likes her.  Junior high Martha has friends to talk to.  Plus there is a big difference in their figures.  Summer camp Martha was not curvy, but junior high Martha has curves.  It’s like Martha went through puberty after summer camp.

Panel 2: On the plus side Martha acknowledges Mike and gives him a warm smile.  Michael is trying to play the tongue-tied shy guy with his, “I, um thought I’d just, you know, say hi!!”  It is almost as if the guy is trying to strike up a conversation with her without talking about their prior relationship at summer camp.  You would think he would say, “I haven’t seen you since Camp Kawkawa.  Do you miss the marching?”  Martha responds only to what Mike says with, “Hi.  Um.  Well. Uh, I’ll see you ‘round…OK?”  Does she want to keep her relationship with Mike a secret like he does? Or is this just her way of saying, “Summer camp is over.  Move on.” 

Panel 3: The girls leave with the sound effects, “Giggle Whisper Giggle Giggle Whisper Whisper.”  That’s 3 giggles and 3 whispers in case you are keeping count (one giggle/whisper per girl).  This is the part of the story where it goes wrong for Mike and it was not the reaction he was expecting.  In order for Mike to have this expectation he would have to believe that preteen girls do not giggle and whisper.  It’s like he’s never been around girls before.  It does make me wonder what response he did want though.  Was Martha supposed to ditch her friends in favor of Mike?

Panel 4: Naturally egotistical Mike assumes the giggling and whispering are about him and his manhood as he thinks, “Is my fly undone or what?!”  Oddly enough this is going to lead to a situation where Mike is mad at Martha for walking away from him and whisper/giggling about him to her friends.  In case you thought Elly got angry over irrational things, Michael is about to challenge his mother for stupid anger.  This is Martha's next appearance and she is worried that Mike is still mad weeks later.

It’s just as possible they were saying complimentary things about Mike like:

a.   He’s cute if it weren’t for that receding hairline.

b.   He seems a lot nicer than the last boy who stalked you around school.

c.   It’s too bad he’s a Patterson or he’d be perfect.

d.   I told you there were some nice boys at this school that aren’t tall, handsome, smart, or muscular and you didn’t believe me.

e.   I think he has good potential, assuming you can train him to keep his fly done.

Summary: Next up Lawrence and Gordon will show up and talk about Martha surprising everyone at how much they know about her compared to Michael who knows pretty much nothing about her.   The upcoming strips are classic examples of Lynn Johnston writing where she appears to be retconning the story her characters are in right at the same time they are in the story and not later on.

Monday, September 11th, 2017
10:28 pm
Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Continuing the theme from yesterday, Mike feels he has a responsibility to engage Martha in conversation. Who knows where he got this idea from? We know it wasn’t from John Patterson, the king of bad puns and wifely put-downs. This isn’t the shy guy afraid to ask a girl on a date. This is the shy guy who feels some barrier between talking to a girl at a summer camp and talking to the same girl in school. This idea could work if there was some sort of class distinction where Mike doesn’t feel like he is in Martha’s league when he is in school. However, this is not the direction Lynn Johnston is going.

(Strip Number 5017, Original Publication Date, 13 September 1988)

Panel 1: Stalker Mike has followed Martha, who is looking at some giant piece of paper with no writing on the back.  Mike thinks to himself, “Go on.  Go up to her and say something.  Don’t be a jerk.  What am I supposed to say?!!”  I think Michael may not have a clear understanding of what a “jerk” is.  A “jerk” is not a boy who is afraid to talk to a girl.  However, a “jerk” might very well be a boy who stalks a girl around the school.

Panel 2: Mike is so lost in his own thoughts that he closes his eyes, crosses his arms and steps out from behind his locker hiding place and is right out in the open.  In the background we see Martha talking to a girl that we will later learn is named Janet.  Mike continues to think to himself, “Say anything, idiot!  Fine, fine, say anything.  What kind of crud-head answer is that?!!”  Uh-oh.  The “crud” word.  Lynn will get mail.

Panel 3: As Martha and Janet walk off, Mike opens his eyes in astonishment as he thinks, “You have the mentality of a microbe!!!”  Now we see the unmistakable Lynn Johnston dialogue coming in.  His name is Mike, which is kind of like the sound of “microbe”.  Plus Lynn loves her some alliteration.   If anything the shocked expression on his face could be because he realizes that he channeled an insult from middle-aged Lynn, which is not something a pre-teen boy would say.

Panel 4: Michael appears to have found a wall corner and leans up against it with his head behind the corner and his shoulder in front of the corner.  It’s a painful position if you try it yourself as I did.  This is another poorly-constructed panel.  It is just Mike staring into space and a giant thought balloon.  As I said yesterday, if you have more dialogue than picture, your cartoon has problems.  Mike thinks the “punchline” to himself, “I don’t mind talking to myself…It’s the insults that get me down!”  Mike has bigger problems than that.  He is apparently no longer able to tell when he is thinking or talking to himself.  He has not been talking to himself.  Talking means speech balloons.  Those are thought balloons which means he has been thinking to himself.

Summary: As usual Mike’s self-absorption gets in the way of his ambition and more importantly getting the reader to empathize with him.  In three of the four panels, he is not even looking at Martha.  He seems to be more concerned with the idea that he is unable to come up with something to say to Martha.  His self-insult has nothing to do with bravery or fear of public embarrassment or anything normal.  His insult has to do with his intelligence.  Mike is angry at himself for not being able to think of something to say.  The boy has issues.

Sunday, September 10th, 2017
10:00 pm
Tuesday, 12 September 2017
Mike begins his career as a stalker, lurking behind a locker staring at Martha. This will be the way Lynn begins his 4 year relationship with Martha. Lynn Johnston seems to love this idea of the creepy stalker introduction to boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, because she does the same thing with virtually every one of Elizabeth’s boyfriends.

(Strip Number 1344, Original Publication Date, 12 September 1988)

Panel 1: “There’s Martha.  I’ve thought about her every day since camp.”  Are we sure this is Martha, because this girl looks about 4 years older than Martha.  She is almost as tall as the locker, she wears a dress and the hair band which typified Martha’s hair style at camp is not seen on this girl.

In any case, this recap is a little abrupt.  How about “I’ve thought about her every day since she kissed me in camp.”  That has a little more punch to it and might explain why Michael is thinking differently about Martha than he would any other girls he knows from school (not that Michael knows any other girls at school).

The other part we are missing is the fun point where Michael realizes that since he is now in junior high school, he gets to see students from other elementary schools and “Look, there’s Martha!  I thought I would never see her again.” There could have and should have been some great lead-in strips to this one.

Panel 2: This panel is so poorly constructed.  Michael looks out into space and the whole rest of the panel is a speech balloon.  If there is more talk than picture, then your cartoon is failing.  “I only knew her for three days – but in my mind we’ve had a thousand conversations!!” Yes, 12-year-old boys want to get 12-year-old girls alone, so they can have a 1000 conversations.  If it was 1001 conversations, I would think Michael was channeling Scheherazade.  However, even in the summer camp, those conversations were only in Michael’s mind.  Let’s take a look.

In this strip, Mike just agrees with Martha saying, “Me too!” and "Yeah!!!"  He says more in his thought balloon than he says to her.

In this strip, their entire conversation is just in Michael’s thought balloon.

Besides, Mike has it wrong.  Mike marched around the camp with Martha for 3 days, but she was in his group for the full 2 weeks.   He just didn't notice she was there.

Panel 3: Martha goes from the locker by moving to her right and walks by Michael.  Either Michael has moved back from her to get more distance, or Martha is now a head taller than Michael.   She looks good.  She looks too old for Michael, but more mysterious is the silhouette down the hall who appears to be an adult watching Michael.  Why is this person there?  We will never know.

Panel 4: Michael goes to “Thinker” pose with hand on chin as he wonders, “Why can’t I think of anything to say when I see her for real?!”  I know we are supposed to think Michael is cute because he is shy around girls, but what possible real answers do we have here?:

A.Because stalkers are not really talkers.

B. Because even in the summer camp, he didn’t have real conversations.  Those conversations were only in his mind.

C. Because Michael has failed to learn basic social skills.

D.Because while Martha appears to be headed off to class with books in her hand, Michael seems to have forgotten that he is at school with classes and teachers and that kind of stuff.

E. Because he is a Patterson and let’s face it, Pattersons are not very bright.

Summary: We do not know if Martha is aware of Michael at her school, but for some reason, Michael considers it to be his responsibility to engage her in talk and not hers.  It’s kind of like the camp was a free and open place where the kids did not have to follow gender normal behaviour and Martha was allowed to step over the bounds of standard female behaviours and kiss the boy first.  Now they are back at school, the rules have changed and Michael has to make the first move.  Michael on the other hand, seems to be incapable of conversing.  Michael talks a lot in his head and not so much around other people. Will he get over this fear?  Will he realize that he is slowly going crazy?  Only tomorrow will tell and by "tomorrow", I mean the day after tomorrow.

Saturday, September 9th, 2017
1:26 am
Monday, 11 September 2017
I hand things off to howtheduck tomorrow (so that we can watch Mike make an ass of himself by insisting on not understanding who he can really trust and sticking with that misapprehension for the next three years) by wrapping up the arc with a revelation that all of Elly's hard work was for nothing because she put the wallpaper on upside down.

(Strip Number 1343, Original Publication Date, 10 September 1988)

Panel 1: The following morning, Elly wants everyone to come and look at her wallpapering job. Mike says "GOSH!!" because he's impressed and confused by his mom doing the work of two men.

Panel 2: She puffs herself up in glee when she tells the troops that she was going to hire someone to do it but then said "The Heck with THAT!!!" and did it herself.

Panel 3: Having noticed that everyone is not saying much, she wants them what they think. Mike starts off by saying that it's ever neat.

Panel 4: He astonishes her by asking "But don't daisies grow THIS way up?"

Summary: Not only has Elly wasted her time because she can't actually see straight, she has to pay a pro and look like a moron. Ah, well. It's Michael's turn to look like a buffoon starting tomorrow when he can't handle fantasy turning into a reality that has emotional needs and friends who could turn into enemies if they think they've been slighted.
Friday, September 8th, 2017
1:23 am
Sunday, 10 September 2017
The kids sort of prove Elly right about their only noticing what she does when she doesn't do it when she gets frustrated with their slobbiness and short-sightedness and just plain flings their laundry onto their beds because they like it all messy anyway.

(Strip Number 6732, Original Publication Date, 11 September 1988)

Panel 1: We find Elly taking a load of clothes out of the dryer.

Panel 2: Rather than put it in a basket, she carries the hot load of clothes to a near-by table.

Panel 3: Given that this strip is targeted mostly at angry mothers who hate the fact that some anti-social, evil and conflict-causing MAN made it illegal to bust their children's heads in with a tire iron for leaving the cap off of the toothpaste, it doesn't take a genius to tell what the strip will be about when we see Elly making a meal of folding the clothes.

Panel 4: This suspicion of mine that Lynn is going to boast about publicly shaming her children again is confirmed when Dim Michael and Learning-Impaired Lizzie make the scene.

Panel 5: I break Lynn's heart and ruin life for her by predicting that things will not end well when Lizzie says that she needs her blue T-shirt and just plain grabs it out of the pile.

Panel 6: Mike declares that he needs his track pants and also disrupts the pile.

Panel 7: When Elly returns to the laundry room, she stands there slack-jawed in horror because her neatly folded pile isn't either of those things. (Meanwhile, Paul J destroys Elly's freedom of expression by asking "Why the Hell doesn't she do what his mother did and flat out TELL her children not to look for articles of clothing they want until AFTER she puts the laundry away so she can avoid this sort of thing?")

Panel 8: She astonishes Michael by angrily flinging Lizzie's clothes on her bed in a heap.

Panel 9: Since he's sort of dumb, he's honestly confused when he asks what's wrong with Mom 'cause she always usta fold the laundry.

Summary: He'll find out when he gets an angry lecture about how they just treat her like a maid and they NEVER appreciate her and they just take and take and take and never give and wow, Mike never noticed that the veins on her neck stand out like stalks of celery when she delivered her daily noisily angry lecture about how she's supposed to be a SLAVE suffering in SILENCE before! Is that ever weird or WHAT?!
Thursday, September 7th, 2017
1:17 am
Saturday, 9 September 2017
Elly's secret to success is consuming enough caffeine to keep her up until April leaves for Uni.

(Strip Number 1342, Original Publication Date, 9 September 1988)

Panel 1: Having finally completed her two-man job, we find Elly slumped down in a kitchen chair noting that she can't believe that it took her to three in the morning to wallpaper the kitchen. (I should think that the professionals she should have hired CAN believe it because they have a fair idea of how long it would take an amateur who thinks she can do it solo to do so.)

Panel 2: She does that stupid thing where she points her finger in the air when she gets a stupid epiphany as she muses that when a person is possessed by an obsession, the best thing to do is to just plow on through.

Panel 3: Sleep, she surmises, becomes not only secondary but also impossible.

Panel 4: Then again, her lack of sleep could be related to the eleven cups of coffee she downed.

Summary: The payoff to this stupid arc is due Monday when it's revealed that consuming mass quantities of coffee and myopia that can never be speculated upon meant that it was all for nothing.
Wednesday, September 6th, 2017
1:11 am
Friday, 8 September 2017
Since Elly doesn't like admitting that she's bad at something, she ascribes malicious intent to an inert physical object.

(Strip Number 1341, Original Publication Date, 8 September 1988)

Panel 1: We find Elly compensating for the crooked walls by putting up more wallpaper.

Panel 2: She screams in rage because she's stripped the piece she's holding off three times and it still will not match.

Panel 3: As she telepathically commands the wallpaper to not pucker and to get the air bubble out of there, she wishes that she'd chosen a different brand.

Panel 4: She gets all goggle-eyed in horror because she's convinced it's out to get her.

Summary: We'll find out why, aside from her usual refusal to admit ineptitude, she thinks that a brand of wallpaper is personally trying to destroy her. This is because she's slammed down so much coffee, she's in low Earth orbit.
Tuesday, September 5th, 2017
1:03 am
Thursday, 7 September 2017
Rather than admit that she put the wall-paper up wrong because she's doing a two-person job by herself, Elly thinks that her walls are crooked.

(Strip Number 5016, Original Publication Date, 7 September 1988)

Panel 1: We see Elly squinting as she sits on the floor and measures the wallpaper.

Panel 2: She squints (and makes me wonder if Lizzie isn't the only one who kind of NEEDS glasses right now) as she puts the wallpaper up.

Panel 3: As she looks at her handiwork, she notices something that's not quite right: she put it on crooked because she bit off more than she can chew.

Panel 4: Since she'd rather not admit that since she can't really see very well, she put the wallpaper up crooked, she tells herself that the walls are crooked.

Summary: As I recall, it takes Elly a whole lot longer to admit that her vision is not what it could be. Lizzie resists because she thinks people look stoooooopid in glasses. Elly resists because people look oooooooooooooooooooooooold in glasses. Both are wrong and vain and dumb.
Monday, September 4th, 2017
12:53 am
Wednesday, 6 September 2017
Elly's taking it upon herself to do the wallpaper RIGHT NOW despite it being eight in the evening leads to a reminder that John is a bad man because he misses icky, scary, painful sex.

(Strip Number 5015, Original Publication Date, 6 September 1988)

Panel 1: Since he's contractually obligated to ask stupid questions he's gotta know the answers to, John asks Elly what she's doing with the wallpaper and measuring tape she's holding. She gets all closed-eyed and pious and talks about how she's tired of how long the kitchen project has taken and proposes to do the wallpaper herself.

Panel 2: When he points out that it's eight in the evening and that'll mean that she'll be up past midnight, Elly tells him that she's in the mood.

Panel 3: When he asks if she minds his going to bed anyway, she says to go ahead because, as she said, she's in the mood.

Panel 4: Since John is an evil, conflict-causing MAN who wants awful sex, he thought-bubbles that he remembers a time when that conversation would have had an entirely different meaning.

Summary: A thought occurs. Maybe most of why Elly isn't into sex is that after all the build-up about how great it was supposed to be, she wound up singing a torch song afterwards after her first time. The song in question: "Is That All There Is?" by Miss Peggy Lee.
Sunday, September 3rd, 2017
12:22 am
Tuesday, 5 September 2017
We continue the end game of the home renovation arc with a reminder that Lizzie has a little kid's idea of what helping out around the house entails.

(Strip Number 5014, Original Publication Date, 5 September 1988)

Panel 1: As the Pattersons tidy up after supper, Joĥn asks if they have to do the dishes in the bathtub again. As Paul J mutters "Oh, WINCE, just use paper plates like SANE people!!"¨, Elly tells him that the sink is fixed.

Panel 2: While John finds this to be a good thing, this means that he's sort of got to let Lizzie down because she wanted to do the dishes that evening. Elly asks "She DID?" because she's not used to kids helping.

Panel 3: She then makes a lot of talky-talk about how comforting it is that Lizzie is growing up a little.

Panel 4: We find butt-nekkid Lizzie in a tub fulla of bubble bath proving her mom wrong about being grown up by yelling that she's ready to wash the dishes.

Summary: As Archer said, it IS possible to throw up in one's mind. The idea of child and flatwear being washed in the same water is rather horrible. I don't know of any child that would do something like that so we're looking at Lynn's darker impulses, I think.
Saturday, September 2nd, 2017
1:24 am
Labour Day, 2017
We begin the week with Annie talking smack about how Steve only does things when he really, really has to.

(Strip Number 1340, Original Publication Date, 3 September 1988)

Panel 1: As she gets coffee mugs out of the new cupboard, Annie tells Elly that despite having her share of troubles with remodeling, at least she is getting things done.

Panel 2: As Elly hands her a cuppacoffee, Anne tells her that their old house was a wreck; she'd begged Steve to do something about it but it took him ten years to get around to fixing it up.

Panel 3: Elly asks Annie what spurred him to do so.

Panel 4: Anne leaves Elly gobsmacked by telling her that they were selling the place.

Summary: Just as Lawrence spends all of his time from now until Michael Jeff Varners his ass being a shit to the Delicate Genius, Anne spends most of her remaining tenure looking down her nose at the man she married. Since Elly remembers the Intimidating Super-Mom she used to be, the new model Anne confuses her.
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