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?