(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.