(Strip Number 1451, Original Publication Date, 27 April 1989)
Panel 1: Look how cute. Elizabeth is watching the party behind the door along with Farley. Aww! Elizabeth asks Farley to “Guess what”, because Farley loves those guessing games. The girls are at the bar. The boys are watching television. There’s no mention of whether or not hockey is on, but it probably is. No dancing. No playing board games. Clearly the end result of Elly’s arrival in the party two days ago was to divide the sexes and make the party as dull as possible. It’s hard to believe that just yesterday Elizabeth was complaining that the music was too loud.
Panel 2: Elizabeth reports Mike and Martha had a fight but she thinks they have made up. How does Elizabeth know they had a fight? She wasn’t even down there when they were fighting. This is the only indication we have that Mike and Martha are a couple again and we didn’t see how it happened and it does not continue past the party. Given that Mike and Martha do not see each other again until February next year and do not have a big goodbye at the end of the party, I suspect Elizabeth’s interpretation is a little off.
Panel 3: Elizabeth says, “Oh, gross. They’re holding hands! I can’t stand it!” Nice. She gets in a Charlie Brown quote.
She doesn’t say who is holding hands, but for her that’s gross because we all know that little kids don’t hold hands with their friends. They fastidiously keep their hands apart because of germs, you know. Come on, Lynn. You’ve had Michael and Martha kiss before, so why so shy now? It would certainly make the gross comment make more sense.
Panel 4: And now we come to one of the weirdest punchlines in the history of this comic strip. Lawrence, having spotted Elizabeth peeking around the door, asks Mike if someone dropped a “coupla olives in the stairwell, or is your sister out of bed again?!” Do olives look like eyes? In order for this comic strip punchline to work, they have to look like eyes.
These are Halloween Eerie Eyeballs made of a cheese and with pimiento-stuffed olives, where the pimiento is the pupil, the olive is the iris and the cheese is the sclera.
Lynn Johnston only draws the iris and the sclera of eyes and leaves the pupil out, and oftentimes leaves out the sclera too and just puts a dot. Nevertheless, if you just look at the iris and sclera, it could look a little like a pimiento-stuffed olive.
The problem is that real eyes don’t look like olives. So in effect, this joke only works if you are a comic strip character looking at comic strip eyes. It’s similar to doing a joke like this:
- Hey, Mike – Did someone put a pink gum drop on your face, or is that your nose?
- Hey, Lawrence – Did someone put a black skull cap on your head or is that your hair?
- Hey, Martha – Did someone pour purple paint all over your sailor dress or are you a girl?
Typically Lynn Johnston would draw her characters in a cartoony way, but the assumption was always that they represented characters that had human features. Even if their mouths were black spaces on their face, you knew they had teeth, for example. This one is different because the joke depends on Lawrence understanding that Elizabeth’s eyes look like cartoon eyes which look like olives and pimiento-stuff olives at that.
Summary: Mike and Martha and Lawrence are talking to each other for the last time until the next school year. See you in the fall Lawrence, just in time for Gordon and his hormone attacks.