(Strip Number 1485, Original Publication Date, 21 September 1989)
Panel 1: Lawrence apparently laughed so hard at Gordon chewing the coil off his scribbler that he has left to recover his composure. It’s either that or Gordon and Michael changed into the background colour of purple in order to sneak away from Lawrence, in case he can’t see purple. Gordon makes a reference to yesterday’s strip description of Allyson Creemore as a “dangerous object” and makes the same comparison to Martha. That would have been a stretch to follow back in 1989, unless the reader could remember the dialogue from the prior day.
Artistically, this one is an odd panel. While Gordon identifies the person standing next to him as “Mike”, this Mike has different hair than the Michael who appears in all the other panels of this comic strip. Not only that but he is drawn heavy and with a different walking stance than Michael. It makes me think that this was originally supposed to be Gordon and then Lynn Johnston changed her mind and drew another Gordon, this time with a hat on to stand beside him as if she temporarily forgot that Gordon was sporting the new hat and didn’t want to be bothered to erase that Gordon and draw him correctly or change him to a properly-drawn Mike. Sometimes, it's crazy how lazy an artist she was.
Panel 2: Michael reveals what’s happened between him and Martha since the last time we saw him and Martha together, i.e., the birthday party break-up. Martha herself is not going to make an appearance until next year, so I am not sure why Lynn Johnston is introducing this idea in September, unless she wants the clever reader to notice that this conversation is happening without Lawrence being there and make the connection that the guy Martha is “hanging ‘round with” is referring to Lawrence, and that’s why they are having this discussion without him. It was obvious from the birthday party when Lawrence and Martha were dancing, but we have seen nothing in Michael’s interaction with Lawrence that has shown any kind of problem between them over Martha.
As for the rest, this seems like a retcon. Mike didn’t tell Martha he really liked her unless it was in one of those notes he gave her we never saw and Martha didn’t get bored. As we know from the birthday party story, Mike ignored Martha until he got enough chips in him to get the courage to ask Martha to dance only to find she got tired of waiting on him and started dancing with Lawrence. Is this retcon Lynn Johnston’s attempt to get the readers to forget that, or is it just Michael lying to himself to put the blame on Martha? Either way will work and certainly would be in character for either Lynn or Michael.
Panel 3: Michael sets up a joke based on the word “care” which he repeats 3 times in his dialogue. The means that the punchline should play off the word “care”, but amazingly it does not.
Panel 4: We are supposed to get that Michael is bothered by his broken relationship with Martha, but the way Lynn puts this across is to show Michael is goggle-eyed. Most of the characters have spent the last few days being goggled-eyed, so it’s hard to see how this would communicate an emotion. If anything, you would think Mike is having a hormone attack and needs to borrow Gordon’s hat and glasses. What does this strip need?
First, it needs a punchline based on the word “care” like:
I’m glad to see you are so care-less.
I guess you could say Martha was your care-taker and not your care-giver.
I’m glad to see you are so care-free.
You are like a donkey following Martha holding a stick and care-ot (carrot).
You are teenager who does not care – care-no-teen.
I can tell you don’t care from the sloppy way you care-y your sheaves of paper.
Second, Lynn needs a facial expression on Michael that shows he does care for Martha, even though he says he does not care. How about this one?:
Yick! You can tell Lynn Johnston doesn’t know how to draw this emotion. She should stick with goggle-eyed.
Summary: Michael is Gordon’s model and inspiration for driving away girls.