(Original Publication Date, 24 June 1991)
Panel 1: John says, “Look! Isn’t that Martha?” He has to say this because it has been awhile since Martha was in the comic strip and the readers need to be reminded who she is. Martha is rollerblading, which was very popular in the 1980s/90s. I am actually impressed that Lynn drew Martha with proper safety equipment. She has the helmet, and the knee pads, and the elbow pads, and the wrist guards. There is so much right about the picture and yet it looks so wrong.
Panel 2: Compare it to this picture and you can see the problem. Yes, Martha has fallen into the same trap as Lynn Johnston’s characters do when they walk or run. She puts the arm and leg from the same side of the body forward or backward at the same time. Most humans have to do the arm forward and leg forward from opposite sides or they will fall over on the ground. That's why Martha looks more like she is stomping bugs than rollerblading.
Panel 3: When Elly says, “Tsk” you know she is about to judge something like the middle-age woman with sensibilities out of the 1940s that she is. They are so dangerous, and Elly has a certain point. I looked at a lot of pictures of women doing in-line skating to try to find one that matched Martha and there were none of them that wore a tube top, I think for obvious reasons. It is distracting and almost distracted me from the fact that Elly is wearing shorts. Remember these shorts from last summer, which Elly decided not to wear because Michael made a comment about her legs? Those appear to be the same ones. Last summer Elly was embarrassed by her own bare legs. This summer Elly has decided to show them off. Considering the topic of today’s comic strip, I sense some irony there.
Elly is holding a pole of some sort. I think a rake is the logical choice. John is in front of a lawn-mower, but the fact that he is having a quiet conversation with Elly and he is holding it with one hand, tells us that John is not actively mowing. They appear to be outside for no other reason than to watch Martha.
Panel 4: The joke is the outfit is dangerous and not the skates. Looking at Martha’s total outfit, she appears to be pretty safe from falling down. In other words, the punchline is good, old-fashioned, slut-shaming.
Slut shaming is when women are stigmatized, criticized, and even ostracized because of their actions or mere reputation for being promiscuous, dressing in a provocative way, or basically going against the expected social norms of sexuality for women.
Summary: Elly judges a book by its cover and never gets to know her beyond that. Martha continues to be Mike’s girlfriend for another 2 years and in that time Elly does not have one, single conversation with her. It’s too bad, because Martha is the best of all Michael’s girlfriends, being the only one that has an actual personality and does not exist solely for the purpose of being Michael’s girlfriend.