(Strip Number 1336, Original Publication Date, 26 August 1988)
Panel 1: For the first time since the day they met during the campfire night, Mike and Martha actually talk to each other. Mike notes that they have one day left and then they go home. Martha acknowledges that Mike has a correct understanding of the camp calendar, which is amazing considering they have been pretty much ignoring the activities on the camp calendar. Opportunities to show Mike and Martha getting to know each other as canoe partners or in arts and crafts were missed by Lynn Johnston, who believes that preteen romance involves holding hands and marching in silence around the summer camp at all hours of the day.
Before we go on I would like to mention the shrubbery behind Mike and Martha. Presumably they are not moving from one place to the other as they talk, but the shrubbery is. And thanks to the colourist who added a little green glow to the black shrubbery, we get a hint that perhaps the shrubbery is one of those radioactive, sentient shrubberies we have heard so much about. Now back to Mike and Martha.
Panel 2: From here to the end, there are no camp insignias on either of their shirts to symbolically show they are leaving camp and also that the artist is not one that pays attention to such insignificant details. Having spent so much time not talking to Martha, Mike finds it is hard to break that habit. No doubt he wants to grab her hand and march around the camp in silence a few more times. Martha, realizing Mike’s inability to form sentences, removes her hands from her pockets and prepares to strike.
Panel 3: “SMACK”. Martha grabs Mike and lays on a sloppy wet one. I should point out that Martha does this so well as to raise some questions about her inexperience in this area. There is no awkwardness with noses bumping or any of the things I normally associate with first kisses. Martha goes in a like a pro with hands firmly grasped around Michael’s neck in what is clearly a dominance position. For a 12-year-old girl, she knows what she is doing.
Lynn Johnston went with no panel border line on this one, and for once we have an artistic choice by Lynn Johnston that works. The kiss panel stands out from all the other panels and the colourist had the good sense not to ruin it by filling in the background with some colour (aside from the radioactive glow on the shrubbery, of course).
Panel 4: After the kiss attack, Martha takes Michael in her arms and wins the match. Not satisfied just to win, she also taunts the loser by asking him what he was going to say 2 panels ago when she knows full well he wasn’t going to say a darn thing. Mike says he doesn’t know what he was planning to say because his lips won’t work!! It appears Michael believes the short term memory is carried in the lips. I predict a poor grade in biology for young Michael.
Summary: Oddly enough, this is one of those moments that is close to a “camera in my house” for me. My first girlfriend in high school was the experienced aggressor and started our relationship by kissing me for the first time. Then she said, “You don’t have any other girlfriend than me. Right?” I responded as any reasonable teenage male would and said, “Right.”
This is the last we will see of Martha who will not even get on the same bus as Michael, even though she came in on the same bus. As you can see Martha was there before they left for camp.
Martha is right here ----------->
Lynn Johnston is going to play this as a summer romance that Michael will remember forever fondly, or at least until next month when the nitwit discovers that Martha has been going to his school all along. That ignorance says more about Mike’s isolation from his classmates than anything else. Well that and the creepy stalking.