(Strip Number 5017, Original Publication Date, 13 September 1988)
Panel 1: Stalker Mike has followed Martha, who is looking at some giant piece of paper with no writing on the back. Mike thinks to himself, “Go on. Go up to her and say something. Don’t be a jerk. What am I supposed to say?!!” I think Michael may not have a clear understanding of what a “jerk” is. A “jerk” is not a boy who is afraid to talk to a girl. However, a “jerk” might very well be a boy who stalks a girl around the school.
Panel 2: Mike is so lost in his own thoughts that he closes his eyes, crosses his arms and steps out from behind his locker hiding place and is right out in the open. In the background we see Martha talking to a girl that we will later learn is named Janet. Mike continues to think to himself, “Say anything, idiot! Fine, fine, say anything. What kind of crud-head answer is that?!!” Uh-oh. The “crud” word. Lynn will get mail.
Panel 3: As Martha and Janet walk off, Mike opens his eyes in astonishment as he thinks, “You have the mentality of a microbe!!!” Now we see the unmistakable Lynn Johnston dialogue coming in. His name is Mike, which is kind of like the sound of “microbe”. Plus Lynn loves her some alliteration. If anything the shocked expression on his face could be because he realizes that he channeled an insult from middle-aged Lynn, which is not something a pre-teen boy would say.
Panel 4: Michael appears to have found a wall corner and leans up against it with his head behind the corner and his shoulder in front of the corner. It’s a painful position if you try it yourself as I did. This is another poorly-constructed panel. It is just Mike staring into space and a giant thought balloon. As I said yesterday, if you have more dialogue than picture, your cartoon has problems. Mike thinks the “punchline” to himself, “I don’t mind talking to myself…It’s the insults that get me down!” Mike has bigger problems than that. He is apparently no longer able to tell when he is thinking or talking to himself. He has not been talking to himself. Talking means speech balloons. Those are thought balloons which means he has been thinking to himself.
Summary: As usual Mike’s self-absorption gets in the way of his ambition and more importantly getting the reader to empathize with him. In three of the four panels, he is not even looking at Martha. He seems to be more concerned with the idea that he is unable to come up with something to say to Martha. His self-insult has nothing to do with bravery or fear of public embarrassment or anything normal. His insult has to do with his intelligence. Mike is angry at himself for not being able to think of something to say. The boy has issues.