February 28th, 2020


Sunday, 01 March 2020

The first ATM comic strip.

(Original Publication Date, 3 March 1991)

Panel 1: “Mom – can I have my allowance?”  When I was growing up the response to this would have been, “May I have my allowance. Not can.”  For some reason Elly is wearing a beret, which is a rare fashion choice for her considering its association with the hated French.

Panel 2: A silent panel where Elly goes to the “hair over eyes” look, while paying out a green bill to Michael.   In 1991, they would have been using the banknote series “Birds of Canada” first circulated in 1986.  The green bill would have been $20, which would have been a pretty nice allowance. 

The view of the scene pulls back so we see that Elly, Elizabeth and Michael are in a mall, which has a second story for some stores. 

Panel 3: Elizabeth viewing this exchange declares that she gets paid $5 for vacuuming the car and she has not been paid.   If there is any kind of reveal here, it is that Elly, who is normally a cheapskate with allowances and payments for household chores in the daily comic strip, is overly generous in the Sundayverse.

Panel 4: Given the green bill, Elly just handed Elizabeth another $20 as Elizabeth adds the $5 for vacuuming to her allowance and sums it as $9.  In other words, her allowance is $4.  I know the colourist is going for the US money colours and unfortunately the library edition #4 does not have a preview on it so I cannot check to see if the original colors were also wrong.  The on-line archive tells me that these were the numbers used in the original comic strip.

Panel 5: It appears that this mall has not only a movie theater but also a Gordon Mayes blowing bubble gum.   Mike asks Elly for a few extra bucks for the movie.

1991 Avg. ticket price: $4.21

If Elizabeth has an allowance of $4 which would be enough to go to a movie (assuming Michael is not paying Gordon’s way), then are we to assume that Elizabeth gets more money for her allowance than Michael does?  This is starting to get confusing about why Michael needs more money (aside the obvious reason that Lynn is trying to build to the punchline and she is not paying attention to detail).

Panel 6: New School Gym raffle.  3 for $1.   Elizabeth tells Elly they “hafta support my school.”  Now Lynn Johnston is starting to step over the line from making a point to beating her readers over the head with it.  Not only is this a mall with a movie theater, but it is a mall where the local school is allowed to sell raffles for a new gym.  While Lynn apparently did not know how much a movie cost back in 1991, she really doesn’t seem to know how much a gym cost, nor how ridiculous it was to raise money using raffles to build a school building. 

Panel 7: John appears out of nowhere and it turns out this mall is so diverse it actually has a hardware store in it.  John asks Elly for extra cash also, as if he doesn’t have a credit card.   Oh, Lynn Johnston.  If only you had stopped two panels ago, you would not have ruined this joke with overexaggeration.

Panel 8: Elizabeth now shows some concern for her mother and asks if she is talking to the money machine.  We don’t get to see Elly do this and without that moment, this comic strip really misses an opportunity.  I want to know what Elly was saying and how she was saying it loud enough so that it attracted Elizabeth’s attention.  I would have traded both panels 6 and 7 for that.

Let’s imagine:
Elly:  Hi money machine.  You know how it feels to be poked and prodded all day?  Does it make you angry like it does me?  My ungrateful family thinks I have nothing better to do than to hand them money.  What if I wanted to go to a movie or shop in a hardware store myself?   Where’s the person to hand money to me?  "It’s unfair," I say.   I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!!!

Panel 9: Elly gets money from the machine which makes a “BLAPP BLAPPP BLAPPP” sound letting us readers know that Lynn Johnston never used a money machine, or as they used to call them in my day, “ATM”. 

Summary: There are two comic strips in the archive tagged with “ATM”.  The other one is this one from 1997:

Notice in both, the “money machine” is in the mall and not in a bank.  I get the feeling that Lynn might not have known they also have them at banks.  However, her sound effects definitely improved in 6 years.