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Collection Recap: The Funny Papers - Ten Years of Color / A Teenager in the House (1988-89)

Part two of A Look Inside... is a selection of coloured strips from the first decade.  (There are two complete collections of Sunday strips, More Than A Month of Sundays and Our Sunday Best, but my copies are still in Canada.)  Since they are Sunday strips, they usually stand alone rather than continue any on-going storylines.  A number of them have appeared in re-runs over the past year, like John growling as soon as he comes home or Mike noticing that they only attend church twice a year.

There are some very sweet strips which I wish had been repeated recently to remind us that the characters were likeable, like Mike and Elly rescuing Lizzie’s toy bunny from new puppy Farley and Mike comforting Liz as Elly sews up the torn bunny and smiling when Mike calls her “Supermom”, or the one where Mike asks Elly if she loves him or Elizabeth most and Elly says that love is like a pie with all the pieces cut the same size, but that he’d get the first slice tonight.

Mike wakes Elly to tell her that Elizabeth just went outside carrying her new red umbrella, wearing her new red boots...and nothing else.  As far I can tell, this is the first instance of Patterstreaking.

Elly flings a cup at John’s head when he does his own ironing and says that it’s so mindless and he can’t understand why she doesn’t enjoy it.  A shoe flies at his head after her tells her that she has the perfect figure but was born in the wrong century for the painter Reubens.
 
As I said, there’s not much in the way of on-going storylines to be shared, but they are re-printed in full colour and there are some really good one-off strips.
 
The last part of the collection is A Teenager in the House, the existence of which I remembered only when I started reading the next collection book and couldn’t figure out how the storylines had suddenly leapt so far ahead.
 
Recurring characters introduced:
  • Martha MacRae, Mike’s first girlfriend (note that she's MacRae in the strips and McRae on the Who's Who)
  • Candace (Halloran, although her surname isn't stated)
Incidental characters (also from The Funny Papers – Ten Years of Color):
  • dental patients Melissa (again! – the first repeat patient!), Mrs Bonyun
  • Christmas card senders Alma, Jessie, Helen Binks, Marj and Bernard, Nancy and Jim, Fred and Maureen
  • Joe, someone who was at a meeting with John and whose car broke down
  • Ray, John’s dentist
  • Julie, Margie Palmer, Brandy and Rebecca, classmates of Liz
  • Robert and Dave, kids on Mike’s hockey team
  • Luccia Messina, Kietha O’Leary, Dawn Enjoy, Ranjeet Singh and Patti Scott, Liz’s multi-culti bunkmates at Kamp Kawkawa (incidentally, Luccia Messina is a real person, mentioned in the biographical part of the collection when Lynn recounts her best friends from her childhood)
  • Arnie Feldman, one of Mike’s bunkmates at Kamp Kawkawa
  • Janet, Jessie, Meg, Laura and Kelly, friends of Martha’s
  • Bill, Janet's crush
  • Sally, a member of the library board
  • Mr Logan, Mike’s history teacher
  • Mrs Maloney, Mike’s math teacher
  • Mr Burton, a teacher who reads Martha’s note to Mike but doesn’t reveal its contents to the class
  • Amanda and Gregory, small kids in a restaurant where Connie and Elly stop for coffee
  • Auntie Monica, Aunt Debby and Uncle Ralph – family members who received identical thank-you notes from Mike and Liz after the Pattersons get a word processor
  • Jordan, a high school friend of Phil’s with whom he would drink beer in the basement while Elly was out searching for inner truth and marching for peace
  • Bambi, a hairdresser
Biographical information:
  • Martha was named for her aunt and Mike was named for one of his mother’s high school friends, who he’s never even met
  • John hasn’t seen a doctor in years, but after much pestering from Elly, he books a physical and finds that his cholesterol is high but he’s otherwise fine
  • Elly is kept busy at the library, the arts council, volunteering at the hospital and as a hockey mom
  • back in the 60s, Elly would take her guitar to coffeehouses and sing on stage
  • Elly celebrates her 39th birthday by going out to dinner with Connie, Annie and some miscellaneous dark-haired woman
Elly announces that Lawrence, Brian and Dawn are all going to summer camp, so she has enrolled Mike and Liz in Kamp Kawkawa as well. The parents solemnly wave goodbye as the bus drives off with their kids, then leap into the air and celebrate. A fair-haired, freckled boy sits in front of Liz and Dawn and tries to scare them with stories about bears eating kids at the camp (is this Anthony?!).
 
Mike spends his time as the camp clown, starting a rumour that the kitchen serves roadkill and getting his head caught in a hole in the side of the girls’ shower hut. He is sentenced to kitchen patrol duty and spends the evenings on his own, sulking that no one really likes him unless they want someone to act dumb or do a dare. As he rants aloud to himself, he’s overheard by a girl who is wandering on her own because no one likes her either. She introduces herself as Martha and they quickly find that they have a number of things in common. Almost immediately Mike spends less time with his friends and more time with Martha. On their last day at Kamp Kawkawa, they kiss.
 
While the kids are at camp, the Pattermanse renovations are finished. Elly drinks eleven cups of coffee and stays up all night to wallpaper the new kitchen, only for Mike to notice that she’d put the paper on upside down.
 
Mike, Lawrence and co. start junior high and find themselves back at the bottom of the social ladder. Martha is at the same school but it takes Mike several days to work up enough courage to speak to her, before stammering out a brief hello. He sees Martha and her girlfriends giggling and wonders whether his fly was undone, only to find out from Gord that Martha told all her friends about their kiss on the beach. They don’t speak for weeks and Mike finally writes her a note about how he feels, giving it to her only when she promises not to show anyone. No sooner has she read it than Mike catches her showing her friends. Martha feels horrible when she realizes that Mike knows what she did, and tries to write him a letter of apology, which gets intercepted by their teacher. In the end she apologizes in person and they kiss and start over. The excitement of a new relationship causes Mike to forget that the whole family is off to Uncle Danny and Aunt Bev’s farm for Christmas.
 
Mike spent the holidays sulking, the weather was awful, the septic tank froze solid, the kids fought and nobody slept: another Christmas over!
 
Elizabeth is still struggling at her school, seemingly unable to keep up socially. Other than Dawn, she doesn’t seem to be able to make new friends and can’t understand why kids aren’t nice to each other all the time. She cries, thinking that no one likes her because her nose is too big. Her classmate Candace says that she isn’t weird-looking at all and they become friends, but Elizabeth’s self-confidence is still low, especially after spending an afternoon listening to Elly and Connie moan.
 
Molly and Dirk are still together and Connie tells Elly that she’s finding it really difficult being a stepmother, with both girls still resenting her for not being their mother, who hasn’t been seen or heard from in two years. Connie is trying so hard to bring together the two parts of her blended family despite confrontations and talks and her own fear that she just can’t do it, that she feels that she is neglecting hew own child in the process.
 
Fed up with the kids’ poor vocabulary, Elly buys them a thesaurus, telling them to learn a new word each day and be able to use it in a sentence. Mike and Liz take the opportunity to learn how to insult people in ways they can’t understand. Brad Luggsworth and Janice Madigan re-appear – Brad is called “inept, fatuous and inane” (and Mike winds up in a snowbank for saying it), and Janice looks “particularly vacuous today” with an “opprobrious” punk-style outfit of fishnet tights, black miniskirt, baggy geometric-print turtleneck, chunky earrings and spiked hair. When Mike is grounded for swearing and forbidden to watch TV for two weeks, he looks through John’s bookcase and picks out “History of Sexual Practices in North America” to read.
 
Elly is feeling overworked with all her outside projects and her housework, and starts having trouble sleeping. She goes to see the doctor, who diagnoses her as a type “A” personality and gives her a book on stress management. She finds it very useful and takes it to Connie’s in hopes that they could set up a stress management workshop, but they’d need to form a committee first…
 
Mike finds Liz in his room, touching his “Pear” computer. They fight and he pushes her out, catching her fingers in the door when he slams it behind her. Elly takes them to the hospital where Liz has an x-ray and has her hand bandaged. Mike tells her how sorry he is and Liz says that it’s OK because her finger won’t hurt forever. “I know,” he says, thought-bubbling, “But my memory will.”
 
Unable to bring himself to give Martha a romantic card for Valentine’s Day, Mike buys her a “gross out” card instead and she gets upset. Once again Martha’s friends intervene and Mike thinks that it’s like having a girlfriend with an agent. Janet tells him all the things Martha wishes he would do, like take her to the mall for lunch and wear the Olympic pin she gave him. He doesn’t understand the rules of relationships, but when Martha smiles at him, he forgets the problems and holds her hand.
 
A desperate Annie gets Mike to babysit her brood. He has a terrible time but eventually manages to control Christopher and Richard, getting them into bed at last, only for Leah to start crying and need a diaper change. He cries for Elly to help and thinks that the money he earned certainly wasn’t enough for the hassle.
 
Elly sends Liz on an errand to buy milk, but Liz goofs around on the way home, swinging the bag until the handles tear and the milk carton breaks. She lies to Elly that she was mugged by two big guys. Elly takes her back to the place she claims to have been robbed and sees only Elizabeth’s footprints in the snow. John and Elly yell at Liz for lying, then John gives her a hug when she agrees that she will know better in the future.
 
Georgia turns up for dinner with a smart new bobbed haircut, saying that she felt that long straight hair made her look dowdy-looking at her age. Mike and Phil rib Elly for still wearing her hair like she did in the 60s, so Elly gets a perm. She really doesn’t know what she thinks of it: Connie says its like Bette Midler or Cher…Liz suggests Bride of Frankenstein.
 
Mike has a mixed party for his thirteenth birthday and dreads having to slow dance with Martha, only to find her in Lawrence’s arms when the first slow song is played. Her friend Janet flirts with Mike when he sulks, and they dance next to Lawrence and Martha. Mike and Martha make up by the end of the evening, spurred on by Gordon pointing out that his parents have spent years refusing to apologize to each other for dumb things.
 
Farley goes to the vet after he’s discovered limping and with a wound on his leg. The vet finds an elastic band wrapped around his leg which had worked its way down to the bone: Liz had put it on and forgotten it was there, leading to a terrible pun from John: “To err is human, to forgive canine.”
 
Recurring themes
Mother’s Day – Elly relaxes at home while John takes the kids out (in The Funny Papers). Another time John has forgotten that it’s Mother’s Day.
 
Sharing Housework – Elly criticizes everything John does when he tries to help, then complains to Annie that he never does anything around the house
 
Mike’s Attention Span – Elly has a nice chat with Mike and thinks that he has finally listened to her, but his thought bubbles revealed that his attention wandered from the minute she sat down next to him
 
John’s Appearance – (1) Elly gets upset when John has his hair cut without asking her first. (2) Elly stops John from wearing the outfit he picked out, and gives him something else to wear instead – something which also matches the flooring in his first operatory. (3) Elly takes John shopping, choosing outfits for him which match things she owns. He asks if she ever had a Ken doll and she replies no, but she always wanted one.
 
Pattersnarfing – Mike tries to read Mad magazine at the breakfast table, but the constant slurping, munching, crunching and gulping noises from his parents causes him to scream and go turn on a radio.
 
Remembrance Day – this is the first time it became a series of strips as Mike’s class goes to a service in the park and he is pictured on TV sticking two fingers up his nose
 
Technophobia – Mike and Liz do their Christmas thank you letters on a word processor and Mike tease Elly for her old-fashioned letter-writing. Elly talks about how confused she gets by all the talk of computers and other things she doesn’t understand, making her feel like she’s from a lost generation. Connie likens it to walking past a construction site and hearing men whistle at your daughter instead.
Tags: foob history
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  • 21 comments

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