The Martian has landed...
Recurring characters introduced:
- Mrs Wellsley, Elizabeth’s teacher
- Walt, one of John’s patients and owner of Walt’s Weenies, who gives Mike his first job
- kids at Liz’s summer day camp: Lucia, Patrick (see above), Jasmine, Ruby, Laurel, Raymond and Rachel (mentioned, but never seen)
- Mrs Allen, day camp supervisor
- Dave / David, an acquaintance of Mike’s who wants to run up a tab at Walt’s Weenies
- Jennifer, an acquaintance of Martha’s
- Martha’s parents (unnamed) and her older brother, Stan
- Elly’s OB-GYN, Dr Fundus D. Sphyncter (sigh)
- a buck-toothed Canada Post employee who speaks “hick” like Uncle Danny and current-day Gord
- Elizabeth’s skating class members Karen (who dumped a box of nerds down Brett’s tights) and Brenna, who stuffed her front with Kleenex for the performance
- the Fribleys and the Blacks, families who invite John and Elly to Christmas parties
- Martin Bean, Tracey’s crush
- baby shower guest Sarah
- Agnes, a nosy neighbour who brings a casserole to the Pattersons on the night April was born
- Cecily and Maeve, Jean’s friends who gossip about Fiona and the state of the Pattersons’ marriage
- Mike is 14 and Elizabeth is 9 as of July 1990, which shows that Elizabeth’s birthday has at last been retconned to 26 June 1981…but…by January 1991 Elly says that it has been 10 years since they had Elizabeth and then by February Elizabeth is 9 ½ years old.
- Elly says that she is 39 when she finds out she is pregnant
- potential baby names: Shannon, Robyn or Erika for a girl and Brendan, Glenn or Andrew for a boy
- March 26 1991 was the baby’s due date, but April Marian arrived on April 1 1991
Elizabeth is still struggling at school. When her parents receive a second note about her inability to pay attention and her poor spelling, John suggests that she gets her eyes tested. She cries and begs John not to make her wear glasses because people look “stoopid" in them, then frets for at least the next week about her appearance. She loses them within the first few weeks, but they turn up very quickly. Mike teases Elizabeth about her glasses and then starts in on Elly about her appearance, telling her that her hairdo is old-fashioned and laughing at her legs when she wears shorts.
Mike forgets his house keys and Elizabeth won’t open the door for him after he calls her names. He and Lawrence smash a basement window while trying to get in. Elly says that she can’t go to work all summer if the kids won’t get along, so John suggests sending Liz to a day camp and having Michael find a job. John accepts a job for Mike at Walt’s Weenies and his friends stop laughing and ask if they can work there too once they see Mike serving food to pretty girls. On a summer afternoon Mike and his gang stand around littering as they discuss what they want to be one day and the importance of cleaning up the environment. Gord wants to be a pilot, Mike a writer or teacher, Lawrence a lawyer and Brian says that he likes “math an’ science”.
Mike meets Martha’s parents when they go out for an evening trip on Fred’s Folly, her dad’s boat. Her older brother Stan comes along and makes Mike feel like a jerk, causing him to swear never to make Elizabeth’s dates miserable. (You could be forgiven for thinking that Mira Sobinski was Martha’s mother as Mrs MacRae / McRae could be her long-lost twin sister. Maybe she’s the mysterious Eva Sobinski…) The boat trip is a disaster and they run out of gas in the middle of the lake and have to be towed back by the police.
No sooner than Mike and Liz have returned to school, to grades 9 and 5 respectively, than Elly complains that she hasn’t been feeling well in the mornings for about three weeks, and the doctor confirms that she’s about ten weeks pregnant. John likes the idea of another kid, but Elly thinks it will be awful to have another child as she’ll have to quit her job and be tied down again. Connie is jealous, as she and Greg have been trying for two years to have a child. Mike is embarrassed at the thought of what his friends will say and hopes that it’s a girl so it can share Liz’s room. Liz is worried and seeks consolation from John, climbing onto his lap and asking if he will still love her.
Keith Enjo has become obsessed with growing a pumpkin and Elly likens it to John’s train obsession. Carol Enjo tells Elly that she’s worried about Brian because he doesn’t show any interest in girls and Elly says that she’s worried about Mike because he is. She asks Mike if he might be seeing too much of Martha and he stares at her growing belly and asks if she would like to discuss birth control. Mike tries to put his feelings into words and writes Martha a love letter, then panics as soon as he has posted it. He fails to intercept it but it is returned unread due to insufficient postage four days later. Liz, trying to be helpful, pops a stamp on it and mails it back to Martha, but the storyline is dropped and there’s never any resolution about what Martha thought or indeed what her mother thought, as Martha had told Mike that her mother reads all her mail.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of this collection centres around Elly’s pregnancy and one-off strips about weight gain, cravings, maternity clothes and breast-feeding. Annie turns up briefly to pass along all her hand-me-downs from Leah and the boys, and to go Christmas shopping with Elly, during which trip she wishes that Steve had a hobby like John’s trains so she’d know what to buy him that makes him happy. As she says this, Steve, waiting around the corner, is seen ogling a pretty girl as John reads a model railroad magazine: John doesn’t even pay any attention to the girl, his interest in girls having been sublimated into his model train
fetish hobby. Connie brings Elly up to date on modern options for her labour and delivery and Elly considers having a home birth, but John pressures her to arrange for a hospital delivery.
Elizabeth gets fed up with hearing about the new baby and her parents see that she’s being moody and negative but don’t realize how upset she is with all the baby’s things being put in her room. She cries when John asks her what’s wrong, and she tells him that his “old baby” isn’t ready yet for a new baby to come into their lives. John and Elly throw her a little pick-me-up party, “Elizabeth Day” to celebrate Lizzie Patterson who is all of 9 ½ years old.
Mike has another bad babysitting experience at the Nichols’ house, but this time is better at asserting some authority, telling the kids that they could do what they wanted, but pointing out that he was writing down details so he could tell their parents afterwards. He tells Elly that he’s trying to save money to buy a motorcycle and she tells him that he’ll get one over her dead body. John takes Mike’s side in the argument, asking him about the kind of bikes he’s considering, then privately tells Elly that there’s no harm in humouring Mike since he’ll never be able to afford the insurance in the first place.
Mike takes Martha to the Valentine’s dance. Gord knows he hasn’t a chance with Allyson, but still hopes that she’ll change her mind and stop seeing him as a mega-dork. John drives the kids home afterwards and is horrified by how passionately Mike kisses Martha in front of him; Mike thought-bubbles that he did it for effect. Gord has another hormone attack in front of Allyson, who calls him a complete idiot as he lies prone on the floor, calling out, “Allyson, Allyson…is that you?!!” Mike and Lawrence ask why Gord acts like such a dweeb whenever Allyson is around and Gord explains that he’s boring and normal otherwise. Mike suggests that Gord stop waiting for an unattainable girl and ask out someone who likes him – like Tracey Wells. Mike thinks she’s cute but Gord isn’t about to ask out someone he’s known since kindergarten, especially since she’s crazy about Martin Bean.
Carol Enjo throws a baby shower for Elly and Annie gives her coupons for 30 hours of free babysitting – “sanity savers”, she calls them. Elly goes past her due date without any sign of a baby, but no sooner than she says that it’s a beautiful spring and she’s enjoying the warmer weather and longer days then she hears a forecast for heavy snowfall and freezing rain. John gets stuck in town and Ted offers to let him stay at his place and Elly, not feeling well and too tired to make dinner, lets Mike and Liz order pizza. They order from Mario’s rather than Luigi’s because Mario’s will give the pizza to them free if it takes longer than 20 minutes to deliver, and the storm is getting worse. By the time the delivery driver arrives, he rings his boss to say it’s suicide to try driving out there, and the Pattersons get all the extra pizzas. Liz goes to check on Elly and finds out that she needs an ambulance. With all the roads closed, it might be some time, so Elly asks Mike to go get Carol, who’s a nurse, and Connie as well, as the baby is coming now. Connie manages to get a doctor on the phone and Mike gets hold of John, who jumps out in front of a police car to flag down a lift home, only to find the pizza car with a “We Deliver” sign in his driveway. The baby girl is delivered by Carol with Connie supporting Elly through the delivery and Liz watching. Liz tells John the news as he comes through the front door and he goes to Elly and cries. They name the baby April Marian: April as she was born on April first and Marian for Elly’s mother.
Afterwards Liz tells John that she’s afraid that having a baby might happen to her someday. Mike points out that he now has “Ape” and “Lizard Breath” for sisters and Liz complains that nothing rhymes with “Michael”. Fed up with Mike’s teasing, Liz builds a “mad wall” from a cardboard box, telling him that every time he hurts her feelings, she adds another brick. Mike feels guilty enough to apologize and promises never to call her names again.
Elly finds looking after the baby to be more tiring than she remembered and John invites his cousin Fiona to come and help. She is beaky-nosed and buck-toothed, smokes, drinks, has a cat, is claustrophobic and allergic to dust, can’t stay in the basement, sleeps until noon, plays the ponies, leaves greasy dishes in the sink…the family puts pressure on John to get rid of her, but he fails when she tells him how she’s not feeling well. Elly also tries and fails and they acknowledge that they’re playing against a pro. (There’s a beautiful strip where Elly tells John not to rock a crying baby in the hall in case he wakes Fiona and he thinks about it, then holds a screaming April outside Fiona’s door.)
John takes a more proactive approach and goes out to find an apartment for Fiona, but doesn’t explain the situation fully to Jean, who thinks that he’s leaving Elly for someone named Fiona. He pays the first and last months’ rent on an apartment on Belfrey Avenue, puts in a good word for Fiona at a store across the street and helps Fiona pack. Elly’s library colleagues ask when she’s coming back to work.
Appearance – Liz starts wearing black overalls (so does Elly, but they’re maternity overalls and she ditches them after April is born). Although Mike is shown to be fastidious about his appearance, particularly his hair, he seems unbothered by the stench of his unwashed clothes in his room, or the power of his killer socks.
Teenaged outbursts – Mike throws tantrums and shouts whenever he’s asked to do anything to help out, and even when it’s suggested that he get a haircut.
Gordon’s apparel – after donning his “redneck” hat in the previous collection to help prevent hormone attacks, Gord is rarely seen without it – in his first appearance in this collection he’s even added a piece of straw at the corner of his mouth to complete the stereotype
This strip conserves punchlines
Whonk!! – As when Elly wonders how to express the beauty of the sentiments at Phil and Georgia’s wedding and Jim blows his nose with a WHONK, the same thing happens when she watches Elizabeth’s skating class perform to “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” and she gets teary-eyed while John blows his nose with a WHONK!!
Shoes – Back in It Must Be Nice to Be Little (1981-82), Elly wished to be in pregnant Annie’s shoes and Annie said that hers hadn’t fit for a week. This time around Connie wishes to be in a pregnant Elly’s shoes and Elly says that hers haven’t fit for months.