forworse (forworse) wrote in binky_betsy,

Collection Recap: "The Lives Behind the Lines" (Part 1)

This collection was so large that I've broken the recap into different sections.  I didn't intend to transcribe the book, but feel that I've come close.  There are two reasons behind this: one is due to the inconsistencies I couldn't help finding, and the other because of the possibility that these details will help with the various foefics.

This 20-year retrospective purports to tell the stories which never made it into the strip. It is dedicated to Rod, Aaron and Katie Johnston, with gratitude to Nancy Vincent for deciphering Lynn’s handwritten notes. All the stories here were written by Lynn and not by Bev, and the margins of some pages show pale photos of Lynn’s notebook of ideas.

Setting aside the usual story about Lynn living in her fantasy world (not yet a bubble) and eavesdropping on the Pattersons’ lives, here are some of the first attempts at backstory, introducing many inconsistencies (I know there are more than I've flagged up here and am counting on you ro find them!), and also hints about other stories Lynn would like to tell one day.

Pattersons’ Town

  • has not yet been named, but a middle class neighbourhood somewhere in southern Ontario
  • Sharon Park Drive is a crescent overlooking the Sharon River (a creek, really), which winds through the ravine where Elly and Connie walk their dogs, where the kids toboggan and where April fell in.
  • Sharon Park itself is across and to the left of the Pattersons’ house, with a playground and some benches near the school bus stop
  • John and Elly live in the same house they bought after Michael was born, which they bought for $65,000 ($15,000 down payment) and is across from Connie’s house – in fact, it was Connie who told them about it
  • If you face the Pattersons’ house, Anne and Steve live on the right and Thelma Baird [later Connie and Greg] on the left

Elly and John’s early years

Mike and his love life

  • First crush was Deanna Sobinski, but he was grim when she moved to Burlington and they were separated for fourteen years
  • Martha Macrae and Mike hooked up at summer camp and he resented being sent to Manitoba one summer because he’d been busy imagining her naked and hoping that this summer he’d get a chance to actually see something, even if just through a wet bathing suit
  • He started keeping a journal (not a diary) while in Manitoba, including important details like the taste of beer and the time he’d tried puffing on a cigar, or when Liz farted in church and blamed him
  • Martha never wrote to Mike while he was away, claiming that she was intimidated by the lengthy letters he sent and how well he wrote. They got together and broke up again, most notably when she dumped him right before his driver’s test, which he promptly failed, and he blamed her and buried all the memories of the feels he’d copped and their kisses.
  • Met Rhetta Blum while working at Megafood and felt, for the third time in his life, as if he were being steered by some automatic pilot
  • Felt “centred” with Rhetta and it was a proper senior high school relationship and not just dating or going steady as he had with Martha, but Rhetta couldn’t wait for Mike to finish university and started seeing a young man who worked for her father
  • For Elly, seeing Mike’s ability to write and obtain a degree in journalism has fulfilled the dream she once had for herself. Elly was closer to Michael than to Elizabeth, but sometimes John was hurt by Mike’s preference to work in the kitchen with Elly than make something in the workshop with his father.
  • Lynn explains that “I’ve centred my description of Michael around the loves of his life because he’s passionate and fanciful and capable of creating a world within a world. It was his relationships that first fuelled his imagination. It was the rush and the awesomeness of being in love that compelled him to write.” 


  • used her cute appearance to convince her parents that she was generally the underdog in fights with Mike, and John especially fell for it
  • Adored her father – “To her he was sunshine and laughter and everything wonderful” – and as a toddler was closest to him, which hurt Elly’s feelings a bit, but she knew that such bonds were good and encouraged it.
  • Lynn suspects that Elizabeth met Anthony at the school choir in junior high
  • The same age as her cousin Laura (Laura’s age is an on-going inconsistency: Laura seemed to be Mike’s age when he visited the farm and was then just a bit older than April – certainly still living at home – when April started visiting.)


  • knowing that her birth was just a fantasy, Lynn had to work backwards to set a conception date which would ensure a birth on April Fool’s Day
  • as Lynn was already getting enough letters about overpopulation, she didn’t want to cause further fuss by advocating home births, so set up the ice storm which made it impossible for Elly to get to a hospital, instead having April delivered by nurse Carol and x-ray technician Connie
  • best friends are Becky McGuire, a slender child with curly blond hair and a great imagination, and Duncan Anderson, whose family came from Barbados, presumably during his lifetime as “Duncan’s background includes British rugby, schools with uniforms, island festivals, and Caribbean sun. He speaks with just a hint of an accent, and he loves pets and baseball and computer games that take you into space.”
  • April, aged eight at the time of this collection, has already begun to amass a zoo in the Pattersons’ basement and her parents are beginning to wonder if she’s planning a future working with animals.


  • John purchased the practice in which he had been associating for some time. It’s in a large medical-dental building with a smoke shop and pharmacy on the ground floor, two elevators to the various clinics, offices and spaces for rent upstairs, and a cafeteria-style coffee shop at the back of the building where many regulars have lunch.
  • “John…was also left somewhat out of the picture. He came home and interacted with the family, but other than that he had no life. I knew where he was and what he was doing, but nobody else did. Whole sequences of him at work, arguing with Ted, dealing with his own personal stuff, were noted down but never drawn. I just didn’t have time.”

Phil and Georgia

  • Phil is based on Lynn’s brother Alan (possible inspiration for middle name of James Allen Caine?)
  • Phil introduced Michael to the art of babe watching (was John too busy that day?)
  • Phil's relationship with Connie was never clearly defined in the strip, except that both loved music, but with frequent long separations because of his career, he wasn’t too surprised when he came back and found that she was now seeing Ted
  • Phil met Georgia – “intelligent and attractive and slender with dark hair, green eyes, and a happy disposition” – who was originally going to be called Jane, but it was too close to Jean and John
  • Off-panel, they have had some difficult neighbours to deal with
  • Phil accepted a teaching position in Montreal and they moved a year ago (circa 1998) and he plays jazz in the evenings with a group of musicians who play just for the fun of it
  • Georgia works with developmentally challenged kids
  • they don’t have children of their own, but are mentors to many
  • April watches Phil play the guitar and wonders if she could take it up someday
  • Lynn never explored how Phil got a job teaching music at a local school or what Georgia did for a living and, with so much else happening, they began to live their lives undocumented until Grandma Marian’s illness – Lynn writes, “This has happened to a number of favourite characters: Aunt Fiona is one, Sharon Edwards is another, and then there is Annie! There are so many stories I want to tell and plan to tell…”

Grandma Carrie and Grandpa Will

  • sold their farm to Bev and Danny and now live in the small town where they’ve been all their lives
  • enjoy driving the long country roads in the summertime, checking crops and visiting neighbours

Grandma Marian and Grandpa Jim

  • Jim is a retired gift shop owner who loved to chat with customers and slip in the occasional “something for the kids” for free
  • Still goes down to the old store to talk to the man who took over the place
  • Several boxes in the downstairs storage room of which only he knows the contents
  • Marian was a stenographer and bookkeeper, skills learned during the war
  • She met and married Jim when he came home from England “his air force uniform dark beside the white cotton dress she wore on their wedding day” (all kinds of inconsistencies here, like Marian already being in Canada instead of being English-born – see Jim’s RCAF service – and Elly telling Deanna that her brother was named for their Aunt Phyllis who was “still in England”, suggesting that at least one of Elly’s parents was born in England. Oh, and yet another type of wedding dress, now just white cotton.)
  • Lynn always starts with drawing the nose when drawing Jim.

Deanna Sobinski

  • story of her car accident ostensibly based on Aaron’s time working for a local television station and sent with a camera and car to take some shots of the sunset to use during the weather forecast. During the drive, he heard a police message on the car’s Canadian Police Information Centre radio and hurried to the accident scene, taping the wreckage of the car, the young woman driver of which had died. The paramedics protested at him for filming and he raced home boasting about the “fantastic” shots he had. They watched the evening news as a family and he complained that the best part of his footage wasn’t used, and then he heard the name of the victim, someone he knew well. He promised, “For the rest of my life I will never again see anything like this without first thinking about the people involved. I will never again be so insensitive.”
  • Deanna is the younger of Wilfred and Mira Sobinski’s two daughters. Her older sister is a lawyer, newly married and living in Halifax.
  • Inconsistency alert: “The Sobinskis are third-generation Canadian; their family emigrated from Poland in the late 1800s. They still speak a little Polish at home and Mrs. Sobinski continues to make the same dishes from the same recipes her grandmother used.”
  • Did a five-year pharmacy degree at the University of Western Ontario, but had to re-do several courses despite her intellect and hard work.
  • A pretty face, light blond hair and speaks with a slight lisp when saying “s”.
  • Previously engaged to her high school boyfriend

Anthony Caine

  • would likely describe himself as Elizabeth’s boyfriend, but she’d be more likely to describe him just as a friend
  • mother is Dutch and his dad is British; they met and married in Canada, the land of immigrants
  • tall and fair with reddish-blond hair and a few freckles
  • has worn glasses since he was seven and has never liked his nose
  • his voice changed late and his hands and feet grew before the rest of him
  • confused about his future – likely will include cars, computers and maybe a degree in Business Administration
  • has been crazy about – and hated – Elizabeth and wonders why they’re still together as he knows that she has crushes on others and hasn’t told him that she loved him in actual words, but wonders if it’s because, as her brother put it, he is just like her dad (Elizabeth was unimpressed with this suggestion and Mike knew that he was right)
  • “In fact, he’s the kind of kid that a girl’s mother would point out. ‘See him? Wait twenty years and he’ll knock the socks off any jock in the city! That’s the kind of guy who’s going to do well in whatever he chooses to do, and by golly – when he’s got a little gray in his hair, he will be so handsome that every woman at your twentieth high school reunion will wonder why they didn’t beg him to go out with them when they had the chance!’ Mothers know these things…And so do I. After all, I’ve been to my twentieth high school reunion. I know which nuts to pick.”


  • John’s cousin (exact degree not specified)
  • had a cat named Belmont
  • Lynn had all sorts of stories planned involving how her good intentions drove the Pattersons crazy, but she was too strong a character at a time the focus was turning to the older Patterson kids and also the new baby
  • Mike – and later Liz – often visits Fiona at the pool hall she eventually took over
  • has had at least two major romances since leaving the Pattersons, still gambles, drinks and smokes cigars
  • Belmont ran off


Tags: biography, foob history

  • Monday, 6 December 2021

    The one that foreshadows that Mike is going to be a shitty, inattentive father. Synopsis: Mike is too busy bitching about the end result of his…

  • Sunday, 5 December 2021

    The one where Liz accidentally reminds Elly that the thankless task she has to do is one she doesn't actually have to do at all. Synopsis: Elly…

  • Saturday, 4 December 2021

    The one where they say people can't be figured out because they don't want to figure themselves out lest they see needy airheads who live and die by…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.

  • Monday, 6 December 2021

    The one that foreshadows that Mike is going to be a shitty, inattentive father. Synopsis: Mike is too busy bitching about the end result of his…

  • Sunday, 5 December 2021

    The one where Liz accidentally reminds Elly that the thankless task she has to do is one she doesn't actually have to do at all. Synopsis: Elly…

  • Saturday, 4 December 2021

    The one where they say people can't be figured out because they don't want to figure themselves out lest they see needy airheads who live and die by…