Tuesday, July 27, 2010

FBOFW update

Despite my previous concerns, it seems the latest For Better or for Worse omnibus collection will be reprinting the new-ruins that's been showing up alongside the earlier strips.

This is slightly distressing for me, because although it seems to gather the majority of the legendary Newspaper strip, it also lumps together Lynn's creative output when she was just starting out with her creative downfall at the end of the strip's declining years. I'm frankly amazed that there are people out there who simply can't tell the difference between a strip 30 years ago, and Lynn aping her style back then, 30 years later. There's all kinds of visual clues that are missing, such as the stiffness of her characters, multiple panels, and the extensive use of words.

Not to mention there were Sunday comics that were obvious retreads of earlier jokes, only horribly misunderstood. Can you understand what's happening in this strip??

It took a lot of people multiple re-reads to understand what was going on, and even with help, it still didn't make much sense. For the uninitiated, Elly was trying to teach Farley (still a puppy) not to scratch the door by squirting a watergun in his face. Then, when she passed the job over to Michael, he heard John's scratching the door, and hit him in his midsections.

There are several reasons this doesn't work:

1. How did Elly open and close the door & squirt Farley without the dog running in the instant the door opened a crack?
2. How did Michael open the door if Elly was "Palov training" Farley in the first place?
3. If John was scratching the door, why is he further away than he should be?
4. Why would Michael squirt at his father without further prompting?

More expressions of incomprehension from forworse is better expressed:

I had to spend far too long reading this strip to understand what was going on. Farley scratches the door and gets sprayed. Then we see Mike opening the door, so I assumed that Mike had been spraying him with a water pistol. Elly rushes over to the door, so obviously she hadn't been nearby, reinforcing the suggestion that Mike was at fault, as does the following panel where she seems to be lecturing Mike ("!!!"). Then she handed him the water pistol and book and lost me completely and I had to start the strip again. Who had been squirting Farley in the first place? Mike was near the door, Elly came running...was there a lengthy lapse of time between the second time Farley was squirted and when he scratched the door and Mike answered? Why does John scratch at the door? Is it because he still doesn't have his keys back from the car wash? Why can't he use the doorbell? Why did Mike open the door and squirt John? Wouldn't he have recognized his father when he opened the door? Did Elly (or whoever) open the door to squirt Farley or just squirt through the letter box? Surely a dog would have been quick enough to get past her and into the house if she opened the door. Why has Mike back-combed his hair so much in panel 8? Why? Why? Why?

Aprilp_Katje put another reason why the comic didn't work:

You know what else bugs me about today's strip? Lynn is lifting this whole motif from when Edgar was a young dog. He kept scratching to be let in, and Elly et al. were trying to teach him to bark to be let in. In fact, they put Farley out with him, hoping that he'd teach Edgar to bark (but Farley promptly fell asleep). John ended up putting carpets on the doors to protect them from the scratching. Then Edgar figured out how to use the doorbell, and John installed one on the inside, so that Edgar could use it to let them know when he wants to be let out. Shortly after that, he figured out how to bark to ask to be let in and out. Lynn can't even keep straight which dogs have which quirks.

The biggest reason for failure is that it was based on a better strip that Lynn had obviously forgotten:

As HowtheDuck put it, the collection seems to be a way to even out the amount of work she'd done, from a 28 1/2 year output to an even 30 year number. In other words, the latest strips were not to "fill in the creative blanks" as Lynn put it, but rather to "fill in the years". Instead of answering any questions, we got abortive storylines such as Deanna's sudden disappearance and reappearance, and Lawrence's insistence of using a particular bathroom (a shout-out to Christopher only wanting to use his own potty).

Thankfully, she seems to no longer be doing new comic strips, and will only be doing the covers for the book collections from now on. The newer strips were becoming such a visual cancer on my eyes they were literally painful for me to read. It was a testament to how far Lynn Johnson had fallen, and should've quit 10 years ago when she still had something to look back on.


  1. There's another issue I have with the revolting abomination: it makes the characters even more annoying and stupid than they were in the real past. In the original version of history, Connie's behavior had a simpler explanation: she acted the odd way that she did because she was still feeling punchy after her high-school sweetheart Pete Landry went out for smokes one night and never came back leaving her as a single mother to their biracial son. The new-runs use the new continuity with the Brazilian doctor so as to set up the Settlepocalypse. Also, her need to extend Connie's doomed relationship with Phil made her trip to Montreal all the more ridiculous; instead of a woman who thought her one-night stand was an invitation to visit him immediately, she came across as a stalker with a crush.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out.

    I agree with all you've said. I struggle to think of any reason to buy the treasury edition: I feel that my collection is complete as it is; in fact, it is better off for not having the hybrid years and new-ruins. Most long-time fans will already have the earliest collections and those who don't can buy all three second hand for less than the cost of the treasury. In fact, the only reason I could think of someone wanting to buy this collection is because they prefer to read it in hard copy rather than browsing the on-line archives, which is fair enough.

    I do hope the publishers and Lynn do not dream that this treasury will attract new fans, who will then buy future treasuries or the old collection books. It took some time for the Pattersons to become likeable enough for me to start looking forward to reading their story each day. Reading the first three collection books in order is an education in characterization, plotting and art, as Lynn moved from the gag-a-day negative strips to something warmer and more recognizable as a late 1970s / early 1980s family. To add Lynn's recent output to this disrupts the story and would make a new reader question how FBOFW managed to become popular and run for as long as it did. I wouldn't be surprised if a first-time reader gave up partway through the treasury.

    I have to admit that I am curious about one thing: how does the treasury handle Farley's new-ruin re-appearance a year before his original birth in the second collection? I would have thought that Lynn's determination to get Farley back into the strip as soon as possible meant that the new-ruins would start with strips from the second year of the strip, but she went back into year one and then brought Farley back into the story a year earlier. If the first three collections are reprinted here in their entirety and Lynn's latest work is added in the places where it ran since September 2008, the Pattersons will wind up with two Farleys.

  3. I find that the most annoying thing about the "new-runs" is that the characters are often drawn in an ugly style with long flat heads.

  4. What I find really irritating about the failed experiment is that it's one long exercise in hypocritical humor; her every attempt to make John look like an Evil, Conflict Causing Man backfires by making him look like a regular dumb guy from the sticks trying to settle down a loon who doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up.

  5. As HowtheDuck put it, the collection seems to be a way to even out the amount of work she'd done, from a 28 1/2 year output to an even 30 year number. In other words, the latest strips were not to "fill in the creative blanks" as Lynn put it, but rather to "fill in the years". Instead of answering any questions, we got abortive storylines such as Deanna's sudden disappearance and reappearance, and Lawrence's insistence of using a particular bathroom (a shout-out to Christopher only wanting to use his own potty).

    When Lynn started out doing the new-runs, she specifically mentioned the Deanna story as one she wanted to tell because Deanna had disappeared without explanation in the original run of the strip. Aside from getting the timeline completely wrong for Deanna to leave (kindergarten and not 4th grade), the funniest part was that Lynn still failed to give the correct explanation. Long time fans figured out that Deanna moved because her father bought a hardware store in a different town, since that is his profession when he appears for the first time in the late 1990s. There was no mention of this in the stories Lynn did.

    I believe Lynn’s motivations for doing the new-runs was monetary and in order to ease her workload so she could take more vacations. It had nothing to do with wanting to fill in the creative blanks. Reprints gave her the vacation time. New material was to keep her newspapers and to be able to charge the price for new material. She initially tried the hybrid in 1997-98 which went back and forth between reprints and modern strips. Her fans did notice the difference between the modern Pattersons and the reprints and complained. The solution to this was the new-runs in 1998. She would get vacation time and the same money for doing new material. Not only that but Lynn counted on her fans being stupid to recognize the artistic differences between the new runs and the reprints. Amazingly enough she was right. Many fans wrote comments saying they thought the strip had gone to straight reprints with no new material. The funny part was that so did many newspaper editors, who dropped the strip.