Friday, July 30, 2010

FOOB Redundancy?

After doing the calculations of the latest collection, with 368 pages, I figured it’d be more like 2 ½ years than three years. (52 weeks x 3 pages [Dailies & Sunday]) x (3 books) = 468 pages. If it were 468 pages, that would be an exact 3 years, fitting in with the 30 years she’d put up with the strip. Instead, with 100 missing pages, we’re out by almost half a year. (-100 pages ÷ 3 pages) = (33 weeks) So, instead of having 10 books, in a decade’s worth of releases, we’d have 12 books for the remainder of Lynn’s lifetime. (30 years ÷ 2 ½ years) = 12 books. (33 weeks x 11 books) = 363 pages for the last book.

If the new collections adheres to this rigid standard, there probably won’t be any room for any of the doodles she did in place of the missing strips in previous collections. (Some of which were very memorable.) I’ve oftentimes wondered if there was ever going to be a collection of the comics she did for the Calendars, which were large one-panel jokes. Some of them were ripped off from the daily strip, while others were entirely new.


















While trying to figure out how much of the previous collections would be in the latest omnibus, something else came to mind - I was thinking too much about a strip I used to care about.


















Lately, I’ve been wondering if the FOOB Livejournal has any further purpose to its existence? It no longer has as many visitors as it used to in its heyday. Most of its audience has left for greener pastures, leaving only the dedicated who’ve stayed. The last group of faithfuls include trumanf, aprilp_katje, dreadedcandiru2, forworse, and howtheduck. Not to mention that the AllFOOBedUp parody page has stopped updating after the last of Lynn’s new dailies stopped circulation. The other parody sites, Foob's Paradise concluded last year, and The Fifth Panel hasn't updated since March 17th. The only new element is Elly's twitter, which updates infrequently, and would be funnier if we had the comics they were referencing. (Something that Coffee talk with Warren & Paul solved) All they’re essentially doing at this point is preaching to the choir to the faithful few who’ve stayed.

At this rate, they run the risk of only talking to their own audience in the same way that Lynn was surrounded by adoring fans. When nobody has any substance to say, any further talks loses all meaning. I’m reminded of how Dirk Deppey of The Comics Journal finally decided to end his continual arguments with Brian Hibbs over selling comics at the bookstores - he decided to leave one final argument and go home. He’d only refer to that article if the man decided to bring up the issue again. There comes a time where it’s easier to stop making the same argument every time, especially if you’re not going anywhere. There are other things worth wasting your energies on.

Everybody knows that Peanuts in its last decade wasn’t as good as Schultz’s work in its peak years. Yet you don’t hear anybody constantly harping over those lackluster strips. The only defender of those later strips was, ironically enough, Bill Watterson. Although he was constantly bemoaning the limitations of the Newspaper strip, he continued to lavish praise on his favorite cartoonist.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Peanuts. Every now and then I hear that Peanuts isn't as funny as it was or it’s gotten old or something like that. I think what's really happened is that Schulz, in Peanuts, changed the entire face of comic strips, and everybody has now caught up to him. I don't think he's five years ahead of everybody else like he used to be, so that's taken some of the edge off it. I think it's still a wonderful strip in terms of solid construction, character development, the fantasy element...Things that we now take for granted–reading the thoughts of an animal for example–there's not a cartoonist who's done anything since 1960 who doesn't owe Schulz a tremendous debt.

The problem was, compared with the earlier Peanuts, there were week or month-long stories, and we were reduced to one-panel jokes. There were very few highlights other than Rerun experimenting with Underground comics. I would’ve liked to see more of Lydia, the girl who continued to infuriate Linus by constantly changing her name and because she was born a few months after Linus, always asked, “Aren’t you too old for me?”

The FOOB Livejournal certainly didn’t think that Elly was a horrible woman until the last ten years or so of the strip. If the people at the FOOB journal are reduced to talking about how dysfunctional the Pattersons are, then they’re grasping at straws. For a REAL dysfunctional family, they should check out Alan Moore’s The Bojeffries Saga, which is like a British version of the Addams Family.

Not to mention that with no newer strips coming from Lynn Johnson, what else are they going to focus on? How long are they going to re-analyze the older strips with the same mean streak? Until John & Uncle Phil goes on the canoe trip that opened up the FBOFW world and showed more than just Elly’s viewpoint? That could be years off, and could be very tiring to continuously hear nothing but negative interpretations of Lynn’s mental state, now that we know how much of a messed up person she is. I’d rather enjoy the story these people make, rather than be constantly reminded of what kind of people they are.

There have been many people who’ve tried to get through Dave Sim’s ambitious comic, Cerebus one issue at a time, but they’ve never gotten further than the first volume, which was Sim’s weakest, back when he was still experimenting with the form. Even the CereBlog, which found new historical interpretations for those early stories never even made it halfway through.

It’s a strange thing that Lynn Johnson and Dave Sim (both of whom are Canadian) both got increasingly mentally hinged in their later cartooning days. So far, only Jim Unger (of Herman fame) avoided this escape into madness by retiring early. (Even though Jim was British-born, he later emigrated to Canada, but made one-panel comics there)

Part of it might be that Dave and Lynn were influenced by one of the unsung hero of the Canadian Cartoonist world, who’s only just now being recognized; Doug Wright.























Doug Wright’s works first appeared in the Montreal Standard, which was released bimonthly (every two weeks) which is why he wasn’t widely known outside his country. He wasn’t well known, even in his home country, which is something Fantagraphics is trying to change with their release of two large hardcovers of his works. Granted, these collections can be daunting for the average customer (the things are the height and width of a small table), so it’s fortunate that a more user-friendly collection, Nipper has been announced.

Nipper was created before Hank Ketchem’s Dennis the Menance, and with his bald head, was considered to be a homage to Charles Schultz’s Peanuts. The difference between these two being that Nipper was entirely silent, with only a few sound effects and store signs being the sole exception. Not to mention its unusual format - every strip was vertical instead of horizontal, and was in black and white and red.

As Lynn Johnson wrote in the foreword to the collection, “The Doug Wright family was what I wished my own family was like.” Indeed, the boy wasn’t bratty 100% of the time - he had brutish tendencies, but didn’t act on all of them. And the parents could be exasperated, but could be just as understanding in the same instance.























There were even two Nipper comics that inspired two FBOFW strips. If you’re going to rip off someone, rip off from the best, and an obscure source. (Sorry about the discolouration - I couldn’t fit the entire book on the scanner, which should give you some idea of how big the collection was)
























































More than anything, I’d like to think that FBOFW had more good influences than bad. Raina Telgemeier, the illustrator of The Baby-Sitter’s Club even said she based her drawings on a FBOFW pastiche. However clean her works look, I feel it suffers from an insistency of sameness, where the profiles are identical throughout the stories. It might not be obvious to younger readers, but to a comic veteran like me, it’s glaringly obvious.

Then there’s Lynn’s background stories, which would happen in silence while the main story was in the foreground. Next to the fighting clouds between Mike & Liz (which were always different every time), these were some of my favorite details in FBOFW. Samm Schwartz (the definitive Jughead artist) used this kind of thing all the time, and was a popular element in the early Yakitate! Japan chapters.
























































Then there’s the inimitable Posy Simmonds, whose works predated FBOFW. (and who I blogged about in an earlier post) I might make a separate post about her Wedding, if anybody’s interested.

















Not to mention there’s plenty of Family-friendly French BDs that’s never been translated that would be a big hit on this side of the shore. One title that comes to mind is Margot et Oscar Pluche (later shortened to Sac a Puces) [Fleabag in French]. It’s about a Girl & her stray Dog, her large family (6 children, counting Margot, not counting the baby who was born at the end of a later volume)

















Then there’s Nathalie, who has shades of Calvin in her. She has grandoise plans of traveling to exotic places, oftentimes involving her baby brother who she rentlessly tortures every other strip. Her father’s being a workaholic and her mother suffering from maniac depression surely have nothing to do with her antics. Not to mention her Uncle looks and acts a lot like Uncle Phil in his early days.














































Of the translated BD family strips available over here, only Cedric from Cinebook has been brought over. Apart from bringing home bad report cards and having a crush on the Chinese girl, he’s pretty much like any other kid. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen his Grandfather laugh.












































Anybody hoping to find a new Family Newspaper comic strip on par with FBOFW in its peak years should give up. You’d have more success finding a webcomic capable of filling that role. Their autobiographical comics are nothing like the self-loathing Robert Crumb versions that Indy comics are most reputed for. They’re more likely to have humourous elements, the good with the bad, and have visual metaphors in the mix.

What I worry about is not the stagnation of comic writers who develop a rut in their style, but the legion of comic fans who simply stop looking for something better. Sure it’s safe to stay within the comics you’ve grown up with, but that also cuts off your possible enjoyment of other comics with better potential. It’s always scary venturing out into the unknown, especially if there are some known stinkers out there. But the pay-off is worth it for those willing to devote their time and effort. For the less adventurous out there, having a helping hand to traverse these unknown waters could be a huge help.

17 comments:

  1. I think one element that you are overlooking is the sense of community we've developed at Foobiverse. I was reflecting yesterday that I haven't got much to say about the reprints, but I keep coming back to the comm because I like the regulars and think of them as friends. This often happens in online communities where the focus of the group wraps up--I've seen the same kind of thing happen with TV shows that go off the air. I don't think we're so much a group of meanies who want to keep beating a dead horse as a group of friends who want to keep our conversations going.

    I love the depth of your comic examples here and the places where you show exactly where Lynn got some of her gags are fascinating. Since I can read French, I also enjoyed those French strips you posted. :)

    And don't worry--I'm endlessly seeking out other comics to read, including webcomics.

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  2. How very odd it is that you sound like the people on ucomics.com and Coffee Talk who complain bitterly about the picky-faces and haters who are making Lynn sad by maligning her strip. Also, how odd it is that you assume that there's nothing to be added to the conversation; the upcoming romantic triangle promises to be a rich new vein of snark.

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  3. Part two:

    Other than the possibility of DreadedCandiru2 collecting his comprehensive essays into a book, there doesn't seem to be much incentive to join the site. The only other alternative for a better ending would be if Kate decided to get creative with FBOFW in its later years and divert it in another direction, which would LITERALLY be an alternate retelling, and change the meaning of the last FBOFW Sunday. Of course, she'd have to contend with her mother's wrath (and the legion of faithful fans who'd want to preserve the original turnout), which would be more effective if implemented after Lynn died. Granted, she'd have to find someone capable of aping her inimitable style and create storylines worth re-reading...

    As Shoebox2 put it, "Who's more pathetic - the people hanging out here snarking on a legacy comic strip, or the guy writing entire lengthy rambling posts complaining about how we're hanging out here snarking on a legacy comic strip?"

    That's why I won't be commenting on FOOB anymore, either the site or the strip. It really is a shame. I'm sure they would've loved to compare Posy Simmonds' wedding to Anthony & Elizabeth's wedding.

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  4. [Part I seems to be gone, though it showed up in my e-mail...]

    "FOOBAR" was my doing. forworse's foob-parody site is "Foob's Paradise." :)

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  5. Every person is entitled to their opinion. I just happen to disagree with this one.

    Snarking is just like any other activity. If you want to be good at it, you have to practice. Whether it's the stale repeats of Lynn Johnston or the overblown rhetoric of Brooke McEldowney, someone has to say something about it.

    You see it as some sort of self-reinforcing echo chamber. I happen to disagree - we've had some major disagreements over certain things in strips, and even when we've had these disagreements we've managed to remain civil towards each other and respect the other person's opinion.

    How many other "snark" sites do you see that can manage that for a sustained period of time?

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  6. April, could you e-mail me part one? In my haste to put the comments down, I didn't think to double-check. I would've liked to post the whole thing in one cohensive part, but I went over the character limit.

    Thanks.

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  7. Better yet, you could post the whole thing here, and do some editing so that the proper copyright of Foob's Paradise goes to the right person.

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  8. DeBT, here is your Part I:

    This will be a bit long, so it'll be divided into two posts.

    I wanted to wait until I saw the general reaction my post got before I wrote down anything substantive. So far, the prognosis is mostly negative, which seems understandable, since my stance seems like an attack on their lifestyle. It's not - it's concern for what was once a go-to site for snarky commentary. Just as the commentors on the FOOB livejournal lament how FBOFW has fallen, so too do I lament at how the FOOB livejournal has fallen.

    The FOOB livejournal was a welcome diversion at a time when FBOFW was no longer fun to read. However, as I mentioned before, those same barbs aimed at the later third of the strip's life stop being funny when they're aimed at the first third with the same amount of venom. As someone who grew up reading this stuff, I find their reactions very tiresome. If THEY find my commentary hurtful, just imagine how I find THEIR constant bashing of the early strips.

    Another thing that brought my attention to the possible stagination of the FOOB livejournal was that its traffic had invairably fallen off since the end of the main strip. The current commentary is a fraction of what it was one, two years ago, and seems to be full of spite towards the beginning because they now know how it ends. I prefer to live in the illusion that the strip REALLY ended at the point Mike graduated.

    Of course, as k_152 put it, (and I considered) there could've just as likely been people who were more likely to lurk, rather than comment.
    http://community.livejournal.com/binky_betsy/772798.html?thread=51213246#t51213246
    But I'm willing to bet that part of the reason traffic isn't as high as it was before the wedding was the amount of unfriendly vitrol aimed at anyone who dared to think otherwise.

    There was a time before the wedding where I would've liked to join in the conversation and offer up plenty of retributals or references to other strips that many of the commentors seemed ignorant of. However, being hesitant to join up a livejournal (I didn't want to be a target for ID theft) I didn't participate when I could've made an impact and be part of their world. As a result, I'm seen as the scary outsider who's trying to spoil all their fun.

    It took me YEARS to work up the courage to start up a blog, and that was only by sheer chance. As of now, I'm too scared to register a counter to see just how many people actually visit my blog. People's blogs live on the livelihood of audience participation, and I don't have enough on a day-to-day basis for repeat viewing. As a result, I'm more likely to respond to news that affect me highly, such as CMX folding or OneManga disbanding.

    So far, the only way to gather any responses seems to be spreading my past articles to multiple comic news sites, but I haven't gotten much in the way of commentary or feedback. So I decided to fall back on the one topic that generated some nibbles. I wasn't expecting the amount of vitrol my post generated though.

    Only Forworse, ([of Foob's Paradise]) comes close to my original intention. (And yes, thanks for pointing out aprilp_katje who I'd overlooked. I'll add her to the list)
    http://community.livejournal.com/binky_betsy/772798.html?thread=51211710#t51211710

    ReplyDelete
  9. P1:This will be a bit long, so it'll be divided into two posts.

    I wanted to wait until I saw the general reaction my post got before I wrote down anything substantive. So far, the prognosis is mostly negative, which seems understandable, since my stance seems like an attack on their lifestyle. It's not - it's concern for what was once a go-to site for snarky commentary. Just as the commentors on the FOOB livejournal lament how FBOFW has fallen, so too do I lament at how the FOOB livejournal has fallen.

    The FOOB livejournal was a welcome diversion at a time when FBOFW was no longer fun to read. However, as I mentioned before, those same barbs aimed at the later third of the strip's life stop being funny when they're aimed at the first third with the same amount of venom. As someone who grew up reading this stuff, I find their reactions very tiresome. If THEY find my commentary hurtful, just imagine how I find THEIR constant bashing of the early strips.

    Another thing that brought my attention to the possible stagination of the FOOB livejournal was that its traffic had invairably fallen off since the end of the main strip. The current commentary is a fraction of what it was one, two years ago, and seems to be full of spite towards the beginning because they now know how it ends. I prefer to live in the illusion that the strip REALLY ended at the point Mike graduated.

    Of course, as k_152 put it, (and I considered) there could've just as likely been people who were more likely to lurk, rather than comment.
    http://community.livejournal.com/binky_betsy/772798.html?thread=51213246#t51213246
    But I'm willing to bet that part of the reason traffic isn't as high as it was before the wedding was the amount of unfriendly vitrol aimed at anyone who dared to think otherwise.

    There was a time before the wedding where I would've liked to join in the conversation and offer up plenty of retributals or references to other strips that many of the commentors seemed ignorant of. However, being hesitant to join up a livejournal (I didn't want to be a target for ID theft) I didn't participate when I could've made an impact and be part of their world. As a result, I'm seen as the scary outsider who's trying to spoil all their fun.

    It took me YEARS to work up the courage to start up a blog, and that was only by sheer chance. As of now, I'm too scared to register a counter to see just how many people actually visit my blog. People's blogs live on the livelihood of audience participation, and I don't have enough on a day-to-day basis for repeat viewing. As a result, I'm more likely to respond to news that affect me highly, such as CMX folding or OneManga disbanding.

    So far, the only way to gather any responses seems to be spreading my past articles to multiple comic news sites, but I haven't gotten much in the way of commentary or feedback. So I decided to fall back on the one topic that generated some nibbles. I wasn't expecting the amount of vitrol my post generated though.

    Only Forworse, ([Foob's Paradise]) comes close to my original intention. (And yes, thanks for pointing out aprilp_katje who I'd overlooked. I'll add her to the list)
    http://community.livejournal.com/binky_betsy/772798.html?thread=51211710#t51211710

    ReplyDelete
  10. DeBT, I am getting a too-large error when I try to paste your Part I into one comment, so I'll do it in two parts--call this one Part Ia:

    This will be a bit long, so it'll be divided into two posts.

    I wanted to wait until I saw the general reaction my post got before I wrote down anything substantive. So far, the prognosis is mostly negative, which seems understandable, since my stance seems like an attack on their lifestyle. It's not - it's concern for what was once a go-to site for snarky commentary. Just as the commentors on the FOOB livejournal lament how FBOFW has fallen, so too do I lament at how the FOOB livejournal has fallen.

    The FOOB livejournal was a welcome diversion at a time when FBOFW was no longer fun to read. However, as I mentioned before, those same barbs aimed at the later third of the strip's life stop being funny when they're aimed at the first third with the same amount of venom. As someone who grew up reading this stuff, I find their reactions very tiresome. If THEY find my commentary hurtful, just imagine how I find THEIR constant bashing of the early strips.

    Another thing that brought my attention to the possible stagination of the FOOB livejournal was that its traffic had invairably fallen off since the end of the main strip. The current commentary is a fraction of what it was one, two years ago, and seems to be full of spite towards the beginning because they now know how it ends. I prefer to live in the illusion that the strip REALLY ended at the point Mike graduated.

    Of course, as k_152 put it, (and I considered) there could've just as likely been people who were more likely to lurk, rather than comment.
    http://community.livejournal.com/binky_betsy/772798.html?thread=51213246#t51213246
    But I'm willing to bet that part of the reason traffic isn't as high as it was before the wedding was the amount of unfriendly vitrol aimed at anyone who dared to think otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
  11. DeBT's original comment, part Ib:

    There was a time before the wedding where I would've liked to join in the conversation and offer up plenty of retributals or references to other strips that many of the commentors seemed ignorant of. However, being hesitant to join up a livejournal (I didn't want to be a target for ID theft) I didn't participate when I could've made an impact and be part of their world. As a result, I'm seen as the scary outsider who's trying to spoil all their fun.

    It took me YEARS to work up the courage to start up a blog, and that was only by sheer chance. As of now, I'm too scared to register a counter to see just how many people actually visit my blog. People's blogs live on the livelihood of audience participation, and I don't have enough on a day-to-day basis for repeat viewing. As a result, I'm more likely to respond to news that affect me highly, such as CMX folding or OneManga disbanding.

    So far, the only way to gather any responses seems to be spreading my past articles to multiple comic news sites, but I haven't gotten much in the way of commentary or feedback. So I decided to fall back on the one topic that generated some nibbles. I wasn't expecting the amount of vitrol my post generated though.

    Only Forworse, ([Foob's Paradise]) comes close to my original intention. (And yes, thanks for pointing out aprilp_katje who I'd overlooked. I'll add her to the list)
    http://community.livejournal.com/binky_betsy/772798.html?thread=51211710#t51211710

    ReplyDelete
  12. One correction: my abandoned strip was Foob of Destiny. canuckdownsouth (aka insertmonikerhere) did the far, far superior Foob's Paradise. I might never have been able to keep up with the strip for lack of time (and ability) once I returned to work, but it did at least get me drawing again and exploring new drawing styles, just not as publicly.

    ReplyDelete
  13. One correction: my abandoned strip was Foob of Destiny.

    Oops! Sorry about that, forworse. I knew I should have double checked before posting.

    ReplyDelete
  14. THANK YOU! I REALLY appreciate this, forworse. It was silly of me to close the document without double-checking. I was willing to do a separate post from memory if I didn't get any response from you.

    My general consensus wasn't that I was attacking the Livejournal for doing their job. Rather, such as your group was lamenting how FBOFW had fallen, so too, did I lament at how much the Livejournal had fallen in terms of snarky commentary. It wasn’t QUALITY snark. I’m a person with high standards, and when I see one of my favorite forms of entertainment go into a form of decay, I become disillusioned.

    Even HowTheDuck has refrained from his re-interpretings of the early strips. His inventive attention to detail of the later strips was absolutely amazing, since I could hardly bother to look at Lynn's decline into mediocrocy.

    Despite DreadedCanidiru’s assertion that I want to see Lynn’s portrayal of events after the wedding, I have no such wish for such a thing to happen. The events leading up to the wedding were so dismal that anything after that blatant “Ever After” ending couldn’t be anything but treacle.
    http://community.livejournal.com/binky_betsy/772798.html?thread=51212990#t51212990

    So far, only forworse, jermy_wormy and lectrice share my view that the journal can be better than it currently is.
    http://community.livejournal.com/binky_betsy/772798.html?thread=51214014#t51214014
    It’s one thing to shuffle the chairs on the Titanic, it’s another to see the signs of impending collapse and recommending solutions to keep the foundations from falling.

    Incidently, when I saw jeremy_wormy’s pen name, it took me awhile to recognize the reference, and then I instantly recalled April & her gang’s payback against Jeremy’s bullying with teasing of her own, which led to Jeremy’s stalking her on his bike, which led to a traffic accident. Even though I hadn’t read that comic in years, my recollection took place within the timeframe of FIVE SECONDS.

    Part of why people feel possible resentment towards April may be that she never quite got her comeuppance from that little episode. Sure she had to live with the guilt, but although her karma was repaid with Jeremy’s finking who was responsible for vandalizing John’s Halloween decorations, some people might’ve felt it wasn’t enough punishment. It’s a far-fetched idea, but it’s the only one I’ve got. If anybody else’s got a better one, feel free to share.

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  15. psst... I'm aprilp_katje on Livejournal. forworse is forworse both on Blogger and on LJ.

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  16. My bad. It's because your blogger profile links to those pages, so I got easily confused. Thanks for the help anyways.

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  17. Even HowTheDuck has refrained from his re-interpretings of the early strips. His inventive attention to detail of the later strips was absolutely amazing, since I could hardly bother to look at Lynn's decline into mediocrocy.

    Thanks for the compliment. I enjoyed reading your commentary on the comparison between Lynn Johnston and the latter day work of Charles Schulz on Peanuts. I had not seen some of the strips you referenced as sources for Lynn Johnston's material, and I was a little surprised how close the material was between the Doug Wright strips and Lynn Johnston's strips. I often accused Lynn Johnston of stealing from other artists, but those examples are more blatant than many I have seen before.

    I think the big difference between latter day Charles Schulz and latter day Lynn Johnston was that Charles Schulz appeared to still be trying. With Lynn Johnston, it was clear from both her writing and her artwork, she had given up. There were a couple of art moments in the strip, the pow-wow strips come to mind, which showed that she was still capable of doing good work. When those appeared they stood out in stark contrast to her regular material. Her motivation for doing the good work was obvious in her website, when it showed Lynn with the artwork in front of a fellow artist asking for his approval on the authenticity of the pow-wow storyline. That seemed to be the motivation for her. In Lynn’s letter to Phyllis Diller, she said that she had lost interest in doing the comic strip after Charles Schulz died. That seems to be the theme for Lynn doing good work, i.e. she has to be doing work to impress some other artist she respects. Without that impetus, the latter years of the comic strip not only went bad in the art, but the author’s resentment of having to do the strip after she no longer enjoyed it, affected the nature of the characters and the storylines. The Pattersons became evil. And as a consequence, the strip became imminently snarkable. Now she is done with new material, I have no desire to do an in-depth analysis of it. I have seen the strip over a 30-year period and I know what happens. The stories get a little better. The art gets a little better. However, even after 30 years, the artist never learned the essentials of proper perspective or even how to draw a hand or a foot. It’s less interesting for me to point that out about 1981 strips done by a 2-year veteran than 2010 strips done by a 30-year veteran.

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