Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Farewell To Foobs

I have seen the future of the Foobiverse and it is not pretty. For one thing, Michael Patterson gets a movie deal. That is not a world I want to live in. Sunday marks the end of For Better Or For Worse as we know it. Kind of.

As predictably as a farewell tour by The Who, Lynn Johnston is retiring again. This has led to a lot of tears as people of all stripes come out of the Foob Closet (not Mike’s secret closet, another one) to pay their respects. One perhaps unsurprising member of the tribe of Foobers is Hank Stuever of the Washington Post. Now, I have taken lots of shots at Hank before, but in his farewell valedictory to the denizens of Milborough appropriately titled "Something For Everyone To Hate", he said something that struck a chord:
As a farewell, Johnston seems to have made an extra effort to drench this week's wedding of characters Elizabeth Patterson and Anthony Caine (if you read it, this is bigger than Luke and Laura) in even more sentimental goo than faithful readers have come to expect.

And so, on that note, let us now honor a particular kind of "For Better or for Worse" devotee: the haters.

These are the many millions who live to despise every last thing about the comic strip, and, as such, have never missed a day. For them, Foob has never been worse -- worse puns, worse sap, even worse life choices. (Which, in a sick way, means "For Better or for Worse" has never been better!)
Yes, Hank is one of us.

A lot has been written about Lynn’s latest gambit to reduce her work load and still keep that sweet syndication money coming in. The flashback gimmick was a complete bust, so the new concept is to mix old and new strips but keep the style consistent. Lynn will be going back in time and restarting the story over. This is easily the worst idea since Jar Jar Binks was cast as comic relief. Rehashing thirty years of comics is something that can only be done with a timeless classic like Peanuts. And Lynn Johnston is no Charles Schultz.

I have a better idea. In Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, there is a beautiful passage where Billy Pilgrim comes unstuck in time and watches a documentary on World War II bombers in reverse. Shrapnel is sucked out of the dead, brought together into bombs, raised into planes, shipped back to factories in the US where they are disassembled and the parts are buried deep into mountains so that they can never hurt anyone again.

So rather than restart the strip, it would make more sense to run it in reverse. Here is what would happen:
  • Ellie’s nose would shrink from a swollen potato to a normal sub-Karl Malden size. Her butt would slim, her hair would grow longer and she would again become a semi-hot housewife instead of a wide-eyed hysterical muppet.

  • Liz would break up with Anthony and reunite in succession with Paul, Warren, Eric, and then back to Anthony. Somewhere along the way she would regain her virginity, although exactly when is still pretty fuzzy. Also, these guys would go from being complete and total assholes to decent normal people.

  • Mike would rush into a burning building to try to destroy his manuscript. Failing, he would spend years hidden up in an attic meticulously deleting hundreds of pages of the most insipid prose ever published.

  • As Mike grew younger and the effects of puberty reversed themselves, John’s shriveled testicles would grow back. He would endlessly watch trains roll around the tracks in reverse when he wasn’t shoving teeth back into the mouths of Canuckis with bad oral hygiene.

  • April would transform from a whiny annoying teenager into a whiny annoying toddler and then finally into a whiny annoying gleam in John’s eye.

  • And best of all, Farley would rise from the dead to drag April back into the river only to have her escape as he leaps out of the river and goes back to being a youthful vigorous dog.
Alas, it is not to be so. Instead we are going to get more lame puns, anachronistic women’s lib jokes, and insipid heart-warming clichés. And this time, as history repeats itself as farce, we are at least forewarned for what to expect, for better or for worse.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Are you going to miss the foobs?


Elizabeth said...

No, I haven't been interested in the story for a while now, but I had to read just to see how it ended.
Oh, and I laughed so hard at the cartoon at the top of this post! I love it!

2fs said...


Oh - and the "backwards" Mike story is brilliant.

Anonymous said...

"Lynn Johnston is no Charles Schulz" reminds me of a story she told many years ago. Schulz's strips changed from four-panel to three-panel at some point, and he had a bunch of pages of leftover four-panel paper, which he gave to her. So she was all jazzed that she was working on paper that were originally designed to have Snoopy drawn on them.

That said, I think this whole "Pushing the Reset Button" routine is far more bogus than any artist's child taking over a given strip. Just die already, Johnston.

Thumper said...

I must admit, I will miss new foobs...It's one of my favorites, but I'm not sure I want to see it rewritten. And that doesn't matter, 'cause my paper is dropping the strip...

But man, if Grandpa lived, what was the point of the freaking heart attack ON the wedding day...?

Anonymous said...

Your Grandpa/Elizabeth exchange is perfect!