Lest we at the premises of T.B.i.f.Y. Ltd. be accused of bibliosnobbery, favoring the book-like format of the graphic novel over other forms of sequential art, I present to you my review of Lynn Johnston's For Better or For Worse.
Let me start with the following observation about a very different author: Joseph "Mistah Kurtz, he dead" Conrad. The domestic hells chronicled so ably by ol' Joe - when he wasn't writing about boats or nutjob jungle dictators - were rooted in Conrad's own familial and marital woes. To put it midly, he and his wife had a complicated relationship, and I like to think that the outlet of fiction saved them both from a tawdry murder-suicide.
I point this out because I am equally certain that, were it not for the syndication of FBoFW, some poor Mountie would have one day found himself unloading the corpsicles of Patterson analogues from a basement freezer on the outskirts of Toronto.
But instead of being fed poisoned poutine the Moose Family Robinson find themselves living out their lives in a 2-d world where Mom is always, always, always right and everyone makes the good decisions.*
Ordinarily, I wouldn't post just to talk smack about somebody else's life's work, except Mike (the son in the strip) sold his novel. This is how he describes his book, the little Pynchon:
"Sheilagh Shaughnessy has married a soldier, but once he's removed his uniform he becomes a different man...The love he had talked about in England isn't something he really knows how to give. It was all talk. It was all promises - and she believed him."
No lie. There's also a bunch of stuff in there about World War II and sod houses and turnips.** It's apparently very deep and very moving. And he sold it on pretty much the first try, and got a $25,000 advance, because that kind of thing happens to first time novelists all the time.
And the local native people in the strip are unfailingly wise, serene, helpful, and vaguely mystical.
And the special needs girl in April's class. Oh, the special needs girl in April's class. Her...dialogue...is...written like...this...which makes no sense because though she is a little slow, she's not Captain Kirk. But she is also unfailingly wise.
What was once a strip I actually kind of liked has now descended to the center of the suck maelstrom. It's down there with Pluggers, those new Far Side one-panel wannabes, and the Family Circus. I want very much for it to go away, please, thank you, and have thought for some time it needs to be taken out behind the comic strip barn and shot. There's so much more I could say, but reading the strip makes me sad and kind of headachey.***
And here Mike has sold his @#(^#! bodice-ripper for at least 25 grand.
I think I'm going to write a novel now.
Out of spite.
*It's also a world where everyone has the butt of a woman in her mid-50s who's had a job where she sat down a lot for several decades. Seriously, it's creepy.
** I pulled that from the "monthly letters" section over at the FBoFW website.
***For a more sustained critique, direct yourselves to the Comics Curmudgeon's FBoFW archives.