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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 08/15/2008

The Morning Line: The Riffy Awards (For Better or for Worse)

By Michael Cavna

Much business to take care of today, so let's get right to it...

First, many within the cartooning community are a-chattering over this week's announcement that beginning Sept. 1, "For Better or For Worse" will move into what is being dubbed "new-runs." What in the name of Farley is a "new-run," you ask? According to creator Lynn Johnston, she will retell the entire saga of the Patterson clan "from the beginning, eventually blending at least half of the classic original comic strips with new material."

"I'm starting right at the very beginning -- when Elizabeth was a little crawling baby and couldn't say too much, and Michael was in kindergarten," says Johnston, according to the syndicate's news release. She later adds: "I'm considering this a renewal, not a retirement." You can listen to Lynn explain the decision herself:

We've received some feedback from you already about this news -- some readers are relieved that Johnston isn't retiring, and other commenters (sound off, "whosis") are ready to rant. Is Lynn's decision for the better or for the worse? We invite all your Comments.


Time now to get to the Riffy Awards. This week, no singular gag stood above the best for us. As for the best art, however, we rather fancied:

GET FUZZY: Bucky Katt shows us what he really thinks of us. (UFS)Enlarge Comic

SAUCIEST PERSPECTIVE: In all the panels of the all cat strips through all the years, we can't EVER recall see a verbally sneering cat drawn quite like Bucky in the second panel. Darby was inspired -- but by what type of snarky fuzzbutted beast, exactly, we won't ask.

BREWSTER ROCKIT: The Ribbon Menace? Who knew Darth had so much rhythm? (TMS)Enlarge Comic

BIGGEST DOUBLE-TAKE IMAGE: Major points for freshness -- here's the week's other image we've never-ever glimpsed before: Darth in the payoff panel. "Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Gymnast"? "Star Wars Episode III: Ribbon of the Sith"? (You're surely got much-better spoof movie titles for this image than our lame-o ones -- bring 'em on.) And this image prompts us to ask: "Yoda with that rope and hoop, he is good?"

What're your picks for this week's Riffys? Our 'Line is now open...

By Michael Cavna  | August 15, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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How does Bucky poop?

I thought the art in today's Cul de Sac was great. Which leads me to....

* We have C&H and PBS. Cul de Sac needs a tla (three letter acronym). From this day forward, I shall write CdS. I expect it to be a major time-savor.

* CdS (see?) has a nice double-punch. So does Pooch Cafe. Scott Adams packs more double laughs into a strip than anyone; Conley is definitely number 2. But it was fun to laugh, stop long enough to read the rest of the strip and start again. Twice.

* and back on yesterday's paean to C&H, my dream is to one day walk into a bookstore and see a new C&H collection with a simple note from Watterson: I wanted to share these great ideas I've had over the last 13 years."

Posted by: f2 | August 15, 2008 7:33 AM | Report abuse

Did I really right "time-savor"? I meant "time-savior". :)

And I need that stray quote back. I'm one short in this other diatribe I'm writing.

This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.

Posted by: f2 | August 15, 2008 7:38 AM | Report abuse

I'll say it again; Lynn Johnson has become George Lucas. And look what HE just dumped in a theater near you.

Posted by: whosis | August 15, 2008 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Just what we need, For Better or For Worse: The Director's Cut.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 15, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Anderson has been mixing old work in with the new for months. I feel that Al Kapp set the standard with Li'l Abner. The strip died with him, with no reruns. When a strip ends or the original artist retires/dies it should make room for new talent. I really miss C&H and Far Side, but admire the authors for shutting them down.

Posted by: AlabamaYankee | August 15, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

What an artist (especially one of Lynn Johnston's stature) decides to do with her remaining days is up to her, but I am dumbfounded by her plans (and her publicist must be nervous, too, else why bother with a video press release). Narratively, it sounds as though she's declaring bankruptcy, she's resetting her story clock and recycling her favorite bits, right? But then she leaves herself an outlet for new gags, if inspiration should strike. Why should readers care to wait for (or try to spot) such gems?

Visually, she's retreating into the style her less-skilled past compelled... for continuity? No, because even the most practiced forgery will inevitably show differences, and the comparison will be the worse for her -- either by showing up her youthful naivete (if the reprocessed work turns out better, as it should) or by giving ammunition to her detractors.

So, this would seem to be the 'for worse' aspect of FBOFW, surely as lame an idea as the clueless conceit behind "Clone Wars." Hey, we could easily improve it with today's abilities, but why strive for excellence when we can produce more schlock? I always thought the strip's strength was that it allowed readers to see relationships mature and progress. You could even dig into the archives and watch Johnston's characters, story, situations, and art grow in sophistication. What's the point in choosing to mark time, treading water? She presumably has financial security, so even if she lacks ambition to continue the FBOFW story or to embark on a new or different project (even adapting a previous story into a new medium like film or a photo-book), there ought to be better options available left than to sabotage her legacy by reprocessing it.

Posted by: Bruce Falk | August 15, 2008 8:44 AM | Report abuse

I'm divided over the plan for FBoFW, which has actually been in place for some time now.

One of the drawbacks to cartooning is there's really no retirement policy: you either fold the strip or, in the case of Charles Schulz, literally produce the strip until you're on your deathbed. Then there's Bil Keane, who had one of his sons take over the Family Circus family business.

The quality of FBoFW is so high compared to a lot of other strips -- I've always admired Lynn's realistic use of gesture and understanding of how the human body moves that isn't as pedantic as a Mark Trail strip -- that I think reading the strips to come will be like watching M*A*S*H reruns: something to enjoy even if you've seen them so often you know them by heart.

Posted by: Daniel J. Drazen | August 15, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

One of the things that always set FBOW apart from other strips was the artwork. It was very rich and detailed which made it fun to look at. The socalled newruns from what I've seen is sorely lacking in that area. I hate to say this but it's like I've got my spot in the papers and I wont give it up, I'll just make easier to draw and hope the gags work.
As she said, she just wants to keep her hand in. Good luck with that.

Posted by: ease99 | August 15, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I'm starting to sound like a broken record, and this is off-topic, but can Tank McNamara get any more backward this week? Making fun of the Chinese is fine with me, but using an "Asian" font for the speech of Chinese judges...very 1950s. Grow up, Millar & Hinds.

Posted by: William | August 15, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Starting in September, FBoFW will be like Agnes, Peanuts or the soap strips - dead to me. I'll skip over it, not even looking at what it is. The editors could make it easier by moving all the strips I don't read to one page so I can skip it.

Posted by: Hemisphire | August 15, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

fr Hemisphere:

>Starting in September, FBoFW will be like Agnes, Peanuts or the soap strips - dead to me. I'll skip over it...<

I suggest that you don't read it, then. Thousands of people find it a worthwhile strip, MUCH better than the lame "fusco brothers". We cried when Farley died saving April from drowning, we loved it when Michael referred to Elizabeth as "Lizard breath", etc.

Posted by: Alex | August 15, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I enjoyed FBOW until it was clear that Elizabeth was going to marry that nerd who previously dumped her, got married, had a kid, and got divorced.

I can understand father fixations, but why didn't she just marry her dad?

Posted by: FBOW | August 16, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

As for the Riffy awards, I thought Mutts deserved an award for the worst puns this week regarding Mussels.

Posted by: Ollabelle | August 17, 2008 8:53 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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