Excellence in Achievement...or, at least, Miss Congeniality

Joseph "Joe" Pulitzer
Pulitzer Prize Office
709 Journalism
Columbia University
New York, New York 10027

Dear Joe:

I would like to nominate today's edition of "For Better or For Worse" by Lynn Johnston for one of your patented Pulitzer Prizes, in the category of "Distinguished cartoon published during the year" (#12 on your list of award categories -- after international reporting. How bogus!).

This strip is a masterpiece in cutting edge humor and social commentary, containing in just five cramped frames all the elements of a brilliant daily comic strip installment.

Rip-roaring humor. Look at frame 4: Lovey Saltzman says, "Come by." Then, look -- in frame 5 she says "come by" once again. I chuckle even as a type the words again. "Come by." Oh, man, that is so rich.

Skillful artwork. The eyes. The lips. The uniquely proportioned posteriors. The influence of Matisse and Picasso are obvious. Plus, also the guy who used to draw those "Love Is..." comics -- what was his name again?

Long-overdue recognition of vertically endowed people. Speaking of skillful artwork, in frame 1, it appears Lovey is just four or five inches shorter than the door jam, which means she's probably about 6 feet tall or so. (That's about 183 centimeters in Canada.) In frames 2 and 4, Michael Patterson clearly is significantly taller than her, meaning he's probably 7 feet (213 centimeters) tall. What other comic strip is willing to feature characters who are seven feet tall? Other than "Marvin," of course.

Diverse ethnic references. In previous installments, Lovey Salzman has been portrayed as being of Jewish descent. Yet today, she brings by perogies, Ukranian sandwiches generally filled with meat and cheese and not traditionally associated with Jews. I've seen future strips where Lovey brings by shrimp nachos, cheeseburgers and pork rinds. ("Oy, you want I should take back my pork rinds -- what am I, chopped liver?" she intones.) The committee should recognize Johnston's skillful technqiue of simultaneously conforming to ethnic stereotypes and ignoring them.

Superfluous characters. The strip portrays a dialogue between two people -- Lovey and Michael Patterson who is a very famous senior editor. (You should also take a look at Portrait magazine -- its article about a model named Sofia may also be worthy of your consideration.) Yet, count 'em, there are six people crammed into these frames. No reason, none of the other four say or do anything. It's as if the artist is saying, "I can draw whomever I want, whenever I want, being held by whomever I want."

Skillful writing. In the last frame, Lovey says "When you're ready to sign that, come by." Yet, it's not clear if she's talking about Michael signing the "lease agreement" (notice the clever use of unnecessary words, since a lease is an agreement) or the perogie. That, my dear Mr. Pulitzer, is subtlety. Oh, and seeing the words "come by" just made me laugh again.

This craftsmanship, on display every day in FBOFW (double-size on Sundays), explains not only why FBOFW is one of the most popular strips around (regularly outpolling "The Lockhorns" and "Momma" in popularity polls), but how it has fostered what is nearly a cottage industry of web sites making fun of it.

In closing, let me just say that if you do not bestow this honor on Lynn Johnston for the March 11 installment of "For Better or For Worse," you and your fellow commmittee members are, with respect, total foobs.

My regards to Mrs. Pulitzer and all the little prizes.


Elly's Revenge

  • Today's strip

    Blogger Buster Bear said...

    Tomorrow’s strip: Lovey returns with a ½ side of beef, $20,000 in gold coins and the deed to the apartment building. “Just come on over,” she says to Mike, with a coy wink.

    7:24 PM  
    Blogger Paula said...

    WTF has happened to FBOFW? I stopped reading it years ago, but then recently stumbled on the website and have started following it again. Remember when it was funny, (ok, funny in a tame sort of way, but charming nonetheless)? Remember when you could enjoy each individual strip, and even if you'd never seen it before it didn't matter because it wasn't just lame soap opera? Look at the "Time Travel" section on the FBOFW website - you can find older strips from the 70's and 80's. Now there's too much dialogue, too drawn out storylines, and too little funny. But I like this website. This website makes it funny....

    9:44 PM  
    Anonymous Charles Whitney said...

    What happened is that it went from much more of a chronological, silly gag a day strip to a soap opera strip with punchlines. And the characters weren't well developed enough to sustain interesting storylines for the soap opera. Whether this is because LJ doesn't do characterization well or because she's too much in love with her characters (based on her own family), or some other explanation, I don't know. They definitely do lack depth and a third dimension.

    But the problem is that she really can't portray negative traits in the Pattersons, and in the Patterson family's friends. Nor can she portray storylines that end badly for Pattersons or their friends. This may be because she has an emotional attachment and it'd be too painful for her to have something unpleasant happen to one of the Pattersons without there being some larger counterbalancing good to come from it, but that doesn't explain characters like Mira and Therese and Kortney who really have no redeeming, sympathetic qualities whatsoever. Perhaps that's just because when the villains do get put in their place, there's no way a Patterson or one of their friends comes off negatively from the resolution. If you portrayed villains and heroes with shades of grey, this sort of thing would happen.

    It used to be an amusing strip most of the time. I look back at the archive strips they have at the official site and find them amusing. They're not life changing or laugh-out-loud funny, but they are amusing. Now it seems as if we're supposed to learn a lesson or that we're supposed to care about comic strip characters as we would real people or something, and it just comes off as preachy, or treacly, or something, but definitely not funny.

    Perhaps that's it.

    12:50 AM  
    Anonymous LC said...

    Oh, I am so thrilled you're back! I was convinced I'd managed to help shut down the old site (I wrote the "Monthly Letter To You" parody as well as the Roadside Gig) though I didn't link the images -- whoever promoted me out of comments did that. I haven't even been able to read the strip because there was no point! Now I'm going to have to catch up on a month's worth of strips!

    12:49 PM  
    Anonymous Sourbelly said...

    Mmmmm.... Nothing tastier than misspelled pierogies on a piping hot lease agreement!

    7:54 AM  
    Blogger Visaman666 said...

    That was the funniest thing I ever read, and it's not the 222's talking(I swear it isn't)!

    8:10 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Actually, pierogies are eaten throughout Eastern Europe, and are associated with Jews, although not exclusively so.

    10:18 AM  

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