Monday, August 23, 2004

The Most Surreal Strip

"Zippy the Pinhead" might have a claim as the world's most surreal comic, but my vote would be for the "so normal, it's bizarre", strip, "For Better or for Worse" by Lynn Johnston, which I read religiously every morning.

FboFW eerily violates every precept of a daily comic strip. It's set in Canada (Canada?). It has month-long, meandering story arcs whose original plots I've forgotten by the time they end. The characters - all somewhat pudgy unisex types - are drawn and act so similarly that I have trouble differentiating them from each other. The only name I can ever remember is "April."

A month in a typical FBoFW story might have April's boyfriend, April, a helicopter pilot, flying in to her graduation ceremony, before she goes to teach the Aprilapril Indian tribe in the far North. Meanwhile, April receives a motorcycle on loan from her mechanic, April, to the delight of her little sister, April, who is secretly in love with her brother's photographer friend, April. Meanwhile, old April falls down the stairs in her candy shop, while her dog April howls for help. April's grandfather, April, grouchily reminisces about when he used to be a hot item on the guitar.

I think what I like most is Johnston's earnest attempts at humor. You can tell she's almost completely without a sense of humor, but still tries her best. Sometimes she delivers punch lines that fall as flat as a Thanksgiving dinner joke told by your drunk Uncle Harry. Sometimes after three panels of set-up, there isn't any punch line at all.

It's kind of like life itself. Surrealism masqueradiing as normalcy. Punch lines you never get. Maybe that's why I like FBoFW so much.

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