For Better or For Worse: House Fire

Lea Hernandez criticizes the comic strip For Better or For Worse‘s current storyline, which involves the house Michael and Deanna are renting having a fire. Hernandez lost her own house in a fire in September, so this hits close to home for her.

When I read the beginning of the FBoFW storyline – before seeing Hernandez’ post – my reaction was “Geez, isn’t this kind of over the top?” FBoFW’s appeal is mainly that it’s a slice-of-life story about its characters, and while there have been a few exceptional events (Michael and Deanna hooking up because she was in a car accident, for instance), I think this story has the potential to go rather too far. Especially since it’s coming on the heels of an extended episode in which Elly’s father Jim had a stroke. It’s one trauma too many.

By the way, the For Better or For Worse web site is, uh, one of the more poorly-designed pro sites I’ve seen lately: Extremely busy design, so much going on it’s very hard to focus on individual items. And it’s all compacted down to a small amount of screen space. It could really use a redesign to make it more spacious and friendlier.

Apparently creator Lynn Johnston has also been writing letters from the characters for a couple of years, I guess to flesh out the story beyond what appears in the strip. Although I enjoy the strip a lot (I own all the collections), that seems excessive to me; I’m only really interested in what actually appears in the strip. Rather than writing all those letters, wouldn’t it have been more fun (for the readers, and lucrative for her) to have spent that time drawing a FBoFW graphic novel or something?

The comments by others in Hernandez’ post are pretty harsh regarding FBoFW, not unjustifiably so. I think it’s still a fun strip, but it loses its way from time to time. I have read (as commented on in the thread) that Johnston plans to end the strip when Michael’s kids are about the same age as Michael and Deanna were when the strip began (probably in about a year), so I guess one could see the next year or so as being Johnson tying up loose ends. That could be a good thing… or a bad thing. (Having dealt with Jim’s stroke, I think it would be a very bad thing if she decides to squeeze his death into the strip’s final days.)

Mostly I wish Johnston would tone down the traumatic episodes and get the strip back to being a fun slice-of-life piece again.

4 thoughts on “For Better or For Worse: House Fire”

  1. For the past few months, I’ve felt like FBOFW has been heading down the road of soap opera. Each of the individual traumas would have been fine, and previous traumas have made sense in the context of the strip, but all of these in such a short time frame? I’m just not enjoying it as much. And her recent thing of having one of the characters look directly into the camera (as it were) in the last panel and make a pithy or funny comment has just been overdone lately.

    There are elements of the website that I really like. The complete archives of five years’ worth of strips is very nice. I like the monthly view of the strips as well, since it’s a great way to catch up. But the layout of the site leaves a lot to be desired, and I don’t get the point of a lot of the content (including those letters).

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