The strip’s unique quality was verisimilitude. (it’s okay, go look it up I’ll wait) Characters got older, changed, and even DIED. Yes they died, Elly’s mother died, Farley died, Grandpa Jim had a stroke etc, etc…just like life. and damn it I cried. a COMIC strip made me cry, hell books don’t even make me cry. Just sappy movies and humans on the moon make me cry. But a comic strip? comic strips were traditionally one off panels, you could skip Wizard of Id for years and it would be the still the same when you returned.
The only strip I ever followed religiously was Bloom County, that day in 1989 when would be no more adventures of Opus and Steve and Bill the Cat, sent me into a fit of depression. But the reality was that anything THAT good, burned brightly and afterward could only waiver between points of greatness and disappointment (a la Doonesbury), so it ended and it was still good. But it never had the depth of verisimilitude of For Better or Worse, it didn’t LOOK like our world – maybe Bill the Cat, but I have yet to find a talking penguin.
For Better or Worse got a lot more interesting as it got older, or maybe I just found it so, because I have never been a stay at home mom, even in my fantasies. Elizabeth became a teacher and spent time teaching in Canada’s ‘bush’, Michael became a novelist with 2 kids, John finally retired from Dentistry to play with his trains, Elly sold her bookstore, despite various traumas and life changes, all of the children in the strip grew up into successful middle class adults, even Deanna’s mother became less annoying. And you know April will be a successful musician. How disturbing is that, that one uses comic strip characters as a yardstick for what ‘real life’ looks like?
I could go on, I know more about these characters than I do my own family. I have no idea how many children my cousins have produced nor even what they do for money. I find these people less interesting than the ones Lynn Johnston created. Perhaps because they the best examples of three dimensional people represented in two dimensions.
Good thing I still have Stone Soup, I hope it lasts me until I don’t need my daily comic strip jones anymore.