Comic Collection Review: For Better or for Worse the Complete Library Volume 1 by Lynn Johnston

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I sit before a wooden table, handcrafted centuries ago by a dedicated Root Beer Monk and positioned here back then to bear the weight of the study and knowledge of mankind’s greatest achievement:  Comics.

All around me are shelves which reach beyond sight packed with volumes from time immemorial, from the cave sketching’s of our primitive ancestors to the modern masterpieces of the enlightened age.  It is humbling to be a Root Beer Party Member and have access to this vast collection of comic art.  For centuries the dedicated Root Beer Monks have dedicated themselves to preserving these great treasures of human accomplishment.  There are pieces from all over the world, from the Maya codices of the Yucatán to the Library of Nishapur, the dedicated Root Beer Monks rescued the comic manuscripts from lost libraries throughout the history of the world.

Now only the esteemed members of the Root Beer Party may enter this sacred repository and partake of the true history of comics, for this is The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archive.

Today we look at a new entry into the sacred halls of comic history.  For Better or for Worse volume one covers the beginning years of one of the most popular comics in modern history.  This is the volume which defines the world created by Lynn Johnston in this classic series.  It would expand in the years to come and tackle topical issues and even be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, but that was to come much later in the series.  This volume covers and defines the spirit of the strip and introduces the main characters which will be the focal point of the decades to come.

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They say that to be a powerful artist one must be willing to speak truth to power and Lynn Johnston did just that, her comic spoke truth to a world which was in the waking period of a social revolution.  The old classic values are strongly represented in this work, but the are constantly being questioned, not through any great historical moment, but through the day to day drudgery of family life.  Real change in the world does not come from the protests in the streets or the ivory towers of academia or even the hallowed halls of power and politics, it comes from the ordinary people who live their lives day by day and how they change their view of the world.  History does not happen in a moment, it is a long slow process of acclimation and progress and For Better or for Worse is the perfect example of modern values and ideologies coming into conflict and being adapted to the traditional views.

Life is the same process for everyone.  There are the same events which we all share in our lives as we are born and raised and finally go off into the world, this comic represents a generation where these same societal rites of passage occur, how they change and ultimately how they stay the same.

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What on the surface looks like a gag a day strip of family life is really a snapshot of the world of the 1980’s and 90’s.  The major events argued about by historians are glossed over without hardly any mention, but the important things, the memories of family and friends and all of our daily struggles and triumphs are front and center in this comic.  This is what is remembered by people, these are the humorous stories told over the holiday tables and passed down from generation to generation.

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What appears to be a comical aside is in fact a true historical marker that you will not find in any history book.  The personal injustices which define one’s character growing up are looked back upon with humor as the characters develop and mature through the passage of time.  Lynn Johnston wrote a comic about family life, but in the end, that is really all there is to humanity.  Our families are not always defined by marriage certificates or bloodlines, but rather by the people who were there for us at those pivotal personal historical moments which defined who we were to become.

For Better or for Worse was a comic which explored the changing family dynamic, from it’s very traditional roots to the evolutionary state of flux that it would eventually become.  It is written in real time, meaning the characters age and progress along with the passage of time and is strongly based on the life of Lynn Johnston.  Lynn Johnston did more than speak truth to power as an artist, she spoke truth to herself, and that is what makes this comic and this collection an important work in the history of comics and a worthy entry into The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.

So I turn this volume over to the Root Beer Party Monks which tend to the archives and return once more to the world above.  A frosty mug of the elixir of life, root beer awaits as I make my way through the labyrinth of tunnels which lead upwards to the surface.  I highly recommend this collection for all of you True Believers out there, it will become a welcome and treasured addition to your own comic archives.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

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