For better or worse, comics make mornings

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dressed in his space uniform our hero suddenly finds himself sitting inside a small black box at what appears to be an average kitchen table.

Beside him is his striped tiger co-conspirator.

His eyes dart around to survey the scene.

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Suddenly from the edges of the black wavy frame comes mom, with a plate of &8212; Bleech!! &8212; peas.

She sets the plate down. She disappears.

The hero blinks his eyes.

The mass of green on his plate suddenly quivers.

A quizzical look comes over our hero&8217;s face as the pile of peas transforms into a 6-foot green monster. It opens it mouth to engulf the spaceman and his tiger friend.

Our hero turns on his jet pack and bursts off the page. As he looks down, the black boxes below become a multicolored patchwork landscape.

Like the arc of a cannonball, our hero dives into another box below.

What??? Suddenly his costume changes. No longer a 5-year-old space hero he is now a scraggly bearded Viking, fully dressed in his battle gear.

With a quick look to his right he sees marauders hurling toward him with swords and battle axes.

He runs with his companion, Lucky to escape.

As he hits the black frame, he suddenly transforms again.

What now, he asks?

A red dog house? A yellow bird? A round headed boy with a striped shirt?

Good grief!

Such was the morning life and imagination of

Ben Hillyer

, 12-year old comic page reader.

Before the school books were stacked, the lunch boxes packed and sometimes, I hate to say, the pajamas were off, I would sit down with my friends &8220;Calvin and Hobbes,&8221; &8220;Hagar the Horrible&8221; and &8220;Peanuts&8221; and laugh at the antics of these comic page characters.

Almost like a housewife watching her soaps on TV, no morning was complete without discovering what adventurous roads these characters were exploring.

And although my life has become considerably more complicated than when I was a teenager, I still catch a glimpse of what some of my favorite cartoon buddies are up to.

It still is one of my morning rituals. One thing I hate more than anything is to change my morning routine.

That is why, like the end of &8220;Calvin and Hobbes&8221; and the death of &8220;Peanuts&8221; creator Charles Schulz, I feel distraught when some of my cartoon family packs up to head into the black and white unknown.

Such is the case when I received an e-mail from former Natchez Democrat editor Kerry Bean this week with the message &8220;Noooooooo!&8221;

I clicked on the attached link in the message and there popped up the headline, &8220; &8216;Better, Worse&8217; creator ready for last laughs.&8221;

According to the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press, &8220;For Better or For Worse&8221; comic strip creator Lynn Johnston will put up her pen and India ink next fall after 28 years of drawing the strip.

During the most recent redesign of The Democrat, there was a brief discussion about whether any of the paper&8217;s comics should change. That is when Bean divulged her love of &8220;For Better, For Worse.&8221; If any comic strip changed, that would not be one of them, she said emphatically.

I have to confess, that I came to the comic strip about the Patterson family late. Only in the past few years has it become a regular stop on my morning comic strip run.

Johnston, who turns 60 next year, considered finding another artist to continue the strip, she told the Grand Rapid Press. She also considered finding an artist that might take over drawing from Michael&8217;s (the oldest son) point of view.

&8220;But ultimately I decided I would like to stop,&8221; she told the newspaper.

Fortunately plans are in the works to continue the strip as a hybrid of some of Johnston&8217;s earlier, little seen work along with some new work. It&8217;s a good thing. I&8217;d hate to change my morning routine.

Ben Hillyer

is the visual editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at