Everyone else can bring the funny in the comments. I’m going to be talking Srs Bidness.
I wanted to take Saturday to comment on the often noticed elephant in the room: Darrin replacing Ann Fairgood with Dead St. Lisa as ‘Mom’. Because we all know Jess in today’s strip is referring to the Dead St. Lisa looming in the background and not poor Ann Fairgood.
First things first, I don’t think it’s entirely unheard of for adopted people who reconnected in a positive way with birth-parents to go on to call them ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’, even while they also still call their adoptive parents ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’. I know Darrin only knew Lisa as his birth-mother for a few weeks or months, but perhaps the ticking clock intensified their re-connection relationship, like some kind of summer camp ending in death. I can buy that they loved each other, and as mother and son. And I don’t think Batiuk really intended to indicate that he loved the Fairgoods less because of it.
So the problem really isn’t that Darrin calls Lisa ‘Mom.’ The problem is that the elder Fairgoods have disappeared into the very background of Funkyverse over the last couple years, while Darrin, Ghost Lisa, and Les have remained center stage. The last mention of the Fairgoods was all the way back in March, when Darrin calls Les up telling him that he’s coming out to visit, “mom and dad.” But we don’t get to see that visit. Instead we get to see Darrin visit his bio-mom’s husband and reminisce about his dead bio-mom, all to set up for the Lisa Trilogy Boxset Special Extended Edition product placement.
Mr. Fred Fairgood had his stroke in January of 2013, and at the time I thought they were setting up for a copy of a FOOB storyline. Anyone remember when Grandpa Jim had a stroke? It was handled with pathos and humor, and his long, incomplete, recovery was shown in detail, and affected the rest of the strip. And when I am comparing a strip negatively to late-run For Better Or For Worse, you know it done messed up.
Batiuk failed to follow through. A close perusal of the archives here and on Comics Curmudgeon sees the Fairgoods taking a very active part in the investigation of Scumbag Bio-Dad in 2013, and being there for some Baby Skyler stuff, and that’s about it. He petered out involving the Fairgoods in anything by 2014. And you know what else happened around 2014? Holly Winkerbean’s Starbuck Jones Collecting Mania.
Now the strip more or less revolves around six or seven characters. Les, Bull, Funky, Dead St. Lisa, Darrin, Pete, Masone, Cindy, and Mutha Fukkin Starbuck Jones. Darrin is important because Starbuck Jones, and Lisa is important because Lisa’s Legacy is Batiuk’s Legacy, and his cash cow. And for Tom pointing out the biological connection between the two characters is easy and obvious. Probably compulsive at this point too. Lisa consumes all.
And it’s why Frankie the evil Bio-Dad showed up, twice, once even in reference to Starbuck Jones. And, most importantly, why he had to be evil in the first place. Making Lisa’s pregnancy the result of date-rape not only allows her to maintain her moral purity, (making Darrin an emotionally ‘virgin’ birth,) but makes it almost obligatory that Darrin and everyone else reject Frankie. There is no simpler way to negate his fatherhood. As a bonus it gives Batty an easy total monster in a strip rather devoid of them. But above all it tosses Frankie out of the equation, keeping the Darrin and Lisa and Breast Cancer connection strong.
If Batty simply wanted Lisa to live on in her children, then he would involve Summer more. But the last few years even Summer has been very intermittent, because she has nothing to do with Starbuck Jones and is stuck in college, which Batiuk couldn’t care less about. He likes Darrin. Darrin is a bland, generally happy, everyman who could hypothetically do anything Tom Batiuk would want story-wise, comicsfanboy-wise. There’s a reason we call him Boy Lisa after all.