The For Better or For Worse Face

Long before Bryan Lee O’ Malley became Canada’s prime exporter of hip comics, there was Saturday paper OG Lynn Johnston. I’ll let the ol’ Wiki tell you all the pertinent facts about her.

Johnston’s comics were most well known for taking on a socially conscious pallet of issues while maintaining the feel of suburban family life. FBFW wasn’t a wacky strip, but it did have a more lighthearted side, particularly when Johnston wrote about young parenthood.

The jokes were pretty well-crafted and stuck to a traditional comedic structure, but the punchline had a very distinct companion. About 90% of the strips featured one of the characters making a specific facial expression:

A cross between dumbfounded, bewildered, and shocked, the face makes an appearance in the vast majority of FBFW comics. There’s a few telltale characteristics to it:

  • the droopy, elongated face
  • mouth right at the bottom of the face
  • eyes widened
  • stress lines outside the eyes
  • the bizarre motion lines above the back of the head that make it seem like the person is wibble-wobbling back and forth like one of those springy door-stoppers that’s just been flicked.

They’re not always all present, but you do get the holy grail sometimes:

It’s the mom that seems to be affected more often than not:

But the dad does his fair share of facin’ too:

Here we see the dad’s whole body is quivering in disbelief

Sometimes you get two in one strip!

Even the dog’s afflicted with it!

And it’s not just the Patterson family either:

Medically minded professionals might call this Johnston Syndrome, but I just call it: The For Better or For Worse Face.