Sally Forth in the Year 2025: The Flash-Forward Story Arc
Contrary to standard opinion, the characters of Sally Forth do indeed age. Sure, maybe not in the rather realistic manner of For Better or Worse, Gasoline Alley or the reverse progeria that defined Dondi. Or via the permanent time leaps of Funky Winkerbean or that unpublished Mary Worth story in which the ghost of the now centuries-dead titular character continues to advise the A.I. automaton residents of a stilt-city Charterstone Condominium Complex. Or like our own ceaseless narrative march as our skin cells slough off like so many goals, our bones become less dense as our concerns become all the more pressing, and our literal and metaphorical hearts stiffen until one day we simply, quietly, without fanfare, fall off our chair like Michael Corleone at the end of The Godfather III. (Note: The previous sentence was written in no way to depress you or encourage you to watch The Godfather III.)
But the fact is the characters in Sally Forth have gotten older. In the last 17 years both Sally and Ted have gone from age 35 to 42. Hilary has aged from eight to someone always on the verge of turning 13. And even the newest cast member, Jackie and Ralph’s baby Bettina, aged one full year within her actual first year in the strip.
Of course, it is rather odd that Bettina aged when no one else in the comic did. Or that Hilary aged almost five years in the very same period her parents aged seven, perhaps suggesting a deep freeze—or deep space—subplot. And frankly, the characters can only age so much without changing the very strip itself, resulting in both an absence of potential plots and a time continuum issue that will rear its head yet again in 2025 when the characters are either still nearly the same age they are now or the comic has been wrested from my control by the very same automatons who wisely invested in Charterstone Condominium Complex right before the Santa Royale, California real estate boom.
Which brings us to the very idea of Sally Forth in the year 2025 and a professional cartooning technique that we in the industry like to call by its technical nomenclature, “an obvious narrative cheat.” As some of you might have noticed in previous stories, the “fourth wall” of Sally Forth is not a particularly sturdy structure, often broken by Ted Forth. (Which has resulted in the phrase “Forth Wall,” embraced by absolutely no one but me). The fact that it also serves as the strip’s load-bearing wall means that at any moment the entire operation could crumble under the weight of its own self-awareness. That said, this breaking does allow for some ideas that would otherwise not be possible within the confines of a family strip. Plus, it lets me both comment on a week of strips that in the end I didn’t find particularly strong while also serving as the introduction to a much different story arc.
This “cheat,” however, could lead one to wonder if Ted Forth is not only a character in the comic but also its narrator, if not its creator, much like Rosaeanne was revealed to be the author (and reviser) of both her own eponymous show and life, all of St. Elsewhere was shown to be the product of an autistic child’s imagination, and The Brady Bunch was ultimately proven to be the backyard mushroom hallucinations of the family dog Tiger.
But the true goal of the should-have-really-specified-at-the-very-start-non-permanent flash-forward story arc is to let us see a part of the characters’ lives we’d otherwise never experience unless I were to stimulate their aging process right now. But that would involve my breaking into King Features labs and stealing the serum, and first I would have to create the very idea of a King Features lab for me to break into, thereby sending us all down the self-referential rabbit hole once more.
And so starting today begins the short story of Hil, Faye, and Nona in their early 20’s, making their way in a future that involves the smallest apartment possible. To do this, one hard ground rule had to be set. There would be no Back to the Future II/Simpsons future-set episode remarks about how “advanced” the year 2025 might be. You won’t see flying cars (damn), jetpacks (double damn), or Minority Report with the three girls as Precogs (damn well better do one day). In fact, the only true “future” joke is about a TV show that more or less makes fun of this author. Or Ted Forth. Or whoever is really in charge around here. This is a story about characters and not, perhaps sadly, a Moon City.
I hope this flash-forward story will add to your enjoyment of the strip and let you get to know some of the characters even better. If the reaction is positive, we might take a leap into the future again at some point, perhaps focusing on Ted, Sally, and Kitty (who by that point will prove to be a familiar). If the reaction is otherwise, then we can switch to Ted Forth: Secret Agent. Or actual, emotionally-grounded stories. After all, it’s 2015. The future is already here and anything can happen until my editors strongly say otherwise.