The interesting thing about reading the new-ruins is that not only do Phil, Annie and Ted become ancillary characters that Lynn only trotted out to remind us of the strip’s history, Mike's friends are also pretty much peripheral to the action. It seems to me that the three of them can best be described less as people and more as personifications:
- We start, of course, with Lawrence Poirier. As you know, he used to be fairly central to the story but, as the story shifted from a chronicle of the Patterson's history to the frantic quest Elly embarked upon to marry Mike and Liz off before her brain liquefied one second after she turned sixty, his importance decreased. The last time he was really important was when he outed himself; after that, he stopped being a character and started being a creature of the Pattersons who existed to provide them things and show off how progressive they are.
- Much the same thing happened to Gordon Mayes; he too changed from being Mike's friend to personification of the abused child to simply the Best Investment John Ever Made. All he was good for after 2000 was to provide employement for Awfulny and give the Pattersons a great deal on an import car.
- The last person to change from person to device to walking vending machine was Josef Weeder; he started out as a sort of younger, scruffier version of Doctor Ted, Professional Bachelor only to be humanized as a Sensitive Artist trying his best not to be a sell-out and take up chartered accountancy. He ended up as pretty much the Official Photographer of the Settlepocalypse.
The odd thing about this is that the same Elly who looked gobsmacked because Mike admitted that he hung out with Lawrence because he had cool toys is the same one who thought of these three men not as people with wants and needs but, well, as dispensers of favors.