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Universal Press suggested “hybrid” to Lynn Johnston
From this article from the Post-Star comes confirmation to what I had suspected – that it was the syndicate that had convinced Lynn Johnston to keep For Better or For Worse going in what is being called a “hybrid” format.
Q: How did this hybrid idea come about?
A: It was suggested to me by Universal Press Syndicate that the strip could run again because there wasn’t anything that was filling that niche. I was surprised. I just assumed that it would end and I would take a bow and that would be it.
It was decided that because I had started with 150 papers and didn’t move up to 2,000 papers until after about 15 years, many papers never took the original work. So many readers never saw the original work.
I respect my editors and appreciate them; I really respect and appreciate my readers; and I also am not dead. So I would like to keep my hand in it.
While I have no information on the internal conversations or the chronology of those discussions – I could imagine some high level discussions inside Universal as they learned that Bill Amend was retiring his daily strip and knowing that Lynn was to retire in the fall of 2007. In the course of one year they could potentially lose 3,000 clients. To void that loss of steady income, I’m sure they were very eager to convince Lynn to keep the strip alive somehow.
Please note that I’m not dissing Universal or Lynn – it’s their product and as long as there is public demand for the strip, they should supply that demand. I do have to take issue with how Lynn responds to critics that say she’s shutting out other features. Here’s what she says:
Q: Some critics have said you should retire altogether to open more space for up-and-coming comic strip artists. How do you answer that?
A: I want to see new work. I want that to happen. If what we’re doing does not free up that space, it’s because somebody hasn’t come along to fill (the family niche).
What I learned from Bill Amend’s retirement is two fold: when a large client list feature retires, it really does accelerate the growth potential for other features (think Lio and Pearls Before Swine). Secondly, it’s quality not genre that takes up the openings. So for Lynn to say that she should stay in the game only because there’s not another quality family strip to take that space is a weak argument.