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For Better or For Worse to begin ‘new-runs’
In an interview with For Better or For Worse, Lynn Johnston outlines what to expect after the “end” of the current For Better or For Worse on August 31st. The next phase of FBoFW is being called “new-runs” since Lynn offer new comic strips drawn in her old, original drawing style of when the feature began 29 years ago.
“Everything in September is new,” said Lynn, “the punch lines, the drawing, all are new. The only thing retro is the way I’m drawing everything. I want it to flow into the classic material seamlessly.”
“This first year, the ratio of old to new will be at least 50-50,” explains Lynn. “I want this to be the best thing I’ve ever done, and I’m having so much fun drawing Lizzie as a baby again and revisiting all the characters.”
“For a generation of new readers unfamiliar with ‘For Better or For Worse,’ it’s a chance to begin an exciting journey; for current fans, it’s a chance to relive their favorite episodes,” says Lee Salem, president and editor of Universal Press Syndicate, Lynn’s syndicate. One such episode is the adoption of Farley, the Patterson’s beloved dog. That will come in October.
For the past year, Lynn’s widely syndicated comic strip has been a blend of new and old storylines.
“At first I thought that I could segue back and forth from today to yesterday, but that became very confusing. Some people really enjoyed it and some just wanted us to get on with the story,” she says.
Lynn will select material from her collection of almost 10,000 archival strips to help retell the Patterson family’s story as her longtime fans remember it, pausing in spots to update references that seem confusing or even to flesh out characters she didn’t explore in the first telling.
“I’m starting right at the very beginning-when Elizabeth was a little crawling baby and couldn’t say too much, and Michael was in kindergarten,” she adds. “I’m a better storyteller now, and I want to … improve the storyline or take a piece of art and make it better. What a luxury to change, fix and to augment. I’m such a perfectionist; I want to put my hands on it and have it tweaked here and there.”
Lynn says that a change in her marital status changed her mind about retiring completely.
“At this time in my life I thought I would be on a cruise ship to Panama or the Mediterranean, retired with my Tilley hats, my sneakers. But I’m a single lady now, and I want to keep working,” she says. “Because I don’t have to work 365 days of new material into a year, I can still take some time off to paint and travel.”
“I’m considering this a renewal, not a retirement,” she adds.
Over the years, not only did her characters age in real time in the strip, but Lynn’s art style changed, too.
“When I first started the strip, the comic’s style was fast and loose, probably because I was so busy and I had to get it out fast,” she says. “It had a happy freedom to it. What I’m experiencing now by redrawing, it’s almost like I’m drawing portraits. I’m changing John’s jaw. And over the years, Elly’s nose grew up to the size of a potato. Now, I’m drawing it smaller again, the way it was when I first started to draw. There is a huge difference between the earlier and the later styles.”
“For Better or For Worse” has been syndicated since December 1979. In 1985, Lynn became the first woman to receive the Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year from the National Cartoonists Society. She has also received the Order of Canada and claims a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. This summer, Lynn was inducted into the “Giants of the North” — the Canadian Cartoonists’ Hall of Fame. She lives in Ontario.
“For Better or For Worse” now appears in more than 2,000 papers around the world. Read by people of all ages, the award-winning comic strip deals honestly with both the lighthearted and the serious, and has effectively brought families together for laughter, tears and dialogue. Lynn has produced 46 books about her strip, and her strip has been adapted into six animated television specials and a popular animated series.