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For Better or For Worse not to be retired after all

E&P’s Dave Astor has talked to Lynn Johnston about her impending “retirement” from the funny pages this year and learns that the For Better or For Worse feature isn’t going away after all – but will morph into a hybrid type feature that will have both new cartoons mixed with old.

As Dave describes it:

In the hybrid, many previously published “FBorFW” strips and scenes will be reprinted. The jumping-off point for those comics (which could include some redrawn and recolorized content) might be Michael looking at old photos or scrapbooks.

Tom Spurgeon also opines about this announcement:

I’m sort of conflicted about the news as a fan and industry watcher. On the one hand, Johnston seems genuinely pleased by the direction, which is always nice, and you want to be supportive of that. Additionally, the 28-year run of FBoFW pretty much justifies her doing any darn thing she wants, even if it were panel after panel of Anthony kissing Elizabeth for six months after she brought everything else to a halt. On the other hand, I can’t imagine the hybrid form unless very cleverly done will please fans in the same way — there’s a reason why television soap operas are judicious with using old footage — and history has made me not a fan of strips, even great ones, sticking around on the comics page invested with anything less than the cartoonist’s full commitment.

Like Tom, I’m a bit worried about the execution of feature. As much as I’d miss the Patterson family – and I truly would, I was also happy to know that Lynn was going to end the strip so that it doesn’t turn into a tired ol’ legacy strip and to have 2,000+ openings for other features to grow would have been exciting. I guess I’ll have to see what the feature will look like before passing such grim opinion.

UPDATE: The Toronto Star interviews Lynn about this hybrid feature.

Community Comments

#1 ROB
January/9/2007
@ 8:31 am

Why can’t other cartoonist learn from Foxtrot?
FBOFW had the chance to run just Sunday strips and let the weekdays be for new strips finding their niche. Now it looks like its headed for legacy land.

#2 Jonathan
January/9/2007
@ 10:38 am

After the excitement of the Fox Trot (daily) spaces opening up and new features getting a start, this feels like a bucket of cold water.

I’m amazed at the anger over Diesel Sweeties and all you hear from this is the sound of crickets.

#3 lefitte
January/9/2007
@ 12:11 pm

I agree. How much money is enough?

#4 Alex
January/9/2007
@ 12:22 pm

I totally agree. I was actually one of the people who was a bit dismayed by the word that Diesel Sweeties was getting syndicated and I would be remiss to not comment on this announcement as I am just as dissapointed.
I love Lynn’s work, but it is disheartening to aspiring pro’s to now hear that the market her departure would have opened is no longer a reality.
Bucket of cold water indeed!

#5 Mark
January/9/2007
@ 2:17 pm

Jonathan I completely agree with you (and Tom, and the moderator too).

I think it’s a big embarrassment to herself and her legacy, any newspapers that keep running FBOFW, and to the comics industry in general, that she be able to just turn out watered-down, recycled material in place of a real strip. What a cynical ploy to simply keep her massive income stream flowing. With all the comic artists who put their heart and soul into every strip (love them or hate them), that she would monopolize slots with FBOFW dregs, just because she can, is just plain wrong in so many ways. Where has the honor of toonists like Bill Watterson gone?

She should not be allowed to get away with this. imho. And I hope newspapers and their readers don’t let her.

I was once a big fan. No more. She’s sold out.

#6 mark
January/9/2007
@ 7:03 pm

I agree with the “bucket of water” comparison. I have enjoyed reading FBFW for many years and was pleased to read that Johnston was planning to retire the strip. A dignified ending, I thought. Continuing it in some hybrid form is like Lucille Ball’s disasterous attempt to extend a brilliant career. Cartoonists are performers as well. And it’s important to know when to get off the stage.

#7 The Poster Formally known as Mike
January/10/2007
@ 12:41 am

I’ve never really read FBoFW that much, but I have appreciated the fact that other people seem to enjoy it and the craft it takes to create it. That being said, rerunning old strips is just as bad….no scratch that, worse than turning it over to another cartoonist. At least then it would be new material.

Why can’t they just accept the fact that Lynn Johnston is retiring and let the strip go out with dignity?

#8 The Poster Formally known as Mike
January/10/2007
@ 2:47 am

I’m not a regular reader of FboFw, but it seems that many people enjoy it, and I appreciate the craft that goes into it….

THAT being said though, I’m disheartened that rather than letting it go off into the sunset they’d rather rerun old strips. Whats the problem here? Is it that difficult to let a new strip take that place in the paper? Thats an even crummier idea than having a new cartoonist take over the strip. At least if that happened there’d be fresh material. Who makes these decisions? The Syndicates? Are they that bereft of new talent? (I’d find that hard to believe, myself)

#9 Lurker behind the keyboard
January/10/2007
@ 5:14 am

I wonder why some strips never go away when the creator discontinues them. Can’t that space be used for another strip? I find it hard to believe that there aren’t any other decent strips that could replace it.

#10 Pat
January/10/2007
@ 7:12 am

The Poster Formally known as Mike said:

“Is it that difficult to let a new strip take that place in the paper?”

Precisely! Well said.

For Better or For Worse, for those of us who haven’t been following its characters for many years, is a pretty mediocre comic. It’s not funny, it’s not insightful. It seems to depend almost entirely on you caring about the characters and how they interact, which I respect and understand.

But for many of us NON-Lynnaholics, there are MANY far better comics out there.

Now, if Lynn stops character development, then even the Lynnaholics will have no reason to follow the strip (other than some sort of trip down memory lane??).

Well, if a trip down memory lane is what you want, BUY A BOOK!!

If you can’t tell, I am so sick of bad old comics in my newspaper, it drives me NUTS!

There’s great comics talent out there. Newspapers should get with it. Or even old paper-hounds like myself will stop reading them.

#11 Alan Gardner
January/10/2007
@ 1:39 pm

Most who complain about legacy strips (or in this case one that is on the verge of becoming such) view the issue from a consumer/artist mentality. After a year on working this blog and seeing the industry from a business perspective, I can completely understand any cartoonist/syndicate wanting to keep a feature in the paper – no matter how tired the feature has become – as long as it’s profitable.

Here’s what Scott Adams mentioned on his blog today about how he treats “Dilbert”:

Tell us how the years you spent at Berkeley Haas have influenced your strips

A. It hasn’t influenced the strip creatively. But it’s no accident that I have an a Berkeley MBA and Dilbert is the most successful strip (economically) in many years. I run it like a business.

Back when I was in cartooning, I was in it for the love of the art. After spending these last 7 years away from the industry in the business sector I see comics more as commercial products (cartoonist(s) is the producer, syndicates as marketing and delivery, newspapers/public as the consumer). Why would any business savvy cartoonist opt to discontinue a feature that is making money? I always thought Scott Adams was a sell out for slapping Dilbert into every conceivable, licensable product, but now I think he’s the model of what modern cartooning should be – at least those who want a livable income from their creation.

#12 Rich
January/10/2007
@ 9:11 pm

I have to agree with Alan. It’s a business. I don’t like doing the business parts of it, but I think you have to be good at both (usually) to succeed. Scott is brilliant at it. Plus, Dilbert is so much the office of today … he stays relevant.

The FBoFW approach is different than strips where the cartoonist has retired, although a hybrid. If I were running the syndicate, I’d press to keep the profitable strips going … probably even try to keep old strips recirculating. Of course what they will have to evaluate is if this new hybrid approach holds the interest of the reader/editor (or market share anyway).

That being said, I wouldn’t expect any cartoonist trying to get syndicated or increase their audience to like the approach … until they are ready to retire or slow down!

#13 Pat
January/10/2007
@ 10:02 pm

Alan, I agree.

But I don’t think anyone’s arguing it’s not good business for HER and her syndicate that she hang around in some has-been kind of way and grab for all the money she can, kinda like it’s good business for studios to make Rambo 4 or Jaws 6. But for heaven’s sake, who wants to see it?

I just hope fans don’t put up with this, and that papers put a stop to such a cynical attempt to simply take their money without giving their readers a worthwhile product, and run strips where the creator actually cares, and isn’t phoning in half-baked drivel from her yacht.

I don’t care if I absolutely hate a strip – I’d much prefer to see any comic the artist puts his/her heart and soul into than something that’s a just a pure money grab through clutching onto newspaper slots without being willing to do the work.

That’s the most anti-‘artistic’ behavior I can think of, and demeans everything Lynn Johnston used to be about.

#14 Mike Williamson
January/11/2007
@ 11:05 pm

Are we headed for yet another Mary Worth type strip?

Shudder.

#15 Cindermain
January/17/2007
@ 6:32 pm

My wife was a longtime FBOFW reader at one time, so I asked her what she thought about this.

“But that goes against the entire premise of the strip.” she grumbled.

“Exactly,” I said.

“Then I guess *I* won’t start reading it again,” she muttered.

And that’s when the the trained robot zombie ninjas ATTACKED!

Okay, not really. But if one longtime reader reacts this way, how are others going to? It’s disrespectful.

True, Lynn Johnston’s been doing this for years, and has earned the right to do what she wants. But this…this would be the comics equivalent of a neverending television ‘clip show’! Ick!

#16 robert
September/6/2007
@ 9:26 pm

What a cynical society we have become! So what if the strip goes hybrid? The essence of FBOW is about family values. Try growing up in an abusive home, and not having any form of a family. Lynn’s strip helped me through many nights when I was haunted by the nightmares of life. The true fans of the strip see it for what it is worth, a view of the human soul. If you don’t like it, then don’t read it, but quit whining that she is in it for the money. Looking back at life is how all of us do so when our time has come.

#17 Bill S. (Ashburn Stadium)
October/3/2007
@ 6:31 pm

Although this may be stretching the topic somewhat, some posters here have asked why some comics continue well after the cartoonist has either retired or passed away.

For one, why can’t Charles Schulz rest in peace? Peanuts was horrible when I started reading newspapers around the turn of the 1970s, and never improved. Now, the syndicate is running recycled strips from 1959.

Lynn Johnston hasn’t retired – and has given new life to FBOFW, although she is about to take away life from Grandpa Jim, from what I saw in the October 3, 2007 strip. Grandpa Jim and Lisa Moore (Funky Winkerbean) are about to die off on the very same day. Yes, it will be a sad day on the funny pages…

Bill near Philly

#18 Chris H.
October/3/2007
@ 6:46 pm

Bill, personally I am an admirer of Schulz and of “Peanuts,” and the papers have been rerunning some of the strips from the “Golden Age” of the strip (late ’50s and the 1960s). While you dislike the strip, you also asked why the strip has not been completely laid to rest since Schulz passed away.

This is something of a potential debate, I suppose. Even though “Peanuts” ended, it is being re-run. The sames goes for “Calvin and Hobbes” and “One Big Happy.” The question is, should these fondly remembered strips continue to take up newspaper space by being re-run years later or be retired entirely. In the former case, the advantage is that a new generation of comics readers will be exposed to a classic strip in the paper. But the latter case allows newer cartoonists to break in and get more newspapers to carry their strips. The subject is ripe for debate, and keep in mind that “Peanuts Classics” still runs in most newspapers, with editors almost afraid to cancel it. “Calvin and Hobbes Classics” and “One Big Happy Classics” each still run in a number of papers too.

What do you think?

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