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The Lynn Johnston tells all interview

The Peterborough Examiner has the most detailed interview with Lynn Johnston about her personal life and how it impacted her decision not to retire her For Better or For Worse comic strip. In the report we learn how she learned of her husband’s affair, his leaving, that he took all their money as well. I think the most important part is how she’s responded and dealt with a crisis of this magnitude as a person.

When it came to finances, for example, she had entrusted everything to her husband and was shocked to discover, in the days following his departure, that her bank accounts were empty. Suddenly, the cartoonist whose strip appears in more than 2000 newspapers around the world, the Gemini Award winner and Pulitzer Prize nominee, and the first female to ever win the prestigious Reuben Award from the U. S.-based National Cartoonists Society, didn’t have enough cash to buy groceries.

“I’d been like a little kid, like a five year-old. Tell me how much I can spend this week, Dad,” she sings in a little-girl voice, before shifting to a serious tone. “If I was not astute as a businessperson before, I suddenly had this overwhelming education within a month in which I had to learn how to do everything. It’s empowering actually because you suddenly realize there’s all this stuff you should have been doing all along.”

She learned a similar lesson about running her business. The combination of the winding down of her series and splitting assets in the wake of her separation meant she had to downsize her company dramatically. Having purposefully positioned herself for so many years as just one of the staff, an artist who didn’t want to manage anything, it came as a shock when she had to be the boss.

“It was a new me. Everybody was unhappy with it. We had a couple of tense days when my employees were saying, ‘Why are you asking me all these questions, don’t you trust me?'”

Of course she trusted them, Lynn says, but downsizing meant lay-offs, and she had to learn how to do the jobs of those who were leaving.

“I didn’t know,” she says in amazement. “How can you not know your own business?”

Community Comments

#1 r stevens
September/19/2008
@ 7:05 am

Damn. This, I can identify with. Here we all were assuming she was wealthy!

#2 Laura Piche
September/19/2008
@ 9:23 am

As the former Creative Director for Lynn Johnston Productions Inc., I am in shock, appalled and terribly disappointed by this recent interview. There are many, many sides to this story, and quite frankly, in my opinion, it’s been told and over-told and morphed. To judge ANY of us who are close to the situation is unfair.

The one thing I will support is the article’s title: “It’s time to move on.”

#3 Allison Zadorozny
September/19/2008
@ 9:29 am

As former Business Coordinator for Lynn Johnston Productions Inc., I am in full agreement with Laura Piche. There is only one side of this story being told and one opinion being shared. There are other sides to this story, and the owners are gracefully keeping them quiet. Yes, let’s move on.

#4 Mike Cope
September/19/2008
@ 9:40 am

Hmm … Coordinated double posts on a public forum without any way to verify identities?

I hope that Alan won’t need to shut down the comments section again. Things were just getting civil!

#5 Mike Cope
September/19/2008
@ 10:04 am

With respect to my previous comment … I (unexpectedly) received an email that supports the identity of the above individuals.

In light of the recent Daily Cartoonist comments lockout, I appreciate them taking time to write.

Carry on …

#6 Norm Feuti
September/19/2008
@ 10:09 am

I don’t know or care to judge anyone involved, but I’ll definitely second the notion that this story has been told and retold to death.

I think the constant retelling of this story is just adding to the confusion and gossip surrounding the whole thing.

Not to be rude, but I’m just plain sick of hearing about it.

#7 Mike Witmer
September/19/2008
@ 10:13 am

Maybe I’m speaking out of turn here but this sounds like way more drama than the average comic strip fan needs to be involved in. Not that Lynn’s predicament was an easy thing to go through but it almost feels like a publicity stunt on someone’s behalf.

Either way, it’s a bad place to air dirty laundry if you ask me.

#8 Kelly McNutt
September/19/2008
@ 10:15 am

Allison and Laura: what in the world is objectionable about the interview? I read it through and I didn’t see any badmouthing of former employees, or even her husband, really. “I am in shock, appalled and terribly disappointed by this recent interview”…? Please to explain what caused you to be shocked and appalled? And owners? Owners of what? Owners of the business? Owners of the individual opinions? Color me confused.

#9 Allison Zadorozny
September/19/2008
@ 12:04 pm

Kelly – yes, I mean the owners of the other sides of this story; there were many peoplle affected by this. I can’t speak for Laura, but what prompted me to write is that I believe the focus should be on the work. Let’s all get back to talking about the strip and the changes, and the artwork.

#10 Larry Levine
September/19/2008
@ 1:29 pm

Allison, I’m kind of lost with the term ‘owners of the other side of this story’. If you mean Lynn or UPS, then it makes your point clearer by being specific.

I personally think the current format of FBOFW is a wrong direction for Lynn, but the interview was about Lynn’s life & it’s recent detours rather than the nuts/bolts of her business.

If there’s more to the story, I cannot imagine anyone here discouraging you from telling it.

#11 Allison Zadorozny
September/19/2008
@ 2:16 pm

I guess I’m not being clear. I’m just trying to say that there are two sides (at least) to every story… That’s all.

#12 Larry Levine
September/19/2008
@ 3:05 pm

I don’t know what the first side of the story is, other than FBOFW is now ‘new’ reruns.

#13 Kelly McNutt
September/19/2008
@ 3:28 pm

I, for one, take it for granted that there are at least two sides to every story. What continues to confuse me is what your problem with this particular interview is. If you’re tired of the overall story being discussed, ok – I can understand that. However, you originally agreed fully with Laura, who was “in shock, appalled and terribly disappointed by this recent interview” and then you both go on to point out that there are two sides to every story (many sides in this case, according to Laura) and that implies that someone is being left out, yet the “owners” of those stories are “gracefully” keeping quiet? It was an interview with Johnston herself, for Pete’s sake, not a “close pal” or “an individual familiar with” the situation. It seems like you’re upset that Lynn is telling her story? This interview seemed to be coming at some point, and why shouldn’t fans of FBOFW hear the story straight from the source?

#14 anne hambrock
September/19/2008
@ 4:57 pm

There are, of course, the stories from the point of view of Lynn’s husband and the other woman. That may be what Laura and Allison are referring to.

Lynn also alluded to tensions in the business side of things so it could be those stories as well. It is true that this interview is only from Lynn’s perspective and she seems to be the only one involved who has made the decision to go public with any story at this time.

#15 Quint Nelson
September/19/2008
@ 7:04 pm

Thanks Anne, it’s amazing that some people can’t seem to get it. I guess some people just need to have everything spoonfed to them to understand that situations can be spun by one person, yet there might be another side to the story.

#16 Kelly McNutt
September/19/2008
@ 8:46 pm

Quint, I don’t think you get it.

For me, because of this interview, I feel I understand more why Lynn decided to un-retire.

Then I find out there might be more than one side to this story (Gasp… who knew?!) only to be told that (even though nobody asked) they were going to graciously not tell their story, yet they were shocked SHOCKED that it was being discussed blah blah blah. Whatever. Best of luck to Lynn – sorry your ex is a bum. (Or, is he?!) The rest of you story owners, good luck.

#17 Alex Hallatt
September/20/2008
@ 2:35 am

Am I the only one who REALLY wants to hear the other side of the story now?

#18 Mike Peterson
September/20/2008
@ 3:46 am

I have never met the bad partner in a broken marriage. I keep running into the one who was nice and got taken advantage of. Funny thing about autobiography: Few people write one that could be entitled “Why I Am A Rotten Person.”

I’ve been divorced now for about a quarter of a century and get along quite well with my ex, whom I see about once a year at family gatherings, in part because the kids are grown and are financially independent of us, in part because she is happily remarried and living on the other side of the Atlantic, and in large part because, with time, we began to recognize that we each played a regrettable role in the debacle.

I recommend all three solutions, particularly the one that involves an ocean. (Though, if you have a choice, the Pacific is even wider.)

That said, I’m willing to eat a little crow on having thought Lynn was simply keeping the strip going out of hubris. However it happened, she finds she can’t retire. Fair enough. I can’t either. Good thing we both like what we get paid to do, isn’t it?

#19 Wiley Miller
September/20/2008
@ 7:09 am

“That said, Iâ??m willing to eat a little crow on having thought Lynn was simply keeping the strip going out of hubris. However it happened, she finds she canâ??t retire. Fair enough. I canâ??t either. Good thing we both like what we get paid to do, isnâ??t it?”

This is exactly what I was getting at a few weeks ago in that other long discussion about Lynn. I didn’t feel it was my place to publicly air her personal life in explaining why she had to un-retire, just suffice to say that it was, indeed, necessary. She was looking forward to retiring, but her world was suddenly turned upside down. She had to do something. This was, in her mind, the best option.

#20 Wiley Miller
September/20/2008
@ 9:50 am

I should add that I don’t really have much more information on Lynn’s personal life than what she expressed in this interview. I don’t know “the other side of the story” and nor do I care to, as it doesn’t change anything.

As Mike points out, in the break up of a marriage, each side believes that they are the aggrieved one. The friends of one will wonder how the other could have left such a wonderful person while the friends of the other will wonder why he or she stayed with him or her that long. It really is an no-win situation and the only reason anyone wants to know “the other side” is simply for gossip. And we all love to gossip to one degree or the other.

The point is, that as far as we, the one’s who have no personal stake in this private matter, are concerned, it doesn’t change the reality of Lynn needing to change her retirement plans and keep the feature going. Why their marriage broke up is irrelevant. The fact is, it did break up and Lynn is doing what she can to get on with her life. She doesn’t owe us, the readers or her colleagues any more than that.

#21 Larry Levine
September/20/2008
@ 10:41 am

Like most of us, my only knowledge of Lynn’s studio is from the ‘Behind the Scenes’ section on her website. The behind the door stuff that former employees Laura & Allison are suggesting, though of curiosity, are none of my business. Lynn eating dinner over her sink to avoid washing dishes is about all I need to know about her personal life.

As Obi Wan Kenobi said in Return of the Jedi: all truths are from a certain point of view. Who’s right or wrong is between the involved parties.

#22 Mike Witmer
September/23/2008
@ 6:44 am

Deep.

#23 Robert Whitaker Sirignano
September/29/2008
@ 12:33 pm

What I find a bit odd about this push and shove argument is that IF money has been lifted and removed from someone’s account, someone ought to be liable for arrest… so it seems something has been left out….

#24 carol lewis
February/7/2009
@ 11:28 pm

FYI- money can be lifted from a joint account by one party, and it’s all nice and legal.

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