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Lynn Johnston rebuffs retirement rumors

Lynn Johnston, creator of For Better or For Worse, has issued a statement through Universal Press stating that contrary to rumors that are still in circulation, she will not be retiring this fall and will be continuing her strip in “hybrid” fashion.

Dear Editor:

Never did I suspect it would come to this. I have the honour of sharing a distinct complaint with Mark Twain, that rumours of my demise are being greatly exaggerated!

I announced in several interviews earlier this year that I would not be retiring and that For Better or For Worse would continue in a “hybrid” form.

But rumours to the contrary continue to fly, and I’d like to take a moment to put them to rest.

My vision for the hybrid cartoon is to move forward beginning this fall by mixing together new plots with remembrances of the Patterson family^1s history. For instance, readers will see Michael and his children as they are today, and also Michael and his parents as they were when the strip began.

So the strip will not end. I intend to keep the Patterson family around for many years to come.

Thank you for your continued support of For Better or For Worse.

On a related note, last week the FBoFW blog had photos of Lee Salem (president) and Sue Roush (vice president/managing editor) of Universal Press visiting Lynn’s studio “to discuss Lynn’s plans for the future of FBorFW.” Makes me wonder how far into development this hybrid format has come.

Community Comments

#1 Art
August/1/2007
@ 1:56 pm

“Hybrid”. That’s a nice way to phrase the fact that she can’t be troubled to come up with new material but still wants to keep all her papers.

How sad for this industry already in such trouble.

#2 gail saffell
August/1/2007
@ 2:10 pm

I will have no problem with the hybrid solution to getting some extra personal time for Lynn. I am just so very glad fborw WILL continue. Having much respect for her talent, I know I will enjoy the continuence.
gail, canyon lake tx

#3 Eric Burke
August/1/2007
@ 3:47 pm

This “hybrid” concept for a comic strip reminds me of sitcom’s and their “flashback” shows…I don’t like “flashback” shows and I don’t like the idea of a “hybrid” strip…

…aren’t “legacy” strips bad enough?

#4 Art
August/1/2007
@ 3:50 pm

Good point, Eric.

I wonder if this is the first time a strip has been allowed to come out in “legacy” format, WITH THE ARTIST STILL LIVING!!

Demeans the whole industry, if you ask me.

#5 Jonathan
August/1/2007
@ 3:53 pm

I can’t believe Lee and Sue drove practically by my door and never stopped in…?

#6 Dawn Douglass
August/1/2007
@ 4:25 pm

You have to remember that most newspaper readers are older. They will LOVE having a look back at the FBOFW family. It will remind them of their own lives, their own children growing up…

I don’t think this is “demeaning” in the least. Part of what makes comic strips special is their ability to create emotional loyalty within readers, and Lynn is an expert at that.

Why should Lynn stop creating if that’s what she wants to do? Why should her readers be cut off from the strip they love just because disgruntled cartoonists are coveting her space? She’s not to blame for the decline in opportunities.

Why don’t you go out and tell Starbucks they’ve had a long enough ride, have made enough money, are hogging all the streetcorners and need to get out of business to let somebody else have a chance? That makes as much sense.

Those who have an attitude of abundance can make it in cartooning. Those that are hoping for successful cartoonists to retire or die to get them out the way…well, that’s just sick and it will get you nowhere.

#7 Rick Stromoski
August/1/2007
@ 5:25 pm

There’s a difference between a long established cartoonist who is just recycling old existing work as opposed to a long established cartoonist who at least makes the effort to continue to write and draw new ideas everyday. If you don’t know the difference then Noone would expect you to understand why this sticks in many cartoonists collective craws. It’s the same mentality that justifies 30 year old comics”Classic” status, as if that merits a deserving spot on the ever diminishing comics landscape when in fact it’s just one more thing that’s killing this industry.

#8 Dawn Douglass
August/1/2007
@ 6:22 pm

As long as editors and readers want it, then it merits a spot whether it’s 1 year old or 90 years old. Isn’t demand that what “deserving” means?

I’m well aware that diminishing funny page real estate is a huge issue, but I don’t subscribe to the sour grapes notion that it’s dead cartoonists who are “killing this industry.” Cartooning doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.

#9 mark
August/1/2007
@ 6:23 pm

I could be wrong, but I’d wager that there are more “streetcorners” for new Starbucks than there are spaces on the comics page for new and innovative talent.

#10 Anne
August/1/2007
@ 6:30 pm

I’m going to compare this to my local TV station that shows new “prime time” programming from 7:00 to 10:00 and syndicated reruns of Seinfeld and Everybody loves Raymond from 10:30 on. No one complains that those syndicated re-runs are taking away slots the prime time shows could occupy. The lines between the two types of shows and their timeslots is very clear.

Maybe papers could offer two distinctly different comic sections – one for new comics and one for nostalgia toons. As long as the artists get paid the same and the public is getting a lot of quality comics that it wants what would be the harm?

I suspect that putting some comics in the classified section is already a version of this.

#11 josh
August/1/2007
@ 7:57 pm

I like FBOFW and respect Ms. Johnston’s talent and skill. Still, I would prefer to see this carried out in book form, rather than in newspapers. I love the Complete Peanuts collection, and I think something like this would work well; maybe even make the books look like old photograph albums…

There is much more room in bookstores (and, heck, the acres of warehouse space online retailers have) for new product than on a single page of newsprint. Think about the number of new books that are published every year, compared to the number of new comic strips. Or for another comparison, think of Greatest Hits albums. They exist side-by-side with new artists; sometimes they may overshadow a new album by an unknown musician, but that unknown musician’s album still gets to stay in the store. For every legacy strip that remains in a newspaper, or even for a semi-retired strip such as this one, that cuts off the potential for an entirely new comic strip that will never get seen by newspaper readers, or for a brand-new comic to get a foothold and have a chance to capture an audience.

I will be interested to see how this new version of FBOFW turns out, but none of us will ever know what comics there could have been to fill its spot.

#12 CounterHegemony
August/1/2007
@ 8:03 pm

Just how many “Greatest Hits” albums could your favorite musician release before you’d cry, “Enough!” Even if each carried one or two “new” tracks?

It’s obvious that this “hybrid” nonsense is little more than an unrepentant cash-grab by Lynn and her syndicate. Rather than enjoying her well-earned retirement and letting the strip come to a dignified end (as Watterson and Larson opted to do), they’ve decided to milk the FBoFW cash-cow for all that it’s worth, readers be damned.

No doubt many readers will enjoy this hyridized feature; unfortunately, I suspect that these same readers are the type that never wonder what they’re missing.

#13 Eric Burke
August/1/2007
@ 8:13 pm

Why donâ??t you go out and tell Starbucks theyâ??ve had a long enough ride, have made enough money, are hogging all the streetcorners and need to get out of business to let somebody else have a chance? That makes as much sense.

Starbucks brews fresh pots of coffe everyday. They don’t serve day, week, or years old coffee and charge the same price as a fresh cup’o joe..

…I think ultimately that “supply and demand” in this case means that most peeps won’t know the difference anyways. Old, new, hybrid…I think that the sad reality is most casual readers just won’t know or care.

But we will. For all the good that will do…

#14 Dawn Douglass
August/1/2007
@ 11:18 pm

Johnny, the highest quality brewed coffee becomes worthless within hours. Good art appreciates over time and can become priceless.

But, hey, I didn’t like the Peanuts reruns either, but I think this FBOFW deal is different. It’s remaking the old by adding new, not just printing a bunch of old strips that anybody could readily find in book collections.

More than anything else, I’m just sick of the bellyaching. I’ve been hearing the same tired bitter arguments for 12 years now. What is the point of sitting around complaining that a dog isn’t a cat, or a horse isn’t a cow? Newspaper syndication is what it is, for better or for worse. (Ha!)

#15 Mike Witmer
August/2/2007
@ 6:36 am

I think that if folks put as much energy into their craft and creating unique ideas as they do in bashing “legacy” strips we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

The editors listen to their readers. Don’t complain about it on a forum that won’t have an affect on what’s printed. Go to your local editor and tell them what you want to see. You’d be surprised how well that works.

#16 Rick Stromoski
August/2/2007
@ 7:08 am

I don’t think the issue here is bashing legacy strips, if by legacy strips one means Beetle Bailey, Blondie or Nancy. These strips still produce new work everyday and I believe are legitimate contributors to the comics pages. What irks most cartoonists is re-runs of comics taking space. It’s one thing to not to be able to break into a market because of a legacy strip, but it’s a whole other ballgame to lose out to strips that have made untold millions for it’s heirs for generations to come, was published in 1968 containing references to Peggy Fleming and Mark Spitz and is readily available in serial book form.

#17 MJ
August/2/2007
@ 8:36 am

I like the point Anne makes a new/nostalgia format what a great idea. I also second the motion to Mike Witmers statement. While were on the subject of new vs. old go visit Pnkerton Park Mikes new project.

#18 Mark
August/2/2007
@ 9:15 am

The marketplace will decide the fate of the “Hybrid” notion. If it fails, it will go away forever. If it succeeds, we’ll all be figuring out a way we can ultimately implement it into our own work.

#19 Anne
August/2/2007
@ 10:42 am

As long as we’re addressing “supply and demand” maybe this would be a good time to ask just how important are comics to newspaper sales. They have always been extremely important to me – so much so that when I lived in Chicago and had a choice of the Tribune or the Sun Times, I completely made my choice based on which comics each paper carried.

They seem to still be important in that editors get more mail about changing their comic sections than any other part of the paper. In the comments I have seen, people routinely threaten to cancel their subscirptions if their favorite comic is discontinued.. I almost never see anyone threaten to cancel based on which news stories have been covered.

Most of my friends and collegues who read the paper read the comics first. People I know who don’t read comics also don’t bother to subscribe to the paper at all. It would seem that there are “paper people” and “non-paper people” and that people who don’t read the paper won’t read it no matter what you put in it.

If it were true – and could be proved – that comics currently greatly contribute to newspaper sales, then all comics and syndicates would be in a better bargaining position. They could then bargain for more comic real estate – enough to suit all tastes – and more respect for the existing comics in terms of how much physical space each strip gets. The comics in my paper are getting so small and squished I will soon need a magnifying glass to read them.

I am sure someone (probably syndicate people) is studying this – anyone have any concrete data?

#20 Anne
August/2/2007
@ 11:56 am

I would like to add that comics must be important on some level because almost every strip the LA Daily News dropped had to be put back after reader protest. Not only that, the paper ran all the missing strips that ran during the “purge” so that readers could catch up on storylines.

#21 josh
August/2/2007
@ 3:55 pm

I’ll second that, Anne!

#22 Eric Burke
August/2/2007
@ 8:57 pm

The editors listen to their readers. Donâ??t complain about it on a forum that wonâ??t have an affect on whatâ??s printed. Go to your local editor and tell them what you want to see. Youâ??d be surprised how well that works.

I do Mike. Ii read the Boston Herald and have emailed the editor to complement her when she brought in Lio(they dropped BC even before Hart passed away) and emailed her again when Brant Parker died, to suggest a few toons(Candorville, Rudy Park, Pickles) that I thought would fit their readership. FBorFW runs in the Boston Globe, so whatever happens with that strip won’t affect my comic lovin’ baby blues…

Re: putting more effort into their craft and less into bashing hybrid/legacy strips…who’s to say that all the peeps here are cartoonists? I assume most are, but even then aren’t we also fans? It’s possible to speak as just a fan, especially if you’re not seeking syndication. I don’t have a dog in this race, but I still care about the outcome…

#23 Garey Mckee
August/2/2007
@ 9:05 pm

This hybrid format will only work on a strip like FBoFW because of it’s progression (up unitl recently) in real time, or at least close to real time. I respect Universal Press for thinking outside the box in the choice to use this hybrid format to continue FBoFW. But I’d respect them more if they used the same creative thinking to support more new talent.

#24 Stewart Mason
August/3/2007
@ 10:29 am

I do understand the feeling that it’s always legacy strips that are the problem, and believe me, there are plenty of legacy strips that I’d be happy to never see again. But there are certainly plenty of other reasons why great, fresh strips aren’t getting into enough papers. Me, it boggles my mind that Pooch Cafe and Diesel Sweeties, two new strips that I personally think are absolute kack, are in more papers than Cow and Boy, which I think is easily the best new strip since Pearls Before Swine.

As others have said, it’s important to let your comics editors know your opinions of their sections, but there’s more direct action to be taken. Without the net, I would be limited only to the comics that are in the Boston Globe every day, which is a surprisingly poor selection for what’s otherwise a decent paper. (Yes, there’s the Herald too, but I won’t let that rag in my house.) But as a paid subscriber to both comics.com and My Comics Page, I’m voting with my pocketbook directly to the syndicates, letting them know that I like and read newer comics like Brewster Rockit, The New Adventures of Queen Victoria, Little Dog Lost, Cow and Boy, Secret Asian Man and Watch Your Head along with many of the old warhorses. As someone who reads the majority of his comics on the web (I even subscribe to the comics I get every day in the Globe, so they show up in the syndicates’ logs), I’m a tiny part of the market right now, but I am the future.

#25 Dawn Douglass
August/3/2007
@ 11:00 am

Well, hello, Little Brother. I’m surprised to see you here. Just goes to show the blogosphere is a small world. And cartooning even smaller. :)

#26 Stewart Mason
August/3/2007
@ 10:33 pm

Well, I’ve always had a fan’s interest.

#27 Matt Thorn
August/14/2007
@ 9:27 am

I’m surprised no one brought up the fact that FBOW and countless other comic strips and cartoons can be and are widely read on the Net until Stewart’s August 3 post. I don’t think I’m unusual in reading both news (N.Y. Times, L.A. Times, Washington Post) and comic strips (via mycomicspage.com) online rather than in print. It seems to me quite likely that the whole funnies-page-real-estate debate will be rendered moot within five to ten years. On mycomicspage.com, I can choose from over 150 comic strips and some 60 editorial cartoons, old and new, canonical and obscure, left and right.
As for FBOW’s “hybrid format,” it hasn’t even begun yet, has it? It seems to me we shouldn’t judge it until we’ve actually seen it.

#28 John Cathrae
September/13/2007
@ 7:59 am

Lynn Johnston is trying something that offers an alternative to her ceasing production altogether. People will either read it or they won’t. If it isn’t successful, newspapers will stop running her strip. That’s the beginning and the end of it. People attempting to imply esoteric meanings about something this simple obviously have nothing else to do with their lives. I, for one, will enjoy the hybrid format as I have enjoyed this strip since its beginnings. If I am enjoying it, I suspect a number of others will too.

#29 el chicharrone
January/18/2008
@ 9:26 am

lynn comparing herself to mark twain in any way is excruciating, just like the rest of her smarmy, obvious, and lame “output” which i am sure would have the master rolling his eyes…

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