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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.

Community Comments

#1 J.G. Moore
August/13/2008
@ 7:25 pm

It’s new, but its old. I mean it will be retro, but it’s new. It’s gonna be like the old strip, but only it’s new. It’s new content but it feels old. It’s using the old story, but it’s new. It’s gonna be a new old, retro, new-run cartoons, grab your sneakers! wheeeee! O gawd woman, give it up. She should do something new. What a waste. :-P

#2 josh shalek
August/14/2008
@ 10:41 am

The adoption of Farley? Hey, didn’t he d—SPOILERS!

#3 Christi Johnson
August/14/2008
@ 11:08 am

I for one am a life long fan and I’m young enough that I never read her early stuff. I’ll be happy to dive into her new-runs! Especially since I’m planning to have a family soon myself and will identify with the story! :-) Best of luck with this creative direction Lynn!!

#4 frank white
August/14/2008
@ 1:28 pm

I love this strip. Best of luck Lynn.

#5 Alex Hallatt
August/14/2008
@ 6:17 pm

Perhaps she just doesn’t like being filmed, but she looks quite uncomfortable in this.

It is a surprising approach for a cartoonist to embrace their old style of drawing. I look back at my sales kit and see how much I have developed as a cartoonist in just a year. I wouldn’t want to go back, even if I didn’t have the time or commitment to continue 365 days a year. I’d rather just concentrate on maintaining my existing style, perhaps as Berke Breathed did with Opus, in a Sunday only format.

#6 Bob Quick
August/15/2008
@ 7:39 am

This takes nerve…hope it doesn’t
go downhill.

#7 Larry Levine
August/15/2008
@ 8:53 am

If Lynn is continuing to draw anyway, why doesn’t she simply convert FBOFW into a Sunday only strip with fresh material (ala Opus & Foxtrot) rather than ‘redux’ the classic strips? This would still lighten the drawing workload & allow her great talent to continue evolving in new directions.

#8 Wiley Miller
August/15/2008
@ 9:15 am

I agree. That’s what I thought Watterson should have done instead of retiring altogether.

#9 Mike Lester
August/15/2008
@ 9:52 am

Admittedly this is not my cup o’ tea but for those agonizing over this, I think you’ll find the “money quote” (literally) is at the 3:12 mark.

#10 Wiley Miller
August/15/2008
@ 10:32 am

If I’m not mistaken, Mike, your “cup o’ tea” is distilled in Kentucky.

#11 frank white
August/15/2008
@ 11:29 am

“perhaps as Berke Breathed did with Opus, in a Sunday only format.”

…back when he had his OWN style you mean??

#12 Mike Lester
August/15/2008
@ 12:59 pm

Wiley, you ignorant slut (apologies to Chevy Chase),

As is widely known, I’m more of a “see-thru” spirits enthusiast. But seriously, I empathize w/ her. Why else would she offer that intimate detail? I don’t know her but anyone who finds themselves in the unenviable position of being suddenly single and especially later in life gets has my sympathies and a wide berth. Say what you will but she appears to be the Mary Englbrite of comics.

The only problem w/ being less than committed to readers 365 and treating them like mushrooms comes w/ my assumption that most people in a similar situation wouldn’t work less. They’d work more.

(Full disclosure: I know what I’m talking about.)

#13 Wiley Miller
August/15/2008
@ 1:23 pm

“Wiley, you ignorant slut…”

Hey, I’m not ignorant!

#14 Jesse Cline
August/15/2008
@ 2:24 pm

I believe the ignorant slut line is from Dan Akroyd, not Chevy Chase

#15 Kirk Mueller
August/15/2008
@ 5:37 pm

I hope that editors would keep the word â??newâ? in newspapers and not run the any old cartoons on the comic pages. The space on the comicâ??s pages is to valuable to squander it on cartoonists who are no longer committed (or, alive for that matter) to producing new material 365 days a year.

Lynn Johnston readily admits in her You Tube video that that when she began â??For Better or Worseâ? she used to spend only 3 hours a day on her strip. She now has a staff to help shave off even more time. This certainly gives her plenty of time to produce seven new strips a week working part-time and still have plenty of time to travel and paint.

I guess when youâ??re in 2,000 newspapers youâ??re able to call the shots. However, I hope to see that business model changing.

#16 frank white
August/15/2008
@ 6:10 pm

What do you mean Kirk “I guess when youâ??re in 2,000 newspapers youâ??re able to call the shots. However, I hope to see that business model changing.”

Do you mean you don’t want the cartoonists with 2000 papers to call the shots? Should the newspapers or syndicates be calling the shots?? That’s one of the main reasons so many younger cartoonists are becoming web cartoonists instead, to get more control over their own creations.

#17 Phil Wohlrab
August/16/2008
@ 10:53 am

“Why else would she offer that intimate detail?”

It does come off as though she is, in a sense, married to the strip now. Has it become her soul purpose?

There isn’t any reason she couldn’t learn to love again, but devotions to work often conflict with personal lives, especially when your work is something you love and are passionate about.
I read somewhere that Schulz depiction of Schroder hunched over his piano ignoring Lucy was a mirror image of him hunched over his comic strip with his first wife.
This sort of thing happend with Eienstien too, though he remarried, he was obsessed with science.
Any artist who goes back to draw in an old style, the same stories over in a new way, is, I think, obsessed. Only this is a bit more obsessive compulsive.. like reworking a single illustration a thousand different ways. At some point it’s time to do something new… not old new, new new.

#18 Rod McKie
August/16/2008
@ 1:10 pm

Watterson and Larson really had the right idea.

I can’t think of anything more pointless than redrawing everything everytime I change, or go through a momentous event. At least when Rembrandt did it with his self portraits, he was recording his physical changes. Surely with this attitude authors would never write a second book (Harper Lee would have rewitten To Kill a Mockingbird several times), and journalists would rehash the same old stories from decades ago, and the cast of Friends would be back playing their own grandparents.

Taken to its natural conclusion, Jim Davis would be drawing Gnorbert the Gnat, Daddy Warbucks would be back with hairplugs, and Beetle Bailey would be a mature student. Is there an upside to this?

#19 frank white
August/16/2008
@ 1:50 pm

Rod, Watterson drew the same dinosaur gags nearly every other Sunday in the last few years of his strip

#20 Jake McCarter
August/16/2008
@ 5:10 pm

As a reader of comics (and a longtime fan of For Better or For Worse), I have to say…

Lynn Johnston needs to back away from the drawing board, as far as FBOFW goes.

Why doesn’t she retire? She’s had a great run. She can take a ywar off and start a new project. This “redrawing old stuff” crap is ridiculous. Bad, bad, bad move.

I understand how it would be tough to walk away from something you’ve been doing for three decades but what she’s doing now is downright silly.

#21 Quint Nelson
August/16/2008
@ 6:28 pm

The reason she won’t retire is because her cash flow will disappear. The strip’s collection books aren’t big sellers & why not keep the money rolling in as long as possible? It’s all about ego & dollars (both American & Canadian).

Editors will be hard pressed to drop the strip for fear of the “elderly backlash”. All of those old people can’t remember how FBOFW started out anyway. It’s a shame that she couldn’t just retire with grace, but money talks!

Perhaps the “pretty, new reruns” will tiresome and finally, new talent will be given a shot at that “real estate” on the comics’ pages. One can only hope this happens.

#22 frank white
August/16/2008
@ 8:57 pm

Rod , don’t you mean “Gnorm Gnat” ?

#23 Rod McKie
August/17/2008
@ 3:58 pm

My word Frank is there anything you don’t know about cartoons?

#24 Garey Mckee
August/17/2008
@ 5:11 pm

I still maintain, as I stated in the other FBOFW topic thread, that I’d like to see what ELSE Lynn Johnston can do.

Stretching the creative brain muscle and perhaps coming up with a NEW comic strip entirely surely would be just as much work and probably much more rewarding than going back and redrawing and tweeking old FBOFW strips.

#25 Bill Kellogg
August/17/2008
@ 5:37 pm

I find it hard to beleive Lynn is keeping the strip going for the money. From what I hear FBOFW is in 2600+ newspapers, not to mention the income from books and licensing. And, even if she retires she won’t get dropped from all of the papers for many years to come.

I am not a cartoonist and have absolutely no talent, but I would imagine if I created a strip that was in more papers than any other strip and that was consistantly at the top of the polls, I would have trouble letting it go as well.

#26 frank white
August/18/2008
@ 9:56 am

It’s actually a lot harder to go back to an old art style and try to bring new life to that than it is to artificially create a new style. What Lynn is doing shows she is one is of the hardest working cartoonists out there and deserves all the money she gets.

#27 Paul Berge
August/18/2008
@ 12:13 pm

Does anyone else think that Johnston’s story-telling style would be well suited to a “graphic novel”? That would seem to me IMHO to be preferable to “new-runs” — except from the vantage point of newspaper editors who’d rather stick with the tried and true on their pages.

I have nothing against old cartoons — I came of age shortly before Walt Kelly stopped drawing Pogo, and I spent much of my allowance money snapping up his books. I think there must be SOME market for Johnston on the bookshelves, or I wouldn’t keep seeing her books at Barnes & Noble.

#28 Lu Caranfa
August/29/2008
@ 6:05 pm

I do not like to spend a lot of time dwelling on the past so I probably will not like going backwards. I liked this stip because the characters aged just like me, they had children and grandchildren. They had jobs, pets, friends, good times and sad times. They were like my old friends. I will miss seeing their future.

#29 Emily May
August/30/2008
@ 10:05 am

Everyone’s life changes, and so has Lynn’s…the storyline and characters were so wonderful each day…a big loss…and we’ll see where she goes with her new format. I wasn’t a big fan of the retro where it went back to the “olden days” of Elly and her husband…but we’ll see :)

#30 patricia scarbary
August/30/2008
@ 2:06 pm

i will really miss For Better or Worse. i loved the way the characters and pets grew and changed as in real life.
One of my favorite comic strips is Opus which is not in my local paper.
Sparky Schultz happily wrote his Peanuts strip every day until his untimely death. he did not forsake his loyal readers. so now we have lost a third very good comic strip. i do not understand why Ms Johnston cannot create a Sunday only strip with fresh happenings,this would give her the desired leisure time.If she feels she must end the strip could she not at least have drawn a large strip in the Sunday paper showing all of the characters saying “good by”? At the risk of sounding mean, i think she left her readers in the lurch. i really have no desire to see the very old scripts rehashed.

#31 Lois Garcia
August/30/2008
@ 11:12 pm

I just loved this comic strip and will be very disappointed to see it end. Before I went to work every day, I had to read your strip. I think there was much so potential to continue it forward. However, the ending of Elizabeth and Anthony made me glad; I guess because I am a romantic and believed that they belonged together.

Best wishes to whatever direction you follow. Maybe, in time, you will want to restart this series.

#32 SJ Doss
September/2/2008
@ 3:07 am

*sigh*
all good things come to an end.

it’s a wise money move, she’ll be able to attract new readers while retaining most of her current audience. serial cartoons just aren’t the money-makers.

i have been reading this strip for years and years, but unfortunately, it’s time for me to stop reading it. when the storyline ended the strip ended. i don’t need to read, what in the past few days, feels like every other strip on the comic page.

#33 Joseph Craig
September/5/2008
@ 1:23 pm

I have to admit, I won’t miss this strip terribly. Although, I always read it and have enjoyed it, the “real time” strips make me uncomfortable. I have a hard enough time watching the Olsen twins grow up, let alone the fear of opening up the Sunday funnies to learn of Grandpa’s imminent death. It’s just a personal reaction, but watching these kids marry and get old makes me nervous!

#34 J.G. Moore
September/5/2008
@ 4:37 pm

Move along people, nothing NEW to see here…

#35 Pat Neeley
November/16/2008
@ 2:08 pm

I love FBOFW any way I can get it. The last episode was satisfying in that the futures of the family that we have grown to know so well were revealed. I like going back to the beginning. Then i can say “Oh look, there’s Farley as a pup!” Keep it up. I’d really miss it if it were to end.

#36 Gary Weiss
February/1/2009
@ 4:28 pm

Lynn, I enjoy reading your comic strip.
And I liked your wedding story so much that I saved that whole story everyday and put it in a scrap book. Why? Because it reminded me of a couple that were friends of mine and they let me speak at thier wedding ceremony.
It was a wonderful day too.

So keep up the good work Lynn.

#37 Barbara French
March/4/2009
@ 9:02 am

Love this strip even as a rerun! Life is very real in this family with heart aches and joys. Please never drop For Better For Worse.

#38 Barbara French
March/4/2009
@ 4:13 pm

Very few of the datly comics are worth reading.

#39 Joan Miller
March/27/2010
@ 11:52 pm

Thank You Lynn Johnston for Many Endearing Moments Never to be Forgotten. Not having seen the “Wedding” or many of the beginning comics, I welcome the opportunity to start again. One of my favorites was in the Sunday, May 8, 2005 Times Union, where John is trying, at the very last minute, to do something special for Elly on Mothers Day. Perfect – Just Perfect.

You will be hearing from the rest of my family, I’m sure.

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