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?”