Another new article about For Better or For Worse and this one from the Minneapolis-St. Paul StarTribune has more details than the last one. I will comment on the stuff which is new to me.
The strip now is a hybrid, which has never been tried before, Johnston said. “At first I was planning to retire completely and I wanted to bring the story full circle and have it so that it ended,” she said.But Universal Press polled its clients and decided to begin rerunning the strips from the start — no surprise because it’s one of only five comics in more than 2,000 newspapers.
Translation: Universal Press started losing papers and wanted to have leverage with Lynn Johnston to say that the hybrid was not working. Here is your poll:
Would you, as a Universal Press client, prefer to see the comic strip For Better or For Worse as:
a. It’s current hybrid format, where you can’t tell what is going on to whom and where your customers write to your Letters to the Editor column asking you what is going on to whom over and over again
b. Reprints rerun in exact chronological order so the stories makes sense again, even if they are 28 years old and drawn with a felt tip marker
c. New material written by some person the current author handpicks and then will fire a few months into the process, due to creative differences
Any comics creator “would give their right arm for that to happen,” she said. “But I said I’d like to be hands-on if it’s going to run again. I wanted to break it in slowly, but still give myself a break, because I do want to retire.”
The strip will begin again and Johnston will add new material as she sees fit, but in a style consistent with earlier strips. That’s a shift from the mix of old and new announced last September, but she thinks it has proven confusing to go back and forth in time. Plus, her original strips were individual gags, not part of a continuing story. Her new solution is to draw fresh strips every once in a while to create something of a unifying thread.
Translation: The clients chose option (b) and Universal Press tried to impress that on Lynn. Lynn said, “This is my strip and you’re not telling me what to do, however….”
Instead of agreeing to do that, Lynn decided to reach a compromise: a less-confusing hybrid, i.e. she maintains the same timeline as the reprint strips and puts new things in the reprint storyline.
The trick is that she’ll draw them in her original style. “It’s hard, but I like challenges,” said Johnston, who’s 60. “The strip has become very tight, and I’m far happier with my drawing now. There’s actually some perspective in the buildings! But you tend to improve and improve and improve until they’re so realistic. In the past, they were more fluid and comic, so I’m going back to my old style.”
Translation: My pet theory is that original Lynn style we have seen thus far in the hybrid is actually the work of Laura Piché, the background artist. Even today’s fix on the last panel of the reprint strip looks like Laura Piché’s work to me. Lynn’s use of the future tense in “I’m going back to my old style” is more proof my theory is correct. Otherwise, she would have said, “I have been occasionally using my old style with the hybrid, and now I will be using that style exclusively.” Now, the real question is whether or not Lynn really will be doing the art, or will it be more Laura Piché?
Talking about Rod--Again!
“It’s the classic story of middle-age angst,” she said of her husband’s decision to leave her. “He’s gone off” with someone much younger, she said, declining to share more details.
Much younger? I had heard rumours that Rod’s original someone else, rumoured to be Nancy Vincent, had returned back to her husband, leaving Rod off futilely chasing 20-something young girls of Corbeil, which does match a description of middle-age angst nicely (even though Rod is in his 60s). I would have guessed Nancy Vincent was about 10 years younger than Lynn; so maybe Rod is now with someone else other than Nancy, depending on how Lynn defines “much younger.” Who knows? I am, however, disappointed that Lynn is bringing this issue up again in a national publication, especially considering what she is about to say next:
Still, she spoke easily of how life and art have mingled for her. John Patterson is a dentist loosely based on her husband, Rod Johnston, who had recently retired from dentistry. His leaving suddenly made it difficult for her to draw John in the strip. So Elly’s husband was absent for several weeks until Johnston realized that, doodle by doodle, she could resume drawing him — which led to a rather startling insight.“John is a character in the strip, but I realize now, more than ever, that perhaps I had made up the real person,” she said. “I think the real person — the way things ended — seemed like something so unexpected and out of character. But I’m more at home with this stuff now and can see that there were signs of this for a long time. And perhaps because I do live in a fantasy world, I probably really was married for 31 years to John Patterson.”
Translation: I am still working through this divorce thing, and I still can’t manage to blame my cheating husband. Instead I am blaming myself for imagining Rod acted like John in the strip, and not recognizing the obvious clues that Rod has been cheating on me for a long time. In the meantime, can I possibly get someone to sit with me through interviews and tell me when I have wandered into things people shouldn’t say out loud?
And Now For Some Lies
She’s not yet sure how the FBorFW story lines will wrap up, and figures that her characters will direct her. She herself doesn’t read other comics, partly because the newspaper in her small community of Corbeil, Ontario, about three hours northwest of Toronto, only carries a few, “and I don’t go online.”
I have heard “The characters drive me” nonsense before, usually used by Lynn to try to throw us readers off the “Anthony and Elizabeth together forever” scent. I didn’t believe it before and I don’t believe it now.
I also find the other statement highly unlikely. She’s spoken of other people’s strips in interviews before, and considering Jan Eliot keeps putting Elly/Lynn into her strip, The Stone Soup, it seems like a pretty silly thing to say. Finally, Corbeil may be 3 hours NW of Toronto, but it is pretty darn close to North Bay. You're not that isolated from a decent-sized town and its newspaper, Lynn Johnston, and I have no idea why you are pretending to be.