This is an interview with Lynn Johnston and Beth Cruikshank talking about Farley Follows His Nose from the Carman Valley Leader
. I will quote the parts of interest to me and my comments follow:In one story line from the mid 1980’s, Farley went missing for the better part of a day. The story followed the point of view of the Pattersons. “In the original story you never find out where Farley went, It’s all about the Pattersons worried about him and wondering where he is,” Cruikshank explained.
It’s interesting that Cruikshank mentions this. Although longtime readers of the strip recognized that the book was a retelling of this comic strip story from Farley’s point-of-view, this is the first time that either Johnston or Cruikshank have mentioned they reused the story for this book. This could be the reason why Johnston got a writing credit for the book, when in the times past, she credited Cruikshank solely for the writing. “The collaboration was really interesting because neither of us had worked with another person before. You have been really careful not to correct something or change something, or demand something that the other wasn’t kind of keen on. We were surprised at the start that we got along really well.” Johnston said.
This is a startling statement. I suspect that Laura Piché, Jackie Levesque, and Kevin Strang – persons with whom Lynn has worked before and currently on her comic strip – might disagree with that statement. Perhaps Lynn means that she hasn’t worked with another person on a book before, but there is that book she wrote with Andie Parton
. Maybe Lynn just means that Beth is a person and all those other people weren’t persons. That’s the only way this statement is true.“The worst part was dealing with the publishers, because not only are we editors of our own work, but the publisher also comes with their editors,” she added.
Prior to For Better Or For Worse, Johnston was a graphic artist and explained how she dealt with editors back then.
“When I worked in graphics I used to make sure that I had a spelling mistake whenever I did a poster so they would correct the spelling mistake and not touch my art!”
In other words, Lynn Johnston and the HarperCollins editors had issues with her art. Moreover, Lynn Johnston doesn’t seem to have any problem slamming them in a public venue at the same time she is promoting the book for them. Slamming the people who probably set up this little interview opportunity to sell that book of yours and theirs, seems a little in bad taste to me.
I had wondered about this book ever since the very first time it was announced Lynn Johnston would be doing the art on the children’s book. Would Lynn Johnston turn the job she was capable of doing (as had been illustrated in the pow-wow strips of For Better or For Worse from 2005
), or would she turn in the same kind of garbage she has been churning out for the last several years (silhouettes, characters with missing body parts, etc.)? And moreover, would the publisher accept bad work when they were trying to sell a book to children, which depends heavily on appealing illustrations?
Clearly, Lynn is saying that the publishers’ editors saw Lynn’s artwork and they had issues. They contacted Chrissie Boehm’s art group to do samples (according to Chrissie) for the book. They were also the ones who hired Patty Weise to do her uncredited colouring of the book. Both of these things would not have been known to me, except HarperCollins gave them credit in the on-line solicitation for the book
. I have often wondered why HarperCollins gave them that on-line credit, when those people were not credited in the book cover.
When I contacted Lynn personally about Patty Weise and Chrissie Boehm, she denied any knowledge of them. Later on, in another interview, she admitted someone else coloured the book. Somehow I suspect the relationship between HarperCollins and Lynn Johnston over the art was a little bit more acrimonious that she lets on. For the book, Johnston said the only big argument with the editors was over the front cover. Johnston and Cruikshank wanted Farely with his nose to the ground, while the editors wanted the dog to be running.
Lynn clearly won this battle, as Farley has his nose somewhere near the ground
on the cover.In turn the editors took her illustration that included a lot of scenery and made it into a close up of the beloved sheep dog. At one point during the 45-minute presentation Johnston hilariously summed up the meaning of editors. “Editors, they’re like mosquitoes at a picnic!” she joked.
This is very interesting to me. As we have been comparing Lynn’s 1980s art to her modern art due to her use of reprints in the comic strip for the last 2 years, I have often been struck by just how often Lynn’s modern work rarely does close-ups, often to the detriment to the art.
However, contrary to Lynn’s statement, the cover of the book does have scenery in it. There is a bird, a rabbit, some flowers, a bush, and the fence in the background. The part that caught my eye, when I first saw the cover, was none of those things looked like the standard way I had seen Lynn Johnston draw those things. The rabbit in particular has its ears on the right spot on its head, not at all the way Lynn Johnston drew Mr. B or Butterscotch
from the strip. When I first saw this picture, I was convinced Lynn did not draw it, because of the background. Now, Lynn hints, ever so delicately, that the only part of the cover she did was the close-up of Farley. I think my suspicions have been subtly confirmed. “One of the good things about cartoons is writing and drawing as well. You can do all of these funny sounds. One of my favourite sound effect to write is a toilet plunger.” “Flup-flup-baga, flup-flup-baga!” Johnston said as she demonstrated the plunging motion.
There are no plungers in the book, but the reason Lynn mentions it is because the clever typography in the book is done by Rachel Zegar, who is credited in the inner cover on the book. The typography really makes the book work, but Lynn has never mentioned Rachel in any of her interviews. Most likely, Lynn only did the lettering for the sound effects in the book.
As usual, Lynn Johnston uses a public venue to grind her axe against people with whom she has issues. It would be nice to see her have an interview somewhere without taking a shot at someone.