Syndicated strip or graphic novel? Lynn Johnston on doing For Better or For Worse in the internet age

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In honor of the Library of American Comics’ publication of For Better or For Worse: The Complete Library, Vol. 1 (Volume 2 is out this summer), we are delighted to publish this essay by Lynn Johnston, contemplating the nature of writing a serial for decades and how she might approach her life’s work today.


i loved that comic… read it for years and years, and i really felt i knew all the characters. the kids grew up sort of along with me. if i recall, she had one character come out, in a way, back when that was a very big deal. the whole arc that dealt with the loss of their long-time dog, Farley, was as heartbreaking to me as if i had lost my own pet. so interesting to read her thoughts and get a behind the scenes perspective.


Yes to all this, more or less exactly as you wrote it. During my grad-school days a fellow student friend regaled me with tales of sitting next to her on a flight, and having the most human connection, and it made me so happy just to hear about her years after I kinda checked out from the strip. :slight_smile: I feel like I grew up down the block from that family in some ways.


YES! the fact that the parents reminded me of people in my own family certainly strengthened that feeling.


Lynn Johnston is also unusual in that she did “For Better of For Worse” over again, returning to the beginning of the strip in its last years and making changes in how she did old stories.

She and Charles Schultz of Peanuts fame also became close.

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I loved this strip. Reading it over the years you could see that it had a depth that the more common joke-a-day strips never had. You cared about the characters. Gasoline Alley and some others had that quality as well. I love the medium, but really appreciate being able to read the reprints collected together into books.

I gave up on my own drawing years ago, but I don’t think that I’d have been able to come up with stories that anyone would want to read.

Oh, I remember that one. “Aypo’s gonna sail the boat” :cry:

oh jesus, i went to your link and read Lawrence’s coming out again, and then bravely dived into Farley’s story, and now i’m sobbing. i wish i could remember what teenage me thought and felt about Lawrence coming out, when i was in the throes of my own coming out process, but i’m sure it affected me greatly. and who didn’t love Farley??

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As a Boomer about Lynn’s age, the strip did a pretty fair job of tracking the stages of my life (OK, I’m a bit later to the grandchildren stage but close enough.) Perhaps the best thing about it is that it has a beginning, ups and downs, and a clear end with the birth of the next generation and the “he lived long enough to see his great-grands and died full of years and honor” (not a quote) epilog.

Too few authors know when to stop, and more honor to Ms. Johnston for the wisdom to do so.

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