howtheduck (howtheduck) wrote in binky_betsy,

The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston Part III – The Business Evolves: The Staff After Karen Matchette

Here I am going to move to the staff Lynn Johnston had working for her just before she retired the modern comic strip in September, 2008 as described in The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston. I will discuss them after the cut.

p. 132

As time went on, Lynn hired more people: a full-time website developer, someone to “manage” the business, and eventually, another person as assistant manager. The expanded full-time staff quickly outgrew the little studio.


We sold the little studio building, and moved into the larger, now renovated, house we’d bought for Karen. Rod hired another part-time person to do the mail, which added one more woman to the “team.”


The website developer was Stephanie van Doleweerd. The other staff members were Allison Zadoronzy, the assistant manager and the “manager” is Nancy Vincent, who was actually hired before all the other folks aside from bookkeeper Liuba Liamzini. She was even before inker Laura Piché and colourist Jackie Levesque. I don’t know the part-time person, but it is unusual that Lynn is saying that Rod hired the part-time person and not the studio manager. In her Lynn’s Notes and in her talk at the 2014 Toronto Comic Arts Festival she said Rod hired the studio manager, mainly to indicate that Rod was responsible for hiring the woman with whom he would have his affair. Nevertheless, the quotes around “team” and “manage” and the description of the job as a part-time person to do the mail, might be another way for Lynn to disparage Nancy and her role in Lynn’s company. In general scare quotes in this section appear to be Katie and Lynn’s way of insulting certain people who used to work for Lynn, by implying that they did not do what they were supposed to do. In fact, Lynn gave credit to Nancy in her 1999 Lives Behind the Lines book for transcribing all her handwritten text for the book and the Internet Movie Database lists Nancy as a producer for the final years of Lynn’s animated series. Aside from the "affair with the boss' husband" thing, she was probably a valued employee.


Rod had always taken an active role in Lynn’s business – managing the books, helping make big decision, providing material for the strip, and being a sounding board for Lynn. With new prospects on the horizon, Rod cut his dental practice to part-time and began to co-manage Lynn’s company among other things.


Looking back, it seems crazy to have had so many staff members. For a job I once did all by myself, I often wondered why we needed so many people. I was busy with the strip and the countless other projects that we had on the go; so long as everyone was happy and we were paying the bills, I didn’t question it. Together we produced a tremendous amount of stuff, and we sure had a lot of fun. It is pretty incredible that because of this job, I was able to provide some fabulous opportunities, as well as steady wages, to this group of talented people.


Lynn only did the job by herself for a short period of time. Even back in Lynn Lake she had an assistant and someone else to answer her mail.

Part time Rod. I copied off the University of Toronto Dental Alumni document that listed Rod’s history. It said Rod sold his dental practice in 2002. I know from my own investigations a Dr. Fuzy owns a practice at that location now. According to documents on Rod’s current dentistry website, he continued to work until 2006 when he retired (for 2 days). After those 2 days, he agreed to be a fill-in full time dentist for Dr. Richard Sciuk, who had a severe injury from being hit by a truck when he was bicycling in Toronto on July 11, 2006. Dr. Sciuk never recovered fully enough to return to dentistry. A year and half later in summer, 2008, Rod bought the business from the injured dentist and continues that business to this day as his own. This effectively means that Rod was a part-time dentist only from 2002 to 2006. Remember those years. It will come up later.

As for the large staff, the intent was that when Lynn retired from the comic strip, the staff would continue to operate as a sort of marketing firm that helped to promote other businesses, but using For Better or For Worse as their main business and the means of promotion. It would be kind of like PAWS, Inc. is for the Garfield comic strip if PAWS, Inc. promoted something else in addition to Garfield. It was called Entercom Canada. I remember seeing a webpage for Entercom Canada, Inc., that described how the FOOB characters could be used to promote a business. Lynn would license the characters to promote the business, do a little art for the promotion, and her employees would stay employed with a minimal involvement from the retired Lynn. In that way, Lynn could have her cake and eat it too. Her business would still make money, but she would only have to work when she wanted. As for her retirement, Lynn had twice announced a potential retirement in 2004 and in 2007. She failed to retire in both years and eventually ended up retiring in 2010.

The syndicate would have been happy for Lynn to continue on her strip until the day she died (just like Charles Schulz did), so she could pick any time she wanted to retire. For the Entercom Canada staff, Lynn's retirement meant that they had to have their business operating well enough so that it did not have to depend on Lynn's comic strip income to keep them afloat. For them, her retirement announcements were deadlines, because back in the day, Lynn was talking about a hard cut-off and nothing about hybrids or new-runs or reprints. The strip was going to be completely finished.

We will discuss what happened because of those deadlines in the next part.

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