howtheduck (howtheduck) wrote in binky_betsy,

A Little About Lynn

This is the material from the new website’s A Little About Lynn part. As usual, I will duplicate the text and add my own comments after the cut.

Click any of the headings below to reveal more information. For a more detailed biography, see our 2015 book For Better or For Worse: The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston.

My comment: Lynn’s selfie is drawn in her new goofy animal style and it is clear she is doing her own colouring, confirming my opinion that she fired Kevin Strang as her colourist before they left Corbeil.


I was born Lynn Ridgway in Collingwood, Ontario, Canada, and I grew up in British Columbia. My father was a jeweler, my mother a calligrapher and bookkeeper—both were musical, artistic and creative people. We were a family that loved to laugh.

Image: a self-portait Lynn drew. Here, she's about six years old.

My comment: No inaccuracies here. The self-portrait is one that I have not seen before.


My brother became a professional musician (trumpet) and I went to the Vancouver School of Art, hoping, somehow, to make a career as an artist.
My main interest was animation, and after two years of Art College, I took a job in an animation studio in Vancouver where I worked in the ink and paint department and began to apprentice as an animator.

Image: some student art from Lynn's time at Vancouver School of Art.

My comment: The way this is phrased, it implies that Lynn wanted to become an artist because her brother became a professional musician. Lynn would have been in art school and left art school to get married before Alan Ridgway even got out of high school.

The art from her art school days is art I have not seen before.

Working at McMaster University

I married a television cameraman and in 1969 moved to Ontario with my husband where work in the media was more available.

Unable to work in animation in the city of Hamilton, I got a job as a medical artist at McMaster University. It was a wonderful five years of learning. I gained a reverence for life and the human body that only one in a hospital environment can achieve.

Image: At McMaster, Lynn created many medical-themed illustrations, which professors used to help students remember important concepts.

My comment: This is so close to being correct. Work in the TV media would not have been more available in Hamilton than in Vancouver. The idea is still ridiculous, but Lynn keeps on with this idea. I have researched the Vancouver TV market of the late 1960s many times and if anything, the TV market was increasing by leaps and bounds. I notice that Lynn did not say that Doug left Vancouver in fear of losing his job, which is an improvement.

However, it would be accurate to say that work in the animation field was more available in Hamilton (the Toronto area) than it was in Vancouver. The contract that Canawest in Vancouver had with Hanna-Barbera ended in 1967, but in Toronto, they produced Rocket Robin Hood from 1966 – 69. Lynn wanted to work in animation and somehow managed to convince her husband to relocate from Vancouver to the Toronto area. The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston revealed that she wanted to do animation work freelance working from her home, an idea which I cannot imagine would have been acceptable to any animation studio in the 1960s. Plus, Lynn was an art school dropout in a city full of art school graduates. She did not get the job.

Lynn's First Book

In 1972 I discovered that I was expecting Aaron, and left McMaster to work at home.

My obstetrician challenged me to do some drawings for the ceilings above his examining tables, and during my eight months of regular visits, I did over eighty comic drawings for view of pregnancy. These were published in a book called "David, We're Pregnant" which sold over 300,000 copies. It's now out of print and a rare "find" in second hand book shops!

Images: Some of the art featured in Lynn's first book.

My comment: I am glad to see that Lynn is not repeating the completely ridiculous story she had in The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston where she decided to leave Doug and traveled to Vancouver and found a job and apartment and then found out she was pregnant and had to go back to Doug in Hamilton. While it is correct that Lynn's first book is out-of-print, an on-line search will show you many people willing to sell you their copy for about $25.

The picture showing a spitting Farley was listed in The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston as one of Lynn’s comic strips featuring her real-life family.

A Commercial Artist

Shortly after the publication of my first book, I was divorced and as a single parent, I worked as a commercial artist, free-lancing from a greenhouse I turned into a studio. These were "hard times" as they say—but a real education, as I did everything from pasting type to designing cereal boxes, billboards, leaflets, posters, flyers and book illustrations. I learned a great deal more about commercial art than I ever learned at art school.

My comment: The usual slam of education at the the Vancouver School of Art. I had hoped Lynn had gotten away from this practice. The publication date of David, We're Pregnant has been a source of continuous confusion to me, primarily because of statements like this one. In her 10th anniversary collection, it says David, We're Pregnant is copyright © 1975 by Lynn Johnston. Aaron was born in early 1973. Doug left Lynn in late 1973. Lynn had to do extra drawing to push the book to more than 100 illustrations. After that it was published, so a 1975 copyright date makes sense.

In 1975, "Hi Mom, Hi Dad" was published, a sequel to "David", and at this time I met and married Rod Johnston, then a dental student in his second year at the University of Toronto. I continued to freelance doing serious, comic and medical art from my studio until Kate was born and Rod had graduated from dental school.

My comment: The usual inaccuracies. Lynn met Rod much earlier when he worked with Doug at the CHCH TV station, but she sometimes likes to maintain this fiction so we don’t realize that one of the big reasons Doug left Lynn was because she was messing around with Rod and that he started living with her in 1974, shortly after Doug left. They did marry in 1975, but a large part of that delay was that the law said you had to be separated for a year before your divorce was final and you could remarry. In her 10th anniversary collection, it says Hi Mom, Hi Dad is copyright © 1977 by Lynn Johnston.

"Do They Ever Grow Up?" was the third publication in a sequence of books I began as a humorous but down to earth look at parenting. All three are out of print. I think "Hi Mom, Hi Dad" is the hardest to find.

My comment: Certainly first edition copies of the original publication of "Hi Mom, Hi Dad" would be the rarest, since that publisher went out of business. However, the final publisher got the rights to publish all 3 books, so copies that are not first editions can be easily found of all 3 books.

Lynn Lake and the Beginning of FBorFW

In 1978, Rod, Aaron, baby Katie, and I were planning to move to Lynn Lake, Manitoba. Around this time, editors at Universal Press Syndicate saw my books, wrote to me, and asked if I was interested in doing a daily comic strip. I sent off twenty examples of "The Johnstons"—a series based on our own family, since we were the only people I knew I could draw over and over again, with consistency. Expecting to be politely turned away, I received and ultimately signed a twenty-year contract—and the work began.

My comment: The usual lie about the 20-year contract. Lynn’s early newspaper interviews show that the actual first contract was for 10 years, but Lynn has maintained the 20-year contract fiction for a long time, even though she left Universal Press for United Features a year before 20 years was up.

In 1979, however, when it came time for actual publication, I decided to change the characters' names—to my family's second names (Aaron Michael, Katherine Elizabeth, Roderick John) except for Elly, who was named for a dear friend of mine who had passed away.

My editor, Lee Salem, suggested the title "For Better or For Worse"—and it seems to have been a good choice, as the strip is not all roses.

My comment: According to The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston, the picture is from a card Lynn sent out before they moved to Lynn Lake.

Life in the Funny Papers

Most cartoonists start the way I did: doodling on anything as soon as they were able to hold a pen. I've always loved to draw, and have always had a silly streak that more often than not, got me into trouble. "For Better or For Worse" lets me put it to good use! I always knew I would be a cartoonist, but I never expected to make my LIVING as one!

My comment: No inaccuracies here.

For Better or For Worse originally ran from 1979 until 2008, following Elly Patterson's life as she raised her family.

FBorFW Today

"For Better or For Worse" now appears in over 1600 papers in Canada, the United States, and other countries. It has been translated into eight languages. There are more than 30 books currently in print.

In 2008, Lynn retired from drawing new strips, and FBorFW began running again in the newspapers from the beginning. For more information, see "Growing Up All Over Again: FBorFW From 1979 to Now".

My comment: Not correct. Lynn stopped drawing new strips in the summer of 2010. As for 1600 papers, that’s still a surprisingly high number for a reprint strip. My newspaper stopped carrying the reprint strip a number of years ago and I can’t imagine that’s an uncommon thing.


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