I have been drawing cartoons for as long as I can remember. I love to tell stories and I love to laugh. As a young artist, I found work in animation, as a medical artist, and as a freelance commercial illustrator.
When she worked for Standard Engravers, the packaging firm, Lynn was a commercial illustrator, but she was not freelance. Her freelance work was in advertising, but fortunately Lynn does not go into her dream of owning her own advertising firm here.
I published three small cartoon books on pregnancy and parenting, and in 1979 Jim Andrews and John McMeel of Universal Press Syndicate in Kansas City, Missouri saw potential in my work.
Technically, Lynn did not publish any of those books. The year was 1977 and not 1979 when Lynn met with Jim Andrews, John McMeel and her future editor Lee Salem. Leaving out Lee Salem is a noticeable exclusion considering how much more involved he was with Lynn’s career than Andrews or McMeel. After all, Jim Andrews died at age 44 in 1980.
They challenged me to create a syndicated newspaper comic strip and presented me with a twenty-year contract.
Treasury #3 revealed it was a 10-year contract signed in 1978 slightly before or slightly after Lynn moved to Lynn Lake (depending on which story you believe). Lynn calls it a 20-year contract, but she did not make it to 20 years, having jumped ship to United Features Syndicate in 1997.
I didn’t know if I could fulfill this obligation, but I was determined to try. After six months in development, For Better or For Worse appeared.
Lynn asked for and received an extension of the usual development time, but that is not mentioned here or in The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston. Lee Salem talked about it one of his retirement interviews and how they made the concession because of her complete lack of experience. Obviously anyone looking at a calendar can determine a contract signed in early 1978 for a comic strip starting in September, 1979 is not six months. This is probably the reason Lynn changed the date of the meeting to 1979, so it would appear as though it was six months.
It was a struggle at first, but I learned to draw within the restrictions of the space I had to work with and I learned to write in a manner that would sustain the strip for almost thirty years.
This is in spite of the fact that the cartoon books she did before were one panel cartoons.
It was a joy and passion. It was a job and a commitment. I lived in two worlds and I worked harder than I ever thought possible. My work eventually appeared in over two thousand newspapers worldwide.
Thank you, military newspapers so she can add the word “worldwide” on that.
I met many of my heroes, which was both a privilege and an inspiration. I discovered the joy of success and the weighty embarrassment of arrogance. I tried to balance parenthood with the pressures of the job – and, with both my adult children still a vital part of my life, I think I was able to do so.
Lynn has been struggling with her absence from parenting her children due to her career since her retirement and admittedly she is in a better place now with her kids than she was back when she retired. Nevertheless, her criteria for being a good parent is based on the idea that her children are still financially dependent on her and need to have her around. This is a pretty weak argument. In fact, children that still depend on you for money are usually considered to be a sign of poor parenting. I notice she does not say a word about balancing marriage with the pressures of the job.
I retired the strip in 2008 when I felt it was no longer fresh and innovative; I had told the story to the best of my ability and it was over.
Let’s forget the new-runs and the hybrid ever happened. And yet, there are notes throughout the document talking about changes that Lynn made to the comics in the reprints and lists the date of their reprinting. The Kurtis Findlay introduction speaks at length about how hard it was to talk Lynn into letting an uncorrected, original publication-style comic strip collection to be printed and did so by promising to publish her corrected strips in the final volume of the series.
I am now retired and looking back on a career of which I am proud and satisfied. I keep busy with new projects and am determined to learn as much as I can about the new technology that is transforming graphic art in stunningly new ways.
Lynn is getting ready to talk about technology for graphic novels and yet in real life, she is interested in patterns for materials, which shockingly is not mentioned.
If I was twenty and beginning my career again, I would be writing and drawing graphic novels – this is the comic strip of the new millennia, and I think it will be more compelling and longer-lasting in the minds of readers than newspaper comics ever were.
A millennium (plural millennia or millenniums). Is Lynn talking about the one that started in 2001 or is she talking about the one coming up in 3001?
The talent won’t change, though. If you are a cartoonist who can write and tell stories, if you love to laugh and to enchant others into your dreams, then the comic art world of the future is yours and I challenge you to try!
Challenge back at you Lynn. You’re not dead. You are only 70 years old. You can still write and draw, even though you pretend you can’t. Skip that pattern nonsense. Do some cartooning for fun.