Lynn recently appeared on the Great Big Beautiful Podcast, on GeekDad.com., with Jamie Green and Justin Connors.
Their comprehensive interview with Lynn is more than an hour long, and covers a lot of ground! Tune in and enjoy.
It is so long that I do not want to write a transcript for all of it. I will just pick a few spots and discuss them after the cut.
This is their text:
Today, we’re taking a trip down memory lane with one of the all-time greatest newspaper comic strips, Lynn Johnston’s For Better or for Worse. Johnston’s strip ran from 1979-2008 and was a staple of the daily reading routine for millions of people and a few generations of comics fans.
And now, we can all dive back in and appreciate the strip’s brilliance from the beginning. The Library of American Comics (who is doing the lord’s work with their publishing program) just put out the first gorgeous volume of For Better or for Worse, which collects every strip from 1979-1982. As is expected from the LoAC, the packaging is phenomenal, and the book is a joy to hold and read. It’s also the first of NINE planned volumes that will ultimately collect every strip (weekday and Sunday) of the story in order.
On this episode, we talk to Johnston about the new edition, looking back and reevaluating work she did 40 years ago, how the strip tackled serious and timely social issues, living in the cold pre-internet nowhere of northern Manitoba, and if it’s possible to make a living as a cartoonist in 2018.
The two guys talk and the interview does not start until the 6:14 mark, when they play a recording done 4 days earlier with just one of the guys.
7:03 – The interviewer talks about the new IDW Library book and asks Lynn what she thinks. “I am be considered one of the classics which is more than a compliment. It’s quite wonderful.”
Then he asks what input Lynn had into the format of the book. There is pregnant pause as Lynn decides to answer the question about her input in the design of The Complete Library book.
“We have worked with some publishers which were really difficult to work with.” Excludes IDW and Andrews McMeel, of course, but she does say that they wanted all the original material as it was originally presented or they didn’t want to do it at all.
My comment: Lynn is wise not to slam Andrews McMeel, which is her syndicate’s publisher, even though their awful treasuries are the main reason why IDW is able to produce her Library books without Lynn getting any say into their format, even though she clearly wanted to. In other words, she is lucky they want to publish her stuff at all.
9:00 - Talks about how rough the artwork is in the beginning and how she did not reprint all of it in her own collections. It was very rough and it was the best she could do (standard line about kids and tough life in Lynn Lake.)
Lynn Lake has 300 miles of dirt road to the next town from Lynn Lake.
10:50 – She sent faxes of her pencil roughs to the editor in Kansas City for approval in the early days.
11:46 – Lynn says she is almost in the arctic.
My comment: Lynn loves to say she was living in the arctic when she was in Lynn Lake. Lynn Lake is just below the line indicated for the subarctic. “almost” is accurate.
12:30 – I never missed a deadline.
My comment: Except that time when she did which aprilp_katje
13:10 - I had to complete the work 8 weeks in advance for colouring the Sundays. Started with 8 colours. You would list the colours and where you wanted them with your fax.
14:24 – Talks about how the original colours from American Colour are in the book, even if they were mistakes. This is the part of the book Lynn does not like.
14:59 – Lynn starts referring to American Colour in Buffalo as American Greetings. She corrects herself once and then it is American Greetings from then on for the rest of the interview.
15:40 – And now Lynn was living the arctic. Lynn talked about her visit to American Greetings to see their brand new electronic colouring system that expanded it to 64 colours.
16:30 – She talks about how the floor where the computer colouring equipment was located was 6 inches higher because of the wiring underneath.
My comment: Actually old computer systems had to lift the computers off the floor in order to give them proper ventilation to keep them cool. Old time computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s were notorious for shutting down if they got too hot. I don’t expect Lynn to know this.
17:10 – Did a presentation to the Reuben Award convention on how they had 64 colours and it caused the American Color colourists to be overwhelmed with the amount of work from the comic strip artists who were apparently unaware of the additional colours until Lynn did her talk.
17:51 – Describes the Reuben Awards as a place to drink and hang out and gossip.
My comment: No lie. The first thing she said was “drink”.
18:10 – 20 year contract question. He says that can’t happen very often. Lynn says it doesn’t happen very often, but she thought it did with Cathy Guisewite.
My comment: She paused so long with this one, I almost got the feeling she was about to confess it really wasn’t 20 years.
18:44 – Lynn actually credits one of the publishers of her books for sending them to the syndicate.
My comment: It was Bruce Lansky of Meadowbrook Press, her third publisher. She didn’t say his name; however, I am impressed she didn’t say her books magically appeared on the desk of Jim Andrews at Universal Press.
19:30 – Lynn talks about her 20 sample strips. And how she got a neighbor to look after the baby when she went to sign her contract in Kansas City.
My comment: I am pretty sure Rod was around after Katie was born, but maybe Lynn's Rod hate is too great to admit that he was ever much of a father.
20:55 – You send a package of strips every two weeks.
My comment: I had wondered how often Lynn sent things. She generally gave the deadlines but not her rate of creation.
21:48 – Did ask for a 6 month creative contract, so she could figure out how to do things
My comment: She is hanging hard with creative contract only being 6 months that she put in the book intro instead of the actual 1 ½ years from early 1978 to late 1979.
23:49 – Talks about how lucky she was to have a job she could do at home in the little mining town in Lynn Lake where there was nothing around.
My comment: I got a real sense here she actually appreciated how lucky she was.
24:20 – Talks about it being 50 below and trapped in the house in Lynn Lake.
24:55 – Talked about how people would run down to the grocery and fight over the vegetables when the vegetable truck came to Lynn Lake.
My comment: I seriously doubt it.
25:21 – Said she needed the isolation because of the publicity and her sarcastic streak and because she is a ham.
26:47 – “I am so excited. What time do the Northern Lights come on?” – female reporter visiting Lynn Lake to see Lynn.
27:45 – Lynn lived up there in Lynn Lake for a short while. 7 years. She became a nicer person because you know everybody and their families. Where she lives now, she knows her next door neighbor but she’s never been in his home and she doesn’t know any other of her neighbours.
29:05 – Lynn Lake – No one can be a jackass in a small town.
29:47 – Lynn Lake kept her from having a villain in the comic strip. Connie was intended to be the horrible neighbor with Elly being the foil. Lynn Lake was like being in a high school class because you know who everyone is. You have an affection for them, even if you don’t like them.
31:30 – Connie wasn’t all bad and so Connie and Elly became best friends in the strip.
32:25 – Lynn had two kids when she started. One kid 5 and the other 1 ½.
33:40 – “My kids‘ vocabulary is changing, so I can’t make the characters stay the same.”
34:51 – On the advice of Cathy Guisewite, she kept the kids young for 3 years so her own children could grow up a bit. It would allow her to look back and do stories that would not embarrass her kids when they were older. “That 3 years saved all of us and it was a great thing to do.”
My comment: 3 year freeze. Still not true, even if she says she did it right at the beginning of the strip. Too many birthdays and changing grades in school in the first 3 years of the strip.
36:00 – Lynn tried to push the boundaries all the time. She brags about putting a butt crack in the newspaper. The gluteal fold. She covered child abuse, alcoholism and divorce.
37:00 – She goes to Michael Boncoeur. Knew him since Grade 8. He died for his stereo and his bicycle. She talks about how Michael in the strip was named after him.
38:33 – Editors in papers were blindsided for not reading the memo sent 6 weeks in advance talking about the Lawrence story and their two story choices if they didn’t run Lawrence. She lost 50 papers but got picked up by rival papers in large communities. Small town editors were the most punished. Their dog was spray painted and their kids were beaten up in school for publishing Lawrence.
My comment: She has told this story before about the dog spray painting and it doesn’t sound more truthful in repetition. She was so specific about the memo sent in advance for the Lawrence story, I am beginning to suspect that memo was not handled as exactly as Lynn claims.
40:42 – The Hallifax Herald is only Canadian paper to drop Lynn thanks to Lawrence. Most hate mail came from Peoria. She called the Peoria newspaper to find out why. They said the Caterpillar tractor company had just laid off people in Peoria, so people were mad and decided to take it out on her.
My comment: Caterpillar is in Peoria, so who knows?
43:30 - In answer to question about how many papers ultimately took her back later on, Lynn says her web designer would know because she was the one who helped her through the whole business.
My comment: Nope. Stephanie van Doleweerd was not Lynn’s web designer until October, 2003. Lawrence’s story in 1993 was well before Lynn had a website. Lynn may be referring to Stephanie’s help in archiving her old material which may have included this information.
43:42 – Lynn wanted to cover infidelity and lying to your partner. She never did that story. There were too many characters. She counted 90 characters when she finished the strip. Deep down inside she felt infidelity was the exact thing going on in her life. It is easier to deny than to break up a family. It is easier to make excuses than say, “I don’t believe you.”
My comment: The Annie and Steve infidelity strips in 1990 were so early in the comic strip, the implication is that Lynn suspected Rod of cheating on her for most of her marriage, which is not really news to us as she has said she thought he was cheating even back in the Lynn Lake days when they had just gotten married.
45:25 – The way she lived she didn’t want people to see in the strip. She is talking about dog teams and wolves of the Canadian North. Also, she was living quite well. “Gee I think I will buy a new car. Nice for you, but I am still paying off the last car.”
My comment: I liked the admission that she couldn’t make the Pattersons as rich as she was.
46:23 – Loved to fly and had her licence. She couldn’t put that in the strip because not everyone can do that.
My comment: As I recollect, Lynn’s flying licence was only when a licenced pilot was in the plane with her.
47:21 – She hasn’t flown in a long time. She could only fly a 185 Cessna. She never got her instrument rating. She flew IFR (I follow roads). She was in her 40s when she learned to fly.
My comment: Not in her 40s. She did this in her Lynn Lake years from 1978 – 1984, which would have been 31 – 37 for Lynn. In her 1985 Christmas letter she reprinted in the treasuries, she confessed then that she had given up trying to get her pilot’s licence.
48:09 – He compares her to parenting blogs and suggests that she paved the way for mommy bloggers.
48:34 – She replies “Hum.” She says she couldn’t have done anything without the drawing. She talks about how she couldn’t do what Erma Bombeck did.
My comment: “Hum”. She just flat out says it after a big, long pause. Comparing Lynn to bloggers. I don’t think the guy knew just how much of an insult that was to someone who hates bloggers with a passion. She is a persons who wants to hear how she is paved the way for female cartoonists and women in general. Fortunately for him, Lynn holds it together.
49:36 – She had to sustain the strip for 3 years so by that point the audience understood the characters and cared about them. Today’s artists can’t sustain it for 3 years. She suggests bloggers can’t last past 3 years. She suggests graphic novels are a better choice for the young artist.
My comment: The Foobiverse’s Journal has been going since March 5, 2005. 13 years thanks to the cookie77
51:14 – Did Lynn have other creative itches? Public speaking. Stand-up. She did quite a bit. She was hired by a wonderful company called Unique Lives – did 5 shows in the states and 5 in Canada. It is probably the toughest job on the planet. She has done a number of shows with other comedians.
My comment: A new and blatant lie. This is the Unique Lives and Experiences website. They fund a series of lectures by celebrities, most of whom are not stand-up comics.
They have different lecturers in different cities. Each speaker does one speech in one city and it is not stand-up comedy. This was the line up when Lynn did it.
UNIQUE LIVES & EXPERIENCES 2000
Women's Lecture Series
Winspear Centre, Edmonton
Silken Laumen - March 13, 2000
Lynn Johnston - April 13, 2000
Benazir Bhutto - May 9, 2000
Patty Duke - May 29, 2000
This is Lynn’s stand-up comedy experience:
Friday September 18, 2015 Lynn’s Notes:
There was a very funny variety show on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) called "Madly Off In All Directions." The host was Lorne Elliott. When he asked me to do a 10-minute comedy spot on the show. I agreed and then discovered how hard it is to do stand-up comedy!
52:34 – My partner is a musician and he complains that people want to hear his old stuff. Standup comics have to have new material all the time.
My comment: Paul Lucas is mentioned not by name, but still with the words “my partner”. I would guess the likelihood that Paul Lucas is asked to play his old favourites is about zero percent. He has done 2 albums he did with the Paul Lucas Trio. Now he is playing with Lucie D and the Immortals and now one is asking them to do Paul’s trio music.
54:01 – Lynn wrote to Phyllis Diller and she invited Lynn to dinner. She took a corner table and played the restaurant. It took her awhile to be herself with a cup of tea and her feet up when she was at home.
My comment: To be accurate, Lynn wrote Phyllis Diller and asked to meet her when Lynn was in California.
55:45 – Talks about how the job got easier when she realized the formula to the comic strip after 3 years. You have to be a really hard worker. She doesn’t like when she sees cartoonists doing work in a hotel room at the Reuben awards because they were too lazy to get off their duffs and do it earlier. She managed to do her strip by working evenings and weekends and holidays while raising a family.
My comment: Lynn does not seem to get that she defeated her whole argument by talking about how she sacrificed holidays, evenings, and weekends to get her work done that she didn’t get done during the day, just like the cartoonists working during the Reuben conventions.
57:26 – There is a safety net in cartooning that you can erase it and start again, which you don’t have in standup.
My comment: Lynn using an eraser? Ha! Ha! This next part is about us, so I am quoting all of it:
57:34 – “In standup, it’s you. And there’s always some moron in the audience who’s going to say something to shatter your train of thought. But that doesn’t happen when you’re doing comic strips. The moron out there that’s going to send you a nasty comment, you don’t have to read it. Let the moron’s comment go out into the ether and maybe his pal morons will read it and say, “Hey! That was a cool comment.” I don’t care. I’m never going to see it. I don’t care. You can waste your time in your basement, but I don’t care.”
My comment: We are morons, male, and living in a basement. I think I preferred being called a fungus person to being called a moron. I think Lynn’s attitude about not caring is great and that’s exactly what she should do. Unfortunately, the fact that we got mentioned yet again and Lynn seems to be aware of the kind of things we write to each other defeats that whole idea.
58:15 – If she does a graphic novel, it won’t be For Better or For Worse. Compares it to milking a cow until it dries up and is dead.
My comment: This may be another reason why life on the Cruikshank farm was not so great for Lynn if she witnessed that happening.
59:00 – She repeats the story about Rod’s Viagra divorce with the woman he hired to run her company.
My comment: Sorry, Lynn. Rod is married now and it’s not to that woman that you hired to run your company. She was hired before 1999 when Rod was still working as a dentist and not working on your business.
59:40 – Talks about how she had another artist working with her doing backgrounds. T Lynn says her art got too tight and too perfect and how do you add new characters where they didn’t look the same? Compares it to the way your signature is not exact the same, but still looks the same.
My comment: This is the second time I have seen her recognize her inker Laura Piché indirectly and not mention her colourist / grayscaler Jackie Levesque. This the first moment I have seen where Lynn realizes that she was unable to draw new characters without them looking like old characters. We have often commented about how many characters ended up looking like April (young Connie, John’s hygienist, etc.) However, her inability to draw new characters had nothing to do with Laura or Jackie. If they were holding Lynn to a higher standard of artwork, then good for them.
1:00:46 – Lynn slams Manga because it is drawn by a consortium, where not all the artists are the same quality. She talks about how she started to add lips to characters and started to think like an anatomist. The car has to look right. The perspective has to be right. She lost the freedom and joy and spontaneity of her original drawings.
My comment: In other words, she liked it better when she would just draw disembodied heads and hands talking to each other across a panel – the lazy years. I like the way Lynn slams the manga for being made by a group of people. In manga, there is a main artist and assistants and the assistants are commonly used for inking, lettering, and shading. Lynn did the same thing when she had Laura Piché doing her inking and lettering and she had Jackie Levesque doing her shading.
1:02:50 – Lynn talks about how she was approached to do television and sitcoms and animation and complains that all the people wanted the characters to be American and not Canadian.
My comment: Lynn continues this story of how the Americans want her strip but not as Canadian and thanks to her nationalism, Lynn refused. Go Canada! Yay to Lynn for standing up to those awful Americans and keeping her characters pure.
1:03:35 – How can a young artist be successful? Lynn says that the people have to be able to take advice from people who tell you that something doesn’t work. You are working for an audience, you are not working for yourself.
My comment: Clearly she is referring to other people not taking her advice, because I can’t see Lynn taking this advice from anyone.
1:05:05 – Believes graphic novels are the way to go for today’s artist because it leads to video games and movies on the work.
1:05:36 – Her eyes are a mess. She has a growth in one eye and the other one doesn’t work. She has shaky hands. And a new one, “Why do I fart all the time?”
My comment: Clearly she still hasn’t had that cataract surgery yet, but she has added farting to her list of ailments. At this point, I suspect the guy is glad this is a phone interview.
1:06:06 – Lynn recognizes her old high school buddies in Vancouver because she recognizes their smiles.
1:06:43 – She says to her high school buddies, this is the time to get together and enjoy us.
My comment: Got the message, Paul Lucas?
1:07:01 – When she because she got rich and famous, it turned her into an asshole. She says 99% of people who get rich turn into assholes.
My comment: This is a surprisingly honest confession if it weren’t for all the times before she was rich.
1:07:31 – She would have had a really good ad agency working in film and commercials, if she had not gotten her syndicate contract.
1:08:35 – She confesses she does not the energy or the interest in starting an ad agency. What is important to her now is lunch. When she is putting on her support hose and farting so much and taking care of her grandkids, she is concerned about lunch.
My comment: Fart jokes again and the first time the grandkids are mentioned. I am so happy she used a plural there.
The rest of it is the two guys chatting about the interview that one of them hasn’t heard yet, and then they push the IDW book.