howtheduck (howtheduck) wrote in binky_betsy,

The funny side of pregnancy, as seen by cartoonist Lynn Johnston

^ The funny side of pregnancy, as seen by cartoonist Lynn Johnston, from The Australian Women's Weekly; by Yvonne Crittenden; published 1 March 1978; retrieved July 8, 2018

I found this article on Lynn Johnston in the time period just before she started the syndicated comic strip and just before she moved to Lynn Lake.  It is interesting to look at it now.  I will quote the article and then comment on it after the break.

As every mother knows, looking after small children can be fun as well as demanding.  But until recently the humorous side of motherhood was left mainly to writers, it was not often depicted in cartoon form.

Canada's Lynn Johnston is trying to change all that. The 30-year-old artist/housewife / mother from Dundas, a small town outside Toronto, is in the process of having a six-days-a-week syndicated comic strip launched in the United States. And since she published her first book of cartoons, "David - We're Pregnant!" in 1975, she has been Canada's top female cartoonist.

Mrs Johnston (whose books are published under the name of Lynn Franks), mother of four-year-old Aaron (by her first husband) and now pregnant from her second marriage to a dentist-in-training, specializes in the kind of situations familiar to mothers of small children. Her first book was a best-seller by Canadian standards, while her second book "Hi Mom! Hi Dad!" - chronicling the first year of her son's life - is an equally steady seller.

Lynn Johnston hit her own particular jackpot by accident. A professional artist, she had done a lot of freelance commercial work.  While pregnant with Aaron, on a visit to her doctor she complained how boring it was to lie on an examining table staring at a bare ceiling.

"You're the artist, you provide some pictures," he retorted.  Spurred by that, she came back on her next visit with 15 cartoons relating to pregnant women. The doctor was so delighted by them he stuck them on the ceiling and walls, had them photo-copied and sent out to other clinics.

"All these drawings are in the first book," Mrs Johnston says. "I got carried away and drew about 80 more, tracing the various stages of pregnancy, and finally found a publisher who thought they'd make a good book." Response to that book was immediate, from both men and women, and she was inspired by this success to do a second book about raising a toddler. Mrs Johnston intends to follow her children's progress in cartoons, "lt's okay now, but I can see problems," she laughs. "At the moment, Aaron has a tremendous crush on a little girl called Deidre and I get endless material from this. But in 10 years he'll probably be scared to bring a girl home in case it ends up as part of a strip!"

Lynn Johnston never thought she would be able to make a living at something she enjoys as much as cartooning. "I wanted to be an animator, but I soon realized there isn't much creativity involved."
Lynn and her husband Roderick plan to move to a remote mining community in northern Manitoba soon. He wants to do "outpost dentistry," hoping eventually to have his own plane and minister to the most remote patients by air.

Combining motherhood and a career has had its rough spots, particularly when she separated from her first husband and was a sole support mother. "For the fun stuff - the cartoons – I will work day and night if necessary, and my family knows enough to leave me alone till it's finished. I'm an ogre at these times."

How is she going to cope with a new baby, a more or less pioneer life, and the fulltime job of a syndicated cartoon strip, if her new venture clicks in American newspapers? "Oh, I will manage somehow," Lynn shrugs. "I hope they have a good courier service."

Fortunately Lynn works fast – she can do up to 30 cartoons a day. She augments her own family's experiences by reading child-rearing books, visiting friends with masses of kids and pets "till I come back biting my nails and loaded with ideas."

She also finds it helps that she can't quite realize she is grown up. "I can't quite believe I am 30, and the whole business of being a parent myself is a bit mind-boggling. Perhaps this is why I can see the odd side of it so clearly."

Recently, she watched Aaron at the zoo feeding peanuts to a goat. "In no time I visualized his arm halfway down the goat's throat and me shouting: 'No, no, Aaron, you have to let go of the peanut!' "That one will be in her next book about pre-schoolers.


This is interesting because it does fly in the face of stories Lynn has told later about how she got her syndicated contract and when she moved to Lynn Lake.  It looks like she got the contract before her 3rd book was published, which implies that if the publisher of her 3rd book did submit Lynn for the syndicate job, he did so based on the work she had already done for the two prior publishers of her two prior books.   She got the contract while they were still in Ontario and in early 1978 Rod was still in dental school, as I have often suspected, instead of that nonsense about drawing on packing boxes she likes to tell. 

She tells the story about Dr. Murray Enkin requesting the drawings, but she does not mention him by name and she makes it seem like she (and not Murray) was the one who found her first publisher or who collected her drawings and told her to publish them and financed their publication. 

It also shows that Lynn’s intent before she even got started in the comic strip was to have the comic strip progress match to her children’s progress.  Contrary to what we have heard before, there was a real girl who corresponded to Deanna, a girl named Deidre.  Lynn’s artistic method of  separating herself from her family and being an ogre while she is drawing appears to have been her method, even when she was working on her initial books.

For the first time, I see Lynn slam animation as not being creative.  I guess she was still angry about being turned down for Rocket Robin Hood.

I enjoy the way Rod is called Roderick.

I enjoy Lynn’s claim that she can do “up to” 30 cartoons a day.   Lynnglish was at work even in the early days with that “up to” to cover her obvious lie.


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