forworse (forworse) wrote in binky_betsy,

Collection Recap: A Look Inside For Better Or For Worse

I'm going to do a slightly different recap here, as this book is actually three collections in one, so I'll break it down accordingly.  The first part of the collection is Lynn's 1989 biography, including drawings from her childhood, high school, art school, time as a medical illustrator and on into the first three collections of single-panel work, David, We're Pregnant, Hi Mom, Hi Dad, and Do They Ever Grow Up? which led to FBorFW.

Since the biography concerns real people rather than the characters in the strip, I'm only going to note only those parts which have influenced the strip.  I'm sure this collection is available at libraries for anyone wanting the full story, but don't forget that there have been some significant real life retcons.

Lynn's friend Elly Jansen was a Dutch immigrant who joined her junior high school.  Lynn writes that both were from strong, religious families: Elly's was Catholic and Lynn's Anglican, and both shared an unquestioning faith.  Elly would get terrible headaches but no one knew how ill she really was until she collapsed at Christmas and died on the operating table while doctors tried to remove a large brain tumour.  Elly's death caused Lynn to lose her faith.  In her early 20s when she was working as a medical illustrator and, with her friend and supervisor Paul Knowles (the namesake of all the Pauls in the strip?), attended an autopsy, she saw the reality of death and believed that there must be a reason for life, and her faith returned.

Lynn's high school art teacher, Constance Wainwright, was the namesake of Connie, who was introduced as a "villainous counterpart" to Elly, a feminist shrew with few redeeming qualities, but she quickly mellowed into a lonely single mother.  Connie's stories of being a single mother and her various relationships were drawn largely from Lynn's own experiences.

Lynn met her first husband, Doug Franks, at a party she attended with former high school friends who had gone into broadcasting.  She writes of their 1967 wedding, "The whole concept of a wedding, to me, seemed a farce: the ceremony, the white, the formality.  I infuriated my mother by regarding it as just another party."  Of their early marriage: "I'd lived all my sheltered life in my parents' home and now had my own apartment.  I loved the freedom and the title 'Mrs.'"  Their sheepdog, Farley, named for author Farley Mowat, joined the household soon after, but: "The subject of baby drove a wedge between us.  Vacillating between wanting and then not wanting a family, Doug finally begged total freedom from the decision altogether.  I conceived Aaron. ... New motherhood was not easy.  Emotionally, I was still a child myself.  Though Doug appeared to be pleased with his small son, he found parenthood too confining and too much of a commitment.  When Aaron was six months old, he moved out of the house.  No divorce is easy, but I suspect ours was less difficult than most. ... I was to keep the car, the house - everything - and in exchange, he was to be free forever of all responsibility.  This was our agreement."

(I included the above because it gives an interesting background to Elizabeth's wedding day, and the story of marriage sounds very familiar if you replace "Doug" with "Thérèse".)

She met Rod Johnston at the local airport and he swept her off her feet -- literally -- by flying her and Aaron to the next airport to have lunch.  Their next date was to a Polish wedding.  On their third date, they sat down with sheets of paper and made checklists of all the things they sought in a future partner: "Amazingly, our lists matched almost exactly..."  The only drawback was that Rod wanted to return to the north where he'd grown up and provide a dental service to the native communities.  Lynn had to choose between staying in the city where she had her own home and life, or getting married and going off to an unknown situation.  They were married in a small civil ceremony by a Rabbi, and moved to Rod's home of Lynn Lake, 750 miles northwest of Winnipeg, where his parents still lived, remaining there until 1984 when they -- and Rod's parents -- moved to North Bay, Ontario.  Lynn writes that she "often resented Lynn Lake", but was made many lasting friendships, but that North Bay was "far enough north to be home to my beloved bushwhacker [!] and far enough south for me to have a courier and junk food and malls!"

Lynn was expecting Katie around the time she was approached by Universal Press Syndicate about submitting strip for a possible daily syndicated series, based on the response she'd had to the three little books she'd done about pregnancy and early parenthood.  Lynn writes that she had been approached because the syndicate sought "a strip on family life from a woman's point of view".  She sent off 20 strips based on her own family and was offered a twenty-year contract.  Her editor suggested the title "For Better or For Worse" as her approach was somewhat bittersweet.  The characters originally had the first names of their real life counterparts, but Lynn and Rod thought it would become tiresome and possibly embarrassing, so changed the names to their middle names, other than for Elly, who was named in memory of her childhood friend.
Tags: foob history

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