Cartoonist Draws on Family Life Lynn Johnston Orchestrates Realistic Strip `for Better or for Worse'

By Davenport, John C. | The Florida Times Union, May 18, 1999 | Go to article overview

Cartoonist Draws on Family Life Lynn Johnston Orchestrates Realistic Strip `for Better or for Worse'


Davenport, John C., The Florida Times Union


A mother with more than one child might worry sometimes about whether she's giving enough attention to each of her children. With only two kids, both in their 20s, one might think this shouldn't be too difficult for Lynn Johnston. But she has another family to keep up with as well.

Johnston is the creator of the comic strip For Better or for Worse, which is widely hailed for its humorous, loving and realistic portrayal of family life. In the strip, she orchestrates the lives of John and Elly Patterson, their three children and their broad circle of friends and relations. It isn't easy to keep track of everybody.

"I have to remember what the characters have going on in their lives and who have I not caught up with lately," she says.

She has been doing it for 20 years, taking the Pattersons through raising their two older children, the birth of their third, plus tangential story lines involving neighbors, schoolmates, grandparents -- even the family pets. Should she ever let a character fade too far out of the picture, readers are always there to stick up for whoever they feel is being neglected. For Better or for Worse appears in more than 2,000 publications -- one of the five most widely distributed strips in the world -- so there are plenty of interested observers.

Realizing the mass appeal of her characters -- "a pretty middle-of-the-road bunch of people," as she calls them -- has made Johnston feel the responsibility that comes with her work.

"I was a lot more arrogant [in the strip's early years] than I am now. I used to tell people in airports what I do for a living. But now, it's my job." Not that it's a grind, she says, but she's aware of the impact of creating something that's read by millions of people every day.

One of the strip's most distinctive traits is that it progresses in real time. Characters mature, age, even die. (By comparison, if Peanuts did the same, Charlie Brown would be 50 next year.) And Johnston has no desire to slow down the process. To have meaning for her, events in the strip "have to be pretty doggone current," she says.

These days, situations involving high school- and college-age children hold more currency for her, as is reflected in the story lines involving the Pattersons' older kids, Michael and Elizabeth (the middle names of Johnston's own children, Aaron and Kate). But 9-year-old April Patterson is a "fantasy character" with no real-life counterpart.

"I am completely out of touch with what happens in a home with small children," says Johnston, who turns 52 this month. "I have to shut my eyes and remember what it was like." She must reach back into her "misty memory" to write for April -- and even for the Pattersons' dog, Edgar, since the Johnstons no longer have a dog.

The death in the strip a few years ago of Edgar's father, Farley (he died after saving April from drowning), is one example of the cartoonist's serious side. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Cartoonist Draws on Family Life Lynn Johnston Orchestrates Realistic Strip `for Better or for Worse'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.