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Deep Dive 2: Items From Our Archives

Over Lynn’s long career, she’s accumulated lots of photos and artwork (see our first Deep Dive feature for some more background info). We thought it was time to pull some interesting items out of our archives, show them to Lynn, and ask her to tell us the stories behind them.

Can you tell us a bit about how it felt to win the Reuben?

I was overjoyed by my nomination, but I was expecting not to win. Jim Davis was also nominated for “Garfield” and everyone expected him to walk away with it. When I won, I was so shocked I just stood there and had to be coaxed to the stage. I was pleased about winning, but in reality, it was too soon. I felt I hadn’t proven myself yet. Jim deserved to win.

I have done so many things like this over the years that it really is hard to remember the details. This was an ad for a family board game that was designed to result in a happy outcome without the stress of “winning and losing.”

The company that created the game paid me for the art and we were given one of the games to try as a family. To be honest, I don’t think we ever played it and it was given away when we moved.

It was exciting to see my work in other languages. I was unable to tell if the text was true to the original or if the joke “worked,” but it was a real sign of success to know that FBorFW was being read on the other side of the planet. I especially loved the way sound effects were translated!

[We’re working on a website feature where we’ll collect some of these translated strips together!]

This is my dear friend Bernhard Thor standing outside his mountain cabin with his dog, Prince. He is a renowned sculptor, painter, and stone carver. We have known each other since art school, circa 1965.

The sweater I’m wearing here has a story to it. Sparky (Charles) Schulz, seen here beside me, had invited me to sit in on a licensing meeting at his studio with two of his New York executives. They were showing him new designs they had created for jewellery, clothing, and porcelain products. This sweater had been made in Paris, was a prototype, and was one of a kind. He opened it out as they were telling him about the way it had been made, how unique the materials were, and that they were delighted with the colours. Sparky was furious; “How many times do I have to tell people that Snoopy’s nose is not shaped like that?!” he roared. And he tossed the sweater across the table at them. I wasn’t supposed to have an opinion. I wasn’t supposed to say anything at all…but I blurted out loud, “I like it!”

Sparky took the sweater and threw it at me saying, “You wear it then!” I took the sweater—much to the frustration of the designers who wanted the sample back! I’ve worn it every Christmas ever since.

My friend Andie Parton is a smart, thoughtful, creative, diplomatic woman…and funny as hell. We both had young adult children, and the politics of seeing them off into the world immersed us both.

Andie had a million great tips and suggestions about how to live on your own—everything from budgeting to making bachelor meals on a hotplate. I suggested she write a book for kids fleeing the family nest for the first time and I’d illustrate it. The result was “Leaving Home,” which, for a while, sold many copies in university bookstores everywhere.

Enter Our Photo Contest!

The Pattersons live in Milborough, Ontario (based on Burlington, Ontario), but over the 30-year run of For Better or For Worse®, they travelled to places near and far. For the 40th anniversary of the strip, we’re holding a photo contest to celebrate their voyages!

Here’s a list of places the Pattersons have gone; send us your family-friendly photos of yourself in any of these locations; we’ll post your photos and pick a winner on April 29th. The prize is a drawing of you as an FBorFW character.


Lynn Visits Murray and Eleanor Enkin

A couple of weeks ago, I made my annual pilgrimage to see Murray and Eleanor Enkin. Not only did Dr. Enkin deliver both my children, he was the one who encouraged me to create my first book of cartoons and to then find a publisher. To this day, I thank him for my wonderful education (as one of his medical artists) and I credit him for my eventual entry into the serious world of comic art.

Lynn’s First Book!

The Helijet leaves from an obscure spot on the other side of the harbour from where I live. I can almost see where it lands. I packed an over night kit, walked down to the Sea Bus and in 20 minutes, I was sitting in the small waiting room, watching the sea planes lifting off and wheeling into an overcast morning sky. Six business people anxious to get to Victoria, and a couple of easygoing travellers like me packed into the cabin of the Helijet, and in no time we were rising from the dock as waves along the edge blew furiously away in great white sheets. Our pilot was an attractive young woman; her copilot a handsome young man. They were two people capable of the most astonishing magic. No matter how often I fly, or in what kind of aircraft, I always believe I’m experiencing a miracle!

It took about an hour to get to Victoria. By then, it was raining and a taxi was waiting for me. The Enkins live in a small house on a quiet street in an older neighbourhood. A sign on the door read: “Keep ringing the bell. We can’t hear!” Murray and Eleanor opened the door together and welcomed me inside. They are both in their 90s now. They looked exactly the same to me as they did the last time I dropped in, but Eleanor was not able to carry a conversation, and Murray was a bit unsteady on his feet. We had all changed (as one does), but when you feel at home with people, there seems to be no lapse of time. It was as if I’d just seen them the day before. We laughed and hugged and made our way to the small sitting room where Murray keeps a fire lit in the wood stove. A young woman, who comes to give them a hand each day, arrived with tea and cookies and we sat by the fire as we always do, enjoying the warmth and the companionship. Murray and Eleanor are family to me.

Lynn’s dear friend, Murray Enkin

It took awhile to catch up. We tend to interrupt each other and then forget the topic! After filling in the blanks about family and friends, we sat and let the moment settle; like butter melting into warm toast. “How many more times” I thought to myself,  “will I be able to sit in this room with these dear people?”  Conversation was sometimes difficult, as Eleanor chatted about things unrelated to what we were saying. Murry told me she lived in a world of her own. He said he kept himself sharp by reading, writing, meeting with academic friends, and counting backwards from 100 by sevens. I told him I couldn’t do it. By fives, maybe! He said he missed his colleagues at McMaster University and all the great times they had. He missed the challenge of his work, and the business of his days. He missed thinking, and planning, and doing meaningful things. I could feel his sadness. I’m beginning to understand these things, now. I’m beginning to see the world quite differently.

Until I was perhaps 65, I thought I’d always be the person I’d grown into; the person I recognized in the mirror, the person who thought the way I thought and did the things I did. Now, I’m 72 and I am different.  I’m old. My body is old. I find myself doing “old” things.  Murray and Eleanor are older.  We look at each other with a new and profound understanding.  Saying goodbye comes with an extra hug. Saying “take care” means just that.  Saying “I’ll see you again” is a fervent hope. We must meet again soon.

I’ve always been practical, and somewhat cynical, when it comes to life and death. But, the older I get, the more I believe that there’s more to this existence than meets the eye. As I hugged Murray and Eleanor one last time, I felt joy and anticipation. I was thinking: “There’s more to come. There’s a reason we met this time around. Now what?” It’s a profound question: “Now what?”

Growing old gives us time to rustle through our accumulated knowledge and experience and think: “Now that I’ve done all that…what does happen next?”  If I’m careful. If I’m lucky, I might have 20 more years before I find out!  Meanwhile, I have images fresh in my mind of friends who gave me confidence and support when I needed it most, and a personal goal that led to an unexpected career.

One of Lynn's pre-FBorFW comics.

I spent the following two days in Victoria with another friend — about whom I’ll tell you soon.

Lynn J.

The 40th Anniversary of FBorFW

Lynn Johnston created For Better or For Worse in 1979, after being offered a 20 year contract by Universal Press Syndicate (now known as Andrews McMeel Syndication), who wanted to showcase family life from a woman’s point of view. The first strip was published on Sunday, September 9th; it was only loosely based on Lynn’s own family, but over the years FBorFW grew to accurately reflect family life across North America – in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s.

The first strip!

In 2008, Lynn wrapped up the For Better or For Worse saga, which included hundreds of characters and storylines, spanned two generations of the Patterson family, and saw Lynn awarded the Order of Canada, a Reuben Award, and a Gemini award (for an animated special based on the strip), and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

This fall marks the 40th anniversary of For Better or For Worse, and to celebrate we’re rolling out contests and new website content, to thank our longtime readers – and welcome our new ones! Watch our site for updates throughout the year.

Are you new to the strip? Learn about FBorFW here — 1979 to Now: Growing Up All Over Again.

The first new project we released this year was our revamped Strip Catalog, where you can read the entire 40-year run of FBorFW from start to finish. Explore the whole cast of characters, browse by location, call up a random strip, or look in the right sidebar for other ways to explore!

Next up is the brand-new Deep Dive feature, where we go through the FBorFW archive and ask Lynn to tell the stories of her older photos and artwork. Check out the first installment here.