Showing posts with label For Better or For Worse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label For Better or For Worse. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Exhibit Review: The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston

by Mike Rhode

The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston. Kate Grumbacher. Washington, DC: Embassy of Canada Art Gallery, September 13, 2019-January 31, 2020.

The Canadian Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, between the White House and Congress is a striking setting for this small exhibit on For Better or For Worse, the long-running and popular comic strip. From 1979- 2008, the strip followed the lives of the Patterson family, a wife and husband (a dentist) and their three kids and dogs as they grew up in Canada. The strip is still running in reprints. The exhibit was originally shown in a gallery in Canada and modified by Grumbacher for exhibit in Washington. Johnston was in town for the exhibit opening, and also spoke at the Library of Congress the following day. She noted that she can no longer draw the strip due to tremors, but she’s being creative in other ways. On the back of the introductory plinth is fabric that she’s designed and goofy paintings of dogs and cats, but the exhibit largely concentrates on the comic strip.


As you walk into the exhibit, a large panel depicts a collage of her characters over the life of the strip, and has the title of the exhibit in French and English. The exhibit is bilingual throughout. In French, for the record the title is L’Art de la Bande Dessineé selon Lynn Johnston. Turning left from the title plinth, Johnston’s desk is featured along with some early drawings framed above it. The desk looks barely used compared to some other cartoonists’. The ‘office area’ is bounded by a small wall, and on the other side of that is a small interactive section where a visitor could color a sheet with characters from the strip, or create their own four-panel strip in a blank sheet of squares. A large set of labels explains the process of creating a comic strip. Next to that is a small enclosed exhibit case with family photos, toy cars and other materials she used as references to draw the strip. Next to the exhibit case is a group of several original Sunday strips matched with color prints to show how they 
 actually appeared in the newspaper. 


The main characters of the strip are introduced, and then large panels with purple headers explains the high points of the strip over the years. These included “Michael & Deanna” (the oldest son and his wife), “April’s Birth” (the third child), “Infidelity,” “Lawrence Comes Out” (when the character was revealed to be gay, it was a major controversy), “Mtigwaki” (the eldest daughter Elizabeth goes to work in a First Nations community), “Shannon Lake” (an autistic character introduced in a school setting), “Elizabeth’s Sexual Assault,” “Elizabeth’s Wedding,” “Death & Illness,” and “Farley’s Death” (also controversial when the family dog died saving April from a stream).

The exhibit concludes with a short film, a quilt of the characters (hanging up very high), and in a nod to our locality, reproductions from the Washington Post of a page of comic strips, and Michael Cavna’s article about the end of the strip. 

This is a celebratory exhibit. There is no deep analysis of the social or historical implications of the strip, beyond the purple panels’ basic claims, and that is fine. The exhibit is both a celebration of a Canadian artist and an enjoyable hour-long stop for Washington’s tourists, in a venue they would not normally see. More photographs of the exhibit are at and Johnston’s Library of Congress talk at

(This review was written for the International Journal of Comic Art 22:1, but this version appears on both the IJOCA and ComicsDC websites on January 8 2020, while the exhibit is still open for viewing.)



(This review was written for the International Journal of Comic Art 22:1, but this version appears on both the IJOCA and ComicsDC websites on January 8 2020, while the exhibit is still open for viewing.)

Friday, September 13, 2019

Lynn Johnston and Jaime Hernandez in photos (UPDATED)

I'm not sure if the link to the Flickr site works correctly, so I've added some images just in case.

Jaime Hernandez and Gary Groth at the Library of Congress 

Johnston drew on an overhead projector and tossed the transparencies on the floor behind her.

PR: The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston opens at Embassy of Canada Art Gallery in DC

NEWS RELEASE – The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston opens at Embassy of Canada Art Gallery,
September 13, 2019 to January 31, 2020.

Washington, D.C., September 11, 2019 –
The Embassy of Canada is pleased to present The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston, an art exhibition exploring the career of Canadian comic artist Lynn Johnston and the themes of her popular comic strip For Better or Worse. The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston shows selections from the comic's 30-year history, highlighting the characters that readers know and love, and includes content from the Washington Post, as well as original artwork and current projects.

For Better or For Worse underwent many changes - taking the comic from a glimpse into the everyday home life of the Patterson family, to a comic with three-dimensional characters that seemed like real people. Seeing Elly Patterson and her family go through familiar situations added to the overwhelming success of the strip. Styling changes and character development were features that made For Better or For Worse uniquely relatable.

Throughout her career Johnston consistently drew from her own life and personal experiences. The exhibition gives a behind the scenes look at Johnston's creative process, her life, and the ways that her experiences made their way into her work, culminating in realistic characters and a complex storyline full of detail, color and humor in For Better or For Worse.   
The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston opens September 13, 2019, through January 31, 2020. The Embassy's art gallery is located next to the Newseum at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue NW and is open to the public Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm, free of charge.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Annapolis Capital's publisher on For Better or For Worse

Oooh, there's a harsh opinion in "GONE TODAY, HERE TOMORROW," By TOM MARQUARDT, Publisher & Executive Editor, The Annapolis Capital Published September 07, 2008. Usually I just send you to the article, but I can't resist this quote:

"I guess Ms. Johnston's entrepreneurial attempt to ease herself into retirement without a loss of income - by interspersing a few new strips with old material - doesn't bother readers as much as it bothers editors asked to pay full price for the comic-page equivalent of reruns."

"How about rerunning sports results and County Council stories? Can't we all just get a grip and move on to another strip that has fresh story lines? Geesh, you guys are killing me."

Now, that's an editor.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Give me that ol' time Bat-religion, and other news

R. Kikuo Johnson's illustrated today's New York Times magazine story on President Bush. Rutu Modan's comic story is continuing too, although it hasn't really captured my imagination.

"Must-See Sermons: Va. Pastor Culls Lessons From Silver Screen to Pull In Larger Audience," By Ben Hubbard, Washington Post Staff Writer, Sunday, August 31, 2008; C01 is about a minister who's preached dressed as both the Batman and the Joker during sermons.

Also, the last completely new For Better or For Worse strip appeared in the Sunday Post comics section. Ms. Johnston extrapolates what happens to the characters in the future, much as the last Harry Potter book did.

In the "Lord, what fools these mortals be" column we find "Studio War Involving ‘Watchmen’ Heats Up," By MICHAEL CIEPLY, New York Times August 30, 2008.

This piece explained a James Gillray cartoon, which can be incomprehensible at a remove of 200 years - "Be an Old Master, for 10 Guineas," By J. D. BIERSDORFER, New York Times August 31, 2008

In the Sunday Examiner's inserts - "Why I love Superman: A best-selling novelist on why he adores the Man of Steel," By Brad Meltzer, USA Weekend August 29 2008.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Threefer For Better or For Worse

Actually, there was a 3rd bit in the Post today, at least the electronic one - Cavna, Michael. 2008. "Interview With the Artist: "For Better or For Worse's" Lynn Johnston," Washington Post Comic Riffs blog (August 27). It ended with the surprise news that "As of next Monday, The Washington Post plans to drop "For Better or for Worse" from its print edition but continue to carry it online."

Twofer Betterfer Worse

For Better For Worse articles in today's Post:

Something for Everyone to Hate by Hank Stuever


Lynn Johnston's Drawn-Out Adieu to Cartooning by Michael Cavna

I expect we'll see many more of these before all is said and done!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Weingarten and the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and FBOFW

In his June 17th chat, GW amped his coolness factor considerably when he wrote,

One of my prize possessions is an autographed copy of a Furry Freak Bros. book. Gilbert Shelton signed it to me from where he lives, in self-imposed exile, in France. The French still love him. The book is in French.

The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers were a great 1960s era comic for stoners. The brothers were Fat Freddie Freak, Freewheelin' Frank Freak, and Phineas Freak. Probably their best known line was: "Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope." They also had a version of that quote where "sex" was substituted for "money." They both rang true back in 1969 or so.

and later, he wrote, He was a terrific cartoonist.

and a question about For Better or For Worse arose:

Elizabeth and Anthony: Re today's FBOFW: Is Lizzie (dare I suggest) knocked up? Is she fishing for a babysitter for Anthony's daughter, or her own bun in the oven? For Better or For Worse, (June 17)

Gene Weingarten: It's hard to be sure; we'll know tomorrow, won't we? My guess is that this is not a Major Announcement, for three reasons. First, I don't think Johnston would go there. Second,they've been talking a while about moving up the date of the wedding so Gramps can be there before he corks. If there were another pressing reason, I think this would indicate a degree of disingenuity about Elizabeth that Johnston wouldn't do. Elizabeth is perfect; the Madonna.

On the other side, look at how shocked Dee is in that final frame. Also, why would they suddenly be borrowing the babysitter? They've had Anthony's girl all along.

I vote no, tho.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, I meant two reasons, not three.

and a comment about Doonesbury:

Kensington, Md: I am slower than molasses in January. It just hit me that Doonesbury is back. Is there anyone else cartooning right now who could take 12 weeks off and expect to get his/her spot back in seemingly every newspaper in the country?

Gene Weingarten: Unfortunately, yes. Garfield, Beetle Bailey, etc.

Though, hm. Maybe not. Maybe sanity would prevail. Maybe that's why those strips never take a vacation.

but For Better issues are raised again...

FBOFW: Oh, Liz is clearly pregnant. "I already feel like a parent" is clue #1, Dee's face is #2, and the fact that Lynn Johnston ain't subtle is #3. Don't scare me like that.

Gene Weingarten: We'll see tomorrow. It's possible. So we have out of wedlock sex! But we also have that weird thing about advancing the wedding so grandpa can go...

I still think no.

and then again...

Washington, D.C.: I'm with Gene. Elizabeth is not pregnant. She feels like a parent b/c of Anthony's already existing child. They will be stealing the babysitter b/c they have been taking it slow, etc., not dating a lot. The wedding was pushed up in direct response to April's comment to move it up so Gramps could go. If she were going to be pregnant out of wedlock, they'd of kept her with the pilot dude

Gene Weingarten: Well, I just think she was ever going to be preggers out of wedlock.


Arlington, Va.: Despite your cogent, detailed analysis of today's For Bettor or for Worse, you are a moron. The sudden ending makes little or no sense unless there's a pending/immediate NEED for a babysitter.

Lynn Johnston has used setups like this for other developments in the strip. Watch that space. And we'll see you in a few weeks at the baby shower.

Gene Weingarten: This is interesting.

I like that we'll know tomorrow. A real-time debate.

and the debate continues...

FOOB: Isn't it obvious? Dee's just horrified that she won't be able to escape from her twee little brats as often as she'd like.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I think you're right.

...this obviously struck a nerve...

Seattle: In Re: FBOFW's Elizabeth The Pure -- Remember, she lived with her boyfriend when she was in college; she dumped him after he cheated on her.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, but getting knocked up is different.

So, tune in tomorrow or later this week to see if Elizabeth is knocked up AS THE WORLD TURNS.

Monday, October 01, 2007

For Better or For Worse inspiration to speak in DC

Dave Astor's got the story in "Inspiration for Comic Character to Speak in D.C.," E&P Staff Online, October 01, 2007.

The article begins, The U.S. Department of State's Office of Civil Rights has asked Stephanie H. -- the inspiration for Shannon Lake in "For Better or For Worse"...

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Today's comics weren't all comic

Richard Thompson has a hilarious sendup of Free Comic Book Day that about 37 readers of the Post will get and appreciate. In their continuing effort to combat e-piracy, the Post hasn't put it online yet, although you can see last week's panel.

Meanwhile a few other strips in the Post are worth noting today (that's the May 5th strips).

Bud Grace goes for a dose of reality in the Piranha Club.

Bill Griffith's History of the washing machine in Zippy was just lovely.

Pearls before Swine breaks the 4th wall in a graphically-amusing way.

Speaking of graphic, what's the deal with yesterday's Baldo? First his aunt walks in on him naked in the bathroom and seems to suggest a Red Hot Chili Peppers fashion, and then we get this strip. Am I reading too much into this or is there a "size of his dick" joke here? For Better or For Worse had a PMS joke today, and Brewster Rockit had a fart joke with spiderwebs coming out of a character's ass (a Spider-Man 3 tip of the hat).

Finally on Monday, two diametrically-opposed cartoonists ran similar strips on the Virginia Tech murders right next to each other: Prickly City vs Candorville.