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“For Better or For Worse” Creator Opts to Retell, Not Retire

August 28, 2008 04:55 PM
by Rachel Balik
Engaged in a complicated love-hate relationship with her readers, Lynn Johnston ends the Patterson family story, and picks back it up in 1979.

The Story of the Patterson Family Ends, and Begins Again

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In recent years, Lynn Johnston’s long-running comic strip, “For Better or For Worse,” (aka “FBOFW”) has become the daily comedic staple that everyone loves to hate. Although there are plenty of legitimately devoted readers, one Washington Post staff writer asserts that there “are the many millions who live to despise every last thing about the comic strip.” As popular as the strip itself are the numerous chatrooms, blogs and other forms of commentary that mock the strip’s decidedly dated storyline.

Regardless of whether the comic’s audience comprises obsessive fans or obsessive naysayers, it is still the comic that “everyone” reads. Unlike most other comic strips, the characters age in real time, and many of Johnston’s readers have grown up along with them. Johnston had initially planned to retire. She told the Washington Post, “I wanted to stop the story while it was still a reasonably good story. You can't fulfill everyone’s needs. I’ve told the story—I can’t do any more.”  But when Johnston’s 32-year marriage dissolved, she balked at the notion of parting with her life’s work, and decided to have the best of both worlds.

She’ll finish the story of the Pattersons, but continue writing the strip, taking it back to 1979 and becoming the first comic strip artist to retell the same story. The haters are eagerly expressing distaste, but given how devoted they are to criticism while still continuing to read the strip, Johnston may be on the right track.

Opinion and Analysis: Love it or Hate it?

Johnston told The Washington Post that this wasn’t quite the life she envisioned for herself, saying, “I thought I would now be a retired woman with my Tilley hat and sitting on a cruise ship and going to the Galapagos.” In response, one of her disapproving followers on Salon’s Table Talk suggests, “some brave soul needs to take one for the team and go marry her, so she can go back to her plan of lounging on a cruise ship instead of desecrating her earlier work with what passes for her crazed ‘experience.’” An entire thread of Salon’s forums is devoted to mocking the strip and bemoaning Johnston’s bad decision to go on with the retelling.

Most critics were not too impressed with the finale, Elizabeth Paterson's wedding, or the strips leading up to it. The Comics Curmudgeon called the walk down the aisle “a nauseating vortex of schmaltz and teal.” But many fans on Elly’s Coffee Talk forum posted warmly approving responses. One reader declared the conclusion “An EXCELLENT ending to a much loved story line.”

Related Topic: FBOFW Fan Fiction

Reference Link: FBOFW Official Site

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