‘For Better’ Cartoonist Returning to Universal

By: Dave Astor

“For Better or For Worse” creator Lynn Johnston, whose comic is one of only five with 2,000-plus newspapers, will again be distributed by Universal Press Syndicate this September.

“I wanted to return to my roots,” said Johnston, when reached by E&P this morning. “It’s nice to go back to the people I started with. They’re a really interesting, innovative bunch. I’m very pleased.”

The Canadian cartoonist — whose comic also turns 25 in September — had left Universal in 1997 to join United Feature Syndicate. Johnston said she enjoyed her seven years there. “It was really good to experience a different way of doing things and the points of view of other talented people. I learned an awful lot. And I loved going to New York.”

Johnston plans to do “For Better or For Worse” for the Kansas City, Mo.-based Universal until 2007. As she has stated before, Johnston will probably end her direct involvement with the strip that year. “I’ll be 60 in 2007,” she said. “I really believe I need to get away from the deadlines. The comic is as good as it was, but I don’t want it to decline.”

The cartoonist did add that it’s possible her strip might be continued by another creator. And Johnston said there could be post-2007 “For Better or For Worse” projects such as books and an animated or live-action film.

Universal — whose Andrews McMeel Publishing sister company continued putting out new “For Better or For Worse” book collections after 1997 — launched the comic in 1979. A Universal editor saw Johnston’s cartoons in a book, and Lee Salem contacted her about creating a comic.

Salem, now executive vice president and editor of Universal, told E&P: “In many ways the company grew up around Lynn, and we’re delighted that she wanted to come back. Her representatives approached us, and obviously we had very willing ears.”

A spokesperson for United said: “We wish Lynn all the best as she wraps up ‘For Better or For Worse’ with Universal [during the next three years] and we’re delighted that we’ll continue to have the strip on Comics.com, where it has touched so many fans.”

“For Better or For Worse” wins more newspaper comic polls than any other strip or panel. And Johnston’s many honors include being the first woman to win the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Award as top cartoonist of the year (1985), being a Pulitzer Prize finalist for cartooning (1994), and being named E&P’s comic creator of the year (2001). She was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1992 and inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame last year.

The exact September date of Johnston’s move from United to Universal has not yet been set.

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