For Your Consideration: IDW’s For Better or For Worse: The Complete Library, Vol. 1

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

Considered one of the best comic strips of all time, Lynn Johnston’s For Better or For Worse was never splashy or political or action-packed, but it was universal as readers around the world identified with the struggles of two parents raising the Patterson family and still trying to have time for themselves and each other.

For Better or For Worse: The Complete Library, Vol. 1

For Better or For Worse: The Complete Library, Vol. 1


The strip continues in newspapers as a reprint feature but now the Library of American Comics is launching For Better or For Worse: The Complete Library, Vol. 1. Dean Mullaney admits he was prompted to produce this collection by his wife Lorraine Turner and their friend, Kurtis Findlay, co-author of IDW’s Chuck Jones: The Dream that Never Was, and America’s biggest Lynn Johnston fan. The three answered some questions to shed light on the project.

For Better or For Worse

For Better or For Worse


Robert Greenberger: Of the non-superhero-related strips, For Better or For Worse may be the most current series. Why add it to the Library?

Dean Mullaney: Great comics are great comics, regardless of when they were created. From its inception, LOAC’s goal has been to preserve the best strips in the history of newspaper comics. We naturally started with earlier classics, such as Terry and the Pirates, Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, etc. Since then, we’ve reprinted many of the iconic comics of yore. A few years ago we slipped Bloom County into the mix, and now we offer Lynn Johnston’s modern classic. It’s such an exciting project to add to the Library of American Comics.

For Better or For Worse

For Better or For Worse


Robert: What did Lynn Johnston do to make the strip work from the outset?

Lorraine Turner: She created stories and situations to which readers could relate. For Better or For Worse was my favorite comics strip because right from the start I was able to put myself into the character Elly. I was pregnant when she was and gave birth to three children the exact ages of the characters; every time I read the strip I felt as if she had a camera in my house! Lynn Johnston helped us laugh at ourselves, and sometimes even cry. She spoke the unspoken, touching upon gay friendships, child abuse, aging parents, and dementia. This strip worked because it peeled back the layers to reveal a truth that would shine a light into the hearts of its audience. It’s a privilege to preserve Lynn Johnston’s strip in a definitive, hardcover series.

For Better or For Worse

For Better or For Worse


Robert: It’s one of the few strips that the creator canceled at will, and it remains in rerun. Why has it endured?

Kurtis Findlay: Lynn canceled the strip when Michael’s children were the same ages that Michael and Elizabeth were when the strip started. The family narrative had come full circle, and since Lynn wanted to retire, rerunning the strip seems like a logical move. Parenting, relationships, and growing up are themes that transcend time. Each new generation will still be dealing with these same issues, which makes us relate to For Better or For Worse in the same way that we relate to Peanuts or Family Circus.

For Better or For Worse

For Better or For Worse


Robert: Apparently, Johnston has gone in and updated some references and even drawn a few new strips to smooth things out for current readers. Will those be included in the collection or at least referenced?

Kurtis Findlay: In the first few years of reruns, Lynn created quite a few new strips to expand on some storylines and character development and fix some continuity errors. After 2010, she felt the strip was at a place where she could let it carry on without any additions. However, she still writes and draws new strips when the dailies and Sundays or particular holidays don’t match up with the current calendar. We will be including a section for these “new retro” strips in the final volume.

She made many updates to cultural references, like changing SNES controllers to Wii controllers, or changing the price of coffee from $0.70 to $1.50. If these changes are significant, we will include them in the book, but most of them probably don’t need to be included.

For Better or For Worse

For Better or For Worse


Robert: Do you have a favorite character or story sequence?

Lorraine Turner: If I had to pick one story it would be the death of the beloved family pet Farley. In relating this life crisis Lynn connected readers to the dynamic relationships that exists among all family members, human and otherwise. It was a sad event, but I used it to help my own children understand how life continues after death.

Kurtis Findlay: I always liked watching the relationship between Elizabeth and Anthony unfold. Their story was told off and on for over ten years. The sequence when Anthony stands up for Elizabeth after she is assaulted at work sticks out in my mind as a defining moment. I was roughly the same age as Elizabeth when the strip was current so I was growing up alongside her and her siblings when I was reading the strip through the ‘90s and 2000s. I am thrilled to be able to work on this project and bring the Patterson family some overdue attention.

For Better or For Worse

For Better or For Worse


Robert: How many volumes do you envision this running and what else might readers expect to find in each volume?

Dean Mullaney: We’ll collect the entire series in nine hardcover volumes, three books per decade of the strip. That means a whopping 544 pages per book, with all Sundays in color. What really makes it fun is that we will be able to enjoy the strip and follow the characters as it all originally unfolded. In addition, there will also be occasional context notes and comments.

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For Better or For Worse: The Complete Library, Vol. 1

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