Love it or hate it, and I’ve talked to people who feel either way, For Better or Worse has been a comics page staple for over thirty years now. Lynn Johnson began writing it in 1979, and it stands apart from other strips most notably in that unlike most long-running strips the characters grow up, make major life decisions, and change appearance (except of course, Elly’s hairstyle). In 2008 Johnson began “rebooting” the series, starting over with Michael and Elizabeth as young children again.
There’s a brief but neat interview online at The Grindstone where Johnson answers a few questions about the strip and her career. Her advice for aspiring cartoonists caught my eye.
“Many people can’t do a syndicated strip for more than three years. People not my age are programmed to want change, to want excitement. They’re not embarrassed to leave a job to move to a new city. They’re not likely to stick with the same thing for 30 years. With that kind of itchy-feet need for change, it’s difficult work. It’s not like you do a doodle in the morning and then you’re free. They realize the pressure is on. You’re working evenings, weekends, in hotel rooms, on airplanes. And you can’t turn out work that’s not your best, because you have to fight for that real estate in the paper. A lot of people can’t do it more than three years.
“But if you can do it every day for a year online, disciplining yourself, getting honest feedback from readers — well, some miserable dough-heads don’t deserve a voice, but you’ll also get good feedback from honest readers. If someone says, ‘I don’t get it,’ that’s your best reader.”