I grew up with strips of this (Canadian!) comic plastered all over the refrigerator. And now Lynn Johnston has stripped her last strip… and is on her way back to the beginning to re-draw the whole thing, with new & old material intermingled. Weird. But at least my mom will still have something to read.
Here’s something for y’all to read, a really interesting, candid, and in-depth interview with illustrator/writer Lynn Johnston. Despite what her sometimes-sugary strip might lead you to presume, she didn’t have a pleasant childhood at all, and her first marriage was no better.
…my mother’s philosophy was, the harder you beat them, the more they’ll realize that what they’ve done is wrong. She would hit me until she was exhausted. She would use brushes, broomsticks, anything she could wield. I could look at the different bruises and tell what she had hit me with. If it was a black bruise with a red stripe down the middle, it was a piece of kindling. If it was a brown bruise with a certain shape to it, it was a hairbrush. If it was perfectly round, it was a wooden spoon.
Of her struggles as a single mom with her infant son, Aaron:
I remember once when he was very unhappy and he was screaming and screaming, and I threw him out into a snow bank in his pajamas. This was in Ontario, and it was not warm here. And he put his hands against the window of the front door, pleading to be let in. And I was inside, screaming at him, “If you don’t want to sleep all night, you can friggin’ sleep outside!” And this was a teeny baby. …I was not a sensible mother. I just didn’t know what I was supposed to do.
Some good tidbits about writing and drawing, too:
How do you get funny enough? You get funny by watching and studying people like Bill Cosby, who say funny things, make funny faces and use funny body language. You don’t look at successful cartoonists’ work and say, “Gee, why are they there and I’m not?” You look at their work and say, “They’re there and I’m not because the line does this and the words do that.”
Also interesting is the fact that this interview is from 1994, when she’d just come under fire for writing a gay teenage boy into the strip. Remember the big furor when Ellen DeGeneres came out? That furor was three years later and centered around an adult comedian. Writing an adolescent homo into a family strip, three full years earlier? Nobody was doing that. High five, Johnston.