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Saturday, August 30, 2008

For Better or for Worse 2.0

On Sunday, the Patterson family saga draws to a close in the comic strip "For Better or For Worse." But this isn't the end. According to creator Lynn Johnston, it's a new beginning.

"If I could do it all over again," Johnston writes in Sunday's installment, stepping into her own strip briefly, "would I do some things differently?" She would, and she will.

Starting Monday, "For Better or For Worse" will flash back to the early days of the Patterson household, when Elizabeth was a baby and Michael was in kindergarten.

The first month of this "2.0" version of the strip will be all-new material, and over time the strip will have a mix of new material and reruns -- though some of the reruns will be redrawn in part, and Johnston is adapting her current art style to blend more smoothly with her earlier style. In a YouTube interview, she describes her approach as "new-runs" rather than reruns. She will also expand on storylines and tell new stories with the characters.

The first year, the ratio of old to new material will be about 50/50, Johnston said. One of the highlights in the first year will be the family's adoption of Farley, the family dog, in a storyline running in October.

The strip started in September 1979 and is now carried in more than 2,000 newspapers around the world. In comic-page surveys conducted by the Winston-Salem Journal, it has consistently proven one of the most popular strips.

Johnston planned to retire and let the strip continue in reruns while she and her husband traveled. Those plans changed when Johnston's marriage, which formed the basis of the strip, ended. "I never thought I'd be single at this time of my life," she said in the YouTube interview. "And with that in mind, I still want to work, I still want to keep my hand in it."

But the change in format will allow her to take more vacations. "Because I don't have to work 365 days of material into the year, I can take some of the time off that I want," she said. "I can paint, and I can travel."

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