Conversation with Cartoonist Lynn Johnston

Conversation with Cartoonist Lynn Johnston


>>Helena Zinkham:
Ready to get started? All right, I’m excited too. [ Applause ] I’m Helena Zinkham, by the way. Chief of the Prints and
Photographs Division. Thank you for joining
us for today’s program with award winning
cartoonist Lynn Johnston. This talk is presented
in connection with the library’s new
exhibit, called Comic Art: 100 years of Panels and Pages. The show considers how visual and narrative storytelling have
evolved, from the large panels and strips, small strips and
newspapers, to graphic novels, independent comics, and of
course comics on the web. In both the unique
original drawings, and the published
pages on display, you’ll see the artistic
skills of master artists, as well as emerging talents. They’ve created some
of the most famous, funny and frightening characters
to appear in the comic world. And let’s acknowledge
right now, Lynn Johnston, you’re on the master side. [ Applause ] All the works on display
are from the collections of the Prints and
Photographs and the Serial and Government Publications
Division, here at the Library of Congress. They’ll be on view
through September 2020. Or you can check
the show out online. Where it will live
permanently on the web. You can please join me now, in recognizing the
collaborative curators, and the exhibit director. Have you tucked yourselves
in the back row? Okay. alphabetically speaking, we also owe thanks
to Sarah Duke. Go ahead and stand up. [ Applause ] Megan [inaudible]. Georgia Hinckley. [ Applause ] Martha Kennedy, and
Betsy [inaudible] Miller. [ Applause ] I’m embarrassing them a bit
by asking for the stand up. And that they will also help
guide you to the exhibit after the talk finishes. All right. Generous support. No exhibit is free. I’d like to acknowledge the
Swan foundation for caricature in cartoon, as one of
our major sponsors, and also the Small Press Expo. They have made the
exhibition possible. And finally, the
Canadian Embassy for Lynn Johnston’s
presence today. [ Applause ] When Lynn Johnston began
her comic chronicle of the Patterson
family way back in 1979, she drew upon her own life. Her strip, for better or
for worse, still appears in over 1600 papers in
Canada, the United States, and other countries, more than
30 books are still in print. An original drawing featured
in the exhibit, will highlight for better or for worse. We’ll be able to see the
full technique that you use to pull off this
30-year achievement. And we’re delighted to have
really more than a dozen of your original drawings
in the collection. Today’s presentation will
include a presentation, demonstration, of the process
behind creating the strip; such a special treat. But I think we’ll also be
gaining valuable insights into the comic arts in general. I’m hoping too, that
we will hear about that wonderful
sheep dog, Farley. Have you noticed the importance
of dogs in the comic Arts? In the early 1900s, so
right at the beginning, Buster Brown had his mischievous
Pit Bull Terrier, Tige. He often gave the moral at the
end of the Buster Brown tales. Charles Schulz, brought us
the iconic Beagle, Snoopy. I understand Mr. Schulz
might have been one of your own heroes? Yes. And Lynn Johnston, you made
us fall in love with Farley. So, thank you all today. We’re filming, so if you do
ask a question, know in advance that your question will
be part of that recording. Please welcome Lynn Johnston. [ Applause ]>>Lynn Johnston:
I’m wired, I think. Am I wired, and loud, and live? Well, I’ve done this
talk a number of times, and every time I do it,
I’m scared to death. And I see this room full of
great people, and I’ve walked around and said hello, but
my heart’s still going — And I took my high blood
pressure medication this morning, you know? I took it and at the age
of 72, you kind of think that everybody’s forgotten you. The strip is done,
life has changed. And yet the rebirth of it in the
embassy here and running again for a second time, is such
an honor and such a thrill. And I would love to be
able to continue doing it. I would, but stuff is
falling off the bus. I can’t see out of
this eyeball anymore. So, going downstairs, the stairwell just
looks like grey to me. So, I have to hold on to the
banister as I go down, right? And my right hand shakes. So, having a bowl of
soup is like — you know? Like — and you you don’t really
think about yourself being old until you see a photograph. And then, who the
heck is that right? And our buddies, we all see
each other we talk and we look like we did in grade five and
we all know each other the same. But then you see a photograph. You see yourself in the mirror and you say, who
the heck is that? And one day, I was wandering
around the National Gallery in Ottawa in Canada,
minding my own business. And I was looking at a painting. And a man came up
to me with a walker. And he said to me, you know, they’re making grilled
cheese sandwiches down at the cafeteria. And I thought, that’s
a pickup line. No, no. I’m not ready
for this [laughter]. So anyways, with age,
have come all my friends. And with age has come
perspective and I can look back at what I did, and perhaps
be a little more analytical. But I see myself
differently, now. So, this is how I used
to draw Ellie Patterson. This was sort of me — she was
the hardest character to draw, just because she was
closely connected to me. But today I look a
little different. I would say that if I was to draw Ellie Patterson
now, [inaudible]. A little startling in the
eyes, the eye bags of course. And then there’s the obligatory
short haircut, you know, and the underwire
and the wrinkles and the stuff that come with it. And then of course, there’s the
dandruff and the other things that come with it [laughs]. So, I think Ellie Patterson
would look a little more like that. But you know, what’s great
is that people will say, geez, you draw her so ugly. She’s so ugly. You’re much better looking. You say, well, if I drew her
looking great, and people said to me, you know, the character
in the strip looks really good. But you — you know? So, drawing the character ugly
was always really a cool thing for me to do. So, I started drawing when I was
really young, and all of you — I know this from
artists in here too. And you start when
you’re very, very young. because you can’t not draw. And you draw your fantasies, you draw the things
you’re afraid of. You just draw. And for me to be
sent home to my room, you know, it was fine with me. because I had lots of paper, lots of pens, and
I liked to draw. And I liked to read the comics. And one of the comic strips that just really
inspired me, was Peanuts. Because Charles Schulz
spoke for children. And he spoke without
our vocabulary, but with our common sense. And I — my grandfather, and
I did not get along very well. He was a very stuffy,
upper crust, Brit. And you could be seen and not
heard; that type of thing. But the only time
we really got along, is when we read the
comics together. And I would snuggle
up next to him and he’d criticize
all the strips. But Peanuts, he was
particularly critical of. Because he said children
don’t think like that. They don’t speak like that. They don’t use those words. But he was wrong. And as a little kid, I knew
that he was absolutely wrong. So, the comics kept me going. NAD magazine kept me
going, Archie kept me going. All the comics kept me going. And I didn’t really think
about making a living as a cartoonist when
I was little. But I knew I would be
an artist and I knew that I would make
my living drawing. And I used to analyze
the comics. And one of the things that I
discovered at a very young age, was that with very few
lines, you can have a lot of different expressions. And this is something you can do with your grandkids
or your kids. You just take two dots, and the
letter C, and one small line. And with just those few
elements, you can make a lot of different expressions
just by moving the mouth. Just by moving the mouth
into different positions, moving the eyes into
different positions. You can make different
characters, different expressions, right, just moving the nose
a little bit. You can bring everything
down to the bottom. Carefully here, and you can
make a baby out of this. Because a baby’s head
is so big, right? And you can change the
expression of that baby. You can make the baby
really sad, baby pensive, make the baby thoughtful,
just little — little, tiny little movements
of where you put these lines. So, when you’re acting and
you’re drawing comic art, it’s the subtle little elements
that you put into your art, which people don’t necessarily
know that they’re receiving. It’s like a shorthand. It’s like a signature. And so, people will look and
they’ll automatically know that, that sense is sadness,
or that sense it’s fear. And it’s simple, tiny
little elements like this. Just simple little lines. So here we go. Here that I can take
this little guy here. And right? You know who that is? So, you can take tiny
little elements and one of the things I guess, is
Sparky’s work was so important to me for, was that with
just these few elements, he could show all of this
enthusiasm, and fear, and disappointment, and
angst, and all of the stuff that he could show just
with these few little lines. And that to me, was
absolute magic. So, I copied his work, and
I copied people out of NAD, and I copied Len
Norris, who was one of the best illustrators ever. He was an architect, and he
was Vancouver’s best editorial cartoonist; and I
copied his work. And I tell kids,
go ahead and copy. It’s fine to copy, as long
as you take everything that you’re learning, and create
your own stuff afterwards. So, I used to draw everything
that I could think of. And it was mostly
people that I drew. And I got an awful lot
of kick out of drawing — well, my dad, for example, he had round glasses
and huge eyebrows. And he had a nose with
a lump on it like that. He was a typical
British guy, right? Very, sort of flat
forehead, and lots of hair. And my dad could play anything. He could play the banjo,
he could play the guitar, he could play the piano. And my dad was — he should
have been in Vaudeville, he should have — he was
born many years too late. He was one of these
people who, he could dance, he could sing, he could act. He was part of a
barbershop quartet. And that harmony was
just rich and wonderful. And these guys would stand
in our living room and sing. And I would sit around
the corner and listen. And my dad had the
highest voice, and he was always
embarrassed by it. But he hit that note. And he would analyze movies
and he would take me to movies, and he would analyze the plot. Then he would rent one
of those old projectors, and he’d bring it home. And he’d rent the Keystone Cops. And he’d run it forwards
and backwards, and he’d say no gag
is without effort. No gag happens without
choreography. And so, he would show — see
this old-fashioned rattled trap of a car, moving down highway. And the cops are coming
out, and they go in as soon as the post goes by;
the telephone pole, then they will open the door
again, the post goes by. And he would run it slowly and he would say they are
almost killing themselves doing this gag. It’s not easy to do. Watch how it’s done. And he would run it
backwards and forwards, and backwards and forwards. And as he talked, he would
use his body — his language. I mean, I do it unconsciously
and I — other people that I
see do it as well. Mike Peters, who does
Mother Goose and Grimm. You can see Mike Peters, 20
blocks away; just this big and you know that
it’s Mike Peters. Because he’s talking like this. Well, my dad talked like that. He used every part of his body and his facial expressions,
and all of that. So, I was on record as a little
kid, and I was learning all of that and taking
all of that in. So, my dad really, really was
part of the inspiration as well. And he was also a cartoonist. And he used to enjoy drawing
the guys that he worked with. And he made it easy for
me to to be different. Because I was not
a happy little kid. I wanted to die when I was six. I would stand at my
bedroom window, and think, could I kill myself if
I went out this window? And was hoping that I could. And my mother was one of
these people who was — she would hit you,
before she talked to you. She was that kind of person. And she was also a
very upper crust Brit. She — you know just talking
about my mom is difficult. Because she was so
talented, and so capable. She could do anything, write
anything, sew anything, and she was so frustrated that
she did not have a career. She should have gone
to university; she should have been a doctor. She should have — because
God help you if you got sick. Holy smokes if you got sick,
you had poultices and anemas and God knows what [inaudible]. Mom, I’m fine. I’m perfectly fine. And you go to school with
a temperature of 110, just so that your mother
wouldn’t try to cure you with something, right? But, you know, she was
one of these people who was really unfulfilled. And so, I had this goofy,
comic, silly musical dad, and this brilliant,
capable, wonderful mother, who was a calligrapher
and who was a book — I mean, she was a math whiz. I mean, she had so much going
for her, and was so angry and so upset that she was
stuck at home in a house dress. And I wonder if I
could draw my mom. You know, I’m so — I very
rarely drew her because she — in the comic strip, I I wanted
to bring my dad to life again. And in the comic strip,
I was able to do that. And my mother always had — she was always in —
very much in control. So, her hair was always tightly,
tightly tied at the back here. And I remember her once saying
that it got rid of the wrinkles, just having her hair so tight. That you know, everything,
everything was pulled back. So, I used to draw all
the things that I saw, and all the things
that made me laugh. And it did really save my neck. Because it wasn’t until I got
to school, that I realized that I — that the talent
that I had, made me okay. That I didn’t have to worry about not being loved
and not being liked. And it was the teachers in
my life that saved my bacon. And I know there probably
some teachers in here. And you will never, ever
know what you’ve done for your students. You’ll never know how
close they felt to you, or how much of a
parent you were to them, or how inspiring you were, or
how safe you made them feel. Because in that classroom,
you’re safe. You’re safe, you’re learning,
you’re there for a reason. You’re getting something, you’re
getting energy and warmth, and knowledge from
your teachers. And my teachers saved my life. They really did. They made me feel
like I had value. So, in those days
— this was the 60s. And I wore this because
it was made in the 60s and macramé, right? Everybody’s talking
about macramé. And I think in the
60s and I work in the 60s, and that
was my time. So, in the 60s, if you
slept with your boyfriend, you’d be out of the house. I mean, my mother
was a type of person that would absolutely
throw me out of the house. So, I did the dumbest
thing in the world. I had just started a job
in an animation studio in Vancouver, which was my love. I really — I babysat for
the guy who ran the studio. And whenever kids say to me, oh,
yeah, I’m too old to babysit. I’m not interested
in babysitting. That’s your very
first job interview. That’s your very
first referral, right? Is your babysitting
people and your teachers. And so, I was lucky. I babysat for a guy who ran
the animation studio at KVOS TV in Vancouver, and he gave me
my very first job in animation. And I was just starting to
realize that through school, I had the support
of my teachers. Through my dad, I had comedy. Through Jack I had an
introduction to animation, which was what I wanted
more than anything. I’d gone to art school, but
art school was fine arts. And those of us who
wanted to go into graphics, were called the hacks. And they would laugh
at us, you know, and — but we were the only ones that made a living
in the end, you know? Everybody else is is you know,
painting their ass green, and making prints
along the highway and getting a Canada
Council grant to do it. But, you know, there’s no such
thing as sponsors anymore, that would hire you to paint
a ceiling in their mansion. So, it’s very hard to get a job. So, I was just starting
to work for KVOS TV and I met a cameraman,
and I got married. What a dumb thing to do. Honest to God. Anyways, this was the 60s. And one thing — first
let me digress slightly. One thing about being
a cartoonist and and being a little kid, is that
when you’re really down and out, and you’re drawing to
make yourself laugh, dumb and stupid is
what you’re going for. You’re really going
for dumb and stupid. Because the best
— isn’t it great when you find somebody
who’s dumber and stupider than you are? Or ugly or something
and you say, yeah, well, it’s great to know
you, great to know you. Man, is that a stupid
person or what? You know, do I feel good? I felt stupid this morning. But after talking to
you, Jack, I feel great. I feel great. So, you know, the
bigger the eyeballs, and the bigger the nose,
and the bigger the mouth, the less space there
is for cerebral stuff. You know? this kind
of thing, right? And so, I would — I’d
love to draw characters with great big noses, very
little hair, you know, very little space here. And if you take your
tiny little line, look at all the different
expressions you can make with one little line. So, a cartoon is elastic, right? You can do anything
with the cartoon. Don’t ever put lips on
a cartoon character, because you can’t
stretch them anymore. So, changing this around,
you can make just all kinds of expressions with this. So anyways, going back
to getting married, I met this cameraman, right? And his name was Doug. And he had great big eyes, and a great big nose,
and lots of hair. And this was the
60s, so this was — everybody had great big hair. So, that’s right. So, this was my first husband. I’ll put a little dandruff here, because I think that’s
appropriate. And years later, when I got
a job as a medical artist, I realized that you know,
if you gave the orbs here, and the upper mandible,
the lower mandible, the zygomatic arch, here. You go back here. There isn’t a whole lot of
room for brain space, you know? like, dandruff still
exists though. Anyways, Lots of fun,
lots of fun withdrawing. So, I got married. I got married. And it was one of
those things where, after the marriage broke down,
my mother would say, well, we never liked him,
anyways dear. We never liked him anyways. You say, well, why didn’t you
say so, right at the beginning? I married the guy so I
could sleep with him. So, that you wouldn’t
throw me out of the house. And now you say you
never liked him. If you told me that you didn’t
like him in the first place, I probably still would
have slept with him. Oh, what the heck. It was the 60s. It was the 60s, right? Weed was just happening
in Vancouver. And I was happy with that. So, got married and
moved off to Ontario, where he could get a
job, and I couldn’t. I was starting to work
in an animation studio, got out to Ontario, and there
was no way for me to get a job. And so — and Hamilton, Ontario
is a really interesting place. It’s — when we drove from
the airport into Hamilton, I was missing the
mountains of Vancouver. I really was missing the
ocean and the mountains. And in the background, I
could see this dark shape and I thought there is
a mountain in Hamilton. There is. And as we
got closer and closer to the city, it was smog. That was — that mountain,
that dark shape was smog. And, you know, and afterwards
the inhabitants would say, oh, yes, it’s a place where
you open the windows so you can hear the birds cough. So, it was one of those
places that was just — it was a really unattractive
place. But suddenly, coming
from the west coast — and the West Coast snob, right? British family, West Coast snob. I met some of the
most wonderful people and doors opened
for me everywhere. I would take my little
graphic arts studio suitcase, around to all the
different places and try to get little jobs
here and there. And I saw ad in the
newspaper for — they wanted a graphic artist
at the local hospital. So, I thought, well,
I’ll stay up all night. I drew guts, and
heads, and arms, and skeletons, and
stuff like that. And I went in and
I got this job. And it was the absolute
best job in the world. Because my mom wanted
to be a doctor. And I’ve always been
interested in medicine. Never smart enough to get in, but really just could not
believe my good fortune. And there at the university,
we were given free rein. It was a Medical
Teaching University and we were given free
rein to go anywhere. As long as you were
wearing a white lab coat, you could go into surgery. I mean, honest to
goodness, today, I think it’s a lot more
difficult to just go anywhere. But I would go into the morgue
and I would go into surgery, and I would take photographs, and I’d be with the
photographers. I also had to be with
women who had been beaten; because they needed
a woman in the room. And so, I saw a lot of people
who had terrible trauma, that were you know, being
photographed for, you know, legal purposes and
things like that. So, it was a hugely
different world. And I was able to use some of
the comic art that I had done. I was able to use some of the
animation that I had done. And I felt that I had entered
into a world that was not mine, but an opportunity that
was beyond my belief. And remember, I told you that
I used to think about jumping out of my bedroom window
and killing myself. Well, I went into the
autopsy lab, and I wanted to see a whole autopsy
from beginning to end. Just because I was curious. No other reason but I could
hear the saws from my studio. And I wanted to know what
they were doing in there. So, I went in and the woman that they were working
on, was about 50. And she died of syphilis,
of all things. And they wanted to see what
in her body had been affected. So, she was a pretty
normal looking person. And everything happened
like clockwork. They — you know what the rice
Krispies snack pack looks like. The old fat — you know,
open here and open there. Rice Krispies snack pack,
you open up this thing, you chop here, you chop there,
you lift everything out, it goes on to a nice
shiny table. They take it all apart,
they cut pieces up. They’re talking, they’re
having a coke, they’re talking about their kids and
what they’re going to do on the weekend. And there is this body
that’s open and it looks just like a beautiful canoe. It has that shiny
blue sheen to it. That beautiful shape
of just a canoe. This open body and
then over there, is this material
that makes you alive. And as I watched them
cutting into this, I thought the magic
is out there. That there’s so many
reasons to stay alive. Because there’s magic
that takes that material, and turns you, into you. You know, your facial
expressions, your body language, your memories, your
friendships, your capabilities, your intelligence, your — everything that is
you is out there. Because it’s like taking
the back of a radio, or a television, or opening
up your dishwasher, you know, the guy comes to
fix your fridge. You open up the back
of a machine and all the material is there,
but what is it that plugs it into the wall and
turns it into something that is useful, and wonderful? And that is — it’s a
spiritual awakening for me. And I was so filled with
the spirit of of life, and whatever it is that makes us
us, and the reason for living. That when I left the room, I felt like I was walking
this far off the floor. And it was because I’d seen
what we were made of, you know? It’s not just that the great
big eyes and the the goofiness and the — you know, trying to
try to make people laugh and — you know, it’s all of that. But more than that, it’s energy
that comes from somewhere else. And you can call
it what you like. And you can go to the temple,
and the church and the Shaolin, and the ashram; wherever
you go to get that energy, but there it is. And for me, it was so affirming. And when I came out
of that autopsy room, I met one of the first young
medical students walking down the hallway. And he said, is this
your first autopsy? And I said, yes. And he said, isn’t it wonderful? And I thought it is. It is. We’re also afraid
of what makes us us. But it’s wonderful. So, when I was working
for McMaster University, all of that was was exceptional
for me to be so connected to the medical students, so
connected to what was going on in terms of electronics,
and camera work, and film, and educational systems. We were producing slide
tape presentations, and that sort of thing. And I would work with the
doctors doing their lectures. And one of the doctors
who was doing epidemiology and biostatistics, realized
that his work was pretty boring. It was all you know, dials
of slides, and lettering, and numbers and things
like that. So, his dad was a cartoonist,
and Dr. Zac had asked me to do cartoons for his
lectures; which I did. And the students loved
it, and he loved it. And we started doing
nothing but cartoons for the epidemiology department. Well, he got into trouble
because the doctors above him would say,
this is not a joke. This is a medical school. We don’t want to have comic art. So, being a biostatistician,
you know, statistics, he decided to have
a control group. And a group that learned
from the cartoons, and the cartoon group answered
more questions correctly. And so, all of the doctors were
asking me then, to do cartoons. So, I went from drawing
serious medical illustration, to comic art for all of
the doctors at McMaster. And it was just a
fabulous opportunity, for me to to do everything
that I loved. Everything, to learn about
medicine, to learn about life, to learn about all of
these different chemicals. And another thing that I was
given, was an absolute honor to be given, was I
had the opportunity to work on fetal development. And I was given many fetuses, little ones to draw
and to work on. And some of them were opened to different areas
of their development. And again, I had
that same sense — I had never had a
child at that point. So, I I wasn’t as connected
as I would be, later on. But that gave me the
same sense of reverence and awe for our development. I just want to tell
you one thing, which I think is incredible. When the baby is developing, the bowel is the biggest
part really, of your body. I mean, it’s a huge
amount of stuff there. So, where does it go as
this tiny little bud is — this little beanie
is developing? And it goes out into
the umbilical cord, in a great big loop. And it goes out, and out,
and out, out, out, out. And then it has to reform
itself, twist itself, come back out of
that umbilical cord, back into the baby’s belly. And it has to be done
at the right time, at the right space,
exactly right. And other things; parts of the
heart and parts of the lungs, and all of these things have
to happen right on time. Isn’t that a miracle? And you don’t think about it,
until you look at it in terms of all these little
moving parts, and how it grows
and how it develops. And, you know, we take things
so for granted, that any one of us it’s born with all our
functioning parts is a miracle, right? It is an absolute miracle. So, I was filled with
miracles when I worked for the medical school. Absolutely filled with miracles. And I think I had to be that way in order eventually,
to do a comic strip. Because a comic strip
touches everything. If it’s going to be something
that touches everyone, it has to touch everything. So, for me getting
this opportunity was pretty incredible. And I started by doing cartoons
about pregnancy for my doctor. And this is what happens
when you’re expecting a baby; you go into the doctor’s
examining room and you have to go, you know, once every
little while, and then closer to the date, you’re going every
week and all that kind of stuff. And they go play golf
and leave you to look at this empty ceiling, right? And you can’t go anywhere. You can’t go for coffee, you’re
half-dressed and all that. So, I said, Marie, why
don’t you put something on the ceiling for
us to look at? And he said, You’re
the cartoonist. I challenge you to do
cartoons for the ceiling of my examining tables. Of my examining room. So, I did. And by the time Aaron was born,
I had 80 some odd drawings. And shortly after — and
you know, I had the baby and life went on, but
I was married to — I was married to
this guy, right? I was married to this
guy, who actually turned out to be just probably a —
he was — let me start again. I’m having too much
fun with that. I need to enjoy this. I need to enjoy this. So, by then he was starting
to look a little tired; because he drank an awful lot. So, starting to look
a little tired. And he would come
home from from work, and I’d have this little baby. And you know what
little babies are like? They take all your time, you’re nursing them,
you’re cleaning them. And if you get a chance,
you’ll do the dishes, you’ll clean the house. And he would come home
from work and say, what did you do all day? I’m paying for everything
and you do nothing. What do you do all day? And then you say, well,
kid’s clean and he’s healthy and he’s alive and it’s,
you know, the dinner’s and you know — yeah,
but you know, I’m paying all this
money for what? You know, you’re not
earning your keep here. So, you know, life was really
not easy and I was this — you know, kind of a
little way for the kid and I didn’t stand
up for myself much. See where you can
put these lines. So, my baby was born, and
I had been drawing cartoons for my obstetrician. And one day my husband
left me for a voluptuous, script assistant at
the television studio. I used to say, I hope the four
of them live happily ever after. Like, she had massive boobs,
you know, and it was just — four of them live
happily ever after. And people say, well, how can
you joke about stuff like that? But that’s what survival is. It’s about laughing at stuff
that that really is depressing. I can tell you a funny
story about that. The doctors, the young
doctors that went to McMaster, there were 20 of
them to begin with. And we all got to know
each other pretty well, because I was the
graphic artists there and I’d have to work. And I went to the
lectures with the students, and dissection and
all this stuff. Anyways, I met one of
them in Whitehorse. In Canada there’s this — you know, in the
almost in the Arctic. It’s the Yukon, right? And I went to — my partner
is a musician and we went to visit some of
his musician pals. And in walks Dr. Dave, and he’s
one of the medical students. Well, he’s the only
surgeon in Whitehorse. And I said, Dave, you got
to have some funny stories. Well, he had two funny
stories and I’ll fast — I’ll tell you one of them. One of them is a guy is
chopping his firewood, and he chops off his thumb. His dog eats the thumb. He cuts open the dog, gets the
thumb, drives to the hospital and asked to sew
it back on again. And David says, you know, it’s
kind of chewed up and munched; I don’t think I can do that. So, he just puts everything
back, and the guy goes home, gets terribly drunk, really
upset that he killed his dog. And he chops off another
finger, while he’s doing his — yeah, so this stuff
happens in the North. The other story, which
I thought was cool — yeah, I mean, who
needs them, right? You got lots, you got 10, you
know, you don’t need them all. You don’t need them all, right? And so [laughs]. Anyway, my partners lost
this part of his finger. He’s a guitar player, so
he can’t flip the bird but he can still
play the guitar; because he was determined. The other funny story
from Dave, is this woman. And this is apropos of me; the four of them lived
happily ever after. This woman had had a terrible
divorce and she came in, and she asked him to
remove her implants. And then she sent them
to her ex-husband; because she said he wanted
them; he can have them. It was the only thing about
me that he really liked. You know and I thought,
only in Whitehorse. Only in Whitehorse [laughter]. So, what happened was
that I was on my own. My ex had left me for Rose,
the lovely, voluptuous, script assistant
and I was on my own. And I got a phone call and
it was my doctor and he said, I’d like you to come
over to my house, kiddo. He said, what are
you doing tonight? Bring the baby, have dinner. My wife is just cooking up. I thought wow, you know, how
often does your doctor — I mean, doctors are
important people and you kind of feel subservient, you know? And a little nervous
around them, and — except for some of
them that were idiots. But this one, was really cool. So, I went to his house and
his wife opened the door, and I went in and Marie
was sitting on the floor with a bottle of champagne. And he had all the cartoons
that I had done for him from the ceiling above
the examining table. And he said, kid,
you got a book. And so, he talked me
into doing 101 cartoons. And I did a little book
called David, We’re Pregnant. My husband’s name was Doug,
and I didn’t like the name. So, I did this little book,
and it really did well. And I did two other little
books, and they really did well. And the three little books
were sent by a publisher in Minneapolis, and I have to graciously thank
the United States for seeing something
that was possible. I had tried to get
things done in Canada, and I think they’re far more
analytical, and they want you to be a success before
they will invest in you. But in the States, I think
there are a lot more people who are entrepreneurs
and they will say, jeez, there’s potential here. Let’s try her out. So, I was given a
wonderful opportunity by Universal Press Syndicate. They sent me a 20-year contract to do a daily comic
strip, based on family. And in the meantime, I
had met my second husband. So, it’s funny how
— I mean at 72. I look back and it’s like
the films that dad ran, back and forth, fast and
slow, and fast and slow, that all these things that
happened to you in your life, you know, you pick it here and
pick it there, and can’t put it in real order, but there it is. And so, I had been
up at the airport, looking at the small planes
because I loved to fly. I loved to fly. cartooning gives me
the chance to fly. My imagination allows me to fly. When I was a little kid, I
would roll up in a blanket, and pretend I could fly. So here I was with my baby on
my backpack, up at the airport, looking at these tiny
little airplanes, thinking who owns
these airplanes? Who can have one of these? And a little airplane landed in
the pilot got out, walked over, and we started talking. And he said, well if you like
to fly, do you want to go to the next airport
for hamburger? I said, you betcha. And so, my baby and I piled
into this little airplane. We flew to the next
airport for hamburger. And I had been talking
to a friend who was a psychologist, a woman. And I said, how do you know
when a man is right for you? How do you know? And she said, he
just smells right. Well, it was aftershave,
and Avgas. You know, Avgas. And that smell, it was
just perfect for me. So, I married Rod Johnston,
who was in dental school. I was one of his first patients, and learned an awful
lot about dentistry. And I learned all kinds
of things about, you know, trying to set up a practice
and all of this stuff. And I was enthralled,
because he could fly. He could fly. And this little magic carpet
was there, and he wanted to go live in the Arctic. He wanted to work in the
native communities up there. He wanted to provide a
service in the North. He wanted an aeroplane,
but he wanted to have a job that he could afford an
airplane, and use it wisely. So, he wanted to buy a little
airplane, have his dental degree and work in the Arctic villages. And I thought, I’d have to
sell my house, leave my — you know, by then I had a lot of
clients, I was working freelance from my house, plus
working for the hospital. Because I had the baby
so I needed to you know, change from full time work. And I’d have to give all of that
up to go to the Arctic to work. And I thought, little house on a beautiful tree’d [phonetic]
street with solid friends and good work, flying to
the Arctic and this unknown. I’ll sell the house [laughs]. So, we put the house
up for sale. He was just graduating from
arts — from dental school, and I got this 20-year
contract in the mail. And I was shocked. Because I mean, you can
be funny, every so often. But to be funny, every
day for 20 years, is really, really daunting. But I had some hutzpah. I was — by then I no longer
wanted to jump out of a window. I was filled with good stuff. I had a lot of confidence. And so, I thought
maybe I could do this. It would be foolish not to try. So, on packing boxes as we’re
moving, I sent 20 cartoons to Universal Press Syndicate. And they did send me
a 20-year contract, which I watched my hand sign. Because I didn’t have a lawyer who could help me
read it properly. I had no idea what
I was signing, but it was 20 years’
worth of work. So, I figured, okay. So, by the time the contract was
done, and the house was sold, by then I’d had a second baby. You know, the Keystone Cops
film, running back and forth. So here we were going up
to Lynn Lake, Manitoba. I said if we’re going to go
to the Arctic, I want to go to a place where I
there’s an airport, and where I can have a house. I don’t want — he was going
to live on a train and travel by train through the
Arctic and into these areas. And I said no, I’d really like
to live where I can have family; his mom and dad lived in this
little town called Lynn Lake, Manitoba. Well, that’s as far north as
you can drive in Winnipeg, which is in Manitoba, which is
right in the middle of Canada. So, if you think about
the Hudson’s Bay, and in James Bay
is a little dimple that comes off the bottom,
we were right at the level of James Bay and Churchill,
but on the Manitoba — on the Saskatchewan
Manitoba border. So, it was north of 56. The temperature would go down
to 50 below in the winter. It was a really interesting
place to live. You live in a place
where it’s so small. Like, there was something
like 800 people in the town. And it’s so small, that
everybody knows you immediately. They know everything about you. And I had never lived
in a tiny town before. I moved from Vancouver, to Hamilton where you
could hear the birds cough. And suddenly here we were in
this tiny, Arctic community. And for me at first it was a
rush because I like adventure. Holy smokes, I’m in this place. There’s no trees. There’s a mine, there’s — you
know, there’s nothing here. Isn’t this great? Isn’t this great? Took me six months before
I was, get me out of here. Get me out of here. So, the first day after we’d
sort of moved into this house, I went down to a grocery store,
just to get some groceries. And I’m in line up with
a bunch of other people. And the woman at the till,
at the counter, was terrible. Move on, move on. Don’t start talking. I don’t have all day. Do you want that or not? If you don’t want
it, put it away. It was one of these
Arctic villages, if there was one,
rotten green pepper. There were three ladies
fighting over it, right? So, this was a little
Arctic grocery store. So, I’m in line waiting
and waiting and this woman was horrible. When I finally came up, she
says, who the hell are you? Where are you living? Are you living down
in Pine Street? Okay. All right,
how much you want? Do you want to pay cash? Do you want it delivered? What do you want? And I thought, what? So, I paid the money and I went
outside, and the woman in front of me was putting her
baby in a carriage, and getting her stuff organized. And I walked out and she — heap
being treated like this too. And I said to her,
what’s with that woman? Anyways, I got home, which
was like two-minute walk, and my phone was ringing. And it was Lena from
the grocery store. And she said, well, you were
talking to my sister in law. Watch what you say
in a small town. So, I learned real fast,
that in a small town, you watch your P’s and Q’s. Mind you, there was an awful
lot of hanky-panky going on in the wintertime, because
there’s not a lot to do, right? So, it’s a place where you
could steal a man’s wife but you don’t touch his
woodpile [laughter]. You don’t. So, there we were, in
Lynn Lake, Manitoba. And my husband looked
an awful lot like this. Good size nose. You can see my hands
are starting to shake. So that’s what happens. That’s why I don’t
draw the strip anymore. So, he looked an
awful lot like that. I was changing. I had my hair tied
back and, in a bun, and looked sort of like this. My son Aaron, was
five at the time. He led a walk out in school. He didn’t like what
was going on. And he organized all the kids
in grade one to come be — you know, to to line
up behind him. I’m going to draw a better
picture of him than that. And he said, this is a walkout. I’m, I’m — you know, anybody
who’s not having any fun — he’d seen walk out on TV. And he said, anybody
who’s not having any fun, line up behind me. And so, most of the class
did, and he led them outside. And the teacher caught
him and said, what the heck are you doing? And he said, we’re
going outside. We’re not having any fun. And she said, well,
you can’t do that. And he said, well,
we had a vote. She said, this is
not a democracy here. This is — you head
back into that class. Anyways, that little episode
was a play in that town. The teachers got together and they made a play
about the walkout. It was that kind of town,
that stuff happened. People made their own fun,
they made their own clothes, they made their own movies,
they made their own dinners. I mean, the thing was
that we would have to — we would all invite
each other for dinner at each other’s houses. But the thing was that you had to make something you’d
never made before. And some of these
dinners were disasters, and some of them were wonderful. And we didn’t go online. We would try to find things. You know, in the — there was a
library that had like 11 books. All kinds of crazy stuff
went on in that town. So, what I — what was
great about this tiny town, was that here I am
signing a contract to do a 20-year comic strip,
about a family that is supposed to be for better or for worse. The editors said, we want
something that’s going to rival Hi and Lois, and
Bondi, and Family Circus, and all the strips that are
done by men, that are kind of pleasant and sweet. We want the real deal. We want what’s going
to really happen. We want the scrape the
dog food off the dish. We want that wet diaper. We want everything that
is real in a family. So, when you move
into a small town — and by then little
Katie was born. You see all these characters
look pretty much the same. And the characters
look the same, because cartooning
is your signature. Right? All of us who do
comic art, our work — we might do similar
material, but we all have. — oh, no, that’s April. Okay, so yeah, so my
daughter, I wanted — she had the dark hair like that. And so, I gave her
the curly hair, right? Because I didn’t want her
to be teased at school. So, Elizabeth look like
this when I was first — see, it’s been so long since
I’ve drawn these characters, I forget how to draw them. So, but you know, so
the kids were tiny. We just started out we had
a new dental clinic that was above the the grocery
store where Lena worked. And Lena eventually became a
good friend, I have to tell you. She was one of the
most outspoken, crazy, lovable people, but
she was noisy and mean. And if you got past
that, you were fine. But what happens in a small town
is you get to know everybody. You get to know the drunk who’s
asleep in the you know, store, front entrance, and you get to
know the woman who’s widowed, and the man who’s dying and the
kids who are troubled at school. And our house was in
the middle of town. So, a lot of kids would come
past my house, and get food, and get clothing, and
get warm winter scarves and things like that. Because at the other end
of town was a tent village; where a lot of people lived
and just hand to mouth. And so, the kids
going to school, some of them didn’t
have any food. And so, my house was right
in the middle and they knew that my house was a
pretty safe house. And I had a big backyard,
and I had a door that opened on the lane, and a door that
opened on the front street. And the kids would come up the
lane, and the kids would come to my house, and they would
come mostly for clothing. They would come for
hats and scarves. Because either they’d been taken
from them or they’d lost them or they didn’t have any. But at 50 below, a little kid
who’s walking six blocks home, is going to need to cover
their face and their hands. And so, I had a great
big box of extra coats, and scarves, and hats. And my kitchen was always ready
for extra people to come by. My daughter — I said to my
son one day, and he’s 46. I said what do you remember
most about Lynn lake, and the little school
you went to? And he said, your lunches. You made — your lunch
was my happy place. When I got to open my lunch, all the other kids
would go oh, right? So, Katie said, you know, I
had those great lunches too. But there was a kid there
who had sugar sandwiches and he made his own
sandwiches every day. It was always a sugar
sandwich, of white bread. And she said they were so good. She said, I used to get
all these vegetables, and you know, nice food at home. But the sugar sandwich
to me, was heaven. And years later, she met
this guy who was now working in Toronto, and he said to her, your mother fed me
all through school. If it hadn’t been
for your lunch, I wouldn’t have had a
meal during the day. Your lunch was my meal. And she said, I just thought I
was getting sugar sandwiches, you know? But it was that kind of town, that there would be some
very well-paid people who worked at the mine. And some very, you know, people
who were just really struggling at the other end of town. So, because I got to
know all of these people, I got to really care about
and then see both sides. And at first, I was thinking that Ellie would
have this nemesis. She would have this neighbor
Connie, who had it all. Ellie is like my mother; forced
to live at home and have, you know, all these aspirations. But she’s stuck with the
children, and she grumbles about you know, housework
and whatever. And if only she could do this,
and if only she could do that. And her neighbor
would have it all. She’d have no children
and she had a great job, and always talking about
where she was going and what she was doing. But living in a small town, I
realized that nobody’s all bad. Nobody’s all evil. And when I like — I
sometimes do talks to kids in elementary school, and the
kids love monsters, right? They love to draw evil, gooey
monsters and things like that. And I think, when you
think about alien, is he’s losing his way into
the corridor of the spaceship to eat people and
slime everything. What does he do on the weekend? You know, what is he doing? He got to have a few days
off; put his feet up, watch a, you know, a show, you know? what if he has an itch
that he got to go — you know, man, I’ve been
putting that off I got to go see somebody about that. You know, what’s
his other life like? And they say jeez, that — you know, and then they’d
all talk about, well, what dos Godzilla
do on the weekend? What is — you know,
what does Tarzan do when he’s not swinging around? I mean, it’s the other side. And you can see the other side
when you go to a small town. And that to me really
made the difference. Because everything you saw
in For Better For Worse, which started September of ’79
— and this is the 40th year. This is 40 years
afterwards, right? And it’s still running. And to me it’s an
absolute amazement that it’s still going;
but there it is. But I wouldn’t have been able to
do what I did, if I hadn’t lived in this tiny little town. And the town actually
closed down. The mine closed and
everybody had to leave, and it was heartbreaking
to leave this little town. I never would have
wanted to live there for the rest of my life. But I felt cocooned, and
comfortable, and cozy there. And there’s a certain arrogance
to living in the far north. You you really feel
as though you have — you’ve escaped to something that nobody else will
understand or imagine. And I can connect that
too, to working in Peru. A couple of friends here,
Dr. Jim, as a psychiatrist — and I wondered how does
psychiatry work when you’re in a desperate situation, and all of these
people need health care? And to tell somebody
that they’re okay, that they’re going to be okay. That faith is there. That there’s the magic. That there is a lifeline
that you can plug into this other energy,
that will save you really from yourself, and from
whatever is around you. You just need that
faith to keep on going. And so, I had that. And I had 40 years
of writing material, that went out to
millions of people. And I felt connected
to them too. I felt as though there was a
lifeline between me and all of the people that read my work;
the letters that I got, the — you know, the well-wishing,
the gifts, the things that came back. And it was a mutual
connection between me and all of these people. People sometimes say, what is
the best story you ever did? I did two stories
that resonated. And one was a story
about a gay character. My brother in law’s gay. And one of my very,
very closest friends on the planet was a comedy
writer for the CBC in Toronto. And he was so small,
and so feather like, that he played Peter Pan
for many years at theater. And he used to complain
about this wedge that they had him sitting on, that could never
be padded enough. That they would fly
him around the stage on this little moon
shaped arc, right. He was so tiny, and and
he wouldn’t hurt a fly. He was the funniest
guy you ever saw. And he was murdered for
his bicycle and his stereo. He was gay. And he had a big heart, and
he met this kid who did — down on his luck, didn’t have
any money, didn’t have any food. He gave him 40 bucks and said, go get yourself something
to eat. And there’s a hostel
around the corner there, where you can stay the
night for 20 bucks. So that’ll give you tonight. Well, the kid followed him to
his apartment, and went out and bought a knife
with the 40 bucks, went back to Michael’s
apartment, rang the bell. And when Michael opened the
door, he slit his throat. And he took his bicycle,
and his stereo. So, for a bicycle and a stereo,
this fabulous comedy writer who made everybody laugh, died. And the attitude of the
police at the time was, well, there’s one more
predator off the street. We’re not going to look
into this, too seriously. And the poor guy who — you know, the poor victim
with the knife, that poor kid, he was, you know,
just a street kid. We’ll help him. Well, Michael’s partner
died of a broken heart. He worked for four years
to try and get justice for this awful murder. And it’s strange that
the night Michael died, I phoned his apartment,
just to say hello. And nobody answered. And I called Paul,
his partner who lived in a different building,
and I said, what’s going on? Where’s Michael? And he didn’t know. And that was the
night he was killed. So, there’s energy
out there, right? There’s energy that
pulls us together, that makes us magically connect. And you don’t really realize
— well, you can’t realize it. I think we’re not
allowed to realize it. But that connection with me
and Michael, I thought — when I had this comic strip, and
I had 2000 papers, and I wanted to do a story for Michael. Because I thought,
it’s about time. So, I said to my editor,
whose name is Lee. Can I do this story
if I do it carefully, and well, and if you edit it? And he said, you’ll lose
some papers, for sure. Well, I wrote this story. I was willing to
lose the papers. He figured I’d lose about six. And the story started to run. And it was just a
gentle, easy story, and it was — ran
for four weeks. We told all of the people who — the editors, that we would
provide alternate material if they wanted it, but this was
a story that was going to run. And I could not believe
the backlash that came. It was just — it was
a phenomenal situation. In which Michael’s very
best friend Lawrence, who live next door — I
can’t even remember how to draw Lawrence. Anyways, I know that he —
his dad was from South America and he had to make
all of this story up. Of how this dark kid could be
living with this mom next door. And that looks a
lot like Michael. Anyways, so [laughs]
that’s the problem, right? Because these signatures kind
of dissolve after a while. If you haven’t drawn
them for a while, it’s really hard to draw them. So, I did this story
and my phone rang from morning till night. We got seven — how
many 3000 letters. And most of them I
answered if they were — if they had made sense,
I would answer them; even the negative ones. But some of them
were so horrible. There were death threats,
there were, you know, phone calls from the
most incredible people, saying the most incredible
things. but I found out that
the people — all of the editors of
all of the newspapers, have to be fairly open minded
and they have to see things from different points of view. But if you’re a small
editor in a small newspaper, in a small town,
you’re available. You can go into the Tim
Hortons and have a cup of coffee and someone will come in and
accost you, and accuse you of printing something
that they don’t like. So, all of the editors
who were available, were being bludgeoned
by naysayers as well. So, I got phone calls from them,
and I met wonderful editors, wonderful people who would
say, I can’t run your strip. My children are being
beaten up at school. My dog was spray
painted yesterday; my house windows were egged. I can’t run the story,
but I agree with you. So, I was surprised by that. Because I thought any
newspaper could print anything that was appropriate. But apparently not. Not in many small towns. And these were all
over the states. I got no complaints from anybody in Canada really,
except for Halifax. The Halifax Herald
dropped my strip, and never spoke to me again. You know, so something
going on in Halifax. I don’t know what it
is, but I think the rest of the Canadians were
busy watching hockey and staying warm. And you know, just —
it was just a story. But I am proud of that story. And a lot of people wrote to
tell me that they had spoken to their mom for the first time. I actually brought
some of the stuff here. Okay, so thank you for
your story about Lawrence in For Better For Worse. Because of it, I’ve been
able to talk to my daughter. We’d not spoken for
three years and I mean, I had not spoken to her. Perhaps we can salvage
the future. Thank you for helping
me to understand. And this one, what gives
you the right to talk about something disgusting and
unspeakable on the comics page? Our son is gay and to me,
he is lower than dirt. He’s not welcome in our house,
and neither is your comic strip. I think one of the most hurtful
letters came from a woman who said, I’ve just taken
you off my refrigerator. So, here’s a story
from a young man; and I wish that he’d
signed his name because I would have
written him a great letter. He said thank you for your
profound series about the plight of Lawrence in For
Better For Worse. As a gay teenager hiding in
the refuge of his closet, I was deeply moved
by the ongoing drama. I hear homosexuals being
bashed from myriad people all around me, who of course,
don’t know that I’m gay; including my parents, younger
brothers, certain friends and parochial teachers,
and it hurts. I cut out each of the scenarios
and keep them clandestine and safe; buried at the
bottom of a desk drawer, concealed from prying eyes. It’s good to know that I’m
not universally despised and that I have value
as a human being. I’ve rejected family and
religion, but it renews hope in me, to see that not every
member of society loathes me. Thank you again. This was a letter from
California, but I’ve since heard from many people
who felt that way. So, the other — and that to me, meant more to me
than the laughs. You know, like a comic
strip is wonderful because you can make
people laugh. And when I wrote
something funny — recently, I was just
going over them again. And there’s a Christmas
situation, where John is complaining
that the Christmas tree stand that Ellie has just bought from
Caster’s [assumed spelling] Cash and Carry, is a piece of junk
and it’s not going to work. And he says, why didn’t
you get another one? She said, well, it was Caster’s
[assumed spelling] last stand, right? Terrible, horrible puns. I love that and make
people laugh. But to make people think, and to make people
talk, was even better. So, the other story that I did,
that people tend to remember; is the story about
Farley, the dog. Well, Farley was really
a wonderful character. And he was based on an
old English sheep dog that we had years ago. And he was big, and
lumbering, and stupid. Dumb and stupid. Looked a lot like the husband. Anyways, you know, what’s interesting is my first
husband is 85 years old now. He’s quite a bit
older than I am. Well, [inaudible] 72, what? He wanted to get
together and just talk and he said, can we be friends? Can we please be friends? And he’s gone from this young,
strapping, athletic guy. You know, hairy guy, to
this tall, skinny gaunt, yellow guy, with a walker. And talk about that
Keystone Cops movie, holy smokes back in time. And when I look at him, I see
the young guy that I married. And holy smokes, here
he is with a walker. And I put my arms around
him and I said, you bet. We could be friends. Yeah. You know. So, anyways, Farley, the dog
was a wonderful character because he — you know, he
was — he could be a fantasy. He could be something that
I could have fun with, and stretch, and play with. And yet, the characters
had all started to grow up. And they grew up
and they changed, because I couldn’t
keep them young. I wanted at first to keep
everybody the same age, but I couldn’t keep them young. And because my own kids were
growing up with new vocabulary, and new friends, and new
ideas, and new insights. How could you keep
that out of the strip? So, without my wanting
to, everybody grew up. And it kept me from
licensing anything. I mean, if I wanted to license
April as a baby, for example, to Pampers, by the time
the contract was signed, and the graphics were done, and
the product was on the counter, she’d be three years
old in the strip. So, it was impossible for
me to do any licensing. But this character had
some possibility that way. This character was a real
interesting, imaginary guy, but he had a lifespan. So, my sister in law who’s a
veterinarian said, you know, you got to let him go,
but make him go a hero. Because as a veterinarian,
you know, her job a lot of the time was to
end a pet’s life and she said, I just hate it. I just — it just
breaks my heart. So, have him go naturally
and as a hero. So, I wrote the story
about Farley going down the hill with little April. And April’s disappointed that
she didn’t get to go on a trip with the parents on a boat. And she has a toy boat which
he puts into the stream. It’s springtime, the stream
is running hard and fast. She loses the boat,
gets into the stream, and Farley the dog jumps in
and holds her head above water, till they can get her out. And he dies of exhaustion. He’s an old dog and he dies on the riverbed, in
Elizabeth’s arms. And it’s very, you know,
beautifully crafted. That’s the one thing,
they call us creators and you can control everything. You know who’s going to
live, who’s going to die, who’s going to get married,
who’s going to get a zit. I mean, big things,
and little things. You control them all. But you can’t control
real life, right? You can’t control real life. So, there was a certain
amount of, you know, arrogance to being
able to do this story. So, anyways, Farley
the dog died. And before I did the story,
I was telling Charles Schulz, I’m going to do this story and
he said, you can’t kill the dog. That dog is iconic dog. It’s a signature piece. You can’t kill the dog. And I said, but I have to. You know, he’s 13 years old. He said, if you kill that dog,
I’m going to have Snoopy hit by a bus and everybody
will care about Snoopy. He’s going to go
into the hospital. He’s going to be sick, and
everybody will read my stuff and they won’t care
about your dumb story. So, I didn’t tell him
when I was going to do it. And I wrote the story. And I submitted it. And he was blindsided. He couldn’t believe that
he was reading the story. And he phoned me up. And he said, that
stupid, little girl. What was she doing
going down there alone, with a boat to the river? That stupid little girl. And I thought, you really
are part of the comics. He used to say, if you want to
know me, read all my characters. Read my characters,
because that’s me. So, you know, for him. It was a shock. But what happened when
Farley died was — I mean, you work eight
weeks ahead of the deadline. So, eight weeks for the Sunday,
colored page, six weeks ahead of the deadline for the dailies. Always has to be that far ahead, because they’re sending your
work to Guam, and, you know, Australian, whatever, and
that has to be colored. So, they’d like that
big, long deadline. Well, you don’t know what
the headline is going to be in the newspaper,
when that strip runs, because it’s eight
weeks back, right? Well, the day that Farley died, was the day of the
Oklahoma bombing. And everybody was
raw with emotion. Everybody was upset. I got letters from people
who said, I cried all the way to work on the subway. I mean, but they were
crying for other reasons. I mean, it was shocked
everybody. So, you have no way of knowing
whether what you do is going to land on a good day or not. So that was something
that I think, probably has made his
disappearance a little more memorable. But I didn’t want
to lose the dog. You’re going to have to tell
me when it’s time to quit. Somebody is going to tell
me — like, it’s time. Okay. real fast. I wanted another
dog in the strip because it was so much fun. I wanted — so because I
can control everything — the creator, right? I could decide, who gets
pregnant, who doesn’t. Anyway, so the dog next
door Sarah, gate is open, Farley goes next door, has
a love romantic relationship with Sarah the dog,
and puppies happen. And little Edgar comes into
the Patterson household and I now have a baby. Another little fuzzy
dog, that will grow up and I can have another
little dog in the strip. Well, I got letters from all
these people saying you should have had that dog neutered. How dare you have all these
illegitimate puppies coming out? And you know, you
should go rescue a dog. That was — and I said,
lady, it’s a paper dog. You know? Anyways. So, I’ve always listened to my
readers, and thank goodness, they’ve listened to me. It’s been 40 years of
wonderful, wonderful work. And mostly it’s the
relationships that I’ve had. I’ve met so many great people. I mean, when you think
you’re, done and forgotten, and you’ve got a show at the
Canadian Embassy; it wakes you up and realizes that
you’re still plugged in. You’re still full of energy, and you’re still being
read and enjoyed. And I sure appreciate
you coming here today, because we are connected
in so many ways. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *