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Q&A: Cartoonist returned strip to its roots

Comic strip returned to its origins

I was a big fan of the comic strip For Better or For Worse until it reverted to the past. Why did the author decide to start over?

Lynn Johnston, now 62, started the comic strip For Better or For Worse in 1979, telling the story of the Patterson family in the fictional Canadian town of Milborough, Ontario. She often drew on her family's real-life experiences for material.

For the first 28 years, the strip ran in real time — the characters aged and the strip reflected their experiences at benchmark moments in their lives. It runs in about 2,000 newspapers in the United States and Canada.

Johnston had been thinking of ending FBOFW, but in 2007, she and her husband split and Johnston decided to keep doing the comic. On Aug. 31, 2008, on what was supposed to be the final day, Johnston announced in the comic that she was taking the story back to a point just after its beginning. Half the material would be new and half would be reruns.

In a letter to readers on the strip's website (www.fborfw.com), Johnston wrote: "For the past 7 years or so I was aware that the stories were becoming more complicated, the drawings more controlled and the characters more realistic. Gone was the loose, funny, free-hand line I had started with. . . . There were so many characters . . . and only one statement a day (less than 30 seconds) to try and tell a story. . . . I have now let all of this pass into the mist as the story ends and I return to the beginning. . . .

"Without the need to visit all of the auxiliary characters, I can concentrate once again on the insular little Patterson household. I have the children all to myself again. . . . I can fix what I don't like about my early work as I add and subtract."

Holiday TV movie is on DVD

A few years ago I watched a movie on TV called The House Without a Christmas Tree. I enjoyed it but haven't seen it shown again. Is it available on DVD?

The House Without a Christmas Tree, a movie made for TV, was released in 1972. It starred Jason Robards as a widower in Nebraska, bitter over his loss, who refuses to get his 10-year-old daughter Addie a Christmas tree. When Addie wins a tree at school, it forces a confrontation with her father that ultimately ends in reconciliation.

It is unknown if any networks will pick up the movie for the next holiday season, but it is available in DVD from such retailers as amazon.com, walmart.com and meijer.com.

Another Sutherland actor

I would like to know if Rossif Sutherland is related to Donald and Kiefer Sutherland.

The 31-year-old actor-singer is Donald Sutherland's son and the half brother of Kiefer. His mother is Francine Racette. Kiefer's mother is Shirley Douglas. Rossif has appeared in episodes of ER and Monk and is starring in the 2010 movie The Con Artist with his father and Rebecca Romijn.

Q&A: Cartoonist returned strip to its roots 05/20/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 20, 2010 5:30am]
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