Comics: For Better or For Worse


Cartoonist: Lynn Johnston (Collingwood, ON)
Launch date: Sept. 9, 1979
End date: Aug. 31, 2008 (original) July 11, 2010  (new "reruns")
Publisher(s): Andrews McMeel Publishing/ Universal Press Syndicate
Genre(s): Humor, Family, Drama

For Better or For Worse is still seen in over 2,000 newspapers throughout Canada, the United States and about 20 other countries

Sure, I’ve had some bad times, but everybody does. But people don’t get to talk about them like I do, unless they do to a therapist. People don’t get to put them in the paper like I do – Lynn Johnston

1985, Atkinson Film-Arts of Ottawa, in association with the CTV Television Network, produced an animated special based on For Better or for Worse entitle

d The Bestest Present. In the United States, it was first broadcast on HBO

1992, another Ottawa-based studio, Lacewood Productions, produced six more specials, also for CTV. In the United States, these were seen on The Disney Channel

2000, Ottawa

‘s Funbag Animation produced a new animated series for cable TV network Teletoon, which began airing on November 5th

2004, Koch Vision released the complete series on DVD

Familiar Themes:

The idea of hockey and the growing cost of hockey…


… Is reflective of the typical child in Canada wanting to play hockey but also a reflection of the reality of the prestige and limited market that can afford play and participate in hockey

How is “For Better or For Worse” Canadian?

Aside from being created in Canad

a, For Better or For Worse (FBORFW) uses a number of ideas that teach children and international viewers on what it means to be Canadian. First and most importantly what makes this comic Canadian is the idea of multiculturalism. With the different ethnicities portrayed through the comic strips and television show, FBORFW

 exhibits how Canada is a welcoming country. An important ethnicity that is portrayed through this cartoon, were the First Nations People, who lived in a community called Mtigwaki – a fictional Ojibwa community in Northern Ontario near Lake Nipigon. This gives viewers some background history of the people who first lived in Canada. FBORFW has also demonstrated equality, an issue that is valued within Canada.  

Although many ethnicities are used within this comic, it is also important to point out the character who expressed their sexuality.

 In Canada, we have the right to express our sexual orientation, which is what the author did in FBORFW. As a result, this led to hate letters to the author along with banning the comic all together.

With this in mind, times have changed, and Canada has become accepting of different sexualities in which some children and other viewers are beginning to understand. 

The imagery and comics also refer to Canadian stereotypes; some of these examples teach the reader and/or child about show ways to embrace Canada and its norms/stereotypes:

The winter: cold, full of snow, shoveling and some of the hassle of Canadian winters


The fall: bright colored scenery and the reflection of  how  special Canada is as an environmentally rich and beautiful place


Aside from these important topics on what makes FBORFW Canadian, the author has made a list of possible Canadianisms may confuse children and international readers such as:

1)    Spelling

  1. There are some words that we spell differently such as “colour” instead of “color” or “favour” instead of “favor.” This gives people an understanding between the American spelling and Canadian spelling

2)    Canadian Holidays

  1. As Canadians we share many holidays with the US, but the days that Canada has to itself are Victoria Day, Canada Day, as well as a different Thanksgiving Day.

3)    Poutine

  1. A dish made with French fries, cheese, and gravy. Canada is most known for this dish

4)    Beaver Tails

  1. Canada is also known for this dessert, a whole wheat, cracked wheat pastry that is stretched to look like a beaver tail and is topped off with usually Cinnamon Sugar.

5)    Loonies and Toonies

  1. Canadian Currency, in which the one-dollar coin is referred to as a loonie and has a loon on one side with the head of the queen, while a toonie is referred to two-dollars with a polar bear.

6)    Grade 13

  1. Ontario schools use to have an additional year of high school but have discontinued it. Now high school stops at grade 12.

Interested in more For Better or For Worse?

lynn joshton

 As she reflects on her comic strip characters and controversies, and whether it’s time to put the cap on her drawing penGet to know Lynn Johnston on CBC News!


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