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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 12/23/2008

Fave Fan Anecdotes: 'For Better or For Worse' & Signe Wilkinson

By Michael Cavna

All week on Comic Riffs, in the spirit of the season, syndicated cartoonists share their favorite fan anecdotes -- telling us in their own words about their artwork that struck a particularly poignant chord with readers. Today, LYNN JOHNSTON and SIGNE WILKINSON share their stories.

LYNN JOHNSTON, creator, "For Better or For Worse":

Years ago, I was shopping for a Christmas turkey. I had two rambuctious kids in the grocery cart and my hands were full. I needed a big turkey and pulled one from the open freezer using the looped end of the plastic bag in which it was wrapped. I lifted it up and was about to haul it up and into the cart when it occurred to me the plastic might break under the weight and I could drop 20 pounds of frozen bird on one of my kids' body parts. I put it down and used two hands.

Later at home, the scenario was good enough to write about, and so I devised a story in which John, the hapless dad, drops a turkey on his foot and spends the holidays in a cast. I knew that when it ran I would hear from someone who had suffered a similar fate.

Sure enough, a letter came from a man who had just broken his foot turkey-style. He complained that not only was he supremely inconvenienced at a busy time of year, but he received no sympathy whatsoever. Everyone who knew he'd dropped a large frozen bird on his foot laughed and made fun of him.

"If it had been a skiing accident, or if I'd fallen shoveling snow, there would have been endless concern from everyone," he moaned. "But, all they did was laugh!"

I felt sorry for him. It was as if I had, in some perverse way, wished for and caused his condition. Along with a letter of condolence, I sent him the original comic strip and received a grateful letter of thanks.

This was one of many close encounters I have had with readers of "For Better or For Worse" and another reason why I've always felt part of a global "family."

SIGNE WILKINSON, creator, "Family Tree," and Pulitzer-winning political cartoonist for the Philadelphia Daily News:

I did a local cartoon [this month] after a judge ruled against a scheme to develop a section of our beloved Fairmount Park. The plan was endorsed by the local city council rep, the mayor (an alleged park supporter) and even the park commission. When a judge ruled against the development (a shocking move in Philadelphia, where the lawyers usually take their cues from their party patrons), I did a cartoon of Justice standing in the way of a bulldozer, which had figures of politicians and the park commission splatted on the big blade.

(Philadelphia Daily News) Enlarge Comic

One of the people in a little neighborhood group that was fighting the plan called in jubilation and noted that the figure of Justice resembled an elderly neighborhood activist who had set her lawn chair in the middle of one of the park's access roads to block
construction vehicles which weren't supposed to be using the road.

The little lady got the semi to back up. I'm sending her a signed print of the cartoon.

By Michael Cavna  | December 23, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Interviews With Cartoonists  
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