It’s to my mind the single most consistently well-crafted and relevant strip that graces the funny pages. FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE is a daily tour de force of characterization, observational humor, farce and emotional verisimilitude. Chronicling the lives and tribulations of the Patterson family, cartoonist Lynn Johnston wrings comedy out of the every day events of ordinary life. Plus, she’s a hell of an artist. She turns a collection of seemingly hastily-sketched lines into strong, distinctive, fully-fleshed characters. She’s clearly an avid study of the world around her–her characters stand and move and sit and lie with a casual naturalness that’s impossible to fake. Johnston’s characters breathe.

Beyond that, she’s proven to be unafraid of change or controversy, whether that involves killing off a beloved family pet or having a character come out of the closet. Given that the cast ages in something akin to real time (as they have since around the second or third year of the strip), that would seem to be pretty much inevitable. But it’s that very predilection for change that keeps the strip fresh and fascinating, as the family reinvents itself year after year much in the same way any real family does.

2014 Note: FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE ran its last original strips in 2008.

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