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Embracing the Robotic Life: Lynn Johnston, Creator of “For Better or For Worse,” Delves into Alottabotz

Lynn Johnston resigned from For Better or For Worse in 2008. Nevertheless, the cherished comic strip has remained in continuous publication and is currently airing reruns for its 16th year.

In the interim, the Canadian illustrator has stayed active at her studio in North Vancouver, creating vibrant character illustrations for puzzles and various merchandise. Recently, in January, Johnston introduced the first three installments of Alottabotz, a children’s series chronicling the escapades of young Timothy Bot and his companions in Cyberland City.

Our Discussion with Johnston Regarding the Series:

Q: When did you make the decision to publish a book?

A: This choice was made a couple of years ago. My daughter and I opted to engage a marketing team to review all the fabric designs we had produced. Despite creating numerous designs for surface decoration, I struggled to find amusing and colorful fabrics suitable for children’s apparel, backpacks, or even shower curtains. The intention behind these designs was to inject fun and creativity into them, hoping for potential interest.

However, breaking into the industry proved to be more challenging than anticipated. Collaborating with the marketing team, we sifted through my fabric patterns and settled on the robot designs, which captivated me the most. Focusing on this particular set of images, we embarked on the challenge of creating children’s books.

Q: Did you draw inspiration from classic robot movies for the robot world’s design?

A: During my time in North Bay (Ontario), I encountered a robotics club comprising young individuals who were utilizing Lego components for their courses. Lego now offers excellent robotic materials that enable the creation of various moving contraptions.

These youngsters, starting at a tender age, delved into robotics and progressed to high school levels, engaging in competitions involving robots maneuvering basketballs and evading obstacles. Witnessing the ingenious robotic creations by high school students at these competitions fascinated me. Over time, the emergence of lifelike robots from Japan and other regions has been truly captivating and exciting.

Presently, there is a race among companies to develop the most astonishingly realistic robots. While some may be intended for military purposes, which is regrettable, others will undoubtedly serve beneficial functions, sparking my interest.

Children possess a natural affinity for robots, and I, with a mindset akin to that of a nine-year-old, share in this fascination.

Q: The target audience for the Alottabotz books is three to five-year-olds. Did you test the books with an audience?

A: We primarily sought feedback from our immediate family and friends. Additionally, a resident in my housing complex with two young children, aged three and five, received a set of books. Their enthusiastic response was heartening, as the father shared that he reads the stories to his children nightly, with the kids eagerly pointing out various elements in the illustrations such as robotic worms, bugs, flowers, and birds.

Recognizing the rapid pace of young minds, I endeavored to incorporate as much detail as possible in each drawing without overwhelming the visuals.

Q: Will fans of For Better or For Worse detect your signature writing style in the Alottabotz books?

A: The essence of family dynamics prevails in both works, featuring parents, children, and pets amidst everyday situations. However, the setting is a fantastical realm adorned with peculiar, captivating trees and houses. While distinct from For Better or For Worse, the Alottabotz series retains the whimsical and imaginative essence that defines my creative approach.

Readers of the comic strip can anticipate the same level of enjoyment, imagery, and playfulness that have always characterized my work. I am confident that they will derive immense pleasure from these books.