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Friday, March 26, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Gay Character In Comic

St. Petersburg Times: Knight-Ridder Newspapers

In today's "For Better or for Worse" comic strip, Mike and Lawrence, a couple of 17-year-old high school classmates, amble down a sidewalk. Lawrence remarks that he's never going to get married. In Saturday's strip, he explains why.

Mike asks: "What if you, you know - fall in love?"

"I have fallen in love," Lawrence says. "But it's not with a girl."

And so readers will meet one of the few openly gay characters to appear in a nationally syndicated comic strip.

Lynn Johnston, who has been drawing "For Better or for Worse" since she created the strip in 1979, said she planned years ago to introduce Lawrence as a gay character. She was simply waiting for the right time to do it.

As the story progresses, Lawrence comes out to his mother and stepfather. They throw him out of the house.

"I suppose `For Better or for Worse' mirrors my own life in many ways," Johnston said. Her brother-in-law, Ralph Johnston, came out to the family about a dozen years ago. It shook the family profoundly.

"You think one thing about the person and then this comes along. Then you realize that they haven't changed. It's you."

Johnston said she knows there will be criticism from those who say the comics are no place for homosexuality.

"I can't change people's minds, and I'm not trying to change anybody's mind," she said. "I'm just showing a young man people have known for 13 years who happens to be a little different from his

friends."

Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes the strip to more than 1,400 newspapers, said four or five newspapers have asked for substitute strips, and two have canceled the strip entirely.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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