I drew this cartoon of myself and my friends when I was about sixteen. I know that because I recognize the clothes...and the hair styles. The arrow is pointing at me.
As I've mentioned before, "Between Friends" is loosely based on the women I grew up with. I used to draw cartoons of the above four when I wanted to lampoon some crisis or embarrassment that had happened to one of us. Eventually, when I decided I wanted to give comic strip syndication a serious shot, I began to develop a cartoon feature based on those cartoons. I was in my twenties when I started writing the strip that most closely resembles "Between Friends" today and I had added a couple of characters to this foursome.
My first attempts at this strip featured five women characters. I had sent out submission packages to King Features, Tribune Media, Universal Press, United and I think I sent to the Los Angeles Times Syndicate too. I received form letters from everyone except King and Universal. Lee Salem sent me a personal little note thanking me but saying he just didn't think it was for them. An editor at King sent me a note saying they felt that five characters were too many to deal with and that I should take it down to three...and really develop those characters.
To have the personal replies and to actually be given some direction was pretty exciting stuff...and I was more than willing to work on the suggestions given to me by the editor at King.
However, in the midst of this...just to complicate things...I received an actual contract from a much smaller syndicate. (Along with my submissions to the major syndicates, I had sent out a package to a much smaller outfit...just to see what would happen.)
The syndicate's letterhead was a poor photocopy and the letter contained spelling errors. The enclosed contract was terrible...even to my inexperienced eyes. Signing it meant that they owned me lock, stock and barrel forever. Period. The editor/president had also enclosed a cheque for fifty dollars and told me they had sold one of my sample cartoons to a singles' networking newsletter...actually, it was more of Personal Ad catalogue. I guess that was supposed to entice me...and while I was impressed with the money, I was embarrassed by the venue in which my work was being published.
Today, I wouldn't give that contract a second glance. But at the time...I didn't know if I was passing up the only opportunity I would ever have to have my work syndicated. I did take the contract to a lawyer who advised me to ask for a few amendments and send it back to see what the response would be. In the end, I just decided to pass on the contract, work on the strip and continue to hold out for an opportunity to work with one of the major syndicates.
It was going to be a long wait.
Next: Approaching the Toronto Star