(Jay Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief of King Features, drowned in a riptide in Costa Rica last March. He was Comics Editor when he plucked my strip out of the submissions pile and gave me the opportunity of my life. I've been going to write this section of my syndication story a number of times over the past few weeks...but kept feeling a wave of sadness and I would put it off. Jay was insightful, knowledgeable and always a gentleman. I consider myself fortunate to be one of the cartoonists who had the privilege of working with him.)
By 1992, I was beginning to wonder if I was beating a dead horse with my comic strip idea.
I had managed to sell my strip to the St. Catharines Standard, the Hamilton and the Burlington Spectator and the Brantford Expositor...all southern Ontario dailies. My strip, "Just Between Friends" also appeared in a few weekly papers as well. All in all, I was making about $100 per week.
I had given up my effort to sell my strip to other papers. Between creating a daily strip and working full-time, I found it difficult to keep up with the business of selling my feature. More than a time factor though, was the fact that it was hard to take the constant rejection.
I had sent out what I had decided was going to be my last submission package to the major syndicates. If this package didn't get a positive response, I was going to try a different tactic and see if I could get a book collection published.
One afternoon, two weeks later, my husband and I came home from shopping and I saw the message button flashing on our answering machine.
It was Jay Kennedy. COMICS EDITOR OF KING FEATURES. He wanted me to call him in New York.
I grabbed my husband and started yelling, "DO YOU KNOW WHO THAT IS?! IT'S JAY KENNEDY!! IT'S KING FEATURES!!"
I drank a glass of water and walked up and down the stairs about 6 times to burn off some energy. And then I called New York. Karen Moy answered. I told her who I was and she said Jay was waiting for my call.
He told me he liked my strip...that he had shown it to Joe D'Angelo (President of King at the time) and that Joe liked it...he said he remembered seeing my strip before (I received a rejection letter from him about 3 or 4 years prior) but thought that changing one of the characters to a married woman made the strip better. He did his best to engage me in conversation but I really didn't know what to say...until he said King wanted to offer me a development contract. "How soon can you have it in the mail?", I asked.
My development contract covered an eight month period of time. Jay and I were to work on my feature together and if I could address the concerns they had with my strip by the end of the eight months, King Features would pick up my option for syndication.
A few weeks after I signed the development contract with King, I received a letter from an editor at Universal Press. It read:
Dear Ms. Lundy:
Thanks for sending "Just Between Friends." For the past month your strip has been wending its way through the editorial department. We liked the writing and the interaction between the women. As one editor said: There's a kind of Bob Newhart show quality to this: It's not uproariously funny, but you keep watching it anyhow."* ( * I love this line)
Several people mentioned that the husband is a bit stereotypical and doesn't seem to have any friends. Also, Susan, Laura and Maeve need to have stronger voices and should be more distinct. Perhaps you have done some strips that address these concerns.
In any case, we'd like to see another 3 dozen samples or so...
When it rains, it pours.
Next: Developing the Strip