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November 19, 2008


Margaret Shulock

Thanks for your answer, Sandra. We aren't that far apart in process. My first write is often long and rambling, on purpose. Since most of what we write is dialogue I find it can be fun and helpful to let the characters have their say.Sometimes Margo says things that are quite unprintable. I love that girl!


I didn't have any idea about how this story was going to go. At the beginning, the only thing I knew was that I wanted a positive ending. After interviewing, I got the general idea of how I wanted to write it...but things always change along the way. Even with the regular strips, I will edit right up to the inking stage...there have been times I've photoshopped punchlines too but not that often. Once I had a very general outline of the story, I just sat and wrote as if Maeve and Tamara were having a conversation, all long-hand and rambling for about ten pages. Some I used and some I didn't, but it helped me with the direction.


JC...that would be an interesting idea...to make it into a graphic novel by expanding the work that is already there.

Patricia, I interviewed at Gillian's Place first and then at UWO...by the time I was half way through talking to the UWO women, I told them I was amazed at how text book this issue is...not that everyone's story doesn't have its own complicated problems, but the generalities of the situation, the control, the issues...they have a very distintive pattern and identity. The liasion officer told me that this is more apparent now but was not recognized even 20 years ago.

Many thanks to all the kind words.


As a retired social worker, I so much appreciated this story line. It's a stroke of genius to have the subject of DV in a place where it is easily read and shared. Thank you!


Sandra, I wanted to say thank you for writing the domestic abuse series. I cried through the epilogue that Tamara got a happy ending.

I'm very lucky in that I've only ever been in one very, very mildly abusive relationship (i.e., he only tried to emotionally manipulate me, but I never had problems standing up to him when he tried that... even if I stayed with him much longer than I should have...), but I have friends who have been in relationships much like Tamara, both guys and girls. I agree that that series of strips should be put into book form at some point.

More women (and men) need to know about their options when they find themselves in an abusive relationship. And they need to know that the definition of an abusive relationship isn't limited to physical abuse.

Meanwhile, I've enjoyed your strip for many years now. Thank you for all the laughs and the tears. :)


Sandra, I've been thinking a lot about this series, ever since you first mentioned it on this blog. It's important for so many reasons, not the least of which being that some women will read this strip series and begin to question whether they themselves are in an abusive relationship. I wonder how many women will see themselves in Tamara – often making the very same statement: "But he doesn't hit me". Who knows the powerful effect this strip will have on the lives of women all over the world? If only something like this was around when I was a teenager/young adult.

What really hit home for me as I read this series, is the similarity of abuse I experienced myself in a relationship with a boyfriend over 25 years ago. I was not allowed to talk about him to my girlfriends; he made every effort to end my relationships with all my friends, male & female (and succeeded in ending quite a few); he was extremely jealous of me EVER talking to a guy, and constantly accused me of being a flirt, a tramp and being disloyal; he did not want me to go to college; he mocked my ambitions and my creative talents; he tried to control how I dressed, and even what I ate and drank. And yes, he even on a few occasions, stalked me, followed me, when I was (supposedly) on my own, just so he could keep a close watch on my behaviour.

It's been over 25 years, and I still cannot shake the effect this relationship had on me. Who knows what kind of person I would have become, had it continued? It does not bear thinking about.


Sandra, The story line about Mauve and domestic violence has been very compelling. I have worked with women and children who are the victims of domestic violence and with men who are perpetrators. Your story speaks to the pain and struggle women caught in the trap of domestic violence. Your point that a battered woman is not necessarily hit, but controlled is so important. It would be wonderful if the series was available as a reprint that could be used in educational settings. Thanks for your creativity and commitment to women.

Margaret Shulock

Sandra, did you know exactly where you were going and how you would get there before you began?I always think I SHOULD know but sometimes the characters take me in different directions. I often fear I am not as disciplined as I should be. But, then again, I have to listen to the voices in my head, right?
I loved reading about your process.
Thanks, Margaret

JC Dill

It would be wonderful if you would re-write this in the long format (without the constraints of a "daily strip" and "newspaper"), and make it into a graphic novel. This would be a wonderful way to explore the story more fully and introduce it to women who are in abusive relationships and are trying to find the courage to get out.


Because Between Friends is a reality-based strip that features three women as the lead characters, I think domestic violence was a legitimate story line to explore. It was definitely a departure from the way I usually write...in past serious story arcs, I have always been able to insert a little humour along the way. I just didn't see a way to do it in this instance. Dan Piraro is a brilliant cartoonist and he's extremely clever in the way he writes his animal rights messages with humour. However, his cartoons are single panel and his gags are a one-off. It would be impossible to write a story line on domestic violence using a series of one-off gags. (Maybe John Callahan could do it...but it would definitely be a different flavour and wouldn't fit with my strip)

My biggest concern with this series was to write it as authentically as possible and hopefully not become sappy or trite. To date, I've received over 100 responses to the series and 5 of those have been negative. I've been relieved by the positive response as I was nervous about attempting this subject ... but I've been overwhelmed at times by the content of some of these responses too. There have been a couple of times that I've read a private e-mail and I've just sat at my computer and cried.

But...that doesn't negate the fact that this isn't your cup of tea and that's fair enough. And I do appreciate your time and your comments.


Keep going, Sandra. You are on the right track.


Perhaps Ted isn't familiar with another comic strip called 'For Better or For Worse'? This cartoonist by the name of Lynn Johnston has also tackled some serious issues (divorce, abuse, homosexuality, death of family members and pets) and is much revered and respected for her courage in dealing with important issues in the 'funny papers'. She's even won a few big awards along the way, and been nominated for a Pulitzer. Other successful cartoonists have tackled serious issues too, such as Garry Trudeau of 'Doonesbury' fame and the cartoonist who writes Funky Winkerbean. In fact, if one were to go back and study some of the older strips, one would notice that the adventure strips in the past (like say, 'Terry and the Pirates' or 'Steve Canyon') also dealt with some sad or serious subject matter. The funny pages is a reflection of life – sometimes funny, sometimes not, and hopefully thoughtful and insightful.

Keep doing what you're doing Sandra – you can't be all things to all people, but you have certainly impressed an enlightened a great many people with your wonderful comic strip.


Overall, your cartoon manages to balance "truthfulness" with some wry irony, so my family reads it, and it's generally pretty good. However, I've found the "domestic violence story line" heavy-handed and not fitting for the comics page. There is practically nothing funny in any of it, and of course that's the point. But I (and my family) read the comics page for amusement, not social enlightenment. Domestic violence is an important story, and it is too frequently ignored. But I find it kind of embarrassing and pedantic to read about in a comic. Bizarro is an example of a comic that sometimes shows environmental themes, but in a very ironic (and amusing) way. Please stick to the stuff that's at least a little funny. Or write a graphic novel which is a better medium for that kind of story.


I have very much appreciated the Domestic Violence series. I am just taking training to be a Victim Services Response team member - a volunteer group (primarily women) who assist victims of violence, trauma, death, criminal assault.

We are called in by EMS crews, OPP, or hospitals. We are reimbursed for mileage, and other expenses, but we are on call 24/7. The services are paid for by fines paid by perpetrators of crime, i.e., speeding tickets, etc.
We are not counsellors, but immediate responders who can assist a victim in dealing with the immediate results of personal or sexual violence and begin making phone calls and taking action.

I hope you intend putting these in a book. It would truly help those who are victims and first responders better understand themselves and their world.

This series of cartoons hits home. It is well-researched and thorough and thoughtful.
Well done.


I really appreciate the kind words...especially because I was so nervous about writing this series when I began.

I have been asked about a book collection from a wide range of people/organizations and I'd love to see this happen.

Mike, the suggestion of incorporating the story with background is something I've thought about. Ultimately, it all will depend on an interested publisher. My syndicate is looking into this for me.

Swati...I would love to do a graphic novel. I have two ideas I would like to try. One I am very slowly gathering research for...the other idea is for a play. I do think an extended version of Tamara's story would make an interesting graphic novel idea. It's not something I would come back to in the daily strip ...but as a complimentary piece of work for BF. That's a very interesting idea. I'm going to give that some more thought. Thanks!


Thankyou for again producing such a compelling storyline. I've been following it with avid interest, much like your infertility/adoption storyline from years ago. Keep up the great work - Between Friends is one of my favourite comics!


Two thoughts here. One, it takes a comprehensive clarity of vision to be able to 'give the reader something conclusive each day'. You have to be able to visualize the story in totality as well as in sections of three paneled mini story each. To know the story inside out as it were, so as to be manipulate its presentation in this format. So hats off to you for this great story. I am sure you could do a graphic novel or better - set of short stories for us :)

In fact, this is related to the other thought - would dearly love to see some strips which could have been drawn but didn't, if you ever have the time... Some strips that could fit retrospectively now into the published versions, like what happens when Tamara does leave and Jake tries to find her. The way she deals with a new life. Or more about her background - see what I mean? Enough material for a novel!

Mike Peterson

I think that, as you are pressed to turn this into come kind of Special Thing, you might want to look at Norm Feuti's book, "Pretending You Care," which was solicited based on his strip "Retail" but which is an actual book based on his years in the retail industry.

It's quite a bit longer than anything you'd want to extract from this series -- and you do need to keep it punchy and focused.

But I think you'd find the combination of text and comics to be something you could tap into in order to create a piece that would tell Tamara's story while also telling the story of what you learned and what you wanted to portray.

And good luck. Whatever you come up with, I'll buy a copy!


Again, thank you for this engrossing storyline ... not the light stuff we've come to expect from your outlook on women and their lives, friendships, etc. (which I love, by the way) - I have been racing to the comics page in our paper each day to keep up with the story, and even my 15yo son has been reading it!

Robert G.

I liked that you had Tamara return to Jake. That's one of the most frustrating things about trying to help women in that situation--they go back! Thanks for keeping it real.

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