Sandra Bell-Lundy is the creator of BETWEEN FRIENDS, syndicated by King Features.
Read all about Sandra and her comic at her blog.
1. When you were a kid, did you want to be a cartoonist? Did you draw?
I didn't have any aspirations of cartooning as a career when I was a kid but I loved to draw and cartoon for fun. My uncle worked at the local paper mill and always brought me bundles of left-over coloured cardboard paper sheets because he knew I was always drawing on something.
2. What was your first paying cartoon job?
When I was about 12 or 13 I sent some cartoons to a syndicated feature called THE CARTOON BUG. If they selected your cartoon they would print it in their feature with your photo, name and age and then give you a little critique. They paid me ten dollars.
3. Describe the process you went through to get BETWEEN FRIENDS syndicated.
Long story short: I spent four years (off and on) refining my strip and visiting with the local editor of my hometown newspaper. After he finally agreed to publish BF on a daily basis, I managed to sell it to three more southern Ontario dailies. I self-syndicated to these dailies for a few years and sent the strips out to the syndicates every once in a while. I was just about ready to give up on syndication and try to get a book collection published when I got a call from Jay Kennedy at King Features. Within two weeks of signing a development deal with King, I had a letter from Universal Press asking me to send them more samples. The development deal lasted about 8 months and in August 1993, King picked up my option to syndicate. BETWEEN FRIENDS launched in February 1994. If you really want all the juicy little details, visit my blog and look under the Category section labeled "Syndication Story."
4. What’s more important, talent or perseverance?
Without talent, I don't think anyone will have long term success. That said, there are a lot of talented people out there who don't find success because they lack perseverance.
5. What’s your favorite rejected strip or gag?
I've only had one strip that was outright rejected and it's not my favourite because it was actually a stupid gag. My favourite edited strip was one about my characters, Susan and Harv visiting a fertility specialist and Harv was freaking out because he had to give a sperm sample. My editor called me because I had used the word "sperm." He sounded kind of uncomfortable . . . but he asked me if I could find a way to make my point without actually using the word "sperm". If I couldn't work around it, they said they'd let it go. I found a way to change it and still make it obvious as to what I was talking about. This was about ten years ago. If the same thing happened today, I would wait for an hour and call back and tell my editor I tried and tried to rework it but I really needed to say "s"-word.
6. Where do you stand in the print comics vs. web comics debate?
I think the web cartoonists who are having success are entrepreneurs and I congratulate them. I actively read or listen to anything I can find from the ones who are making a go of it to see if there is something I can learn that can be twisted to fit my business. It seems to me, though, that the online comics that are making money right now mostly appeal to a gaming audience and their particular road wouldn't work for a lot of print comics features. I don't think print is dead by any means but there's a lot of muddling around to be done in the coming years. I really don't believe there's a "one size fits all" solution or game plan that we can all follow.
7. Newspaper comics are considered pretty tame compared to TV and other media. Do you find this limiting or is it a welcome challenge?
I'm comfortable working within newspaper parameters. I can't say that I've felt that restricted...I've written about a lot of sensitive subjects from infertility to domestic abuse without any major censorship problems. ( I do a lot of self-editing though.) It's more about how you say it or show it than what you actually say. Maeve is a single woman and she has a sex life that's implied in the strip. I don't show her frolicking under the covers but she will go away for "lost weekends" with a boyfriend for example.
8. Name five of your favorite comic strips or cartoonists.
It's tough to narrow it down to just five...Kim Warp, Kieran Meehan, Richard Thompson, Marjane Satrapi, Jerry Scott...there are so many more than that!
9. Is there any truth to the rumor that SNUFFY SMITH will be guest-starring in BETWEEN FRIENDS for a week of very special strips?
No, but the APARTMENT 3-G gals are meeting up with us for Martinis and sushi and Margo is buying.
10. How do you develop ideas? Which comes first, words or pictures?
Words come first. I brainstorm in a spiral notebook and pick out the gags I like best and develop those.
11. Do you ever worry about running out of ideas?
Not really. Some weeks are tougher than others though.
12. Who do you want to play Maeve in the BETWEEN FRIENDS live-action movie?
Catherine Zeta-Jones or Angelina Jolie.
13. What kind of editor do you prefer, hands-on or laissez-faire?
When I signed with King I worked with Jay Kennedy very closely until about 18 months after I launched. Being so new to the business, I was very glad to have a hands-on editor at that point and I enjoyed working with him. I think I prefer working on my own now although it's great knowing I can call Brendan (Burford) if I have a problem. or something unusual comes up.
14. What are your favorite books, TV shows, songs and films? (Yes, that counts as one question.)
Books...To Kill a Mockingbird, Day of the Triffids, Random Passage, I like reading biographies and historical stuff
TV...Lost, House and I've become a fan of Bones lately
Films...To Kill a Mockingbird, In the Heat of the Night, Iron Man, Billy Elliot, The Full Monty, Shirley Valentine, Lord of the Rings
Songs...I'm not into music in a big way but I like Sheryl Crowe, Lady Gaga and Adam Lambert's rendition of "Mad World."
15. What are your tools of the trade?
Right now I'm using Bienfang 2-ply Bristol. I prefer Canson but they've discontinued the pad sizes I work with...paper is getting harder to find...a sign of the times?? Pentel brush pen for large body work, rapidiograph pens for borders and fine work, microns for lettering, Photoshop for cleaning up and screening.
16. What’s the best part about being a cartoonist?
Doing your own thing and scheduling your own time.
17. Have you met any of your cartoonist idols? Under what circumstances?
I've met a lot of them at NCS meetings, the Reubens and the Festival of Cartoon Art in Ohio.
18. What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists?
Draw a lot, experiment with different tools, study the work of cartoonists in the area of cartooning you aspire to, be willing to keep editing your writing and ideally get some advice from a variety of people in the business.
19. How important are awards?
I think it's nice to be acknowledged for your work. I've received recognition from various associations for several storylines I've done in BF but I haven't won any major awards.
20. What’s something that nobody knows about you?
I took the Art Instructions course (through the mail...you know, "Draw Binky" or whatever it was) ...but I didn't finish because I took off to backpack through Europe with a friend.