I have some news.
This month is the 20th anniversary of syndication for Between Friends! Actually, I’ve been creating my strip for 24 years. From 1990 to 1994, I self-syndicated my comic to a number of southern Ontario newspapers: The St. Catharines Standard, The Brantford Expositor and the Hamilton Spectator as well a few other weekly newspapers. But…in February of 1994, Between Friends was launched internationally in 31 newspapers by King Features. It now appears in nearly 175 newspapers worldwide.
It’s a little hard to believe I’ve been creating my comic for all that time. When I was first launched, my husband was in a panic. He kept asking me if I would be able to keep coming up with ideas indefinitely. I kept telling him not to worry. I’m not saying there haven’t been some frantic times when I wondered if I was done…if there just wasn’t anything else left for me to say…but taking a little time off to have some fun with family or friends always seemed to recharge my battery.
I have a few things planned to celebrate the year. I’ll let you know about them as they unfold. And I’m going to post some reflections and tidbits about my career here periodically throughout the year.
It’s been great so far. I can’t thank my friends at King Features enough for the opportunity to draw a comic strip for a living. Their editors and promotional people are the most creative, friendly, professional and supportive group of people a cartoonist could have. Their sales team is an outstanding, well-oiled machine and the international agents are just as wonderful. The folks at Torstar Syndication (the Canadian arm of King Features) are the best. Thank you all.
Now…want a peek at some scrapbook shots?…
This is the photo from the debut article in the St. Catharines Standard when they added my strip to their comics pages in May 1990. See the little note from Lynn Johnston on the board behind me? I’m still using the same drawing board…a gift from my mom and dad.
This is what my strip looked like in 1990. That’s Susan and Maeve…they’ve changed a little over the years, wouldn’t you say? *cringe* More to come…
People sometimes ask “who” my Between Friends characters “are”. There isn’t really any definitive answer to that. When I originally created the strip, I had five women characters who were modeled on good friends of mine as well as myself. I was advised early on to take those five characters down to three…and to “really develop” the personalities of those three. The editor said five characters were too many for a reader to get to know all at once.
So I took the three strongest, most developed characters and based my comic on Susan, Maeve and Laura. (Laura morphed into Kim…but that’s a whole other story) There were some traits of the dropped characters that I liked though…and so I molded these bits and pieces into the chosen three.
The point is that the characters were influenced by real people but they aren’t a mirror reflection of those people. And in addition to that, I would say there’s also a little bit of me in each of my three women. I admit that I identify most strongly with Susan.
That’s who my comic strip characters are. Confusing enough?
The other thing about these characters is that they’ve become individuals in their own right over the years. When I write a strip, the outcome of the situation or the punchline ultimately depends on which character is being featured. There are things Maeve would say that Kim wouldn’t. There are ways Kim would react in certain situations where Susan would do the complete opposite. I write according to who the characters are…not according to what I want to say. (Although I guess I could flip that and say if I wanted to make a particular point, I would give my voice to the character it best fit in the situation.)
This week’s comics are about Susan wanting to make a change in herself…something she frequently wants to do but somehow never seems to follow through. She wouldn’t be Susan if she did.
Helen (Maeve’s assistant at the office) is a completely different type of character. She’s more sure of herself, she’s no-nonsense and she’s the type of person who gets things done. Below is a series from 2006 where she decides she wants to make a change. And she does. Because she’s Helen.
I’m really pleased to let you know about Comics Kingdom — an all-new free comics site from King Features Syndicate. At Comics Kingdom, you’ll be able to read Between Friends, and all of King Features’ great comics in one place every day for free. Comment on comics just like you do here, and get to know other comics fans.
For a small annual subscription fee, you can join Comics Kingdom Royal, the premium service. As a member of Comics Kingdom Royal, you’ll have access to even more great stuff—like your own custom comics page, daily email delivery, a scrapbook where you can save your favorite comics, vintage comics and more. If you were a DailyINK member, your account is waiting for you at Comics Kingdom Royal, with all of your favorites saved just the way you left them.
Please check it out!