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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, January 2, 2006

‘Between Friends’

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Relationships between women are at the core of “Between Friends.” Two of the recurring characters: the single Maeve, left, and married Susan.

Sandra Bell-Lundy

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Sandra Bell-Lundy

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Kim, a professional who works at home, Susan a busy full-time worker and Maeve, a sales director, star in the "Between Friends" comic strip.

Sandra Bell-Lundy

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Sandra Bell-Lundy learned this quote awhile ago — and it stuck:

"The best antique is an old friend."

Gooey, yes, but the sentiment, especially for her, rings true.

Since 1994, Bell-Lundy has used her real-life friendships as a source of inspiration for her comic strip "Between Friends," which runs in more than 100 newspapers, and starts a new run in The Advertiser today.

"I don't think you could write a strip seven days a week, 365 days a year without having some insight into what you're writing about," said Bell-Lundy, 46, who works out of her home in Ontario, Canada. "In my case, I'm relating to my friends and to their lives, and to the time period I'm in."

"Between Friends" chronicles the highs and lows of three archetypal women in their early 40s who have known each other since high school.

The characters dish about their marriages, about raising children, about juggling work and laundry. Their friendship, which has spanned decades, is sweet, authentic and familiar.

Which isn't unlike Bell-Lundy's own friendship with a group of women she's known since high school. (Some of them even longer.)

They travel and spend holidays together. They stress about deadlines and wonder why they're all wearing glasses these days.

And although life is real busy for them — husbands, kids, careers — they have a pact: dinner, every other month, just the girls.

They've been doing this for 10 years.

"I really enjoy these times with the girls," said Bell-Lundy, a mother of two. "Our conversations are different than with our husbands. Just little, different insights. ... I miss them when I don't see them for a long time."

As a child, Bell-Lundy loved comics — both reading and drawing them.

"I was always a big comics fan," she said. "When I pulled out the paper, it was always the first page I turned to. It's still the first page I turn to!"

At 13, Bell-Lundy made her first cartoon sale.

"The Cartoon Bug" was a syndicated newspaper feature that paid its submitters $10 to publish and critique their work.

She was thrilled but not convinced cartooning would be anything more than a pastime.

When she attended Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario — she's two classes shy of a French degree — Bell-Lundy submitted some cartoons to the campus newspaper and to a women's networking newsletter. Both printed her work.

Still, a full-time job as a comic artist wasn't on her mind.

"I'd do comics for my girlfriends once in a while, just for fun," Bell-Lundy said. "It was just a hobby. When I felt like killing time, I'd sit down with paper and a pencil and just draw."

Those cartoons — the ones she'd draw up for her girlfriends — became the basis for "Between Friends."

In between a full-time job at the Peace Bridge Duty Free and raising a family, Bell-Lundy continued developing the strip.

For years she got rejected by newspapers and syndication services, but that never stopped her from drawing or continuing to submit her strips.

Then in 1992, she got the call from King Features. She quit her job and focused solely on the comic. "I had been gearing up for this for so long," she said. "I wanted to give it my best shot."

The strip debuted in 1994.

Since then, the characters in "Between Friends" have grown and evolved.

In the beginning, the friends were in their mid-30s. Susan and Harv were a childless couple. Kim was a single, independent career-driven freelance columnist. And Maeve was a new divorcee adjusting to dating again.

Today, Susan and Harv have an adopted daughter, Emma. Kim is married and the stepmom to Danny. And Maeve, well, she's still divorced — but loving it.

Bell-Lundy still draws from her real-life experiences, though lately she's been name-dropping Viggo Mortensen. (Maeve's therapist looks like the "Lord of the Rings" star.) Whenever she's mentioned him before, hits on her Web site skyrocket.

"I do it for fun now," she said, laughing. "I just think he's so cute."


Here's a rundown of the characters in the comic "Between Friends," which starts running in The Advertiser today:

  • Susan: Married to Harv and mother of adopted preschooler Emma, Susan works full time outside the home. She aspires to spend more quality time with her family and to score some elusive personal downtime while maybe getting to the gym once a month.

  • Maeve: Maeve is a sophisticated and savvy divorcee. Professionally, she's a successful sales director. But she doesn't have much luck in the romance department. Her friendship with her ex-husband Simon sometimes sends her into an emotional tizzy.

  • Kim: Kim is married to Derek and has a stepson, Danny. She writes a syndicated women's-issue column and enjoys the perks of having a home-based career. As a new mother, she's learning that deadlines and 6-year-olds are not compatible.

  • Tina: Susan's office buddy, Tina has kids out of diapers. She's less frazzled now than when she was younger.

  • Helen: Maeve's co-worker and sounding board at the office, Helen has been blissfully married to her husband, Grant, for nearly 20 years. Helen provides the voice of experience for Maeve's tangled love life. In her spare time, she tries to cope with the tribulations of her 14-year-old daughter Amelia and 12-year-old son Mark.

  • Harv: Susan's husband, Harv is an unassuming funeral director. He's a modern male, supportive spouse and neat-freak.

  • Danny: Kim's precocious 6-year-old stepson who's a challenging whirlwind of energy.

  • Emma: Susan and Harv's adopted daughter. She's a preschooler who loves Barbie dolls.

  • Derek: A high school English teacher, Derek was a widowed father before marrying Kim. He has mastered the role of "mommy" to his son, Danny.

    Source: King Features

    Learn more: www.betweenfriendscartoons.com

    Reach Catherine E. Toth at ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.