By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Catherine E. Toth
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."
MEET THE FRIENDS
Here's a rundown of the characters in the comic "Between Friends," which starts running in The Advertiser today:
Source: King Features
Learn more: www.betweenfriendscartoons.com
Reach Catherine E. Toth at firstname.lastname@example.org.