"We love your cartoons but would you consider writing the scripts, as we already have an artist in mind?"
That was the letter I was holding in my hand in late 1992. I was filled with both elation and a draining, sucking disappointment.
I had, for the past 20 or so years, been harbouring a burning desire to have my own comic strip published in the newspapers, and here I was being offered 50% of my dream. What was I to do?
In this, part one of a three piece blog post, I will go through the story of a comic strip called Girl Chat that was published in the UK national newspaper the Daily Mirror (as it was then called), post a few sample strips and talk of its exciting launch and sad demise and working with the amazingly talented John Burns.
Like I have just said, it was late September 1992 and I had been battering relentlessly at the doors of the top five US syndicates and all the national Daily and Sunday British papers for what seemed like an eternity.
Who said cartooning was ever meant to be easy?
Ask any successful comics creator or swamped syndicate editor how long it takes to become a cartoonist and they will all say that you should be able to paper a room with rejection slips before you can be said to have 'made it'.
What they don't say is how big that room is supposed to be.
Anyway, Girl Chat, a cartoon strip about how two wildly opposite ladies in their early twenties, got on while sharing a flat was my latest venture. Cherry, was a wild child who liked nothing more than partying, men, drinking, men, holidaying, men and oh, did she mention she quite liked men? And Louise, a serious minded feminist who was driven and hugely ambitious. It was, to me, a great premise and one that held endless gag possibilities.
So I drew up the requisite 24 comic strips, photo copied them two up on a sheet of A4, added to it a character page, my CV and a covering letter then posted them all off to the British press.
'It was one of those 'whoops there go my knickers' type of strips that were such a big hit in the Red top papers of the day'
Oddly for me I never sent Girl Chat out to the American syndicates first, as was my normal procedure. For some reason I believed that a cartoon about two women, written by a man, would not be very well received by them. Don't ask me what my logic was, and it wasn't like my previous attempts with the US market had been anything to write home about, but this is how I felt. So only the UK papers got to see it.
Also the original strip was not a very sexual one. There was no partial nudity it just dealt with the two girls and their wildly differing views and paths in life.
But what I didn't realise at the time was the Daily Mirror had been looking to produce a comic strip to go up against their biggest rival---the Sun's---very popular and long running strip George and Lynne. So when my comic came in, they just saw the writer they had been looking for.
George and Lynne was a very popular comic, as I've just stated, and it was one of those 'whoops there go my knickers' type of strips that were so popular in the red top papers of the day, and the Daily Mirror wanted one of their own.
Girl Chat was also sufficiently different in its approach to go head to head with George and Lynne, so they had a meeting, made their decision and sent me a letter.
While all this was going on I was innocently working on another strip (don't ask me which one, there was so many of them in those days), in case this one failed to find a buyer.
And so within a few days the letter arrived on my doorstep and I was staring at a hastily scribbled note that was to change my life forever and set me on the path I now wander.
It wasn't perfect, but I had a choice. Say no, this is my strip and only I can draw it, and risk losing everything, or say yes, get my foot in the door of a national newspaper and hope that they take on something else of mine in the future.
For a newbie, it was a no-brainer. I took the proffered hand and bit it off. I was on my way, I thought, life was going to finally be great; the dream had begun.
But what I didn't know then, but was about to become made glaringly aware of, is that the cartoon you see in the comics page can often have a lot of misery, frustration and bad blood attached to it. Some days when I opened the paper to view my little creation, my jaw would drop at the full horror of how an editor could reduce my carefully crafted script into something a whole lot less, and stomach churningly inferior to boot.
The golden path, it would seem, was often tarnished by the reality of a dream that was sucked into the quagmire of a nightmare.
But more about that in next weeks post about the Girl Chat strip.
In the mean time, here are a few examples of the 1,000 odd strips that I wrote and that appeared in the Daily Mirror in the early to mid 1990's.
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