Cut to the Minikahda Country Club the summer of 1982 where a high school age Jim Keefe is busy bussing tables. The goal is to someday become a comic book artist, but there’s no clear path for that pipe dream.
The buzz Keefe overhears from the ritzy club members is about a local lawyer who had quit his well paying profession to become – of all the crazy things – Northampton a cartoonist.
With the cartoon landscape of the early 1980s showing woman only in the role of housewives, Sally Forth would become part of a new generation of comic strips – along with Lynn Johnston’s For Better or For Worse and Cathy Guisewite’s, Cathy – that showed woman taking center stage in a more modern setting.
Because of this, and the fact that the strips were original and funny, success in newspaper syndication followed.
Jump ahead to 1998 and I would be working on staff as a colorist at King Features Syndicate when Greg Howard would decide to retire from his writing chores on Sally (now drawn by Craig MacIntosh). I sent him a letter relaying the Minikahda Country Club story along with a Sally Forth collection from the early days that King had in-house.
Thanks for your nice letter and the copy of the first “Sally Forth” book. It was very thoughtful of you to pass it along.
It’s true that I sold Sally to King Features and have skulked off into the sunset. I’ve spent the summer enjoying the relief from the inexorable deadlines. You’re familiar with those. I’m not sure what comes next but haven’t grown overly anxious about it yet.
I enjoyed your story about the Minikahda club gossip revolving around my career change 20 years ago. Thanks for sharing it with me.
I got to meet Greg Howard just once in 2012 before I took over the drawing chores on Sally Forth. Francesco Marciuliano was writing Sally by this time and I had been working as an assistant to Craig MacIntosh for a couple years. Craig suggested we meet with Greg in regards to working out me signing on with King as the new artist.
It was truly memorable as Craig hadn’t seen Greg for awhile and I got to watch two comic strip greats catch up and just shoot the sh*t over lunch. I had brought along a King Features sales kit of Sally Forth from back in the day and took the following pic.
Sally Forth is 40 years old as of January 2022 with Francesco Marciuliano at the helm writing and myself drawing. It’s a different comic strip than when Greg Howard and Craig MacIntosh were steering the ship, but Francesco and I wouldn’t have this gig if not for the bedrock of success Greg Howard’s original Sally Forth had. To that I say, many thanks – and hope Mr. Howard is still “enjoying the relief from the inexorable deadlines”
Sally Forth DVD Extra! For the week of April 12-16 in the Sally Forth comic strip the Forth family ventured out for a bike ride. Bikes can be a headache to draw so here’s a little behind the scenes on how I attacked it.
I had my daughter Tessa take pictures of me from the 2nd floor to help me figure out the aerial shots of bikes. Hard for me to visualize otherwise. I then mashed up the different pics to figure out what worked for the layout.
Usually the staff at King Features down in Florida handles colors for the dailies, but in cases like this where I have specific colors in mind I’ll do the color separations in Photoshop myself and send that file to them as well.
For more complex shots I get the basic layout down then do pencils and inks concurrently as I figure stuff out.
Digital gives me one more run through to tighten things up (like the bike lane symbol on the pavement). Then on to coloring.
For the April 16th strip eagle-eyed people from Minneapolis may notice the Forth family is on the banks of Lake Harriet (with the bandshell visible in the distance)
Side note: I’ve noticed that whenever I include masks in Sally Forth it tends to rile up commenters on the Comics Kingdom message board. Here’s my recent post there in reply.
Thoughts on masks while I was drawing this: These strips are drawn over a month ahead of time so you never know whether they’ll be a surge in Covid cases when it sees print (where I live there currently is). Whereas mask wearing is generally recommended by the CDC when people are out and about, I also go by what I see people doing in public. They’re wearing masks in the April 15th strip because they’re biking on city streets where there can be more people. The following day, when they’re off their bikes and a good distance from others, they have their masks off. I am by no means the authority on this and recommend following CDC guidelines. That said, I hope you’re staying safe and healthy and wishing you all the best!
Unabashed plug time. For more Sally Forth, just head on over to Comics Kingdom.
Comics Kingdom has subscriptions available for $19.99 a year where you then have access to ten years worth of archives to all their strips – a pretty great deal!
The second panel on this strip was one of those panels where if you don’t sell it the whole gag falls apart. The following is a little behind the scenes look at what goes into a drawing like this.
With an idea in my head of what the panel should look like, the first step in drawing it is referencing the shot. In my case that means going down to the basement and taking a whole bunch of pictures – then creating a Frankenstein Monster like collage of them in Photoshop until I think I’m in the ballpark. (And yes that’s me posing as both Hil and Faye.)
The next step is roughing it up in pencil on bristol. Nothing is traced verbatim as all the objects will need to align to a perspective point. Hil and Faye’s faces will also need to be simplified as this image will be reduced to the size of a postage stamp in print. I also wanted a circle of light around the light source with everything else in shadow and not quite discernible.
Next up – a combination of tightening up pencils and inking. When you’re inking your own work you can be much looser in the pencil stage as you’re not handing it off to someone else to ink who doesn’t know what’s intended. It can also lead to some revisions in the drawing, like the spider’s web I added in the upper left hand corner.
After the strip is inked I scan it as a 600 dpi bitmap and do any touch-ups I think it needs. This is also the stage where lettering is placed (granted not for this wordless panel).
Last up is color. Usually the staff at King Features down in Florida handles colors for the dailies, but in cases like this where I have specific colors in mind I’ll do the color separations in Photoshop myself and send that file to them as well.