Happy 30th Anniversary to “Sally Forth” (The Unpublished Strips)
On January 4th, 1982, the comic strip Sally Forth first appeared in newspapers, supermarket circulars, mimeographed political screeds and random flyers shoved unceremoniously under windshield wipers across the country. Which means that today is the strip’s great big 30th Anniversary, hence why the banks were closed, you all got off from work and school and that parade with the smirking balloons was televised.
Of course, a lot has changed from that first strip thirty years ago, including the artist, the writer, the cast, the strictly Esperanto dialogue and the comic’s original name, They Die By Their Swords. And naturally I have not been with the strip since 1982, otherwise I would have been doing it from the 9th grade, thus making for a far more impressive curriculum vitae. In fact, I started the very last week of 1997, making 2012 the start of my 15th year with the strip (an important milestone I celebrated by putting on pants today).
Those 15 years mark a personal anniversary only made possible by King Features legendary Editor-in-Chief Jay Kennedy, who passed away far too young and without whom I would never have gotten to say I achieved a childhood dream. It was Jay who called me out of the blue back in the summer of 1997 after receiving what I had told myself would be my tenth and last ever comic strip submission. Jay introduced himself, said he had received my submission…and then turned it down. But before I could sob loudly and uncontrollably over the phone to a then complete stranger, Jay asked if I would like to write for the comic Sally Forth. I believe I replied “YES! OH DEAR GOD YES!” so quickly that I actually answered between Jay saying “Sally and “Forth.” This must have caused some flag to go up in Jay’s head that he then asked, “Have you ever actually read Sally Forth?” to which I paused for a moment and then replied, “I’m…I’m sure it’s a very nice strip.”
You see, Sally Forth practically never ran in Long Island or New York City papers, so growing up I had almost no prior knowledge of it whatsoever. Jay then sent me nine whole years worth of strips as an introductory course and off I started, first co-writing with the very talented Steve Alaniz and then eventually on my own.
Which brings us to today. Although not the creator, since 1997 I have made a few changes to the strip. I introduced Sally’s mom Laura and sister Jackie (in the hopes of answering many a reader’s question, “Why is Sally that way?”). I brought in Faye and Nona, who together with Hilary now make up the still unsigned band New Delhi Monkey Gang. And as far as Ted Forth is concerned, well, let’s just say I’ve altered him beyond repair. And all this has been okayed or more likely gone thankfully unnoticed by my truly fantastic syndicate King Features.
Alas, as forgiving and friendly as the syndicate has been, they have not let everything pass on to print. And so to mark the 30th Anniversary of Sally Forth I share with you some of the comic strips that never saw the light of day.
I want to thank each and every one of you who read the strip, take the time to share your thoughts about it with me and encourage me to keep writing and keep getting better at what I do. Thank you very, very much!