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It Was 20 Years Ago Today

Posted in Uncategorized by cesco7 on December 29, 2017

On December 29th, 1997, my very first Sally Forth strip appeared.

It wasn’t all that noteworthy, unless it had turned into a running gag about Ted having voyeuristic tendencies and Sally not only having clairvoyant powers but also the telepathic ability to explode heads or at least Jiffy Pop. It wasn’t all that funny, due in part to my accidentally telling my editor I had used friends’ real names (Jonathan and Anne Brack) only to be told I can’t do that and later realize the surname had been changed to Klurn, which contradicts one of the immutable laws of comedy—funny names are never funny, even when you hit the hard “K” sound with a sledgehammer. (I got my friend Ari Jaffe’s name in, though, and practically every single friend in the strip since then.) And it seemed to feature some bizarre class distinction in that Ted and Sally come across as anti-snobs who care for neither fine wine nor the arts but rather pig racing and whatever chablis is served during pig racing. (This would be rectified with Ted’s eventual desire to erase all current obligations, run away, and start the family anew as “The Chadwells,” since that sounded like they owned Lipizzaner stallions.)

All in all, it was a shaky start for someone who had never actually read the strip and only recently been given a 600-page compendium of the comic. But, hey, at least the infamous smirk was there.

I do not miss that smirk. It has not appeared for years and it will never show up again.

And yet somehow 20 years later we wound up both here:

And here:

Both of which Sally Forth artist Jim Keefe said should be compiled in a collection with my new favorite title, Kaiju Parks and Funeral Parlors.

It has been a long, strange, wonderful trip, especially when I realized what a great Trojan horse the comic made for whatever idea I had during fevers and fever relapses. And over these twenty years I got to introduce new characters—Faye, Nona, Jenny, Jackie, Cynthia, Sally’s Mom, Ted’s parents, and that ghost you can’t see because, well, it’s a ghost. And while Sally never gained psychic powers, Hilary, Faye, and Nona all now have a psychic connection. And a band with a string of not-quite hits (“You’re So Party Let’s Go Dancey” and “You’re so Party Let’s Go Dancey Around the Christmas Tree”). And, except for the summers Hil’s boyfriend Jon showed up, a pretty high Bechdel test score.

Sally did, however, get a younger sister, a demanding mother, her ex-boss as her new brother-in-law, and a backstory about her dad that was first introduced in 2005. Meanwhile, said former Lou Grant-like boss Ralph lost his job, married Jackie, had a child, and now teaches business somehow. Hilary finally lost those damn Cindy Brady pigtails. We were introduced to Alice’s children and then soon after said goodbye to Alice, though we may very well be welcoming her back soon. Every character finally got to age. And as for Ted, well…

Okay, that wasn’t exactly canon. Let’s try that again:

Sigh. Okay, one more try:

And yet somehow the differences between the real and non-canonical strips are minimal at best.

Of course, none of this would have been possible if I were not working with some of the truly greatest illustrators in the business. First, Craig Macintosh, who had a perfect sense of character movement and expression, great patience with me during my first thoroughly unremarkable days months years, and proved time and time again to be one of the nicest people anyone could ever meet.

And, of course, Jim Keefe, who before he started sent me a sample of not only the sheer artistry he could bring to Sally Forth but also proved he was already lodged firmly in Ted’s subconscious:

I can never say enough just how much energy and inventiveness Jim has brought to the strip. Here is a man who can draw both Megalon and Jet Jaguar getting into a fight in an amusement park as the twin fairies sing “Mothra, Oh Mothra” as well as a father’s last few hours while a son grieves by his bedside. Here is a man with boundless creative spirit and a willingness to try anything, whether it’s blowing up a small town:

Showcasing almost every Christmas cartoon character imaginable:

Or simply, beautifully, perfectly capturing a sense of loss that says everything words could not:

To say I am extremely fortunate to work with Jim doesn’t even come close to how I feel. He’s made it possible to pursue almost any idea so long as I finally give him enough lead time for once. He brings a level of both dignity and flights of fancy to the strip that bring me joy every day. He looks like he might have starred in Sherlock, The Hobbit trilogy, and the upcoming Black Panther if you quickly glance at him from the corner of your eye. He is someone I feel truly blessed to call a partner and a friend.

And speaking of those I owe immeasurable gratitude to, it is you, the reader. You have stuck with a comic that for good or bad has gone through a major transition from its earliest day. You have shared your stories with us, your connection with the characters, and your willingness to sit through the dumpster fire that is the Star Wars Holiday Special because one character chooses to inflict it upon himself every Black Friday. And it’s that very connection with you that keeps this strip going.

Yes, there are a lot of downsides to social media, but being able to communicate directly with our readers has emboldened us to try new things, create entire new characters and stories, and keep feeling that this strip is truly alive. I’ve always maintained that once any piece of art is complete—whether it be a novel, play, movie, painting, performance, or comic strip—it belongs as much to the reader or viewer as it does the artist. Without that dialogue no art could ever truly exist. In short, your attention is what makes Sally Forth a reality and makes my job a blessing.

And so I am exceedingly grateful for you letting me continue what I do. And hopefully I can keep doing it for another 20 years. Or six days. Whenever the newspaper industry collapses.

Thank you



17 Responses

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  1. Frank Lee MeiDere said, on December 29, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Happy 20th, “and thanks for all the Forths.” No, wait, “May the Forths be with you.” No, that one’s probably been done to death.

    Let me come in again …

  2. Bill said, on December 29, 2017 at 11:35 am

    I’ve said this to you before, but it bears repeating. I’ve read Sally Forth since the Greg Howard days and I’ve never enjoyed the strip more than I have in the last few years. You and Jim have created characters that matter and bring joy to my mornings. Thank you both and Happy New Year from a fan.

  3. Otto Funke said, on December 29, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    Ces, here’s my first comment. I deeply appreciate your work. I read Sally Forth daily, and have followed you to Judge Parker. Amazing, the trolls that exist on the Judge Parker Comics Kingdom site. Reminds me of the John Cusack movie ‘FM’ .. to paraphrase from the movie and my response to those trolls, ‘maybe you should try being a creator rather than just a just critic.’

    Anyway, I don’t love every strip or story .. but I wouldn’t expect to. You are taking risks, pushing boundaries and speaking from your heart. That is art, and I appreciate yours. I don’t expect to connect with every bit, but your sincerity means the world to creativity.

    Encouraging you to ‘Sally Forth’, Otto Funke

  4. ChipG said, on December 29, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Congrats on 20 years! It’s a good run and you’ve done a lot of fun things with the strip. It’s added a flavor to our comics page that is fresh and fun and unpredictable, even when regular seasonal events like the leaf war are in play.

    I’ve read SF probably since Greg Howard started it in the early ’80s. I was thinking about the smirk the other day, and wondering how it came to disappear. Don’t miss it either. I do recall some controversy in the late ’80s when the art changed from a very simple style to more fully-formed, and people complained, so it was returned to the simpler form. But I love the style now and the evolution of the drawing over the years.

    I see too that your first strip was still signed “Howard and Mac” in the first frame! Well, cheers and congrats again. Keep up the good work on SF and JP!

  5. […] Check out Francesco Marciuliano’s blog Medium Large as he looks back on twenty years of writing the Sally Forth comic strip. It Was 20 Years Ago Today […]

  6. caffeinatedjoe said, on December 29, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Congrats on the anniversary and thanks for the fun and entertainment along the way.

  7. Green Luthor said, on December 29, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Wow, 20 years? Geez, almost hard to believe it’s been that long. Congratulations, and thanks for giving us one of the most consistently entertaining comic strips around. Looking forward to the next 20 years of Ted’s ridiculous antics. 🙂

  8. Carl said, on December 29, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    One of my all time favorite strips. It just keeps getting better. Thanks to you, and to Jim as well. I will add that the July 4th (ok, 3rd) strip above is possibly the funniest single strip of any title I have ever seen. To this day, every time I read it I laugh until I cry. Great work!

  9. carlfink said, on December 30, 2017 at 8:37 am

    To coin a phrase: no, thank YOU.

    I still want to see the Wally Wood version of Sally Forth cameo. Maybe Ted gets invited to a strip club for work? (Pun intended, of course, since the name of both features is itself a pun.) Talk to the heirs, I can’t imagine Wood’s family are humorless. (Then it turns out she’s related to Ted by marriage? Same surname … hmm … oh, no, I’m trying to write the strip!)

  10. […] Leggi e vedi tutto il resto sul sito di Francesco Marciuliano: […]

  11. Pharmakeus Ubik said, on December 30, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    It’s been a good run, Ces. No, don’t look over your shoulder, keep running…the zombie strips are catching up!

  12. David Zych said, on December 30, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    I look forward to reading Sally Forth every day and it just gets better and better. Thanks for an awesome cast of characters who are blessed with great writing and expressive illustration. Ted is a very lucky guy.

  13. austinmilne said, on December 31, 2017 at 1:03 am

    My favourite strip.

  14. Diana Hadley said, on January 2, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    One of my top required reading daily comic strips for YEARS! You must have my number for the comical — as I purchased “I Could Pee on This” without realizing you were also the author of Sally Forth!

  15. Ted Pabon said, on November 23, 2021 at 4:25 pm

    It’s coming up on Thanksgiving … a time to say THANKS for things you are thankful for … Soooo….

    THANK YOU for the daily fun of Sally Forth (and her wonderful family).

    The smiles you create are making a difference in the world for me and my family.

    • cesco7 said, on November 23, 2021 at 6:33 pm

      Thank you very much, Ted! Hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

  16. Caroline said, on May 4, 2022 at 11:44 pm

    Hi Francesco-
    My husband And I enjoy the daily comics each day. We would love to continue Sally Forth but the writing goes in circles. May I ask that you really expand the experience of the characters. Says my husband, “It is okay that the husband is an idiot, but Sally has gone that way too. It is the same story over and over.”
    Rise to a new great level of writing!!
    Thanks for listening.
    Caroline and Paul Dooley

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