People often ask me about my experience getting “Retail” syndicated, but I always find the chronology of events that lead up to my contract with King Features are a bit too complicated to relate in casual conversation or e-mails without boring people to tears … so I’ll bore you all to tears in blog form instead.
My first attempt at getting a comic strip syndicated was in 2000 with a strip called “Retail”. This was a much different strip than the current version. It centered around the employees of a fictitious mall gift store called “World of Wonder”. The store was a carbon copy of all those pseudo-educational/intellectual gift shops like “World of Science”, “Learningsmith”, and “Natural Wonders”, that were ubiquitous to every suburban mall in the late 90s.
I sent this first version of “Retail” to most of the major syndicates and got a form rejection letter from all but two of them – Tribune Media Services, and King Features. As was typical of his generosity, Jay Kennedy sent me a rejection letter, but expressed interest in the premise of a retail based strip and took the time to write some tips on how I could make the strip better. At the same time, TMS contacted me by phone and wanted to showcase my submission as it was on a website they ran at the time called “Comics Edge” “CE” was a site they used to let web viewers comment and vote on a different group of submissions once a month. For reasons I can’t recall, they wanted me to change the title to “World of Wonder”, which I did. They paid me a small amount of money for my trouble, ran “World of Wonder” on their website that month, then sent me a rejection letter several months later. They offered no critique. They simply said thanks, but no thanks.
For some crazy reason, I decided to take my next submission in an entirely different direction. My first idea for a comic strip elicited interest from two major syndicates simultaneously, but in my infinite wisdom, I decided the idea was dead in the water and decided to move on to something else … brilliant.
My next strip submission was a collaborative effort called “Brave New School”. A friend of mine who is a brilliant writer and school teacher wrote the strip, and I did the artwork. It focused on the staff of a typically underfunded American elementary school. I liked this submission because it had a lot of heart and truth in it. Alas the syndicates weren’t interested.
My next submission was called “Cosmo”. It was a strip that focused on the life of a freelance artist, his wacky best friend and and his girlfriend. This strip was fun, but most noteworthy for the fact that it got the ball rolling on “Retail” again. Because I had no art credentials, I started including my short stint on the TMS website in my resume to beef it up. Once again, Jay Kennedy wrote me a letter. While he didn’t think the concept of “Cosmo” was engaging enough to sell, he noted that he would be very interested to see me revisit the “Retail” concept in a future submission.
By the time I had received this letter from Jay, I had already finished “Origami Man”, but I put the finishing touches on hold to come up with a new version of “Retail” as fast as I could. This second version of “Retail” was closer to the current version, but still different in many ways. When I finished it, I sent out “Retail” and “Origami Man” simultaneously. By this time it was early 2005.
This new version of “Retail” prompted a phone call from Jay who wanted to see the idea tweaked further. I took his advice and sent him a third version of “Retail” which he was impressed enough with to offer me a contract.
I spent the next several months writing more strips and working with Jay Kennedy and Brendan Burford to put together a sales kit, and “Retail” finally launched on January 1st 2006.