Cartooning Freedom 55

By Jeremy Meltingtallow

Image Kim pondering Danny leaving When “Between Friends” launched in 1994, I was in my mid-thirties and that age was reflected in my characters.  Gradually, as I got older  (it happens to the best of us ), my characters aged as well.  I added children to the strip because I had children of my own.  My characters eventually began wearing reading glasses because…well, I’m sure you get the picture.

So, now I’m 55.  My son has one year of university under his belt and my daughter has one more year of high school before she’s flying the coop too.  My son attends the University of Guelph…a few hours drive from our home.  That’s not far enough for my daughter.  She’s talking University of British Columbia.  ( We live in Ontario to put that into a little more context. )

In other words, it’s no coincidence that I’m writing an intermittent story line in Between Friends about Danny leaving for university.  ( June 3, 4, 5, 2013 )  It’s not exactly the story as it happened in our family but it has its influences for sure.

That brings me back to the “So, now I’m 55” part.  I moved my characters, Susan, Kim and Maeve into their fifties in the past year.  I gave this particular change in my strip considerable thought…more than I did when I moved them into their forties, when I had Kim get married or when I added children.  Why?  Because I wasn’t sure if it would be seen as a negative or a positive to readers and editors.

I debated the demographics.  Would editors want to buy a strip that featured three women in their fifties?  Don’t they want to attract a younger readership?  Does “fifty” conjure up  “outdated and irrelevant”?  Don’t women actresses over fifty bemoan a lack of opportunities for female characters in their age group?  Does society want to punt fifty-something women to the sidelines?  Are we devoid of the “cool” factor?

And then I kicked myself and came to my senses.  “Outdated and irrelevant”? I don’t buy that for a minute and yet, somehow I was concerned that there might be a cultural bias.  My bad.  My very, very bad.

So I went ahead and moved my characters into their fifties.  ( there’s an implied “dammit” here ) Because I’m in my fifties and that’s my frame of reference.  Because lots and lots of other women are in their fifties.  Because my kids are beginning to move on and the empty nest will soon be my reality. Because I’ve got a whole new phase of life sitting in front of me.  Because I’m looking forward to that phase.  Because I told my daughter a zillion times to stop wasting hours flat-ironing her gorgeous curly hair and embrace what makes her her.  ( …and she has, by the way )

And because I’m a fifty-something woman cartoonist…and heck, how much cooler can you get?