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Norm Feuti posts syndication submission online

Last month, I told you that Retail creator Norm Feuti was working on a second strip entitled Gill. He has posted the Gill syndication submission online.

He writes:

Well, so far Gill has received a “pass” from both King Features and Universal Press. Both Brendan Burford (my editor at King) and John Glynn (the comic editor at Universal) had different takes on it and passed for different reasons.

Since it will more than likely be several weeks or even months before I get a reply from United, Creators, and The Washington Post Writers Group, I thought I’d open up the actual submission itself here for you all to enjoy or even critique if you want. I’m always open to constructive feedback.

Community Comments

#1 Rod McKie
July/31/2008
@ 1:53 pm

There may be one or two areas they might have considered edgey.

My main worry would be that 15 of these strips begin with a question (one is rhetorical, but should still have a question mark)which is used to trigger the humour set-up. You couldn’t keep that up, and as a device it might eventually irritate readers -over time.

Also, you insult Chinese goods, call some TV viewers morons, have a sloppy dad who is an immigrant-hating-homophobe, and who gambles and smokes and lies to his kid, with whom he tries to avoid spending time. You advocate junk food for a clearly obese kid, and unsupervised TV use. You call Newport and Milwaukee dirty, call for more face-shooting in cartoons, question the existence of God, feed kids booze, and suggest the kid is no stranger to corporal punishment.

Other than that it’s quite sweet.

#2 Garey Mckee
July/31/2008
@ 8:30 pm

I hope Norm can get Gill syndicated, and I’ll tell you why.

All of those things that Rod mentioned, are the things that make the samples unique and much more interesting to read than “safe” family strips like Sally Forth or Jump Start or all the other family strips that are so meek and timid in their humor.

I’m not knocking those strips, if your main target audience is an 8 year old reading the comics, which Gill is obviously not targeted to.

The problem is that it seems syndicate editors are so afraid of stepping on toes or rocking the boat or even…GASP…TELLING IT LIKE IT REALLY IS, that they pass by submissions like Norm’s Gill and opt for the safer more predictable and ultimately more boring route.

#3 Jeff Vella
July/31/2008
@ 8:45 pm

My two cents: I think “Gill” looks like it may be an instant hit! From what I read, this new comic strip appeals to ALL audiences – kids, adults, single parents, divorced parents, married parents thinking about divorce, etc….

Rod said, “There may be one or two areas they might have considered edgy” Why? Could it be because the parents are divorced? A lot of marriages end up in divorce! Is it ’cause the mother lives in a trailer park? Maybe they live in Florida! Is it ’cause the father gave the son booze and then laughed about it? Well, okay ya got me there….

My point is, It’s refreshing to actually see a new EDGY comic that make me laugh out loud. I’d rather see more edgy comics than another comic that plays it safe, featuring a cute cat that sleeps on the counter, eats lasagna, and picks on the dog occasionally.

Norm’s first comic “Retail” is uniquely funny, and I think King Features and Universal Press would be fools not to pick up this one.

Good luck Norm!

#4 Phil Wohlrab
July/31/2008
@ 11:09 pm

I think I could safly say that very few, if any, 8 year olds read Jumpstart or Sallyforth or any family strips in the newspaper today. Kids aren’t growing up hooked on newspaper comic strips as much as they were some time ago.

Now they love Sponge Bob or Jimmy Neutron. .. I’ve read Sponge Bob comic strips in Nick Magizine and they’re hilarious. They’re stupid and juvenille but stupid and juvenille is funnier than cynical.. to me anyway.

#5 Ed Power
July/31/2008
@ 11:32 pm

Norm,

I LOVE this strip. It’s so real. In real life our friends and family members are flawed and we are still love them. People really do have financial woes and other problems and yet we face them with humor and get through them. That is represented in Gil.

That said…I doubt it’ll be picked up, even though I hope it will.

For some reason, comic strips are no longer allowed to represent the real world. If a creator wants to paint a picture of the world that isn’t a representation of the misrepresented idealization of 1950’s, Eisenhower America, they must do it in a sureal setting ala Lio or Pearls Before Swine.

Despite the fact that even Spongebob Squarepants made the following joke on Nickelodeon:

Spongebob: “Patrick! You’re genius is showing!”

Patrick: (covering his crotch, embarrassed) “Where?!?”

Comic strips for some reason have appeal only to the most sensitive of newspaper readers.

On the comic page as it is today, there would be no room for strips like ‘Bloom County’ or ‘Doonesbury’ to start up and we would be absent those groundbreaking strips.

Sadly, comic are forced into this world where we think not mentioning something in art somehow prevents the reality of it in the real world in some weird “1984/Clockwork Orange-lite” mentality.

In a product that covers war, rape and genocide people seem afraid representing such things as comics prejudice or cigarette smoking will somehow damage society.

That said, I wish you good luck with ‘Gil’. Not just for you but for the good of comics. It is a good strip.

If no one does pick it up, maybe try for animation like the great Aaron McGruder finally had to do. After all, TV put ‘Roseanne’ on in the early 90’s and society is still here.

Good luck.

#6 Ed Power
July/31/2008
@ 11:42 pm

The following correction should be made to my above post:

“have TO appeal only…”

“such things IN comics AS prejudice or cigarette smoking…”

“good luck with â??GILLâ??…”

Sorry. I’m a poor typist. ;)

#7 Rick Stromoski
August/1/2008
@ 5:29 am

What a pleasure to see a funny strip where the creator can actually draw.

The writing is perfectly edgy without crossing a line, the art is top notch, the character development is instantaneous (I got a sense of each characters personality in only a few strips) and it’s real pleasing to the eye to look at.

I think Universal passed on it because of a similiar situation Steve McGarry and I had with Mullets. In our strip , the characters lived in a trailer park and that seemed to be the primary obstacle we heard from the sales force. Editors felt that we were mocking lower income people, which wasn’t the case…we were mocking lower income burnouts gen-xers ala My Name is Earl….

One of the best strips I’ve seen offered in a number of years.

#8 R Pyle
August/1/2008
@ 6:30 am

Speaking strictly as a reader, I have to say I liked everything about the strip except for Gill himself. He just seems to be drawn too “doofy,” almost like a stereotypical dumb bully. I’m sure this is meant to be in contrast to his philosopher’s soul, but it just rubs me the wrong way. Unfortunately, since he’s the main character, I probably wouldn’t read this strip past the first week or two.

#9 Josh McDonald
August/1/2008
@ 7:32 am

See, I think the character Gill is what really makes this strip so strong — taking on such weighty issues through the eyes of a fairly innocent child-philosopher somehow takes some of the edge off, without actually taking any of the edge off. (If that makes any sense…?)

And there are enough sympathetic characters to counterbalance the father, so it shouldn’t come across as “making fun of poor people”.

And since everyone is making comparisons to classic TV shows, I thought “All in the Family” while I was reading it. In any case, a great strip and I hope to see more of it — in one form or another — soon.

#10 Jason Nocera
August/1/2008
@ 8:22 am

I think it looks great. Yes, it’s edgy – but that’s what will keep me coming back and reading everyday. It’s edgy, but not “hey, let’s make the family circus characters drink” edgy – which is a refreshing change.

#11 Phil Wohlrab
August/1/2008
@ 8:28 am

“He just seems to be drawn too â??doofy,â? almost like a stereotypical dumb bully. ”

Oh! you are on to something here. As soon as you said that I thought Gill= Dudley, from Harry Potter. When Gill is singing to his army action figure, I could almost imagine Harry thinking how much of a dolt his surrogate brother is. That’s what this strip needs, a character more appealing than Dudley/Gill who is at odds with him in some way

#12 Mike Sieber
August/1/2008
@ 8:41 am

I have to agree that what makes Gill a good strip is that it reflects real situations – and personalities – in American life today. It’s strange, though, that I don’t really see this as being an edgy strip anymore than Roseanne was an edgy TV show. To me, it’s just a humorous look at the society we live in. Not every family is structured like Family Circus. In fact, there are probably more like Gill’s family than ever before.

I think that some of the best comic strips are those that people can identify with, and in today’s America, there’s got to be a lot of people who can identify with Gill.

So, here’s hoping that Gill gets the audience that it deserves.

#13 Jesse Cline
August/1/2008
@ 8:44 am

“Thatâ??s what this strip needs, a character more appealing than Dudley/Gill who is at odds with him in some way”

Bingo

I hate to criticize this poor guy after he has been rejected by 2 syndicates, but the strip does seem to be missing a “third dimension” that separates it from the countless other gag strips out there. Art is good, jokes are good, characters are so so. Where is the story going? What is the strip gonna be like in 6 months? A year? 10 years? Is it just gonna be more gags lampooning white-trash America? Or are there going to be struggles, changes, or other situations that make me want to come back and read it every day?

This guy has a lot of talent, and with a little more “depth” the strip would be great.

#14 Josh McDonald
August/1/2008
@ 8:55 am

“Oh! you are on to something here. As soon as you said that I thought Gill= Dudley, from Harry Potter.”

Interesting; nothing could be further from my own impression of the character. Dudley is big and doofy like Gill, yes, but what Dudley is also mean — really, really mean — and that’s what makes him unlikable. Gill isn’t. He isn’t mean, and he’s very likable (in my opinion, anyway).

#15 Rod McKie
August/1/2008
@ 9:42 am

To be honest, I think putting it online for about 3 months is a good idea. All the qualities that everyone likes about it are the qualities that, at the moment, the newspapers might not like.

Showing it has legs online might tempt the syndicates to look again and the way things are going, economically, it might just coincide with the newspapers looking for something a little spicey for the comics pages, as they compete for readers.

#16 frank white
August/1/2008
@ 11:11 am

” What a pleasure to see a funny strip where the creator can actually draw.”

…….like Badlands??? hmmmmmmm….

#17 Cory Thomas
August/1/2008
@ 11:55 am

“All the qualities that everyone likes about it are the qualities that, at the moment, the newspapers might not like.”

That’s what I’m thinking. I’d hate to see Norm put that much effort and quality into a second strip just to watch it flounder.

#18 Tim Ellis
August/1/2008
@ 12:14 pm

I love how this comes out swinging! I have to admit that my first “visual” impression of Gill was the moronic bully stereotype but I was pleased to have the writing take me to a totally different place. Wow! Someone who looks like a doofy stereotypical dumb bully that might actually be “more” than just a doofy stereotypical dumb bully.

â??Thatâ??s what this strip needs, a character more appealing than Dudley/Gill who is at odds with him in some wayâ?

WRONG. I agree there’s no problem with having a secondary character to challenge the protagonist but with Gill you’ve got a kid on his path of discovery. He wants to understand things. He’s asking Shandra questions and trying to get the information from his Dad sorted out through his Mom. He knows the things that are important to him [Star Wars vs Dance] and we see that he can get his feelings hurt.
The fact that you’re at the center of his world with him and seeing him sort through it all… has incredible depth and dimension. What more interest and appeal do you need than that?

Could the formula of these initial 24 work forever? It might, but that guarantees it will be as stagnant as lasagna loving cats. I love the potential of this strip.

Norm has now won over a fan that is now going to start looking more closely at his other projects.

Best of luck, Norm!

#19 Norm Feuti
August/1/2008
@ 2:06 pm

Thanks to everyone here who chimed in with feedback. The praise has been very kind and the criticisms thoughtful.

Gill is an idea I’ve been kicking around for some time. Overall, I have to admit that I have always suspected the subject matter would make it a tough sell for syndication.

Since getting all this feedback I have seriously started to wonder what I would do if an editor did want to pick it up. Would I be willing to dumb it down? It couldn’t be censored much (if at all) before it ceased to be interesting. I don’t think so anyway. It’s a real catch 22.

Since there were multiple comments on it, I did want to mention that Gill’s design is intentional in that visually I wanted to make him sort of the anti-comic strip kid … if that makes sense. I didn’t want him to be a generic cute kid with a baseball cap. I understand that it isn’t working for some of you, but just so you know where I was going with it.

Anyway, thank you all so much for the comments. Between here and my blog I’ve gotten a lot of food for thought. I’ll be sure to let everyone know what happens with Gill in the near future.

#20 Mark Buford
August/1/2008
@ 2:37 pm

Excellent stuff! I love the bleakness. The artwork is astonishing. I wish I could draw as well as Norm. I hope he gets a bite from the other syndicates.

#21 Marc Lutz
August/1/2008
@ 5:02 pm

Norm, this is what’s needed on the comics page today. It reminds me a lot of my childhood, and I knew other kids like this. Please keep striving to get this syndicated.

#22 Eric Burke
August/1/2008
@ 8:09 pm

I’ve always enjoyed your art, Norm, from World of Wonder to Retail, and I enjoy the art in Gill. I especially enjoy the character design. For me, it’s the writing that just seems off at this point.

Maybe more Gill and less parents, especially in the beginning? I think the best strips are with Gill alone and with the girl, whose design I love! She looks like an anorexic Minnie Mouse! I like the dad, but for a dead beat dad he seems to be around too much…maybe play up the dead beat aspect more?

The strip on the swing was good…until Gill’s response was as mean as the taunting kids. I like Gill’s “Charlie Brown quality”. Maybe instead Gill thinks “…but the world would probably just crush me with a bear hug”…along those lines…

I’d love to see this strip grow online and maybe stay online. You already have a strip in papers that has fans in print and online, where your web prescence continues to grow. Why not build on that?

So many other webcomics of equal and lesser quality are making $$ online, why can’t Gill? I’m often surprised when I read that certain webcomics are making money when I see the product. Not every strip can be a PvP or Sheldon in terms of quality, but seriously…

Don’t dumb down the humor. There’s enough of that already. Keep up the good work…

#23 frank white
August/3/2008
@ 7:02 am

Nobody needs Comics.com or GoComics anymore.Just get your own site and make more money and have less ( 0r no) internal competition as well. Go for it Norm and good luck!!!

#24 Garey Mckee
August/3/2008
@ 4:19 pm

“I especially enjoy the character design. For me, itâ??s the writing that just seems off at this point.”

I would imagine that the writing in Gill would fall into place after a while. It’s difficult to judge the writing in samples (unless it’s just so stellar it just stands out from the get go). The best writing is character driven, and if Gill were picked up and continued I believe the characters would naturally hit their stride and the writing would shift from simple set ups to more complex character driven writing. Through exposure to Norm’s other great work I’m sure this would be the case.

#25 Phil Wohlrab
August/4/2008
@ 7:09 am

“The fact that youâ??re at the center of his world with him and seeing him sort through it allâ?¦ has incredible depth and dimension. What more interest and appeal do you need than that?”

If you’re going to go real, and have nothing enchanting like a talking animal or toys that come to life, Give Gill a friend in the trailer park that his mother doesn’t want him hanging out with, who has a criminal record and a friend covered in tats and piercings, that smokes a ton of weed.
Perhaps they want Gill to sell it, but Gill being an innocent, doesn’t know what it is that he is selling, and he gets arrested for it.

Explore the trailer park. Have there be some really seedy characters vs good characters that Gill Runs into.
This already got rejected by two syndicates, so it’s not just me saying it’s lacking in something. It’ll have a life as a web comic, but if you’re going to do something, you might as well go all the way. I’m more of a story guy, and these kinds of things are hard to chop up into individual gags, I know…

#26 Ed Power
August/4/2008
@ 1:34 pm

“Give Gill a friend in the trailer park that his mother doesnâ??t want him hanging out with, who has a criminal record and a friend covered in tats and piercings, that smokes a ton of weed.”

Yeah…and make him younger then Gill! :D

#27 Chris Fournier
January/3/2009
@ 9:29 am

Hey Norm, first off I’ve been following Retail for quite awhile, ever since it’s been in the Toronto Star…a great strip which brings back memories of my time in retail. Nice work!

Secondly, I really like what you’re doing with Gill. Here’s a kid experiencing a less than idyllic childhood with a mom who’s trying to keep it all together and a dad who couldn’t care less.

I truly think this will resonate with a lot of readers, which unfortunately, is probably the reason the syndicates aren’t picking it up.

Look at the families in the comics now and in the recent past…I honestly can’t think of one family that is dysfunctional or divorced. FBorFW – still intact, Hi and Lois (the same), Calvin and Hobbes (ditto), Foxtrot (ditto), Zits.

Divorce is a touchy subject and by adding a ‘dead-beat dad’ to the equation you’re addressing a part of reality that I think the mainstream newspaper editor would rather sweep under the rug which is a shame because readers are truly going to miss out on a gem of a strip.

If syndication is something you want to go after my suggestion is to take the alcohol and cigarettes away from the strip…. the heart of the strip is about a child, alcohol and cigarettes shouldn’t be mixed in. It’s one thing in an adults-only based strip but when kids are involved it’s not a good mix.

There’s a lot of heart and soul in “Gill”! I wish you all the best with it, I know I’ll be reading it!

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