Work In Progress: Sandy & Mandy


Here’s a story for Dark Horse Presents that I have been working on for over two years. I have mentioned it in passing in a few previous posts, but I haven’t done a full post about it before because I was making such slow progress. However, now that I’m at the two-thirds point (16 pages finished out of 24) I at last feel ready to offer a sneak peek.

David Chelsea is watching:
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (Special Edition DVD)
Directed by Madeleine Olnek

It began as a sketchbook comic drawn during a European vacation I took with my family in the Summer of 2011. Mostly I worked on the plane and during long waits at train stations. The idea behind it was to draw something that would pass the Bechdel Test.

Page 1 of the sketchbook version
Page 1 of the sketchbook version

Alison Bechdel is the cartoonist responsible for the comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For and the graphic novels Fun Home and Are You My Mother? but is best known for The Bechdel Test, which she formulated to determine whether a movie is sexist or not. For a story to pass the test:

1. It has to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something other than a man.

Some people amend the rules to require that both women have names.

The Test
The Test

Even though Bechdel devised this test for movies (some notable ones that fail it: The Godfather, The Graduate, Citizen Kane and the original Star Wars Trilogy) there is no reason it can’t apply to comics; a story is a story. When I first heard about the test I mentally applied it to my own work and was embarrassed to discover that only two stories passed: my first graphic novel David Chelsea In Love, thanks to a single sequence taking up part of two pages (41 and 42 in the Reed Press edition), and the 24 Hour Comic ID, which you can read in its entirety here. Therefore I created Sandy & Mandy (who in my original sketchbook version were Candy & Mandy), two named female friends who talk about everything under the sun as well as the occasional man (I couldn’t resist having a bit of fun with such a P.C. restriction- notice the convoluted way they manage to bring up men’s names without actually talking about a man).


Since a large part of the trip was spent in Venice, I have the characters walking around a somewhat Venetian landscape (it also has features taken from the Venetian section of Las Vegas), even though the story is pretty clearly set in the States. I incorporate elements from books I brought along on the trip or had read recently, among them I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson, The Astral by Kate Christensen, Under The Banner Of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, Paying For It by Chester Brown, Colin Upton’s series of comics about his diabetes, and Alison Bechdel’s own graphic novel Fun Home. In Germany I saw a high school production of Wagner’s Ring,so I threw in a reference to that as well:


I’ll go into more detail on the changes I made between the sketchbook and final versions of the story, as well as showing some working drawings and model sheets of the characters in the next post, but here’s an advance look:


You can read Are You Being Watched?, a 24 Hour Comic with Mandy (but not Sandy) in it, at the Comics Lifestyle website here. Warning: this story does NOT pass the Bechdel Test.