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'The Fourth Grandma': A holiday tale from Florida cartoonist and zine-maker Jen Sandwich



Jen Sandwich is a prolific DIY comic/zine author and illustrator based in South Florida. Her mostly autobiographical works are populated with anthropomorphic cats and rabbits and deftly mix the heart-rending and the hilarious. (See more of her work here). In honor of the rapidly approaching holidays, this week we bring you one of Sandwich's Christmas memories.

Orlando Weekly: What was the first comic you really loved?

Jen Sandwich: The first comic I really loved when I was a teenager was Love & Rockets. It just totally changed the perception I'd had of what a comic could be. 

How long have you been creating?

I've been putting out zines for 30 years, with maybe three gaps of a few years in between issues. I just made a list and came up with 40 titles, not counting the ones I did when I was a kid. I can't remember how many of those issues and little one-off booklets I did back then – maybe 10 or 15?

Would you talk a little about your working methods?

When I do comics, I write and sketch in a comp book first. Most of the time I just write everything out but sometimes I storyboard as I go. Usually the second I finish writing everything for an issue I start penciling; I try to keep a good momentum going. After I pencil everything I ink all the lettering and then the largest objects first. If you work large to small, focusing on the finer details last, it's like you're knocking off all the low-hanging fruit first and it just seems to go a lot smoother that way. 

Do you have any quirky holiday traditions?

I don't think any of our holiday traditions are quirky. My parents and I drive around looking at lights and then we open presents from one another and eat snacks for dinner. It's pretty low-key. I used to go home afterward and get drunk with my cats and mess around with all my new stuff, but I don't drink anymore so now it's even more low-key. 

Is this story autobiographical?

All of my comics are autobiographical fiction. So the people are real, and the events occurred, but sometimes details are changed and most of the time dialogue is created to fit into a cohesive narrative. In this story, most of what happened was true to life, but in real life I had met those grandparents I think once before that I could recall. I at least knew that that grandmother existed. We also had gone to my grandpa's farm at some point during that trip, but the rest of the story pretty much happened the way it's written. 

When I'm writing comics I try to write how things felt. That's what always stands out to me the most from memories of childhood – the way everything felt more than the way everything looked. So while the details sometimes differ, the fictional accounts always convey the same feelings that I'd had when it was first happening to me.


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