Gil is a chubby, lovable, perpetual underdog. He’s out of shape and not the smartest or richest kid in his class. He can sometimes be a little grouchy or overzealous. But he’s imaginative and optimistic, and he’s managed to find at least one good friend: his pal, Shandra.
Shandra is a great friend to Gil. “Shandra is Gil’s neighbor and best friend,” says Norm. Her role in the strip is the same as any real-life friend. Playmate. Confidante. Shoulder to cry on. Shandra is someone Gil can relate to on his own level.”
Shandra is extremely unlike Gil in many ways. She’s one of the smartest kids in school; she’s hardworking, serious, and rather precocious for her age. Norm says, “While Shandra is clearly the smarter and more focused of the two academically, Gil tends to have a broader imagination and latent creativity about him. The biggest thing they have in common is that they both tend to be outsiders to a degree. I don’t imagine Shandra getting picked on like Gil, but I imagine she feels like a bit of an outsider due to her intelligence and general disinterest in most popular culture.”
Shandra’s dad is also a single parent, and Shandra and Gil bond a lot by talking about their respective families. We haven’t met Shandra’s family in the strip yet, but Norm tells us, “the backstory in my head is that Shandra’s father moved them into Gil’s neighborhood following a job. Gil and Shandra started playing together in the neighborhood and hit it off. I imagine Shandra’s dad to be a very focused, hardworking guy. A guy who hasn’t gotten a very fair shake in life, but is determined to provide his daughter with better opportunities.”Shandra’s dad has a lot in common with Gil’s mom, who works hard to see to it that Gil has a happy and relatively carefree childhood.
Shandra is a bright student, and tends to be a harder worker, and more ambitious than Gil is—well, provided we assume that wanting to be Optimus Prime doesn’t count as ambition. But Shandra likes the fact that Gil can be a bit out there. Norm says, “Shandra’s favorite thing about Gil is his free-spiritedness and creativity. I imagine she would like Gil to try a little harder when it comes to his schoolwork. At eight years old, I think Shandra’s hopes and dreams are probably still fairly amorphous, but I’m sure she imagines herself becoming something like a scientist, or engineer, or civic leader.”
For Norm, “Shandra, like many of the characters I create, is made from my combined experience with people and friendships in general. As for me, I try to think of all my past friendships as important, whether they were strong, or fleeting. Theyre the best learning experiences life has to offer.”
We love reading about Shandra’s friendship with Gil, and hope you do, too! If you haven’t yet started reading GIL, now is a great time to start!