Old men yell at cloud; young(ish) female cartoonist responds

I got this from Laura Tew at the Greensboro News and Record: 

I am sure you are accustomed to getting critiqued by mostly male readers of daily newspapers who gripe about Phoebe and Her Unicorn based on reading one strip and expecting Andy Capp or Beetle Bailey.
I don’t even read the comics, but I am enraged by these guys who are writing letters to the editor to complain about the only cartoon strip drawn and written by a woman.
So I have taken to reading Phoebe in an attempt to develop my defense.
Is the Unicorn symbolic of everyone’s invisible preening arrogance? Is Phoebe smart enough to call this Unicorn out from time to time? Is Phoebe coming of age or is she a young girl escaping into this imaginary world to sort out the discrepancies of life as it is versus life as we want it to be?
If she’s gonna fight on my behalf, she deserves some of my ammunition! So I wrote this in response:

 

Everyone’s a critic, aren’t they? 🙂
I tend to think that, culturally, guys get a little spoiled by theirs always being the default point of view, and also that the comic strip universe, being as populated as it is by strips that are in many cases older than my parents, skews small-c conservative…and I represent a challenge. Which is something I’ve always enjoyed.
It’s not limited to comic strips, of course. Look at how much some people howled at the very idea of an all-female ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot. Maybe wait until you’ve SEEN the movie before you assume the presence of four women, in and of itself, will destroy the franchise?
Anyhow, you have asked for my thoughts on my creation! Which is dangerous. No one has ever said of me “she doesn’t talk enough.”
1. Is the Unicorn symbolic of everyone’s invisible preening arrogance?
I can’t presume to speak for EVERYONE, but she does represent MY invisible preening arrogance. Art is self-portraiture, especially something like comic strips where there’s a single person doing all the writing.
But in her introduction to the second ‘Phoebe’ book collection, Lauren Faust (you probably have no idea who she is, but I’m going to drop her name anyway) said something interesting about that:
“Vanity, the supposedly “feminine” personality flaw usually assigned to antagonists and villains, is turned on it’s head. Yes, Marigold is vain, but she is caring and attentive, she keeps her promises, and though she reminds us all that every creature is basically beneath her magical majesty, she certainly doesn’t treat anyone that way. She is riddled with self-love and is utterly unapologetic. And couldn’t we all stand to feel a little more free to love ourselves?”
2. Is Phoebe smart enough to call this Unicorn out from time to time?
Oh, absolutely. Phoebe calls Marigold on her self-involvement all the time, particularly when she herself wants to be the center of attention. And Marigold needs her to do that.
The strip begins with Phoebe accidentally disrupting Marigold’s staring at her reflection in a pond. Who knows how long she’d been standing there? In a way, Marigold needs Phoebe more than Phoebe needs Marigold, because without Phoebe, Marigold would never have any experiences in the world. She would just sit around thinking about herself.
Phoebe gets to be friends with a unicorn, and Marigold gets to actually enjoy the world. It’s win-win.
3. Is Phoebe coming of age or is she a young girl escaping into this imaginary world to sort out the discrepancies of life as it is versus life as we want it to be?
It’s actually a common misconception I run into, about the strip: Marigold isn’t actually imaginary. She’s a real unicorn. Being a magical creature, she can pass unnoticed or unremarked-upon as she pleases, but she isn’t Hobbes (which I’m sure is the template that leads so many people to think she’s imaginary).
What Phoebe is discovering about life through her friendship with Marigold is that even unicorns aren’t perfect, and even having a unicorn for a friend doesn’t make your life perfect. No one thing does. It doesn’t mean friendships and unicorns aren’t still worth having.
Plus, unicorns are way more fun to ride to school than the bus.

 

  3 comments for “Old men yell at cloud; young(ish) female cartoonist responds

  1. Ani
    June 14, 2015 at 7:06 am

    Lovely response, awesome title.

  2. Rick
    September 9, 2015 at 8:07 am

    Thought you might like to know I’m a 50’s-ish guy and Phoebe is my favorite current strip. Not too long ago I wrote a letter to the editor of the Greensboro News & Record telling him why and thanking him for running it.

    • Dana Simpson
      September 18, 2015 at 10:35 am

      I do like knowing that! Thanks for the support!

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