9 Chickweed Lane

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9 Chickweed Lane
Author(s) Brooke McEldowney
Website http://www.gocomics.com/9chickweedlane
Current status / schedule Running
Launch date July 12, 1993
Syndicate(s) United Features Syndicate

9 Chickweed Lane is an American comic strip written and drawn by Brooke McEldowney following the fortunes of the women of three generations of the Burber family – Edna, Juliette, and Edda – as they try to make their way in the world. 9 Chickweed Lane is the address of their former family home. The strip is syndicated by United Features Syndicate and available online.[1] It started on July 12, 1993,[2] and won Best Newspaper Comic at the 2006 National Cartoonists Society Awards.

Brooke McEldowney is also the creator of the webcomic Pibgorn, a spin-off. The strips appear to share the same universe, with the eccentric Thorax appearing in both series regularly, as well as the occasional cameo appearance (the most notable recent example being – on October 29, 2007 – almost the entire cast of Pibgorn showing up as guests at a Chickweed wedding). However, aside from Thorax and a pair of story arcs adapting William Shakespeare's plays A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet in Pibgorn, neither strip's characters take part in the other's storyline.


  • Edda Burber – Independent and intelligent with a truly heroic fantasy life as Superlative Girl, sexy and self-assured except when she's not. She is a very talented ballet dancer (and also a skilled pianist) who has just started to take the necessary steps to develop her skills into a career including a modelling stint for the fictional ladies apparel line, Nicolette Cygnet; and occasional piano recitalist after graduating early from her Catholic high school and moving to New York City. She is romantically involved with Amos, her childhood sweetheart, and they have recently become engaged.[3]
  • Juliette Burber (Maiden Name: Juliette Martine O'Malley) – Divorced (from Jack) single mother of Edda, daughter of Edna, Juliette has an impressively creative fantasy life (her alter-ego is the leopardskin-clad Panther Woman) but is quite competent at achieving her goals in reality, though her mother can still push her buttons maddeningly. She has initially resigned her position as a biology professor at a New Hampshire university and followed her dream of owning and operating a farm. Her family was at first surprised by her actions, but adjusted. In February 2006 she married Elliott in a ceremony 'officiated' by Thorax. After encountering a formerly underachieving student, Fleurrie Spocket, who rose to the challenge of higher education due to her scathing admonishments and became a veterinarian, she felt her efforts at the university were not in vain[4] and returned to the school in a part-time position. She learned, much to her shock, that she is the product of a brief relationship her mother had with an Austrian opera singer, Peter Kiesl [5] and was named, in reverse, after her stepfather's first wife.[6][7]
  • Edna O'Malley/Eva Kiesl (Maiden Name: Edna "Edie" Ernst[8]) – Mother of Juliette and Grandmother of Edda. "Gran" is irascible and argumentative; her main joy in life seems to be having the last word, though she does have a dear companion in Thorax and genuinely loves her family. In her youth she was a beautiful, talented USO singer and spy for Allied Intelligence during World War II. During that time she had a relationship with Lt. Peter Kiesl, an Austrian Wehrmacht POW in England, which they rekindled ten years later in New York City when he was a visiting opera singer for the Metropolitan Opera; this led to a very brief engagement and the conception of Juliette. Afterward, she married Bill O'Malley, with whom she had a second child (Roger), and was later widowed. After Kiesl, who she thought had recently died, visited her in New Hampshire to express his continued love for her, Edna moved to Vienna and married him.[9]
  • Amos van Hoesen – Geeky, with an intense musical talent and devotedly in love with Edda who has been his best friend for years. He also graduated from the same school as Edda and left home to develop his musical talents by studying the cello at Juilliard. His burgeoning passion for Edda resulted in his emotionally charged victory (with Edda as his accompanist) at a major classical music competition in Belgium, where they also – and finally – consummated their love for each other.[10]
  • Thorax – Formerly Gran's gentleman friend, brilliant and odd beyond all description, terribly annoying as well. Apparently a large, amiable elderly farmer, he does not appear to be quite human, and has a quantum anomaly in his shed. It is uncertain whether Thorax uses this quantum anomaly to break through the barriers of space, time and dimension in order to appear in McEldowney's other online strip, Pibgorn, but he plays a significant role in several story arcs there.
  • Pap – Thorax's father. Tiny, aged beyond reckoning, with a classic Yankee-farmer acerbic mien, he nevertheless seems to take Thorax's otherworldly peregrinations in stride.
  • Elliott Greene – Juliette's love interest, and her co-worker at the university. In January 2006, Juliette accepted the most recent in his long series of marriage proposals. In February 2006 they were married by Thorax. Whether the marriage was a legally valid one, given the questionable status of the officiant, appears to be an open question.
  • Seth Appleby – Edda's dancing partner and housemate, a handsome hunk with an occasional boyfriend and a bit of a crush on Amos. Seth's sexual orientation is central to his character and was called into question in that he has been known to bed both men and women, because reasons. Or art, or whatever.
  • Mark – Seth's boyfriend, an artist and gallery owner. He is small with a skimpy beard and untidy brown hair.
  • Fernanda Jons – Seth's former female friend-with-benefits, an accomplished ballerina from Argentina who was temporarily partnered with him in the ballet company to get over her once-prejudiced views on gay ballet dancers.
  • Janice – A friend of Edda's from the ballet company, with hair almost identical to Mark's. She has a severe crush on Mark, who remains her friend while gently rebuffing her advances. Janice and Edda briefly got into a love triangle when Janice's sometime beau made a pass at Edda (and was flatly rejected).
  • Isabel Florin – A pianist who works as an accompanist to Amos's practice on cello. Likes Amos and has been in conflict with Edda over this. Of Portuguese origin with a slight accent. Recently, she and Burkhardt kissed passionately while he tended to her during her recovery from the flu, though it remains to be seen whether this was a one-time event or will result in a relationship between the two.
  • Burkhardt Kriegl – A violist from Vienna. Womanizer who has regularly pursued Edda and been rebuffed by her every time. Has recently been shown being involved with Isabel.
  • Fleurrie Spocket – The veterinarian who came to treat Juliette's sick bull and was once a student in her biology class, whom Juliette remembered as "the narcoleptic mouth-breather in the back row." It was her success in veterinary science that prompted Juliette to not only finance her own practice as a business partner[11] but also return to teaching part-time. She has recently gotten married to her longtime veterinary technician, Sven.[12][13][14][15]
  • Sven – Fleurrie's tall, sweet and handsomely hulking, if slightly naive veterinary technician, formerly a gutter cleaner.[16] They have recently wed after a whirlwind romantic relationship.[14][15] He is fluent in four languages and has a Ph.D. in art history (French Rococo, specializing in Jean-Honoré Fragonard).[17]
  • Sister Steven – a Mother Superior who runs the Catholic school Edda and Amos once attended. An archetypically strict nun with no sense of humour and nicknamed as "Sister Caligula" by her students, she does occasionally show a human side to her nature and was once called Florence Anne.[14][18]
  • Diane Durly – Formerly Sister Aramus, a nun who used to teach English at the Catholic high school that Edda and Amos attended. She left her vocation after falling in love with Francis. They married after a long courtship and have recently (Oct. 6, 2011) become parents to a daughter,[19] Florence Anne[18] (after Sister Steven's name before she became a nun).
  • Francis Durly – A former Catholic priest who left his vocation after falling in love with Diane, and is now married to her.
  • Mary Rosenzweig – Edda and Amos' classmate from their Catholic high school. Amos used to pursue her for affection, and was always rejected.
  • Solange – Edda's Siamese cat, the very quintessence of Cat, and a popular enough character to spawn an ongoing thread of strips focused on her, Hallmarks of Felinity.[20] The cat who would become Solange first appeared on March 23, 1999, which happened to be the second Hallmark of Felinity. Originally, the animal characters in the strip consisted of a whippet named Rudyard, succeeding a greyhound named Divot, and a spot-eyed cat, Ambrose. Rudyard and Ambrose often held mental conversations regarding their human owners, when Rudyard wasn't chucking insults at the cat's naïvete. Solange soon replaced Ambrose after her introduction, and the greyhound quickly disappeared from the strip as well.
  • MontyGod in the form of a bald man wearing a suit (or else a delusional man who has convinced Thorax that he is indeed God; a test of Monty's powers made him appear to be embarrassed at his inability to pull off even a minor task). Is featured communicating mostly with Thorax. Was recently involved prominently in a storyline in which he became so frustrated with his human creation and its penchant for vices that he decides to turn the human race into cockroaches, starting with the child of the first pregnant woman he sees, which turns out to be Diane. Thorax, Diane and Francis were eventually able to dissuade him.
  • Earl William "Bill" O'Malley – Gran's late husband, once described by her as a bossy, take-charge type. She also recalled him being loving and caring for her when they met during World War II, as demonstrated by closely questioning her on her virginity, because as we all know, interrogating a woman about her virginity is super caring and sweet. As a young lieutenant[21] who saw Edna perform for the Allied troops, Bill helped recruit her for a spying mission at a POW camp which housed German prisoners in Britain. The camp's distrusting commander, not knowing of Edna's mission, questioned her motives and honor (once, to Edna's face and a second, more damaging time,[22] behind her back after her performance at a USO-sponsored camp show). Bill, who was in love with Edna, defended her honor by pummeling the commander, after which he turned himself in to his commanding officer, was reduced in rank to private and saw action on D–Day. He was seriously injured, suffered severe amnesia, met and fell in love with his lovely French Resistance contact Martine Clocqueur and got briefly married [23] but lost her after she was shot and killed by a Nazi Collaborator after the Liberation of Paris whilst en route back to England. Spending ten years in therapy after the war, Edna believed Bill was dead and carried his dogtags in her purse for years. However, she later learned he was alive, and even after a brief engagement to his Austrian rival, Peter Kiesl, she decided to marry Bill and moved to Omaha, Nebraska, to have a long, unfulfilled marriage based on a twisted sense of obligation.[24] Bill is the father of Edna's second child, Roger, who is rarely mentioned and was not seen in the strip until November 22, 2010.[25]
  • Martine Juliette Clocqueur-O’Malley – a beautiful, feisty French Resistance operative who worked as a double agent with the Nazi German forces during the occupation of France during World War II and was Bill’s contact during D-Day. An more-than expert shot, they accidentally crossed paths and after a series of close calls, they fell in love and got married within days of the Liberation of Paris.[23] En route to returning back to England to avoid being falsely hunted down for her activities with the enemy, she was mortally wounded in a farm field outside the capital. Shortly after the birth of his stepdaughter Juliette (whom he named after in reverse) with Edna, Bill returned to France alone to give his first wife a proper burial and gravestone, along with her reputation of being a collaborator.[6]
  • Roger O'Malley – Son of Bill and Edna, Edda's uncle and Juliette's half-brother. He is married and has eleven children (his wife refers to him as "sturdy"). While he has a long standing heterosexual relationship with his wife, he was accused by Seth of being a closeted homosexual, despite a complete lack of evidence. He has since come out of the closet, placing considerable stress on his marriage.
  • Peter Kiesl (full name Lt. Peter Johann Martin Franz Kiesl[26]) – Professional opera singer from Austria and former officer in the German Army in World War II. He had a romantic liaison with Edna while he was a prisoner of war in England and she was a USO singer working undercover for American Intelligence. They met again ten years later in New York City where they briefly resumed their romance. He is the biological father of Juliette.[5] Edna informed Juliette of these things after reading Kiesl's obituary in the New York Times,[27] but Edda and Juliette unexpectedly met Kiesl, quite alive, when they traveled to Vienna to visit his grave,[28] the obituary having identified the wrong person.[29] He then visited Edna in New Hampshire, expressed his continued love for her, and the two married and lived in Vienna together.[9]


9 Chickweed Lane has been published in several hardcopy collections, most available from Pib Press.[30] These include:

  • Hallmarks of Felinity (Out of print)
  • Out Whom Shall We Gross? (Year One, 1993–1994)
  • Sonata for Piano and Armpit (Year Two, 1994–1995)
  • The Day my Puberty Detonated (Year Three, 1995–1996)
  • Rita Hayworth, the Father of Relativity (Year Four, 1996–1997)
  • CRUD From Outer Space,and Other Causes of Postnasal Drip (Year Five, 1997-1998)
  • Cat Breath Takes No Prisoners (Year Six, 1998-1999)
  • On Alternate Thursdays, I Surrender My Body to SATAN (Year Seven, 1999-2000)
  • Dumpster God (Year Eight, 2000-2001)
  • We'll Always Have Brussels, or The Bösendorfer Heard Round the World
  • Edie Ernst, USO Singer – Allied Spy

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