Dana Simpson

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Dana Simpson
Winter institute 2016.jpg
Dana Simpson at the 2016 Winter Institute, in January, 2016, promoting 'Unicorn vs. Goblins.'
NationalityUnited States
Other namesD.C. Simpson
Years active1998 - present
Notable work
Ozy and Millie
I Drew This
Phoebe and Her Unicorn

Dana Claire Simpson is an American cartoonist, best known as the creator of the syndicated comic strip Phoebe and Her Unicorn, as well as the long-running webcomic Ozy and Millie. Other works created by Simpson include the political commentary cartoon I Drew This and the alternate reality drama comic Raine Dog.


Simpson was born in Pullman, Washington, and then lived in the Seattle area for most of her life.[1] She is a graduate of The Evergreen State College.[1]

Simpson considered herself an artist from an early age, drawing comic strips as young as five years old as part of making her own homemade newspaper.[2][3] As she grew up, she began drawing inspiration from Peanuts, The Simpsons and Pogo.[4][5]

In her 20s, she came out as transgender.[6] She currently lives in Santa Barbara, California.


Ozy and Millie[edit]

The webcomic Ozy and Millie, Simpson's first published comic strip (published under D.C. Simpson), began running regularly in 1998 while she was attending Washington State University as a graduate student.[4] The strip centered on Ozy (an Arctic fox) and Millie (a red fox) as they and their friends dealt with everyday elementary school issues and more surreal situations. For her work on Ozy and Millie, Simpson was a finalist for the 1998 Scripps-Howard Foundation Charles M. Schulz College Cartoonist Award.[1] The comic went on to win the 1999 College Media Advisers award for Best Strip Cartoon and the 2002 Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards for Best Anthropomorphic Comic. It also won the Ursa Major Award for both "Best Anthropomorphic Other Work" for 2002 and for "Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip" for 2006 and 2007.[7] Simpson continued the strip for ten years while attempting to seek syndication for the title, but could not secure any deal.[4] The final regular strip was published on December 23, 2008.[8]

Cover of I Drew This vol 1 showing the main characters
I Drew This volume 1: Insert title here

I Drew This[edit]

Simpson's second published comic strip, I Drew This, was primarily about politics and proudly admits to its liberal orientation. It is somewhat autobiographical, in that one of the main characters is the author (the other is Joe, the Liberal Eagle)[9] and its focus is often the author's own musings. I Drew This began life in the Washington State University Daily Evergreen in January 2004, while Simpson was attending graduate school. Like Ozy and Millie, this comic is part of the webcomics portal Keenspot, beginning November 2006. Material from I Drew This was included in Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists. The May 16, 2005 edition, "Teaching Gravity", featured the first reference to the theory of intelligent falling.[10] insert title here and I Drew This (a complete collection of the strips) are both available for purchase on Lulu.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn[edit]

Following the end of Ozy and Millie, Simpson provided illustrations for children's books.[4] She also submitted a new comic idea to Amazon.com's "Comic Strip Superstar" contest in 2009, entitled Girl, which was selected the winner and received a publishing contract from Andrews McMeel Universal.[4][11][12] Girl centered around an unnamed girl with a vivid imagination interacting with forest creatures.[2] The strip's launch was somewhat delayed; according to Simpson, this was imposed by the syndicate due to its reluctance to launch two "talking animal" strips at the same time, as well as its request for further edits.[13] Simpson also noted she only had a limited number of Girl strips ready and needed more time to draw out more.[4]

During this time, Simpson had drawn one Girl strip that included a unicorn. Simpson knew shortly after drawing this strip that the unicorn was a necessary character to make her comic work. Girl was completely retooled and re-imagined as Heavenly Nostrils, which is about a nine-year-old girl named Phoebe (essentially the same character as from Girl[2]) who comes across a magical unicorn named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils who is enraptured by her reflection in a pond; Phoebe accidentally hits her with a rock, breaking the spell, and as part of one wish Marigold grants her, Phoebe asks for Marigold to become her best friend.[4][2]

Heavenly Nostrils was scheduled to debut on GoComics April 23, 2012,[14] but debuted a day early on April 22, 2012.[15] The strip entered into print syndication across 100 papers starting on March 30, 2015; the title of the strip was changed to Phoebe and her Unicorn for print syndication.[4][1]

Within the strip, Simpson drew inspiration from her real life. Phoebe herself is loosely based on Simpson's own personality.[8] Phoebe's best friend, Max, is based on Simpson's husband David.[4] Dakota, a fellow schoolmate of Phoebe who initially teases her until she learns about the unicorn, was an amalgamation of several students that had given Simpson trouble when she was younger, but also incorporates elements of her younger sister Nicole.[2] Phoebe's parents are based on Simpson's friends who have become parents themselves but "they’re also still the same weird people they were before they had kids".[8] Marigold is based partially on the unicorn character in the work The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.[5] Marigold's name was based the results of using Simpson's own name in an online unicorn name generator.[5]

The strip has been favorably compared to Calvin & Hobbes with a feminine slant;[16][17][3] in contrast to Calvin & Hobbes, where the character of Hobbes is only a stuffed tiger doll that Calvin imagines is alive, Marigold the unicorn exists as a living creature in Phoebe's world, but hides her form through a "Shield of Boringness" that makes her appear unremarkable to other characters in the strip.[2]

The strips have been published in the following books:

  • Phoebe and Her Unicorn: The Heavenly Nostrils Chronicles (2014)[2][18]
  • Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure (2015)[19]
  • Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure (2016).[20]
  • Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure (2016).[21]
  • Unicorn Crossing: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure (2017).[22]
  • Phoebe and Her Unicorn in the Magic Storm (2017)
  • Unicorn of Many Hats: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure (2018)
  • Phoebe and Her Unicorn in Unicorn Theater (2018)
  • Unicorn Bowling: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure (2019)
  • The Unicorn Whisperer: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure (2019)
  • Camping with Unicorns: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure (2020)[23]

Other books:

  • Rainy Day Unicorn Fun: A Phoebe and Her Unicorn Activity Book (September 19, 2017)
  • Phoebe and Her Unicorn in The Magic Storm (graphic novel, October 17, 2017)

Other work[edit]

On January 16, 2009, Simpson posted the first page of Raine Dog, a graphic novel which follows an anthropomorphic dog living among humans with other recently liberated house dogs. The most recent update was in January 2010.[24][7] Simpson abandoned the project "for the foreseeable future."[25]

Simpson announced that she is writing and illustrating a book about her transition, targeted for middle-school students, titled Only You’re Different.[6][26] She also illustrated a picture book, I'm Not a Girl, written by Maddox Lyons, a 12-year-old transgender boy.[27]



  1. ^ a b c d Hanson, Merridee (2015-03-29). "Columbian adds 'Phoebe and Her Unicorn' to comics lineup". The Columbian. Retrieved 2015-03-30.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Wolfe, Billy (2015-03-29). ""Phoebe and Her Unicorn" cartoonist draws inspiration from life". Charleston Daily Mail. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
  3. ^ a b Janoski, Steve (2015-03-30). "Cartoonist Dana Simpson speaks on new comic "Phoebe and Her Unicorn"". The Record. Retrieved 2015-03-30.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Bently, Rick (2015-03-29). "Artist Dana Simpson gets magic touch for her new comic strip from a unicorn". Fresno Bee. Retrieved 2016-12-05.
  5. ^ a b c Brutsch, Rachel (March 28, 2015). "'Unicorns are everywhere': Cartoonist Dana Simpson shares lessons on friendship in comic strip 'Phoebe and Her Unicorn'". Deseret News. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Ponnekanti, Rosemary (September 25, 2015). "Q&A: Cartoonist grew up in Gig Harbor, lives in Auburn and likes unicorns". The Tacoma News-Tribune. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d El Santo (2010-01-29). "The Webcomic Overlook #106: Raine Dog". Archived from the original on 2010-02-02. Retrieved 2011-02-22.
  8. ^ a b c Sholley, Diana (2015-03-30). "'Phoebe and Her Unicorn' to debut, add whimsical flair to the funny pages". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 2015-03-30.
  9. ^ Simpson, D.C. "I Drew This, Wednesday, September 22, 2004". Retrieved 7 July 2012. Hi! I'm Joe, the Liberal Eagle.
  10. ^ Simpson, D.C. (May 16, 2005). "Teaching Gravity". I Drew This. Keenspot. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  11. ^ [Staff] (August 18, 2009). "Amazon and Andrews McMeel Universal Announce First Comic Strip Superstar Competition". The Wall Street Journal.
  12. ^ "Comic Strip Superstar (via Internet Archive)". Archived from the original on January 3, 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  13. ^ Simpson, D.C. (November 2, 2010). "Status report". Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  14. ^ Simpson, D.C. (April 5, 2012). "The 23rd". Archived from the original on May 3, 2012. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
  15. ^ Simpson, D.C. (April 22, 2012). "In stealth, we have begun!". Archived from the original on August 14, 2012. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  16. ^ Doctorow, Cory (February 2, 2015). "Heavenly Nostrils: If Hobbes was a snarky unicorn and Calvin was an awesome little girl". Boing Boing. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  17. ^ Doctorow, Cory (June 13, 2015). "Unicorn on a Roll: more comics in the tradition of Calvin and Hobbes". Boing Boing. Retrieved June 13, 2015.
  18. ^ Simpson, Dana (2014). Phoebe and Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle. Andrews McMeel. ISBN 978-1449446208.
  19. ^ Simpson, Dana (2015). Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure. Andrews McMeel. ISBN 978-1449470760.
  20. ^ Simpson, Dana (2016). Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure. Andrews McMeel. ISBN 978-1449476281.
  21. ^ Simpson, Dana (2016). Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure. Andrews McMeel. ISBN 978-1449477912.
  22. ^ Simpson, Dana (2017). Unicorn Crossing: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure. Andrews McMeel. ISBN 978-1449483579.
  23. ^ "Phoebe and Her Unicorn Series by Dana Simpson". www.goodreads.com. Retrieved 2020-02-28.
  24. ^ Simpson, D. C. (2009-01-16). "1. The Smell of the City". Raine Dog. Archived from the original on 2009-04-04. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
  25. ^ "F.A.Q. | Dana Simpson". Retrieved 2020-02-28.
  26. ^ Alverson, Brigid (June 20, 2017). "Interview: Dana Simpson, Creator of 'Phoebe and Her Unicorn'". School Library Journal. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  27. ^ Simpson, Dana. "Happy to announce this book | Dana Simpson". Retrieved 2020-02-28.
  28. ^ Simpson, Dana (October 10, 2015). "Winners of the Washington State Book Awards (2015)". The Seattle Times. Retrieved October 11, 2015.
  29. ^ Simpson, Dana (January 7, 2016). "2016 PNBA Book Awards". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 21, 2016.

External links[edit]