Dana Claire Simpson is an American cartoonist, best known as the creator of the syndicated comic strip Phoebe and Her Unicorn (formerly Heavenly Nostrils), as well as the long-running web comic Ozy and Millie. Other comics created by Simpson include the political commentary cartoon I Drew This and the alternate reality drama Raine Dog.
Simpson was born David Craig Simpson in Pullman, Washington, and has lived in the Seattle area all her life. She currently lives in Auburn, Washington with her husband David Brodbeck. A graduate of The Evergreen State College, she temporarily worked as a reporter for the Puyallup Herald, and was graduate student in communication at Washington State University.
Simpson considers herself an artist from an early age, drawing comic strips as young as five years old as part of making her own homemade newspaper. As she grew up, she began drawing inspiration from Peanuts, The Simpsons and Pogo.
As an undergraduate at Evergreen, she was a finalist for the 1998 Scripps-Howard Foundation Charles M. Schulz College Cartoonist Award. and won the 1999 College Media Advisers award for Best Strip Cartoon.
Simpson's first published comic strip – early web comic Ozy and Millie – began running regularly in 1998 while she was attending Washington State University as a graduate student. 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. Ozy and Millie won the 1999 College Media Advisers award for Best Strip Cartoon, the 2002 Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards for Best Anthropomorphic Comic and the Ursa Major Award for both "Best Anthropomorphic Other Work" for 2002 and for "Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip" for 2006 and 2007. Simspon continued the strip for ten years while attempting to seek syndication for the title but could not secure any deal. The final regular strip was published on December 23, 2008.
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) 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.
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.
Phoebe and Her Unicorn
Following the end of Ozy and Millie, Simpson provided illustrations for children's books. She also submitted a new comic idea to Amazon.com's "Comic Strip Superstar" contest in 2009, entitled Girl, which was selected one of the five winners that received a publishing contract from Andrews McMeel Universal. Girl centered around an unnamed girl with a vivid imagination interacting with forest creatures. 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. Simpson also noted she only had a limited number of Girl strips ready and needed more time to draw out more.
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) 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.
Heavenly Nostrils, was scheduled to debut on GoComics April 23, 2012, but debuted a day early on April 22, 2012. 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.
Within the strip, Simpson drew inspiration from her real life. Phoebe herself is loosely based on Simpson's own personality. Phoebe's best friend, Max, is based on Simpson's husband David. 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. 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". Marigold is based partially on the unicorn character in the work The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. Marigold's name was based the results of using Simpson's own name in an online unicorn name generator.
The strip has been favorably compared to Calvin & Hobbes with a feminine slant; 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.
The strips have been published in the following books:
- Phoebe and Her Unicorn: The Heavenly Nostrils Chronicles (2014)
- Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure (2015)
- Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure (2016).
- Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure (to be released in September 2016).
- Washington State Book Award, Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award, 2015: Books for middle readers (ages 9 to 12) for Phoebe and Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle
- Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award for Unicorn on a Roll
- Hanson, Merridee (2015-03-29). "Columbian adds 'Phoebe and Her Unicorn' to comics lineup". The Columbian. Retrieved 2015-03-30.
- Bently, Rick (2015-03-29). "Artist Dana Simpson gets magic touch for her new comic strip from a unicorn". Fresno Bee. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
- Wolfe, Billy (2015-03-29). ""Phoebe and Her Unicorn" cartoonist draws inspiration from life". Charleston Daily Mail. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
- Janoski, Steve (2015-03-30). "Cartoonist Dana Simpson speaks on new comic "Phoebe and Her Unicorn"". The Record. Retrieved 2015-03-30.
- 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.
- El Santo (2010-01-29). "The Webcomic Overlook #106: Raine Dog". Retrieved 2011-02-22.
- 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.
- Simpson, D.C. "I Drew This, Wednesday, September 22, 2004". Retrieved 7 July 2012.
Hi! I'm Joe, the Liberal Eagle.
- Simpson, D.C. (May 16, 2005). "Teaching Gravity". I Drew This. Keenspot. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
- Simpson, D. C. (2009-01-16). "1. The Smell of the City". Raine Dog. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
- [Staff] (August 18, 2009). "Amazon and Andrews McMeel Universal Announce First Comic Strip Superstar Competition". The Wall Street Journal.
- "Comic Strip Superstar (via Internet Archive)". Amazon.com. Archived from the original on January 3, 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
- Simpson, D.C. (November 2, 2010). "Status report". Retrieved 22 February 2011.
- Simpson, D.C. (April 5, 2012). "The 23rd". Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Simpson, D.C. (April 22, 2012). "In stealth, we have begun!". Retrieved November 18, 2012.
- 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.
- Doctorow, Cory (June 13, 2015). "Unicorn on a Roll: more comics in the tradition of Calvin and Hobbes". Boing Boing. Retrieved June 13, 2015.
- Simpson, Dana (2014). Phoebe and Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle. Andrews McMeel. ISBN 1449446205.
- Simpson, Dana (2015). Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure. Andrews McMeel. ISBN 1449470769.
- Simpson, Dana (2016). Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure. Andrews McMeel. ISBN 1449476287.
- Simpson, Dana (2016). Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure. Andrews McMeel. ISBN 1449477917.
- Simpson, Dana (October 10, 2015). "Winners of the Washington State Book Awards (2015)". The Seattle Times. Retrieved October 11, 2015.
- Simpson, Dana (January 7, 2016). "2016 PNBA Book Awards". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 21, 2016.