Dana Simpson (Heavenly Nostrils; Ozy and Millie)by GoComics
Our "Meet Your Creator" series idea of sharing the words of our cartoonists with you has been well-received. We really appreciate your comments and sharing. This session's cartoonist is one of the rising talents in the cartooning industry, Dana Simpson. Creator of Heavenly Nostrils and Ozy and Millie (both available on GoComics), she has seen her work and followers soar in the past year. Of particular note, her current work in Heavenly Nostrils has been compared by several to the early potential that Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes experienced. High praise, indeed. Bronies and comics fans all over the world are waiting to hear from the mind behind Phoebe and Marigold's wonderful world, so I'll hand it over to Dana.
My name is Dana and my job is to draw unicorns. I really love typing that sentence.
I've been cartooning for a long time. I drew my first-ever strip when I was 5. It was called Boo and starred blue, apparently narcoleptic ghosts, I think. (It's a little unclear.)
I absorbed all kinds of comics as a kid. I loved Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side, like everyone did. Bloom County was kind of a revelation to me, as was Pogo, a strip that was before my time but readily available at the library, and I was the kind of kid who goes to the library in her spare time.
In college, I concocted a strip about two eccentric young foxes attending an apparently all-animal elementary school, titled it Ozy and Millie, and accidentally became a Web cartoonist, back in the 90s, before that was really much of a thing. I drew the strip for a decade; it always had a small but devoted following, and I loved doing it.
It was about all I loved, job-wise; after college, I worked as a reporter for a small newspaper, then did a stint in grad school, all of which taught me that drawing a comic strip was just way more fun and rewarding than any of the alternatives.
The thing about Ozy and Millie, though, is I created it when I was 19. The two main characters were always very much me, and the strip was fueled by the internal conversation I was having with myself in my 20s. And as I neared 30, the conversation was changing, and it felt like time to bring the strip to a close.
And, I pretty much planned to get out of comic strips altogether. I'd been doing it for ten years. I thought, not unreasonably, that I'd taken it about as far as I could. I like to think I'd also become a pretty good artist in that time, like you do when you draw every day for years, and I was thinking of trying to become an illustrator for children's books.
That never got past the planning stage, because of the Comic Strip Superstar contest, which I entered and won, and I found myself right back in it.
I won with a strip called Girl, which was about a little girl -- originally unnamed -- hanging out with her animal friends in the woods. In the contest I'd won a contract to develop the strip for syndication. The contracts got signed, and the development began.
The strip spent fully two years, the length of my development contract, being developed, during which time a unicorn named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils showed up and made herself the title character. (Also, Girl became Phoebe, after Holden Caulfield's little sister in The Catcher in the Rye.)
The reason it took so long, I think, is that, having ended Ozy and Millie, I wasn't sure anymore what I wanted to say, in comic strip form. I'd sort of already mentally cleaned out my office to move on to the next thing. The internal conversation that was Ozy and Millie had sort of been about negotiating the end of childhood, and trying to find myself on the other side; it took me some time to figure out how to reinvent that dynamic to reflect an older, more settled self.
Turns out, the answer was "little girl and unicorn."
An ageless, vain creature of myth, finding common ground with a brainy, tomboyish fourth-grader. That's what's going on inside my head these days; it's how I make sense of my life as it is right now, in comic form.
My process is all-digital, these days; I do Heavenly Nostrils in a program called Manga Studio. (This is in contrast to Ozy and Millie, which was all done on paper and in ink.) Sometimes I miss having a finished physical object, but more often I delight in not having stacks of artwork sitting around my house. I listen to music while I write, and watch TV and movies while I draw, and I'm sure all that stuff is influencing me even as we speak.
I look at strips like these and think, "Somehow, I made it my job to draw little girls and unicorns." I don't know what I ever did to deserve that kind of luck, but I want to keep doing it for a long, long time.
-- Dana Simpson
Read Dana Simpson's Heavenly Nostrils and Ozy and Millie online and on our GoComics mobile app. Like Heavenly Nostrils on Facebook and follow the comic on Twitter. Also, you can follow Dana on Twitter at @MizDanaClaire.