The Great Beyond
Around 4 p.m. on mid-winter work days, we often find ourselves stuck in the creative doldrums, in need of a distraction but too angsty to enjoy Perez. So, on a recent afternoon, we were thrilled to be introduced to Dorothy Gambrell’s long running webcomic, Cat and Girl. Started in the summer of ’99 as a series of fliers tacked up around Williams College (where Gambrell was a studio art major), the series primarily revolves around the happy-go-lucky, anthropomorphic Cat, and the cynical, hyper-aware Girl. Posted about three times a week, the sardonic strip has proved the perfect antidote to our regular bouts of office ennui (thanks in large part to Girl’s proclivity for tackling such turgid questions as, “How do you stay warm in the cold shadow of death?”).
Newly enamored with Gambrell, we spent an afternoon obsessively Googling her name, and quickly found that she currently maintains two other equally awesome websites: Very Small Array — a funny, bizarre collection of original graphs and charts—and Donation Derby — where readers can support the cartoonist’s work through a Paypal donation, and where she will later post a drawing of how she made use of the funds. In her free time (although it’s unclear how she has any), Gambrell also plays guitar in a punk band, The Basement Apartments.
Our interest now elevated to official Girl crush status, we had to track Gambrell down to find out what inspires her biting brand of humor. Read the interview after the jump.
Flavorwire: People must always assume Girl is you — but you’ve drawn yourself into the strip to prove it’s not. Is Girl based on someone real? What about Cat?
Dorothy Gambrell: No, not at all.
FW: So what inspired the strip?
DG: I was sitting in class watching a deeply metaphorical student film about a nice lady named Girl and a not-as-nice lady named Cat, and at the end they walked down the street carrying a mirror and the mirror fell and shattered. And when the lights came up I drew a picture of my own Cat and Girl, and that was that.
FW: Why draw them? What made you choose cartoons?
DG: I’ve been a close reader of the newspaper comics page for as long as I can remember, and when I got to be about nine years old I decided that making comics looked like a pretty easy way to make a living. By the time I realized my mistake it was too late to do anything else.
FW: So Cat and Girl isn’t exactly paying the bills?
DG: Selling t-shirts and self-published books (and stickers, and posters, and trophies) is about 80 percent of my income. Donation Derby is maybe 10 percent — with the occasional check from a friendly book or magazine rounding out the rest. I also wash my clothes in the sink.
FW: Us too. We love Donation Derby — but it must be so much work. Do you ever regret creating the promise of a comic in exchange for a donation?
DG: I regret Donation Derby every time I sit down to draw it. But as soon as the drawing is done I’m glad to have that (fractured, partial, semi-coherent and money-centered) record of my life.
FW: Speaking of your life right now… you recently made a big move from Brooklyn to Tucson. What do you think of the change?
DG: There are a lot of great things about Tucson: The weather, sure, and the cost of living. And it’s walkable if you live in the right part of town and sort of squint. And they have these hot dogs wrapped in bacon with beans and onion and pickled radish and cucumber and salsa on them. And the space — you aren’t always competing for limited space. You aren’t always figuring out how to make enough money to get by. There’s enough space and leisure, that without their scarcity to occupy your mind, you find it drifting to thoughts like, Am I living a morally defensible life?
DG: Who wants to think things like that? And what the hell kind of reason for living in a city is “the weather?” So, I’m moving. Across the country. In a Toyota Corolla. I should be back in Brooklyn by April. So, between getting rid of all my possessions and resettling once again and drawing cartoons at least three times a week, that should be it for a while.
FW: Wow. So… are you as funny off the cuff as you are on page?
DG: Oh God, nowhere near.