Dorothy Gambrell is the Wiki-proclaimed NOT cartoonist behind the hilarious meta comic strip, Cat and Girl. Started in 1999, the strip focuses on conversations between Cat, the larger-than-life cat with a more-than-merry disposition and a weakness for indulgences (like eating lead-based paint), as well as Girl, a cynical and pig-tailed girl, whose philosophical rantings are made up of equal parts postmodernism, dry humor, and literary references. The two bat back and forth, exploring the what-does-it-all-mean sometimes banalness of life, without getting so deep you have to put waders on. Her work has also appeared in the literary journal Backwards City Review and the Anton Chekhov anthology, The Other Chekhov. Sharp and to the point, Persephone Magazine, please welcome Dorothy Gambrell.
Persephone Magazine: How did you get started making comics? Was it always something you wanted to do, or did you stumble into it? What changed the game for you to do it professionally?
Dorthy Gambrell: I started writing and drawing cartoons when I was 9 years old because – I don’t know, I thought it would be easy for some reason. I guess everyone gets trapped in some way by an untraceable idea they developed in childhood, and that’s mine.
How did I become a professional? Well, I couldn’t make any money doing anything else.
PM: Why comics? What about them makes you think they can communicate better than other forms of expression?
DG: I liked comics because they weren’t necessarily taken seriously. This is something that used to be more true than it is now. Now an industry has developed around the idea of taking comics seriously. There are courses and colleges and criticism riding on this. At least the kind of comics I make – the kinds with the punchlines at the end – are still under that radar.
PM: How do you gather your material? Do you take a lot of inspiration from other comic artists, or do you take more from your everyday world around you?
DG: From life, and from thinking about things. Long walks always help.
PM: How does a strip come to be? What is your process like?
DG: I sit down with a cup of coffee and a piece of paper and a pen, and I pour myself more cups of coffee until a cartoon is written. This is followed by drawing and scanning or photographing and spending far too much time fixing little details in Photoshop that no one else will ever see or care about, but I care, and what was I planning on doing with my life anyway?
PM: Cat and Girl has a lot of “what does it all mean” sort of meta questions, the kind you ask yourself at three in the morning, post bender. Yet, they are hilarious in their attempts at being serious. Why a cat? Why a girl? Why big life questions?
DG:Some people manage to spend their lives 5 p.m.-on-Friday happy, and some people are stuck with 3 a.m. meaninglessness, no matter the time or time zone.
PM: Do you ever struggle with the terminology of your occupation (as a comic artist)? Do you feel like this term doesn’t or does justice?
DG: I make things. That is what I call what I do for a living. Other people can call it whatever they like.
PM: Other than comics, how else are you biding your time these days?
DG:Reading and thinking I ought to be reading something better. Watching things I won’t remember watching. Dealing with the minutiae of everyday life or hitting “refresh” repeatedly. Wondering about lives that become different sorts of lives, and how that kind of thing happens.
PM: What great work can we look forward to from you in the not-too-distant future?
DG: More of the same, endlessly, forever.