Brooke McEldowney, Creator of 9 Chickweed Lane and Pibgorn

29 November 2002

   Smooth, lyrical pen strokes, flowing plot lines and captivating, indepth characters define the work of cartoonist Brooke McEldowney. An infusion of music, his other creative love, forms an undercurrent in his comic strips.

    From grade school right on through to biology and art classes at Allegheny University and continuing even yet, Brooke McEldowney doodled on the margins of his textbooks, his assignments and now in the margins of his sheet music. His first published cartoons appeared along with his music reviews in magazines such as the Switzerland’s Neue Zurcher Zeitung, Opus, a classical music magazine. He held the position of assistant editor of Opus for a time.

   As a professional violinist, trained at the renowned Juilliard School in New York City, McEldowney graduated with a Master’s Degree in Music. His love of music has taken him across the ocean to perform in Europe and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. Speaking about his cartoons on a comics.com update, McEldowney said, “On the surface, I weave musical images and ideas into my work all the time. Music means a lot to me.” *(1)

    McEldowney attempted syndication over a three-year period with two other cartoon creations before his third try, 9 Chickweed Lane was accepted. The Chickweed comic strip received interest from the three syndicates that were approached, and McEldowney accepted the first offer.

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Centred on the relationships of Juliette, an academic professor/single mom, her artsy teenager, the spunky live-in grandmother and a Siamese cat of wildly inspiring characteristics, 9 Chickweed Lane has a strong and loyal following of readers. The cat, Solange, has spun off into her own book, The Hallmarks of Felinity: A 9 Chickweed Lane Book, published by Andrews & McMeel, 2002.

    Already considering a strip about a fairy, McEldowney was motivated by an illustration displaying a fairy madly laughing and by a particular moment in a Shakespeare play where the actor said, “Take my hand and we’ll rock the ground.” McEldowney was enthused. He launched Pibgorn, a comic strip about a tiny and somewhat untamed woodland fairy yearning for a more interesting life, in March of 2002 on Comics.com. “Since then, the deluge of mail about Pibgorn has helped convince me that I should keep her flying.”*(2) He used his musical background again to name the cartoon. A pibgorn is a Welsh folk instrument from the middle ages, with a single reed mouthpiece and bell made from a cow’s horn. It is a hornpipe, thought related to the clarinet family.

    While the two strips are similar in artistic style, detail and musical influences, 9 Chickweed Lane is built on humourous short storylines that take only a few days to wind up. Pibgorn, on the other hand, has an on-going storyline that relies less on humour, almost in a continuing “soap opera” or comic book style. There is much action between good and evil, humans and fairies, fairies and nature.

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    Born in Charleston, West Virginia, Brooke McEldowney grew up in Florida, where he still resides with his wife and two daughters. His advice to hopeful cartoonists trying to get syndicated is “that if you have the talent, and the desire, you must submit, submit, submit ad infinitum. And never, never,” (There are several more lines of “never.”) “never give it up. This last sentence works even for people with no talent.” *(2)

Good advice. Kinda gives us all hope, doesn’t it?

Short question and answer page with Brooke McEldowney:
*(1) http://www.comics.com/comics_update/0302.html (Link Broken)

Another short question and answer page:
*(2) http://www.astronerdboy.com/comic-strips/kiosks/advice/B-McEldowney.html

Home sites of 9 Chickweed Lane and Pibgorn:
http://www.comics.com/comics/chickweed/index.html

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© Susanna McLeod 2002
TheCartoonists.ca  
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)