John Gibel and Jenny Campbell, Creators of Flo and Friends

11 July 2003

   “Aging with an Attitude” is the scrawled phrase on little mugs in the background art of the cartoon Flo & Friends. This chuckle of a comic strip shows seniors living busy lives... and laughing about it all. The growing comic hits the laughter button in readers of all ages, too. No huddling up in creaky rocking chairs on the verandah for these characters!

    Debuted in 2000 through Creator’s Syndicate, Flo & Friends is the co-creation of illustrator Jenny Campbell and writer John Gibel. The comic, centred on a small group of active, happy people of the older generation and appears in dailies and colour Sundays. The main character, Flo, has a job as a popular radio personality, receiving call-ins and doling out hilarious advice. Her fellow characters include wrinkly senior friends, her granddaughter Treggie and Cleo, a cat who is certain she is a fellow human.

    The idea for a strip about the aging population germinated in the mind of John several years before the comic came to life. His pre-cartoon work experience included a stint at a major animation studio with clients of the likes of Disney and the ABC Television Network. He later opened his own animation and marketing business. He became a supporter of seniors who wanted employment and “created innovative job opportunities” for those who were interested. *(1)

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    John’s inspiration for a comic strip was close to home: his father and grandfather and several older friends. “They were still young at heart, wanting to remain productive,” John noted on the Creator’s website. “Most of the ones who can smile and find humour in the aging process all have great stories to tell. Their common denominator is that they know how to laugh with others, and they know how to laugh at themselves.” *(1)

    Jenny Campbell was enlisted to bring Flo & Friends to life with her pen. She brought skills of writing, illustration and cartooning from her work at the Pasadena Star-News, The Orange County Register and independent book illustration. (She graduated with a BA in Journalism from Arizona State University in 1979.) Jenny’s work has appeared in the Weekly Reader, Highlights for Children Magazine and in a number of children’s books. Drawing children was her focus until she began work on Flo & Friends, where older people with lots of sparkle and personality are the predominant challenge. Her art in the comic strip is uncluttered and clear, with easy distinctions in the age groups appearing in the panels. Not a simple feat, by any means.

    With the urge to give something back to her community, Jenny chose to volunteer with the Geauga Humane Society near her then-Cleveland, Ohio home. Beginning as a dog walker, Jenny has moved on to put her artistic talents to work for the society. “My drawings are everywhere now, from the big sign in front of the building to the T-shirts and hats we sell at events.” *(2) She presently lives in the countryside near Philadelphia.

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    The wise words of the central character, Flo, demonstrate the theme of the Flo & Friends comic strip, also found on the Golden Opportunities website. “…we have a clearer idea of who we are and what’s important in life. Now is the time when we can live life as it’s meant to be lived… and with a smile.”

    John Gibel and Jenny Campbell have found a distinctly humourous way to show those words are true.

Cartooning News: Sadly, cartoonist John Gibel died suddenly in 2005. Jenny Campbell is now the sole creator of Flo and Friends.

Read Flo & Friends daily and have a look at the creators’ biographies, too:
*(1) http://www.creators.com/comics_show.cfm?comicname=flo

An article mentioning Jenny Campbell’s volunteer work helping animals and shelters, by Faith Mahoney:
*(2) http://216.239.53.104/ (Link broken.)

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© Susanna McLeod 2003
TheCartoonists.ca  
   
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)