Owner/artist Dawn Griffin of Dawn Griffin Studios decided to go the self-publish route with her comic strip and uses ‘cute social commentary’ cartoons to break down gender stereotypes.
Havertown, Pennsylvania August 27, 2013
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Dawn Griffin was not your typical girl. Her summer days were spent climbing trees and rough-housing with the neighborhood kids. Not your stereotypical activities for little girls. These activities carried through to her High School and College years where she’d rather be playing basketball than hitting the local mall. This doesn’t make Dawn special or different, it is simply who she is. She has had to struggle with gender stereotypes all of her life. With that in mind, she took her artistic talents and has applied them to help women of all ages know “It’s okay to be you.”
Today, Dawn resides in Havertown, Pennsylvania, with her husband Rick and spends her days working as a graphic designer for a major food company. But at night, she pulls out her trusty drawing board and computer to create her comics. Dreaming of being a Syndicated Cartoonist most of her life, Dawn came to realize it was a male dominated industry and was fighting an uphill battle. She took to self-publishing her comic creations and created Dawn Griffin Studios. Today, Dawn is a major player in the independent artist arena. You can find her at one of nearly a dozen comic conventions she does every year where she sells her books. “I enjoy the artistic freedom of being self-published. It makes me my own boss and I hope to make it my full-time job soon,” Ms. Griffin related from her table at the Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con recently. “I see little girls come up to me, as I’m usually one of the few women in Artist Alley, and they tell me how they want to draw like me.” She goes on to explain that she lets them know that if she can do it, then they can too. Dawn then spends some time educating the parents on the message that can be found in her books. “I want the parents to encourage their young daughters to follow their dreams and to do what they love. It’s time we stopped teaching young girls that they can only aspire to be princesses, they can also be lawyers, doctors, politicians, and yes, even a cartoonist!” she said with a small chuckle.
To punctuate her point, Dawn recently drew an editorial cartoon about the character Merida, from the Pixar film “Brave.” Disney released an “updated” version of Merida, making her look more like a princess than the strong, assertive, archery-loving character as portrayed in the hit film. “It was silly,” Dawn commented, “They took this great female character, the first female lead in a Pixar film, and turned her into some sparkly generic princess. It was appalling in my opinion, so I let my art do the talking.” In the cartoon, Merida is depicted pointing an arrow at Mickey Mouse, whose hat is labeled “Makeover Mouse”. Dawn captioned the comic “Merida’s Last Stand” and after connecting with the “A Mighty Girl” Facebook page which promotes courageous girls and women, the comic went viral in a matter of days. “I was amazed at how fast this comic took off. I was getting emails from tons of people saying how they loved the cartoon.” Her comic was part of a major outcry to Disney to leave Merida’s character as she was. It worked as the proposed change to Merida’s look was abandoned by Disney. “I just love that they got the message and I was a part of that,” Dawn said with a smile of satisfaction.
Dawn’s other love is her comic called “Zorphbert and Fred” which can be found online for free. “Comics published online are called ‘webcomics’ and they’ve come a long way in the past decade,” Dawn explains. Her comic is a tale of two aliens disguised as dogs sent to Earth to observe our “odd” behaviors. It is a kid-friendly comic that includes some biting social commentary at times. “I’ve had a lot of people refer to my comic as ‘cute social commentary’ and I think it fits,” she commented as she signed another book for a customer. However, yet again gender stereotypes come into play. “Sometimes people will assume the comics are only for boys, because they aren’t pink, or simply because they’re comics. I rate the books ‘E for Everyone’ and that includes girls! There’s plenty of humor and adventure in ‘Zorphbert and Fred’ for everyone’s tastes. That includes boys, girls and adults.” To round out her freelance illustration work, Dawn is also the Illustrator for the “Abby’s Adventures” children’s book series, promoting self-esteem for young girls with wonderfully spunky & relatable stories, written by Suzanne Ridolfi and published under Eifrig Publishing. The tagline “It’s Okay to be ME!” says it all, and no doubt is the reason Dawn signed on to the project.
A graduate of Tyler School of Art (Temple University) with a BFA degree in Graphic Design & Illustration, Dawn is also an accomplished Graphic Designer which helps pay the bills for now. “Making the transition from a full-time job with good pay and benefits to a totally self-sufficient independent cartoonist is daunting to say the least,” commented Ms. Griffin. You may find Dawn on-line at her comic’s website, http://www.zfcomics.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/zfcomics and she will be at the Baltimore Comic Con, September 7th and 8th.
Ms. Griffin is represented by TR-1 Studios of Montgomery, Illinois. For more information about Dawn’s work, contact Byron Wilkins at 847-380-2157.