Dawn Griffin Studios Lets Young Women Know “It’s Okay To Be You”

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

Dawn Griffin

“They took this great female character… and turned her into some sparkly generic princess. It was appalling in my opinion.”

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.

Coloring Book For New Client!

I was recently hired by the folks over at Safe At Home Health Care in Naperville, Illinois, to create a coloring book they could print to help explain their elderly care services to the young grandchildren of their clients.  The coloring book explains the needs of their elderly grandparents and how professionals are sometimes needed to help out.  It also gives the youngsters something to do while the adults discuss the services needed.  A great idea and a fun solution!


Mini Poster Choices for 1977 the Comic

I will be attending the New York Comic Con in October and I’ll be printing a 11″ x 17″ poster to sell at the convention.  I’ve created three different backgrounds and need help picking which one to pring.

So I’m leaving it up to you all to pick which version I’ll print.  Leave a comment below with A, B or C.  I’ll tally up all the votes and let you know which one wins!  You can click on the images below for a larger view of each one.  A is the psychedelic version, B is character’s personality colors and C is the concert blue version.

These will be for sale in early October.







Manga Studio 5 EX Released

I have been drawing with Manga Studio software since 2007.  Along with my a WACOM tablet, it was the first thing I bought when I began to draw again.  Both my tablet and the software have been upgraded since then and today, the latest version of Manga Studio has been released.  I have been on the Beta Test team for MS5 EX and it has been a great experience working with the folks over at Smith Micro (the company that sells Manga Studio).


Manga Studio 5 EX (MS5 EX) was completely rewritten, so it is not just an upgrade, it is a totally new package.  And the results are fantastic.  The new interface is really easy to use and you can open and close tool bars as necessary to maximize your space, or simply drag the drawing area out onto your desktop and use it full screen if you want.  This is really handy for those of you with dual monitors.  As a side note, you can now import all of your MS4 or MS4 EX files!  That’s a huge relief as some software developers turn their backs on former versions.


For me, the key features in MS5 EX over the base version of MS5 are two points.  One, advanced text editing.  Worth the price of admission alone if you do your lettering digitally.  You can make adjustments to letter, word and line spacing, mixing of fonts, anti-aliasing, italics and underline options.


And two, a TON more options on nearly every tool.  For me, this allows me to fine-tune my pencil, marker and pen tools exactly the way I want them.  I’m getting much better strokes in my inking now and that’s thanks to MS5 EX.  For example, just in the INK settings alone you can adjust the Opacity, the Combine Mode, Mix ground color and the mixing rate of the sub drawing color!  Experimenting with these is giving me all types of ideas on how to add more depth to my inking and coloring.  You can also see in the image the amount of options you have for this Pen.  Most of the tools have similar increases in the number of options available.  Click on each one and start experimenting, you’ll learn something from one of them, I’m sure.


Some artists have asked me what are the differences between MS5 and MS5 EX.  I describe it like this.  MS5 is your base car.  It does a great job and will do most everything you need.  MS5 EX is the deluxe version of that car with better tires, better mileage, GPS and nicer seats.  Is it worth the $100 upgrade price?  For the long haul, absolutely.  But, are they essentially the same car?  Yes they are.  If you’re a hobbyist, then MS5 is just fine, but if you’re a professional of any type, you’ll want to get MS5 EX, it is just going to make your life, and work flow, that much easier.

You can find the pricing for Manga Studio 5 and 5 EX by clicking the box art below.  If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them!


Key New Manga Studio 5 EX Features

Manga Studio 5 EX includes all of the features of Manga Studio 5 and the following key extra features:

  • Multiple-Page Story Layouts. Manga Studio 5 EX now enables artists to create multi-page stories and projects. Manga Studio 5 EX’s Story layout option is ideal for manga and comic artists to streamline their creative process and easily access their story files in one convenient area. The Story option will allow you to specify the number of pages you want to work on, add and delete pages, change the order of pages, create a 2 page spread from a single file, organize your story through the story management window and finally save your story in a convenient project file.
  • Backwards file compatibility with Manga Studio 4 EX and 4 Debut. Manga Studio 5 EX allows you to import all of your Manga Studio 4 EX and 4 Debut files including your .CPG page files and your .CST story (project) files. The Manga Studio 5 update will also allow you to import Manga Studio 4 .CPG page files but not .CST story files.
  • Advanced Text Settings: Manga Studio 5 and 5 EX’s text tools have been updated to include adjustments to letter and word spacing, mixing of fonts, anti-aliasing, italics and underline options, line spacing and many other requested features.

C2E2 2013

The 2013 edition of the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) has come and gone.  It was a tidal wave of people from the get-go and did not disappoint at any level. My hat is off to the organizers over at Reed-Pop who put this tremendous show together.  This was my third appearance in it’s four year history and it’s gotten better and better each year.  Kinda like wine and old-fart cartoonists.

This year was a big departure for me as it is was the first time I’ve marketed myself as an illustrator.  My last two appearances were in Webcomic Alley as the guy who created “1977 the Comic” and not that I didn’t do well those two years, but they paled compared to my newest strategy.  I took away all of the PG-17 elements of the comic and only presented my PG commissions.  On Sunday, traditionally “Kids Day” at most cons, I only tabled the Webcomics cookbooks and my Scooby Doo prints.  I had sketches of Johnny Bravo, the Rocketeer and Gir from Invader Zim to attract the kiddies, and it worked like candy.

For Friday and Saturday, I pushed simple $1 or $2 sketches on my new 6×9 postcards of Lorraine and Robin as Speed Racer and Trixie.  Most got the joke, but some were confused (and only one or two offended… get a life).  This pricing strategy (traditionally called a “loss leader” in business) worked great and I was able to attract folks to my table to then get my pitch, which was very simple: “Hey, I draw stuff! What do you want me to draw?”  Lots of business cards were taken and I did close to 100 sketch cards.  On Sunday, you had to buy a cookbook or a print to get a sketchcard, but then it was free.

I’ve come a long way feeling comfortable drawing on paper again.  I do all my work digitally now and it’s taken me a few years to really get back in the groove of drawing live.  The biggest help was I used some Blick blue pencils so lightly sketch out my subject and then inked it in with a fine and/or thick tipped Sharpie.  Where would we artists be without those Sharpie pens?  I’ve gotten my caricature style down thanks to tips from Tom Richmond’s “Mad Art of Caricature” book.  If you don’t have that, and you want to draw caricatures, go get it now.  Seriously, helped me big-time.

I will be going to the 2014 C2E2 show for sure.  I’m dragging along my friends from the Webcomic Alliance next year and we’ll take the show by storm.