For Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn, the magic of friendship is right there in the title. In fact, it’s hard to imagine one without the other. But before Phoebe was “Phoebe,” and long before she had a unicorn, there was Girl — Simpson’s winning entry for AMU’s 2009 Comic Strip Superstar. Top honors in the innovative contest (sponsored by AMU in partnership with Amazon) earned Simpson a development deal with Andrews McMeel Syndication, with the hopes that the strip would someday launch into national newspaper syndication.
Over the next two years, Simpson worked with Editor Shena Wolf to mold and shape the strip. From this collaboration came Phoebe, the strip’s brainy, tomboyish protagonist. And alongside Phoebe, “a unicorn named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils showed up and made herself the title character,” Simpson explained in an interview with GoComics, AMU’s hub for digital comics.
By April 2012, Phoebe had found her unicorn, as well as an online home and captivated audience. AMU recognized the beloved webcomic’s immediate appeal, curating and publishing its first full-color collection geared toward children in 2014. As soon as it hit the bookshelves, kids couldn’t get enough.
This successful publication helped the strip launch in 110 newspapers — one of the largest rollouts in AMU history — and has grown to more than 200, reaching an ever-growing audience in yet another distribution channel.
The series has since grown to include five more comic collections, an all-ages activity book, a children’s board book and, as of this October, two full-length graphic novels. The latest novel, Phoebe and Her Unicorn in Unicorn Theater, will take the stage alongside the print debut of another one of Simpson’s webcomics, Ozy and Millie.
“Phoebe started out as a sleeper hit in the independent bookstore market, and its sales have increased each year,” says Lynne McAdoo, AMU’s VP of Sales. “We’re super excited to see it on Target’s shelves this fall,” where AMU expects it to find an even broader audience and an increase in sales.
No matter where her stories are shared, Simpson’s message continues to ring loud and clear. “At its heart, Phoebe and Her Unicorn explores the ways that people make each other better,” says Wolf. “The honesty in the characters and the storytelling, no matter what fantastical elements are present, is something that resonates with all ages of readers.”
Do unicorns really exist? Find out for yourself. AMU is proud to discover, nurture and support visionary creators, and be a platform for stories that make the world a little more magical.