Sheila and the Unicorn

This is a fun little book, suitable for all ages (though much of it will either bore or “go over the heads” of pre-adolescents) which I drew and published in 1988. It is in comic-strip format and tells a witty little fable about life, choices and relationships, and it is a self-contained story with a beginning, middle and end. I have a box or so left, and I am still selling them at the 1988 price of $5. Some people tell me it is their favorite of my books. (But that can be said of almost all my books, which tells me that my variety of readers is just as wide as the variety of all my work.)

Over the years, some people asked me why I do not try to draw a daily comic strip, like you see in the newspapers (and pushier people insisted it was the only way I could survive as a comics artist). Decades ago, I thought I might half-heartedly give it a whirl, so this is drawn in the sort of “cookie cutter” style that was popular in the 1980s, with figures that did not change all that much. Unicorns were trendy back then, as well, and I was always good at drawing horses, so I thought I would give one of the poor creatures the cynical treatment (I think irony was on its way to becoming trendy back then, as well) and what better way than in a comic strip? It was a challenge to write in a pattern of three-panels-with-a-punchline. However, being the novelist that I am, the little gags turned into a self-contained story and I realized I did not want to try to write unicorn-and-crabby-lady gags for the rest of my life, so I never tried to see if anyone would syndicate it for the papers (I doubt anyone would have) and just put it together into a book. I had just published the first Winging It book so publishing a book did not seem like that big a deal anymore. I don’t really regret the decision not to try for a newspaper strip. Much of the time when I see daily newspaper strips, it seems as though the creator is really “reaching” to create a daily gag or just dragging a tired joke out for a week or so to meet deadline and I do feel for them. And if any “controversial” subject matter comes up, readers threaten to cancel their subscription. If you’ve seen my work on this website you’ll know I wouldn’t last very long in the papers.

The story is about a woman named Sheila. I named her that because I had earlier encountered a number of unfortunate women through the years who were all named Sheila-- it DOES kind of make you wonder. She lives with her cat named Cupcake and does not seem very happy with her life. I think she may be Bitchy’s predecessor--that pose on the armchair in front of the TV is one of Bitchy’s classic settings. Also, I had a habit back then of drawing characters that looked a bit like me even though they weren’t--another example is Winging It’s Lupe character. When I first started drawing comics, friends and acquaintances would ask me who a character was “supposed” to be, as though I was not able to make up someone on my own. It began to annoy me, (and I also felt bad for the people who were being mistaken for my characters) so I just started drawing versions of myself. I guess if you are an artist it makes sense. In retrospect, the people asking the annoying questions were obviously not creative people themselves or they wouldn’t have had to ask me that. But then I would not have an amusing little story about why such a wide variety of my characters look like me. People even tell me they think Bitchy looks like me--but art is that way, a mirror to project oneself upon. So, who knows.

Back to the story: then a unicorn shows up mysteriously one day and moves into Sheila’s apartment. It is as much a learning experience for Sheila as it is for the unicorn (who is named Joe, by the way). If you at all familiar with my work, you know already that it is not going to be a syrupy, cutesy story. As well as Sheila and Joe, you will meet Nina the glamorous centaur, Lulu the two-timing Shetland pony and Cupcake the cat. You may also learn a thing or two about dysfunctional relationships.           


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