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Pibgorn is a webcomic by Brooke McEldowney that began on March 11, 2002, ended its run on Comics.com on April 18, 2007 and has resumed with GoComics.com on May 14, 2007. The title character is a fairy whose adventures span the fantasy and real worlds. McEldowney also creates the syndicated comic strip 9 Chickweed Lane.
The strip concept first appeared to the public in newspapers and online in a 3-week run as the Newspaper Enterprise Association's Christmas offering for 2001, under the title A Fairy Merry Christmas. It thereafter became a full webcomic rather than a printed one.
Until April 18, 2007, Pibgorn was published on internet by United Feature Syndicate (an unusual move by the syndicate) on their Comics.com website. It has also been published in a graphic novel, Pibgorn: The Girl in the Coffee Cup, which was released in October 2006. Possibly because of graphic novel considerations, Pibgorn is characterized by involved story arcs which may seem better suited to a graphic novel than a daily comic, and it is also notable for its creative use of color and large format, together with strong themes of violence (explicit) and sexuality (generally implicit), attributes not usually associated with daily print comics. The artist has made the point that he wants to create a story without worrying about the editors of family newspapers, and he is making the most of that freedom.
Pibgorn originally ran daily Monday through Saturday, but on February 8, 2006, it was announced that beginning on February 13, the strip would run only on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. McEldowney stated the burden of writing two daily strips concurrently as the reason for the cutback. As of July 14, 2008, the strip began running 5 days a week, Monday through Friday; McEldowney indicated in his blog that despite time constraints, he wanted the story to move along at a brisker pace.
- Pibgorn: The title character, a fairy who is not satisfied flitting around when she could be getting in trouble instead. She's sweet, effervescent, charming and flighty, with a succubus for a best friend and a human for a sweetheart. She has a talent for trouble, a knack for friendship, and a magical kiss -- the baiser de la fée -- which can effect miraculous healing or change the size of herself and others.
She is drawn as a lithe young woman with simultaneously red and blonde hair, and insect-like wings growing from her back. She is neither clothed nor nude; her body is covered with varying shades of green, which McEldowney describes as being "dappled". She can however wrap her wings around her body, transforming into clothes.
- Drusilla: A rather manipulative succubus who is used to getting what she wants, she seems to have resigned herself to the fact that Geoff genuinely loves Pib rather than her. Granted, this is after murdering Pib when she first decided she was a rival, but since it didn't stick, well, if you can't beat them, join them. She has made it exquisitely clear, though, that if Pib hurts Geoff, Dru will make her very sorry. They now seem somewhere between a wary alliance and a developing friendship.
Like Pibgorn, her body is "dappled", covered with shades of magenta and violet, but arranged to bare more, accentuating her bosom and navel. She has black hair, which she often wears in long tresses to cover her ears, which possess a stag-horn shape and are indicative of her status as a demon.
- Geoff (surname unknown): Pib's slightly geeky sweetheart, he's a former church organist and now Pib's and Drusilla's accompanist, having been ostracized from the community when Drusilla accidentally revealed her true identity to the local pastor. He is loyal and affectionate, and protective of those he cares about. Not a stereotypical swashbuckling hero type, Geoff nevertheless has consistently shown bravery in order to help save Pibgorn and others around him from danger. He is also getting better acquainted with the supernatural world and has on occasion been able to guesstimate a solution. He apparently holds a great interest in musical history, as he’s shown a surprising amount of biographical knowledge about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
- Oognat: The hair fairy -- not as bold or adventurous as Pibgorn, Oognat nonetheless ends up in many of the same difficulties as her companion fairy.
- Thorax: Possibly a visitor from another galaxy, a guest character from 9 Chickweed Lane.
- Maurice: A field mouse, he's been a friend of Pib's from the very beginning, and he tries valiantly to keep up and help where he can. When last seen, he’d apparently become the companion of a Humphrey Bogart-influenced ex-demon.
- Prince Crewth: The fairy monarch who was exasperated enough by Pib's flouting of the rules (the last of which he invented after Pib had already done it) to order her assassination. Indolent and proud of it, he is mind-numbingly bureaucratic and blind to the repercussions of his actions. He is drawn as a miniature satyr with a resemblance to former U.S. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.
- Gaggot: Prince Crewth's oily lawyer/doctor, who seems to fancy himself as something of a power behind the throne, easily able to lead the prince around by the nose. Despite this, he often finds himself serving as Crewth’s right-hand man in the various tasks set upon them by Drusilla and others, which inevitably results in physical harm to both of them. Because of this, his patience with his monarch would appear to be wearing thin. He is drawn as a standard fictional wizard or vizier, wearing robes and a long-grey beard. He is the most human-looking fairy to appear in the strip, without insect wings or goat-legs, and could pass for a miniature human.
- Luciano: a horsefly who is Prince Crewth's consultant and sometime court assassin, whose only weakness appears to be Pib. He proves to be completely unable to bring himself to hurt her, and instead falls head over heels.
Pibgorn slowly evolved over the years after 9 Chickweed Lane was begun by McEldowney, who would render Edda as a prototype Pibgorn on rare occasions. He finally started adapting the idea into a proposed spin-off entitled The Titans, which was rejected by syndicate editors, in 2000. These proposed strips and accompanying sketches were presented on the Pibgorn website in 2005 during one of McEldowney's hiatuses from the strip.
Titans would have been a gag-a-day format strip, in which Pibgorn (named Oola Inch here), disenchanted with her expected role as a fairy, usually would break away from her regular routine to wax philosophical. Unfortunately, Oola was also one of life's losers, her dialogues often resulting in misfortune, such as having a magic 8-ball roll over her, or nearly be eaten by whatever animal she's conversing with (a spider, a duckling, etc). The strips also showed a darker side to her character, as in addition to managing dewdrops, her responsibilities include serving as the "voices-in-my-head" of disgruntled government employees, driving one to attempted homicide on at least one occasion.
The final set of proposal strips showed Oola running afoul of Prince Crewth and Gaggot, here named Prince Grabstein and Rhune, when she petitions to leave "dewdrop brigade" and become a stand-up comedian. Unable to tell if she's laughing with him or at him, Grabstein outlaws laughter altogether and sets Luciano after Oola, only for the fly to fall in love with her. These situations were later recycled as part of the early Pibgorn story arcs.
Pibgorn has completed 7 distinct adventures and is currently in the middle of an eighth. The story arcs are as follows, named as McEldowney conceived them:
- The Girl in the Coffee Cup
- The Poltergeist in the Piano
- The Borgia Cantus
- Drusilla's Daughter
- The Internal Fairy Harvesting Service
- Mozart and the Demon Lover
- A Pibsummer Night's Dream
- Lena the Horrible
Full descriptions of these story arcs can be found at this Pibgorn Tribute Page.
Discontinuation from Comics.com
On April 17, 2007, United Feature Syndicate announced through Comics.com that Pibgorn would be discontinued on the following day. Brooke McEldowney has indicated that United Feature Syndicate accommodated his request to be released from his contract in order to secure a new online home for Pibgorn.
From a letter from Brooke McEldowney to his readers:
With United Media’s announcement that “Pibgorn” is to be discontinued, I have been inundated with e-mail, much of it agitated and distressed. I’m very sorry you had to get the news in this rather dispassionate way. That I may answer your central question forthwith, I’ve composed this response for everyone – so please forgive me if I seem impersonal. “PIBGORN” WILL CONTINUE. (for current information and dispatches go to officialpibgorn.livejournal.com) There. That is the main thing I wanted to say. Comics.com, however, will, as they have announced, no longer be the source. Nothing dramatic happened, really. I simply came to feel that the editorial needs of comics.com and those of “Pibgorn” were becoming more and more divergent and incompatible. For this reason I asked to be released from my contract with United Media in order to secure a new online home for “Pibgorn.” United Media most graciously, and reluctantly, agreed. In short order I hope to get Pib back up and flying. Meanwhile, you have seen the most current installments of '"Pibgorn". Hold that thought. We’ll be back. All best wishes, and thanks so very much for writing.
Although McEldowney doesn't explicitly say it, the examples he gives in his blog (below) suggest that he wanted to be able to use more suggestive language and racier images than United Media would permit, and considered their standards too restrictive. After the move to GoComics.com, the content became more risque, including nudity and implied sexual content. For example, in the August 22nd, 2008 strip, Geoff is seen walking down the street, nude, with his bare buttocks on display, something that Brooke's contract with comics.com would not allow. Similarly, several other August strips have hinted at rape  and sex. .
Return of Pibgorn
Pibgorn returned to the Web on May 14, 2007, at gocomics.com, owned by Universal Press Syndicate. Continuing in its three-per-week format, the interrupted story arc was presented from the start so as not to confuse new readers.