Humor of Senior Life Featured in 'Flo & Friends' Comic Strip
Last updated 10/11/2020 at 11:36am | View PDF
"I always joke that I'm not a real artist; I'm a cartoonist," said Jenny Campbell, who
creates the comic strip "Flo & Friends."
Campbell, the daughter of an artist and a syndicated writer, has always loved to
"I've always drawn, from the time I could hold a crayon," she said. "Because my style
was too cartoony, I went the journalism route instead – but for every newspaper I did a
When Campbell was 32, she decided to change careers and give her real passion a
"I quit my job in California, moved to Ohio and called myself a cartoonist," she said.
"Flo & Friends" was created by John Gibel, who approached Campbell in 2002.
"I'd always wanted to do a comic strip," she said, "and he had this idea for years."
Gibel wanted a cartoonist for the strip who was local and who was a woman -
because he wanted that perspective, said Campbell.
With Campbell as the cartoonist, Gibel approached the five major syndicates.
"Creators Syndicate had received 12,000 viable comic strip ideas and had given out
two contracts," said Campbell. "I think because of the aging population, we got one of
those contracts. But as soon as we got the contract, John started panicking, 'How are
we going to do this? I'm not funny.'"
The solution was Rosie, a woman who had written cards for American Greetings.
Campbell wouldn't provide her last name – and then explained why.
"The gags were not funny, but she had total control over the gags," she said. "This
was really frustrating. We had 25 newspaper orders (for the comic strip) out of the gate
and then we started losing papers. We were down to 15 papers because we weren't
In January 2006, Gibel suffered a massive stroke and passed away at the age of 56.
"His family told me, 'We don't know anything about comic strips,' so they sold me the
rights for $10," said Campbell. "A year later, almost to the day of John's death, Rosie
Suddenly, "Flo & Friends" was all Campbell's.
"Slowly but surely, I built it back up," she said, noting newspapers in Tampa Bay and
Pittsburgh recently added the strip.
Campbell talked about an angry letter from a reader (other than the one who was
upset with her for replacing "Prince Valiant" in the Columbus Dispatch).
"She said, 'I don't know what's so funny about getting old. There's nothing funny
about it,'" Campbell recalled. "She was 35 years old! Honey, I don't want to be at your
Most seniors, however, are much more receptive to "Flo & Friends," according to
"They absolutely love it," she said and recalled a talk she gave at a college. "It was
jam-packed like senior career day. They moved it to a larger auditorium. Way on the
other side of the parking lot, I heard somebody yell, 'Hey!' A little lady shook her walker
and said, 'Somebody's finally writing about us!"
Seniors have a better perspective on life, according to Campbell. "They have a lot
more insight, which gives them really great senses of humor.
"I don't do a lot of punchlines," she said, explaining the humor of "Flo & Friends." "I
really try to make it situational. The strip has distinct personalities. If there's a line I want
to deliver, I'm really picky about who's going to say it. Occasionally, I throw in a
punchline but it definitely plays off a character's personality."
Campbell also illustrates children's books and has developed what she calls "a
booming mask business" on her website, http://www.campbellcartooning.com.
"The most fun I have is the strip," she said. "I have confidence in it and I enjoy doing
it. The older I get, it's getting more and more autobiographical and easier to write."
Campbell, who celebrated her 65th birthday this summer, has no plans to retire.
"Cartoonists never retire," she explained. "We drop off with pens in our hands."