A comic strip rewrites the rules and moves from web to print, along the way propelling three cats, and their people, to the cusp of success.

By Pippa Jack

It’s not like Georgia Dunn ‘04 is only about cats. She has lots of other loves. For one, her husband, Ryan Faillace. For two and three, her toddler Luke and newborn Gwen. Her small attic apartment in rural western Rhode Island also reveals a fondness for antique mirrors and family photos Photoshopped to include robots (Dunn’s a sci-fi fan who grew up on reruns of Red Dwarf, and still watches it when she craves comfort TV).

But then, yes, there are the cats. Lupin is a confident, friendly white kitty who lost his hearing after he was abandoned in an empty apartment and got sick. He’s a rescue, like Puck, a shy but charming mischief-maker who is almost completely black and is missing a rear leg. And then there’s the Siamese, Elvis. Dunn’s first cat, he is described by Faillace thus: “We have three cats with special needs. For Elvis, it’s his crippling personality.”

Georgia Dunn ’04, a fine arts graduate, gave up a banking career to follow her passion for illustration. Here, her children Gwen and Luke and cats Elvis and Lupin cluster around her at the desk where she draws each strip by hand. She fits in her work during kiddie nap time and after her husband gets home at night.
Georgia Dunn ’04, a fine arts graduate, gave up a banking career to follow her passion for illustration. Here, her children Gwen and Luke and cats Elvis and Lupin cluster around her at the desk where she draws each strip by hand. She fits in her work during kiddie nap time and after her husband gets home at night.

Dunn puts it more gently: “Elvis is a great cat, if you’re me.”

Elvis simply doesn’t care for anyone else. Or at least, he didn’t—until Gwen came along. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Both Rhode Islanders, Dunn and Faillace were friends for years, decades actually, before they ever thought of each other romantically. But then things happened fast: five days after their first date, he asked her to move to the West Coast. Dunn was working as a banker during the day, illustrating for her Etsy shop at night—art for nursery walls, and her ever-popular penguin in aviator goggles, drawn in whatever predicament her customers requested—and found there was not so much keeping her here.

Faillace’s Institute of Art degree in Seattle had turned into a good videographer job, and he was happy to support them both. He’d always told her she should concentrate on her art, and he put his salary where his mouth was.

It was the first time Dunn had left Rhode Island, and she loved Seattle, everything about it. They were married a year later, just the two of them at an off-season amusement park on the beach, an obscure comic actor they both loved as their officiant. A year after that, with their first child due soon, they bought a house.

Two weeks after the closing, Faillace’s company folded.

In the middle of the ensuing chaos, as they frantically tried to stay current on the mortgage with whatever freelance income they could cobble together and parsed the ills of selling versus endangering their credit, Breaking Cat News was born.

The title of the first strip, dated March 12, 2014: “Everything is Broken and We Don’t Know Who Did It.”

To read it is to love it. It sets up the TV-newsroom riff that Breaking Cat News has explored since, with the cats often the unspoken and unrepentant perpetrators of whatever outrage they’re reporting on. It ends with anchor Lupin teasing the next segment: “What are all those birds doing and why is there glass in the way?”

Dunn2That’s fun. But to know what was going on when Dunn wrote “Everything Is Broken”—that’s something else, an insight into a person of rare gifts, someone who can pick up the broken shards of her security and dreams, and turn them into comic gold.

So is Dunn’s life memorialized—sometimes directly, more often indirectly—in Breaking Cat News. And people have been taking notice.

From the start, Dunn wanted the strip to appeal to all ages—no risqué jokes as in her earlier web comics. She didn’t expect much. It was a way to blow off steam as the couple sold their dream home, packed up their 1-year-old and moved back to Rhode Island in pursuit of elusive financial stability. “I didn’t examine it too much, and I still don’t,” she says. “It just flows. The more I write, the more material comes to me—their personalities are so distinct.”

There’s the way Elvis wakes them up on weekend mornings, at the same time their weekday alarm goes off, however hard they try to sleep in; and the way he’s offended by blankets that try to supplant him as Gwen’s crib warmer. Lupin, meanwhile, likes to eat non-food items. But no more spoilers—you should read the strip, it’s worth your time.

And soon, you won’t have to go online to do so. Its first home, on, was set up by Dunn, and each new strip—she posts two a week—currently attracts about 12,000 views from all over the world within a few hours. “Cats and the internet,” Dunn says wryly. “Go figure!”

But even before her site took off, Dunn got an email from an editor at GoComics, the largest online home of comic strips and the owner of the online rights to Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Dilbert, and 250 more properties. The site cracked a billion page views last year, and it wanted her. More importantly, it could offer ad revenue for traffic—nothing too crazy, but enough to make the strip “like a very exciting part-time job,” Dunn says.

And that, it turns out, was only the beginning. Next, in 2016, will come a book, something loyal online readers have been requesting almost since the strip’s inception. And at some point, if things go well, Dunn will also enter into that most old-fashioned of comic strip markets: newspapers. She has a development deal with Universal Uclick, GoComics’ parent company.

“We do development deals for print very rarely,” says Shena Wolf, Universal Uclick’s acquisitions editor. “It’s more difficult than it used to be, plus it’s a really intense process and career. But it’s still a viable market, and potentially lucrative. We have high hopes for Breaking Cat News. The quality of her work is wonderful.”

And, she adds, Dunn is unusually versatile: “It’s great to find a creator who works well with different facets of the company. It’s an interesting time for comics right now.”

And an interesting time for Dunn and her young family. Her one wish: a home office that’s not also a living room, toddler snack room, cat exercise room and baby changing room. But then again, where would Breaking Cat News be without the mayhem of her vibrant household?

Witness Wolf’s favorite comic: an eight-part series that came out last Christmas and chronicles Elvis’s adventure on a rare trip outside the house—a time of panic and fear for his people—and his encounter with another lost housecat. “I get oddly choked up whenever I read it,” Wolf says. “Elvis is trying to be better. Anybody with cats has cat stories, but this is universally relatable.” •