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Pluck of the Draw

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Cartoonist Hilary Price jokes that she once had so many rejection slips from The New Yorker, “I thought about sending them back so they could reuse them.” Price found other venues for her work, however, and at 26 she is now the youngest woman cartoonist in daily newspaper syndication in America. Rhymes with Orange, her puckishly irreverent daily comic strip, was launched 15 months ago and, with its constantly changing cast of characters, deals with everything from body piercing to dating rituals in the ’90s. It now appears in over 100 newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

First person: “In my strip I want to push the envelope and talk about social issues and use the word ‘sucks’…. I sometimes run into problems because I’m doing a strip for young adults, and there are some comics editors who feel like every strip on the page should be safe for kids.” (Editors at the Peoria journal Star dropped the comic because readers complained it was inappropriate for children.)

Early mark of destiny: “When she was very young, Hilary started doodling on all the new telephone books,” says her mother, Thalia “Buzzy” Price. “She also doodled on her hands.”

Critique: “With a lot of people’s work you can say, ‘It’s sort of like [Gary Larson’s] Far Side but with rhinoceroses instead of cows.’ With her work, you can’t compare it to anyone else,” says Jay Kennedy, King Features editor.

Dissenting opinion: “I had one person e-mail me and tell me I draw like a kindergartner,” Price admits.

Vitals: Born in Weston, Mass.; graduated from Stanford University with a degree in English lit.; spent two summers in Massachusetts as an intern at the Falmouth Enterprise (where the founder’s penchant for local stories was expressed in the motto: If you can’t put it on the refrigerator, it isn’t news). Unmarried, she shares an apartment in San Francisco’s Mission District with four friends.

Off duty: Does volunteer work as an HIV counselor at a free women’s health clinic; also plays in coed and women’s soccer leagues on weekends.

Where’d that title come from? “No single word rhymes with orange, and I wanted to show the singularity of the strip,” Price says.

Last panel: When several readers disputed her claim, Price changed the strip’s title for one day this year (on April 1) to Rhymes with Door Hinge.