Greenpoint Gazette
Jeff Mann
Deana Sobel

Sea Lion Escapes Zoo, Takes Gracie in a Landslide

BY Jeff Mann

In 1979, Brooklyn born and bred David Sobel left his native Sheepshead Bay for the sunny skies of Southern California, never expecting to return. More than 30 years later, here he was, in Greenpoint, visiting daughter Deana, an attorney and Department of Education employee, who moved to the neighborhood in 2010, hoping to carve out her place in North Brooklyn’s community of artists.

Deana, a cartoonist and children’s book author/illustrator has sold work to Barron’s, The Hairpin, the Brooklyn Public Library and Gallery New World Stages. Most recently, she brought her newest show to North Brooklyn, a retrospective of the life, so far, of her webcomic hero, Philip the Sea Lion.

From his escape from the Central Park Zoo, to attend the Village Halloween Parade, to his successful run for New York City Mayor, Philip the Sea Lion is a tale of discovery. “It’s about leaving your home and comfort zone, being small in a very big place and forcing yourself to overcome fears to make your life better and more interesting,” Deana explained.

Along the way, Philip encounters people, places and situations familiar to many new New Yorkers. He ice skates in Rockefeller Center, eats bad street food and rides the subway, “scared because it is late at night and there was only one other guy on the train, who kept looking at him.” He also gets overcharged on the commission for his apartment, jams at Brooklyn Bowl and goes to a rooftop party in Williamsburg.

In many ways, Philip comes across as autobiographical, an assertion Deana quickly rebuffs. “[Philip] is about the people I see,” she said, noting that she most closely relates to Tallulah, Phillip’s girlfriend. “She’s an artist, she lives in North Brooklyn, she has curly hair, she hangs out at Brooklyn Bowl and she loves reading about King Arthur. She thinks Philip’s the greatest and she wants to be by his side.”

On the other hand, “Philip is the essence of a part of New York,” she said. “He is cool, artistic, intelligent, edgy, subtle, open minded and a natural leader. I can explore New York through Philip. He makes my experience richer, both as a creator and as someone reading his story because he is willing to follow his path wherever it takes him.”

Deana’s cartooning career began in high school, but blossomed as an undergrad at UC Berkeley. Following a stint in New York and a trip back to California for Law School she returned to New York, where she did a handful of gallery shows and developed a children’s book series before creating Philip. “Cartoons are simple, but flexible,” Deana said. “I can tell a story that expresses a lot in a very few lines and makes you feel something.”

For more about Deana Sobel, Philip the Sea Lion and her other work, please visit


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