Girl was Dana Simpson's entry into Amazon.com's Comic Strip Superstar contest in 2009. It was selected as the Grand Prize winner, which included a publishing contract with Andrews McMeel Publishing, a development contract with Universal Uclick and syndication on Gocomics.com.
The main character is a nine-year-old girl that was only called "Girl" by the animals in the forest she made friends with, but as the comic continued development towards online publication, was given a name (Emma Jane Metheny), hometown and other interests. In November 2010, Simpson reported that the delay in publishing the comic strip was due to syndicates only launching two or three comics per year. The syndicate she was contracted with had already launched two "talking animal" strips in a row and did not want to to do a third, so they opted to launch one of the runners-up before hers (and before several other comic strips that were already in development).
In addition, several changes were requested by the syndicate. Among the changes requested by them and changes made by Simpson include:
- Changing the character's name from Emma's full name to just Zoey.
- Adding a friend named Max
- A new title. "Girl" was too generic, so it became "Zoey + Max".
- One of Zoey's upper teeth went missing, and then the glasses were removed.
- Another new title: "Zoey's detective agency".
The comic strip premiered as Heavenly Nostrils on the GoComics.com website. The official launch date was April 23, 2012, but a full color, Sunday edition of the first strip was published the day before on April 22nd.
Starting in 2013, some of the comic strips were repeated, and some were updated in color and/or a larger size. On a few of these occasions, Simpson indicated she was working on something important or "Nostril related", which was revealed in 2015 to be publication in over 100 newspapers across the United States. On approximately January 11th, 2015, all of the comic strips on GoComics.com were renamed to Phoebe and Her Unicorn in preparation for the printed launch on March 30rd, 2015.
The sample pages for Girl can be read on Amazon's "Comic Strip Superstar" page. (Copy saved by the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine).