UPDATE: I was had! This piece by writer AS Hamrah and illustrator R. Sikoryak was a brilliant hoax that first appeared in 1999 in the excellent Hermenaut magazine. Forgive me while I continue to believe that it's all true.
Unlikely pen pals: Nobel Prize-winning novelist/playwright/poet Samuel Beckett and artist Ernie Bushmiller, creator of one of my favorite comics of all time, Nancy. In 1952, Beckett struck up a correspondence with the cartoonist that was recently uncovered while Bushmiller's estate was prepped for auction. The American Reader published some excerpts and analysis. The conversation starts with Bushmiller's panel, seen above, riffing on some gag ideas for Nancy that Beckett sent him in a letter that is unfortunately lost:
Your gag and strip ideas for Nancy are much appreciated, and I have to say interesting, too. Many readers send me ideas for the strip, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any quite like yours. I made some sketches and drew up a few panels because I was intrigued by them, but I’ve got to tell you, I don’t know how well they’re going to work.The Beckett/Bushmiller Letters (Thanks, Mark Dery!)
I think the problem you’re having, Sam, is the same problem any literary man might have. You’re not setting up the gags visually and you’re rushing to the snapper. It seems to me you’ve got the zingers right there at the beginning, in panel no. 1, and although I have to admit you got Nancy and Sluggo in some crackerjack predicaments, I don’t know how they got there.