The first book collecting the new Nancy comic is incredibly, fantastically, impossibly great

One of the great moments of my adulthood was my discovery -- courtesy of Mark's posts here on Boing Boing -- of the incredible work that Ernie Bushmiller did on Nancy from 1933 until his death in 1982. He was succeeded by a series of station-keeping cartoonists, some of whom were very adept at aping his unique comic timing, sense of the absurd, and confident draftmanship, but none of whom every made me have that aha moment -- until 2018, when the mysterious, pseudonymous Olivia Jaimes took over, kicking off a run of astoundingly great new Nancys that have been collected into one of the greatest new comic-strip collections I've read in a decade.

Nancy comic tackles subject of bots

I haven't read newspaper comics in years, and I was surprised that Nancy is still around. Yesterday's strip was about computational propaganda. I like the image of Sluggo as a bot and would like it in a T-shirt. The 123 comments on this particular strip are lively. Here are a couple of examples:

I don’t see this as being anything close to what Bushmiller – or Gilchrist – would have written, or anything close to funny. I think the new artist/writer is terrible at both. And Nancy and Sluggo continue to have the yellowish green skin that makes them appear to have a severe case of jaundice. The syndicate made a bad choice for the new artist/writer and will have to rectify that soon or this comic strip will go down the tubes. -- Oldiesfan

@Oldiesfan: Read the “Nancy Classics” archives and do some intensive Google/Google Image searches for some of the old Bushmiller strips; then make your decision. I remember the Bushmiller era very well and even have some of his “Nancy” comic strips in the digest book form that was available back in the 1960’s and 1970’s (I think from Fawcett-Crest or Dell or one of those outfits), much like the “Peanuts” strips were. I can attest by comparison that today’s strip jives pretty well with what Bushmiller often did, with the employment of visual gags like the one in the last panel. Quite often Nancy would get into a disagreement or fight with Sluggo and imagine him in some unflattering form or other as a consequence.

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Jerry Lewis’s last (Fore)Words

The next afternoon the phone rang.

“Hello?” came the unmistakable voice. “This is Jerry Lewis and I would be honored to write a foreword for your book.”

Only hours before; with zero expectations, we had dropped our (then-slender) draft into a Fed-Ex envelope with a brief query. Might Mr. Lewis kindly consider writing a Foreword for How To Read Nancy?

And now, here was the King of Comedy, enthusiastically consenting.

The snappy talking-point for How To Read Nancy (due this fall from Fantagraphics Books) is that “everything that you need to know about reading, making, and understanding comics can be found in a single Nancy strip by Ernie Bushmiller from August 8, 1959.”

Our backgrounds are as cartoonists and educators, and our short 1988 essay on this topic took on an extended second-life in comics curriculums around the globe. When it was time for a book-length expansion, we naturally sought an introduction by a serious scholar to lend credence to our book’s seriously improbable conceit. Luckily art historian and critic, James Elkins, the author of such books as How to Use Your Eyes and The Object Stares Back was intrigued. Professor Elkins has devoted a lot of serious thinking to the benefits of deep-reading visual texts and helped frame How To Read Nancy in a thoughtful, scholarly and substantive Introduction, replete with footnotes, photographs, and maps.

While our book is, in part, a serious reflection on some serious things, it is also a serious reflection on some funny things, particularly Nancy. Read the rest

UPDATE: Ivan Brunetti's Nancy comic strips

You asked for them, here they are: a sample of Ivan Brunetti's Nancy comic strips. I think they are great! (See Ivan's feature, My failed attempt to draw the Nancy comic strip.)

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My failed attempt to draw the Nancy comic strip

Nancy is a harsh taskmaster; resuscitating it was a grueling task, but the challenge was invigorating and edifying. By drawing Nancy, I realized that every character (even the environment) in a strip is the cartoonist and is invested and imbued with the cartoonist’s life force.

Over 1000 hilarious Nancy comic strips from 1946-1948

A few years ago my then 8-year-old daughter, Jane, started reading collections of old Nancy comic strips. I’d never paid attention to the strip and assumed it wouldn’t appeal to anyone over ten. But then I found Jane and her dad laughing out loud while reading Nancy in bed. “What’s so funny?” I asked. “Nancy logic!” they answered.

They pointed out Nancy logic to me: Nancy tries on a pair of thick-lensed glasses and shouts “Oh boy!” when she receives an ice-cream cone that’s almost as big as she is. Nancy’s aim is off to the right while shooting arrows so she paints an oblong target with the bull’s eye placed on the far right side. Nancy thinks leaving her coat on a chair brings her good luck, so when her aunt points at the chair and tells her to hang up the coat, Nancy hooks the chair on the coatrack.

Created by Ernie Bushmiller in the 1930s (and still running today by Guy Gilchrist), Nancy is about the mischief, charm, and naiveté of a young girl named Nancy, whose best friend, Sluggo, is a kind-hearted urchin from the wrong side of the tracks. Drawn in a simple, bold, and eye-catching style, Nancy is clever, hilarious, and a bit surreal. This volume offers over one-thousand strips that ran between 1946-1948, and although its title, Nancy Likes Christmas, suggests a holiday theme, only a handful of the strips revolves around Christmas. The setting is post World War II, but the gags, about the wishful and sometimes absurd logic that kids so often use, are timeless. Read the rest

Waiting for Sluggo: Beckett and Bushmiller's correspondence

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: Read the rest

Comics Rack: Boing Boing's comics picks for July & August 2013

JULY -- Listen, I know it’s hard to resist the lure of Powell’s on a trip to Portland (believe me, I was there twice in a three-day period), but if don't visit Floating World Comics when you’re in the Rose City, it’s time to sit down and take a serious look at your life. I went to both places, of course. We hit Seattle and San Francisco on the trip as well, so my suitcase was around 10 to 20 pounds heavier than it was on the way in. It’s a sickness, really. I mean, I’m writing a comics column to partially pay for a comics habit. Maybe it’s time for me to have a serious look in the mirror, as well -- but if you really thought I was going to leave that store without picking up the new issue of Henry & Glenn Forever, you’re just kidding yourself, really. We all fill the hole of missing Comic Con in our own way.

Calling Dr. Laura By Nicole Georges Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Okay, I’m about six months behind on this one -- and I also learned an important lesson about reading comics on a Kindle (don’t), but man, I liked the hell out of Nicole Georges’s book. Her artwork has improved by leaps and bounds from the scribbled early days of her wonderful Invincible Summer zine, which I also revisited on a recent trip to Portland, to bone up before an interview with her for an upcoming episode of my RiYL podcast. Read the rest

Comics About Cartoonists: The World's Oddest Profession

My friend Craig Yoe has put together a new book with a bunch of vintage comic book stories about comic book artists!

What's cooler than comics about cartoonist? NOTHING! This is mind-blowing, full-color hardback book collects rare comics about real and fictional cartoonists - created by the greatest cartoonists in the world! Read comics about cartoonists by the top illustrators and creators in the field: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Jack Cole, Dick Briefer, Winsor McCay, Chester Gould, Sheldon Mayer, Milton Caniff, Ernie Bushmiller, Basil Wolverton, Siegel and Shuster, Will Eisner, Elzie Segar, and Harvey Kurtzman! Plus, more by Charles Schulz, George Herriman, and a 1940s comic about Walt Disney! It's a veritable "Who's Who" of great cartoonists, drawing superhero, horror, funny animal, funny people, war and romance comics... about cartoonists!

Comics About Cartoonists: The World's Oddest Profession Read the rest

The Return of the Best Damn Comics of the Year -- Boing Boing Edition

I realized that I promised you some stocking stockers for December, but then it occurred to me: why not just approach the whole thing Tom Sawyer-style, and get a few tastemakers from around the industry to help paint this year end fence by picking their top five books for 2012. We've got a couple of dozen folks, including cartoonists, writers, critics, educators, publishers, librarians and podcasters singling out some of the best pieces of sequential art the past 12 months had to offer.

No surprise that Building Stories, the latest masterwork from Chris Ware rated at the top of the top of the list. Tied for second place are Brandon Graham's Prophet and two Fantagraphics titles, Barack Hussein Obama and Heads or Tails, by Steven Weissman and Lilli Carre, respectively. Directly below, you'll find a list of those titles that scored multiple picks and further down, reviews from the panel members themselves, featuring more than enough comics to help you survive the holidays in mostly one piece.

Eight votes:

Building Stories, by Chris Ware

Four votes:

Prophet, by Brandon Graham, et al.

Barack Hussein Obama, by Steven Weissman

Heads or Tails, by Lilli Carre

Three votes:

Are You My Mother?, by Alison Bechdel

The Nao of Brown, by Glyn Dillon

Zegas #2, by Michel Fiffe

My Friend Dahmer, by Derf

By This Shall You Know Him, by Jesse Jacobs

The Hypo, by Noah Van Sciver

Two votes:

No Straight Lines, edited by Justin Hall

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: a Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney

Suspect Device #2, edited by Josh Bayer

Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Cleveland by Harvey Pekar, Joseph Remnant

The Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell

Goliath by Tom Gauld Read the rest

Little Lulu anthologies (and other comics by John Stanley)

Tubby comic from Tubby Volume One, published by Dark Horse Comics. Read a full-length Tubby story here (PDF).

Sometime in the early 1980s I read an interview with Robert Crumb where he said that John Stanley's comic books, especially Little Lulu, were some of the finest and most influential comics he read as a child. I can't find that interview, but here is an excerpt from the Summer 2010 issue of The Paris Review's interview with Crumb where he mentions Little Lulu:


Were you watching cartoons before you encountered comics?


It was at the same time. I was reading Little Lulu, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Mighty Mouse, Felix the Cat. Often they were very bad. I never knew who the artist was, they didn't give the names of the artists at all in those comics. I gradually started to get more discriminating about comic books and got interested in Donald Duck creator Carl Barks. Donald Duck and Little Lulu turned out to be the outstanding story comics of that period.


What was it about Little Lulu that stood apart to you?


The stories. The drawing in Little Lulu was very simple, hieroglyphic, but the stories were very sophisticated--it was a literary comic. Carl Barks was a cartoonist who was both very powerful visually and as a storyteller. The stories were great in those Donald Duck comics. I still enjoy reading them.

I tried to buy some Little Lulu comics in the 1980s, but they were too expensive. Read the rest

A bunch of old school strip cartoonists draw on the bathing suits of comely young models

Nancy creator Ernie Bushmiller sure looks happy!

Heidi MacDonald says:

I have a post you may enjoy, from the ever wonderful Life Mag/Google Archives. It's from 1950 and it shows the artists of Nancy, Smokey Stover and so on drawing on scantily clad young models. It's kinda creepy but sort of endearing in that old time girdle fetish way, too.

It reminds me of an event Craig Yoe would produce.

A bunch of old school strip cartoonists draw on the bathing suits of comely young models Read the rest

Nancy, Volume One (John Stanley Library)

As I've said before, we are big Little Lulu fans around my house. I read the comic anthologies to my kids all the time. Even though the stories are 50 years old, they're fun and fresh and the characters -- Lulu, Tubby, and Alvin -- behave like real kids.

(Dark Horse has published the complete run of John Stanley's Little Lulu series as reasonably priced paperback anthologies. Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3, Vol 4, Vol 5, Vol 6, Vol 7, Vol 8, Vol 9, Vol 10, Vol 11, Vol 12, Vol 13, Vol 14, Vol 15, Vol 16, Vol 17, Vol 18)

The main writer of Little Lulu was John Stanley. He also wrote a number of other comics, but I've seen just a few, because they're hard to come by. Drawn & Quarterly has corrected that problem by launching the John Stanley Library. The second book in the series is Nancy, Volume One.

Created by Ernie Bushmiller, the beloved Brillo-headed Nancy starred in her own comic book series for years, written by arguably the greatest children’s comics writer of all time, John Stanley. Most famous for scripting the adventures of Marjorie Henderson Buell’s Little Lulu, John Stanley is one of comics’ secret geniuses. He provided a visual rough draft for all the comics he wrote and then handed off these “scripts” for someone else to render the finished art.

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Ivan Brunetti almost became Nancy's artist


Ernie Bushmiller, creator of the beloved Nancy comic strip, was a tough act to follow. The artists who took over the strip after Bushmiller died in 1982 couldn't come close to capturing the sweetly painful simplicity and self-contained absurdism that Bushmiller faithfully injected into every Nancy strip. Nancy had become unreadable.

Little did I know that in 1994, a cartoonist named Ivan Brunetti was trying out for the job of writing and drawing Nancy. This 13-page story from a 1999 issue of Roctober magazine has an article by Brunetti, called "I Almost Drew Nancy."

Brunetti did not get the job, which is a crying shame, because the many samples that ran with the article reveal Brunetti to be supremely fitted for the job. The art and stories are fantastic -- I like them even better than Bushmiller's work!


Previously on madprofessor.net: • Misery Love Comedy, by Ivan Brunetti

Previously on Boing Boing: • How To Read NancyThe greatest Nancy panel ever drawnSexiest Nancy panel ever?Nancy was one of my favorite comic stripsAnimated version of the "Greatest Nancy Panel Ever Drawn"Excellent Nancy panelsNancy and Sluggo comic book scan Read the rest

Arf Forum: Unholy Marriage of Art & Comics

At left, Horror comix artist William Ekgren's psychedelicreepy cover for the April, 1953 issue of Weird Horrors. Ekgren's career is profiled in the third volume of Craig Yoe's terrific Arf Forum comic/art anthology published by our pals at Fantagraphics. This insanely eclectic collection also features George "Krazy Kat" Herriman, Stan Lee, Nancy's Ernie Bushmiller, surrealist Max Ernst, and many other great artists. For samples of the spookier art in the book, see this Monster Brains post. Keep in mind though that the book is utterly genre-defying.)

From the book description:

The third volume of the popular "Arf" series, Arf Forum runs the gamut from Krazy Kat¹s kartoonist George Herriman to heartbreak rocker Elvis, Spider-Man's Stan Lee to New Yorker cartoonist Otto Soglow, Little Nemo's Winsor McCay to silent film star Charlie Chaplin, Nancy's Ernie Bushmiller to Surrealist Max Ernst. The sexy pin-up cover on Arf Forum highlights a feature on historical images of people reading comics: from a young Elvis reading Betty and Veronica on his first tour to a boxer-clad Rock Hudson reading the Sunday funnies. Also ratcheting up the titillation factor is a spread on the sexy cartoons of Italian artist, Kremos. The Arf books have a special fondness for cartoonists doing wacky and surrealistic comics. This Arf features a generous sample of Bill Holman's Smokey Stover, including unpublished rarities. Also in this volume, macabre cartoonist Henry Heath goes devilish in the ongoing "Cartoonists Go To Hell" series. A bona fide super-hero swoops into the pages of Arf when "Captain Marvel Fights The Surrealist Imp" in a classic tale from the Golden Age of Comics; meanwhile, real-life superhero Stan Lee introduces a section devoted to, in Lee's own words, Yoe's own "wacky, weird, wild comics that become Art with a capital 'A'!"

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Nancy cloth doll kit

I like the looks of this vintage kit for making a cloth doll of Nancy. It's up for auction on eBay with a current bid of US$6.99. Of course, the Sluggo kit is da one dat I really dig. From the auction listing:


Link Read the rest

How To Read Nancy

As you might have guessed, both Mark and I are big fans of Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy comic strips. However, I had never seen this excellent 1988 essay How To Read Nancy. It was written by Mark Newgarden, co-creator of the Garbage Pail Kids, and cartoonist Paul Karasik. Not only does it give a bit of insight into Bushmiller's brilliance, it's also a great, concise educational essay about visual storytelling through the analysis of a single strip.

From the essay (ignore the OCR type-os):

To say that Nancy is a simple gag strip about a simple-minded slot-nosed kid Is to miss the point completely. Nancv only appears to be simple at a casual glance. Like architect Mies Van Der Rohe, the simplicity is a carefully designed function of a complex amalgam of formal rules laid out by the designer. To look at Bushmiller as an architect is entirely appropriate, for Nancy is, in a sense, a blue print for a comic strip. Walls, floors, rocks, trees, Ice-cream cones, motion lines, midgets and principals are carefully positioned with no need for further embellishment. And they are laid out with one purpose in mind - to get the jag across. Minimallst? Formalist? Structurallst? Cartoonist!

"Gag it down" was Bushmiller's off-spoken credo and the gag was the raison d'etre of Nancy. Characterization, atmosphere, emotional depth, social comment, plot, internal consistency, and common sense are all merrily surrendered in Bushmiller's universe to the true function of a comic strip as he unrelentingly saw it: to provoke the "gag reflex" of his readership on a daily basis.

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