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