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.

Read the rest

Sexiest Nancy panel ever?

Aunt Fritzi or Bettie Page? You decide! Link (via Coop's Positive Ape Index)

UPDATE: Mark, who accidentally double-posted this about 27 seconds after me, wrote, "This suggests to me that (Nancy creator) Ernie Bushmiller had a collection of Irving Klaw postcards." Read the rest

Ugly American comic book from 1958

Craig Yoe from the Arf Lovers blog kindly scanned this interesting 25-cent booklet called You Don't See These Sights on the Regular Tours.

It was produced when there was a lot of criticism of "Ugly Americans" that traveled to foreign lands and made nuiances--or worse--of themselves (unlike today ;o) ). It is amazing because of two reasons. (1) The A-list cartoonists that contributed to it, Charles Schulz, Walt Kelly, Al Capp, Hank Ketcham, Milton Caniff, Ernie Bushmiller, Rube Goldberg, etc. and (2) It's not exactly clear who the audience is. Is it trying to educate insensitive Americans? Or is it an arrogant defense to ungrateful foreigners who should be damn happy for the American dollars being spent in their lands?


Reader comment: Tony says:

In your BB post "Ugly American comic book from 1958", [Craig Yoe asks] "It's not exactly clear who the audience is. Is it trying to educate insensitive Americans? Or is it an arrogant defense to ungrateful foreigners who should be damn happy for the American dollars being spent in their lands?"

A glance at the introduction clears that up: it is "... a gentle hint to you [Americans] not to be what our enemies say we are." The use of the word "enemies" is informative. Printed during the Cold War (1958), it was clearly a countermeasure against Anti-American propaganda, whether real or imagined, put about by evil commie plotters.

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Arf Museum: excellent comic history

Craig Yoe's second Arf publication (first one here), Arf Museum just came out, and it's an immensely giddy, scholary, funny, shocking, and enjoyable history of comics and art seen through the eccentric and eclectic filter of Yoe's fevered, comics-crazed mind.

Yoe was the creative director of Jim Henson's Muppets and a creative director at Nickeodeon and I doubt there's anyone who knows more about cool old comics and who has a better collection of comic book art.

Some of the artists and characters in this issue include Art Spiegelman, Picasso, Patrick McDonnell, Bettie Page, Charles Addams, Coop, Dan DeCarlo, Hugh Hefner, Rube Goldberg, King Kong, Ernie Bushmiller, and Chester Gould.

Like those early, giant-sized issues of RAW, Arf Museum is something I'm going to keep, treasure, and pull off the shelf to pore over for the rest of my life. Link Read the rest

Randomized Garfield strips

This page displays three random cels of a Garfield cartoon strip, in random order. The results are oddly comforting, albeit surreal.


(Thanks, Steve!)

Update: J sez, "I scripted a something similar in Flash last year. Characters and sets are randomly drawn from an image bank, and dialog is culled from IM logs and assembled according to an algorithm such that it occasionally makes sense and occasionally does not. You can see it in action here."

Update 2: John sez, "The randomized Garfield strips remind me of Scott McCloud's game where people take turns putting down panels of the Ernie Bushmiller's 'Nancy' comic." (thanks also to Seth and Mike!) Read the rest

The author of this piece

The author of this piece who claims the Gilchrist brothers have restored the spirit of Ernie Bushmiller to "Nancy." Link. Do you agree? Link Read the rest

Nancy was one of my

Nancy was one of my favorite comic strips. (I mentally put a red X across the face of anyone I meet who can't appreciate the genius of Ernie Bushmiller.) Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics, has rules for a game he invented called "5-Card Nancy" that uses cut-up photocopies of Nancy comics. Read the rest

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