Nancy (comic strip)
Nancy (June 5, 1960)
|Author(s)||Ernie Bushmiller (1938–1982)|
Al Plastino (1982–1983)
Mark Lasky (1983)
Jerry Scott (1984–1995)
Guy and Brad Gilchrist (1995–2018)
Olivia Jaimes (2018–present)
|Launch date||1938 (title changed from Fritzi Ritz)|
|Alternate name(s)||Fritzi Ritz|
|Syndicate(s)||United Feature Syndicate / United Media|
|Genre(s)||Humor, Children, Teens, Adults|
|First appearance||January 2, 1933|
|Family||Fritzi Ritz (aunt)|
1922 to 1982
The character of Nancy, a precocious eight-year-old, first appeared in the strip Fritzi Ritz about the airheaded flapper title character. Larry Whittington began Fritzi Ritz in 1922, and it was assumed by Bushmiller three years later. On January 2, 1933, Bushmiller introduced Fritzi's niece, Nancy. Nancy gradually became the focus of the daily strip, which was renamed after the character in 1938; Sluggo Smith, Nancy's friend from the "wrong side of the tracks" had been introduced earlier that year, and the strip's popularity rose. Fritzi Ritz became a secondary character, although her solo strip continued as a Sunday-only strip. Comics historian Don Markstein ascribed the strip's success to Bushmiller's "bold, clear art style, combined with his ability to construct a type of gag that appealed to a very broad audience.
1982 to 2018
Al Plastino worked on Sunday episodes of Nancy in 1982–1983 after Bushmiller died. During that period, David Letterman showed on TV a Nancy panel with Plastino's signature and made a joke about Plastino as a superhero name. (Letterman's writers were apparently unaware that Plastino was known for his superheroes.)
The strip has continued to the present day by different writers and artists. Mark Lasky briefly handled the strip in 1982/1983 until his death from cancer at age 29. The strip was handed to Jerry Scott in 1984, who gradually started to draw the strip in a much different, more modern style than other incarnations. In 1994, the syndicate began seeking a replacement for Scott; applicants included Ivan Brunetti and Gary Hallgren. In 1995, Guy and Brad Gilchrist were given control of the strip, returning the artwork to its traditional style; Guy Gilchrist subsequently became the sole author and illustrator.
On January 2, 2018, Gilchrist announced that after 22 years, his last Nancy strip would be February 18, 2018, which involved the marriage between the characters of Fritzi Ritz and Phil Fumble.
Following a two-month hiatus, the strip resumed on April 9 with "21st-century female perspective" from a person using the pen name Olivia Jaimes, the strip's first-ever female author. At the time of the announcement, 75 newspapers still ran the strip. Jaimes said, "Nancy has been my favorite sassy grouch for a long time. I'm excited to be sassy and grouchy through her voice instead of just mine" and "the Nancy I know and love is a total jerk and also gluttonous and also has big feelings and voraciously consumes her world". Tom Spurgeon described Jaimes as funny and talented, with an approach to the character that both breaks with and pays homage to Bushmiller's version.
In the process, Jaimes updated the strip's technology, including Nancy frequently using her smartphone and attending robotics classes. The September 3, 2018 strip spawned an internet meme - it depicted Nancy riding a hoverboard; using two phones, one of which was attatched to a selfie stick; and proclaiming that "Sluggo is lit". Jaimes described her aim with that strip to "most upset the person who likes me the least... somebody who's like,'Nancy sucks now'... what I imagine my greatest hater would despise most is Nancy interacting with every piece of technology using words you don't understand."
Bushmiller refined and simplified his drawing style over the years to create a uniquely stylized comic world. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language illustrates its entry on comic strip with a Nancy cartoon. Despite the small size of the reproduction, both the art and the gag are clear, and an eye-tracking survey once determined that Nancy was so conspicuous that it was the first strip most people viewed on a newspaper comics page.
To say that Nancy is a simple gag strip about a simple-minded slot-nosed kid is to miss the point completely. Nancy 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 blueprint 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 gag across. Minimalist? Formalist? Structuralist? Cartoonist!
Comics theorist Scott McCloud described the essence of Nancy:
Ernie Bushmiller's comic strip Nancy is a landmark achievement: A comic so simply drawn it can be reduced to the size of a postage stamp and still be legible; an approach so formulaic as to become the very definition of the "gag-strip"; a sense of humor so obscure, so mute, so without malice as to allow faithful readers to march through whole decades of art and story without ever once cracking a smile. Nancy is Plato's playground. Ernie Bushmiller didn't draw A tree, A house, A car. Oh, no. Ernie Bushmiller drew the tree, the house, the car. Much has been made of the "three rocks." Art Spiegelman explains how a drawing of three rocks in a background scene was Ernie's way of showing us there were some rocks in the background. It was always three. Why? Because two rocks wouldn't be "some rocks." Two rocks would be a pair of rocks. And four rocks was unacceptable because four rocks would indicate "some rocks" but it would be one rock more than was necessary to convey the idea of "some rocks." A Nancy panel is an irreduceable concept, an atom, and the comic strip is a molecule.
- Nancy Ritz, a typical and somewhat mischievous eight-year-old girl. She encourages Sluggo to improve himself and is instantly jealous of any other girls who pay attention to him. During Gilchrists's run, she was portrayed as living in Three Rocks, Tennessee (a suburb of Nashville)  although her home town was unspecified by other artists. Bushmiller just specified she lived at 220 Oak Street next to Elm Avenue.
- Fritzi Ritz, Nancy's paternal aunt, with whom she lives. She is drawn in a more realistic style than the children characters. The character was gradually phased out beginning in the mid-1980s before being dropped entirely by the end of the decade. She subsequently returned as a main character in 1995 when the strip was taken over by brothers Brad and Guy Gilchrist. In the current version of Nancy, Fritzi acts as Nancy's full time carer.
- Phil Fumble, Fritzi's boyfriend. A central character in the strip until disappearing in 1968, he made a reappearance in late 2012, subsequently marrying Fritzi in Gilchrist's last strip. This marriage does not appear in the current version of the strip.
- Sluggo Smith, Nancy's best friend, introduced in 1938. Sluggo is Nancy's age and is a poor ragamuffin-type from the wrong side of the tracks. He is sometimes described as Nancy's boyfriend. He is portrayed as lazy, and his favourite pastime seems to be napping. He lives at 720 Drabb Street in an abandoned house he found and according to a storyline in 2013 strips, is taken care of by truck driver "uncles" Les and More, who discovered that he had lived in an orphanage; his mother died after he was born, and his father died serving his country. Sluggo's Uncle Vince is "shady" and his rich Aunt Maggie in California doesn't care about him because he reminds her of when she was poor. Sluggo ran away from the orphanage, and his cousin Chauncey gave him $200 and he took the train as far as Three Rocks.
- Rollo Haveall, the stereotypical but nonetheless friendly rich kid. In the early 1940s, the rich kid was known as Marmaduke. In 2013, his father's name is given as Rollo Marmaduke Sr.
- Nancy's unnamed teacher, an adult drawn in the style of Nancy, whose internal monologue often reflects on the difficulty and rewards of teaching.
- Esther, a girl in Nancy's class. Introduced in 2018, she has tan skin and does not get along well with Nancy.
- Spike (a.k.a. Butch), the town bully who frequently knocks out Sluggo. Sluggo occasionally gets one over on Spike, however.
- Oona Goosepimple, the spooky looking child who lives in a haunted house down the road from Nancy's house. She originally appeared only in the comic book version of the strip, during John Stanley's tenure in the late 1950s and early 1960s. She appeared in the actual comic strip for the first time on October 16, 2013.
- Judy, Nancy's cousin who looks like her.
- Marigold, Sluggo's tomboy cousin.
- Pee Wee, a neighborhood toddler.
- Poochie, Nancy's nondescript dog.
- Pussycat, Nancy's adopted stray cat.
In 1995, the strip was selected as one of the 20 in the "Comic Strip Classics" series of commemorative U.S. postage stamps.
There were first several Fritzi Ritz comic stories in comics published by United Feature. These include Fritzi Ritz No. 1 (1948), 3–7 (1949), #27–36 (1953–1954); United Comics #8–36 (1950–1953); Tip Topper Comics #1–28 (1949–1954); St John published Fritzi Ritz #37–55 (1955–1957). Dell published Fitzi Ritz #56–59 (1957–1958)
Nancy appeared in comic books—initially in a 1940s comic strip reprint title from United Feature, later St. John Publications and later in a Dell comic written by John Stanley. Titled Nancy and Sluggo, United Feature published #16–23 (1949–1954), St. John published #121–145 (1955–1957). Titled Nancy, until retitled Nancy and Sluggo with issue #174, Dell published #146–187 (1957–1962). (Hy Eisman produced some of Dell's Nancy stories in 1960-61. Gold Key published #188–192 (1962–1963). Dell also published Dell Giants devoted to Nancy (#35, No. 45 and "Traveltime"), and a Four Color #1034. Nancy and Sluggo also appeared in stories in Tip Top Comics published by United Feature (#1–188), St. Johns (#189–210), and Dell (#211–225), Sparkler #1–120 (1941–1954) and Sparkle #1–33 (1953–1954) published by United Feature. Fritzi Ritz and Nancy appeared in several Comics on Parade (#32, 35, 38, 41, 44, 47, 50, 53, 55, 57, 60–104) published by United Feature.
Nancy was reprinted in the UK comic book, The Topper, from the 1950s through the 1970s. Nancy also had its own monthly comic book magazine of newspaper reprints in Norway (where the strip is known as Trulte) during 1956–1959.
Nancy was featured in two animated shorts by the Terrytoons studio in 1942–1943: School Daze and Doing Their Bit. In 1971, several newly created Nancy and Sluggo cartoons appeared on the Saturday morning cartoon series Archie's TV Funnies, which starred the Archie Comic Series characters running a television station. Nancy appeared along with seven other comic strip characters: Emmy Lou, Broom-Hilda, Dick Tracy, The Dropouts, Moon Mullins, the Captain and the Kids and Smokey Stover. The series lasted one season. In 1978, she was also featured in several segments of Filmation's animated show Fabulous Funnies, a repackaging of Archie's TV Funnies material minus the Archie characters wraparounds.
Nancy has been translated into foreign languages. In French, Nancy is called Philomène in Canada, and Zoé in France, where the strip is called Arthur et Zoé (Arthur being the French name of Sluggo). The Philomène strip appeared in Canadian French-language newspapers on January 16, 2006. Nancy also appeared on the back cover of the popular Arabic children magazine Majid during the 80s, she was known as Moza while Sluggo was portrayed as her brother Rashoud.
Bushmiller's art work has inspired other artists:
- Cartoonist Bill Griffith has used the characters and emulated Bushmiller's style frequently in his Zippy the Pinhead.[according to whom?]
- Cartoonist Scott McCloud developed a card game, 5-card Nancy, in which players use random panels of Nancy to create their own stories. McCloud also included a Nancy cameo in his book, Understanding Comics. When describing the "non-sequitur" transition type, several unrelated images appear between panels. One is an upside-down picture of Nancy being struck by lightning with the caption "Danger".
- Cartoonist Mark Newgarden has included Nancy in his work.
- Pearls Before Swine cartoonist Stephan Pastis (known for using other comic characters in his strip) portrayed Nancy and Sluggo as extras to replace Rat and Goat during the 2003 "Pearls Labor Dispute".
- Mad has run several parodies, including "Nansy", in which Nancy is transformed into the main character of several other comic strips, including Donald Duck, Dick Tracy and Li'l Abner, all with that same hyphen-nose and frizzy hairdo. Also in Mad, Bushmiller gets the hardboiled treatment: "If Mickey Spillane Wrote Nancy".
- Quino's Mafalda bears a strong resemblance to the earlier Nancy, which Quino mocks in one strip.
- Cartoonist Max Cannon often includes Stubbo, a boy drawn in Bushmiller's style, in his Red Meat strip.
- Other media
- Nancy was the subject of Andy Warhol's 1961 painting Nancy.
- Nancy was the subject of several pop art works by Joe Brainard, collected in The Nancy Book (2008), Siglio Press. They include:
- Famous Mexican actress Sherlyn González became famous after imitating Nancy (known in Mexico as Periquita) in a TV contest for a socks company that features Nancy drawn into their logo.
- Comic strip (by Ernie Bushmiller)
- Nancy (1961), Pocket Books (The Fun-Filled Cartoon Adventures of Nancy)
- The Best of Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy by Brian Walker (1988), Henry Holt
- Kitchen Sink Press series:
- Nancy Eats Food (Volume 1) (1989)
- How Sluggo Survives (Volume 2) (1989)
- Nancy Dreams and Schemes (Volume 3) (1990)
- Bums, Beatniks and Hippies / Artists and Con Artists (Volume 4) (1990)
- Nancy's Pets (Volume 5) (1991)
- Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Nancy: The Enduring Wisdom of Ernie Bushmiller (1993), Pharos Books
- Nancy Is Happy: Complete Dailies 1942–1945 (2012), Fantagraphics Books (The first in a projected series reprinting 24 years worth of daily strips.)
- Nancy Likes Christmas: Complete Dailies 1946–1948 (2012), Fantagraphics Books
- Nancy Loves Sluggo: Complete Dailies 1949–1951 (2014), Fantagraphics Books
- Comic book (by John Stanley)
- Nancy Vol. 1: The John Stanley Library (2009), Drawn and Quarterly
- Nancy Vol. 2: The John Stanley Library (2010), Drawn and Quarterly
- Nancy Vol. 3: The John Stanley Library (2011), Drawn and Quarterly
Random Acts of Nancy
A spin-off titled Random Acts of Nancy began March 19, 2014, consisting of sampled single panels of Nancy comics drawn by Ernie Bushmiller. Following Guy Gilchrist's departure from Nancy, this strip was discontinued.
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- Riesman, Abraham (November 26, 2018). "Olivia Jaimes, the Mysterious Cartoonist Behind Nancy, Gives Rare Interview". Vulture. Retrieved November 26, 2018.
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- Toonopedia entry for Oona Goosepimple
- Gilchrist, Guy (October 16, 2013), Nancy, GoComics.com, retrieved October 16, 2013
- Gilchrist, Guy; Lotshaw, John (September 26, 2015), Random Acts of Nancy, GoComics.com, retrieved September 26, 2015
- "Reuben Award Winners 1946–present". Archived from the original on April 20, 2012. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
- "A Profile of Hy Eisman", Hogan's Alley #15
- 5-card Nancy
- Pastis, Stephan. "Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis, May 16, 2003 Via @GoComics". GoComics. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
- If Mickey Spillane Wrote Nancy
- Brainard, Joe, If Nancy Was an Ashtray, JoeBrainard.org
- Brainard, Joe, If Nancy Was a Boy, JoeBrainard.org
- Brainard, Joe, If Nancy Was a da Vinci Sketch, JoeBrainard.org
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- "GDC entry". Retrieved March 25, 2012.
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- Nancy comic strip
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- Dossena, Tiziano Thomas. "Guy Gilchrist: From The Muppets To Nancy, A Success Story", L'Idea Magazine, 2014