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Nancy (comics)

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Nancy (comics)

Nancy
Author(s) Ernie Bushmiller
Launch date 1938 (title changed from Fritzi Ritz)
Syndicate(s) United Feature Syndicate
Genre(s) Humor, Children, Teens, Adults
Nancy
Nancy character
First appearance

January 2, 1933
Information
Gender Female
Family Fritzi Ritz (aunt)

Nancy is an American daily and Sunday comic strip, originally written and drawn by Ernie Bushmiller and distributed by United Feature Syndicate. The character of Nancy, a slightly chubby and precocious eight-year-old, first appeared in the strip Fritzi Ritz about the airheaded flapper title character. Larry Whittington began Fritzi Ritz in 1922,[1] and it was taken over by Bushmiller three years later.

Publication history

On January 2, 1933, Bushmiller introduced Fritzi's niece, Nancy.[2] Soon she dominated the daily strip, which was retitled Nancy in 1938. Comics historian Don Markstein detailed the evolution, as the readership of Fritzi Ritz increased:

Bushmiller's bold, clear art style, combined with his ability to construct a type of gag that appealed to a very broad audience, brought the strip to new heights of popularity—and his introduction of Fritzi's niece, Nancy, in 1933, carried it higher yet. Two important developments occurred in 1938. Sluggo Smith, Nancy's friend from the "wrong side of the tracks", was introduced in January; and later that year, Aunt Fritzi's name was dropped from the title of the daily strip, which continued as Nancy. At the same time, Bushmiller's Sunday page underwent a similar change. Formerly, half of it had been devoted to Fritzi and the other half to her boyfriend, Phil Fumble. Phil's half was taken over by Nancy. Years later, when newspaper space became tighter and cartoonists were no longer allowed whole pages to themselves, Fritzi's half disappeared, and the transformation was complete. Fritzi Ritz was a bit player where she had formerly been the star.[3]

Phil Fumble made a reappearance in the November 27, 2012 strip,[4] and has become a regular character as of early January 2013, with the intention of furthering his relationship with Aunt Fritzi, including a hint at marriage.[5]

Fritzi Ritz continued as a Sunday feature until 1968. At its peak in the 1970s, Nancy ran in more than 880 newspapers.

Al Plastino worked on Sunday episodes of Nancy in 1982–83 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 1983 before handing the strip over to Jerry Scott (1984–94), who drew the strip in a much different, more modern style than other adaptations. In 1995, Guy and Brad Gilchrist assumed control of the strip, returning the artwork to its traditional forms.[3] The strip has an international popularity, especially in Japan and South America. It runs as Periquita in several dozen Spanish-language newspapers.

Art style

Bushmiller refined and simplified his drawing style over the years to create a uniquely stylized comic world. The American Heritage Dictionary 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 looked at on a newspaper comics page.

In a 1988 essay, “How to Read Nancy”, Mark Newgarden and Paul Karasik offered a probing analysis of Bushmiller's strip:

To say that Nancy is a simple gag strip about a simple-minded snot-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![6]

Characters

  • Nancy Ritz,[7][broken citation] a typical and somewhat mischievous 7-year old young girl. She encourages Sluggo to improve himself and is instantly jealous of any other girls who pay him attention. She lives in Three Rocks, Tennessee (a suburb of Nashville) [8][9] at 220 Oak Street[10] next to Elm Avenue.[11]
  • Fritzi Ritz, Nancy's 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 works as a music reviewer and is often seen wearing T-shirts of musical acts, especially country performers. Fritzi is in her late fifties.[4][12]
  • Phil Fumble, Fritzi's boyfriend. A central character in the strip until disappearing in 1968, he made a reappearance in late 2012, and as of January 2013, he intends to further his relationship with Fritzi.[13]
  • Sluggo Smith,[14] 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. There are strips that appear to place Sluggo as Nancy's boyfriend. He is portrayed as lazy, and his favorite pastime seems to be napping. He lives at 720 Drabb Street[15] in an abandoned house he found[16] and is taken care of by truck driver "uncles" Les and More,[17][18] 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.[14][19] Sluggo ran away from the orphanage, and his cousin Chauncey gave him $200 and he took the train as far as Three Rocks.[8]
  • Rollo, the stereotypical but nonetheless friendly rich kid. In the early 1940s, the rich kid was known as Marmaduke. It is possible that the name was changed to avoid confusion with Marmaduke, an unrelated comic strip by Brad Anderson that debuted in 1954. In 2013, his father's name is given as Rollo Marmaduke Sr.[16]
  • Irma, Nancy's nondescript girlfriend.
  • Spike (aka Butch), the town bully who frequently knocks out Sluggo. Sluggo occasionally gets one over on Spike, however.
  • Oona Goosepimple, the spooky looking child who lived in a haunted house down the road from Nancy's house. She 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 comic strip for the first time October 16, 2013.[20]
  • Marigold, Sluggo's tomboy cousin.[3]
  • Pee Wee, a neighborhood toddler.
  • Poochie, Nancy's nondescript dog. In current strips, Nancy also has a cat named Rocky and a goldfish called Goldie.

Awards

Bushmiller won the National Cartoonists Society's Humor Comic Strip Award for 1961 and the Society's Reuben Award for Best Cartoonist of the Year in 1976.[21]

In 1995, the strip was selected as one of the 20 in the "Comic Strip Classics" series of commemorative U.S. postage stamps.

Comic books

There were first several Fritzi Ritz comic stories in comics published by United Features. These include Fritzi Ritz No. 1 (1948), 3–7 (1949), #27–36 (1953–54); United Comics #8–36 (1950–53); Tip Topper Comics #1–28 (1949–54); St John published Fritzi Ritz #37–55 (1955–57). Dell published Fitzi Ritz #56–59 (1957–58)

Nancy appeared in comic books—initially in a 1940s comic strip reprint title from United Features, later St. John Publications and later in a Dell comic written by John Stanley. Titled Nancy and Sluggo, United Features published #16–23 (1949–54), St. John published #121–145 (1955–57). Titled Nancy, until retitled Nancy and Sluggo with issue #174, Dell published #146–187 (1957–62). Gold Key published #188–192 (1962–63). Dell also published Dell Giants devoted to Nancy (#35, No. 45 and "Traveltime"), and a Four Color #1034.[3] Nancy and Sluggo also appeared in stories in Tip Top Comics published by United Features (#1–188), St. Johns (#189–210), and Dell (#211–225), Sparkler #1–120 (1941–54) and Sparkle #1–33 (1953–54) published by United Features. 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 Features.

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 1956–59.

Animation

Nancy was featured in two animated shorts by the Terrytoons studio in 1942–43: 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 The Fabulous Funnies.

Cultural references

Bushmiller's art work has inspired other artists:

Comics
  • Cartoonist Bill Griffith has used the characters and emulated Bushmiller's style frequently in his Zippy the Pinhead.
  • Cartoonist 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 2002 "Pearls Labor Dispute".
  • 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:
    • If Nancy Was an Ashtray, 1972
    • If Nancy Was a Boy, 1972
    • If Nancy Was a da Vinci Sketch, 1972
    • Nancy Diptych, 1974
    • If Nancy Was a Painting by de Kooning, 1975
  • Famous Mexican actress Sherlyn 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.
  • Taxi character Elaine O'Connor Nardo (played by Marilu Henner) laments during an episode: "Why can't love be like it is in literature? And I don't even need Cathy and Heathcliff. I'd settle for Nancy and Sluggo!"

Collections

Comic strip (by Ernie Bushmiller)
  • Nancy (1961), Pocket Books (The Fun-Filled Cartoon Adventures of Nancy)[22]
  • 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.)[6]
  • Nancy Likes Christmas: Complete Dailies 1946–1948 (2012), 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

References

Further reading

External links

  • comic strip
  • Toonopedia: Nancy

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