Friday, May 10, 2013

The Best of Ernie Bushmiller's "Nancy"

1988, first edition, from Holt and Company
Brian Walker
The Best of Ernie Bushmiller's "Nancy"
Bought newish for $10.95
Worn paperback

I didn't grow up reading Nancy, or not so's I can remember.  As someone once noted, it's easier to read Nancy than to not read it.  Bushmiller designed the strip to be taken in without thinking, with seemingly simple artwork and writing, with strong black lines and geometric patterns.  He died in 1982, when I was 14 and "outgrowing" the comics.  But I can't recall any strips from earlier, while there is a Broom Hilda that I can still visualize because of the way the three main characters' elbows looked when they walked quickly.  I don't have any Broom Hilda collections, but I have quite a few for Nancy.

I'm going to blame The Harvard Lampoon Big Book of College Life, because it contains a "lecture" on Nancy & Nihilism.  A decade before this book, it juxtaposed (pseudo)-intellectuals and what is often regarded as one of the dumbest comic strips ever.  As Walker shows, many avante-garde artists from the '60s onward appreciated the strip.  And in the '50s MAD found it an easy target. 

Is Nancy so bad-it's-good?  Is it a basic but satisfying comic?  I don't know.  It rarely makes me laugh, and always at rather than with.  In some ways, I think it was more intriguing when it focused on Nancy's sexy flapper/actress aunt Fritzi.  Nonetheless, we've got all five of the Kitchen Sink Press G.H.W.Bush-era collections awaiting us....

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