Comic Strip / Big Nate

Big Nate is a comic created by Lincoln Peirce. The main character is Nate Wright, a 4'6" sixth-grade underacheiver who lives with his clueless dad and older sister. The strip gained fame through the Big Nate Island on Poptropica and produced a series of (very popular) chapter books and collections. The strip debuted in 1991 and is still running.

It is also the basis of a Poptropica world, and has inspired tons of chapter novels and comic collections that began releasing as early as 1992 with more planned for future releases.

The comic can be found here. Reading from the beginning is not required but recommended.

Provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The young adult novels often will combine several of the comic's story arcs at once. For example, the time when they had to go to a rival school (Jefferson) because their own school was full of mold was combined with the "We have to beat Jefferson at something" arc.
  • Anime Hair: Take a look at Nate's hair.
    • Lampshaded:
    Francis: Hey, I just noticed...why is your hair shaped like that?
    Teddy: Yeah, they're like nubs on his head! And it looks like you shaved the sides of your head!
    Both: *laughing*
    • Though Nate does admit that an ice cream scoop that they made to look like his head using "Kisses" (conical chocolates) is pretty inspired.
  • Appeal to Obscurity: Nate uses this trope when telling Francis why he needs to take it slow in working on his cereal mascot competition design.
    Nate: Creating a truly memorable cartoon takes time! ... Remember for every Tony the Tiger or Capw'n Crunch, there's a Perky the Platypus!
    Francis: Who?
    Nate: Exactly.
  • Arch-Enemy: Nate considers Mrs. Godfrey, Gina and Artur as this, frequently regarding their behaviour with the remark, "Oh, how I hate her/him."
  • Art Evolution: Besides the rougher lines of the early strips, the characters started off taller and skinnier, than became shorter and squatter, with some adjustments to the head proportions taking the art to its current style.
  • Aside Glance: Most everyone does this at some point in reaction to Nate.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Nate's new arcade game rival is a mouthy kid named T.A. When Francis asked him what T.A. stands for, the kid smugly replied that it stands for Thor Almighty.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Do not mention anything involving school to Nate during the summer.
    • Do not mention college money to Nate's dad.
    • Practically everything for Chester.
    • Mr. Czerwicki is this to Mrs. Czerwicki, where the slightest mention of her marital life will lead to an angry rant about how things aren't working out.
    • Chad is awfully weight-sensitive. Pressuring him to lose weight is pretty much the only way to make him flip out.
  • Book Dumb: Nate, very much so. He's a chess prodigy and a pretty good soccer goalie and comic-artist, but he only does average work in subjects such as science and literature, an constantly fails in history (maybe because it's taught by Mrs. Godfrey?)
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Traces of this can show in Nate. In order to astound and frustrate Gina, he once found out what book of brain teasers she was using, bought an identical copy, and memorized the answer section... over the course of one night, taking him about eleven hours. This from a student who regularly gets "C" grades and lower in social studies.
  • Butt Monkey:
    • Despite Nate acting like a Jerkass sometimes, there are matters where circumstance can just be plain cruel. This is usually seen where he tries to something nice for Jenny, only for misfortune to occur and making her angry at him.
    • Dad even more so. He is the butt of 3/4 of the jokes, and everything he does is an epic fail.
  • Bumbling Dad: Martin Wright is generally incompetent, being unable to stick to a fitness regimen, having horrible golf skills, and making a mockery of himself every Halloween with his incredibly disappointing treats.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Chad comes off as this due to his childlike innocence, which includes playing with a mushroom and acorn, and wanting to wear a bunny costume to make a superhero movie.
  • Canon Immigrant: Dee Dee was developed in the book series, and then made her way into the comic's supporting cast.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Nate, despite his obstinate belief that "he and Jenny are destined together", would frequently try to flirt with any pretty girl he sees. He rarely succeeds, of course.
    • He had three girlfriends. His first broke up with him while the second and third he broke up with them. He was a pretty good boyfriend (though we rarely saw the second, her being in a different school.)
  • Catch Phrase: "Cripes" for several, and "Oh, how I hate her" and "Spitsy, you idiot for Nate.
  • Check and Mate: A common theme is someone playing chess with Nate, acting bold and saying things like "I've got you now!" and then Nate will promptly destroy them on the next move and walk away with a smug smile.
  • Cosmic Plaything: While Nate does deserve his misfortune every now and then, most of the time, the fates are mean to him. Especially when he's interacting with Jenny or Ms. Godfrey.
  • Collector of the Strange:
    • Coach John collects kidney stones.
    • Mr. Galvin collects potatoes in the shape of president faces.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Just about every character at one time or another. Kim is more deadpan than snarker, but she can get out there at times.
  • Demoted to Extra: Ellen started as one of the main characters, but Nate's friends and teachers eventually became more important.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Coach John.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: When Nate scored an outstanding 94 in his final Social studies exam, thus sparing him from summer school, Mrs. Godfrey congratulated Gina for tutoring him so well, much to Nate's dismay. Principal Nichols also mistook Nate's claim of him scoring so high in the test as his latest Prank Day shenanigans.
  • Dumb Blonde: Inverted with Gina and Ellen. They are both over-achievers and teacher's pets.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The strip started off being more about Nate's home life and his relationship with his family, but it soon shifted more to school and Nate's friends. He also started off as more of a victim with Mrs. Godfrey as a Sadist Teacher rather than a jerk with a fair but stern teacher who deserved every punishment he got. Francis was also more like Nate, and had a shared dislike for Mrs. Godfrey.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Any strip that shows Dad shirtless/in shorts.
    • Also, in one strip, Nate dreams that he is stripped naked in class. His parts are covered up by his leg, but still, ew.
  • Funny Foreigner: Artur. He is from Belarus and has trouble speaking English sometimes.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • The whole point of Femme Fatality's existence.
    • In another strip, after which Nate has lost a student-faculty basketball game to Mrs. Godfrey, in the following newspaper story, he dubs her the "faculty dominatrix."
    • In one story arc, Nate is assigned a beautiful girl for his locker partner. This girl's name? Amanda Woodcock.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: Ellen dates comic book geek Gordie, while Stella dates Francis (although their relationship, as well as Stella herself, is currently Out of Focus).
  • Hypocritical Humor: Nate occasionally wanders into this. Dad's a whole lot more frequent with this.
  • Ironic Echo: The other main source of humor.
  • Jerkass: Nate and his friends act like these toward one another, though Nate's is a bit more emphasized because of his one-sided rivalry with Artur.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite Nate's envy of Artur, he does admit to liking him as a friend and does do nice things for him when it counts, such as comforting Artur when he lost a chess match. When Nate's ego and severely misplaced priorities aren't interfering, he's really a nice guy.
  • Lame Excuse: Uncle Ted is a master of this. When Nate asked him to help painting his grandparents' house, Uncle Ted reasoned that he doesn't know how to use a brush. Another time, he claimed to have contracted malaria.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: A recurring joke is Nate is working on a comic strip, then decides to make a change in the strip, which shows up in the actual comic. (Example: Nate is drawing, then decides to make the lines thicker, which thickens the lines of the actual strips.)
  • Literally Laughable Question: In one series of strips, Nate's grandparents pay him money for painting their house. When his dad takes him back home, Nate asks if that was enough money for college. Nate's dad completely cracks up, and Nate thinks to himself, "Probably not the best question to ask in a moving car."
  • Nice Guy: Artur, who is constantly nice to Nate despite the latter's animosity. He once spent his holidays in his hometown and returned with a nice souvenir for Nate. And the rare instances in which Nate won over him, Artur graciously congratulates him.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Coach John is obsessed with showing his students disgusting surgeries, and even goes so fa as to show them his kidney stone collection. Ewww.
  • Phrase Catcher: Chad's inherent adorableness leading to great accomplishment frequently gets "Behold, the power of Chad!"
  • Running Gag: Oh, so many.
    • Nate's fear of cats.
    • Nate's massively messy locker. It just flows into the corridor!
    • Nate's Epic Fail at getting Jenny to like him/breaking up Jenny and Artur.
    • Prank Day.
    • Francis's Book of Facts.
    • Dad's Epic Fail at golf.
    • Nate trying to make Spitsy more dog-like.
    • Nate trying to prove dogs are better than cats with Spitsy as an example, only for Francis's cat, Pickles, to utterly school Spitsy.
    • School Picture Guy always screwing up Nate's picture.
    • The baseball team's lame team names.
    • Monopoly on New Year's Eve.
    • Nate's dad buying/making lame Halloween snacks.
    • Artur mentioning goats.
  • Sadist Teacher: Nate thinks of Mrs. Godfrey as this. It's a self-fulfilling opinion, as most other people only think of her as a Stern Teacher who is only so harsh to Nate because he frustrates her so constantly.
    • Coach John appears to be this as well.
  • Sarcasm Mode: The main source of humor.
  • Shout-Out: Nate has very Calvin-esque hair.
  • Silent Snarker: About half of the strip's sarcastic humor is portrayed in the characters' thoughts. This most heavily applies to Sherman the gerbil, whose thoughts can be read by the reader Garfield-style, but the characters can only detect facial expressions applying to his thoughts.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Nate. For all his self-proclaimed greatness, his "fame" in school comes from his failures.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Francis, Gina, and Peter.
  • Spiky Hair: See Anime Hair above.
  • Status Quo Is God: If things start going Nate's way in all but a few areas, expect him to get beaten down back to normal in short order.
    • He has had girlfriends (three), but he broke up with Kelly and Trudy and Angie broke up with him.
    • He once beat Artur in chess... but he was intentionally playing bad in order to make Nate feel better.
    • He did once get Jenny to go with him to a dance... only for him to find his ex, Angie, crying. He spent the dance trying to cheer her up and helped her with the fight she and her current boyfriend were having, but Jenny hated that he spent all of the dance talking to another girl and hated him more.
  • Unknown Rival: Artur has no idea that Nate is constantly trying to one-up him. It really doesn't help that Artur is naturally better at two things Nate prides himself in (chess and drawing, though the former is always the issue and the latter not so much), as well as being incredibly modest and Born Lucky to boot!
  • The Voice: Chester. He never appears on-screen, and all we ever see of him is his speech bubbles and the after-effects of his violence.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Nate, Francis, and Teddy constantly makes fun of each other, yet still hang out together.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: When shown a kielbasa wisher at the county fair after a particularly stomach-churning ride, Nate suffers from this off-panel.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In Big Nate Goes for Broke, Randy steals Nate's clothes during the school dance, he was never mentioned nor seen in the book after this.
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • At a certain point, Nate's crush Jenny asks him to deliver a crush confession to his (one-sided) arch-nemesis, Artur. Nate initially refuses though she persuades him to do so. At one point it occurs to him that no one would know if he just threw it away. However, he mentions it would be a 'sleeze-ball thing to do' and tells himself he hates not being one as he goes to deliver the note to him.
    • Further added when Nate must begrudgingly explain the note to Artur (being an exchange student and mildly naive) and tells Artur he is free to puruse Jenny when Artur comments his reason for not doing so during a sooner period was to spare Nate's feelings. Despite the envy Nate holds for him as well as his Jerkass moments, this shows he does do the right thing and that he does care for his friends.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Nate has a phobia of cats.
  • World of Snark: See Deadpan Snarker above.