Follow TV Tropes


Comic Strip / Big Nate

Go To
Sixth grade just got a whole lot bigger.
"Our homework is, we have to write a hundred words in this journal every day. A hundred words!"
(Nate draws a muscular version of himself in his notebook.)
"Fortunately, one picture is worth a thousand of those suckers..."
Nate, from the very first strip in January 7 1991

Big Nate is a comic created by Lincoln Peirce. The main character is Nate Wright, a 4'6" sixth-grade underachiever who lives with his clueless dad and older sister. He's said that the things he hates most are cats, egg salad, and figure skating—and he seems to be afraid of the former two. Conversely, Nate loves dogs, Cheez Doodles, and hockey, as well as Femme Fatality comic books, playing chess, and drawing his own comics (sometimes starring himself). Nate is convinced that he's "destined for greatness" despite his fairly average skills and his low grades. He believes that he's a KidAnova despite not being liked by many girls at all, especially his crush Jenny.

His friends and teachers at his school, P. S. 38, have the biggest focus, with Nate's very smart best friend Francis, and his other best friend Teddy. Nate's social studies teacher, Mrs. Godfrey, is thought of by Nate as a Sadist Teacher. Other kids at his school include Drama Queen Dee Dee, all-around Nice Guy Artur, Nate's crush Jenny (who, in turn, hates him), and Insufferable Genius student Gina. 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. The comic can be found here (reading from the beginning is not required, but recommended).

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.

A special book, Epic Big Nate, was published for the 25-year anniversary of the strip. A collection of books, The Complete Big Nate, contain one year each of the strip.

In 2020, it was announced that a Big Nate animated series was in production at Nickelodeon. Then in December 2021, it was announced that the series was moved to Paramount+ and would debut on February 17, 2022.

Provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Nate to Jenny. Also, Kim to Nate.
  • Academic Alpha Bitch: Gina, as the smartest kid in school, a total jerk to Nate, and also seems to be the ringleader of her own group of smart girls.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Nate once gave a report on the Republic of Cameroon, but introduced it as the Republic of Cameron, causing him go off-topic to reference his cousin named Cameron.
  • The Ace: Artur, being instantly perfect at nearly everything he tries, as well as Born Lucky. See Always Someone Better below.
  • Acting Unnatural: At a yard sale, Nate finds a comic book that he guesses is worth much more than what it's being sold for. When he prepares to buy it, he stumbles over his words and gets very nervous, causing the owner to get suspicious of the comic book's actual worth, and keep the comic book instead.
  • Affair Hair: Subverted.
    • When Nate was dating Kelly, his dad thought he had found one of these on Nate's shoulder after one of their dates. Turns out it was Spitsy's hair.
    • Nate once found a long hair on his shoulder and thought it was from a girl who liked him. It was actually Mrs. Godfrey's hair.
  • Air Quotes: Done occasionally, due to the strip being a World of Snark.
    Nate: (while doing air quotes) Ooh! Crisis! I'm not being "respectful!"
  • All Crimes Are Equal: P. S. 38 doesn't seem to have any other form of punishment besides detentions, so very minor things like being late to class and forgetting your homework at home result in detention. Francis has apparently only gotten detention once, for yelling at Nate in class. It's a wonder that there are any students out there who haven't gotten detention.
    • Even worse, it seems that students get detention for major things that would get a student suspended or worse. For instance Chester stuffed a student into his desk and he merely gets a detention for it.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Deliberately invoked when Nate reads that girls are attracted to "bad boys", and decides to become one himself to attract girls. Needless to say, it doesn't work very well.
  • All of Them: A strip where Nate is sent to detention:
    Mrs. Czerwicki: Well, which teacher sent you here?
    Nate: All of 'em.
    Mrs. Czerwicki: Rough day.
    Nate: I'm exhausted.
  • Always Someone Better:
    • Gina is this to Francis. Despite Francis' great scores, Gina manages to do better than him and gloat about it. In an arc from May-June 2006, Nate was counting on Francis to outscore Gina by 12 points on their final test, which would mean Francis would win the Outstanding Scholar medal instead of Gina. He outscored her by 11 points, and Gina said that she let him do that, saying, "I thought it would be fun to make you clowns think you had a CHANCE to take my medal!"
    • Artur is this to Nate. No matter how well Nate does something, Artur will almost always trump him at it—no matter what it is. Even if Artur's never done the thing in question, he'll take to it like a duck takes to water and beat Nate. In the rare cases that he's not good at something, luck will be on Artur's side and he'll find a way to do better anyway. At least he doesn't gloat about it, though, like Gina does.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Derek Nack, a kid Nate met at Chess Camp. He idolizes Nate quite a lot, and can be very emotional at times. Nate feels uncomfortable in his presence sometimes, such as when Derek asked to "exchange locks of hair."
  • Anime Hair / Spiky Hair: Take a look at Nate's hair.
    • Lampshaded:
    Francis: Hey, I just noticed...why is your hair shaped like that?
    Teddy: Yeah, on the sides, you're bald, but on the top, they look like...
    Francis: Hairy stalagmites!
    • 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 character takes time! ... Remember, for every Tony the Tiger or Cap'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 behavior with the remark, "Oh, how I hate her/him."
    Nate: Like Superman, I have many arch-enemies!
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: During a trip to Washington:
    Teddy: Hey! I can see the Washington Monument!
    Sheila: And the Smithsonian!
    Jenny: And the National Archives!
    Francis: Wow! The National Gallery!
    Nate: Hey, look! A pretzel cart!
  • 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.
  • Art Shift: Shown here and here. Also here as an April Fools' Gag.
  • Artistic License – Biology: In-Universe; apparently according to a zoologist, the woodchuck mascot for Nate's Junior Woodchucks troop looks less like a woodchuck and more like an "east Indian Bandicoot".
  • Aside Glance: Most everyone does this at some point in reaction to Nate.
  • Asleep in Class: Nate, sometimes. Once he mentioned that math class was "a great place to grab an afternoon nap."
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: Nate has these often during the spring with his dad, either playing baseball or serving as his dad's caddy for golf. Nate never really enjoys these, mainly due to how horrible his father is at both baseball and golf.
    • Also featured in a "The Snuggles Family" strip, where the father wants to teach his son Timmy how to play baseball simply because it's "American". Timmy really doesn't want to learn how to play baseball, and ends up in the emergency room.
  • Barbaric Bully: Chester. His temper is so short that beating up kids when they get him mad is pretty much a pastime for him.
    • In Big Nate Lives it Up, it was revealed that Breckenridge was one when him and Nate were in preschool. Nate didn't know he was Breckenridge, though, because then he was called Bobby. Breckenridge also doesn't remember bullying Nate as a child.
  • Bat Deduction: Nate's thinking process in response to the question "Who was Thomas Jefferson's first vice president?"
    Nate: Thomas Jefferson reminds me of Jefferson Airplane! What was one of their biggest hits? "White Rabbit"! Who's the world's most famous rabbit? Bugs Bunny! What does Bugs Bunny eat? Carrots! What color are carrots? Orange! What rhymes with orange? Nothing! What's the numerical equivalent of nothing? Zero! When the temperature's zero, how's the weather? Cold! When the weather's cold, what do people say? Brrr! What's another way to spell it? BURR! Jefferson's first vice president was AARON BURR!
    • Ironically enough, despite his odd thought process, Nate is actually correct in this case as Aaron Burr was Thomas Jefferson's first vice president. So this lapses into Right for the Wrong Reasons.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In one arc where Nate watches it rain instead of snow over winter break, Nate wishes it would snow so he could "be outside doing stuff". The rain starts to change into snow. Before long, Nate's dad wants the driveway shoveled...
  • Berserk Button:
    • Do not mention anything involving school to Nate during the summer.
    • Do not mention how easy a teacher's job is around the overworked Mr. Rosa.
    • 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.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Mrs. Godfrey, Randy, Gina, Marcus, and The Jefferson Students are Nate's archenemies.
  • Big Eater:
    • Chester. Once he ate an entire chicken in the space of a few seconds.
    • Mark Cheswick, although he does have his limits, seeing as how he can't eat a gut buster in one sitting.
    • Chad is shown to like eating a lot. Hey, that chub had to come from somewhere.
    • Nate's dad is seen to have quite the appetite sometimes, which probably explains his inability to lose weight. One of his less admirable moments is eating an entire bag of Halloween candy.
    • Even Nate himself sometimes has this tendency. Especially when it comes to Cheez Doodles.
  • Big "NO!": Often, to add drama to a situation.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Gordie's boss, Wayne, has them.
  • Black Bead Eyes: Averted at large for most of the characters in the strip, who have short vertical lines for eyes. Played straight, however, with certain other characters (Artur, Chad, Coach John, etc.).
  • Blind Without 'Em: Though it's only touched upon in a few strips, it's mentioned that Francis can't see very well without his glasses.
  • 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, and constantly fails in social studies (maybe because it's taught by Mrs. Godfrey?)
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick:
    • This.
    • Nate once made a list of dangers in school. They were, in order: sadistic teachers, pop quizzes, and... avalanches. Though the last one just meant Nate's overstuffed locker exploding, as the last panel showed.
  • Break the Haughty: Nate is a fairly normal kid with a Napoleon complex, and sometimes he loses cruelly just to remind him that he's not the greatest person in the world.
  • 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 many 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.
  • Call-Back: When Coach John was introduced, he shoved a soccer ball at Nate to test his reflexes. Later, when Nate discovers that Coach John is working as a gym teacher at his school, Coach John shoves a basketball at him to test his reflexes.
  • Canon Immigrant: Dee Dee was developed in the book series, and then made her way into the comic's supporting cast in January 2016.
  • 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's had four girlfriends. His first broke up with him while he broke up with the second and third. For what it's worth, he was a pretty good boyfriend (though we rarely saw the second, her being in a different school.). At the time of writing, he has not broken up with his newest girlfriend, Daphne, introduced in May 2023.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Nate has had a few nightmares about Mrs. Godfrey (such as her becoming his stepmother) that cause him to wake up suddenly.
  • Catchphrase: "Cripes" for several, and "Oh, how I hate/loathe her/him/them" and "Spitsy, you idiot" for Nate.
  • Caught on the Jumbotron: Nate, his dad, and Ellen are in the stands at a baseball game while Nate's dad lists off, in his thoughts, his complaints (such as their team losing and the cost of parking and seats). Then he accidentally drops his chili dog in his lap and stands up, thinking "what could make this event worse?" Then he shows up on the Jumbotron.
  • 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.
  • Child Prodigy: Peter, a first grader who already reads at a college level, as well as being fluent in French.
  • Christmas Creep: Done not with Christmas, but with the start of the school year; often during the summer, stores at the mall will advertise "back to school sales" well before the school year actually starts. Occasionally the back to school sales start the day after summer vacation begins.
  • 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.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Nate does this all the time. For example, when Nate has to get a math tutor, he thinks that it's all about "getting to meet girls" (he wants a female tutor) and thinks that the real point, improving his grade, is just a "fringe benefit".
  • Completely Off-Topic Report: Nate's had a lot of these. Once he was supposed to write a report on Paul Revere, and instead writes it on Paul Revere from the band Paul Revere and the Raiders.
  • Collector of the Strange:
    • Nate collects oddly shaped Cheez Doodles.
    • Coach John collects kidney stones.
    • Mr. Galvin collects potatoes in the shape of president faces.
  • Comic-Book Time: Like most comics, the comic is in this state. Every year there is a prank day at the end of school. And every year, everyone is still in the same grade.
  • Cone of Shame: Spitsy is always seen wearing one. Apparently he wears it because if it's removed, he tries to bite his own paws off.
  • Continuity Nod: Nate once mowed over a lady's lawn gnome while mowing her lawn. Later, Nate says that a lady named Mrs. Winslow hired a landscaping service instead of him. He wonders why, and then adds, "Okay, so I ran over one of her stupid lawn gnomes. That was an accident!"
  • 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 Mrs. Godfrey.
  • Covered in Mud: Nate ends up this way after stomping a worm in a puddle splashes him. Despite his dad telling him to not get mud on his clothes, he goes ahead and gets absolutely filthy. "There was this worm, see, and..."
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Nate comes up with some of the most epic pranks for the annual Prank Day arc, which would require a budget into the millions as well as months of planning and incredible stealth skills. Yet he can't scrape any higher than a C in most of his classes.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Nate sometimes draws cartoons of Mrs. Godfrey having one of these with Nate's face on it.
  • 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.
  • Decided by One Vote: One arc had Francis run for school president with Nate as his running mate, and they lost to their opponents by a single vote. As it turned out, it was Francis' vote that decided it, because he voted for his opponent due to it seeming like "the ethical thing to do."
    Francis: Now I know I did the right thing.
    • When Nate ran for class president, the same result happened between him and Marcus, however this time in Nate's favor.
  • Demoted to Extra: Marty (Nate's dad) and Ellen started as main characters, but as Nate's friends and teachers became more important, they appeared less and less.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Happens to Nate all the time. Averted when he manages to get a girlfriend (Angie, Kelly, and Trudy) but he ultimately breaks up with them.
  • Dirty Old Man: Nate's dad. He reads catalogs with models in them and Nate's "Femme Fatality" comics just to ogle the sexy women in them. It's been mentioned that his computer has an Anna Kournikova screensaver.
    • Mr. Galvin of all people is also hinted to be one. Nate once bribed him into not giving him detention by giving Mr. Galvin a swimsuit picture of Greta Van Susteren.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Nate, oh so very much. Mostly it's by Jenny, but any cute girl can have this effect on Nate.
    • Nate's match against "The Brain", a female member of Chess Camp. Nate was too busy staring at her that he barely played, causing "The Brain" to win easily.
  • The Ditz: Nate's dad as described by Nate (and in real life as well sometimes), and Nate fairly often too.
  • Dodgy Toupee: Coach John wears one of these.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Nate absolutely hates egg salad. Extends to the point where as a superhero in his comics (Ultra-Nate), his only weakness is egg salad.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Nate goes a while without eating Cheez Doodles, it's treated like someone going for a while without smoking or using drugs.
    • Same thing with Francis and his trivia books; one arc had Nate and Teddy intervene for Francis to admit that he had an addiction to trivia, and Francis couldn't handle having his book taken away. Oddly, though, he hasn't shown this addiction anywhere else.
    • In a strip where the kids are having their own Olympic Games, someone is running suspiciously fast, and the kids suspect he's getting "a little help." As it turns out, his water bottle is filled with... Mountain Dew!
    • Also, this strip where Nate is on the computer is set up so it seems he's looking at porn or something similar.
    Dad: What are you looking at there?
    Nate: Me? I...uh...
    Dad: Nate! We've talked about looking at this sort of internet content!
    Nate: Dad, I... I'm just curious, that's all! All I'm doing is... I'm just exploring what's out there! Why is that wrong? It's natural!!
    Nate: Oooh! A collie!
  • A Dog Ate My Homework: Spitsy (or other dogs, on occasion) sometimes eats Nate's homework before he brings it to school in the morning.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: When a cop was hired to keep the kids under control during Prank Day one year, Nate doubts that the man really is a cop. He jokes that the man can't be a cop because "he wasn't eating a donut."
  • Drama Queen: Dee Dee, as one of her main character traits. She is the president of the drama club, after all. Ellen can be this occasionally as well.
  • Dream Within a Dream: A Sunday Strip has Nate doing a Meadow Run... but then he sees that an ugly old woman is his target and recoils. Then he wakes up from it only to see that he's wearing only his underwear in the middle of a crowd of people. He then wakes up from that dream in his bed, and a bunch of rats climb onto his bed and attack him. Finally, he wakes up in his classroom, only to be glared at by Mrs. Godfrey.
    Nate: There's nightmares, and then there's nightmares.
  • Drench Celebration: During a cold day, Nate's soccer team wins their match and decide to drench the coach with Gatorade. Unfortunately, the Gatorade has frozen due to the cold, knocking the coach out.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Coach John. A majority of what he makes students do in gym class are wind sprints and push-ups, and usually works the students to exhaustion.
  • Drunk with Power: Nate became this when he got to be a hall monitor in an early strip (a position that he ironically thinks is boring later on), abusing his hall monitor privileges. Nate subsequently got his hall monitor status taken away for this.
  • Dude Magnet: Jenny appears to be one. Not only does Nate like her, she's had lot of boyfriends over the years and other people, such as Teddy and a kid from Jefferson have been shown to find her attractive.
  • 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. Teddy didn't exist at all in the strip at first, and first appeared a few years into the strip's run, where he was introduced as the new kid. Now, Teddy's one of the most common characters in the strip. The art style was also a lot less cartoony and more realistic.
    • A specific instance of this trope is seen in Nate's comic "The Snuggles Family." Early storylines of it tend to more or less just be exaggerated versions of similar real-world series about "perfect" family, while later ones are more likely to go in unexpected directions (i.e. the father losing his job).
  • Ear Worm: Francis once had a song stuck in his head and was going to tell Teddy and Nate what it was, but Nate said "then we'll be infected, too!" and sings "The Star-Spangled Banner" to avoid Francis telling him. But then Nate gets an Ear Worm from the song.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Francis' middle name is Butthurst. Dee Dee also has one—her middle name is Dorcas.
  • Entertainment Above Their Age:
    • Nate (who is eleven) is a fan of the comic series Femme Fatality, which is about the eponymous attractive superheroine. His dad Marty notes that it's quite violent and suggestive.
    • In one strip, Nate and his friend, Teddy, are discussing movies and both agreed Dumb and Dumber to be their favorite film... just as resident nerd Francis (who is only the same age as them) strolls by. When Nate comments, "bet Francis doesn't have a favourite film" Francis retorts that his favorite is Casablanca, one of the all-time best classics".
      Nate: You mean the one with animals going to Africa?
      Francis: NO, that's Madagascar!
  • Epic Fail: Things that Nate's dad tries will almost always end up as this, especially golf.
    • It seems to run in the family. Nate once made a list of these for Ellen, which contained things like Ellen screwing up while working as a cashier at her part-time job, Dilly Burger ("That'll be three million dollars!"), and Ellen leaving for school on the wrong day ("Hey, wait a minute! Today is Sunday!"). Also, one Sunday strip has Nate try to make a shot in a basketball hoop. Then this happens:
    Francis: What if you miss, and then the ball breaks a window, hits a cat, rolls into the street and gets run over by a dump truck?
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Trying to explain something to Chester is like walking on thin ice because he is very touchy about certain things. As such, many conversations Nate has with Chester end up like this. Nate tries to tell him something, realizes he's said something that offends him, and hastily tries to recover. Sometimes, it ends up with Nate getting stuffed into a garbage can or something similar.
  • Exploding Closet: Nate's locker. He can't open it without stuff spilling everywhere, and if you're hit by the blast of stuff coming out, you could go flying across the hall. It can apparently fit an amount of things that wouldn't be able to fit in a standard school locker, as shown by the pictures. It even seems to have some weird properties that couldn't be possible in Real Life; in two separate Sunday strips Chad is able to walk into Nate's locker without having it explode all over him, yet it explodes all over Randy seconds later. He's even been shown to have items such as a Picasso drawing, an autographed photo of Abraham Lincoln, and a Faberge egg ("Careful with that. It's breakable.") in his locker. One may wonder why he complains about having no money while he has stuff he could sell for a tidy profit in that thing. On a less valuable note, he also once pulled a clean, entirely edible ice cream cone right out of his locker, without anything covering it.
  • The Faceless: Chester, who we almost never see except for his arm in some occasions. The most that we've ever seen of him at one time is his body from the neck down. He's implied to have a mustache, though.
  • 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.
  • Faux Horrific: In one instance where Francis brings a trivia book to school, Teddy and Nate scream "NO!" as he starts reading factoids from it. Nate also screams in terror sometimes when Mrs. Godfrey shows up.
    • In a late July 2019 strip, Chad and Dee Dee watch a home improvement show on HGTV and act as if it's a horror movie.
  • Flanderization: A few characters.
    • Nate wasn't that bad of a student to begin with, and occasionally even got higher test scores than Francis. This was changed into him just barely escaping summer school every year, and consistently getting low grades in just about every class but the ones he likes (i. e. art and life skills).
    • While we're talking about Francis, in the earlier strips he was much less obsessed with knowledge and school. Sure, he made the effort to make good grades and to be a generally good person, but in the newer strips his life sometimes seems to revolve around academics.
    • Gina was just a high-performing student that got on Nate's nerves when she was introduced, but she was changed into an Insufferable Genius who loved to bug Nate about her test scores (see Serious Business below).
  • Flat Character: A few of the recurring characters are these.
    • Jenny is this. We really don't know much about her personality or who she is (earlier strips showed her as one of the most popular girls in school), as she only really shows up so Nate can flirt with her. One strip showed that even Nate doesn't know that much about her, showing that she really is only there to be Nate's love interest, and not much else.
    • Sheila, Francis' girlfriend. Along with Jenny, she was established early on as the "popular girl", and after awhile started going out with Francis. Sheila has appeared less and less as the strip goes on, and she was never a major character to begin with, so she never really got any character development.
    • Then there's Jeff, a rare character who's only made a few appearances. He always looks about the same so you know he's the same character, but doesn't have a very developed personality.
  • Foreign Exchange Student: Artur, who comes from Belarus and speaks English oddly.
  • Foul Cafeteria Food: PS38's cafeteria food tastes terrible. It appears to be a grey-brown puddle of liquid, but what it is is unknown, as its smell and taste are unrecognizable.
    Nate: Are you sure this is even food?
    Francis: That question has been asked many times.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: All of the characters have them, but since art class is featured, there is going to be some confusion. Lampshaded in a strip where Nate showed Mr. Rosa Picasso's drawing of a hand and saying that it didn't look right. He held up his own hand and said, "Now this! This is an anatomically correct hand!"
  • Freudian Trio: The main trio, with Nate as the Id (does things for glory without considering the circumstances), Francis as the Superego (considers things more carefully to reach decisions), and Teddy as the Ego (not as wild as Nate nor as rule-abiding as Francis, but balances them out).
  • Funny Foreigner: Artur. He is from Belarus and has trouble speaking English often, sometimes leading to Intentional Engrish for Funny by the author.
  • Girl Next Door: Jenny, to most of the cast. She's basically a Nice Girl that people can talk to, and most of the other kids have known her since first grade.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: Ellen dates comic book geek Gordie, while Sheila dates Francis (although their relationship, as well as Sheila herself, is currently Out of Focus).
  • Gone Horribly Right: When Nate gets hypnotized into becoming neater to impress his teachers, it goes fine at first, but Nate becomes such a neat freak that he can't enjoy anything anymore. He basically becomes inflicted with OCD, and is horrified when he finds Cheez Doodles too powdery to eat.
  • Gonk: Lately, the faces characters make when their Berserk Buttons are pushed are just weird. To wit: their hair loses all of its smoothness, their mouth becomes C-shaped and gains buck teeth, their tongue sticks straight out, and one of their eyes becomes big and round.
  • Gotta Have It, Gonna Steal It: While put in charge of the store temporarily while Gordie took a break, Nate witnessed Randy slip a comic into his jacket and leave the store. To stop him, Nate tackled Randy as Gordie was coming back and exposed that he had stolen a comic. It was a girl's comic that Randy said that he was going to get for his cousin's birthday. Nate seemed very smug that he had caught Randy, and couldn't resist rubbing in the victory.
  • Grammar Nazi: Francis can't help but correct the misuse of words when people speak. Even Nate's dad can be one sometimes, like in this strip.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Some arcs travel into this. For example, there was one arc where Nate's Femme Fatality comic book was taken away by his dad, and Nate goes to Klassic Komics to complain to Gordie. Gordie (who had broken up with Ellen in a comic strip previously) hints that he still likes Ellen. This leads to her and Gordie starting to go out again.
  • Hidden Depths: Chad owns a Peruvian snake venom extruder, which he left in Nate's locker in one strip.
    Teddy: There's more to Chad than meets the eye.
  • Humiliation Conga: In one Sunday strip, Nate carries a "cartoonist's notebook" to write down hilarious things he sees. Then, Nate accidentally steps on a skateboard and rolls down some stairs on it. Then the skateboard hits a rock and Nate goes flying—close to a flagpole, which rips his pants off. Then he lands in a mud puddle.
    Francis: Want me to write that down for you?
    Nate: Forget it.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Nate occasionally wanders into this. For example:
    • Nate wonders why Artur keeps being nice to him despite him saying that he loathes Artur. Then, Nate starts flirting with Jenny, who can't stand Nate.
    • During summer vacation, Nate mentions how weird it is for Francis to be reading a book while it's a beautiful day outside. Nate is watching TV inside as he says it.
    • Nate is appalled that Gina wants to go to the library after school, thinking to himself, "Some people really need to get a life." Meanwhile, Nate is sitting in detention after school.
  • Idiot Hero: Nate is so vain and lacking in wisdom that Francis and Teddy have at least once admitted among themselves that he doesn't actually possess very many redeeming qualities out of sheer stupidity and is more just a humongous tool.
  • I Got a Rock: Nate's dad always hands out healthy snacks on Halloween, like soy nuts, rice cakes, and prunes. If he tries to make the treats himself, his Cordon Bleugh Chef traits show up, such as making homemade Rice Krispe Treats out of actual rice. As a result, his house sometimes gets vandalized.
  • Imagine Spot: Nate has a lot of these. For example, he once fantasized about Mrs. Godfrey drowning in quicksand in the middle of class.
  • Insufferable Genius: Gina, as a result of her Flanderization. She can never miss a chance to brag to people about her latest perfect grade, and likes to call attention to herself and the things she's done that relate to school.
  • Ironic Echo: The 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.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The strip from August 4, 2000 has Francis deriding Nate for crushing on Femme Fatale, claiming that it would be impossible for them to even meet. Nate counters that he has a crush on Courteney Cox and asks how that's any different. He isn't shown making a counterargument as the last panel has him talking to Teddy.
    Francis: I wasn't expecting someone so insane to sound so logical.
  • 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.
  • Karma Houdini: Dr. Cesspool in Nate's comic strips. Despite him constantly making major mistakes in his surgeries, he manages to keep his job. He's mentioned that he's cost the hospital where he works millions in lawsuits. At times he's even forgot what the heart is called ("Nurse, what is that big red pulsing thing called?"). Once, Dr, Cesspool was fired, but he was rehired after saving a man from choking in a restaurant.
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: 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: An occasional 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 strip.)
  • Least Rhymable Word: Nate once wrote a poem about Cheez Doodles and wrote the line: "Your color is a fiery orange..." and struggles to find a rhyme with it.
  • Lethal Chef: Nate's dad is a terrible chef, making vegetable stew that includes unrecognizable vegetables, seems to burn dinner on a regular basis, and is the butt of many jokes about his cooking.
    Nate's Dad: (regarding his cooking) That'll put hair on your chest!
    Ellen: Eww...
  • 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."
    • When Nate and Teddy get sent to detention in one strip, Mrs. Czerwicki asks what they've done this time. Nate and Teddy try to explain, but then burst out laughing.
  • Literal-Minded: When on a trip to Washington, D. C., Nate thought the National Mall was an actual mall, and when he saw it, he said that it didn't look like any mall he's ever seen.
  • Loophole Abuse: Nate tends to do this with his articles about the teachers for the school newspaper, carefully writing headlines so he's technically not wrong, but it sounds like something different is happening. For example, Nate kept asking Mr. Galvin if he had a "relationship" with Mrs. LaChance, another teacher, and Mr. Galvin said that the idea that he had a relationship with her was "pure fantasy." So, Nate wrote as his headline, "Galvin's Fantasy: A Relationship With LaChance".
    • At one point, Nate decided to finally accept that Jenny and Artur are a couple and to get on with his life, and just be friends with Jenny. He looks up the definition of "friend" in the dictionary, "A person attached to another by feelings of affection", so he has an excuse to still be romantically attracted to her.
  • Love Letter Lunacy: One Valentine's Day, Nate decides to deliver a valentine cookie to a new girl, Tina. It ended up getting delivered to Gina by mistake. So, naturally, Nate asked Tina if she'd gotten the cookie and she said no. Once Nate figured out that it was given to Gina, he confronts the girl who had delivered it, who claimed that she did just what Nate's order form said to do. Nate then took a look at the form, and it read... Gina. Fortunately, Nate was able to clear the whole thing up as a big misunderstanding.
    • Subverted. In the arc that resulted in Jenny and Artur becoming a couple, Nate was tasked by Jenny to deliver a love letter from her to Artur. It was hard for Nate to do, considering he'd had a crush on Jenny for a long time, and considered invoking this trope by failing to deliver the letter. Ultimately, though, he decides to go through with the delivery.
  • Made from Real Girl Scouts: During a story line where Nate is selling cookies for his Junior Woodchucks scout troop, he offers them to a man who jokingly asks if the cookies are made from real woodchucks.
  • Manchild: Uncle Ted. He still lives with his parents despite his age, and constantly makes up lame excuses to get out of doing work. Nate's grandmother has said that he can't do his own laundry.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Nate's answer to a math problem that gives a shopping situation, and asks what the buyer gives to the cashier.
    "His credit card."
  • Meadow Run:
    • Parodied. Nate ran until he got close enough to see that his Love Interest was an old hag. Fortunately, it was All Just a Dream (within a dream).
    • Another instance where this happened in a dream was with Nate and Angie, but Nate's dad was right behind them to ruin the moment.
  • Medium Awareness: In one of Nate's "The Snuggles Family" comic strips, a character gets hit in the eye with a flying heart that usually floats around the characters.
    Honey: Look out! INCOMING!
  • Mini-Golf Episode: One storyline where Nate went mini-golfing had him play with Jenny and Artur. Artur, of course, gets nearly every shot perfect despite never having played mini-golf before, and Nate tears himself up trying to outperform Artur.
  • Missing Mom: Nate's mother is never seen in the strip, due to her divorcing Nate's dad when Nate was little.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Femme Fatality, very much both in-universe and out.
  • My Hero, Zero: Invoked by Nate when he tries to come up with a soccer nickname for himself. A name he decides on is "Mister Zero", since as he's the goalkeeper, his job is to let in zero goals. Francis and Teddy then point out that it works... because by itself, it applies to so many parts of Nate's life, shooting it down.
  • Mysterious Teacher's Lounge: Shown in this strip.
  • Narcissist: Nate. Every time he does something impressive, he expects to be practically worshipped for it (like when he scored the game-winning shot in a basketball game and he hands out autographs). He absolutely loathes being called "just another kid" by someone and seemed to suffer a minor Heroic BSoD when Mr. Rosa told him that there were kids in the school that were better artists than him ("Could it be? Is it possible that I'm... I'm not a genius?"). When Nate has a problem, he isn't sympathetic for anyone else who has one, and shoves people out of the way without a second thought when he wants to. He can't see anything that's wrong about himself, making it hard for him to see why Jenny doesn't like him. Francis and Teddy have joked that he's in love with himself.
  • Never My Fault: When Nate fell behind in social studies in one arc, he blamed Francis for his bad grades, saying Francis watched him fall behind and didn't help him.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: Coach John. He started out as the instructor for a soccer camp Nate and his friends were attending, then became a regular gym teacher at Nate's school. He's been shown having many other jobs as well, including water safety instructor, substitute school nurse, and yoga teacher.
    • School Picture Guy also falls into this when he's not being the, well, school picture guy. He has been a carnival clown, a mascot for a seafood restaurant, and a DJ for school dances, among other things.
  • 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. It's very hard to get Artur mad or upset, and despite his constant luck, remains humble.
  • The Nicknamer: Nate has gotten a reputation for being this. He's able to create nicknames for anyone, including teachers and students. Mrs. Godfrey alone might have a number of nicknames that goes into the triple digits.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Coach John is obsessed with showing his students disgusting surgeries, and even goes so far as to show them his kidney stone collection. Ewww.
  • No Accounting for Taste: Mrs. Czerwicki, the detention supervisor, will complain endlessly about her husband to anyone who wants to listen. Since Nate gets detention so often, he's usually the one who listens.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Nate's favorite TV artist, Rusty Sienna, is clearly based on Bob Ross. Rusty does an oil-painting show, sells a line of sponsored products, and even has a perm. In a later strip it was revealed that Rusty had died on May 7th, 1996, about a year after Bob Ross died.
  • No Indoor Voice: Coach John.
    Nate: Coach? How come Coach John is always yelling?
    Coach: Oh, it's just the way he communicates! It's mostly bluster! Try not to focus on the fact that he's yelling! Try to concentrate on the fact that he's...
    Teddy: ...screaming?
  • Noodle Incident: While selling stuff for the Junior Woodchucks, Nate prepares to try and sell to a certain house. Teddy warns him that it's "the house" and not to try it. Nate doesn't listen, and rings the doorbell. A woman answers the door, says "YOU!" and slams it in Nate's face. No details are given to what Nate did at that house.
    • Nate also has a record of eating the most Cheez Doodles. This was never alluded to except once, and it was never brought up again.
    • This strip.
    Nate: Remember that time in your attic we found-
    Teddy: We agreed never to speak of that again.
  • The Nose Knows: Nate has an extraordinary sense of smell that he can use to know uncannily specific things about whatever it is he's smelling. Once, he was able to locate Sheila's lost earring by smelling the other one and following the scent. He also made a bet with his science teacher once about it: if he was able to guess what object Mr. Galvin was holding by scent, he, Francis, and Teddy would not get any homework from Mr. Galvin for a week. Nate correctly guessed: "It's a binder clip that, due to the lingering scent of ham on rye, you probably used to hold your lunch bag shut." He even sniffed Randy's (closed) lunch sack at one time and was able to name everything that was in there, including a note from Randy's mother and what the note said ("It's cute that she calls you 'Lil' Dumplin!'").
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Nate and his friends have been stuck in 6th grade (and with Mrs. Godfrey as a teacher) since the strip began.
  • "Not Wearing Pants" Dream: Nate once had a dream in which not only was he not wearing pants, he wasn't wearing any clothing at all. See Fan Disservice above. Nate also once had dream inside of a dream where he was only wearing his underwear at school. Everyone around him laughs as he covers himself.
  • Official Couple: Jenny and Artur, Francis and Sheila, and Ellen and Gordie.
    • Teddy and Paige were one for a while, but they officially broke up in this strip.
    • Nate was also this for a limited time with Angie, Kelly, and Trudy, the three girlfriends he's had, but broke up with them all after awhile.
    • Jenny, similarly to Nate, had a few boyfriends before moving on to Artur. Ellen also dated Kenny early in the strip before Ellen started dating Gordie.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Nate's friends are never going to let him forget about his any of his past screw-ups.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: School Picture Guy is never given a real name, despite him appearing not only for school picture day. Nate has only ever referred to him as "school picture guy", even to his face.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: In an early strip with Artur, Nate scams Artur by selling him a cheap calendar... that's for the past year, not the coming one. Nate simply says to Artur "let the buyer beware" and Artur sics his dog on Nate. While it wouldn't look too out of place in the strip if someone else did it, Artur nowadays would be too nice to ever do such a thing.
  • Phrase Catcher: Chad's inherent adorableness leading to great accomplishment frequently gets "Behold, the power of Chad!"
  • Picture Day: Nate seems to be cursed with having a horrible school picture every year. One year he had both a huge bump on his head and a fat lip, and another year he sneezed while the picture was being taken. It's implied that the school picture guy takes bad pictures on purpose just so he can make more money with retakes. On the one year that his school picture actually looked normal, the yearbook misspelled his name as "Nadine Wright".
  • The Pig-Pen: Nate, with his sloppy room, locker, and personality, fits this pretty well.
  • Plain Palate: When Nate asks Francis what he would eat if he were on a desert island and could only eat one thing, Francis, who is more concerned about survival than enjoying himself, states that he would eat vegetarian burgers and drink water because he believes those to be the healthiest decision. This annoys Nate so much that he hits him with a bottle.
  • Pointless Bandaid: School Picture Guy has been wearing a band-aid on his forehead since he was introduced.
  • Precocious Crush: In the early years of the strip, Francis (11) had a crush on Nate's sister, Ellen (15), though it didn't last long and Francis eventually forgot that he even had a crush on her.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Gina is one of these. Francis can also be this. Gina's frequent buttkissery is lampshaded in this strip.
  • Race Lift: Dee Dee was white in the books where she first appeared, but got light brown skin in her comic strip introduction.
  • A Rare Sentence: "Well, she may have arrived with Frankenstein, but she's LEAVING with Quasimodo!"
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Nate gave one of these to Mrs. Godfrey once, only for it to reveal that he was just dreaming as he slept in class.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: For all of the nonsense Mrs. Godfrey puts up with from Nate, she's surprisingly willing to take his side in disagreements with Gina, as long as he's not causing a distraction in class. Examples include Gina attempting to correct Nate's test when Mrs. Godfrey mistakenly gave Nate a 96 instead of the 86 he'd earned, Gina attempting to get Nate a detention as part of a bet and Gina taking advantage of Nate's promise to be nice by making him tie her shoe. All three times, Mrs. Godfrey came down hard on Gina, sending her to detention on two occasions. Whenever she's sided with Gina over Nate, it's because Nate was goofing off in social studies and interrupting her lesson. Mrs. Godfrey's stance seems to be that she's willing to hear her students out when there's a conflict; just don't interrupt her class to do it. Of course, Nate still has yet to realize that he'd probably have a much better relationship with Mrs. Godfrey if he'd stop calling attention to himself in her class.
  • Recycled Script: Parodied in-universe with Nate's "Action Cat" comic strips; every single one of them ends with Action Cat getting run over by a car/truck/other random vehicle.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Nate and Francis, respectively. Nate is bold and headstrong while very self-absorbed, while Francis is smarter, quiet, and wiser than Nate.
  • Rescue Romance: Nate tries to invoke this trope in one arc, Inverted in that he doesn't try to rescue the object of his affection. He tries to win Jenny's affections by saving Francis from choking... by staging a choking incident. As one may predict, it doesn't work.
  • The Reveal: Parodied with one of Nate's Moe Mentum story lines, in an arc where Moe plays a crazed killer who wears a paper bag on his head. The script calls for Moe to have the bag ripped off his head in the climatic scene, and reveals his true identity... except for the fact that the script stops there, so Moe has no idea who his true identity is in the movie. The movie director advises, "Just improvise something."
  • Right Behind Me: Whenever Nate's insulting Mrs. Godfrey, most of the time she's going to be right behind him to catch him in the act and give him detention. Once Nate denied he'd said anything about her, and Mrs. Godfrey reveals that she used a recorder to record Nate's insult.
  • Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue...: Nate's poem that he wrote for Jenny while she was going out with Ronnie: "Roses are red, violets are great, dump that jerk Ronnie and go out with Nate!"
  • Rummage Fail: Nate sometimes has trouble finding his homework in the landfill of assorted garbage—sorry, useful stuff—that piles out whenever he opens his locker. Also averted in that Nate can reach into the pile and pull out any other obscure object you care to name, as he has proven to Francis upon occasion.
  • 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.
    • Nate's dad buying/making lame Halloween snacks.
    • Artur mentioning goats.
    • Teddy and Francis teasing Nate about being in love with Gina or Mrs. Godfrey.
  • 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, and unlike with Mrs. Godfrey, Nate's not the only one who sees someone who thinks running wind sprints in the social studies room is a good idea as a sadist.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Nate, occasionally. One strip had Nate ask Jenny if she wanted to go to a "couples only" party with him, and Jenny replied, "Gee, I don't know, Nate! Let me ask my BOYFRIEND if I can go to a couples only party with you!" Nate thought she was really going to ask her boyfriend.
    Jenny: You're not very bright, are you?
    Nate: I'll wait right here! Chop chop!
  • Sarcasm Mode: One of the main sources of humor.
  • Self-Deprecation: In a comic strip with Angie, Nate showed her his drawings and told her that he wanted to become a professional cartoonist someday. Angie comments that all his characters look the same, just with different hair... so he really could be a professional cartoonist!
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Francis and Nate, respectively.
    • Nate plays sports, like baseball and soccer, more than Francis does, though Francis usually plays because Nate does. Nate is also much bolder than Francis is (with almost anything), and is very competitive. Nate also thinks of himself as very manly, even more than he really is, which makes him very self-absorbed.
    • Francis is more interested in his grades than sports, and is much more mature than Nate. He generally thinks about his friends more than Nate does and is more considerate towards them. Francis was also described by his girlfriend, Sheila, as "sensitive and sweet...he's more like a girl than a boy."
  • Serious Business: School is this for Gina. If any other student performed better than her on a test, or if she doesn't do up to her high standards on one, she gets very ticked off. She won't even let her personal feelings get in the way of her grade-point average.
  • Shout-Out: Right here.
  • Show Within a Show: Nate's comic strips. The series include Dr. Cesspool (an incompetent operating room surgeon), Action Cat (a cat who only gets hit by vehicles, only appeared in the beginning of the strip), The Snuggles Family (an "All-American" family that strives to be normal), Dan Cupid (a cupid who helps out people in love), and Celebrity Interview (two reporters, Biff Biffwell and Chip Chipson, who interview fictional characters), among others. Occasionally, one of Nate's comic strips will take the place of a regular strip, sometimes for a entire week-long arc.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Nate and Ellen. Nate is self-confident while Ellen is self-dissatisfied, Ellen is good at school while Nate is horrible at it, Nate likes dogs while Ellen prefers cats... the list goes on.
  • Sickeningly Sweet: Nate's "wholesome" comic strip series "The Snuggles Family" is this on purpose. The family is so happy all the time that symbols such as smiley faces, hearts, and lollipops float around them. They always do kid-friendly things in the strips, such as going on a road trip (where they actually didn't go anywhere; they just drove around for a week) and "rent a G-rated movie". Then there are the names: the mother is literally named "honey" (as proved in this strip), the youngest daughter is named "Punkin", and the family's surname is actually "Snuggles".
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Jenny and Artur, much to Nate's disgust. Also Ellen with Gordie or Kenny.
  • 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.
    • Nate tried to invoke this trope when he borrows a pair of his dad's reading glasses to wear to school, thinking that he'll get better grades that way due to people wearing glasses looking smarter. Though since the glasses make everything look blurry, he misses the door to his classroom and runs into the door frame.
  • Sound Defect: In a Sunday strip that explained comic sound effects, Nate bounced a ball on the sidewalk and it makes a "Splash!" sound. He seems confused.
  • Speech-Centric Work: By Peirce's own admission, Big Nate is wordier than most other strips. He once noted that he often reaches 60-70 words across only four panels.
  • Spoof Aesop: When Nate learns his lesson after joining and leaving Marcus' posse:
    Francis: Well, maybe you learned something from this little experience.
    Nate: Did I ever. I learned that Marcus is a total...uhh...a
    Francis: (Aside Glance) He's so introspective.
    Nate: What's another word for "scuzz-bucket"?
  • Squick: In-Universe; everyone finds Nate's lucky socks repulsive. Considering he hasn't washed them for years and they are described to be a mixture of gray, yellow, brown, and green in color, it's very understandable.
  • Stalker with a Crush:
    Francis: What are you standing here for?
    Nate: I'm waiting for Jenny to come out of her house!
    Francis: Nate, haven't you given up on Jenny yet?
    Nate: Never! I know someday she'll like me! I will not be denied! I'll just keep on pursuing her! Wooing her! Courting her!
    Francis: Stalking her.
  • Standard '50s Father: Bob, the father in Nate's "The Snuggles Family" comic.
  • 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.
    • Nate once beat Artur in chess, finally... 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 was mad that he spent all of the dance talking to another girl and hated him even more.
    • One that actually worked in Nate's favor: Nate's comic "Dr. Cesspool" was dropped from the school newspaper at one point, but Gina decided to bring it back after it was revealed that Principal Nichols actually enjoyed the strip.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Essentially the role of Honey, the mother in Nate's "The Snuggles Family" comic.
  • Stuffed into a Locker / Stuffed into a Trashcan: Chester loves to do this to kids that get on his nerves, especially Nate.
  • Sweetie Graffiti: When Nate was in love with Angie, he was so hopeful that it would turn out that Angie liked him back that he scribbled "Nate and Angie" graffiti on the walls. He adds, "But I used a washable marker, just in case."
  • Teacher's Pet: Gina all the way. Francis also is a lesser version of this.
  • Teacher's Unfavorite Student: While Mrs. Godfrey may have a point to dislike Nate's inability to apply himself and general disrespect towards her, she can be quite harsh towards him (though she does have moments where she does something on his behalf). She is shown to be quite happy when he's assigned to another teacher during their temporary visit to Jefferson Middle School. This particular trait of hers was flanderized in the cartoon.
  • That Came Out Wrong: When Nate is trying to convince Jenny to go out with him:
    Nate: ...or did I say that backwards?
    Francis: No, that was right.
  • This Means War!: Thought by Nate after Ellen pushes him into some snow.
  • The Talk: Nate's father gives him one in a 2000 story arc.
  • The Three Certainties in Life: Death, taxes, and Nate going stag to the school dance, according to Francis.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Nate and Kim Cressly, when Nate was forced to go out with her.
  • Tiny Schoolboy: Chad, the smallest kid in 6th grade. He doesn't have a problem with girls not liking him, though, because he's just so adorable.
  • Title Drop: Happens unintentionally in the book collections, due to many of them being named after a line in one of the comics inside.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Cheez Doodles for Nate, to the point of an obsession sometimes.
  • Trash Talk: Nate is a master of this. He mainly does it during sports.
  • Troperiffic: Due to Nate's habit of purposely Invoking tropes in the hopes of making things better for himself, it's quite a troperiffic strip.
  • Troublesome Pet: Zigzagged with Spitsy. He's not actually Nate's dog, although Nate dog-sits him frequently enough that he might as well be. He's not that mischievous either, but he's so hopelessly stupid that he causes Nate no end of embarrassment and grief by being bullied by local squirrels, getting his tongue stuck on ice, etc.
  • Two-Teacher School: Zig-Zagged in the beginning, where the only teachers seen were Mrs. Godfrey and Mr. Rosa, but other teachers were occasionally mentioned but not seen. By now it's completely averted, with the inclusion of teachers like Miss Clarke, Mr. Staples, Mr. Galvin, and Principal Nichols.
  • 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!
  • Unreliable Narrator: Nate, in his comics that tell about his life. He always tries to make people whom he likes seem better (i. e. himself) and people whom he doesn't like painted in the worst possible light. This leads to plenty of untrue scenarios, as one might guess. For example, in real life, Ellen and Kenny starting to go steady was Kenny's idea, and they liked each other fairly equally. In Nate's comics, their relationship is completely one-sided on Ellen's part, and Kenny doesn't seem to be interested in Ellen at all, looking like he'd rather be with anyone else.
  • Unsound Effect: The "Dramatic music!" sound effect Nate sometimes uses in his comics.
  • 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.
  • Wedgie: Big Nate is given one for bragging that he’s the backbone of the team.
  • Wham Line: Plenty, for certain story lines. Examples below, but be careful, as they are storyline spoilers.
  • What Are Records?: Nate pulls a couple of records out of his locker to impress the custodian with his locker's inventory. Teddy then comes by and asks, "What's with the Frisbees?" Teddy also doesn't apparently know what cursive is.
  • 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 'sleazeball 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 pursue 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 Can't I Hate You?: Although Artur dates Jenny, is better than Nate at almost everything, and nearly always beats him to the punch, Nate finds it hard to hate Artur because he's such a nice person.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Nate has a phobia of cats. This fear was utilized as a plot point in some arcs, such as when Mrs. Godfrey brings her cat to class, and when the family takes care of a lost cat until the owner comes.
    • It was once revealed that Nate has a reason to be afraid of cats. When he was four, he visited a pet store only to be savagely attacked by one of the kittens. He's been afraid of cats ever since.
  • The Wildcats: P. S. 38's school mascot is a bobcat. At one point when Nate considers changing the name, he says that "half the schools in the country are called 'the bobcats'."
  • Wingding Eyes: In one strip, Nate heard from Francis that the romance novel industry generates over 1.3 billion dollars a year. He gets an idea to write one, and his eyes turn into dollar signs. Lampshaded by Francis.
    Francis: Your eyes look funny.
  • World of Snark: See Deadpan Snarker above.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: While substitute teaching Mrs. Godfrey's class, Mr. Gaffney mentions that the kids he's teaching are ten and eleven in ages. The ages of kids primarily in 6th grade are eleven and twelve.
  • X Called; They Want Their Y Back: Nate says to his coach before a basketball game (while the coach is wearing a tie with rainbow concentric circles on it), "Bozo the clown just called, he wants his tie back."
  • Your Mom: Yo mama smackdowns are a favorite pastime of Nate and his friends.
    Nate: Yo mama's so fat, when she talks to herself, it's a long-distance call!
    Teddy: Yo mama's so fat, she eats with three utensils, a knife, a spoon, and a forklift!
    Nate: Yo mama's so hairy, her knuckles have sideburns!
    • Nate once tried to teach Artur how to go about doing a yo mama smackdown. It...didn't go so well.
    Nate: Now pick somebody and say something about their mama!
    Peter: Thanks, dude.
    Nate: Artur, Artur, Artur.
    Artur: Is true! They are lip-smackin' good!