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Comic Strip / Nancy

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Nancy and Sluggo.

Nancy is a long-running Surreal Humor Newspaper Comic strip originally created by Ernie Bushmiller. The strip centers on a precocious 8-year old girl, her Aunt Fritzi, and her best friend Sluggo.

The character first appeared in 1933 in Fritzi Ritz, a strip that had been created in 1922 by Larry Whittington (Bushmiller took over in 1925). Nancy proved to be so popular as a character that, in 1938, the strip was retitled to her name.

Bushmiller continued to draw the strip until his death in 1982. It was subsequently taken over by Al Plastino (on the Sunday strips) and Mark Lasky (on the dailies), only for Lasky to pass away just a year later at age 29. Jerry Scott, later known for Baby Blues and Zits, took over the strip in 1984, drawing the characters in a much more broad, cartoony style. Scott also modernized the world of Nancy. Scott's run lasted until 1995, when he was replaced by the sibling team of Guy and Brad Gilchrist, who created a hybrid art style that was part Bushmiller and part superhero comic. After a few years, Guy Gilchrist became the sole artist, continuing until early 2018. The strip is now drawn by Olivia Jaimes, making her the first woman to draw the strip. Jaimes returned to a style more reminiscent of Bushmiller's work (including re-inserting his famous fourth wall breaks) and further modernized the comic.


The comic was also the subject of an in-depth analysis book How to Read Nancy, which breaks down the elements of Bushmiller's comics—and comics in general—in exhaustive detail.

This work contains the following tropes.

  • Aborted Arc: A 2020 storyline about Nancy competing in a robotics tournament gave way to a storyline about the quarantining of Nancy's hometown. April 2021 features a storyline where to make up for the cancellation of the robotics tournament, a new remote robotics event will be held.
  • Animated Adaptation:
    • Done in the 40s by Terrytoons, with very little success; only two shorts were made.
    • Done in the 70s under Archie's TV Funnies, where other comic strips were animated. These segments were recycled into Fabulous Funnies a similar show without the Archie branding.
    • For a brief few seconds in the special Fantastic Funnies in 1980, where notably, Garfield made his animated debut. Garfield returned the favor by having Nancy and Sluggo cameo in Garfield and Friends (albeit in Jerry Scott’s incarnative designs) in episode 16, when Garfield opens the doors.
    • Advertisement:
    • As noted in an article celebrating one year of OJ creating Nancy, it’s said to be rumored that a new Nancy animation series is planned for a “major streaming service”, with which Andrews-McMeel is finishing the deal.
  • Audience Participation:
    • A strip published before Election Day 2018 has Nancy ask Aunt Fritzi where and when she'll cast her vote, and which ice cream parlor they could visit afterwards. Aunt Fritzi's word balloons remained blank, to help readers keep track of where and when they would cast their votes; the last panel also provided a space inside Aunt Fritzi's word balloon to stick an "I voted!" sticker.
    • The board book Nancy's Genius Plan encourages the reader to help Nancy sneak into the kitchen and grab some fresh-baked cornbread.
    • This comic provides one "fun activity" in each of the last four panels, each of which follows the theme, "Help the Lazy Artist finish the strip!"
  • Back to Front: This comic reversed the panels to simulate a video rewinding.
  • Behind the Black: Nancy describes her dog, Poochie, as, "exactly as tall as the bottom edge of every panel", hence why her teacher never saw her before September 2019.
  • Big Eater: Nancy. Especially in the Jerry Scott run, but it's a trait that's definitely present in other runs as well.
  • Book Dumb: Nancy's not the greatest student ever, but proves to be a clever problem-solver when she can actually be motivated.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • Ernie Bushmiller loved doing this, usually adding in a bit of Medium Awareness on the characters' part. There were also many times that Bushmiller would use the first panel to proclaim that he was taking a day off, and the panels that followed leaned hard on the fourth wall.
    • Olivia Jaimes takes the trope Up to Eleven in her strips. Apart from Bushmiller's Medium Awareness, she's specifically used fourth wall breaks and leans to poke at critics, including the change in art style, commenters and trolls, as well as the strip being rebooted in the first place.
  • Breakout Character:
    • Nancy is one of the quintessial examples. The strip originally focused on Fritzi (Nancy's aunt/legal guardian), but Nancy gradually took over and became the titular character — even to the point where Fritzi completely vanished from the strip for a time.
    • Sluggo, too, became a major character in the strip after his introduction. While he never took over Nancy's role as main character the way Nancy had for Fritzi, he was soon established as the strip's second main character, with several adaptations and translations even taking the name Nancy and Sluggo.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Nancy shows talent in robotics club, but skips practice before a big tournament to play video games.
  • Bully Hunter: Nancy first met Sluggo after he defended her from a group of older boys that were pelting her with snowballs.
  • The Bus Came Back: Aunt Fritzi's boyfriend, Phil Fumble, was a recurring character when Fritzi was still the star of the strip. He eventually vanished. He ended up returning near the end of Guy Gilchrist’s run of the strip ending with him and Fritzi getting married. He's yet to appear in Olivia Jaimes's run of the strip.
  • Canon Immigrant: Oona Goosepimple, a character who appeared in the "Nancy" comic books from 1959 to 1963, didn't appear in the newspaper strip until 2013.
  • Character Development: Nancy started learning robotics during Jaimes' run. Jaimes said that with phones and tablets taking the place of toys (which would have been a great source of gags in previous decades), making Nancy interested in STEM would allow her to write a greater variety of material.
  • Chekhov's Gag: In the 2020-05-11 strip, Sluggo throws a water balloon at Nancy, then starts to worry that she's planning some elaborate revenge. Nancy denies it. In the 2020-06-23 strip, Nancy drops an entire tub of water balloons on Sluggo's head. Nancy appears to be sitting under the same tree in both strips.
  • Christmas Creep: Parodied in this strip, where a bystander criticizes Nancy and Sluggo for putting up Christmas decorations on November 30th, 2018.note  The next panels reveal the decorations are actually for New Years. New Years 2021.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Most famously, Fritzi Ritz was gradually phased out when Jerry Scott took over the strip in the mid-1980s. She subsequently returned in 1995, when the Gilchrists took over.
    • Happened twice to Phil Fumble. He was a recurring character in the strip until he disappeared in 1968. He later reappeared in 2012, only to disappear again when Olivia Jaimes took over in 2018.
    • In fact, apart from Nancy, Sluggo (and his uncles), Fritzi, Pee-Wee and Poochie, Olivia Jaimes' run has thrown out all the previous recurring characters.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Nanct tends to be like this towards Sluggo.
  • Clip Show: The Labor Day 2020 strip promises to "revisit some of the stand-out panels from the last year of Nancy." The joke is that this is done in the laziest way possible, with each panel "revisiting" the one immediately before it.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Nancy can't tell if Esther is mad at her or not.
  • Comic-Book Time: Lampshaded in the April Fools' Day 2020 strip, which jokes that the characters have not aged in 80 years because they are all "immortal, daywalking vampire[s]".
  • Complexity Addiction: Olivia Jaimes's step-by-step instructions for drawing fireworks involve drawing Nancy, then erasing everything but her hair spikes, multiple times.
  • Continuity Reboot: After Guy Gilchrist retired from the strip, Olivia Jaimes' run was a completely new take on the series, with a much more modern twist. Of the large cast the comic had attained, only Nancy, Sluggo and Fritzi remain, and new supporting characters were to be introduced.
  • Continuity Porn: The Guy Gilchrist run often references or outright continues plot threads that hadn't been seen in the strip for decades, even bringing back old characters like Phil Fumble.
  • Depth Deception:
    • Nancy learns about Forced Perspective at art camp, and immediately tries using it to con her friends out of their lunches.
    • In this strip, Sluggo is afraid that Nancy is plotting a revenge scheme because he hit her with a snowball yesterday, but as he watches her she only seems to be building a snowman. The last panel of the strip reveals that the moderately-sized snowman that appears to be in the yard is actually a tiny one sitting on Sluggo's windowsill, and that Nancy has built a stockpile of snowballs that the tiny snowman is obscuring from his view.
    • Instead of picking up her toys, Nancy drapes cloth over them so that, from the outside of the house, it looks like window curtains.
  • Droste Image:
    • The penultimate panel of the "Sluggo is lit" strip shows a phone in Nancy's hand, which is displaying a picture of a phone in Nancy's hand, which is displaying a picture of a phone in Nancy's hand, which is displaying...
    • Each panel of the Labor Day 2020 strip "revisits" the panel immediately before it, wrapping a blue border and a caption around it. This means that each succeeding panel has more and more layers, becoming increasingly Droste-like.
  • Empathic Environment: When Nancy skips a Robotics Club practice, even the building gets mad at her.
  • Establishing Series Moment: Each artist more or less took some time to re-tune Nancy to fit their particular style of writing. After the Grand Finale of the Gilchrist run, Jaimes spent the entire first week making episode jokes that re-established Nancy herself as the precocious Jerk with a Heart of Gold, as well as setting up the tone and the other characters.
  • Exploiting the Fourth Wall: Nancy hatches an ingenious scheme to claim the Tempting Cookie Jar by tossing it to herself in the next panel. Of course, it wasn't exactly foolproof: her aunt Fritzi happened to be reading that very strip in the paper.
  • The Flapper: Fritzi, back in the 1920s when she was the star of the strip, and in her own comic book. It was toned down after Nancy gradually took over the strip, but Fritzi remained a Ms. Fanservice.
  • Funetik Aksent: In Sluggo's early years, his dialogue was written with a Bronx accent (e.g. "goil" instead of "girl"). Bushmiller largely phased this out by the 1950s, but returned to it occasionally if a gag required it.
  • Given Name Reveal: Olivia Jaimes finally reveals the name of Nancy's homeroom teacher/gym coach (Melissa Bangles) in the most fourth wall breaking way possible.
  • Golden Mean Fallacy: Discussed in the 2019-09-21 strip. Nancy declares there is always some truth to both sides of an argument. Agnes points out that someone arguing in bad faith could deliberately exaggerate their side, so that their actual viewpoint becomes the new "middle ground".
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel:
    • Here, Nancy wants Sluggo's last gummy worm, then wonders "Yet how can I, as his friend, take it from him?" A tiny angel and devil appear to Nancy, but instead of arguing for or against taking the candy, the devil just gives Nancy her tiny pitchfork, and Nancy uses that to reach the gummy worm.
    • In the 2019-06-09 strip, Nancy's shoulder angel appears to give her some advice. No devil to be seen.
    • This strip, in which Nancy wonders whether or not to blame Poochie for spilling some porridge, also gives angels and devils to Aunt Fritzi, who ponders exactly how harsh a punishment Nancy deserves, and Poochie, whose angel and devil just roll around in the porridge.
  • Grand Finale: The Guy Gilchrist run, which was very continuity-heavy, came to a definite end in 2018 —
    • Phil Fumble finally proposes to Fritzi and the two of them get married.
    • Sluggo's uncles return to Three Rocks (the name of Nancy's hometown) to stay with Sluggo on a more permanent basis.
    • The final strip of the Gilchrist-run ends with a "they all lived Happily Ever After" note.note 
  • Halloween Cosplay: A 2019 strip has Nancy and her friends cosplay as Kiki, Jiji, Link, Prince, and Garnet.
  • Hands in Pockets: Parodied and lampshaded in one strip, where the comic goes to ridiculous lengths to avoid showing Nancy and Agnes's hands.
  • Heat Wave: Crosses over with The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You when one Jaimes strip takes place on a day so hot, that neither Nancy, Aunt Fritzi, Jaimes, nor the editor can come up with a proper ending.
  • Homage: For Labor Day 2019, Olivia Jaimes made a Nancy strip in her "natural style." The result evokes Prince Valiant in appearance, narration, and pacing.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Common in the Jaimes era, where Nancy's egotism and lack of self-awareness drive a lot of the jokes.
    • In the 2019-10-14 strip, Nancy ponders a few self-help slogans, along the lines of "you shouldn't care what other people think" or "you don't need to be famous to be happy"...because she is trying to figure out which slogan will make her blog more popular and propel her to stardom.
    • In the 2020-02-02 strip, Nancy badgers Sluggo into giving her a long string of compliments. When Sluggo ends by mentioning Nancy's "great taste in friends", Nancy decides that Sluggo is "full of himself".
    • In the 2020-04-27 strip, Nancy criticizes Aunt Fritzi and Sluggo for "yelling across the house"...while she's upstairs and they're downstairs.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: Olivia Jaimes' run makes a running gag out of this.
  • It's All About Me: Self-centeredness is a major flaw of Jaimes's Nancy.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Nancy. She's selfish, greedy and self-centered, but she's got a good heart. The Gilchrist run heavily emphasize the "heart of gold" part, while the Bushmiller and Jaimes runs, and to some extent the Jerry Scott run, emphasize the "jerk" part.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: Assuming that "Sluggo" is just a nickname, no one knows what his real name is.
  • Laborious Laziness: When told that she needs to start thinking hard about the upcoming robotics competition, Nancy instead thinks hard about how to avoid thinking hard.
  • Lazy Bum: Sluggo has been called the only person in the world who's lazier than Nancy. He doesn't even bother with the Laborious Laziness the way she does.
  • Lazy Artist: Bushmiller, Nancy, and Sluggo would often lampshade the shortcuts he'd take in drawing, especially when they'd celebrate Labor Day by putting as little work as possible into the comic.
  • Limited Wardrobe:
    • Bushmiller set the basic pattern for both Nancy and Sluggo's outfits.
      • Nancy almost invariably wore the same outfit of red hair bow, white blouse, black pullover vest and red skirt with black dots. There was an attempt to hang a lampshade on that in one strip, in which Nancy is examining her closet full of identical outfits, but one newspaper that did its own coloring in its daily comics section knocked the lampshade off when a clueless colorist gave each outfit a different color scheme.
      • Sluggo wore a flat cap, a striped shirt, and a black jacket with patches on the elbows (to indicate his Perpetual Poverty).
    • Jerry Scott kept Nancy's outfit the same, but got rid of Sluggo's jacket and eventually replaced his flat cap with a backwards baseball cap.
    • The Gilchrists returned to the Bushmiller formula for Sluggo. They mixed things up ever-so-slightly by adding new patterns for Nancy's skirt (plaid, anyone?) and patches to the knees of Sluggo's pants.
    • Within the first year or two of the Jaimes run, Nancy shifted from wearing a skirt to wearing pants full-time. The pants are still red with black dots. The 2020-07-05 strip shows a pile of Nancy's identical outfits.
  • Literal-Minded:
    • Punchlines in Bushmiller's and Jaimes's runs frequently involve Nancy or Sluggo interpreting metaphors literally. For example.
    • This is such a common trait with Pee-Wee that Nancy has to be careful with how she words her statements whenever he's around.
  • Loophole Abuse:
  • Here, Nancy's new teacher doesn't allow phones in her classroom—so Nancy tries to use her phone while holding it out an open window. But the teacher has an Obvious Rule Patch to cover that, as well.
  • Minimalism: Bushmiller's artstyle is renowned by critics like Scott McCloud for clean, simple lineart that employs the bare minimum of details to convey an idea or gag. In How to Read Nancy, Mark Newgarden and Paul Kerasik favorably compare the strip to the minimalist architecture of Mies Van Der Rohe.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Up until OJ took over the strip, Fritzi was definitely this (especially during the Gilchrist-run). Fritzi's very beautiful (which is has been commented on numerous times by readers and other characters) and would often wear clothing that's very formfitting and/or skimpy.
  • Nephewism: Nancy lives with Fritzi Ritz, who's her aunt—it's never been explained what happened to Nancy's parents (although they are confirmed to be dead, making Nancy an orphan). Nancy's also been confirmed (and shown) to have relatives outside of Fritzi—this includes other aunts as well as grandparents and various uncles and cousins.
    • Sluggo's confirmed to be an orphan like Nancy is and is also in a similar living situation—he's technically under the guardianship of two uncles, but Sluggo's uncles (who work as a truckers) have to travel a lot for work, so they're not always with him. Sluggo spends a lot of time at Nancy's house and, at least in the OJ-run, stays with Nancy and Fritzi—Sluggo's also been shown to have relatives outside of his two uncles, which includes other uncles as well as various aunts and cousins.
  • New Season, New Name: The strip was originally called Fritzi Ritz—but once Nancy came along, she ended up becoming so popular that she ultimately took over as the lead character and the comic was retitled to "Nancy" in 1938.
  • Nice Hat: Sluggo regularly wears a newsboy hat, although in the late 80s and early 90s when Jerry Scott took over the strip, it was replaced with a backwards baseball cap.
  • Off-Model: One Jaimes comic makes Nancy and Sluggo look so crude, that even they notice it, prompting Jaimes to blame "a Snapchat filter".
  • OOC Is Serious Business:
  • Operation: Jealousy: Here, Nancy wants her other friends to "laugh like I just said something devastating and hilarious," just to make Sluggo jealous.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: In this Halloween comic, Lucy dresses as "a classic slow zombie", while Agnes dresses as "a fast zombie from the movies of the modern era".
  • Out of Focus: Fritzi was originally the lead character (the strip itself was originally called "Fritzi Ritz"), but after Nancy was introduced, she became so popular that she eventually became the new lead character and the strip was renamed to "Nancy." Though Fritzi is still a major character, she's a secondary character.
  • Painting the Medium:
    • The 2019-07-07 strip is in the style of a Gamebook, inviting the reader to look at the panels in the order of their choice. Meanwhile, the characters are discussing how having too many choices can make people unhappy.
    • In the 2020-05-03 strip, Nancy and Sluggo discuss Achievement Systems in video games, while the artwork is filled with achievement notifications that reward the reader for the act of reading the strip (e.g. "3 Panel Streak! Nice!").
    • The 2020-08-14 strip is about Nancy doing a jigsaw puzzle and forcing some of the pieces into the wrong positions. The strip itself is drawn as a jigsaw puzzle with pieces of the word balloons in the wrong places, to make it look like Aunt Fritzi is agreeing with Nancy instead of criticizing her technique.
    • The 2020-10-18 strip is about Agnes introducing Nancy to "Japanese comics", and employs many Japanese Visual Arts Tropes that are not normally part of the strip. These include Blank Face of Shame, Cross-Popping Veins, Sweat Drop, etc. Oh, and the strip must be read from right to left.
  • Pen Name: "Olivia Jaimes" is one for a webcomic artist who has managed to keep her identity secret.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Esther.
    Nancy: You know, it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile.
    Esther: That's why it's important to never skip frown day.
  • Perpetual Poverty: Sluggo lives alone in a tumbledown shack and never has any money. This aspect of his character was very heavily toned down in later years.
  • Perspective Magic: In the 2019-06-09 strip, Nancy can't reach the cookie jar on top of the fridge. What does she try next? She steps into the foreground so that her shoulder angel has a chance to reach it.
  • Playing Hard to Get: In this 1950 strip, Nancy tries what she has just read in a Charm Book. She interprets it literally; the last panel shows her at the top of a tree.
    Lesson one —- Always play hard to get
  • Put on a Bus: Fritzi’s boyfriend, Phil Fumble, was phased out of the strip when Nancy rose in popularity. he was brought back towards the end of Guy Gilchrist’s run of the strip, and in the end, he and Fritzi got married. He’s yet to appear since Olivia Jaimes took over the strip.
  • Recursive Reality: In the 2021-05-16 strip, Nancy lays the panel she is in out on her kitchen table, bends it, and tapes all its opposite edges together (forming a kind of doughnut shape). This allows her to wrap around from one edge of the panel to the other, so she can reach a Tempting Cookie Jar without crossing Fritzi's line of sight.
  • Retcon: The Guy Gilchrist run changed Sluggo's previously established history and family situation, revealing that while he did live alone in a badly-maintained house, he actually had two adoptive uncles who stayed with him whenever they could, and the entire neighborhood was secretly helping him out (such as paying for his bills). Might count as a Cerebus Retcon, as it viewed Sluggo's poverty and living situation through a much more serious lens.
  • Running Gag: The Jaimes run very often features Hypocritical Humor where a character gives some sort of advice to herself or to others, but fails to follow it. For instance, somebody might tell herself to be less competitive, and decide that she's gonna be the best in the entire world at not being competitive.
  • Series Fauxnale: Guy Gilchrist's final issue ends on a note that gives the impression that Nancy was coming to an end with Aunt Fritz getting married to her long-time boyfriend Phil and the final panel even stating that all the characters lived Happily Ever After. All of this, only for the next issue to more or less Soft Reboot the comic.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sistine Steal: Here, Sluggo imagines an idealized version of himself, with the same pose and proportions as Adam from Michelangelo's Creation of Adam.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: The climax of the "Nancy learns basketball" arc (April-July 2019) pits the half-trained Nancy and her equally unready friends (slobs) against a team of athletic, hyper-competitive kids from the magnet school (snobs).
  • Speak in Unison:
  • Sports Stories: Starting in May 2018 , Olivia Jaimes has turned Nancy into something resembling a sports comic with competition being one of the plots; Nancy enters a robotics club and takes a brief stab at basketball, where she competes both times with another school with Mildred being one of her competitors.
  • Staying with Friends: Sluggo lives with Nancy and her aunt during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Stylistic Suck: Played with in this strip, where Agnes's drawing is sloppier and cruder than the rest of the comic—but Lucy's drawing is much more detailed and realistic than the rest of the comic.
  • Tempting Cookie Jar: Nancy constantly schemes, but typically fails, to steal some cookies from the jar atop the fridge.
  • Totally Radical: Parodied in the Jaimes era with the infamous "Sluggo is lit" strip, which exaggerates all of Jaimes' changes to the comic's formula.
  • Unsound Effect: In the 2020-05-16 strip, a boy bursts through the door with the sound effect "BURST".
  • The Voice: During Jerry Scott’s run of the strip, Aunt Fritzi would only appear offscreen, usually to scold Nancy when she got in trouble.
  • Women Are Wiser: Occasionally played with, but averted or even inverted for the most part, in the relationship between Nancy and Sluggo, especially in OJ's run—Sluggo has his quirks, but he's generally got more common sense than Nancy, and plays Straight Man to her a lot more often than the other way around.
  • Won't Take "Yes" for an Answer: Here, Nancy suggests a game of catch as "research" on how to construct a robotic throwing arm, and she's disappointed when the teacher so readily agrees with her.
  • You Look Familiar: Lampshaded In-Universe in a Bushmiller strip, with Nancy booing a nice man on TV; the actor had played a villain the previous week.


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