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Comic Strip / Nancy

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Nancy and Sluggo.

Nancy is a long-running 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 female cartoonist 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.

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This work contains the following tropes.

  • American Accents: for several one shot characters and most importantly, Sluggo.
  • Animated Adaptation:
    • Done in the 40’s by Terrytoons, with very little success; only two shorts were made.
    • And then done AGAIN in the 70’s 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.
    • And AGAIN AGAIN 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 to.
  • Behind the Black: Nancy describes her dog, Poochie, as, "exactly as tall as the bottom edge of every panel", hence why her teacher (or Olivia Jaimes' readers) never saw her before September 2019.
  • Book Dumb: Nancy doesn't get good grades at school, 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, 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.
  • Big Eater: Nancy. Especially in the Jerry Scott run, but it's a trait that's definitely present in other runs as well.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Nancy shows talent in robotics club, but skips practice before a big tournament to play video games.
  • Bully Hunter: Sluggo was introduced beating up bullies who were picking on Nancy.
  • 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.
  • 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 Fritzi (and, it turns out, Peewee and Poochie), Olivia Jaimes's run has thrown out all the previous recurring characters.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Nancy can be like this whenever she sees other girls talking to Sluggo.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Nancy can't tell if Esther is mad at her or not.
  • 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 the Guy Gilchrist run ended, Olivia Jaimes's run was a completely new take on the series, with a more modern twist. Of the large cast the comic had attained, only Nancy, Sluggo and Fritzi remain, and new supporting characters are starting to be introduced.
  • Continuity Porn: The Guy Gilchist run was filled with this, often referencing or outright continuing 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.
  • Empathic Environment: When Nancy skips 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.
  • 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.
  • Given Name Reveal: Olivia Jaimes finally revealed the name of Nancy's gym coach (Melissa Bangles) in the most fourth wall breaking way possible.
  • 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.
  • Grand Finale: The Guy Gilchrist run, which was very continuity-heavy, came to a definite end in 2018, with the marriage of Fritzi and Phil, and several loose threads from the run tied up (such as Sluggo's uncles returning to town to stay on a more permanent basis), and the final strip even ends with a "they all lived Happily Ever After" note. A few months later, the series saw a modernized, much less continuity-heavy Continuity Reboot by Olivia Jaimes, where there is no mention of Phil or Sluggo's uncles.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: The teacher thinks Nancy has the makings of a natural engineer. Nancy, who's eavesdropping on the conversation with a spying device she rigged up herself, comments "That sounds like something I would hate."
  • It's All About Me: Self-centeredness is a major flaw of Jaimes's Nancy.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Nancy, specifically in the Bushmiller and Jaimes runs.
  • 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: Fritzi, who's very easy on the eyes and often wears skimpy or skintight clothing, especially during the Gilchrist years. Became less so after Olivia Jaimes took over the strip.
  • New Season, New Name: The strip was originally called Fritzi Ritz, only to be retitled Nancy in 1938.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Off-Model: One Jaimes comic makes Nancy and Sluggo look so crude, that even they notice it, prompting Jaimes to blame "a Snapchat filter".
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Nancy asks Aunt Fritzi to make her stay home and study. Nancy's hatred of schoolwork is well-established by this point, so Fritzi is baffled and frightened by the request.
  • 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: Happened to Aunt Fritzi once Nancy was introduced. She still appears, but as a secondary character.
  • 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 toned heavily down in later years.
  • Retcon: The Guy Gilchrist run did this with Sluggo's 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 were actually secretly chipping in to pay for his bills. Might count as a Cerebus Retcon, as it viewed Sluggo's poverty and living situation through a much more serious lens.
  • Shout-Out: In Jaimes' run of the comic, Nancy's online username is "Nancee22", a nod to the original Fritzi Ritz comic strip, which debuted in 1922.
  • Sistine Steal: Here, Sluggo imagines an idealized version of himself, with the same pose and proportions as Adam from Michelangelo's Creation of Adam.
  • Speak in Unison: When the teacher thinks Nancy and Esther could be friends, the two girls reply in unison, "How dare you presume to know me."
  • 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.
  • 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.


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