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Comic Strip / Nancy

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Nancy and Sluggo.

Nancy is a long-running American Surreal Humor Newspaper Comic strip originally created by Ernie Bushmiller. It centers around the title character, a precocious 8-year old girl, along with her Aunt Fritzi and her best friend Sluggo.

Nancy first appeared in 1933 in Fritzi Ritz, a strip created in 1922 by Larry Whittington (Bushmiller took over in 1925) which depicted Fritzi as a dizzy flapper. Nancy quickly proved to be so popular as a character that, in 1938, the daily strip was retitled to her name, with Fritzi—who was now portrayed as a stern parental figure for her presumably-orphaned niece—largely shunted to the background. Fritzi Ritz did continue as a Sunday Strip centered around Fritzi and her boyfriend Phil Fumble (with Nancy as a "topper"), until it too was permanently replaced with Nancy in 1968.

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 one year later at age 29. Jerry Scott, later known for Baby Blues and Zits, took over 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 used 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. Nancy was then taken over by Olivia Jaimes, who thus became the first woman to draw the strip. Jaimes returned to a style that was more reminiscent of Bushmiller's work in some ways (including re-inserting his famous fourth wall breaks) while further modernizing the comic's narrative sensibility.

The comic was also the subject of an in-depth analytical essay (and later book) called How to Read Nancy, which breaks down the various 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 appear in Garfield and Friends (albeit in Jerry Scott’s incarnative designs) in episode 16, when Garfield opens the doors.
    • 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.
  • Art Shift: The Gilchrist era notably has a more Archie-esque character design style and colouring. Other post-Bushmiller artists added their own eccentricities but never deviated from his original artstyle so extremely.
  • 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.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Agnes decides not to use the standard plot twist of "a kind, supportive character turning out to be a bad guy" in her graphic novel, arguing that it's not as common in real life. When Lucy says she'll support her no matter what she does, Agnes is immediately suspicious.
  • Book Dumb:
  • 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 and Sluggo first met when the latter defended the former 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 Sunday strip until getting written out 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: Nancy 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 Books: In addition to the newspaper strips, there were several of these for both Fritzi Ritz and Nancy, the latter most notably in a Dell Comics series written by John Stanley in the late 1950s and early '60s.
  • 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]".
  • Companion Cube: When Esther suspects Nancy of using her as a replacement for Sluggo when he's not around, Nancy is quick to point out her actual replacement for Sluggo (a water bottle with a face drawn on it).
  • Competition Freak: Everybody at the Magnet School, best exemplified by Mildred.
    "Pretty competitive over weird things? I think we're less competitive than that."
    "Well, I think we're even less competitive."
    "I don't think we're competitive at all."
  • Complexity Addiction:
  • 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.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: While she's with her robotics team, Nancy notices a boy she's never seen before, and wonders if the letter S on his shirt stands for "spy". He explains that it's nothing like that; the S stands for the name of the school for which he's spying.
  • 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.
    • The penultimate panel of this strip has Nancy reading the strip itself.
  • 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.
  • Exact Words: In this strip, Aunt Fritzi's happy to see Nancy didn't empty out the new cookie jar before a big party, to which Nancy responds "I simply couldn't do such a thing". The next four panels show her multiple failed attempts to break open the cookie jar over the last 3 days, casting the word "couldn't" as referring to Nancy's lack of success rather than her good morals.
  • 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.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Twice in the basketball storyline.
    • When Nancy asks Mildred's cohorts from the Magnet School why they showed up to challenge her at basketball when Mildred couldn't make it, one tells her that they don't need an ulterior motive for helping out a friend: that is, a Future Resource In Eventual Networking and Professional Development.
    • Nancy appears to turn her It's All About Me attitude around when she gives the credit to "Team Nancy, Agnes N' Lucy, Sluggo and Especially Esther": "Team N.A.N.S.E.E." for short.
  • 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 
  • Guile Hero: Jaimes' Nancy is constantly employing strategy to make things go her way.
  • 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.
  • Hand Wave: Played for Laughs in the Jaimes run:
    CARTOONIST NOTE: Any questionable art from now on is because Nancy and Sluggo are using a Snapchat filter.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: Nancy attempts this in class. It doesn't work, because the "no phones in class" policy means they're blatantly not plugged into anything.
  • 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.
  • Hereditary Hairstyle: One of Jaimes' strips has Fritzi deciding to let her hair go natural, only to be frustrated when it spikes out like Nancy's.
  • 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.
  • Ignoring by Singing: Nancy does it to Sluggo when he tries to lodge a counterpoint to her suggestion that there's no point in being friends with people who make no effort to understand you.
  • I Have This Friend: Esther turns this around on Nancy by telling her that she'd tell Nancy's "friend" to ask Nancy for help.
    Nancy: Let's hypothetically imagine I'm not my normal extremely generous self in this scenario.
  • Imagine the Audience Naked: Esther advises Nancy to imagine the audience at the robotic club competition in their underwear. Nancy questions why they would be and gets annoyed at the idea that they might be trying to steal the spotlight from her.
  • 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 emphasized the "heart of gold" part, with the Bushmiller and Jaimes runs, and to some extent the Jerry Scott run, emphasizing the "jerk" part.
    • The Jaimes run adds Esther, a kindred spirit to Nancy with a much harder exterior and a far more sensitive core.
  • 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.
  • Lascivious Beauty Mark: Parodied in an early strip which sees Nancy reading a magazine with beauty tips that states having a mole increases a woman's attractiveness by 10%. So she starts marking her face with dots until she's full of them.
  • 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.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When there's one to lean on at all, that is.
  • Limited Social Circle: Jaimes' run specifically Lampshades the fact that Nancy and Sluggo don't seem to have any friends outside of each other and goes on to expand Nancy's social circle with Esther, Lucy and Agnes.
  • 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, the 2018-08-03 strip shows a teacher telling students to "try to draw from your elbow or shoulder instead of your wrist," meaning they should mainly be moving their forearm or entire arm. Nancy tries to hold the pencil in her armpit, Sluggo attempts to draw with it in his elbow, Agnes puts paint on her elbows and tries to paint with them, and Lucy writes out "from your elbow or shoulder instead"
    • 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:
    • Classic Nancy is the absolute master of this trope. Whatever rule or order you throw at her, she’ll always find a clever way to disobey it while respecting the strict letter of it. Some examples:
      • In this strip, there's vase with a sign that says "Hands Off", so Nancy instead touches it her feet.
      • In the rerun for 2018-12-08, Nancy wants to eat some crackers. Aunt Fritzi won't allow it, but she does accept Nancy's request to have just the crumbs. Nancy decides to smash the whole box into crumbs.
      • In the rerun for 2019-02-06, a cop accosts Nancy for being in an area marked "Keep Off the Grass". Nancy points out he can't arrest her; since she's sitting on the "Keep Off the Grass" sign itself, she's technically not stepping on the grass. Sluggo even helps out by bringing her a long board, so she can get off the sign without touching the grass.
      • In the rerun for 2019-08-13, Nancy asks Aunt Fritzi if she can have some jellybeans. Fritzi replies that Nancy can have only "one." Nancy does indeed have "one"—that is, several jellybeans arranged to spell out "one."
      • The 1950-02-27 strip has a candy store that promises "All The Jelly Beans You Can Hold In One Hand" for just one cent. Nancy brings in a giant hand sign.
      • In the rerun for 2019-05-22, Aunt Fritzi tells Nancy to stop reading comic strips on the floor and use her table and chair instead. Nancy does use her table and putting her feet on the table and her arms on the chair, so she can read comic strips laying on the floor.
      • A television in the 1950-01-17 strip asks the viewer if they see their dentist twice a year. Nancy replies that she has, because she's looked at him through binoculars twice.
      • In the 1950-05-06 strip, Aunt Fritzi tells Nancy she can have just one slice of cake. Nancy slices the whole top off, horizontally. After all, she said nothing about how to slice it.
      • In the 1948-02-05 strip, Mr. Sputter tells Nancy to crack her knuckles in another room. She does so...and then starts cracking them while behind a megaphone.
    • Classic Nancy is also occasionally on the receiving end. For example, in the 1948-01-17 strip, Nancy gets Sluggo to promise not to throw any snowballs at her. Unfortunately for her, their agreement said nothing about launching them with a lever.
    • 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.
  • Metafictional Device: In the 2021-06-13 strip. Unbeknownst to Nancy and Sluggo, their Speech Bubbles are physically deflecting the sticks and stones that are about to fall down on their heads.
  • 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 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
  • Mirror Character: Mildred to Nancy, during the Jaimes run. Both are conceited, competitive, and hate being wrong. Their clothes are similar too: both wear vests over white blouses with pointy collars.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Up until Olivia James took over the strip, Fritzi was definitely this (especially during the Gilchrist run), being very beautiful (something which was commented on numerous times by the strip's readers, and by its other characters in-universe) and typically seen in clothing that was form-fitting and/or skimpy.
  • Nephewism:
    • Nancy lives with her Maiden Aunt, Fritzi Ritz—while it's never been explained what happened to Nancy's parents (one of whom must be Fritzi's sibling), they are confirmed to be dead (thus making Nancy an orphan). Nancy's also been confirmed (and shown) to have relatives outside of Fritzi, including other aunts as well as grandparents and various uncles and cousins.
    • Just like Nancy, Sluggo's an orphan—he's (technically) under the guardianship of two uncles, both of whom work as truckers. However, Sluggo's uncles have to travel a lot for work, so they're not always with him in person. As a result of that, Sluggo's often by himself but he also spends a lot of time at Nancy's house, including staying with her and Fritzi if the situation calls for it. And over the years, Sluggo's been shown to have other relatives outside of his two uncles, which includes other uncles as well as various aunts and cousins.
  • New Season, New Name: The strip (which started in 1922) 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 daily comic was retitled to Nancy in 1938. The same thing also happened with the Sunday Strip, albeit three decades later.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
  • Operation: Jealousy:
    • A Bushmiller-era strip had Sluggo offering to carry Nancy's books, only to give them back to her when they're no longer in range of the girl he was trying to make jealous.
    • 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-Character Moment: With much Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    Fritzi: Gee, Nancy!! Think I might agree with Sluggo!!
  • 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 Cross-Popping Veins, Sweat Drop, etc. Oh, and the strip must be read from right to left.
    • The 2022-02-03 strip has Nancy and Lyle arguing about movie previews, and is framed as a preview for the next day's strip. This includes In a World…-style narration, "clips" (i.e. panels) that really are from the next day's strip, and a "coming soon" ending.
  • Pen Name: "Olivia Jaimes" is one for a webcomic artist who has managed to keep her identity secret (so far).
  • 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
  • Puppy Love: Played to varying levels with Nancy and Sluggo Depending on the Writer. While they've been more or less an Official Couple (or two kids acting their idea of what one looks like) since Bushmiller's era, that aspect of their relationship is Downplayed in Jaimes' run, which tends to emphasize their friendship, Nancy's Clingy Jealous Girl behavior notwithstanding.
  • 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. Recognized in this strip:
    Olivia Jaimes: Ha! I'll write a joke that isn't [Character A says something] [Character B disagrees while simultaneously proving A's point]. Later.
  • Self-Deprecation: Bushmiller and Jaimes' runs make frequent cracks at the expense of the artist. One Bushmiller strip has Sluggo attempting to buy celebrity autographs from Nancy only to find that they're all fairly expensive; when he asks her if she has any for "about a nickel," she cuts Bushmiller's signature out of the bottom of the panel.
  • 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.
  • Shall I Repeat That?: In the November 18th, 2021 strip, Nancy complains about this trope's appearances in video games to Sluggo and Pee Wee. Then she asks the two "Did you get all that this time?", and repeats herself when Pee Wee says he didn't.
  • Shoehorned Acronym: Agnes creates one in the 10-13-2020 strip, when attempting to write a moving poem about her loneliness:
    Agnes: "L is for Lonely, the way that I feel
    O is for... Octopus... banana peel..."
    Nancy: (crying Tears of Awe) Keep going!
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy:
    Nancy: I like drawing...maybe I should become a famous artist.
    Ms. Bangles: Just because you like something doesn't mean you should make it your job. You like cake but imagine if you had to eat it every day for your job, even if you weren't hungry.
    Nancy: You're right. That cake eating job would be a much better fit for me.
  • Sistine Steal: Here, Sluggo imagines an idealized version of himself, with the same pose and proportions as Adam from Michelangelo Buonarroti'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).
  • Something We Forgot: Just before the beginning of the basketball game between Nancy's school and the magnet school, it's shown that due to Coach Bangles telling Pee Wee that the game would be "a walk in the park", he's miles away doing exactly that. After Nancy's team wins and goes out for ice cream, Ms. Bangles suddenly remembers that Pee Wee is still in the park.
  • 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.
  • Too Upset to Create: This comic implies an instance of Jaimes suffering this after forgetting to draw the stripes on Sluggo's shirt. Despite Nancy's lengthy reminder that Mistakes Are Not the End of the World, the mistakes that Jaimes makes throughout (some others include writing a double comma and drawing the wrong pattern on Nancy's skirt) eventually culminate in her not bothering to finish the last panel beyond the outlines.
  • 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".
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Nancy with all of her friends in Jaimes's run, especially Sluggo and Esther.
    Lyle: Why do you hang out with Nancy so much?
    Sluggo: You wouldn't ask me that question if you were as close to her as I am. You'd ask yourself that, every day.
  • 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.
  • Who Would Want to Watch Us?: When Lyle complains that the comments on Nancy's blog are all just bots responding to each other, he and Nancy argue over whether anyone wants to read "what two fake people caught in a loop are saying."
  • 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.
    • Here, Mildred claims to have a psychological insight into how to convince Esther to join her study group. When Esther agrees because she wants to be friends, Mildred complains that she wasn't finished yet.
  • Workaholic: Mildred is the grade-school version. Her response to the old "work smarter, not harder" adage is that she works both smart and hard. She sees the Christmas break as a good chance to "get ahead" on her schoolwork (by writing a thirty-page book report), and spends her summer vacation "squeez[ing] practice schoolwork into [her] life at every opportunity".
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Nancy And Sluggo