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Comic Strip / Nuts

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Nuts is a comic drawn and written by Gahan Wilson which ran in National Lampoon from 1972-1981, with occasional reappearances after that until 1986. It's a Slice of Life strip about a nameless little boy trying to navigate the wilds of childhood. Very much a Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be piece; many strips deal with childhood fears and the seemingly arbitrary nature of the rules of the world.

The strip was collected into a "graphic novel" by Fantagraphics in 2011, and is worth seeking out, especially for fans of Calvin and Hobbes (though the protagonist is more grounded in many ways).

The title is something of a Take That! to Peanuts, which Wilson thought was a good strip but less about real children and more philosophical exploration that happened to have child characters.

This comic provides examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: A recurring theme of the comic is that adult rules and motivations are completely incomprehensible to kids, making this more like Adults Are Cthulhu.
  • Dream Within a Dream: Twice in different strips.
    (thought balloon) Waste of time sleeping!
  • Dysfunctional Family: The parents argue quite a bit and often ignore The Kid. For his part, The Kid is pretty good at lying to his parents (especially about the "Disney nature films" he goes to see, which are always outlandish horror movies).
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  • The Faceless: Every adult, as the strip is drawn at kids'-eye level.
  • The '50s: The time the comic takes place in is never explicitly stated, but the styles of clothing people wear and the costs of things (a dollar covers the cost of The Kid's haircut and a 25-cent tip) suggests this era. The comics The Kid loves definitely have a Silver Age/late Golden Age feel (superheroes, war comics, horror comics).
  • First Time Feeling: The Kid and a buddy go see a 3-D Movie, making The Kid acutely aware of distance and perspective ("Look at him get littler and littler as he walks away!"). The final panel has The Kid sitting on his bed in an exaggeratedly stretched-out version of his room:
    I wish to God I'd never seen all this space!
  • Free-Range Children
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Averted— you can do that when you're writing for the National Lampoon and not newspaper syndication.
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  • Jerkass: The Kid's dad at one point seems to enjoy watching him squirm when they go to eat at a Chinese restaurant, and sounds disappointed when The Kid makes a show of enjoying the weird new food.
    (thought balloon) I'm getting smart!
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: The Kid's friend falls off a pier and is screaming. The Kid climbs down imagining the horrible, gory things his friend could be screaming about, only to discover his friend scratched his finger.
  • Mr. Imagination: The Kid tends to get a bit grim at times. Lampshaded in an Indulgent Fantasy Segue where he imagines having a Death Ray to blast everything that he doesn't want to deal with, including his parents:
    Boy! Have I got a vivid imagination!
  • No Name Given: He's just "Kid", or "The Kid".
    • Unnamed Parents: Averted; The Kid's parents call each other by name ("Harry" and "Madge").
  • Nosy Neighbor: Miss Cripp, who shows up in a couple of strips to lecture The Kid and his friends about all the dangerous things out there and how she's keeping an eye on them to make sure they're not up to something. Later, The Kid wonders if she's insane... and if he could end up like that too.
  • Spoiled Brat: The Kid's cousin Claude.
  • Summer Campy: Camp Tall Lone Tree, which gets several strips about what a rotten place it is.
  • Troperiffic/Cliché Storm: Discussed in a strip where The Kid and his friend go to see an action film and imagine how the plot will unfold— and are happy when it does just that, because it's something that reassuringly makes sense in a weird world.


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