Saturday, December 15, 2018

"Nancy"


I’m pretty vocal about my opinionated perspective on “legacy strips” aka zombie strips – features that just won’t die, get lame retreads and/or are inherited or passed down in lineage. The turnover rate on the comics pages is so notoriously slow, and there is so much new talents out there, it’s no wonder folks read them on the internet instead of buying the local rag. Just like bingewatching entire seasons, these days the only strips I read I’ll wait catch up on in an annual anthology, or whenever they collect them all in a mass-market book, just like I also do with comic books (Saga, The Wicked & The Divine etc.).

Anyhoo – I stand corrected: an exception to that is the reboot of Nancyit’s been like over twenty years since I’ve enjoyed a new syndicated strip this much. Now comes the Olivia Jaimes version, who started her run on this classic feature back in April, and the impact has been phenomenal.
“Prior to the change in creator, “Nancy” averaged about 5,000 page views a day, says the Kansas City-based syndicate. Last week, the Jaimes version of “Nancy” attracted 133,000 page views on Wednesday, then spiked to 390,000 views the next day, according to Andrews McMeel.” - Comic Riffs


It’s also pretty hilarious to see the extent of trolling that goes on: it’s the perfect storm of old-school dinosaurs losing their shit with get-off-my-lawn criticism plus the added bonus of toxic Comicsgate hatery.
“Girlhood has always been the center of this comic, but no one who experienced that state has ever written it. “It was a wise decision for the syndicate to go after a female cartoonist for this job,” Newgarden says. “The time has come. It’s 2018, my friend,” Karasik agrees. - Smithsonian Magazine


Most adults can simultaneously appreciate classics and embrace the change. Exhibit “A” would be the above quote from Newgarden & Karasik, the authors of my favorite book on comics in many years “How To How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels.” This must-read volume - called "the best book ever written about comics" by The Comics Journal - deconstructs the elements behind Ernie Bushmiller's take on the strip.


The most recent incarnation of the character as realized by Gilchrist, aesthetically turned me off as being too Photoshoppy for my tastes - trying too hard, which I fall victim to many times when digitally coloring my own work. 

In stark contrast is Jaimes' stilted rawness in rendering, which fits in perfectly with postmodern sensitivities (comparatively crude but “hey this is just “my Style”), including barely-there hatching for extremely limited textures, and a flat color palette that's is hand-in-glove with the line art.
 “the Nancy I know and love is a total jerk and also gluttonous and also has big feelings and voraciously consumes her world” - Vulture

Updating content and props with mechanical pencils, selfie-sticks, recycling bins, ubiquitous plastic water bottles, apps, texting etc. are all cultural cues that mesh perfect with the attitude and sensibilities of the strip. And the irony extends into frequent breaking of the fourth wall with its self-awareness - not just the personalities of the characters but the strip itself is infused with snark.
“One of the great joys of Nancy, like the best comedy characters, is she’s all id. She’s immature and impulsive, seeking only immediate gratification and unfettered comfort at all times. In comic strips, this is common with little boy characters, like Dennis the Menace or Calvin, but it’s hard to name another comedic female comic protagonist who is wholly defined by her negative traits and doesn't feel ashamed of them.” - Grant Pardee/Vice 


I’ll even go a step farther in audacity and state it approaches the same level of pathos as did the best of Shultz (see excerpted panels below). I'll be impressing on my own students many an exercise + accompanying lecture comparing & contrasting this feature with both classic and contemporary peers in the field. Not to mention reading the feature myself, because it makes me happy.



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