Nancy (comic strip)

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Nancy is an American daily and Sunday comic strip, originally written and drawn by Ernie Bushmiller and distributed by United Feature Syndicate. The character of Nancy, a slightly chubby and precocious eight-year-old, first appeared in the strip Fritzi Ritz about the airheaded flapper title character. Larry Whittington began Fritzi Ritz in 1922, and it was taken over by Bushmiller three years late

Publication history

On January 2, 1933, Bushmiller introduced Fritzi's niece, Nancy.[1] Soon she dominated the daily strip, which was retitled Nancy in 1938. Comics historian Don Markstein detailed the evolution, as the readership of Fritzi Ritz increased:

Bushmiller's bold, clear art style, combined with his ability to construct a type of gag that appealed to a very broad audience, brought the strip to new heights of popularity—and his introduction of Fritzi's niece, Nancy, in 1933, carried it higher yet. Two important developments occurred in 1938. Sluggo Smith, Nancy's friend from the "wrong side of the tracks", was introduced in January; and later that year, Aunt Fritzi's name was dropped from the title of the daily strip, which continued as Nancy. At the same time, Bushmiller's Sunday page underwent a similar change. Formerly, half of it had been devoted to Fritzi and the other half to her boyfriend, Phil Fumble. Phil's half was taken over by Nancy. Years later, when newspaper space became tighter and cartoonists were no longer allowed whole pages to themselves, Fritzi's half disappeared, and the transformation was complete. Fritzi Ritz was a bit player where she had formerly been the star.[2]

Fritzi Ritz continued as a Sunday feature until 1968. At its peak in the 1970s, Nancy ran in more than 880 newspapers.

Al Plastino worked on Sunday episodes of Nancy in 1982-83 after Bushmiller died. During that period, David Letterman showed on TV a Nancy panel with Plastino's signature and made a joke about Plastino as a superhero name. (Letterman's writers were apparently unaware that Plastino was known for his superheroes.)

The strip has continued to the present day by different writers and artists. Mark Lasky briefly handled the strip in 1983 before handing the strip over to Jerry Scott (1984–94), who drew the strip in a much different, more modern style than other adaptations. In 1995, Guy and Brad Gilchrist assumed control of the strip, returning the artwork to its traditional forms.[2] The strip has an international popularity, especially in Japan and South America. It runs as Periquita in several dozen Spanish-language newspapers.

Art style

Bushmiller refined and simplified his drawing style over the years to create a uniquely stylized comic world. The American Heritage Dictionary illustrates its entry on comic strip with a Nancy cartoon. Despite the small size of the reproduction, both the art and the gag are clear, and an eye-tracking survey once determined that Nancy was so conspicuous that it was the first strip most people looked at on a newspaper comics page.

In a 1988 essay, “How to Read Nancy”, Mark Newgarden and Paul Karasik offered a probing analysis of Bushmiller’s strip:

To say that Nancy is a simple gag strip about a simple-minded snot-nosed kid is to miss the point completely. Nancy only appears to be simple at a casual glance. Like architect Mies van der Rohe, the simplicity is a carefully designed function of a complex amalgam of formal rules laid out by the designer. To look at Bushmiller as an architect is entirely appropriate, for Nancy is, in a sense, a blueprint for a comic strip. Walls, floors, rocks, trees, ice-cream cones, motion lines, midgets and principals are carefully positioned with no need for further embellishment. And they are laid out with one purpose in mind—to get the gag across. Minimalist? Formalist? Structuralist? Cartoonist![3]


  • Nancy Ritz,[4][broken citation] a typical and somewhat mischievous young girl. She encourages Sluggo to improve himself and is instantly jealous of any other girls who pay him attention.
  • Fritzi Ritz, Nancy's aunt, with whom she lives. She is drawn in a more realistic style than the children characters. The character was gradually phased out beginning in the mid-1980s before being dropped entirely by the end of the decade. She subsequently returned as a main character in 1995 when the strip was taken over by brothers Brad and Guy Gilchrist. In the current version of Nancy, Fritzi works as a music reviewer and is often seen wearing T-shirts of musical acts, especially country performers.
  • Sluggo Smith,[5][broken citation] Nancy's best friend, introduced in 1938. Sluggo is Nancy's age and is a poor ragamuffin-type from the wrong side of the tracks. There are strips that appear to place Sluggo as Nancy's boyfriend. He is portrayed as lazy, and his favorite pastime seems to be napping.
  • Rollo, the stereotypical but nonetheless friendly rich kid. In the early 1940s, the rich kid was known as Marmaduke. It is possible that the name was changed to avoid confusion with Marmaduke, an unrelated comic strip by Brad Anderson that debuted in 1954.
  • Irma, Nancy's nondescript girlfriend.
  • Spike (aka Butch), the town bully who frequently knocks out Sluggo. Sluggo occasionally gets one over on Spike, however.
  • Oona Goosepimple, the spooky looking child who lived in a haunted house down the road from Nancy's house. She only appeared in the comic book version of the strip, during John Stanley's tenure in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
  • Marigold, Sluggo's tomboy cousin.[2]
  • Pee Wee, a neighborhood toddler.
  • Poochie, Nancy's nondescript dog. In current strips, Nancy also has a cat named Rocky and a goldfish called Goldie.


Bushmiller won the National Cartoonists Society's Humor Comic Strip Award for 1961 and the Society's Reuben Award for Best Cartoonist of the Year in 1976.[6]

In 1995, the strip was selected as one of the 20 in the "Comic Strip Classics" series of commemorative U.S. postage stamps.

Comic books

There were first several Fritzi Ritz comic stories in comics published by United Features. These include Fritzi Ritz #1 (1948), 3-7 (1949), #27-36 (1953–54); United Comics #8-36 (1950–53); Tip Topper Comics#1-28 (1949–54); St John published Fritzi Ritz #37-55 (1955–57). Dell published Fitzi Ritz #56-59 (1957–58)

Nancy appeared in comic books—initially in a 1940s comic strip reprint title from United Features, later St. John Publications and later in a Dell comic written by John Stanley. Titled Nancy and Sluggo, United Features published #16-23 (1949–54), St. John published #121-145 (1955–57). Titled Nancy, until retitled Nancy and Sluggo with issue #174, Dell published #146-187 (1957–62). Gold Key published #188-192 (1962–63). Dell also published Dell Giants devoted to Nancy (#35, #45 and "Traveltime"), and a Four Color #1034.[2] Nancy and Sluggo also appeared in stories in Tip Top Comics published by United Features (#1-188), St. Johns (#189-210), and Dell (#211-225), Sparkler #1-120 (1941–54) and Sparkle #1-33 (1953–54) published by United Features. Fritzi Ritz and Nancy appeared in several Comics on Parade (#32, 35, 38, 41, 44, 47, 50, 53, 55, 57, 60-104) published by United Features.

Nancy was reprinted in the UK comic book, The Topper, from the 1950s through the 1970s. Nancy also had its own monthly comic book magazine of newspaper reprints in Norway (where the strip is known asTrulte) during 1956-59.


Nancy was featured in three animated shorts by the Terrytoons studio in 1942–43: School DazeNancy's Little Theater and Doing Their Bit. In 1971, several newly created Nancy and Sluggo cartoons appeared on the Saturday morning cartoon series, Archie's TV Funnies, which starred the Archie Comic Series characters running a television station. Nancy appeared along with seven other comic strip characters: Emmy LouBroom HildaDick TracyThe DropoutsMoon Mullinsthe Captain and the Kids and Smokey Stover. The series lasted one season. In 1978, she was also featured in several segments of Filmation's animated show The Fabulous Funnies.

Cultural references

Bushmiller's art work has inspired other artists:

  • Cartoonist Bill Griffith has used the characters and emulated Bushmiller's style frequently in his Zippy the Pinhead.
  • Cartoonist Scott McCloud developed a card game, 5-card Nancy, in which players use random panels of Nancy to create their own stories. McCloud also included a Nancy cameo in his book,Understanding Comics. When describing the "non-sequitur" transition type, several unrelated images appear between panels. One is an upside-down picture of Nancy being struck by lightning with the caption "Danger".
  • Cartoonist Mark Newgarden has included Nancy in his work.
  • Pearls Before Swine cartoonist Stephan Pastis (known for using other comic characters in his strip) portrayed Nancy and Sluggo as extras to replace Rat and Goat during the 2002 "Pearls Labor Dispute".
  • Mad has run several parodies, including “Nansy”, in which Nancy is transformed into the main character of several other comic strips, including Donald DuckDick Tracy and Li'l Abner, all with that same hyphen-nose and frizzy hairdo. Also in Mad, Bushmiller gets the hardboiled treatment: If Mickey Spillane Wrote Nancy.
  • Quino's Mafalda bears a strong resemblance to the earlier Nancy, which Quino mocks in one strip.
  • Cartoonist Max Cannon often includes Stubbo, a boy drawn in Bushmiller's style, in his Red Meat strip.
Other media


Comic strip (by Ernie Bushmiller)
  • Nancy (1961), Pocket Books (The Fun-Filled Cartoon Adventures of Nancy)[7]
  • The Best of Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy by Brian Walker (1988), Henry Holt
  • Kitchen Sink Press series:
    • Nancy Eats Food (Volume 1) (1989)
    • How Sluggo Survives (Volume 2) (1989)
    • Nancy Dreams and Schemes (Volume 3) (1990)
    • Bums, Beatniks and Hippies / Artists and Con Artists (Volume 4) (1990)
    • Nancy's Pets (Volume 5) (1991)
  • Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Nancy: The Enduring Wisdom of Ernie Bushmiller (1993), Pharos Books
  • Nancy Is Happy: Complete Dailies 1942-1945 (2012), Fantagraphics Books (The first in a projected series reprinting 24 years worth of daily strips.)[3]
  • Nancy Likes Christmas: Complete Dailies 1946-1948 (2012), Fantagraphics Books
Comic book (by John Stanley)
  • Nancy Vol. 1: The John Stanley Library (2009), Drawn and Quarterly
  • Nancy Vol. 2: The John Stanley Library (2010), Drawn and Quarterly
  • Nancy Vol. 3: The John Stanley Library (2011), Drawn and Quarterly


  1. ^ Harvey, R. C.. "The Lawrence Welk of Cartoonists: Ernie, Nancy, and the Bushmiller Society". Retrieved 2012-04-10.
  2. a b c d "Don Markstein's Toonopedia: Nancy". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  3. a b "Fantagraphics Books to Begin "Nancy" Reprint Project". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  4. ^ "September 7, 2009 Nancy strip". Retrieved 2010-03-09.
  5. ^ "June 10, 2008 Nancy strip". Retrieved 2010-03-09.
  6. ^ "Reuben Award Winners 1946-present". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  7. ^ "GDC entry". Retrieved 25 March 2012.

Further reading