When a cartoonist named Guy Gilchrist wrapped up his run writing “Nancy” in early 2018, it didn’t end well.
Or, rather, it ended too well, with a “happily ever after” and all of the characters holding hands as they skipped into a heart-shaped sunset to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”
It should’ve ended with a punch line after three or four panels, each one simple but strange, and all three together amounting to something ineffable but apt and, most of all, funny.
It’s not me saying that. It’s a person who calls herself Olivia Jaimes.
That’s the “nom de toon” of the mysterious cartoonist who took over for Gilchrist as the “Nancy” cartoonist but who declined to say who she was.
“I went back and I looked at the end of Guy Gilchrist’s run,” she told Vulture last year. “Nancy as a character had drifted from where I envision her, in that the Nancy I know and love is a total jerk and also gluttonous and also has big feelings and voraciously consumes her world.”
So when Jaimes had her turn inking the by-then nearly 90-year-old schoolgirl with a red bow permanently fixed in her black hair, she got back to what she thought made “Nancy” great. She had an observer remarking on her protagonist as she ate lunch in four simple, cutting panels.
“That Nancy, she’s such a sweet girl,” the observer notes. “Also a salt girl. And she doesn’t shy away from that butter, either. Wow, she is going IN on that cornbread.”
Ta-da, “Nancy” was back.
Or so said the internet commenters.
Some of them, anyway.
The reviews were mixed. Some thought it was a hilarious return to form. One wondered, “What fresh hell is this?”
Passions were high because “Nancy” has amassed a loyal cult following that includes a number of well-known cartoonists and many, many more regular fans. The strip is even the subject of a book-length treatise that purports to show that “(e)verything … you need to know about reading, making, and understanding comics can be found in a single Nancy strip by Ernie Bushmiller from August 8, 1959.”
Bushmiller is Nancy’s inventor. He introduced her in 1933, in the strip “Fritzi Ritz,” as the title character’s niece. Over time, Fritzi’s role diminished and Nancy’s grew and five years later, the strip was renamed after her.
Bushmiller kept cranking out the strip until his death in 1982, but “Nancy” lived on under Gilchrist and a number of other caretakers.
In some ways, Jaimes was just another in a long chain of writers and illustrators who’ve done their best to keep “Nancy” around and relevant. But in other ways, she represented a big break.
For one thing, she was the first woman to draw this iconic girl.
For another, she wasn’t afraid to bring this elderly little girl into the present.
With Jaimes deciding what Nancy would do, she texted in bed, used Snapchat and played video games. Instead of skipping off into a heart-shaped sunset, she was exposed (in three panels) for her vain belief that she had “the most original, interesting thoughts in the world.”
Some thought this was a return to Bushmiller’s achievement. Others thought it was an abomination. Either way, Andrews McMeel Syndication, which sold her strip to newspapers across the country, was happy after seeing the strip’s online traffic double after Jaimes took over.
And now it’s your turn to chime in.
Today, as we did last Wednesday, The Spokesman-Review is offering samples of “Nancy” and four other potential new comic strips in the pages of the Serendipity section. You can weigh in there or online at www.spokesman.com/ comicspoll.
Nancy is counting on you.
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