Village of the Damned

R.C. Harvey stops by this morning with one of his inimitable forays into comic-strip history. This time, he writes about Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy, and the semi-secret cult still surrounding it. An excerpt:

Bushmiller worked nights mostly. He began about two o’clock in the afternoon and sat at his drawing board into the wee hours and often into the morning of the next day. “I work on a schedule that produces six daily Nancy and Sluggo strips between Sunday and Tuesday evenings,” he wrote in a autobiographical article in Collier’s (September 18, 1948). “The Sunday page evolves after I’ve taken Wednesday and Thursday off. If this sounds confusing, then you have a fairly accurate picture of a newspaper cartoonist’s life. Unlike other strip cartoonists, I draw the last picture first and work back to toward the beginning, which is exactly the opposite of the way you read it (I hope). I know a guy who draws his cartoons upside down, so I don’t worry much about drawing backwards.”

In conjuring up jokes, Bushmiller came to rely to a great extent upon props, and in so doing, he gave the strip its unique flavor. Describing his method, Bushmiller said: “I jot down items such as toaster, leaky roof, folding chair, mail box, windy day—anything that comes to mind. Looking at the advertising in a magazine also helps, or a Sears Roebuck catalog. When I find an item that seems likely, I start to kick it around in my mind to see if I can work out a funny situation. Let’s say I see an ironing board. I start to think about what can be done with an ironing board, and I pretty soon get an idea.”

Joe McCulloch is around again, too, with his weekly look at the most interesting new comics in stores—plus an online bargain you might be interested to see.

Elsewhere, Journal contributor Nicole Rudick has a review of Kramers Ergot 8 at Hyperallergic.

Darwyn Cooke talked to Rolling Stone about his participation in Before Watchmen, which has predictably led to a lot of online derision. I do think it's kind of interesting that he shrugs off the immorality of working on this particular title by pointing to the larger ambiguous morality of working on non-creator-owned comic books in general. That's not the hill I'd choose to die on but he has a point. (Also, it's funny that he describes himself as being "dragged kicking and screaming" into the project, but then admits that some time after he first declined to participate, he called Dan DiDio up and and said he hoped there was still room for him to join in. A strange form of kicking and screaming, that.)

Via Mark Evanier's blog comes this video of a 1983 visit to the Mad magazine offices:

As you've probably read in one of the five hundred comic sites that have run with it so far, artist/conman Thomas Kinkade has passed away, and the animator Ralph Bakshi (who gave Kinkade his start) has released a statement about it. Here's a brief excerpt:

As far as the art world, the CRITICAL ones shrugging Tom off, as they sell a shark in oil, and polka dots in 12 -- count them, 12 -- galleries at once in one opening, and all the other mindless hype...

They miss the true brilliance that is Kinkade.

Kinkade painted the brilliant landscapes of the religious right, the Tea Party and all the other Rush Limbaughs in America. He's selling back what Americans want. This is the most homespun vision of the distorted right and nostalgia-looking Americans reaching for purity without knowing what it really is -- all through his landscapes.

IT'S BRILLIANT, and goes by every art critic and major museum in the world. I love it. And it's just that that [which] I made my movies about -- the blind, pretentious and ugly.

Heidi MacDonald called this a "touching tribute," which isn't exactly the phrase I'd use... I suppose it is a bit more nuanced than the take on Kinkade Bakshi gave to Vulture in 2008:

He's a good painter, and he did a spiel. He made all these deals. How he went out and did what he did is beyond my understanding now. He's very, very talented, and he’s very, very much of a hustler. Those two things are in conflict. Is he talented? Oh yeah. Will he paint anything to make money? Oh yeah. Does he have any sort of moralistic view? No. He doesn't care about anything. He's as cheesy as they come.

5 Responses to Village of the Damned

  1. James Van Hise says:

    Nancy always struck me as the kind of comic strip which appealed to people who didn’t want to read any newspaper strip which was more demanding that what they read when they were 8 years old. 40 years ago my friends and I would joke about the strip, saying things like, “Look, Ernie Bushmiller had a background in Nancy today!” It was everything which was wrong with modern newspaper comics in that it was both simplistic, simple minded and undemanding of the reader. If you read one Nancy strip you’ve literally read them all. That kind of thinking unfortunately remains alive today. Just look at Blondie. It’s still new but it might just as well be a reprint from 1960.

  2. Kim Thompson says:

    James gives an eloquent summation of the 100% anti-NANCY viewpoint. One day he will wake up and realize how wrong he’s been. I was on your team for many years too, James.

    I wish I could remember who said this, but someone once said that it took less time to read NANCY than it did to decide not to read it.

  3. patrick ford says:

    My experience is most people who think NANCY is dumb are big fans of super heroes. See. NANCY isn’t realistic. Comics which are not “realistic” (realistic like the O’neil/Adams Green Lantern), might cause people to laugh at comics. We don’t want that. 200 million dollar budgets are proof of something being serious, and 200 million is not something people will laugh at… Also, rubber nipples are good, and anal rape.

  4. patrick ford says:

    It was Mort Walker

  5. Lou Copeland says:

    I hadn’t read any Nancy in a while, and as I was reading the new Fanta collection I found myself reflecting on what it is I really enjoy about the strip. I gave up hope on pinning down what part ironic detachment played in my appreciation of it. What I did realize, though, is that while I rarely laughed at the gags, Nancy gives me this warm sense of pure, genuine happiness that few other things in life can offer me.

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