Listed by Tom Kaczynski in Boing Boing's "Best Damn Comics of the Year" survey
Sélection Patrimoine, 2014 Festival International de la Bande Desinée de Angoulême (French edition)
A funny thing happened on the way to comic-strip immortality.
For many years, Ernie Bushmillers Nancy, with its odd-looking, squat heroine, nearly abstract art, and often super-corny gags, was perceived as the stodgiest, squarest comic strip in the world. Popular with newspaper readers, true but definitely not a strip embraced by comic-strip connoisseurs, like Krazy Kat, Dick Tracy or Terry and the Pirates.
But then those connoisseurs took a closer look, and began to realize that Bushmillers art approached its own kind of cartoon perfection, and those corny gags often achieved a striking zen quality. In its own way, it turned out Nancy was in fact the most iconic comic strip of all. (The American Heritage Dictionary actually uses a Nancy strip to illustrate its entry on comic strip.)
Charter members of the Nancy revival include Art Spiegelman, who published Mark Newgardens famous Loves Savage Fury (featuring Nancy and Bazooka Joe) in an early issue of RAW; Fletcher Hanks anthologist Paul Karasik; Zippy the Pinhead creator Bill Griffith; underground publisher Denis Kitchen, who released several volumes of Nancy collections in the 1980s; Understanding Comics Scott McCloud, who created the Five-Card Nancy card game; Joe Brainard, who produced an entire Nancy Book of paintings in 2008; and Andy Warhol, who produced a painting based on Nancy.
Now, fans will be dancing with joy as Fantagraphics unveils an ongoing Nancy reprint project. Each volume will contain a whopping full three years of daily Nancy strips (a Sunday Nancy project looms in the future), collected in a fat, square (what else, for the squarest strip in the world?) package designed by Jacob (Popeye, Beasts!, Willie and Joe) Covey.
This first volume collects every daily strip from 1943 to 1945. (Fantagraphics will eventually release Nancys first five years, 1938-1942, but given the scarcity of archival material for these years we are giving ourselves some extra time to collate it all.)
This first Nancy volume features an introduction by another stellar Bushmiller fan, Daniel Clowes (from whose collection most of the strips in this volume were scanned), a biography of the artist, and much more.
20-page excerpt (download 2.2 MB PDF):
Video & Photo Slideshow Preview (view in new window):
"In this, the reading public has a rare opportunity. No, make that a rare challenge to read Bushmiller without the benefit of recontextualization of any sort. The fact that you laugh at a Nancy gag and you will is all on you. There will be no downtown doyenne to comfort you in the know ledge that the gag about, oh, bathroom plungers, or cotton candy, or squirt guns, is an ironically loaded statement on anything at all. No, you'll be stuck in a room alone with Ernie Bushmiller, who will force you to confront your inner stoopid like no other American artist. Indeed, it is genuine, nonironic praise to say of Bushmiller that if you don't get a Nancy joke, you are a moron.... Now, Nancy Is Happy arrives after three decades of pro-Nancy revival and mainstream humor often as archly silly and unreal as Bushmiller's Letterman, Conan, Pee-wee Herman, The Mighty Boosh, or the grown-up fan base of Yo Gabba Gabba! It bodes well for Bushmiller's legacy that there's finally an audience educated enough to appreciate his brand of dumb." Ben Schwartz, Bookforum