I bought the five Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy books published by Kitchen Sink Press in the late ’80s/very early ’90s, spurred on by snippets of the books I’d seen in magazines, the admiration of the strip by one of my favorite cartoonists, (Bill “Zippy the Pinhead” Griffith), and my old friend Rob extolling the virtues of the comic.
I’d never thought much about the strip prior to that. I was aware of it, of course, but I was hardly an avid follower. But I thought “well, I’ve been amused by what I’ve seen so far, my friend Rob really likes it, and Bill Griffith likes it…I’ll give it a shot.” I started with Nancy Eats Food, the first of the series. And in short order, I ended up buying the rest.
It’s difficult to explain just why I enjoy Bushmiller’s Nancy so much. I’ve read many essays by a variety of folks trying to explain (or perhaps justify) their own love for the strip, and I’m not sure I’m quite ready to add my own to the mix. I don’t know that I really even can pin down what exactly it is that endears the strip to me. The juxtaposition of apparent normalcy with bizarre circumstances? The dedication to the more-than-occasional shameless joke? The awesomeness of Sluggo? It’s all these and more besides, I’d say.
My enjoyment of the strip even extends to the comics, as you may have noticed, though the Bushmiller-ness of the strips is softened into the new “kid’s adventure” stories created specifically for those publishers, if they weren’t simply reprinting the original strips in color. But even in this lesser form, the occasional moment of weirdness still shines through. (And legendary cartoonist John Stanley contributed his skills to the cause, so you can’t go wrong there.)
I know I’m not the only fan: looking at the Amazon listing linked above for Nancy Eats Food, as well as for the following books – Bums, Beatniks and Hippies/Artists & Con Artists, Nancy’s Pets, How Sluggo Survives!, and Dreams and Schemes, I see some adventurous pricing at work, in the $30 to $60 (or even $100+) range. Okay, what they’re selling these for isn’t necessarily what people are buying them for, but it’s at least one indicator of demand. (And yes, all those Amazon links throw a little somethin’-somethin’ back in my direction should you decide to take the Sluggo Plunge. Buy the really expensive ones, if you do.)
I’m…well, I was going to say I’m surprised there hasn’t been a more extensive reprinting of these strips in recent years. Just a handful of books, like the Kitchen Sink volumes and this intriguing book that I don’t yet have. But I’m not terribly surprised if only because Nancy may be just a little too “niche” to support an extensive “Complete Nancy” publishing program like Fantagraphics’ Complete Peanuts.
But boy, it’d be nice.