So it was several years ago, back in the glittering Golden Age of the late ’80s/early ’90s, when pal Rob was perusing one of the then-new Kitchen Sink Press Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy strip collections and he showed me a particular panel that tickled his funnybone:
And though I was not a Nancy fan at the time, I shared in Rob’s amusement at that particular panel, one of a sequence of Sluggo blatantly goofing off at work while his boss glared at him. But that one panel, with him playing the harmonica, seemed especially transgressive and hilarious. The pure joy on Sluggo’s face was particularly endearing.
As I said, I wasn’t a Nancy fan. By that I don’t mean I hated the strip, or was actively opposed to it. I simply hadn’t been exposed to enough of it. I was aware of it, certainly, but mostly through second-hand sources, such as Bill Griffith’s occasional forays into Bushmillerian topics in his Zippy the Pinhead strips, or via the occasional parody (such as in Mad, or Mark Newgarden’s “Love’s Savage Fury” from Raw Magazine). And I’d read enough articles in comic ‘zines and historical overviews to know that Bushmiller’s Nancy strips were, to some extent, not held in the highest regard.
But given that my early exposures to the strip were via people and sources who enjoyed and outright celebrated (while acknowledging the peculiarity) of Bushmiller’s Nancy, that is probably what inclined me toward learning to appreciate it in all its oddball simplicity, with its surreal charm and its cornball gags. I acquired my own copies of the Kitchen Sink reprint volumes, and would pick up copies of the various Nancy comic books (containing both Bushmiller reprints and new stories by other creators) when the opportunity arose.
I’m not sure what really prompted me to start doing Sluggo Saturdays, other than 1) I tended to use Saturday as a “down” time on my site, simply posting an image or two, and 2) I’d been going to the Sluggo well an awful lot on my site at the time, and figured I could confine his appearances to just one specific day a week. And 3) this was a fantastic picture.
Also, I originally planned to only run with this feature for a year, but #52 ended up being on Free Comic Book Day, and that didn’t seem right to me. So I decided to shoot for 100, since you know how we comic book dudes like our round numbers, but realized that’d put me four short of a two year run. And we comic book dudes like our anniversaries, too, so the two-year run won out.
I was trying to pin down which Sluggo Saturday was my favorite, and it’s rough. There were a few missteps along the way, to be sure: I was never happy with the caption on this one (a bit too on the nose), this one doesn’t even really have a gag, sometimes I tried too hard, and…um, I meant well, honest. Plus, I notice that I hadn’t quite figured out what exactly my take was going to be on Sluggo Saturday by the second installment.
But the most popular Sluggo Saturday on the site, I think, and one of my own personal favorites, was this one, where it was hard to believe that that particular bit of dialogue actually appeared in a comic. Though I do like this one for being appalling, and this one for being a great example of how off-model the comic book versions of Nancy and Sluggo would occasionally be. And for this I can only apologize.
I always enjoyed when someone would be inspired by a Sluggo Saturday post to generate their own variations of the image, such as what Kevin did to this panel using my own face, and Nat and Bully both had some fun with the same pic.
And this pic has been the wallpaper on my cellphone almost since the day I first posted it on the site.
The other odd side effect from my parade of Sluggo appreciation comes from its pairing with my other funnybook obsession, Swamp Thing. Now, this image predates Sluggo Saturday, and I’d actually requested the pairing, but I feel I should re-present this Christmas gift hand-drawn by Employee Aaron:
However, a year or two later, Awesome Hospital‘s Matt Digges was good enough to gift me with this fantastic House of Secrets #92 tribute featuring You-Know-Who:
And I am still regularly emailed, Twittered, and Facebooked with links and images regarding our favorite unkempt ruffian. In fact, just a couple of days ago, reader Dan sent along this Bill Sienkiewicz convention sketch obtained a while back by his friend Jaan. WARNING: cannot be unseen:
This is currently the wallpaper on the store computer. None who gaze upon it can look away.
Special thanks to readers Alan and Paul and to pal Nat for sending along material for use in this project of mine. And special thanks to pal Andres, who loaned me all kinds of great Nancy and Sluggo material that I used here, and was even good enough to gift me with my own copy of Brian Walker’s The Best of Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy.
I suspect I’m not done with Nancy or Sluggo on this site. After all, we have the complete Nancy collections forthcoming from Fantagraphics to look forward to. I can’t wait to dig into those once they start coming out. And you never know when I may come across another great image I absolutely have to share. In the meantime, there’s this Tumblr site which is presenting Bushmiller panels, allowing us to contemplate the weird world in which Nancy and Sluggo live, without the burden of context or meaning. Strangely smoothing. There’s also this site offering up scans of vintage Nancy and Fritzi Ritz strips clipped from newspapers. Remember newspapers? And here’s this link post of mine from (Good Lord) about five years ago, which probably has suffered a bit of link-rot since then, but the YouTube video link, at least, is still good. Plus, I explain that one panel. You know which one.
Of course, the question still stands: why Sluggo? Why spend two years’ worth of Saturdays scanning assorted panels and attaching occasionally-amusing captions to them? What is it about Sluggo that is so compelling?
Because Sluggo is the kind of dude who’ll sit there at his work desk and happily play his harmonica while his boss watches, that’s why.
Like I said at the end of the last Sluggo Saturday entry…thanks for reading and enjoying this little project of mine. I heard from more than a few of you telling me that you’ve gained a new appreciation for Nancy and Sluggo, and that makes me very happy.
Thanks again, and I’ll see you tomorrow.