As announced at last week's Comic-Con International, Fantagraphics Books – the leading publisher of classic strip reprints including The Complete Peanuts, Popeye, Krazy & Ignatz, Prince Valiant, Captain Easy, Dennis the Menace, Zippy the Pinhead and others – has acquired the rights from United Media to publish Nancy by Ernie Bushmiller, beginning in Spring 2010.
According to Co-Publisher Gary Groth, who inked the deal, Fantagraphics has contracted to publish the first 24 years of Nancy dailies, beginning in 1938 (when Nancy took over the strip from its former star, Fritzi Ritz) through 1961. "If the demand is there," Groth noted, "we will of course want to continue into the 1960s and beyond, if for no other reason than to run all those great 'hippie' Nancy episodes. But we'll cross that bridge in 2016 when we finish publishing the books we've contracted for."
"I was a late Nancy convert," admits Co-Publisher Kim Thompson, who will be editing the series. "It wasn't until Denis Kitchen published his Nancy collections in 1989 and 1990, after people like Bill Griffith and Scott McCloud had been touting it for years, that I finally 'got' it. It's one of the all-time greats — way ahead of its time in its own goofy way. Ever since then it's been at the back of my mind to do a more extensive reprinting, and our ongoing successes with classic reprint series these past five years told me the time is now ripe."
Each volume of dailies will contain four years per volume and be designed by Fantagraphics Art Director Jacob Covey. Cartoonist Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) will provide the introduction to the first volume. Each volume will be 8" x 8" in flexibound format and retail for $29.99. Information regarding collections of Nancy Sunday strips will be announced at a later date.
"I envision Nancy being influenced by pop art and constructivist design in a way that will complement the geometric style of the strip and also give a nod to Mark Newgarden's deconstruction of Nancy's forms," says Covey, whose designs on books like Popeye, Willie & Joe and Beasts! have garnered numerous awards. "In a word: ‘POP.' Like Popeye, I want it to seem fun so kids can connect with it but so smart adults can look at it more deeply. But where Popeye has a Victorian nod, this will be modernist."
Fantagraphics will begin with the "second" volume, 1942-1945. According to Thompson, "While we have access to great, nearly complete runs for most of the 1940s dailies, it looks like it will be far more trouble to collect the 1938 and 1939 material. So we'll be putting out a call to Nancy fans, both over the internet and in the first book itself, until we eventually secure the missing strips to double back and release the best possible 1938-1941 volume."
The character of Nancy, a precocious eight-year-old girl, first appeared in the strip Fritzi Ritz. After Larry Whittington began Fritzi Ritz in 1922, it was taken over by Bushmiller three years later. In 1933, Bushmiller introduced Fritzi's niece, Nancy. Soon she dominated the strip, retitled Nancy in 1938. At its peak in the 1970s, Nancy ran in more than 880 newspapers.
In addition to being one of the great comic strips of the 20th Century, Nancy is a bonafide pop culture icon, having captured the imagination of such artists as Andy Warhol, Joe Brainard, Scott McCloud, Bill Griffith, Mark Newgarden, and many others.
In Spring 2010, Fantagraphics will also publish a revised and expanded book edition of cartoonists Mark Newgarden and Paul Karasik's seminal 1988 essay, "How to Read Nancy." In addition to explicating the brilliance of Bushmiller's cartooning, it also has become a landmark educational essay about visual storytelling through the analysis of Bushmiller's work.
To quote from How to Read Nancy: "To say that Nancy is a simple gag strip about a simple-minded snot-nosed kid is to miss the point completely. Nancy only appears to be simple at a casual glance. Like architect Mies Van Der Rohe, the simplicity is a carefully designed function of a complex amalgam of formal rules laid out by the designer. To look at Bushmiller as an architect is entirely appropriate, for Nancy is, in a sense, a blue print for a comic strip. Walls, floors, rocks, trees, ice-cream cones, motion lines, midgets and principals are carefully positioned with no need for further embellishment. And they are laid out with one purpose in mind – to get the gag across. Minimalist? Formalist? Structuralist? Cartoonist!"