This is the latest installment of “See the Meaning,” which is a feature where I provide the context behind notable out-of-context comic book panels!
Today, in honor of Olivia Jaimes making her first public appearance since taking over the Nancy comic strip (it was today and it apparently went well), I thought I’d take a look at the very popular “Sluggo is Lit” meme that has been making its way through the comics world this past month.
To really understand the meme, though, you first have to know a little bit about Nancy, both the character, the comic strip and the people behind the comic strip.
Nancy originated as a comic strip about a ditzy flapper named Fritzi Ritz. It was started in 1922 by Larry Whittington. Ernie Bushmiller took over the strip in 1925. In 1933, Bushmiller introduced Fritzi’s acerbic niece, Nancy. The young character soon became a dominant part of the strip. In 1938, Nancy’s friend, Sluggo, was introduced, as well, and the strip was officially re-named Nancy. Bushmiller continued on the series until he died in 1982.
Bushmiller was one of the all-time greats, and his Nancy comic strips are still widely read and loved to this day. United Feature Syndicate seriously has a page on GoComics.com for just Bushmiller’s old strips called Nancy Classics. Bushmiller was a big fan of offbeat humor. Just picking the first couple of strips from the Nancy Classics site from the same time that Jaimes joined the main site, you can really see Bushmiller’s offbeat, often absurdist sense of humor…
Those are just really well told comic strips with excellent artwork. After Bushmiller’s death, the strip went through a variety of cartoonists who tried out different styles. The most popular and the longest-lasting by far was Guy Gilchrist, who did an upbeat, gentle strip while also drawing a rather voluptuous Aunt Fritzi…
Gilchrist was big on references to other pieces of popular culture….
There was very much a sense of familiarity and calm in these strips. The sort of thing where an older reader especially could just check them out and be happy with the references designed for baby boomers mostly.
Then Jaimes took over, and she changed the sense of humor in the strip dramatically. Jaimes uses a similar TYPE of humor as Bushmiller (although obviously not precisely the same)…
She also made a point to modernize the strip. No longer was it meant to appeal to baby boomers.
There were jokes that involved headphone buds…
And a good deal of references to smart phones, the internet and stuff like that.
Although, amusingly, when I was looking at Gilchrist’s strips, he did have one last year about iTunes!
Well, guess what, the older fans of the strip were NOT HAVING THIS AT ALL!
And that, in and of itself, began to effect the strip.
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