July 18, 1947: The Timeless, Subtle Wit of Ernie Bushmiller’s ‘Nancy’

July 18, 1947, Nancy

Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.


Panel 1:
Exterior, Day. A city sidewalk. Nancy and Sluggo are carrying heavy packages on their shoulders.
NANCY: Wow… These packages are heavy
SLUGGO: Yep—but the man gives us a nickel for each one we deliver

Panel 2:
Rear view, Nancy and Sluggo
SLUGGO: Well—this is our tenth trip
NANCY: Yep—fifty cents each so far

Panel 3:
Front view, Nancy and Sluggo
NANCY: Phew—This is our last load
SLUGGO: Boy—I’m all in
Panel 4:

Nancy and Sluggo, empty-handed, each with an arm frozen in the air at a right angle as if they were still carrying packages.
POLICE OFFICER (peering around corner): ?

Nothing might seem less suitable for a description without visual aids than the comics page, but an example isn’t really necessary, for to have seen one panel of “Nancy” is to have seen them all. The characters inhabit a land that never feels the hand of time, an unidentified cityscape of bulgy cars with fat, balloon tires unchanged by the whims of taste.

Unlike other artists, Bushmiller refused to alter his characters over time. Sluggo is clearly no slave to fashion—the newsboy cap has come and gone several times and yet he has never abandoned it, no matter how outré it becomes. And what of Nancy’s ensemble: Plaid skirt, fuzzy sweater with just a hint of a Peter Pan collar—and that pincushion hairstyle with an impudent bow. A classic look. Karl Lagerfeld, take note.

Nancy’s companions on July 18, 1947, are a mostly familiar bunch—at least if one can imagine a comics page before “Peanuts.” “Brenda Starr,” “Mary Worth” and “Gasoline Alley” are well-known faces, while Chester Gould demonstrates his usual prescience for the future by creating a villain named “Coffyhead” to match wits with Dick Tracy. Perhaps the most surprising is “Li’l Abner,” showing that Al Capp once had a remarkably liberal bent. But I must say, it’s a treat to see first-rate artwork when papers still ran comics at a decent size.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, Art & Artists, Film and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to July 18, 1947: The Timeless, Subtle Wit of Ernie Bushmiller’s ‘Nancy’

  1. Steve C. says:

    “Nancy” was my personal favorite cartoon in the LA Times funnies when I was growing up in BH. It seemed that Nancy was the star, and Sluggo was the “George Burns” type character of the time. In my cartoons (caninecartoons) Lulu is the (bright star) and Cal is her foil most of the time, Thanks for bringing up this great cartoon. I also appreciated your comments re: Al Capp and Chester Gould.


  2. Eve says:

    I’ve been following the new Nancy and like it–but they turned Fritzi Ritz into such a frump!


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