Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.
BY ERNIE BUSHMILLER
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
Rear view, Nancy and Sluggo
SLUGGO: Well—this is our tenth trip
NANCY: Yep—fifty cents each so far
Front view, Nancy and Sluggo
NANCY: Phew—This is our last load
SLUGGO: Boy—I’m all in
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.