Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Guy Gilchrist has succeeded in doing something few other people would dare to attempt: He has managed to channel the spirit of Ernie Bushmiller, creator of the syndicated comic strip Nancy.

There are plenty of people who don’t care for Nancy, a classic “old school” comic strip. The humor, while occasionally relying on breaking the “fourth wall,” was fairly simplistic, playing Nancy’s modestly impish personality against caretaker/aunt Fritzi Ritz (the original star of the strip), friend Sluggo, the poster boy for not-so-genteel poverty and extreme indolence, and other random archetypical characters. (Need a tough guy? There’s Spike. Rich kid? Rollo, at your service.) But the strip had - and still has - its admirers.

Bushmiller’s bold, clear drawing style, coupled with his simple but effective gags, made Nancy an icon among American comic strips. Artists as varied as Andy Warhol, Art Spiegelman (Maus), and Bill Griffith (Zippy the Pinhead) have all paid homage to the frizzy-haired young lady at one time or another.

After Ernie Bushmiller died in 1982, Art Lansky briefly took over the strip...until his death in 1983. Nobody knows whether the strain of duplicating Bushmiller’s work helped carry him off. Jerry Scott, who took over after Lansky, didn’t even try. He revamped the strip, modernizing the appearance of the characters and giving the strip an edgier sense of humor.

It was a mistake. Scott’s version of Nancy sucked.

Enter Guy Gilchrist and his brother Brad. When Jerry Scott left in 1995 to focus his efforts on Baby Blues - good move on his part - the Gilchrist boys came in and dialed Nancy back to her Bushmillerian origins. And they did a fine job of it, in the process making Fritzi Ritz look downright hot...and giving her a Gilchrist-inspired taste for country music.

But this post isn’t really about Nancy. It’s about Mudpie, Guy Gilchrist’s other magnum eppis.

Mudpie is a Sunday feature primarily directed at kids: It makes no real pretense of seeking an adult audience. It features the adventures of the eponymous Mammalian Lead Character - some sort of cat, I believe - and various other friends and relatives. It also features Guy’s (mostly execrable) poetry, along with art lessons and drawings of miscellaneous loathsome (yet cute) monsters and gorgeous, heavy-titted lady fairies, complete with wings and antennae.

And it occasionally features Angelmouse, a wingèd rodent clad in a blue, Biblical-looking tunic, who speaks in pictures in lieu of words. For Guy is...a Believer.

Once in a while, Guy will, ever so gently, step over the line. Like the late Johnny Hart of B.C. and Wizard of Id fame, his desire to incorporate a religious message in his strip sometimes runs him afoul of folks with, er, ahhh...different beliefs. You know, those of us who will be spending Eternity burning in the ol’ Lake of Fire.


Mudpie 1
Mudpie, strip of July 21, 2001. ©2001 Guy Gilchrist.

Of course, some of us don’t think there’s anything strange about praying on Saturday...

Mudpie 2

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