Lincoln Peirce is a cartoonist/writer and the creator of the comic strip Big Nate. It appears in more than two hundred U.S. newspapers and online daily at comics.com.

Lincoln Peirce lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Maine.

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Mii Characters

As you probably know by now, I'm pretty much a technophobe.  And a social media-phobe, if I may coin a new phrase.  There are plenty of things that are facts of everyday life for many people -- like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. -- that I don't understand.  I recognize their importance and usefulness to others, but I've always been a little intimidated by all that stuff.  Plus, my life is going okay without them.  So I have no plans to join the Twitterverse.  Or whatever it's called.

BUT!...today I found myself becoming curious about a couple of technical and/or multimedia things I'd never seen or heard of before.  I stumbled across them while doing a Google Image search; each of them is, in its own way, a re-imagined version of Big Nate.  The first is a miicharacter.  Did I have any idea what a miicharacter is?  No, I did not.  But after consulting wikipedia (a piece of technology I don't mind at all), I learned this:  Mii characters are created and stored in the Mii Channel or the Mii Maker.  While the user can assign a gender, name, birthday, and favorite color to a Mii, the majority of the interface used for Mii creation focuses on the appearance of its face and head.  The user is given a variety of different hairstyles, eye, nose, and mouth shapes, and other features such as facial hair or wrinkles, to select from.  Most of the facial features can be further adjusted, including their size, position, color, and alignment.  

So, there's someone out there who cares enough about Big Nate to create a miicharacter in his image.  I'm flattered, of course.  But it's worth pointing out that some of Nate's features aren't accurately presented here.  Let's talk about the hair.  I've always known that Nate's spiky hair would be almost impossible to depict in three dimensions, because those seven spikes look exactly the same no matter which way Nate is facing.  That's not the way 3-dimensional hair works, which is one reason this miicharacter doesn't look all that much like Nate.  The other two major problems is that this "miiNate" isn't bald on the sides like the real Nate, and his eyes are round circles instead of straight lines.  

The other image shown here is a multimedia "bulletin board" created and posted by someone through an interactive social network called glogster.  Apparently, glogster was created as a platform for kids to share interests, complete school assignments, and present projects by accessing different types of media.  This Big Nate bulletin board is a tribute to the second novel, Big Nate Strikes Again.  The elements included here are:  pictures of Nate, Francis, Teddy, Gina, and Jenny; references to SPOFFs (Sports Played Only For Fun) and the Scribble Game; a picture of a Psycho Dog (Nate's preferred name for his fleeceball team); a tag reading Kuddle Kittens (Gina's name for the team), and a picture of the one and only Ben Franklin (the subject of the report Nate and Gina must work on together).  I'm a fan of real-life bulletin boards -- I have two of them in my office -- so this glogster thing sort of appeals to me.  I'm not going to run right out and create my own glogster bulletin board, or my own miicharacter, for that matter.  But at least now I know a little bit about what these types of technology have to offer.

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend, everyone!

Fri, 08/29/2014

Kenosha Festival of Cartooning

Do you live in or near Kenosha, Wisconsin?  Or -- if you live in another part of the country -- are you perhaps experiencing a growing urge to travel to America's Dairyland in late September?  If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then I suggest you get on up to Kenosha ONE MONTH FROM NOW, September 25 - 27, for the Kenosha Festival of Cartooning.  I will be there as one of this year's special guests, and I'm really looking forward to it.  

Kenosha might seem an unlikely place for a world-class cartooning event, but it actually makes a lot of sense.  John Hambrock, a mighty talented cartoonist ("The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee") and his wife, Anne Morse Hambrock, the founder and director of the Festival, live in Kenosha.  Here, in Anne's own words, is the slightly abridged version of how the Kenosha Festival of Cartooning was born:

When I was growing up cartoonists were celebrities. They were on the news, they were on late night talk shows, they were guests at the White House.

But they were also at a distance. You never thought you could actually meet someone like Charles Schulz or Cathy Guisewite in person.

There were no comic art festivals, comic cons or other opportunities to meet the faces behind your favorite comic strip or comic book. And very little chance to ever hear them give a lecture or slide show about their work and all the cool stuff that goes into making this kind of art.

But now cartoonists travel all over the world getting to know their fans and giving them more opportunity to have an insider's view of their work.

Over the past six years I have had the good fortune to attend a number of comic festivals.  And I have seen how hungry the public is to meet these artists and see how they create their art and hear why they decided to become cartoonists and how they achieved their dreams.

I have had such a terrific experience at the festivals I've attended that, in 2011, I jumped in with both feet and created the Kenosha Festival of Cartooning.


Thanks, Anne.  This year's festival promises to be a busy few days.  I'm going to have the chance to visit some local schools while I'm there, in addition to giving a talk to a larger group of parents and kids at the Kenosha Public Museum.  Not only that, I'll be included as part of a comic art exhibit called More Than Funny 2, which will feature the work of some absolute legends in the cartooning biz -- including my fellow guests at this year's festival:  Scott Stantis ("Prickly City" and editorial cartoons), Jeff Keane ("The Family Circus"), Denis Kitchen (legendary cartoonist, author, editor, and comics authority), Todd Clark ("Lola"), Terri Libenson ("The Pajama Diaries"), and Rick Stromoski ("Soup To Nutz").  That's a pretty good line-up!

If you want to learn more about the festival and the schedule of events, you can visit the website:  http://kenoshacartoonfest.blogspot.com

Hope to see you there!

Tue, 08/26/2014

Rhymes With Orange

I spent some time this morning reviewing old Big Nate strips that are going to be included in an upcoming ebook, and I came across these two selections.  I'm not even sure how old they are, but based on the artwork, I'd guess that these were published about fifteen years ago, give or take.

Each is interesting for its own reason.  In the strip on the left, Nate attempts to write a love poem about Cheez Doodles (an idea I revisited years later in Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself).  As you can see, he runs into a problem:

I think that I shall never munch
A more delicious crispy crunch.
As nectar summons lovestruck bees,
You call to me, my curl of cheez.
Your taste, sublime.  Your texture, bold.
All other cheese snacks leave me cold.
Your color is a fiery orange...


Here's where Nate encounters the age-old dilemma of poets everywhere:  what rhymes with orange?  I've heard claims that "door hinge" is an acceptable rhyme, but I'm not buying it.  The fact is, nothing does the job, a fact my friend Hilary Price obviously understood when she chose to name her comic panel Rhymes With Orange.  

The second strip is -- I THINK -- the first appearance of Gina in "Big Nate."  As I've said more than once in this blog, characters usually look quite different when they first appear than they do years later, and Gina is no exception.  She's missing her pointy nose, and her pony tail and bangs are different from the way I draw them now.  She's also wearing a dark sweater instead of her trademark white v-neck top.  About the only things that have remained the same are that 1.) she's wearing her oversized square glasses, and 2.) she's a blonde.

A couple more things.  First:  Don't forget the BIG NATE SUPER FAN SWEEPSTAKES!  It's you chance to appear as a drawn character in the next book, Big Nate Lives It Up.  Click on the sweepstakes button at www.bignatebooks.com and check it out.  And HURRY!  The deadline for entering is AUGUST 31st!

And speaking of Big Nate Lives It Up:  I'm officially more than halfway through the drawings.  I finished chapter 6, which means 113 pages are complete.  Only 103 to go!

Fri, 08/22/2014

Putting the "Fortune" in the Fortune Cookie

 If you've read BIG NATE:  IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF, you might remember the comic Nate draws about going out for dinner with Dad and Ellen at Pu-Pu Panda, and getting a fortune that makes absolutely no sense:  An unlit candle frightens no monkeys.  I've never been lucky enough to find something quite that bizarre inside a fortune cookie, but I've blogged on a few occasions about receiving strange, nonsensical, or unintentionally hilarious messages after a meal of Chinese food.  Here's a brief sampler:

•    One is not sleeping, does not mean they are awake.
•    Birds are entangled by your feet and men by their tongue.
•    People in your background will be more cooperative than usual.
•    Like hockey players, bookworms are called for icing.

And now comes the latest addition to my collection:  People try thing, because they just don't want it enough.

What?

This fortune makes no sense.  Sometimes -- perhaps because the fortunes are written in Chinese, then translated into English? -- a hard-to-understand fortune has clearly been made more cryptic simply because of grammatical problems.  In other words, you sort of get what the fortune is TRYING to say, and if you correct the grammar, the whole thing makes sense.  But that's not the case here.  Let's tweak this sentence so that it's more readable.  The two problem words are "thing" and "it."  Suppose we make "thing" plural, and then change "it" accordingly.  In that case, the fortune would go like this:  People try things, because they just don't want them enough.  Grammatically, it's a much better sentence now.  But it STILL makes no sense!  If people don't want things enough, why do they try them in the first place?  Sometimes you hear similar phrases, like "didn't want it enough," in a sports context.  For example, you might hear a sportscaster say "the Red Sox could have won the game, but they just didn't want it enough."  It implies a lack of desire, or determination, or motivation.  So perhaps, somehow, this fortune is encouraging people to become more motivated.  But it's hard to be motivated by something you don't understand.  I'm stumped.

And I'm annoyed, too, because the very term "fortune cookie" has become a complete misnomer.  I don't know about you, but when I hear the word "fortune," I assume that what follows will be some sort of prediction regarding future events, like "You will meet someone who will have a huge impact on your life."  That's not specific, but at least it gives you something to look forward to.  Fortune cookies seldom make predictions, though.  Instead of fortunes, they're usually "words of wisdom."  I've learned that if I'm looking for predictions, I'm more likely to find one by reading my daily horoscope in the morning newspaper.  And the good news is:  the horoscope is often printed right alongside the comics, so you can get everything you need to start your day without flipping through a lot of pages.  Happy reading, everybody!

Tue, 08/19/2014

The Jericho Mile: Then and Now

I suppose today's blog entry is aimed more at adults than children, because the subject is the way something -- in this case, a movie -- can make a very different impression on you when you experience it as an adult, years after first seeing it as a kid.  The movie in question is called "The Jericho Mile," starring Peter Strauss.  It wasn't a go-to-the-theater movie; it was a TV movie that aired in early 1979, when I was 15 years old.  It's a movie about running, among other things, and the reason it came to mind recently was an email exchange I had with my friend Brian Daly, a writer here in Portland.  Brian ran track in high school and college, and over the past couple of days he and I have compared notes on sports movies in general and running movies in particular.  I mentioned that I'd recently watched "Prefontaine," a biopic about the gifted runner from Oregon who died in an automobile accident in 1975 at the age of 24.  In Brian's response, he mentioned "The Jericho Mile," and I immediately recognized the title.  Here's what I was able to remember about it:  it was the story of a prisoner who could run fast; and when I watched it as a 15 year-old, I thought it was just about the best movie I'd ever seen.

I was curious to see if I'd still enjoy it, so I watched it today on youtube while I was drawing.  Not surprisingly, there was a bit more to the movie's storyline than I remembered.  Here's a quick recap:  Rain Murphy is spending life in prison.  Years ago, he killed his father for abusing his step-sister.  Rain is an honorable man, not a hardened criminal, and he keeps to himself, steering clear of the different gangs of inmates within the prison.  The prisoners are allowed an hour each day to exercise, and Rain uses his time to run laps in the prison yard.  The warden notices Rain's dedication and, when he secretly times him, is astonished to find that Rain can run a mile in world-class time.  The warden decides to encourage Rain's running, eventually inviting some accomplished runners to race Rain inside the prison yard.  Rain wins, and his time qualifies him for the Olympic Trials.  The warden is thrilled, because such an accomplishment by an inmate will create all kinds of positive PR for the prison system.  But the US Olympic Committee balks.  They're afraid that having a convicted murderer try out for the Olympic team would mean bad publicity.  They deny Rain his opportunity to run in the Olympic Trials, and the race goes on without him.  The winner is one of the runners Rain defeated in the match race at the prison a few weeks earlier.  When he hears the winning time on a radio broadcast -- 3:50:06 -- Rain walks out to the prison yard with a stopwatch.  He runs his own private Olympic Trials, with no opponent except the clock, inside the prison walls.  He beats the winning time, proving to himself and everyone else that, had he been given the chance, he could have been an Olympian.  Rain gazes at the stopwatch, then hurls it over the prison wall.  It smashes to the pavement.  The end.

So now I'd seen the movie a second time, 35 years after seeing it when it first aired.  Did I still think it was the best movie I'd ever seen?  Well, no.  Parts of the story seemed completely implausible.  Other parts reinforced some unpleasant stereotypes.  What felt authentic and gritty when I was 15 now seemed cheesy.  And -- the cardinal sin of a sports movie -- Peter Strauss, the actor playing Rain Murphy, simply did not look the part of a world-class miler.  He appeared to be in fine shape, but his running style was definitely not Olympian.  The movie wasn't horrible by any stretch.  In fact, it was probably quite groundbreaking for television in 1979.  But it hasn't held up well.  (Peter Strauss claimed he was in such good shape during the filming that he could run a 4:30 mile in real life.  My friend Brian's response:  not bloody likely.)

Happily, I've had occasion to write entries in this blog about things that DO hold up when you revisit them years later -- books like "Charlotte's Web" or "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory," movies like "Pinocchio," and comic strips like "Peanuts."  If you're a kid, I hope that if and when you pick up a "Big Nate" book a few decades from now, you'll still find it entertaining.  Maybe you'll pass it on to your own kids!

 

Fri, 08/15/2014

Finding Team Spirit

If you've ever been a member of a team, you know that finding ways to create spirit and camaraderie are important.  In recent years, as our daughter has played on three different high school teams (field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse), I've watched some of the things she and her teammates do to foster bonding:  buying modest "buddy gifts" for each other, selecting a team song to play during warm-ups, having team dinners and sleepovers, and so on.  There's no doubt that when athletes feel close to their teammates, they not only enjoy games and practices more, they actually play better.

My high school days are about 35 years in the past, but -- as I've mentioned before in this blog -- I'm still part of a team.  I play men's league hockey for a team called Buffalo Wild Wings (named for the restaurant that sponsors us).  Before that, we were called Bayside Bowl.  And before that, we were Buck's Naked Barbecue.  During our Buck's Naked Barbecue heyday, one of our teammates created an award that has become the centerpiece of our most cherished bonding ritual.  It's called the Buck Up Award, and after a win, it's given to the player who, by general acclimation, was a crucial part of the victory.  That might mean scoring the winning goal, playing stellar defense, or providing great goaltending.  The trophy itself, which is every bit as magnificent as the Stanley Cup, is a deer antler mounted atop a wooden pedestal with a hockey puck attached.  Carved lovingly into the puck are the words "BUCK UP AWARD."

Rituals evolve over time, of course.  A few years ago, whoever won the award usually just stashed it in his hockey bag until the next game rolled around.  But over time, it became traditional for the recipient to photograph the award while it was in his possession, preferably in some sort of memorable setting.  Well, last week my teammates kindly saw fit to give me the award after our 2-1 victory, and I had it with me last night when our family took some out-of-town friends to The Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.  I propped it on top of a sightseeing viewer and snapped this photo.  (Artistic note:  I would have preferred the background to be devoid of people, but several unthinking tourists obviously didn't care that I was trying to create a photographic masterpiece.)

The Buck Up Award is such an important symbol, I even included it in a Big Nate Sunday page a few years ago.  I changed the narrative slightly, so that instead of a men's league trophy, it's depicted as a priceless keepsake from Dad's high school hockey days.  (Then, after Dad trips and impales himself on the antler, it quickly becomes a lot less priceless.)

My team plays tonight.  Hopefully, we'll win and I'll pass the trophy along to someone else!

Tue, 08/12/2014

Have you ever heard of GISHWES?

Have you ever heard of GISHWES?  I hadn't, until about 11:30 this morning.  A young man named Antonio whom I hadn't seen in several years (he used to be part of a string quartet with our son) called and asked if I could help his GISHWES team.  I couldn't really understand what he'd said over the phone.  GISHWES, when vocalized, sounds more like a sneeze than anything else.   But as it turns out, it stands for the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.  Here's a bit more about it from the GISHWES wikipedia page:

GISHWHES, pronounced gish-wes, is an annual week-long competitive media scavenger hunt originally held each autumn, but more recently each summer.  Teams of 15 competitors earn points for submitting photos and videos of themselves completing prompts from a list they receive at the beginning of the week.  Actor Misha Collins officially founded GISHWES in 2011 after a publicity stunt to help the television series Supernatural -- on which Collins appears -- win a People's Choice Award.  The competition holds a world record for being the largest media scavenger hunt ever to take place.  The current hunt began on August 2 and will conclude on August 9.

So there you have it.  By the time you read this, GISHWES 2014 might already be over.  If you didn't get around to entering, there's always next year.  And the good news is, your entry fee will be donated to Random Acts, a non-profit group that encourages random acts of kindness.

Anyway, you might be wondering just how I was able to help Antonio and his team.  Well, apparently GISHWES provides its contestants with a massive list of tasks to complete.  In 2011, for example, contestants were asked to photograph a group of firemen who were wearing nothing but kale.  There are nearly 200 items on the list, and apparently it's virtually impossible for any team to successfully complete each and every task.  But they do as many as they can, and each one they're able to check off the list is worth a certain number of points.  Antonio called me because of item #177 on this list:  Video a New York Times bestselling author, or Tony Award-winning actor or actress doing a dramatic reading of The California Department of Motor Vehicles Driver Handbook.  I'm not sure how dramatic my reading was, but Antonio shot about 30 seconds of me reading a paragraph involving "Right Of Way" regulations.  And he was able to hold his video camera steady even as my dog Scout was aggressively licking his leg.  This was worth 112 points for Antonio's team, which he told me was a pretty high point total.  I was happy to be able to help.

This reminds me that a Scavenger Hunt is a key part of the upcoming Big Nate novel, Big Nate Lives It Up.  The book won't go on sale until March of 2015, but this gives me a chance to update you on my progress.  I've finished the drawings for the first five chapters.  I'm hoping to have seven chapters done -- or close to it -- by the end of August.

All for now.  Have a good weekend!

Fri, 08/08/2014

Going Bananas

All this week in the comic strip, I'm dealing with a very important subject:  bananas.  

There are many foods that people have strong feelings about -- I think I've made it quite clear over the years that I love Cheez Doodles and detest egg salad -- but I've noticed that bananas seem to be a lightning rod for very strong opinions.  It's not that there are a lot of people out there who don't like bananas.  In fact, Americans consume more bananas than any other fruit.  No, it's the RIPENESS of bananas that elicits passionate opinions.  People have very different ideas about exactly when in its "ripeness cycle" a banana is ready to be eaten.

In Monday's strip, Nate makes his feelings known:  he thinks a perfectly yellow banana is already past its prime.  As the rest of the strips unfold this week, Nate will elaborate on his personal theories of banana ripeness.  He thinks the the skin of a perfect banana is yellowish green.  And here's a shocker:  I agree with Nate.  A banana with faint traces of green is firm, and it tastes and smells delicious.  But once the banana is entirely yellow, it starts to seem mushy...and it smells and tastes different, too.  Once brown marks begin to appear on the peel, the fruit in question no longer even resembles a banana.  It's vile.  I'd never consider eating a banana with brown spots on it.  And don't get me started on BRUISED bananas.  They gross me out.

If you think my opinions are a little extreme, just engage someone in a conversation about bananas.  You'll be hard-pressed to find anybody who has no opinion on the subject.  And believe me, the folks in the "brown spotted banana" camp are just as rabid as I am about yellowish-green bananas.  (I should point out here that if you try to eat a banana that's TOO green, you'll be out of luck.  You can't even peel them when they're like that.)

What kind of banana person are YOU?  Check out www.gocomics.com/bignate/ all this week, and share your opinion in the "comments" section!

Tue, 08/05/2014

Read!

If you've spent any time in libraries -- especially school libraries -- you're probably familiar with the series of posters sponsored by the American Library Association encouraging people to read.  Often, but not always, these posters are designed to appeal to young readers and feature beloved characters from children's literature.  Sometimes they feature celebrities from the worlds of entertainment or sports, holding copies of a book that's made a major impression on them.  A quick examination of this years ALA graphics catalog turns up posters featuring the likes of Elephant & Piggy, Judy Moody, Snoopy, Captain Underpants, Babymouse, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Timmy Failure, Wimpy Kid, Pete the Cat, Babar, and Corduroy.  In the celebrities category, among those encouraging reading are Taylor Swift, Hugh Jackman, Drew Brees, Alan Rickman, Rachel Maddow, Kelly Ripa, Yo Yo Ma, and Cedric The Entertainer.

I was very flattered a few months ago when I was asked by the ALA to create a Big Nate poster and bookmark this year.  I agreed immediately.  I thought there might be very specific guidelines governing what a poster could and should look like, but in fact the only requirement was that the word "read" or "reading" be prominently featured.  My goal was to come up with a design that was reminiscent of the covers of the Big Nate novels -- simple, dynamic, and fun.  I also wanted, in some small way, to pay tribute to Nate's origins in the funny pages.  Remember, he was a comic strip character before ventured into the world of tween novels.  

This was one of those very happy occasions when I came up with an idea I liked almost immediately, and the idea changed very little as I worked through it.  The black-and-white image above was the original rough drawing I submitted to the ALA.  The image of a lightbulb hovering over someone's head has its roots in comics, and I felt satisfied that my design was appropriately "cartoony."  The ALA approved the design, after which I did the finished art.  The only change I made was to the books Nate is holding.  In the rough version, he's sporting a couple of Big Nate books.  In the final version, he's holding the "Big Book of Comics" and "Cartooning."  

The final step was to choose a color scheme.  The folks at ALA Graphics several different treatments, and the one I liked best was the one with the bright red background.  It's cheery, and the light bulb really jumps off the page.  Incidentally, the color image above is the bookmark, not the actual poster.  The poster is not quite so tall and skinny.

If you want a poster for your classroom, library, or bedroom, you can check out all the ALA offerings at http://www.alastore.ala.org/SearchResult.aspx?CategoryID=291

And remember:  READ!

Fri, 08/01/2014

Recovering!

Welcome to what might be my shortest blog entry ever!  Normally, I would have written it last night (Monday), and it would have been posted on Tuesday.  But as I type this, it's already Tuesday afternoon.  I spent the last 16 hours driving from Maine to JFK International Airport in Queens, New York, picking up our daughter after her month-long stay in Thailand, and driving her back home.  She had the experience of a lifetime, as the picture here makes clear.  But she's understandably exhausted.  It's 4:22 pm in Maine, which means it's 3:22 am in Thailand.  I have a feeling her body clock will be a bit off for a few days!  As for me, I'm also exhausted, even though I don't have the time change as an excuse.  So I'm going to keep today's entry brief and get some rest before I get back to work tomorrow morning!

 

Tue, 07/29/2014