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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Is Nate ever going to get out of sixth grade?

Depending on where you live, the school year is either 1.) about a month away, 2.) a couple weeks away, or 3.) basically here. And with another year coming to a close, I'm reminded of a question I'm frequently asked when I visit schools, libraries, or bookstores: Is Nate ever going to get out of sixth grade?

I think most kids suspect even before asking the question that the answer is no. Nate has been stuck in the sixth grade since the comic strip started on January 6th, 1991. Certainly Nate's appearance has changed over the years, as I've written about in past blog entries, but that's not because he's grown older. It's because my drawing skills have improved and my style has evolved since 1991. I understand why some readers may think it would be nice to see Nate get older and take on new challenges, but think about this: if Nate had aged in the comic strip the way people age in real life, he would be 34 years old! And I've never been interested in doing a comic strip -- or writing books -- about a guy in his mid-thirties. That's just one reason I don't allow Nate to get any older. Here are some others:

  • I would have to continually change the way I draw all the characters. Nate's 11 years old. Well, eventually I'd have to invent a new way of drawing him to account for the fact that he was turning 12, then 13, then 18, then 21...you get the idea. And I'd have to do that not just for Nate, of course, for for every single character in the strip. (Nate's dad, who's 48 years old, would be 71 if I'd aged him in real time since starting the strip twenty-three years ago!) Anyway, I have enough struggles drawing my characters consistently without having to worry about tweaking them every year or two.
  • I would have to significantly change the cast of characters with each school year. School is at the center of just about every Big Nate storyline. Nate's teachers play a big role in the comic strip, and an even bigger one in the chapter books. But if Nate moved up to seventh grade, he'd have an entirely new lineup of teachers to contend with. Gone would be Mrs. Godfrey, Mr. Galvin, Mr. Staples, and so on. I'd have to invent new teachers every September, then leave them behind every June. That's too many characters to keep track of!
  • I'd have to find new subjects to write about. One of the reasons I enjoy writing about Nate's sixth-grade adventures are that they're quite specific to his age. School dances, Little League baseball, being in a scout troop, running for class president -- I couldn't really write about these subjects anymore if I allowed Nate to grow up. A strip about Nate in his early twenties would most likely focus on the two things that preoccupy most people in their twenties: their careers and their romantic relationships. I sometimes enjoy reading the work of other cartoonists who deal with these subjects, but I'm not interested in writing about them myself.

All this is my roundabout way of saying that next month, when summer vacation starts for Nate, you won't see any mention in the comic strip of Nate and his pals finishing sixth grade. They're just finishing the school year. Sixth grade will NEVER be finished!

Fri, 05/23/2014

MeCAF

Do you know what MeCAF is? Well, if you were a reader of this blog a couple years ago, when I last mentioned it, you might remember that MeCAF stands for Maine Comics Arts Festival. It's an annual event held here in Portland each May and is organized by Rick Lowell, the owner of an excellent comics store here in town called Casablanca Comics. Today (Sunday) was the date of this year's event, and I was happy to attend for the first part of the day. I met a lot of Big Nate readers and signed a lot of books. It was a beautiful day here in Maine, and the turnout was great. Thanks to everyone who dropped by!

I don't go to very many of these events, but when I do, I always enjoy the opportunity to see old friends and meet new ones. (Quick shootout to old friends James Sturm of the Center For Cartoon Studies, and Mike Lynch, a cartoonist, comics scholar and bon vivant from New Hampshire.) What's truly special is to meet a new friend whose work you've long admired, and that was the case for me today. Kazu Kibuishi (pictured here) was one of the featured guests, and he and I had a few moments to get acquainted before the doors opened and the crowds came roaring in.

If you're familiar with Kazu's work, then you know why I'm such a fan. If you DON'T know his work -- well, you're missing out! I first learned about him when, during one of my first Big Nate book tours, I kept hearing kids, parents, and bookstore owners talking about the Amulet series. I picked up a copy and was blown away. Kazu's a great storyteller, and -- unlike me -- he can really draw. If you like your graphic novels with a lot of action and adventure, check out Kazu's work.

And speaking of work...I've been doing a lot of it on Big Nate Lives It Up, as I try mightily to tie up all the loose ends and finish the story in the allotted 216 pages. (I think I'll be able to do it.) Today, though, I realized that something I'd written way back on page 127 was ruining something I was trying to write about on page 190. So I'll have to go back and change page 127 a little bit! I'm hoping to have all the writing done by the time I go down to New York later this month for Book Expo America, which is held each year at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. That brings me full-circle back to the subject of comics festivals, book conventions, and the like. If you live anywhere near New York City, and you'd like to get a Big Nate book signed (and also meet a lot of cool authors and/or illustrators), come to BEA! I'll be there on Friday, May 30th and then again (briefly) on Saturday the 31st. Hope to see you there!

Mon, 05/19/2014

Hockey and Big Nate

You'll have to forgive me -- I'm in mourning today. My beloved Boston Bruins lost on Wednesday night in Game 7 of their conference semifinal against their hated rival, the Montreal Canadiens. So the Bruins' season is over. Boston was one of the favorites, perhaps THE favorite, to win this year's Stanley Cup. They not only lost Game 7; they lost Game 6, too, after leading the series, three games to two. It was very disappointing for longtime Bruins fans. As elated as I was three years ago when Boston won its first Stanley Cup in 39 years, that's how crushed I was on Wednesday night. But that's hockey. There's always next year.

I've been asked a few times: if you love hockey so much, why isn't it part of BIG NATE? Well, the short answer is that it IS part of BIG NATE, at least on occasion. At least once or twice a year, I'll devote a Sunday page to Nate playing pond hockey. The ongoing territorial battle between figure skaters and hockey players is an ongoing theme.

But hockey certainly isn't as big a part of the strip as Nate's three primary sports -- soccer, basketball, and baseball -- and that's mostly because of the equipment. If you've ever been to a Pee Wee hockey game, you know how much gear the kids wear. Well, that creates difficulties for me as a cartoonist, because kids wearing hockey helmets with metal face masks tend to look alike. If you can't differentiate between characters as a reader, it's hard to know what's going on. I think telling the story of a hockey game in a comic strip would be tough to do. So that's one problem. Another issue is that hockey games are largely devoid of the type of individual match ups that make other sports so easy to write about -- like a one-on-one showdown on the basketball court, or a pitcher vs. hitter duel in baseball. And hockey's a fast game, too, so there isn't the sort of down time available that there is in a baseball game -- where Nate spends long, boring innings in right field -- or a soccer match, where as a goalkeeper Nate has plenty of time to contemplate his navel. I've done lots of strips over the years in which Nate is caught daydreaming during a baseball or soccer game.

So the obvious next question is: why not just tell the story of a POND hockey game, without all the equipment? Well, I've considered it. But a big part of the drama in the sports stories I tell in the strip is the organized structure of the contests. In baseball, basketball, and soccer, Nate's teams are part of a league, with standings, playoffs, and championships. There are adults involved, both coaching and officiating. There are fans at the game, and sometimes even a reporter or photographer from the local newspaper. All those elements can really add to a story, and none of them would be in play in a pond hockey game, which is essentially just a spontaneous competition involving whoever happens to be skating on the pond that day.

Well, then, could I depict Nate playing Pee Wee hockey -- with the refs, the coaches, the team sponsors -- but without the helmet and mask? Absolutely not. Hockey (and football, too, for that matter), is a contact sport, and the issue of concussions has been front and center in recent years. I'm fine showing kids playing pond hockey or sandlot football without headgear, because there's generally no checking in pond hockey, and most games of sandlot football replace tackling with "two-hand touch." But I think it would be irresponsible of me to show kids playing true contact sports without the proper equipment. It would be the equivalent of drawing comic strips about a teenager learning to drive without wearing a seat belt.

Anyway, with the Bruins' season in the rear-view mirror, I'll be turning my attention to my beloved Red Sox, the defending World Series champs. They just lost to Minnesota this afternoon, unfortunately, and their record stands at a mediocre 20-and-20. But 40 games is only a fraction of the season. There are still 122 to go!

Fri, 05/16/2014

Future Nate and Jenny?

Hi, everyone. Before I launch into today's blog entry, I want to apologize for blogging only once last week. By the time I remembered to write Thursday night's entry, it was already Friday afternoon! I've never been the type of person to keep "to-do"; lists on my phone or computer, but perhaps I'll have to start. My memory isn't what it used to be.

Today I've returned to one of my favorite sources of inspiration: the Google Image search. As you might remember, googling "Big Nate" has produced some interesting results in the past, including a t-shirt commemorating a bass-fishing tournament, a logo from a bar-b-que joint, and a homemade (and rather frightening) Big Nate plush doll. Today, I hadn't traveled too far down the list of Big Nate images before I found a couple of pictures that I wanted to write about. As you can see, two anonymous young artists have drawn what they imagine Nate and Jenny might look like when they're a bit older.

Let's start with Nate. Here he is in profile, wearing his trademark yellow-and-blue t-shirt. His eyes are very different from the way I draw them, and his nose is quite a bit more dainty than it is in my version. His neck has thickened, which makes sense, and he appears to have matured into a healthy, strapping young man. But it's his hair that's really the eye-catching part of this illustration. Because I've been drawing Big Nate for so long, I tend to forget how strange his hair must appear to many people. The fact that he has no hair on the sides or back of his head is a bit bizarre, I'll admit, but because Nate looks so cartoony, I don't think his unusual hairstyle is a barrier to people's enjoyment of the character. They just accept the fact that Nate has spiky hair, or dreadlocks, and that he's bald on the sides and back. In the drawing shown here, though, teenage Nate's hair seems more of a fashion statement. Because the hair extends down the back of his head to his neck, the hairstyle looks like a true mohawk, and it suggests that he's made the conscious decision to shave the sides of his head. And the hair he does have is longer than young Nate's, so it's more affected by gravity; it falls down the front of his forehead, almost touching his nose, in a dreamboat, male model sort of way. This Nate could be a cover boy for Tiger Beat magazine.

Unlike Nate, Jenny, drawn here as a girl of perhaps 16 or 17, has chosen to keep her hairstyle essentially the same. The major differences are in her body, which is curvy, and her face, which seems modeled on the manga style of illustration. She has very large, heavily lidded eyes, a tiny nose, and a casual, crooked smile. Combine this with her pose, which looks as though she could be leaning against a locker in the hallway of her high school, and you've got a sassy, come-hither sort of gal. She looks like she could be the captain of the cheerleading squad -- maybe the not-so-nice captain. That slanting eyebrow over her left eye could indicate that we've got a Mean Girl on our hands.

I never really think much about what Nate and the other characters would look like as they get older, because I have no plans to age them. But occasionally, I do jump into the way-back machine to draw what they might have looked like when they were younger. (Remember the baby pictures in Big Nate Strikes Again?) In fact, just the other day, I was working on a "flashback" episode for Book #7, Big Nate Lives It Up. Anyway, thanks to both of these anonymous young artists for providing me with something to write about today!

Tue, 05/13/2014

Not So Fast

Every time I watch a horse race, I'm reminded of a cartoon I wrote many years ago. At the time, I was trying hard to create a show for Cartoon Network. The network was still quite new at the time, and was airing a few successful shows like The Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Bravo. But it was always looking for new shows, and I was asked to create a pilot. I came up with a concept called Uncle Gus, and with the help of some folks at the old Hanna-Barbera studios in Burbank, I made an Uncle Gus cartoon called For The Love of Monkeys. The network "focus-grouped" it, and it did okay, but not great. So they gave me another chance, and I wrote a second Uncle Gus short. This one was a horse racing story called Not So Fast. Here's the plot:

 

 Uncle Gus, a middle-aged loser, lives in a mobile home with his loyal horse, Flapjack, and his annoyingly theatrical nephew, Beeyotus. Across the street in a palatial mansion lives Gwennie, a rich little girl who adores Flapjack.  She dreams of riding Flapjack and making him her own, but Flapjack is loyal to Gus.  In fact, Flapjack will not allow anybody except Gus to ride him.

 While playing horseshoes in the yard, Gus and Flapjack meet up with mysterious paperboy Ali Ali, who not only delivers the newspaper but tries to sell the two of them an assortment of useless goods.  In the newspaper, Gus notices an announcement for a huge stakes race the next day at Tumble Downs, the local racetrack.  The winning horse will take home a million dollar purse.  Gus, with dollar signs in his eyes, begs Flapjack to run in the race.  Flapjack can't say no to Gus and reluctantly agrees.  Gwennie arrives from next door and tries to convince Flapjack to let her be his jockey, but Flapjack is adamant:  if anyone is going to ride him, it will be Gus.

 The next day at the racetrack, Gus enters Flapjack in the race.  But when the jockeys "weigh in," Gus breaks the scale.  The race official disqualifies him and rudely suggests that Flapjack can't win, saying:  "For that horse to even have a chance, you'd have to find a jockey who's lighter than air."  At that moment, Gus looks out the window into the crowd and spots the enterprising Ali Ali, selling helium-filled balloons.  Gus has an idea.  Meanwhile, we see Ali Ali placing a bet at the window.

 Cut to the racetrack.  As the horses and jockeys prepare to enter the starting gate, we see Flapjack and his "jockey" -- a balloon that's been decorated  to make it look somewhat human.  Flapjack has indeed found a jockey who's lighter than air.  But can he win?  The pre-race favorite, a magnificent thoroughbred named Wrecking Ball, doesn't think so.  He insults Flapjack in the starting gate, calling him "Knapsack," and when the race begins, Flapjack immediately falls way behind.  Gus, Gwennie, and Beeyotus watch with dismay from the grandstand.  Ali Ali keeps his rooting interest to himself.

 Just when it seems Flapjack is hopelessly out of the running, he swallows a bee that happens to be flying by.   Flapjack coughs the bee out, but the bee, enraged, calls for his friends.  A swarm of angry bees descends on Flapjack.  Terrified, Flapjack finds a faster gear and blazes down the track, chased by the bees.  Soon he has caught up with the other horses, including the obnoxious leader of the pack, Wrecking Ball.

 As Flapjack tries to pass him, Wrecking Ball resumes his verbal assault.  He calls Flapjack "Knick Knack Paddywhack," making Flapjack angry.  Then he calls him "Coat Rack," and Flapjack snaps.  Shouting "My...name...is...FLAPJACK," he passes Wrecking Ball.  Fueled by a furious adrenaline rush, Flapjack takes the lead and is soon far ahead with the finish line only a few yards away.  In the grandstand, Gus is having visions of the million-dollar prize.

 Then -- disaster!  The string attaching Flapjack's balloon "jockey" to his saddle comes loose, and the balloon floats away.  Flapjack screeches to a halt and can only watch helplessly as the bees pursue the balloon, swarm around it, and sting it until it pops.  The deflated balloon falls to earth and lands on Flapjack's nose just as all the other horses go thundering by, trampling him.  Flapjack has lost.

 Ali Ali proceeds to the betting window to collect his winnings, which are considerable.  He obviously hadn't bet on Flapjack to win.

 The next day, Gus, Beeyotus, and Gwennie try to comfort Flapjack as he soaks his aching hooves in hot water while sitting in the yard in front of the mobile home.  The morning paper is delivered by Ali Ali -- but, having won big at the track the day before, he's now doing his paper route from the backseat of a limo.

THE END 

Mon, 05/05/2014

Beginning of Big Nate

As I write this, it's May 1st, 2014. Why is that significant (besides the fact that it's May Day)? Well, exactly five years ago, I began work on the first Big Nate novel, Big Nate: In A Class By Himself. It was a very exciting time for me, and so if you don't mind, I'm going to reminisce a little bit about the way it all happened.

I've mentioned my friend Jeff Kinney, the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid author, many times before in this blog. It was Jeff -- a Big Nate fan from way back in his days as a college student at the University of Maryland -- who invited me to get involved with a new website he was developing, www.poptropica.com. Jeff's prediction: if you build it, they will come. The "it" in this case was Big Nate Island, and Jeff correctly foresaw that poptropica was very quickly going to become hugely popular. That meant that millions of kids who might not have ever seen Big Nate before would learn about him on poptropica. After that, Jeff said, I could approach publishing companies about doing some Big Nate books. And that's exactly how it happened. Big Nate Island debuted on Valentine's Day, 2009, and only a couple of months later, I had proposals from three different publishing houses to create a series of Big Nate books.

But at first, I had no idea what kind of books these publishers had in mind. Most comic strip artists -- myself included -- tend to think in terms of compilation books. There had only been one Big Nate book collection published in all the years I'd been doing the comic strip, and I just naturally assumed that any future Big Nate books would be compilations, too. But the publishers wanted novels. I chose to work with Harper Collins, and here are a couple of the things they told me at first:

• The first book was scheduled to be released during the summer of 2011.

• The book would be roughly 130 pages long.

• There would be three Big Nate books in total.

Well, of course, none of those things turned out to be true.Even before I started writing Book 1, my editor called and said the books would actually be 224 pages. Then, once I started writing and it went pretty quickly, Harper Collins pushed up the publication date -- first to Fall 2010, and then to Spring 2010. And while I was working on the drawings for Book 1 (sometime during the Fall of 2009), Harper Collins asked if I thought I could write six books instead of three. And the answer, obviously, was yes, because Book 6, Big Nate: In The Zone, went on sale back in March!

As it turned out, Big Nate novels led to Big Nate compilations, which led to Big Nate activity books. That's a lot of books in five years! Thanks to all of you who continue to read and enjoy Big Nate. And remember, if you've real all you Big Nate books 40 or 50 times, there's a brand-new comic strip every day at www.gocomics/bignate

Fri, 05/02/2014

Middle School Romance

What do these two pictures have in common? In each of them, Teddy's not really paying attention to what's being said...because he's too busy looking at girls. These drawings are from BIG NATE IN THE ZONE, but I know I've depicted Teddy acting this way in other books, too. It's just the way he is: he's a flirt.

This reminds me of a criticism that a few people (adults, not kids) have aimed at Big Nate over the years. They claim that romance plays too big a role in the stories -- that sixth grade kids aren't interested in that sort of stuff at their age. They point to Nate's ongoing crush on Jenny, and Jenny's relationship with Artur, as evidence that I'm making the characters seem older than they really are. Well, I have a question for those people: have you visited a middle school recently?

My own middle school days are way behind me, of course, but I remember very well the almost magical transformation that occurred for most of us when we started sixth grade. As a fifth grader, my friends and I -- boys, all of us -- spent our recesses playing football and soccer (in warm weather) and "King of the Hill" (in the winter). What were the girls doing during recess? We didn't know and we didn't care. We knew who the girls were, of course -- I'd known a couple of them since nursery school -- but we weren't at all interested in them. And the feeling was mutual. The girls never paid any attention to us, either.

Fast-forward to sixth grade, and things were very different. In September, as the school year was just getting started, we boys were still playing football and soccer during recess...but now the girls were on the sideline, watching us. And we were noticing them, too. Suddenly, we didn't just want to win whatever game we were playing; we wanted to look good while doing it. Within a week or two, I started hearing reports that one of my friends had asked a girl to "go steady." Pretty soon, we were ALL asking girls to go steady. We guys had never thought much about romance through age 10, but starting at age 11, it was practically ALL we thought about. Keeping track of who was going out with whom became everyone's favorite pastime. And as a parent -- it wasn't all that long ago that my own kids were middle schoolers -- I saw the same pattern occurring in the same general timeframe. In fact, it may have kicked in earlier. Our daughter had her first major crush in FIFTH grade, not sixth.

That's why I don't think it's unrealistic or irresponsible of me to show my characters having major crushes as sixth graders. I think it's authentic. And I believe that most kids who read Big Nate agree with me. They're rooting for romance. After all, the question I'm asked most frequently when I visit schools is: "Will Nate and Jenny ever get together?";

Tue, 04/29/2014

Comic Strip and Books

Just a quick blog entry tonight. My daughter and I are still on the road, with one more college to visit tomorrow. Then it's back home to Maine.

As I've written about before, there are quite a few differences between "Big Nate," the comic strip, and the Big Nate chapter books. The biggest difference is the fact that I write the comic strip for an audience of all ages, while the books are aimed specifically for readers aged 8 to 12 (although I've met plenty of readers who are both younger and older than those numbers). There are also characters who appear in the strip but not the books (like Nate's grandparents, Vern and Marge) or in the books but not the strip (like Dee Dee). And then there's the fact that a fresh edition of the strip comes out every single day, while a new chapter book goes on sale once a year.

There are plenty of similarities, though. The fact that the books feature most of the same characters from the strip means that ideas from one format often appear in the other -- in slightly altered form. BIG NATE IN THE ZONE is a good example. Years ago in the comic strip, I wrote a series of jokes about Nate forgetting the words to a song during an Enslave The Mollusk performance. When I started writing IN THE ZONE, I knew I wanted the story to be about Nate's luck going from bad to unbelievably good. I also knew I wanted Enslave The Mollusk to be part of the story. So I revisited the comic strip episode about Nate forgetting the song lyrics, and used it as a "last straw" moment during Nate's run of bad luck.

I enjoy "repurposing"; ideas like this, because it gives me the chance to flesh out a story or explore it in greater depth. Sometimes in the comic strip, I'll find myself thinking: I could easily make this storyline last for weeks and weeks, but in general I don't think doing that works all that well in newspaper comics. But I was really happy with how well it worked in IN THE ZONE. And readers are happy, too -- Big Nate has been on the New York Times Bestseller list since IN THE ZONE went on sale back in early March!

Fri, 04/25/2014

Big Nate and Friends in College?

Greetings from Minnesota!  Usually, when I'm writing from another part of the country, it's because I'm on some sort of book tour.  But that's not the case.  My daughter Dana and I are in Minnesota (at the moment, we're at the home of some friends who live in Minneapolis) because she is in the process of visiting colleges.  A few months from now, she'll be applying to schools, and it's always helpful to have seen them in person.  Today we spent the morning and most of the afternoon at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.  Dana really liked it.

This made me wonder what sort of colleges or universities Big Nate and his friends might apply to someday.  (Yes, I know Nate and his friends don't age and have been trapped in the sixth grade for over two decades, but bear with me.)  

 

  • NATE:  He aspires to be a great cartoonist someday, and that's a career that might not necessarily go hand-in-hand with a traditional four-year college.  Maybe Nate will choose to go to a place like the Center For Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont.  Or perhaps he'll attend a regular college like I did.  He'll major in something he enjoys (like art or film studies), but his REAL passion will be drawing comics for the school newspaper.
  • FRANCIS:  He dreams of being an epidemiologist.  I googled "best schools for epidemiology" and came up with quite a list:  Columbia, Stanford, Washington University, University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, etc.  Francis is super-smart, so he should have his pick of any number of great schools.
  • GINA: Gina's an ultra high achiever, and I'm sure her grades and test scores will be consistent with those expected at the very best schools.  But as I've learned as the parent of two kids who've gone through this process, colleges don't want to see students who do nothing but grind out great grades.  They want to see well-rounded students, who take part in a variety of activities.  Gina might have to try a few more sports or join a few clubs to beef up her resume.  And what will she study when she gets to college?  I'd guess that she'll choose something very challenging, but which doesn't demand a lot of interpersonal skills.  Neuroscience?  Rocket science?  Theoretical physics?  Who knows?
  • TEDDY:  Teddy is smart, fun-loving, and speaks two languages. So he has a lot of options. I see him going to a school with a real international flavor, where he'd meet students from all over the world.  In fact, maybe he'd go off to some exotic locale to attend college.  How about the University of Cairo or Longyearbyen University in Norway?
  • CHAD:  Is there any doubt that Chad will end up at a culinary school of some sort?  He's a foodie and loves to eat, which means that eventually, he'll probably realize that learning how to cook and bake himself will be the best way for him to be around the foods he loves.  A quick google search reveals that the top five culinary arts schools in America are Texas Culinary Academy, the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, the International Culinary School in Washington, the California Culinary Academy, and Kendall College School of Culinary Arts.
  • Tomorrow we leave Minnesota and head to Pennsylvania, where we'll be visiting a couple schools in the Philadelphia area. And after that it's on to Massachusetts. That's where I'll be blogging from next!

Tue, 04/22/2014

Meteorologists

Last time, I told you that one of the admirable things about meteorologist Al Roker is that he's good at his job. Unfortunately, not all meteorologists are capable of meeting Al's high standards. Take Wink Summers, for instance.  Wink is the local TV weatherman who is the unwitting object of Nate's attention.  You'll notice I didn't say "object of Nate's affection," because Nate's feelings about Wink are all over the place.  At times, Nate seems to admire Wink and enjoys watching his broadcasts regularly.  At other times, Nate resents the imperfect quality of Wink's weather forecasts, and is not shy about calling Wink at work to chew him out.  (Like many people, Nate sometimes assumes that Wink is somehow capable of actually controlling the weather.)  And on other occasions, Nate acts as a self-appointed media critic, providing commentary on Wink's weight, clothing, on-air demeanor, and social life.

Anyway, getting back to Wink's job performance:  Big Nate readers have never seen Wink (he's one of those characters better left to the imagination), but it's fairly clear that he's not very good at his job.  And as I've said many times before on this blog, failure is one of the staples of comedy.  A meteorologist who perfectly predicts the weather 100% of the time doesn't provide much comic inspiration.  But what if you're a weatherman who's frequently wrong?  What if your wife leaves you and runs off with the sports anchor?  What if you're prone to emotional meltdowns while on camera?  What if you're fired from your job as the chief meteorologist (in favor of a guy named Chip Cavendish) and demoted to mop-up duty as the weekend meteorologist?  Those are just a few of the trials poor Wink has had to endure.

I'm not really sure when weathermen have become kind of a running theme in my own life.  It's certainly not because I'm all that interested in the weather, or in the science of meteorology.  And I never watch those Weather Channel shows about people chasing hurricanes and whatnot.   But there's always been something fascinating to me about people standing in front of a camera and telling us how they think the sun, wind, and clouds are going to behave over the course of the next few hours or days.  Maybe it all goes back to the great Don Kent.  Where I grew up in New Hampshire, we didn't have a local TV station of our own, so we watched the news -- and the weather -- from the nearest major market:  Boston.  Don Kent was THE weatherman in Boston for my entire childhood, and he was a competent, comforting TV personality.  Not exactly Mr. Charisma, but back in those days, folks on the TV news weren't expected to be colorful.  They were just supposed to tell you what was going on.  And in the case of weathermen (there weren't any women meteorologists on TV back then), it didn't hurt if you could draw a little bit, too.  Before there were fancy video displays and digital screens, there was basically a blackboard.  The weatherman would draw arrows, clouds, raindrops, etc., like a teacher in front of a classroom.

Since I'm talking about the good ol' days, here's one more thing:  you can tell by looking at this drawing of Nate that I drew it quite a few years ago.  Check out the size of that phone!  AND it has an antenna.  It's probably almost as old as Don Kent's blackboard.  

 

 

Fri, 04/18/2014