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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Lincoln in St. Louis, Missouri!

Hello from St. Louis, Missouri! I haven't seen much of the city yet. I just arrived this evening after spending the first part of the day in Columbia, South Carolina. More on that in a moment.
 
But first: what is St. Louis's nickname? Chicago is the Windy City. Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love. Boston is Beantown. And of course New York is the Big Apple. But what is St. Louis? For the life of me, I don't know. So excuse me for a moment while I go consult wikipedia.
 
Okay, I'm back. How does "Gateway To The West" grab you? I guess maybe at some point in the past, I'd heard St. Louis referred to in this way...but it just doesn't roll off the tongue. It's easy to say, "I think I'll go visit Aunt Edna in Beantown," but it's a bit of a mouthful to say, "I'm going to take the family to the Gateway To The West." It doesn't really flow. But there are other nicknames for St. Louis, I discovered mere moments ago. There's "The Lou," which makes me think of the Mary Tyler Moore Show; there's "The Rome Of The West," which is frankly ridiculous; and there's "Mound City,"; which I don't understand. I think I'll just call it St. Louis and be done with it.
 
The picture you're looking at was taken in the gym of St. John Neumann School in South Carolina. I was there this morning, speaking to kids from THREE schools. (Students from two nearby schools took buses over to SJN to see the presentation, so it was quite a crowd.) What a nice school SJN is! There are about 360 students there from grades K to 6, and it was great to spend a little time with them. The school also has one of the nicest libraries I've seen in quite some time, and one of the nicest librarians, too: Karen Zimmerman. Thanks to Karen for all her help today, and thanks once again to Jacquie from Books-A-Million for organizing my visits in South Carolina.
And thanks most of all to the students, who were a lot of fun -- and very polite!
 
On Friday I'll be at two schools here in the St. Louis area, followed by an appearance at Left Bank Books at 5:00 pm. If you're a St. Louis native, I hope to see you there!
 
Fri, 03/14/2014

Cheez Doodles!

Have some Ceez Doodles, everyone! Here's a picture of me taken on Wednesday night at the Books-A-Million in Columbia, South Carolina. Those things on the table in front of me are bags of Cheez Doodles. These are the "crunchy" variety, not the "puffy" ones that I'm so addicted to, but they're still mighty tasty. Thanks to the good folks at Wise, maker of Cheez Doodles, for donating a thousand bags of Cheez Doodles for tonight's event.

There weren't a thousand people in the store to see me, I'll admit, but it was a sizable crowd and I was pleased to spend some time drawing, telling stories, and answering questions.

Earlier in the day, after flying from Ohio to Charlotte and then driving to Columbia, I did a presentation at Summit Parkway Middle School. But before speaking to the whole sixth grade, I ate lunch in the media center with eight students who'd won a raffle. We were fed lunches purchased from a fast food chain called Red Robin, which we don't have in New England. That led to a conversation about how different foods, restaurants, and sodas might be popular in some parts of the country, and non-existent in others. In New England we don't have Mr. Pibb soda, but we do have Moxie. We don 'to have Bob Evans restaurants, but we do have Friendly's. And the rest of the country is still trying to figure out what a "Needham" is!

Thanks to Jacquie from Books-A-Million for all her hard work. Tomorrow it's a school visit in the morning, then a plane ride to St. Louis in the afternoon!
Thu, 03/13/2014

Lincoln Peirce in Dayton, Ohio!

I spent today in and around Dayton, Ohio. How about a little local color? Did you know that Ohio's borders are within 500 miles of 60% of the country's population? Were you aware that Dayton was home to Wilbur and Orville Wright, the famed Fathers of Flight? Or were you aware that the Great Dayton Flood of 1913 was the greatest natural disaster in Ohio's history, killing over 360 people and destroying over 20,000 homes? All of these facts had somehow escaped my attention before today.  
 
I visited two schools today -- Incarnation School in Centerville and Harman Elementary in Oakwood. At the first school, I spoke to about 200 fourth, fifth and sixth graders. In the afternoon at Harman, it was a couple hundred kids from grades 3 through 5. The only problems I encountered were some technical difficulties with a "smart board" at Incarnation, but I improvised. The picture here is from Harman, by the way. What a great building. It's about 100 years old, and there's something about school buildings from that era that I find completely charming. Anyway, thanks to the kids who were my helpers -- Claudia at Incarnation, Payton at Harman -- and congratulations to the kids who won themselves some signed Big Nate t-shirts: Ellie, Nick, Jackson, and Bryn. How do kids win t-shirts?  By answering trivia questions like these:
 
  • What's the name of Francis's cat?
  • P.S. 38's mascot is the bobcat.  What's the mascot of P.S. 38's archival, Jefferson Middle School?
  • Name at least three of Nate's teachers.
  • What's the name of the bully Nate and his friends encounter at Jefferson?
 
Then tonight I did an easel talk at Books & Co. I'm not too good at estimating the size of crowds, but all the seats were filled. Thanks to everyone who came out, and thanks to Sharon from Books & Co. for all her help today. I won't be here in Dayton much longer. I'm getting picked up and taken to the airport at 5:00 am. I'll fly to Charlotte, NC, and then drive from there to Columbia, SC. So I'd better get some sleep.Good night!
Wed, 03/12/2014

Big Nate In the Zone!

Greetings from Dayton, Ohio! It's Day One of the Big Nate:  In The Zone book tour, and I'm back in Dayton, the first city I visited on my very first book tour back in 2010. A lot has changed in those four years. Back then, as a first-time author, I knew that most of the kids at the schools I was about to visit had never heard of Big Nate. Happily, that's changed. I also have progressed a few rungs up the technology ladder; For my first few tours, I did my school presentations using only a whiteboard, or perhaps an easel with a large pad of newsprint. And I spoke to no more than 50 kids at a time. Nowadays, though, I'm usually speaking to much larger groups, and I use a powerpoint slideshow to trace the progress of Big Nate through the years.
 
Speaking of technology, earlier today -- before I flew to Dayton -- I was in New York City for another one of the TV/radio satellite tours I've told you about before. I sat in the studio you see here and spoke to 6 radio stations and 5 TV stations from around the country. I was asked quite a few questions about our attempt to break the world's record for the longest comic strip ever completed by a team, so I'll tell you what I told them: WE'RE ON TRACK TO BREAK THE RECORD, and will be unveiling the comic strip in New York City sometime in early April. When the strip is fully assembled, it will measure over 4,000 feet in length. Keep visiting www.bignatebooks.com over the next few weeks for updates!
 
Tomorrow I have two school visits scheduled during the day, and then in the evening I'll be speaking and signing books at Books & Co.on Walnut Street in Dayton at 6:30 pm. Hope to see you there!
Tue, 03/11/2014

Wayne and BIG NATE: IN THE ZONE tour!

I've written before about characters who appear infrequently in BIG NATE, and how drawing a character only a few times a year (as opposed to a character like Nate, whom I sometimes draw dozens of times a day) can present some challenges from a consistency standpoint. Chad is a good example of a character whose appearance jumped all over the place for awhile, mostly because I wasn't employing him as a true supporting character but only as an extra. Eventually, though, I settled on his basic "look," but even after that he changed quite a bit over time. It's only been in the last couple of years, as Chad has grown into a larger role in both the comic strip and the books, that I've become really consistent with the way I draw him. Just for fun, find a drawing of Chad in Big Nate Strikes Again and compare it to an image of Chad in Big Nate Flips Out. There a couple subtle differences there, the most notable being that the top of Chad's head is now quite flat. It used to be more rounded.
 
Anyway, I got to thinking about this topic while flipping through the 2014 Big Nate Wall Calendar. The month of April features a drawing (shown here in color) of Nate alongside Wayne, the owner of Klassic Komix. That's the comics store where Nate's friend (and Ellen's boyfriend) Gordie works, and it's where some significant events unfold in the book Big Nate On A Roll (see black-and-white drawing above). Notice that in the calendar image, I drew Wayne's eyes as tiny dots. In the illustration from On A Roll, though, I drew Wayne's eye the same way I draw Nate's -- as a straight vertical line. The question is:  why wasn't I consistent?
 
Well, the answer goes back to the first paragraph: when you haven't drawn a character that much, you might make a mistake from one drawing to the next. In this case, the mistake was in the book, not the calendar. I'd first drawn Wayne as a one-off character in the strip a few years ago. (It was a storyline in which Nate, convinced he's purchased a superhero figurine at a yard sale that's worth a fortune, takes it to Klassic Komix to ask Gordie to authenticate it. Gordie consults his boss, Wayne, who promptly shatters Nate's dreams of wealth.) Anyway, I really didn't anticipate that Wayne would ever appear in BIG NATE again -- until I wrote On A Roll. In a scene at the comics store, Nate mistakes Wayne for a shoplifter. When the time came to make the finished drawings, I referred back to the comic strip drawings of Wayne I'd done earlier, just to refresh my memory about his appearance. In those drawings, he had "dot" eyes. But for some reason, when I did the book illustrations, I gave him "line" eyes. It's a mistake I wouldn't have made with a character I draw more frequently. I prefer the "dot" eyes, and if and Wayne appears again in either the strip or a future book, I won't forget how they look!
 
At a school visit during my last book tour, a student asked me about Wayne, and why I made him look like a "hobo." I don't really have a good answer; I just thought that someone who owned a comics store should look kind of eccentric. So I gave him sort of a caveman appearance to go along with his combat boots, camouflage pants, striped suspenders, and "Foonman" shirt. And I also made his BEHAVIOR somewhat strange. Wayne's a mumbler. Nobody can understand him except Gordie. I've met a few people over the years who could use a good translator!
 
This is my final entry before I head out on the tour for Book #6, Big Nate: In The Zone! I'm traveling to New York City on Sunday, and on Monday I'll do some satellite interviews with radio and TV programs. Then on Monday afternoon I'll fly to the tour's official first stop: Dayton, Ohio. I'll send daily dispatches from the road while I'm touring. Here's a list of bookstores where I'll be appearing. If one if these is near you, come say hello!
  • Tuesday, March 11th, 6:30 pm: Books & Co., Dayton, Ohio
  • Wednesday, March 12th, 6:00 pm: Books-A-Million, Columbia, South Carolina
  • Friday, March 14th, 5:00 pm: Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Sunday, March 16th, 2:00 pm: Secret Garden Bookshop, Seattle, Washington
  • Monday, March 17th, 5:30 pm: Barnes & Noble, Tigard, Oregon
  • Tuesday, March 18th, 7:00 pm: Barnes & Noble, Round Rock, Texas 
Fri, 03/07/2014

Sorcerer's Stone

Recently I was cleaning up some bookshelves, and I came across some of my old comic books. There were several Batmans, some Justice League of America adventures, and quite a few Supermans. But one title outnumbered all the others by quite a margin: Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge. Between the ages of about 8 and 12, I bought as many issues of Uncle Scrooge as my parents would let me. These comics weren't new back then (in the mid-70's); in fact, they were stories that had been written and drawn about a quarter-century earlier. I quickly grew to recognize that the very best stories were the ones by Carl Barks, an exceptional cartoonist and the man who created the character of Scrooge McDuck, the richest (and most penny-pinching) duck in the world.
 
One of the stories I found was the one shown here: The Fabulous Philosopher's Stone. That title caught my eye because of the worldwide popularity of the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling. The first book in the series, as you'll recall, was Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone -- or, at least that's what it was called here in the US. But in the UK, the title was Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.  It's been awhile since I read that first Harry Potter book; and it's been even longer since I last read this particular Uncle Scrooge story. So I had to re-acquaint myself with both of them.
 
In the Harry Potter book, the evil Lord Voldemort is desperate to possess the Philosopher's Stone -- not for the wealth it promises (the stone can turn any other metal into pure gold), but because the stone can be used to create the Elixir of Life, which will make the drinker immortal. Voldemort's ultimate quest (in addition to the destruction of Harry Potter, of course) was always immortality. But he failed in his efforts to possess the stone, and turned to other ways (Horcruxes, anyone?) to live forever.
 
Uncle Scrooge, on the other hand, is all about the bottom line. In HIS Philosopher's Stone story, Scrooge is searching for the stone for the reason that DOESN'T interest Voldemort: Scrooge wants to be able to turn any metal to gold. (Scrooge is already wealthy beyond anyone's wildest dreams, but too much is never enough.) And, in the story, Scrooge -- along with Donald, Huey, Dewey, and Louie -- finds the stone. But he's unaware of one of its more dangerous side effects: it will eventually turn ITS OWNER to gold as well. Scrooge begins noticing that his joints are growing stiff, but pays it no mind.  Donald and the boys, however, realize what's happening, and take the stone from Scrooge before he's permanently transformed into a gold statue.
 
Speaking of gold, these old comic books are worth their weight in gold -- to me, anyway -- from a purely nostalgic standpoint. I'm glad I held onto them. That's why I always tell kids not to throw away their comic books once they've "outgrown" them. The fact is, a lot of us NEVER outgrow comics!
Tue, 03/04/2014

Lincoln's Office

Here's a picture I took this afternoon of my pal, Scout, relaxing on the newest piece of furniture in our house. It's in my office, actually, and it's a comfortable sofa. As you can see, Scout and the sofa are in the same general color family. Sort of a warm gray. So she'll be well-camouflaged when she naps on the sofa -- or on the carpet, for that matter. It's good to color-coordinate your home furnishings with your pets. It makes it easier to hide all the hair when they shed. (By the way, if you're ever buying a dog and they tell you you're getting a "non-shedding" breed, don't believe them.)
 
What this means is that, after several months, the remodeling of my office is complete. Oh, I may still put one or two more pictures up on the walls, but I'm more or less done. My office is a small room -- maybe 100 square feet -- right next to our dining room. When we moved into our house, I chose this room as my office right away because it had some built-in shelves that I knew would be very useful, and it was the only room in the house with its own thermostat and electric radiators. That was a huge plus. It meant that during the long, cold winters, when there was nobody else in the house except me, I could keep the rest of the house kind of cool to save money on heating oil while keeping my little office nice and warm. It's hard to draw with cold hands.
 
But there were also things about the office I didn't like back when we first moved in. It had a ratty, poorly-installed carpet that was starting to wear out. It had windows that were drafty and difficult to open, and the curtains were ugly. The walls were sort of a dirty blue color that I really didn't like. The ceiling was cracked and had some water damage. And there wasn't an overhead light. I couldn't really do much about any of those things back then, though. We'd just spent every penny we had to buy the house, and I couldn't afford to make any improvements. When we did save a little money for a house project, other rooms were a higher priority than my office. So I just kept it the way it was. I didn't imagine it would take me about 14 years to finally make it the way I wanted it.
 
Here's what's changed:
  • The ratty carpet was pulled out and a new one installed.
  • A new ceiling was put in.
  • The room was rewired and an overhead light was added.
  • New energy-efficient windows were installed, and there are now blinds in the windows instead of curtains.
  • The walls, trim, shelving and cabinets were all repainted. The wall color is a beautiful red called "shy cherry."
  • I replaced my desk chair with one that is more comfortable.
  • I bought a coffee table to hold my odds & ends.
  • I added the sofa in the picture you see here.
Of everything I just listed, it's the sofa I'm the happiest about. For years, whenever anyone would visit me in my office, there wasn't really a good place for them to sit. I had a beat-up old fake-leather chair, but it was falling apart and the cushion was leaking foam. Now, if friends stop by, I have a very comfortable seat to offer them -- if Scout will get out of the way!
Fri, 02/28/2014

Longest Comic Strip!

I spent most of this afternoon drawing. That's nothing unusual, since drawing, either for the comic strip or the chapter books, is a major part of my job. But as the picture shown here makes clear, what I was doing earlier today wasn't my usual kind of drawing. First, I was using a sheet of paper tacked to a wall, as opposed to drawing at my desk as I typically do. Second, the drawings I did today were HUGE -- at least twenty times bigger than the size I normally produce. So why the break in my routine? I was working on three panels that will soon become part of the attempt to break the world's record for the longest comic strip ever created by a team. If we're successful -- and when I say "we," I'm talking about all the folks from HarperCollins who've worked so hard to organize this project, the kids from schools everywhere who have participated by drawing Big Nate panels, and the teachers, librarians, and parents who have supported those students' efforts -- the finished comic strip will be over 4,000 feet long. That's more than 13 football fields laid end-to-end!
 
As I've written before, I think lots of kids are fascinated by setting and breaking records. World records are fascinating to read about, certainly, but most kids who are old enough to read a copy of The Guinness Book of World Records realize that most of the records included in its pages are beyond them. A kid -- let's say a sixth grader -- can't drive a car or pilot an airplane, so speed and endurance records of that kind are definitely out. And a sixth grader hasn't physically matured yet, which means he or she can't run as fast, jump as high, or lift as much weight as an adult. So world records established on the basis of physical or athletic prowess are likely impossible for a sixth grader, too.
 
What kind of records CAN kids set? Well, for certain kinds of records, youth is an advantage instead of a disadvantage. You could set a record by being the youngest kid to ever climb Mt. Everest, for example. (Note to parents: I'm not suggesting that your 6 year-old should go climb Mt. Everest.) And of course, in sports there are age-group records. A sixth grader might set a record for being the fastest swimmer in his/her age group, for example. Or a kid might set a school record of some kind. Recently, while attending our daughter's basketball game at a high school I'd never visited before, I found myself looking at the trophy case in the lobby. All the track & field records were posted on a large plaque. Most of the records were of relatively recent vintage, but there were two or three that went back to the 1970's. That's when old-timers like ME were in high school. If you threw a javelin a certain distance in 1978, and nobody from your school has been able to throw a javelin that far in the 35 years since...well, that's pretty good. It's not a world record, but it's a school record that's stood the test of time.
 
I think it's a pretty common human trait to try to surpass earlier performances --whether they're our own performances, or someone else's. If you've ever timed yourself while running from one place to another, or if you've kept track of how many books you've read during summer vacation, or if you've counted the number of push-ups you can do during the commercials while you're watching TV, then you know what I mean. As a kid, I was always in the middle of some kind of friendly competition or other...but the only time I remember trying -- really trying -- to set a world record was after reading about someone who'd been able to hold his breath for something insane like 11 minutes. I practiced and practiced holding my breath, and my lung capacity improved to the point that I could last for almost two full minutes. But eventually, I gave up. Eleven minutes seemed unattainable. (FYI, the record now stands at 22 minutes!)
 
Anyway, the reason I like this "longest comic strip" idea is that it's a group effort, and none of us has to be a world-class runner, climber, diver, or breath-holder in order to set this world record. We just have to work together. We'll find out in under a month whether or not we've succeeded.
 
Final question: why was I wearing a hat while I was drawing? Because my head was cold.
Tue, 02/25/2014

The Agony of Defeat

Was it only a week or so ago that I was blogging about the 1980 US Olympic hockey team's stunning gold medal triumph? Well, today, unfortunately, I'm writing about the other side of the coin: as Jim McKay put it so memorably in the opening to ABC's Wide World Of Sports, "the agony of defeat."
 
Defeat #1 happened on Tuesday. My daughter's basketball team, the Waynflete Flyers, had won their opening round playoff game and went up against a higher-seeded team from Carrabec in the quarterfinals. The girls jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but as the game went on, the tide turned. Carrabec played well, and Waynflete struggled. At halftime, it was Cobras 24, Flyers 17. To be losing by seven points halfway through a game is no reason to panic, of course, but when Carrabec scored the first 6 points of the second half to take a 13-point lead, Waynflete's small but loyal cheering section began to think it might not be our girls' day. We were able to cut the margin to 4, but could get no closer and ended up losing by 12. It was disappointing for the girls, but they can be very proud of their season. Congratulations on reaching the quarterfinals, girls, and we'll see you next year!
 
Defeat #2 happened today in Sochi, Russia, and it was a real heartbreaker (if you happen to be a USA fan). Our Olympic women's hockey team played Canada for the gold medal. These teams are head and shoulders above any other women's team in the world, and they have a fierce rivalry. Canada has gotten the better of us more often than not, especially in Olympic competition. Well, in today's game, after a scoreless first period, the United States took a 1-0 lead in the second period, and got another goal early in the third to make it 2-0. As time wound down, the US was playing very well and limiting Canada's scoring chances...until a Canadian shot caromed off a US players' leg and into the goal to make the score 2-1 with 3:30 to go. You could see the momentum shift: Canada was fired up, and the US began to look more tentative. With just under a minute to go in regulation, Canada threw a puck at the net from a bad angle. The US goalie poked the puck away, but sent it directly onto the stick of another Canadian player, who scored to tie the game. The teams went to overtime, with Canada clearly the more energized of the two teams. In OT, Canada, on the power play, scored the sudden death goal that crushed the gold medal dreams of the US women. You've got to admire the talent and tenacity of the Canadians, but it was a tough one to swallow for US fans.
 
I write about sports quite a lot in this blog, as you've no doubt noticed, and there's a pretty simple reason why: I'm a huge sports fan. To me, sports are the greatest form of entertainment. They have drama, excitement, success, failure, and even humor. You might be thinking: yes, but a good movie might have all those elements, too. My answer to that is that a movie, no matter how great it is, doesn't change. "The Godfather" (or any other great movie you can name) is the same each time you watch it. But every Red Sox game I watch -- or every Waynflete Flyers game, or every UNH Wildcats game -- is different. Even if one team is heavily favored, the other team always has a decent chance to spring an upset. Just ask the Syracuse University men's basketball team. They're the #1 ranked team in the country, and they were undefeated with a record of 25-0...until the other day, when they lost on their home court to Boston College, a team that had won only 6 games all year and lost 19.
 
Sports are a big part of Big Nate's world, both in the comic strip and in the books. In BIG NATE STRIKES AGAIN, the sport of fleeceball (indoor baseball) is at the center of the plot. In BIG NATE GOES FOR BROKE, Nate's P.S. 38 Bobcats are crushed at basketball by the mighty Jefferson Cavaliers. And in BIG NATE: IN THE ZONE...well, I can't really tell you. (But on the cover, Nate's leaping over a high hurdle.  What does that tell you?) Anyway, my approach to Nate's sports exploits is pretty consistent: he probably loses more often than he wins (as most of us do in our lives), but he definitely has his share of triumphant moments. I think people who like Big Nate, especially young readers, want to see him succeed. But if I let him win every time, what fun would it be? Plus, winning fosters resentment. If Nate won every game he played, readers would begin to resent him for it. Sports fans are like that, too. A team may be a group of "lovable losers" for decades, but once they start winning championships, sports fans eventually tire of seeing them there. That's why the Red Sox, winners of three World Series titles in the last 10 years, are now almost as hated as the New York Yankees!
Fri, 02/21/2014

Presidents Month

Happy Presidents Day, everyone! Yes, I realize that by the time you read this, the holiday will be over.  But considering the fact that President's Day is a somewhat arbitrary date to begin with (it's celebrated on the third Monday in February, which means it falls on a different date each year), I think it's okay to wish someone "Happy Presidents Day" anytime during the middle of February.
 
The history of Presidents Day is somewhat complicated. I'll spare you all the details, but here are the basics: In the late 1800's, George Washington's birthday (February 22nd) became a federal holiday. Some years later, due to Abraham Lincoln's stature as one of our greatest presidents -- and the fact that his birthday was also in mid-February -- some lawmakers proposed that Washington and Lincoln should BOTH be honored with a holiday. There was no consensus, and as a result different states approached the issue in different ways. Some continued to call the holiday Washington's Birthday. Others began calling it Washington and Lincoln Day. Still others, for simplicity's sake, renamed it Presidents Day. And there were states, too, who insisted that Presidents Day should honor the office of the Presidency and all those who've held it, not just Washington and Lincoln. Anyway, it took awhile, but now there is near-unanimity: almost everyone now calls the holiday Presidents Day.
 
Abe Lincoln has always been my favorite president. (As the comic strip shown here demonstrates, Nate has a certain fascination with him, too.) Naturally, as a boy named Lincoln, I felt a certain kinship with the 16th president because of his last name. I'm the third Lincoln in my family, after my dad and grandfather. So I can't claim to have been named in honor of Abe Lincoln. But Grandpa very well might have been. He was born in 1895, thirty years after the President's death, in a part of the country -- Massachusetts -- where Lincoln was held in very high esteem. So, indirectly, perhaps Abe Lincoln DID play a small part in how I got my name. It's a possibility, anyway.
 
Which brings me to a different, but not unrelated topic: Mount Rushmore. As you probably know, the national park at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota features the sculpted faces of four US Presidents: George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt. Historians will argue forever whether or not these are, in fact, our four greatest presidents; but the fact is that the name Mount Rushmore has become synonymous with greatness. I thought of this recently when the basketball player LeBron James said that, by the time his career is over, he would be one of the faces on basketball's Mount Rushmore. In recent years, I've heard it referenced more and more as a conversation piece; people frequently ask questions like: Who's on baseball's Mount Rushmore? or If you could add one more President to Mount Rushmore, who would it be?  (Incidentally, I'm not sure what my answers to those two questions would be.)
 
Now here's another one I think about from time to time: Who is on cartooning's Mount Rushmore? I come up with a different answer every time I ponder it. There are two names that are always there: George Herriman, the creator of Krazy Kat, and Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts.  But after that, it becomes very difficult. Do I include E.C. Segar, the man who created Popeye, perhaps my favorite comic strip character of all time? Or Walt Kelly, whose comic strip, Pogo, combined gentle humor with social and political satire in a way unparalleled in the history of comics? What about Winsor McCay (Little Nemo In Slumberland), who might be the greatest artist ever to appear on the comics page, or Cliff Sterret (Polly And Her Pals), who might have been the most visually inventive? Then there's Al Capp, Milton Caniff, Lionel Feininger, Frederick Opper, Roy Crane...the list goes on. And I haven't even mentioned more contemporary figures like R. Crumb, Garry Trudeau, Bill Watterson, Lynda Barry, Richard Thompson, or Ben Katchor. I like 'em all.
 
So the next time you want to drive yourself crazy, ask yourself a Mount Rushmore question. It doesn't have to be about sports or cartooning, or even famous people. It might be something like: Who's on my Mount Rushmore of middle school teachers?or What's on my Mount Rushmore of candy bars? Have fun!
Tue, 02/18/2014