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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Big Nate and Artur

Here's another Big Nate FAQ: WHY DOES NATE HATE ARTUR?
 
The answer is that Nate DOESN'T hate Artur. He's able to admit (quietly, to himself) that Artur is smart, friendly, generous, and well-liked. But Nate often has trouble remembering Artur's good qualities, because he's too busy focusing on the fact that Artur can do a lot of things just a little bit better than Nate can. So you see, it's not that Nate hates Artur. It's that he envies him.
 
Years ago in the comic strip, I was writing a lot of jokes about Nate being an unlikely chess prodigy. I enjoyed the fact that Nate, who's a bit of an underachiever in some parts of his life, was a near-genius at chess even though he'd never really studied the game. After those jokes started to run dry, I thought it could be fun to introduce a character who was just a tiny bit better at chess than Nate. Enter Artur, a mild-mannered exchange student from Belarus. He quickly supplanted Nate as the number one player on the P.S. 38 chess team.  Soon after that I had another thought: what if Artur were just a tiny bit better than Nate at nearly EVERYTHING? So I started doing strips about Artur being a good student, a gifted cartoonist, a winner of the school's "good citizenship" award, and so on. And a rivalry -- in Nate's mind, anyway -- was born. The cherry on the top was when Artur, who by then had been in the strip for many years, started dating Nate's dream girl, Jenny. That's a tough one for poor Nate to swallow.
 
The reason I'm so fond of Artur as a character is that I have a theory: I think all of us have had an Artur in our lives at one time or another. Your own personal Artur is a friend, but probably not one of your best friends. Your Artur is an overachiever who often seems to excel at things without really trying. Or perhaps your Artur seems to always get things he or she doesn't quite deserve (in your opinion). Maybe your Artur becomes the hero in a soccer or basketball game mere moments after YOU had the chance to be the hero but couldn't pull it off. Or maybe your Artur is somebody that all your friends really like, so you feel pressured to like him, too. You get the idea. You know you're SUPPOSED to like your Artur, but deep down you sometimes find yourself thinking: doesn't this jerk ever do anything wrong?
 
Artur's got a part to play in BIG NATE IN THE ZONE, but there's a twist: instead of Nate being annoyed with Artur, it's the other way around. But to find out what Nate did to tick off Artur, you'll have to read the book in March 2014!
Fri, 08/09/2013

"Banner in the Sky" Tribute

I've told you on more than one occasion that my favorite book when I was a boy was BANNER IN THE SKY by James Ramsey Ullman. I didn't learn about the book from a teacher or friend, nor did I discover it by accident while visiting our local library. I found out about the book by...watching TV!
 
Back then, there was a TV show called "The Wonderful World of Disney." (Actually, if I'm remembering right, it was first called "Disney's Wonderful World of Color" -- which never made any sense to me because we had a black-and-white television.) Anyway, it was an hour-long show on Sunday nights, and it showed old Disney cartoons and movies. When the show aired a feature-length movie, they typically split it in two. You'd watch the first half of the movie one week, then have to wait seven days for the conclusion. "The Wonderful World of Disney" is where I saw several Disney movies for the first time: Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded Professor...and a mountain-climbing story called Third Man On The Mountain, starring James MacArthur. I really enjoyed the movie, and I noticed during the credits that it was based on a book called Banner in the Sky. To be honest, I don't think I ran right out and found a copy of the book after that; I was probably still a bit too young for the book. But of course I picked it up eventually, and was crazy about it.
 
It was probably inevitable that someday I'd write a comic story that paid tribute to the book. And that's just what happened about 10 or 12 years ago. I was trying to create a TV show for Cartoon Network, and one of the characters the network really seemed to like was a mysterious little guy named Ali Ali. He was a combination wise man/con man, and I created a couple of stories for him. One was a pirate story and the other was this one: DOLLARS AND ASCENTS. In the story, Ali "helps" a humble kitchen boy named Hans Trickl climb the deadliest mountain in the Alps. As you can see from this drawing, they encounter something big and hairy along the way.  
 
Nowadays, Big Nate keeps me very busy, and it's been a long time since I've sat down and written any comics starring different characters. But at some point, when I'm done with the Big Nate chapter books, I hope to dive back into some other projects. I don't think DOLLARS AND ASCENTS will be one of them -- it's very happy in my desk drawer -- but I know there are some other stories I'd like to tell. But that's still far in the future. For now, I've got BIG NATE IN THE ZONE to contend with. I just finished page 100, so in another few days I'll be halfway done. Stay tuned for more milestones!
Tue, 08/06/2013

Traditional Animation

Whenever I'm asked "Will there ever be a Big Nate movie or TV show?," I always give the same answer:  I don't know, but if it happens, I can promise you it's going to be animated.  And  when I say "animated," I'm talking about good old-fashioned 2-D animation. Nate's a cartoon character, and he's never been anything but 2-dimensional. So it wouldn't make sense for Nate to appear onscreen as a real-live kid (like the Wimpy Kid movies) or a CGI creation (like "Toy Story"). How would you ever show Nate's hair in 3 dimensions?
 
But there's another reason, too: I happen to be a huge fan of traditional animation. You almost never see it in movies anymore, and I understand that nowadays kids have come to expect 3-D. But some of the greatest movies ever made were done in 2-D. Like Snow White And The Seven Dwarves. Or Pinocchio. Or the movie I'm currently watching on Netflix: Dumbo. If you've never seen Dumbo, I highly recommend it. Here's a brief synopsis:
 
Hard to believe, but the movie is over 70 years old! (It was released in October of 1941.) It tells the story of a baby elephant named Jumbo, Jr., who is delivered to Mrs. Jumbo by a stork as the movie opens. Mrs. Jumbo is part of a traveling circus, and when the other elephants see Jumbo Jr.'s enormous ears, they give him the cruel nickname Dumbo. Dumbo's ears lead to all sorts of problems, among them his forced separation from his mother and his exile to the clown troupe after his disastrous debut as a performing pachyderm. But -- this is a Disney movie, after all -- things have a way of working out. With the help of his new friend, Timothy Mouse, and some cackling crows, Dumbo discovers something within himself he didn't know he had.  
 
A few fun facts about the movie:
  • It cost less than one million dollars to make.
  • Dumbo does not speak throughout the movie.
  • It's the shortest "feature-length" cartoon in the Disney catalog, clocking in at only 64 minutes.
  • Cliff Edwards, who voiced the leader of the crow chorus, was also a very important part of another Disney movie: he was the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio.
 
My choice for the best animated movie of all time would probably be Pinocchio, but Dumbois right up there, too. It's a heartwarming story, simply told, and it's absolutely beautiful to look at. Give it a try!

 

Fri, 08/02/2013

Campy Comics

Having spent some time recently at Comic Con, where I saw quite a few people dressed as Batman, I started thinking about the TV Batman of my youth. The caped crusader was played by Adam West, who is still with us and is still hard at work in show business. On the left is Burt Ward, who memorably played Robin, the boy wonder.
 
"Batman," the TV show, originally aired on ABC from 1966 to 1968. I was too young to be aware of it during its first run, but by the time my local TV station began showing it in reruns in the early 1970's, I was the perfect age. By then, I had started reading Batman comic books, and I absolutely loved them. Batman was very different from other superheroes because he had no unusual powers. He couldn't fly, walk on walls, become invisible, and so on. At one point, DC comics reprinted Batman's and Robin's "origin" stories, and I learned how young Bruce Wayne, having watched the senseless murders of his parents, transformed himself into an avenging crime fighter. (Robin, by the way, was originally a member of a family of circus acrobats. He, like Bruce, was an orphan, having watched in horror as his parents were killed by a sabotaged trapeze during a performance under the big top.) Anyway, quite naturally I expected that a TV show about Batman would closely resemble the comic book stories I'd started reading.
 
But that wasn't the case at all. "Batman," the TV show, was high comedy, with cheesy plots, hilariously low-tech special effects, and scenery-chewing villains played by a cast of Hollywood B actors. Not only that, Adam West wasn't anyone's idea of a muscular, athletic crime fighter. If anything, he was a little pudgy. (Burt Ward, to be fair, was a bit more athletic-looking.) The show was perfect entertainment for a pre-adolescent boy. It was, to use a word I'd probably never heard at the time, campy. And it taught me a lot about storytelling, creating memorable characters, and being funny in a "so-bad-it's-good" kind of way. Whenever Nate creates his own comics featuring characters like Doctor Cesspool, Moe Mentum, Luke Warm, and of course Ultra-Nate, he's channeling those old Batman TV episodes.
 
I learned after the fact that Adam West actually appeared at Comic Con, too! Unfortunately, I didn't run into him. If I had, I would have thanked him for the inspiration!
Tue, 07/30/2013

Big Nate Fan Art

In the powerpoint that I like to show when I visit schools (or Comic Cons), there are slides of a few drawings I saved from my childhood.  They're my attempts to draw "Peanuts" characters like Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy.  Looking at them is always a reminder of what fun it is to see people's drawings of OTHER people's characters.  I get a particular charge out of looking at kids' drawings of Big Nate.  I received this one recently from a young man named Alex, and it really caught my eye.
 
First of all, there's the pose.  Often, when kids send me drawings, I recognize the pose and can even tell exactly which book or comic strip the aspiring cartoonist was looking at while working.  But in this case, I think Alex might have invented the pose himself.  I don't remember a pose like this one, with Nate holding an ice cream cone and looking back over his shoulder at something.  That's not to say I've never done such a drawing -- I might have just forgotten -- but it just doesn't seem familiar to me.  So let's give Alex points for originality.
 
Second of all, I like the proportions.  As I've written before, Nate's sort of a classic cartoon kid.  He's got an enormous head, a stubby body, and huge feet (not to mention an unusual haircut and hands with only four digits).  But in Alex's drawing, he's radically changed those proportions.  Nate's head is actually quite small.  It's more the size of a REAL person's head.  And even though his arms and legs are still on the skinny side, his body is now quite large.  He looks barrel-chested.  His feet are pretty gigantic, and I think that's good.  Otherwise, he might look like he'd tip over.  When you put it all together, Alex's drawing looks like Nate as an older kid.  He could be a teen-ager here instead of an 11 year-old.  Thanks for the artwork, Alex! 
 
Speaking of drawing, that's what I was doing all day.  I'm now well into chapter 5 of BIG NATE IN THE ZONE, and today I was working on a couple of pages worth of Nate's notebook comics.  I don't want to give too much away, but I can tell you that these comics featured a couple of newly-invented "narrators" for one of Nate's cartoon adventures.  Their names are BUZZ FEEDBACK and MAX VOLUME.  Does that give you a clue about what they might be narrating?
Fri, 07/26/2013

San Diego Comic Con Recap

Hi, everyone.  My wife and I finally made it home to Maine at 4:00 am Tuesday.  As promised, here's my recap about my experiences at San Diego Comic Con.
 
We were in San Diego for four full days, but the two of them that were jam-packed for me were Friday and Saturday.  On Friday at 11:30, I did my "spotlight session."  Here's how it was described in the official program.  BIG NATE:  For Kids of All Ages -- Join cartoonist and Comic Con special guest Lincoln Peirce for a slideshow and discussion of Big Nate's journey from newspaper comic strip to bestselling children's book series.  A lively Q&A session will follow.  I'd checked out a couple of the other "spotlight" presentations before mine, and the crowds were very small, so I was a bit concerned that nobody would come to hear my talk.  But there was a good turnout, and I spent an hour talking about Nate, doing some drawing with the help of a document camera, and answering questions.  The 60 minutes flew right by.  After that, I signed books and posters at the HarperCollins booth on the convention floor (which can be a pretty wild and wacky place, especially with so many people in costumes).  While there, I ran into my friend Chris Sparks, the tireless and big-hearted force behind Team Cul de Sac.  Chris's book (he's holding it in this picture) was nominated for a prestigious Eisner Award, and the awards ceremony was Friday night.  Although Team Cul de Sac didn't win in the "Best Comic-Related Publication" category, Chris won a special honor:  the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award for his efforts to raise money for Parkinson's research.  It was great to be there at the Eisners to see Chris's big moment, and to also spend some time chatting with a couple other cartoonists sitting at our table:  Jerry Scott and Rick Kirkman, both of them past winners of the Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year.
 
Saturday was just as busy, and included a meeting with a representative from Scholastic Book Fairs, two autographing sessions, a "live tweet-up," and a panel discussion about Chris's book:  Team Cul de Sac:  Cartoonists Draw The Line at Parkinson's.  On the panel with me were Chris, Mark Tatulli, Lucas Turnbloom, Andrew Farago, Shaenon Garrity, Jenni and Matt Holm, and Rob Harrell.  And moderating the panel was the amazing Tom Racine.  Each of us spoke a bit about our admiration for Richard Thompson, the Cul de Sac creator who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2009, and discussed our contributions to the book.  The only thing that could have made it any better were if Richard himself had been in attendance!
 
By the way, there are so many presentations and panels at Comic Con, you couldn't possibly see them all.  Here are the titles of just a few of them:  The Power of Geeks, Celebrating The Simpsons, Cartoon Voices 1, Axe Cop, Banshee, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Action Figure Showcase, The Making of Roger Rabbit, Archer, Adult Swim, Mad About MAD, The Walking Dead, My Little Pony Workshop, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Live Action Role Playing But Were Afraid To Ask…and so on.
 
Sunday was an off day, and my wife and I decided to take a half-hour train ride up the coast to the little seaside village of Selano Beach.  From there, a short shuttle bus ride delivered us to DelMar Racetrack, where we spent the afternoon watching horse races.  I'd only been to a track one other time in my life.  I enjoyed it then (I went to Santa Anita Racetrack about 15 years ago), and I enjoyed it this time just as much -- even though we didn't win any money.
 
Now I'm back in Maine, which means it's time to get back to work on BIG NATE IN THE ZONE.  I'll have a progress report for you soon!
Wed, 07/24/2013

San Diego Comic Con!

Hi everyone,
 
Greetings from Comic Con in San Diego! I'm writing this blog entry in my hotel room, which is on the 19th floor of a hotel right next to the giant convention center. This is my first Comic Con (my first one in San Diego, that is; I attended New York's Comic Con last year), and a lot of my friends and colleagues have tried to describe to me exactly what to expect. But it's safe to say that words can not adequately describe the spectacle of the event. It's huge, and it's wild.
 
Probably the most eye-catching aspect of Comic Con is the costumes. Many of the attendees show up at the convention center dressed as characters from their favorite comic book, movie, TV show, graphic novel, etc. I snapped this picture on my phone this afternoon while walking to dinner. News flash: I have absolutely no idea who these particular people are supposed to be. My own area of expertise is comic strips and, to a lesser extent, children's books. So I don't recognize a lot of the costumes I see -- except for the classic ones like Batman, Mr. Spock, Chewbacca, and so on.
 
I didn't see too many kids on the floor of the exhibition hall today, so I can't really predict what sort of crowd to expect tomorrow when I do a presentation about Big Nate. After all, at this point BN is more popular with kids than with adults. But I'll happily show my powerpoint to whoever shows up. After that, I'm hoping to see a couple other presentations before signing some books for my friends at Harper Collins later on in the day.  
 
Usually, I write a blog entry on Monday night and it's posted during the day on Tuesday. But I'll be traveling on Monday and won't get home to Maine until midnight. So I'm giving you the heads-up that my next entry might now appear until Wednesday. I've have more to tell you about Comic Con then!
Fri, 07/19/2013

Stages of Big Nate

Hi, everyone. I spent a few hours today working on a PowerPoint slideshow for the San Diego Comic Con, which I'll be attending this year for the first time. That's right, I'm a Comic Con rookie. I did go to New York Comic Con last year, and that was an eye-opening experience...but everyone tells me that the San Diego event is the granddaddy of them all, two or even three times bigger than the one in New York. So I'm looking forward to the entire experience. I'll be giving the aforementioned presentation about Big Nate's journey from comic strip to best-selling book series; I'll be part of a panel discussion for Team Cul de Sac, the project spearheaded by my friend Chris Sparks to raise money for Parkinson's disease research while paying tribute to the work of cartoonist Richard Thompson; and I'll be signing a bunch of books. I also hope to see a few sights around San Diego.
 
Anyway, my slideshow includes the image you see here. I'm sure I must have told you before in this blog that, before the Big Nate comic strip began appearing in newspapers, it went through quite a few stages.  For one thing, it wasn't even called Big Nate at first; it was called "Neighborhood Comix," and it was loosely based on the neighborhood in New Hampshire where I grew up. There were quite a few characters in Neighborhood Comix, including these two: an older brother named Nate, and a younger brother named Marty. I didn't pick those names by chance. Nate is the nickname I gave my older brother Jonathan when we were kids, and Marty is the name of one of my uncles.
 
I got some very positive feedback about Neighborhood Comix, and also some suggestions for how to improve it. One editor said she thought there were two many characters, and I thought she was right. Another said Nate looked too much like Calvin from "Calvin and Hobbes," and I thought that made sense, too. I changed Nate's appearance in my next submission and got some more feedback -- now Nate didn't look enough like a kid. He looked too old. I decided that Marty's personality was a little more dynamic than Nate's...but I loved the name Nate and wanted to keep it. As you've probably figured out by now, I ended up combining the two characters. I kept the name Nate, but gave him more of Marty's kid-like appearance and larger-than-life personality. I even kept Marty's trademark yellow shirt with blue shoulders, which Big Nate now wears constantly. And in the end, I was able to keep the name Marty, too. That's Nate's dad's first name.   
 
My next blog entry will come to you from Comic Con. My wife and I leave for San Diego on Wednesday!
Tue, 07/16/2013

Cheez Doodles

One of my favorite things about visiting schools and bookstores to talk to kids about Big Nate is answering questions. Some of them I've been asked many times ("How did you come up with the idea for Big Nate?") and others are more original. ("Why are all the girl characters in your books so annoying?") Some are easy to answer ("Who's your favorite character to draw?"), and some aren't. ("What's going to happen in the next book?") A couple of weeks ago during my visit to Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine, I was asked a question that's VERY easy to answer: "Is there really such a thing as Cheez Doodles, or did you make them up?"
 
YES, Cheez Doodles are definitely real! As proof, I offer this picture of a Cheez Doodles bag, along with the following Wikipedia entry. Make sure you read the last sentence!
 
"Cheeze Doodles are a cheese-flavored cheese puff produced by Wise Foods, Inc. which are similar to Frito-Lay's Cheetos. They debuted several years after Frito-Lay's snack in the 1950s. Originally developed and manufactured by King Kone Corp. of the Bronx (owned and operated by Morrie Yohai), it became the prevalent cheese puff snack on the East Coast. In the mid-1960s the company (now known as Old London Foods) was acquired by Borden and assigned to the Wise potato chip division. Cheez Doodles remian one of the strongest brands marketed by Wise, which is no longer part of Borden. They have recently entered pop culture as the preferred snack of ESPN NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith, and are the favorite snack of Lincoln Peirce's comic character Big Nate."
 
I didn't realize until just now that Big Nate is mentioned in the Cheez Doodles Wikipedia entry. That's kind of cool.
 
Anyway, all comic strip characters are autobiographical to some degree, and so it makes sense that my favorite snack food would also be Nate's. I've been eating them since I was a kid, and when I started the comic strip in 1991, I didn't think twice about making the occasional reference to Cheez Doodles. It never occurred to me that Wise, the maker of Cheez Doodles, would object (and they haven't, so far). But what I didn't realize was that many readers wouldn't be familiar with them, because they're largely an East Coast phenomenon. If you've lived your whole life in Arizona or Texas, you might think Cheez Doodles are a figment of some cartoonist's imagination. But they're real. And real delicious.
 
By the way, ignore the part in the Wikipedia entry that claims that Cheez Doodles are "similar to Frito-Lay's Cheetos." Cheez Doodles are superior to Cheetos in every way. Happy eating!
Fri, 07/12/2013

Big Nate and Haikus

Even though I'm not a poet, I do enjoy most kinds of poems, especially when I can find ways to squeeze them into a Big Nate book or comic strip. If you've read BIG NATE: IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF, you'll remember that the poetry portfolio Nate's working on during English is filled with several different types of poems (all of which are about Cheez Doodles).  And if you've followed the comic strip over the years, you've found poems there, too -- about Jenny, about Mrs. Godfrey, and in the example you see here, about detention.
 
In the two panels above, Nate's come up with a haiku, which is a particularly fun kind of poem to write. Three lines with a syllable count of 5, then 7, then 5 again. Technically speaking, I think haikus are supposed to be about nature and the great outdoors, but Nate writes them about anything -- which means that I write them about anything. I might have written a haiku once as a school assignment years ago; but if I did, I've long since forgotten about it. Haikus didn't really come into my life (or into the comic strip) until our son Elias wrote one when he was a very small boy. I think I've included it in this blog before, but it's worth reading again:
 
Earthquakes shake the ground.
Run away, you mean old hound.
Look at the patterns.
 
Soon after that, I started including haikus in the comic strip. Here's one that occurred to Nate as he stood at the bus stop on the first day of school.
 
Here comes the school bus.
I could run into the woods.
Who am I kidding?
 
Of course, there are drawings that go along with each line. In line one, Nate is looking off-camera as the school bus approaches. In line two, he turns his head and looks hopefully at the woods in the other direction, contemplating a possible escape.  In line three, he realizes the futility of this idea, reaching the unhappy conclusion that he has to go to school whether he likes it or not.
 
These haikus have been on my mind because just recently I wrote another one that will appear in the strip in early September. Like the example above, it focuses on Nate's unhappiness at going back to school.  But it also involves grasshoppers. Want to learn more? Keep reading the strip -- especially in September!
Tue, 07/09/2013