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.

Sign up for the Big Nate newsletter!

Big Nate On Display

Are you going to be in Abilene, Texas, in February of 2014?
 
If so, maybe you can stop by the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature. There will be some drawings from the first five BIG NATE books on display as part of an exhibition that will eventually travel to some other sites around the country. I'm not sure my work has ever been shown in a museum or an institution like this before, so it's kind of exciting.
 
It's also kind of challenging, because I was asked to select pieces that represent a nice variety of drawings from the books -- 3 or 4 drawings from each title, for a total of 15 to 20. That's where the challenge came in. There are twice that many drawings in a single CHAPTER of a Big Nate book, so there's an awful lot to choose from. And as you can imagine, I do have some favorites. But I couldn't possibly choose all my favorites for inclusion in the exhibition. There were some hard choices to be made.
 
One thing I had to keep in mind was that the Center asked for some examples of "Nate art" as well as drawings done in my own style. So five of the twenty pieces I picked are drawn in Nate's inimitable style on his lined notebook paper. Doctor Cesspool is represented, as is Ben Franklin. I also chose a page from Nate's "Worst Days Ever" comics in Book One.
 
As you might expect, I tried to choose pictures with a lot of visual interest. It wouldn't make much sense to pick a drawing of Nate just standing alone by his locker. But that doesn't mean all the drawings I picked were complex pictures with dozens of other characters or complex backgrounds. The drawing you see here is relatively simple, but it's one I've always liked. It shows three different views of Nate and, considering that all he's doing is getting ready for school, there's quite a bit of action going on. I like the expression on his face in the first panel, the variety of lettering, and the sound effects. And I also like the way the drawings are set against a bold black backdrop. One thing you learn when you're a newspaper cartoonist is how even a small area of pure black can really jump off the page.
 
Speaking of drawing, I'll be getting back to work today (Tuesday) on the final art for BIG NATE IN THE ZONE. I had to take several days to get caught up on the comic strip after last week's computer disaster. But I'm happy to say that the technology nightmare is over! It will be good to get back into my regular routine -- which still includes blogging twice a week. So I'll post another entry in a couple of days!
Tue, 07/02/2013

Sneak Peek!

Hi, everyone. It will have to be another shorter-than-usual blog entry today. I've been up to my neck in technology problems this week, so every moment that I'm not on the phone with someone offering advice about computers, scanners, or software, I'm doing my best to get caught up with work.
 
But before I get back to the grindstone, I thought you might enjoy a sneak peek at a drawing from BIG NATE IN THE ZONE. As I told you last time, I've finished the final art for chapters 1 - 3, so you can conclude that this image of Principal Nichols appears somewhere in the first 60 pages. What else does this drawing tell you?
 
Well, he's getting hit on the head with something, obviously. Looks like a bottle. And it's klanging off his noggin hard enough to knock him backwards, spilling his coffee in the process. How did the bottle get airborne? We can't tell. Whatever or whoever sent it flying through space isn't part of the picture. Two kids look on, but it's clear from the motion lines that neither of THEM threw the bottle. We also don't recognize these kids, which tells us that they are either a.) new members of the Big Nate "cast of characters", or b.) "extras" who are only in the picture to provide a reaction and to make the picture more interesting. You'll have to wait until the book is published in February to know which is the case!
 
Oh, and we learn one more very important fact from this picture: Principal Nichols wears argyle socks!
Fri, 06/28/2013

It's Tomorrow!

Some days are better than others. I'm sitting on my couch right now in the aftermath of my beloved Boston Bruins losing the Stanley Cup Finals to the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago won tonight's game 3-2 and the series, four games to two. Boston was very close to forcing a decisive seventh game, leading 2-1 with only 80 seconds to go. And then, shockingly, the Blackhawks scored two goals in an 18-second span to break the hearts of Bruins fans everywhere. Congratulations to Chicago; they played better and deserved to win. But I'm proud of my Bruins, especially my favorite player, Patrice Bergeron, who somehow played tonight's game with a broken rib, torn rib cartilage, and a separated shoulder.
 
Believe it or not, though, that WASN'T the worst part of the day. Earlier, our desktop computer unexpectedly died, and even though we were able to save our data, like pictures and jpegs, etc., a lot of our software couldn't be transferred to our brand new iMac because it's so old. I lost all my photoshop settings, and will have to learn how to use a completely new version of photoshop. And I have to buy a new scanner and figure out how to make it work with photoshop. For a technophobe like me, that's not a very appealing prospect. But I'll do my best to figure it out.
 
So today was a pretty lousy day. That's the bad news. The good news is, it's not today anymore -- it's tomorrow!   And here's a BIG NATE IN THE ZONE update: I've finished the first three chapters worth of final art. More updates to come throughout the summer.
Tue, 06/25/2013

Designing a Comic Strip

I've written a few blog entries in the past about some of the steps that go into designing a book. Before I started writing the Big Nate novels, I had absolutely no idea about design elements like trim size, fonts, folios, endpapers, and so on. But remember, by the time I began the books, I'd been doing the Big Nate comic strip for many years; and there were several design elements to consider when I started the comic strip.
 
For example: how big should the panels be, and how many of them should there be? Well, having grown up with "Peanuts," I never had any doubt that I wanted my own daily strip to be four panels long. But I wasn't sure how to go about sizing the panels. If you look at the comics page in your local newspaper, you'll notice that there isn't a "standard" panel size for comic strips. I could have decided on panels that were quite tall, like those in "Doonesbury," or panels that were tiny, like in "Peanuts." In the end, I decided that I really liked the dimensions of the panels in "Blondie." So I measured a daily "Blondie" strip, then drew my own panels twice as large (because almost all cartoonists draw their originals on a larger scale than they appear in the newspaper).
 
There were other decisions to make. Should I draw my lines with a ruler? I decided to use a wooden stencil to trace the panels when I sketched the strip in pencil; but when I inked it, I drew the panels free-hand. I had to figure out what size my lettering should be, and I had to practice my handwriting to make it neater. Each strip must have the date written on it somewhere, so I had to figure out where I was going to put the date so that it wouldn't stand out like a sore thumb.
 
And then there was the matter of signing each strip. There were a number of possibilities: I could sign my full name; I could sign my last name only; I could sign my initials, etc. etc. Eventually I settled on using only my last name, but I didn't really like the way it looked just tucked in a corner somewhere. So I drew a little box around it. I don't know why, but that made it look better somehow. You'll notice, though, that my signature doesn't appear anywhere in the books. With hundreds of illustrations per book, it would seem silly to sign each one of them. So I just leave them "blank."
 
That's all for this time. I'm signing off!
Fri, 06/21/2013

Love and Nate

Last time, I assured you that I have no plans to create a romance between Nate and his archenemy, Gina. Their toxic relationship has been the source of a lot of speculation on the gocomics comments page. Recently, one reader made a statement that went something like this: Nate will never end up with Gina, because Jenny's the only girl he's ever loved. Well, I agree with the first part, but not the second. In the comic strip, Nate's heart has been stolen by other girls besides Jenny over the years. Sometimes it's just been a momentary crush. Other times it's been more substantial.
 
Nate's first serious girlfriend was Angie. That spring, I had written a storyline in which Nate's poor Social Studies grade leads to him having to attend summer school. Very soon thereafter, I realized that summer school would probably be pretty boring for Nate without any of his pals around. So I brought a girl named Angie into the story. She was new in town, and during the process of moving had fallen behind on some schoolwork; she was attending summer school as a way to get caught up. Nate was smitten with her immediately and was too embarrassed to tell her that he was at summer school due to his poor grades. So he pretended that he was there to tutor other kids. Eventually, Angie found out the truth, of course, but she didn't hold it against Nate, and they started going steady. By 6th grade standards, it was a pretty long-lasting romance: six months, eleven days, four hours, and thirty-two minutes. (Nate timed it.) But eventually Angie's feelings changed, and she dumped Nate with the classic "I really like you as a friend" speech.
 
Later on, Nate had another serious relationship, and this one, too, heated up during the summer. Nate was at soccer camp (run by the psychotic Coach John) and met a girl named Kelly. Even though they were the same age, Nate didn't know her because she wasn't a classmate of his at P.S. 38; she went to Jefferson. Nate fell for her hard, and she returned his feelings; they started going out after soccer camp ended. Nate seemed to have found happiness with Kelly, until he discovered that his longtime crush Jenny had just dumped her boyfriend Ronnie (this was before Artur was in the picture). Convinced that the coast was now clear for HIM to romance Jenny, Nate dumped Kelly by writing a break-up note on the back of a detention slip.
 
Nate's had other crushes, of course. One summer he went to chess camp and fell madly in love with a girl whose chess skills earned her the nickname "The Brain." Another time, when he returned to school in the fall, Nate learned that he'd been assigned a locker partner: a "hottie" named Amanda Woodcock. And, if you've been reading the strip recently, you know that Nate had a major crush on a girl named Lila...until he found out she already had a boyfriend (whose name, in a cruel twist of irony, was Nate). Nate barely had time for heartbreak, though, before Jenny returned from Seattle. She and Artur are still an item...but Nate can dream, can't he? 
Fri, 06/14/2013

Nate & Gina

Remember this drawing?  It's from page 185 of BIG NATE ON A ROLL, and it shows Teddy and Francis busting Nate's chops for being wildly in love with Gina.
 
He isn't, of course. Gina is right up there with Mrs. Godfrey in Nate's personal pantheon of yuck. But a lot of Big Nate readers don't see it that way. In fact, a lot of them think that Nate and Gina are destined to be P.S. 38's hottest couple.
 
I didn't realize how many people felt that way until the comic strip started appearing on gocomics. If you read Big Nate or other comics there, you know that each page has its own comments section. That means that if you have an extra strong opinion about today's Frazz or Lio or Pearls Before Swine, you can post a comment for other readers -- and cartoonists -- to see. I check the comments section on the Big Nate page two or three times a day, and sometimes I comment myself. Starting in June of 2011, when Big Nate joined gocomics, I began noticing comments like these: "When are Nate and Gina going to realize they're perfect for each other?" "It's a thin line between hate and LOVE." "It's so obvious they're going to end up together!" To which I respond: Really?
 
Folks are entitled to their opinions, of course, but I've never considered Nate and Gina to be anything but mortal enemies. They might have some similar characteristics -- both are somewhat self-absorbed, and both can be obnoxious at times -- but that doesn't mean they're well-suited for each other. Besides, if Nate and Gina ended up liking each other, one of the most interesting dynamics of Big Nate -- his ultra-competitive relationship with her -- would cease to exist.
 
So relax, Gina-haters. I have no plans to get these two kids together!
Tue, 06/11/2013

Big Nate Poster!

If you haven't bought a copy of GENIUS MODE, the latest Big Nate collection of comic strips, you probably don't know that the book contains a special premium: a poster of Nate in the middle of one of his "lightbulb moments." Not a bad bonus gift!
 
You might remember that I blogged a few months ago about the gifts and prizes I used to buy from mail-order companies that advertised in comic books. Among those prizes were posters, and they usually cost about a dollar apiece. They often were posters of movie stars, athletes, or cartoon characters. Here are some of the posters I remember hanging on the walls in our basement playroom at various times during my childhood:
  • The Three Stooges
  • NFL quarterback Jim Plunkett
  • Various Red Sox players -- Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Smith, Tony Conigliaro
  • Snoopy on a surfboard with the word "COWABUNGA" in bold
  • Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin
  • A tiger prowling through the jungle
  • Boston Bruins Hall of Famer Bobby Orr
I think kids still like posters, so I'm delighted that they can get one for free with their copy of GENIUS MODE. Special features like that are becoming more common in the children's book realm, as is another exciting development: Big Nate comics in full color! By now, kids are accustomed to seeing comics in full color, seven days a week, on sites like gocomics.com. Soon, collections of your favorite comic strips in full color will be the rule, not the exception. In fact, I'm happy to let you know that the next Big Nate collection, MR. POPULARITY, will be in color. And it will have a poster as well! 
Fri, 06/07/2013

Connecticut and BEA!

Hi there, everyone. My apologies for skipping my blog entry last Friday. As you know, I always try to blog twice a week; I write them on Monday nights and Thursday nights. Last Thursday night, however, I was in New York City having dinner with some of my friends and colleagues from Andrews McMeel Publishing. They were kind enough to invite me to attend Book Expo America on Saturday, and I was happy to do so.  
 
But before heading over to the Jacob Javits Center on Saturday for BEA, I took a trip to Connecticut on Friday. I got up at 5:30 am and walked to Grand Central Station, where I caught a train to New Haven. There, I was picked up by Karen Rosenthal of RJ Julia Booksellers, a wonderful bookstore in Madison, Connecticut. She drove me to Totoket Valley Elementary School in Northford, where I spoke to a gym full of 3rd, 4th & 5th graders. In addition to my usual talk about Big Nate and comics, I also had the chance to judge the top submissions in the school's first ever comic strip contest. Sixty-eight kids created their own comics, and I picked the five I thought were the most original. Congratulations to the winners, and thanks very much, TVES!
 
Later that afternoon, I spoke to an enthusiastic group of kids and parents at RJ Julia, then signed books for awhile. It was a very hot day, and I'd like to thank all the families who ventured out to attend the event. I signed copies of whatever books kids were purchasing or had brought from home, but the two titles that I saw the most of were the most recent compilations: GAME ON! and GENIUS MODE.
 
The next day at BEA, I spent an hour in the morning at the Andrews McMeel booth, signing copies of GAME ON, and I'm delighted to say that in one hour, we went through all the books we'd brought: 180 of them. Thanks to Shelly, Kathy, and Amy for all their help. Then, in the afternoon, I met my beloved editor from Harper Collins, Phoebe, and she sat with me in the "signing area" while I visited with folks who wanted a signed copy of BIG NATE FLIPS OUT.  Phoebe is infamous for taking blurry photos with her smartphone, but this time she actually had a camera with her, and she took this photo of me at Table #10. This time, it took us less than an hour to give away all our books. So, thanks, everyone, for standing in line!
 
BNITZ UPDATE: I've had to do a lot of traveling lately -- to Washington, Pittsburgh, and New York in just the last month -- but that's all done with for now. So I can focus on the artwork for BIG NATE IN THE ZONE.
Tue, 06/04/2013

Reuben Awards

As I mentioned last time, this past weekend the annual Reuben Awards banquet was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I don't attend the Reubens every year, but I've managed to be there for two out of the last three. (I skipped it last year when it was held in Las Vegas.) At the ceremony, the members of the National Cartoonists Society gather and pay tribute to their colleagues who've been singled out for outstanding achievement in various cartooning categories during the past year. I won't list all the winners, but here are a few names you might recognize:
 
Graphic Novels: Chris Ware, "Building Stories"
Gag Cartoons: b>Roz Chast
Newspaper Panel: Hilary Price, "Rhymes With Orange"
Newspaper Comic Strip: Brian Basset, "Red And Rover"
 
The highlight of every Reubens weekend is the Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year. There are always three nominees, and this year those very talented gents were Rick Kirkman ("Baby Blues"), Brian Crane ("Pickles"), and Stephan Pastis ("Pearls Before Swine"). And, in an almost unprecedented occurrence, there was a tie! The two winners were Rick Kirkman and Brian Crane -- which is why the picture you see here shows TWO winners standing on stage. I must admit, though, that I felt bad for Stephan, who's been nominated several times but still hasn't won. I'm going to make a bold prediction right now: he'll win next year.
 
Meanwhile, I have only a couple of days home in Maine before I head off on another trip, this time to New York City for Book Expo America. I'll also stop in at an elementary school and a bookstore in Connecticut on Friday. Congratulations to all the Reuben winners! That's all for now.
Tue, 05/28/2013

The Sidekick

Today's entry is about a particular kind of character that appears again and again in comics history -- the sidekick.  Of course, sidekicks aren't confined only to comics.  You find them everywhere in books, movies, theatre, television, and so on.  But in my humble opinion, some of the "second bananas" you see in comic strips and comic books are among the most memorable sidekicks anywhere -- like the fellow shown here:  Jughead Jones, the hamburger-loving scene-stealer from the "Archie" comics.
 
First of all, what IS a sidekick?  I'm not sure any of the definitions I've found online tell the entire story.  They all mention that a sidekick is generally a close friend or companion who is usually regarded as subordinate to the character he or she is allied with.  In other words, there's a star, and then there's a co-star.  That's a good description of some classic sidekicks, like The Lone Ranger's Tonto or Batman's Robin.  But there are plenty of sidekicks who go far beyond this co-starring role.  They might not be featured as prominently as their more celebrated companions, but they often manage to upstage them.
 
Let's go back to Archie and Jughead.  Most of the stories in "Archie" comics focus on the title character and the various difficulties he gets into, often involving dream girls Betty and Veronica.  But when you get right down to it, Archie is not a particularly memorable character.  He's somewhat bland.  Jughead, on the other hand, is not bland at all.  He's absurdly lazy, always hungry, and unlike the rest of the gang at Riverdale High School, is not the least bit interested in romance.  When I used to read "Archie" comics as a boy, I always thought Jughead was much more interesting, and funnier, than Archie.  I still do.  
 
Then there's "Peanuts."  When the strip started in 1950, Snoopy was Charlie Brown's dog, pure and simple.  He was a sidekick.  But obviously, over the years, Snoopy became much more than a pet.  He was a World War I flying ace, an astronaut, a home run-hitting shortstop, an author…the list goes on.  Clearly, his personality was much larger and more colorful than Charlie Brown's.  It reached the point where you really couldn't call Snoopy a sidekick any longer.  In fact, Snoopy arguably became the "star" of Peanuts and eventually got a sidekick of his own:  the little yellow bird, Woodstock.
 
Now, what about Nate?  Who's HIS sidekick?  Well, I'd describe both Francis and Teddy as sidekicks, but not of the Jughead variety.  Nate's personality is too big for him to be upstaged in the way that Jughead routinely upstages Archie.  But in the next chapter book, Big Nate In The Zone, Nate creates a new sidekick in comic strip form:  he gives Ultra-Nate, his superhero alter ego, a crime-fighting partner.  But who is it?  You'll have to wait for the book to find out!

One final note:  I'm of to Pittsburgh on Friday to attend the Reuben Awards Weekend.  I'll tell you all about it in my next entry.

 

Thu, 05/23/2013