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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Cartoon Meanings

A while back, I told you that I sometimes get email from Kozo, a friend from Japan who enjoys comics and cartoons of all kinds -- and uses them as a way of improving both his English and his understanding of humor in other countries. Whenever he comes across one that he doesn't understand, he emails me for clarification. I enjoy these exchanges -- first, because it's always fun to talk with someone who is a comics fan; and second, because trying to explain a joke makes me consider more carefully whether or not the jokes I tell in my own work are effective. After all, no cartoonist ever wants to hear that awful four-word phrase: I DON'T GET IT. If anyone tells me after reading Big Nate that they didn't get it, it means I must not have done my job well enough (unless the reason they don't get it is that they just didn't read it carefully; that's a completely different issue).
 
Anyway, here's the email exchange Kozo and I had about this cartoon.

Kozo: Please explain the point of this editorial cartoon. Thank you.  

Lincoln: This cartoon is not making any kind of political statement. It's just a simple visual gag. The woman is a maid/housekeeper who is reading a book. As the cover indicates, the book features Sherlock Holmes, literature's greatest detective, who excelled at solving crimes by carefully examining every last piece of evidence. The maid is so engrossed in the book that she's not paying attention to what she's doing -- and, as a result, she's destroying evidence of an ACTUAL crime scene, indicated by the chalk outline of a murder victim on the ground. In the background are other signs that a murder has been committed: a detective, a policeman, and a TV cameraman, along with an ambulance. So the gag is that the maid is absent-mindedly hampering a criminal investigation that is probably very much like the one she's reading about with such interest.

And here's another bit about Big Nate, the musical that's still packing 'em in down at Adventure Theatre MTC in Glen Echo, Maryland. Just click the link to watch!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69gYqxTtpeQ

One last thing: Tomorrow, CHILLAX, the first ZITS novel by the talented cartoonists Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman goes on sale. Here is a link to the book trailer. But you'll need to check out the book to find out why I said "Zits is plugged in and ready to rock!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfjbIGylo18&feature=youtu.be

Mon, 05/20/2013

Tall Tale Radio

When you're in the cartooning business, you get the chance to meet some interesting people. Like Tom Racine. Actually, I haven't met Tom in person yet. But he and I had a long conversation by phone the other day, and if you're interested, you can listen to it.

Tom is the host of Tall Tale Radio, a long-running weekly podcast on which he conducts weekly interviews with folks in and around the cartooning industry. Most of his guests are ink-stained wretches like myself, but from time to time he'll also speak with editors, animators, and so on. Tom's a cartoonist himself, so he understands the business from the inside out, and he asks great questions. He's also got a killer radio voice. "Great pipes," as we amateur DJ's like to say.

Tall Tale Radio recently joined gocomics, and Tom posts a new interview there every Monday. He and I spoke for so long, though, that he's going to present our conversation in three parts. Here's a link to part 1 http://www.gocomics.com/tall-tale-radio/2013/05/13

You can also visit the TTR home page, where you'll find an archive of past interviews: http://www.talltaleradio.com

Tom's a West Coaster, which means that I'll have the chance to meet him in person when I go to the San Diego Comic Con in July. I'm looking forward to it. In the meantime, enjoy the interview!

 
Tue, 05/14/2013

Big Nate: The Musical

I told you I'd write a bit more about Big Nate:  The Musical in today's entry, so here goes:
 
My wife took this picture following the afternoon performance.  That's me in the middle, with the cast and crew.  Also in the photo are the lyricist, Chris Youstra (second from left in the black shirt), the writer, Jason Loewith (to the right of Chris, wearing glasses and a black shirt), and the director, Michael Baron (far right, red sweatshirt).  These are the talented folks who, along with a great group of actors, brought  Big Nate to the stage in such memorable fashion.  Here are some of the moments in the show that I'll remember most clearly for a long time to come:
 
"Zip it, Francis!"  This is a line that's spoken more than once, and it gets a laugh every time.  It also tells you that Francis tends to go a bit overboard with his "fun facts" and "timeless trivia."
 
Love Is A Four Letter Word  Nate's band, Enslave The Mollusk, participates in an epic Battle of the Bands toward the end of the show, and this is the title of the song they perform.  (There are songs by two other bands, but not surprisingly, Enslave The Mollusk rocks the hardest.)
 
Spitsy & Pickles  They're not exactly actors, and they're not quite puppets, either.  All I can tell you is that Spitsy and Pickles still manage to share a romantic moment during the show.  It's hilarious.
 
Dad's Moment  Nate's dad (played by Tim Rogan, who was also Artur) makes the most of a brief appearance, singing a song that manages to be extremely funny (Nate's reactions to the song are also a riot) and touching at the same time.
 
Cubes  After the show, I was signing books at a table outside the theater when up stepped a young man named Quinn who was a dead ringer for one of my best friends from childhood, Hugh Kennedy.  That's because Quinn is Hugh's son.  The Kennedy family came to the show, and it was the first time I'd seen Hugh in 32 years.  When we were kids, I gave Hugh the nickname "Cubes," and he probably hasn't been called that for…well, for about 32 years.  It was great to see him after all that time, and it was a wonderful end to a fantastic weekend.
 
And speaking of weekends... Sunday is Mother's Day. Don't forget! 
Fri, 05/10/2013

Big Nate: The Musical!

Hi, everyone, I'm back from my trip to Washington, DC and Glen Echo, Maryland, where I was pleased and proud to attend two performances of BIG NATE at Adventure Theatre MTC. My review of the show is: it's outstanding!  I'll admit I wasn't quite sure what to expect, because I've never imagined my characters in a musical until now. But almost as soon as I saw the set, which was extremely eye-catching and fun, I had a good feeling. And once the actors took the stage, the show was everything I could have hoped for and more.  
 
Speaking of the actors, they were an extremely versatile and talented bunch. Here are their names and the parts they played:
Jenny/ Coach John/Galvinator #2: Shayna Blass
Francis/Mrs. Hickson: Joshua Dick
Ellen Wright/Mrs. Godfrey/Galvinator #3: Ayanna Hardy
Teddy “√” Ortiz/Mr. Galvin: David Little
Nate Wright: .Sam Ludwig
Gina Hemphill - Toms/Mrs. Czerwicki/Galvinator #1: Angela Miller
Artur Pashkov/Marty Wright/Mr. Staples/Spitsy/Calvin: Tim Rogan
 
As you can see, each of them (except for Sam in the role of Nate) had to play multiple parts, and they all did tremendous work. Here are a few words about each actor in his/her primary role:
 
SAM LUDWIG as NATE: He had the hardest job -- finding a balance between Nate's brash self-confidence and his vulnerability -- and he pulled it off beautifully. He's also a great physical performer, which was perfect for the part. Just one of many highlights: the look on Nate's face when the intercom asks: "Are you destined for greatness?"
ANGELA MILLER as GINA: She was spot-on as Gina. In the strip and books, Gina is mostly a "straight man." She doesn't get many funny lines. But Angela brought out the humor in Gina. She was hilarious.
JOSHUA DICK as FRANCIS: Josh had some of the funniest moments in the show. The script really emphasizes Francis's almost compulsive need to point out bits of trivia and other useless information, and Josh has great comic timing.
DAVID LITTLE as TEDDY: Teddy's a jokester, and the script gives him a chance to make some really funny observations throughout. But David really shone in a more serious moment, when Teddy convinces Francis that the two of them need to support Nate in one of his hair brained schemes. It was great stuff.
SHAYNA BLASS as JENNY: I loved what Shayna did with this part. She has to play Nate's dream girl as an angel -- literally an angel, and on roller skates, too! -- but also has to make the audience understand her feelings for Artur...not to mention her misgivings about Gina.
AYANNA HARDY as MRS. GODFREY: Ayanna played such a vital role, because Mrs. Godfrey holds Nate's fate in her hands more than once in the show. It would have been easy to depict her as an all-out villain, but Ayanna accomplished something I didn't think was possible: she showed the audience Mrs. Godfrey's human side (and her Godzilla side, too).
TIM ROGAN as ARTUR: I thought Tim was the unsung hero of the show. He was completely charming and extremely funny as the kind-hearted, guileless Artur. The kids sitting near me clearly thought the same thing. He was an audience favorite.
 
That's all I have time to write today.  I'll follow up with more about the play in my next entry!
Tue, 05/07/2013

Big Nate Big Play

If this blog entry has a familiar ring, it might be because I've written about this before. Maybe. I say "maybe" because, frankly, I'm lousy at remembering what I've blogged about in the past. Once I finish an entry, I tend to put it completely out of my mind -- which means that it never takes long for me to forget whether I've written about something a few months -- or even a few weeks! -- earlier. But whether I'm repeating myself or not, I'm plowing ahead with this blog entry. Here goes!
 
Tomorrow my wife, daughter, and I are leaving for Washington, DC. On Sunday, a few miles outside of DC in Glen Echo, Maryland, we'll watch the premiere of BIG NATE: THE MUSICAL. We're all looking forward to it. My own experience with musical theater is very limited. I've seen a couple of shows on Broadway (we took our kids to Beauty And The Beast and Spamalot when they were younger), and I've attended a few middle school and high school musicals here in Portland (I remember some particularly fine local performances of Peter Pan, Grease, and Footloose over the years). And then there's community theater. A dear friend of ours, Brian Daly, has performed in Meet Me In St. Louis and The Drowsy Chaperone recently.
 
But seeing people -- adult actors, in this case -- playing the characters I've been writing and drawing for over twenty years will be an entirely new experience. It reminds of a series of strips I did nearly twenty years ago, in which Nate and his classmates perform You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Teddy played Charlie Brown, Nate was Snoopy, and Francis was Linus. I'd love to tell you that Gina played Lucy, but Gina wasn't even part of the strip back then. It's too bad; she would have made a great Lucy.
 
I've only been in one play in my life (not counting a church pageant where I was "Wise Man #2"). I was in eighth grade, and our English teacher, a very nice man named Richard Tappan, wrote a play called "Polls Apart." I played a character named Acey MacAdoo. The play wasn't a musical, but it did have one music scene, and I was a part of it. I had to dance the tango with Tina Nadeau (who is now the Chief Justice of the Superior Court of New Hampshire) to a tune called "Hernando's Hideaway." She was probably 3 or 4 inches taller than I was at the time, so I'm sure the scene was more comical than Mr. Tappan intended when he wrote it.  
 
In my next entry, I'll tell you all about the play!
Fri, 05/03/2013

Wild Wild West

You're probably reading this on Tuesday, but I wrote it on Monday. Monday is one of my blogging days. It's also the day I host my radio show at WMPG here in Portland, Maine. The show is called "South by Southwest" and it features vintage country and western swing music. Which leads to the question: Have I ever tried to combine my love of country & western music with cartooning? The answer is: sort of.
 
For several years, I periodically submitted ideas for TV shows to Cartoon Network (and sometimes Nickelodeon). One or two of those ideas made decent progress toward becoming an actual show, but most of them went nowhere. The little guy in the picture you see here is one of those "nowhere" ideas. His name is Slim Stubby, and he's ten years old. He's also the sheriff of a ghost town called Ragweed.
 
Here was my idea for the show: Slim is a kid who somehow gets lost in the Old West. He meets Kneehigh, a prairie dog who doesn't realize he's a prairie dog. He thinks he's a horse. Kneehigh takes Slim to Ragweed, a nearby ghost town that is populated by actual ghosts. There's Big Tiny, the kind-hearted but forgetful barkeep at the local saloon; Tom Girl, a tomboyish ghost who develops a crush on Slim; and Nancy Boy, a banjo-playing spirit who's afraid of his own shadow. (That's a figure of speech. He's a ghost, so he doesn't actually have a shadow.) Anyway, these ghosts elect Slim their sheriff, because they need protection from the local villains: Pat The Cactus (who's a real-live cactus); Dumb Ox, his dim-witted sidekick; and Doc Swindle, a slick-talking snake oil salesman.
 
My plan for this show was for music to play a big part; each episode, Nancy Boy or one of the other characters would perform a song that somehow became part of the plot. I'm not really a songwriter, but I'm pretty good at writing rhymes and poems, which are like songs without the music. So I was looking forward to trying my hand at writing a few good ol' country songs. But as I said, this proposal went nowhere, and poor Slim Stubby was consigned to the bottom of my desk drawer -- until now!
Tue, 04/30/2013

Big Nate, Big Books

A week ago, I told you a little bit about re-writing, and why it's an important step in the process of transforming a book from a rough draft into a finished product. But while the contents of a book might be the most important part, they're not the whole story. There are other parts to consider. In BIG NATE IN THE ZONE, there will be four pages of endpapers. There will be a two-page sneak peek about the next book. There will be a dedication page, a title page, and an "about the author" page. That pretty much takes care of the INSIDE of the book. But what about the OUTSIDE? What about the front cover, the spine, and the back cover?
 
I drew the front cover for IN THE ZONE months ago, because it's important for the publisher, HarperCollins, to have an image of the cover for catalogues, publicity, and so on. As you probably know, in a book series you want to make sure each book looks like part of the same "family." So each BN book has the same Big Nate logo and the same quote from Jeff Kinney appearing in a diagonal banner across the top. And each cover pose of Nate includes some sort of speech bubble from which he is jumping, leaping, or flipping. I don't want to give away what the cover looks like, but it's a typically active pose for Nate, and he's looking very determined!
 
I think the back covers are more fun to work on than the front. There are several elements: a "headline" at the top of the page, followed by some text and an accompanying drawing. Then there's a section drawn in Nate's hand that includes some "raves" about the book. And finally, there's another drawing of Nate at the bottom of the back cover, calling your attention to the NEXT book in the series. What you're seeing here is the drawing at the top of the back cover of BIG NATE IN THE ZONE. Nate's poised to start pounding away on his drums, while a boy walks by, giving him sort of a dirty look. That boy is an important part of IN THE ZONE...and so is Nate's band, Enslave the Mollusk. But that's all I'm telling you for now. No more hints!
 
Last but not least, there's the drawing that goes on the spine of the book.  The key thing here is remembering that I can't make the drawing too wide; otherwise, it won't fit on the spine.
 
And speaking of drawings, I completed a few recently that aren't for a book OR for the comic strip. They're going to be part of BIG NATE: THE MUSICAL. Only one week until I leave for Washington, DC to attend the world premiere!
Fri, 04/26/2013

Demand Action

Hi, everyone.
 
Some recent events here in New England have been very upsetting for those of us who want nothing more than to live in peace and safety in our communities. Sometimes in the aftermath of such events, a simple drawing or a cartoon can make people feel better. Or sometimes it might make them angry by pointing out a crime or injustice of some kind. Sometimes it might make them think about an issue for the first time, or in a new way.  
 
I am not a political cartoonist. But a few months ago, after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, I was asked to join a group of cartoonists and contribute a drawing to an organization called Demand Action, a campaign of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. I was very proud to do so, alongside friends and colleagues such as Stephan Pastis, Bill Amend, Jerry Scott, Ruben Bolling, Roz Chast, Mo Willems, Garry Trudeau, and many others. This is the drawing I made.
Tue, 04/23/2013

Writing and Rewriting!

Today I'm writing about writing. Or, more accurately, I'm writing about RE-WRITING. It's a process I kind of enjoy, so I'll tell you a little bit about it.
 
As I've explained in the past, I write each Big Nate book one chapter at a time. I assemble these chapters by typing the text on my computer, leaving blank spaces for the artwork, and then filling those spaces with rough drawings. Then I scan the pages and send them to the Three Musketeers of Harper Collins: Phoebe, Aly, and Jess. They provide notes on the chapter, pointing out where I might be able to trim a few words or suggesting that I re-write a sentence here or there to make it more clear. Once I read their notes, I make the necessary changes and re-submit the chapter. Which means the chapter's finished...right?
 
Well, not exactly. At this point, you see, the chapter still has not been typeset using the font we've used in every Big Nate book. The font I use on my computer is quite similar to the Big Nate font, but not identical. So it's inevitable that once a chapter is typeset, the text will look different from my first draft. Words may be hyphenated that weren't hyphenated before. Paragraphs might end up being too long or too short. There might be too much space -- or not enough space -- between words on a certain line. All of these are problems that need to be corrected. So, even though I've already done rewrites for each chapter, I have to do rewrites AGAIN once the chapters are typeset.
 
On the page you see here -- a rough draft from BIG NATE FLIPS OUT -- there were a couple of issues I needed to address:
  • I needed to get rid of the word "up" on the very first line because I'd used it already a couple of times just a page or two earlier. When the same word appears over and over again in a book, the text starts to seem boring and the story gets bogged down. I solved this problem by changing the line from Can we wrap this up now? to Can we move on?
  • I decided to take out an entire paragraph to the right of the first drawing. The paragraph wasn't important or funny enough to keep, so I decided to rewrite it. By doing that, I created more space for the artwork. As you can see, to the left of Mrs. Hickson, the librarian, I wrote "full body" -- meaning that when I did the finished drawing, I'd show her from head to toe instead of the head-and-shoulders shot you see here.
  • You never want the last word of a line to be "I." It looks sloppy. In this case, it was easy to just move the "I" down to the next line.
 
As I said, I sort of enjoy this kind of writing. All the hard work is done already, and it's usually just a matter of changing a word or two -- usually, but not always. The other day I was trying to rewrite a sentence in chapter 5 of BIG NATE IN THE ZONE. But I just couldn't compose a sentence that I thought was a.) funny enough, and b.)short enough to fit in the space I had. I brainstormed for two hours over a sentence that was only eight words long! Finally, I decided to sleep on it. The next morning, when I looked at it again, I came up with a sentence right away that was just what I was looking for.
 
Anyway, if you want to see what this rough page looks like in the finished book, just open your copy of BIG NATE FLIPS OUT to page 32!
Fri, 04/19/2013

Big Nate, Big Projects

Hi everyone,
 
Today is as good a time as any to give you updates on a few Big Nate projects.
  • WORLD RECORD COMIC STRIP - As you know, we're a couple of months into a year-long effort to set a world record for the longest comic strip ever! Next February, when I go on tour for Big Nate In The Zone, we are hoping to stage an event at which the record-breaking comic strip is assembled. But we'll need your help. Ask your teacher or librarian to visit the bignatebooks.com homepage and click on the "Break A World Record" button. That's where you'll find all the information you need about how you and your classmates can get involved. Wouldn't it be cool to be part of a real world record?
  • BIG NATE: THE MUSICAL- The Adventure Theatre Musical Theatre Center (ATMTC) has been around since the early 1950's and is acclaimed as one of the very best children's theaters in the country. During its long history the theater has produced its own versions of countless beloved shows, including original adaptations of beloved children's books like If You Give A Pig A Pancake and Lily's Purple Plastic Purse. Soon Big Nate will become a part of this great theatrical tradition in the Washington, DC area.  Big Nate: The Musical will have its world premiere next month, and will run from May 3rd to June 2nd at ATMTC.  
  • BIG NATE IN THE ZONE - I can finally say I'm at about the halfway point of Big Nate In The Zone. I've finished writing all twelve chapters (with just a couple of minor tweaks to make), and by next week I will have started doing the finished drawings. I can't tell you too much about the story, but maybe the drawing I'm showing you here can provide a few clues. This sketch is from the second-to-last chapter of the book. And obviously, Nate is cooking up some sort of scheme that's a secret known only to himself and Artur. But why do you suppose Nate and Artur are wearing the same shirt? And why does the shirt have a number 6 on it? Very mysterious, indeed!
Tue, 04/16/2013