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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Ultimate Showdown

Big Nate Fans! Have you been watching the Olympics OR reading Big Nate books? If you are like Teddy Ortiz, one of Nate's best friends, perhaps you have been keeping up with the Summer Olympics 2012. Teddy is a sports enthusiast and he knows all kinds of sports trivia. When P.S. 38 closes temporarily, Teddy and the kids at P.S. 38 start going to Jefferson Middle School, P.S 38's arch rival. At Jefferson, the students have state-of-the-art sports facilities - an indoor AND an outdoor track, a riding stable, an OLYMPIC sized indoor and outdoor pool; a badminton court, three archery ranges, indoor AND outdoor tennis courts. BUT, despite their amazing set up, who do you think is going to win the ULTIMATE SNOWDOWN: Nate and his P.S. 38 schoolmates or Nolan and the kids at Jefferson Middle School? KEEP COOL this summer by reading (or re-reading) BIG NATE GOES FOR BROKE.   

 
 
And don't forget to cast your vote for BIG NATE. Check out the comic page smackdown:
 
 
Phoebe
Guest blogger and Big Nate editor
Mon, 08/13/2012

Great Stone Face

Hello, Big Nate fans!
 
You may be wondering why there is a re-mastered photo of the Old Man of the Mountain, also known as Great Stone Face or the Profile in the Big Nate blog. I will tell you why.
 
A couple of months ago, we learned some wonderful news. BIG NATE: IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF, the first book in the Big Nate series had won the Great Stone Face Book Award. In April 2012, over 6000 readers in the 4th, 5th and sixth grades from all over New Hampshire cast their votes for their favorite book.And, thanks to them, once again, Nate was able to surpass all others.So, a big thank you to all the readers, teachers and librarians of New Hampshire!Did you know that Lincoln Peirce, the author of BIG NATE was raised in New Hampshire? So it’s super cool that the kids of New Hampshire are recognizing him and his book this way.
 
I was curious about how the award got its name. I live in New York City and we don't have anything like Great Stone Face in Manhattan! In my readings, I learned about face-like stone formations such as Great Stone Face and how someone first noticed the face profile resemblance in 1805. It's part of the White Mountains in Franconia Notch State Park: 1200 feet above Profile Lake, 40 feet tall, 25 feet wide. And, until its collapse in 2003, it had the outline of a man's face. As I was learning all these cool facts about Great Stone Face, I thought, "This is exactly the kind of trivia Nate's best friend Francis would know." For Far-Out Factoids from Francis, check out BIG NATE FUN BLASTER.(pp.78-79) 
 
Your guest blogger,
Phoebe, editor of the Big Nate books
Wed, 08/08/2012

Camp Sunshine

I'd like to tell you about a very special place I visited this weekend: CAMP SUNSHINE in Casco, Maine. It's a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their familes. It's a wonderful spot, right on the shore of Sebago Lake, but the scenery isn't what makes it special. It's the people who work and volunteer there, and the kids and families who spend week-long sessions there, that make Camp Sunshine a one-in-a-million place.

I had never been to the camp, but I'd heard and read a lot about it and thought there might be some kids there who were interested in doing a little cartooning. So this winter I sent some Big Nate books to the camp and asked if I could come visit with the kids. I'd like to thank Michael Smith, the director of special events, for making this happen. My wife and I arrived at the camp on Saturday at 1:00 and Michael gave us a grand tour of the entire place. There's so much to do there. The camp offers - among other things - indoor and outdoor swimming, a climbing wall, a basketball court, a mini golf course, all sorts of wonderful art options...the list is almost endless. It was very impressive.

I spoke with two groups of kids - 9 to 12 year-olds, and 6 to 8 year-olds. These are all children who are undergoing treatment for some form of life-threatening illness. I spent an hour with each group, and then they were off to their next activity. There's a lot to do at Camp Sunshine!

Thanks very much to Michael's summer intern, Chantal, and also his two kids, Colby and Caitlyn, for helping out. It was a great afternoon, and I'm already looking forward to my next visit!

BIG NATE FLIPS OUT UPDATE: Done with chapter 5.

BLOG NEWS: Because of a family trip, I won't be writing a blog entry for the next week. But there will be at least one guest blogger, and maybe more. So keep reading!Mon, 08/06/2012

Nate's Family

Just a short entry today, because it's already way past my bedtime. In fact, it's not even today anymore. It's tomorrow.

In a little less than three weeks, a new collection of Big Nate comic strips will go on sale. It's called BIG NATE: HERE GOES NOTHING. And if you think that you've met all the characters in Nate's world by reading the chapter books, you've got a surprise coming to you! This book, which includes daily and Sunday strips from 2008 and 2009, includes a number of characters who don't appear in the chapter books. In this picture are three examples: Nate's grandparents, Vern and Marge, and Nate's uncle Ted.

I'd introduced these characters, very briefly, in earlier strips a few years earlier, but in the summer of 2008 I wrote a long storyline about Nate painting his grandparents' house. He goes to live with them for a few weeks, and somehow manages to complete the painting job despite the complete uselessness of Uncle Ted (a grown man who still lives at home with his parents). I enjoyed these characters so much that I've written other stories for them since then. You might notice some similarities to characters you already know. Gramps is like an 80 year-old Nate, and Uncle Ted is somewhat reminiscent of School Picture Guy. As for Nate's grandmother, she's an original. There's nobody quite like her elsewhere in the strip.

BIG NATE FLIPS OUT update: I'm on page 88 and got 4 full pages done today. Hoping for another 4 tomorrow!Thu, 08/02/2012

Learning History from Cartoons!

I've always been interested in history and I attribute that interest, in no small part, to the work of one of my favorite cartoonists: Francis W. Dahl. I've written about the talented Mr. Dahl in this blog before, but just to refresh your memory: he drew cartoons for the Boston Herald in the 1930's, 40's and 50's. They weren't comic strips, exactly, and they weren't editorial cartoons, either. Most of them were affectionate commentaries on the events of the day, large and small, and their effect on the people of New England. And because so many of his cartoons were penned while World War 2 was raging, it's only natural that the war effort became one of his frequent topics. Here's an example.

The caption reads: All-male group sews for Sherborn Red Cross. As a young boy reading this cartoon in the early 1970's, I had no idea what it meant, except that Sherborn was the name of a town in Massachusetts. But I figured it had something to do with the war - and, in fact, it does. A group of women, some dressed in military uniforms and others dressed for assembly line work, wave goodbye to their husbands in the first panel. They're off to their jobs. This reflects what was going on during that time. Before World War 2, very few women worked outside the home. But with so many able-bodied men fighting overseas, women contributed to the war effort by working on assembly lines, joining the armed services, and so on. This meant that some of the tasks that had traditionally been done by women fell to the men - not the men who were off fighting the war, but the ones who were too old to do so. (Don't the fellows in this cartoon look like they're past their prime?) In this case, that task was sewing for the Red Cross. The Red Cross, I learned, provided all sorts of supplies and services for soldiers - especially wounded soldiers. Someone who was sewing for the Red Cross during World War 2 would have been helping produce cloth bandages, blankets, socks, and so on. In Dahl's cartoon, these middle-aged or older men, who are undoubtedly quite accomplished in their various professions, are expected to do the sewing — and they clearly have no idea what they're doing.

This is a typical Dahl cartoon. He was stateside himself, living and working in Boston, so his cartoons about soldiers in Europe and the Pacific weren't as common as those about folks he was more familiar with: the men and women of New England who were contributing on the home front. This meant that, as I read these cartoons, I received a crash course in some of that history and learned about things that were completely foreign to me: victory gardens, gasoline and rubber rationing, blackouts, war bond drives, etc.

So the next time your teacher tells you to stop reading cartoons in class, you can say that you're actually studying history!Mon, 07/30/2012

BUSTED!

Today I received a package from my friends at Harper Collins. This isn't an unusual occurrence by any means; they send me quite a few packages, oftentimes several per week. And they always let me know in advance exactly what they're sending, so that a.) I'll know what to expect, and b.) I can alert them if something doesn't arrive when it's supposed to. So it almost never happens that I'm surprised by the contents of a package from Harper. But today I was.

In this package were, among other things, two Big Nate jigsaw puzzles and one Big Nate card game. It's called "Busted," and the picture you see here is the exterior packaging of the game. My card-playing expertise pretty much begins and ends with "Go Fish," but I'm looking forward to learning how to play "Busted." It'ss for players age 7 and up, so I guess I qualify.

Here's the description of the game on the back of the package:

Big Nate: BUSTED! The Note Passing Card Game

Nate and his friends get into trouble when they pass notes in school, but in this fast-paced card game passing the most notes could make you the winner!

Based on the bestselling Big Nate book series, this card game takes a lot of bluffing (Nate is good at that!) and a little bit of luck.

Sounds like fun! And the jigsaw puzzles look great, too!

Quick Big Nate Flips Out update: I'm on page 72 now, which means I'm just about exactly 33% of the way through. I should finish chapter 4 by Friday. So far, so good!Thu, 07/26/2012

Crowned Pineapple

Today's question comes from Shari, who wrote to ask me: What is on the front of Randy Betancourt's shirt?

Well, Shari, it's a pineapple with a crown on it. That's the "what" part of the answer. But there's a "why" part, too.

Soon after I moved to New York City in 1985, I saw a restaurant with an unusual name: Papaya King. I was familiar with papayas from my time spent in Hawaii, so I was intrigued. It turned out that Papaya King had two specialties: hot dogs and tropical drinks. The food was okay, but what I really liked was the logo. It was a smiling papaya wearing a crown.

Soon after that, I was absent-mindedly doodling one day, and I found myself drawing little ovals with crowns on top of them. But instead of drawing a face on the ovals, I started drawing horizontal zigzag lines. They made the ovals look less like papayas and more like pineapples. I guess I must have liked the ovals better that way, because ever since, little pineapples with crowns have been showing up in my drawings.

So when I created the character of Randy Betancourt many years later, I drew on the front of his shirt the first thing that came to mind: my little crowned pineapple. You may be wondering: why put anything on his shirt at all? Why not just leave it blank? Well, I am always looking for ways to make my drawings more interesting, and I think that shirts with something on the front look better than plain shirts. Francis has an "F" on his shirt, Teddy has a black circle, Chad has a smiley face, and Randy has his pineapple. Nate has nothing, but I think the two-tone color scheme of his trademark shirt is interesting enough. Don't you?

Mon, 07/23/2012

Docoding Handwriting

Quick, before you read this entry, try to read the handwriting in the picture shown here.

A couple of weeks ago, I was flipping through the manuscript for chapters 1-4 of Big Nate Flips Out. In addition to the text and the rough artwork I mentioned in my last blog entry, there's another important part of a manuscript: the handwritten notes from my editor(s) at Harper Collins. There was a small sticky note attached to one of the pages, and I couldn't decipher my editor's handwriting. So I emailed her and asked for clarification, which she was happy to provide, along with a completely unnecessary apology for not writing more legibly. But she had nothing to apologize for; in general, I find her handwriting easy to read. Besides, I have no right to find fault with other people's penmanship when mine is often so terrible.

I CAN write neatly, of course. It's pretty much a job requirement for a cartoonist. But when I'm writing notes to myself, as I've done in the example shown here, I can get pretty sloppy. This is a piece of a page from one of my mini-notebooks from a few years back. I was working on a Sunday page about Nate trying to get Mr. Galvin to laugh. The strip ended up featuring Gina along with Nate and Mr. Galvin; but at this early stage, I was writing dialogue for Nate and Francis. Here's what it says:

Francis: What's up?
Nate: I'm stumped. / I've been trying all week to get Mr. Galvin to laugh, but it's IMPOSSIBLE! / I've told him every joke I know! Every riddle! / ...and still NOTHING! The man's made of stone!
Francis: I can get him to laugh!

Is that what you thought it said? Or were you completely baffled by my handwriting? Sometimes, when I look years later at something I've written, I have trouble reading it; but in this case, the only word that gave me a little trouble was "still." And besides, does it really matter whether or not my writing in my notebooks is messy? I'm the only one who has to be able to read it!

Thu, 07/19/2012

Corrections

How about a little math?

There’s a fair amount of measuring — and measuring is math, after all — when I’m doing the finished art for a Big Nate book.  Most of the time that doesn’t present any problems, but occasionally I make a mistake and then have to spend quite a bit of time correcting it.  That’s what happened yesterday.

When I’m working on the finished drawings, my “guide” is a manuscript of the book that includes the text, which has been typeset, and my rough art.  If I’ve done a good job during the rough draft phase, then the drawings fit nicely in the spaces provided, and doing a finished version of a rough sketch is pretty straightforward:  the finished drawing is exactly twice the size of the rough.  The picture you see here is a rough sketch from chapter 3 of Big Nate Flips Out, and it’s 4 inches wide and 4-and-a-half inches tall.  Simple enough; that means the finished drawing should be 8 inches wide and 9 inches tall.  So I dutifully drew the outside border of an 8x9 box and started work on my drawing.

Here’s where I made my mistake:  while measuring and drawing that 8x9 box, I’d rotated my pad of paper by 90 degrees; and I forgot to rotate it back.  That meant that instead of making a drawing that was taller than it was wide, I mistakenly made a drawing that was wider than it was tall.  It’s a mistake I never would have made on a drawing in which the dimensions were noticeably different, like 4x8.  But believe it or not, a box that is 9 inches wide and 8 inches high looks an awful lot like one that’s 8 inches wide and 9 inches high.  So I did the whole drawing, which took about 2-and-a-half hours, and realized only when I was finished that I’d made a mistake.  The drawing was the wrong size. Of course, I wasn’t happy.

But all was not lost!  I quickly determined that, with a little creative cutting and pasting, I could make the drawing the right size without having to draw it all over again.  I won’t bore you with the details of exactly what I did, or all the math that was involved; the bottom line is that the finished drawing is not a single piece of paper, but is instead four different pieces of paper fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle.  (In the end, it might have been more time-efficient to just re-draw it, but I just couldn’t bear to do it.)  Anyway, when you read Big Nate Flips Out next February, keep an eye out for this drawing.  It’s on page 53, and now you know that it took more effort (and more measuring) than any other drawing in the book — so far!

Mon, 07/16/2012

Sound FX

A while back, I blogged about sound effects - or one sound effect in particular: DOOF, which I like to use when Nate gets hit in the head with something like a notebook or a soccer ball. Sound effects do a lot more than simply reinforce whatever action is going on in a drawing; in the best cases, they can make a drawing significantly more funny, especially if the cartoonist is creative when it comes to inventing sound effects. Well, one cartoonist stands head and shoulders above all others in this regard: the late, great Don Martin, of "Mad" magazine.

"Mad" is still around today; Don Martin, unfortunately, is not. He died in 2000. But his work was a huge part of "Mad" for over thirty years. I discovered him when I first saw "Mad," in about 1972 or '73. Unfortunately, my father chose that particular moment, for virtually the only time in his life, to flip through what I was reading. He thought the humor in "Mad" was too crude for a 9 or 10 year-old boy, so he took away my "Mad" -- which, of course, only made me want to read it more.

And the #1 reason I wanted to read it was Don Martin. I loved his drawing style, his flair for slapstick, his outrageous puns, his B-movie plots...but there was nothing better than his sound effects. They were utterly original. Take a look at this drawing, which is from a story called "One Spring Day." I'm sure there are other cartoonists who had used BRATATAT to punctuate the sound of a jackhammer...but what other cartoonist would employ SHOOKA SHOOKA, SHKLORK, and ZOWNT? And in one drawing, no less! Every Don Martin story included great sound effects. In the same collection that contained "One Spring Day" is another story called "Star Struck Over Brooklyn." In one of the panels, a down-on-his luck entertainer tap dances on stage. Here are the sounds his feet make: SHIP-TIPPIDY TIPPIDY-TAP, SHAPADA-PAPADA SHIPADA-SHAP! That's great stuff.

And now it's time to tippidy-tap off to bed. More next time!Thu, 07/12/2012