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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B.C. Comics

Time to return to my childhood library of comic books and compilations for a look at another strip I really admired as a kid: B.C., by Johnny Hart. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to meet Johnny before he passed away in 2007; by that time, he'd been writing and drawing B.C. for nearly fifty years. Whenever I feel like Big Nate's been around a long time, I remind myself that it hasn't lasted even HALF as long as strips like B.C. and Peanuts!

Anyway, in case you're not familiar with B.C. - which is still being published daily, by the way, thanks to the talents of Johnny's grandsons - here's a quick primer. It's a classic gag-a-day strip which is set in prehistoric times. All the characters are either cavemen, cavewomen, or animals of various stripes. Those featured most prominently are: B.C., the title character, who's sort of a dim-witted and sweet-natured everyman; Peter, a cro-magnon philosopher; Thor, an inventor; and Wiley, a peg-legged poet who's afraid of water and women.

This particular collection of B.C. strips, Right On, was published in February 1973. I received it as a gift for my 10th birthday in October of that year - which I remember not because my 10th birthday is seared into my brain, but because my mother always wrote my name on the inside cover of my books, along with the date I either bought or received them. I was always losing things, and she obviously determined that there was a better chance my stuff would be returned if my name was written all over it. Good thinking.

Getting back to B.C... One of the things I always liked about it was how loose the drawing style was. That was important to me, because even at age 10 I'd already figured out that I just didn't have the chops to draw in a super-realistic way. I might have enjoyed Spider-Man and B.C. in equal measure, but B.C. was much more accessible because of the way it looked. I could imagine myself drawing something like B.C., but not anything remotely like Spider-Man.

By the way, the two characters on the cover shown here are B.C. on the left and Wiley on the right. Both the title and the fact that the characters are "slapping five" definitely scream 1970's...as does the purchase price of 60 cents!Mon, 07/09/2012

Young Cartoonists

Hi, everyone.  I hope those of you who celebrated Independence Day on Wednesday had a wonderful time.  I wasn’t able to see any fireworks this year, and some thunderstorms here in Maine put a bit of a damper on things, but I still enjoyed the holiday.

The world needs more cartoonists, in my own humble opinion.  And most of the cartoonists I’ve met got their start when they were quite young.  The drawing you see here is by one of those young up-and-coming cartoonists.  His name’s Demetrius, and I actually see quite a bit of him because his sister and my daughter are basketball teammates.  During games (and yes, even though basketball is a winter sport, there are games in the summertime, too!), Demetrius is always working on his latest comic creation.  He makes his own comic books — the one he was working on last weekend was about a teenage werewolf — and he’s clearly an extremely talented and hard-working young man.  I haven’t seen any stories yet featuring the new character he’s drawn here
“Claws” but I look forward to it.  Keep up the great work, Demetrius!

I’m not sure anyone’s as hard-working as Demetrius, but I’m trying to keep up with him.  I have just one drawing left in chapter 2 of Big Nate Flips Out.  So I’m chipping away at it.  I’ll continue to keep you posted on my progress.

Two more pieces of info:  it’s been years since I’ve written any strips about chess, but I’m working on some now.  They’ll appear in your local newspaper and on gocomics.com in October.  And this particular storyline co-stars a character who has NOT been part of any chess strips in the past.  

Also:  if you’re going on a trip this summer and need a way to pass the time during those long car or plane rides, you’ll be happy to know that Big Nate Fun Blaster went on sale this week.  It’s full of games, puzzles, and all sorts of fun drawing activities.  Check it out!

Thu, 07/05/2012

Ancient History

It's always nice when I run into a friend or neighbor who is kind enough to say: "I really liked today's strip!" Everyone enjoys a little positive feedback once in awhile. The problem I sometimes have when this happens, though, is that I usually can't remember what specific strip they're talking about.

There are two reasons for that. The first is: when someone pays a compliment, I often haven't looked at the newspaper yet that day. I sometimes don't get around to looking at the paper carefully (and that includes reading the comics section, of course) until lunchtime or later. The same is true of gocomics.com, which I usually monitor two or three times a day to see what comments people have made on the Big Nate page. So there are plenty of occasions when - early in the day, at least - I have no idea what "Big Nate" is about, even though I'm the one who wrote and drew it.

Which brings me to part 2 of the explanation: the strip that you're seeing today in your local newspaper, or at gocomics.com, is one that I drew about three months ago. Almost as soon as I finish a strip, I try to put it out of my mind because I want to concentrate on thinking of new ideas. So even if the friend or neighbor reminds me about the strip they're talking about, I STILL might not remember it right away - because it's 3 months old! When I did the drawing you see here, which begins a storyline about Nate having a yard sale during summer vacation, it wasn't summer at all. It was very early Spring. That's ancient history.

Actually, there might be one more reason I sometimes can't remember what a certain day's strip is about: my memory is starting to get lousier as I get older. That's all for today. I'll blog again on Wednesday night - if I remember to!Mon, 07/02/2012

Big Nate Books & Comics

The other day, I was interviewed by a very nice woman over the telephone, and she asked me this question: How do you divide your time between the Big Nate books and the Big Nate comic strip? I thought I'd share with you the answer I gave her; after that, I'll give you a quick progress report on Big Nate Flips Out.

My work week starts on Monday morning, after I get home from volunteering at the radio station. (If you're interested in vintage country music, you can listen in every Monday, 8:30 - 10:30 am Eastern Standard Time, at http://www.wmpg.org.) If I'm on schedule, I will have submitted a week's worth of BN strips AND written my twice-weekly blog entry on Sunday night. That means, ideally, that I have four days - Monday through Thursday - to work ONLY on whatever BN book I'm writing at the moment. At the moment, I'm doing the final drawings for Flips Out. My goal each day is to complete 3 pages - that's usually 6 or 7 drawings. Some drawings take only an hour, but those are the exceptions. Most of them take two hours or more. Of course, a day during which I do nothing but draw is a rarity. There are always other things to take care of, like my Wednesday night blog entry, walking the dog, mowing the lawn, answering emails, and so on. I'm also teaching my daughter to drive this summer, which is going well so far. Of course, so far she's only driven in a parking lot and a cemetery.

Once Friday rolls around, I turn my attention to the comic strip. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are my comic strip days. Over the course of those three days, I need to write and draw 6 daily strips and one Sunday page. Then I have to colorize the Sunday page using photoshop, which takes about two hours. If I'm lucky, and I'm able to think of a lot of good gags fairly quickly, then it's not out of the question for me to do 4, 5, or even 6 strips in just a day. But that never happens. More commonly, I'm able to do 3 on Friday, 3 on Saturday, and the Sunday page on Sunday.

That sounds like quite a bit of work, but if you're fortunate enough to really enjoy your job, you don't mind working long days. And, over the years, I've learned to manage my time pretty efficiently, so that there's even room for some time off every now and then. This past Sunday we visited my parents in New Hampshire, and tomorrow (Friday) I'm driving to Massachusetts to visit with some friends from high school, one of whom I haven't seen in twenty years.

Big Nate Flips Out Progress Report: The picture you see here is part of a larger drawing on page 28 of the book. I'm proceeding in order, so that means I've completed 28 pages out of a total of 216. So I'm about 13% done - or maybe 12%, since those 216 pages don't include the endpapers, which are always quite detailed. As you can see from the drawing, somebody - not Nate - is saying "why not?" Without giving anything away, I can tell you that the person saying it is the school librarian, Mrs. Hickson. And the other people in the larger part of the drawing - besides Nate and Mrs. Hickson - are Francis and Gina. Any idea what might be going on?

Thu, 06/28/2012

Shootout!

If you're a soccer fan, you probably know that Euro 2012, the European Championship, is being contested this month. I watched today's quarterfinal match between England and Italy, which was eventually won by Italy on penalty kicks after 120 scoreless minutes of regulation play and overtime. I'm not a huge fan of determining the outcome of a match by using what we sometimes call a "shootout," but there's no denying it makes for some high drama. And, of course, the two goalkeepers are at the very center of the action.

Well, Big Nate plays goalie for P.S. 38, and, as I may have written before, he's been the central figure in his own shootout drama. It was a storyline I created in the comic strip back in 2008, and revisited earlier this year in Big Nate Goes For Broke: Nate and his classmates are temporarily relocated to P.S. 38's rival, Jefferson Middle School. In the book, this happens because of a sprinkler system malfunction at P.S. 38 during a school dance, and the tension between the two schools climaxes with a snow sculpture contest. But in the original comic strip storyline, it's toxic mold at P.S. 38 that sends the students and teachers to Jefferson. And since the comic strip story happens during the fall and not the winter, it's not a snow sculpture contest but a soccer match that settles things - a soccer match that is decided by a shootout! (If you don't know what happens, I'm not going to tell you here, because those strips are going to be included in a future Big Nate comics compilation.)

When I started writing the Big Nate chapter books, I thought that perhaps I might be able to build on certain themes from the comic strip to use as book ideas. This storyline is a clear example of what I mean: a much shorter version of the P.S. 38 - Jefferson rivalry story appeared originally in the strip, and I thought it was the perfect candidate to migrate to one of the books. In the book format, I could go into more detail about the rivalry, introduce some new characters (like Dee Dee and Nolan), and add other pieces to give the story more depth. I'm sure I'll continue to do this in the future, because there have been plenty of times I've wanted storylines to last longer in the strip...but I've had to cut them short, because it can be difficult to hold reader's attention over the course of a 5 or 6 or 10 month storyline. That's one consideration. Another is that it's tough to think of an entirely new story for a book that I haven't already explored, at least briefly, in the strip. Nate gets a girlfriend? Nate goes to chess camp? Nate starts a band? Nate job-shadows School Picture Guy? Nate runs for class president? Nate performs magic at a talent show? I've done strips about all those things. Think any of them would make a good book?

 

Mon, 06/25/2012

Coding and Decoding

Back when I was writing the first Big Nate book, Big Nate: In A Class By Himself, I did something that I didn't realize would become an important part of all the books to come. On page 18, I made a drawing of one of Nate's notebook pages - a page that was supposed to be filled with his social studies notes, but was instead covered with doodles, cartoons...and an alphabet written in code. As a kid, I was interested in codes. I saw them frequently in activity books, kids' mystery novels like the Encyclopedia Brown books, and even Bazooka Joe comics that came in packets of bubble gum. So it seemed logical that a kid like Nate would make up a code in his notebook. I used the code in the Book 1 endpapers, and realized that it would be fun to somehow include the code in some of Nate's comics in Book 2. That led to Nate's code showing up in Big Nate Strikes Again in several different locations. The next time I went on a book tour, I started to hear from kids how much they enjoyed decoding the messages.

Clearly it made sense to continue featuring a secret code in each book...but I didn't want to use the same code I'd already used in the first two novels. So for Book 3, Big Nate On A Roll, I created another code. It appears several times in Book 3 and again in Book 4, Big Nate Goes For Broke.

It seemed that each code had a shelf life of two books...so you know what that means, right? It means that I've created a new code for Book 5, Big Nate Flips Out. It's a very important part of the first chapter; in fact, there's an entire page in chapter 1 that's written almost entirely in code. In the picture shown here, I'm asking a question in code. But here's the challenging part: I'm not going to supply the alphabet key. It's up to you to see if you can decode the question on your own, using logic and deductive reasoning. It's difficult, but IT CAN BE DONE! Good luck!Thu, 06/21/2012

Kids & Drawing

You're probably reading this on Monday, but I'm writing it on Sunday night - the evening of Father's Day. I just spent a very nice day with my family, and that's probably why I'm posting this picture - because it reminds me of time spent with my children. It's a drawing I did alongside a copy that my daughter Dana made, probably when she was about 6 or 7 years old. Some of my favorite drawings are ones that kids - ALL kids, not just my own - make when they're young and learning to draw. Copying is a huge part of that process; I've written before about the hours I spent as a boy copying pictures of Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

This isn't Charlie Brown OR Snoopy, of course. It's a character named Uncle Gus. I've told you about Uncle Gus before - he's the one who was part of a couple of cartoons I wrote for Cartoon Network years ago. I think Dana was fond of the Uncle Gus cartoons because of one character in particular - Gus's horse, Flapjack. (Dana has always loved horses.) In this drawing, Gus is wearing a cowboy outfit. That wasn't his usual wardrobe; normally, he walked around in boxer shorts and a t-shirt.

Back then, both our kids did a lot of drawing. Almost all kids go through at least a brief phase when they draw all the time. Dana drew horses, and Elias drew elaborate designs he called his "Ukrainian Easter eggs." But as they grew up, their interests broadened, and they left drawing behind for the most part. Which is fine with me. Kids need to find their own way, and besides - one cartoonist in the family is plenty!

Mon, 06/18/2012

Comic Strip Characters

Big Nate's the same kid in the chapter books as he is in the comic strip...but that doesn't mean the two worlds are identical. There are some parts of - and characters from - the chapter books that I have no plans to bring into the comic strip. And the reverse is also true - maybe moreso, since there's over 21 years worth of material in the comic strip. That's a lot of storylines and a lot of characters! So for strictly practical reasons, I couldn't possibly take ALL the characters who've ever appeared in the comic strip and put them in the chapter books - there's not enough room. But there are other considerations, too. In some cases, I think that certain characters from the comic strip just wouldn't work as well in the books.

Take Peter, for instance. Peter is a first grade boy, and Nate is his "book buddy." Book buddies are older students who mentor younger ones and help them with their reading. But there's not much help Nate can offer Peter, because Peter happens to be a genius who is already reading at the college level. (In this particular strip, Peter is reading George Bernard Shaw's play, "Man And Superman.") And even though he's five years younger, Peter is more mature than Nate is. So it chafes Peter when Nate is in a position of authority - like book buddy or babysitter.

I really enjoy writing jokes and storylines about Peter in the comic strip - but I have no plans to bring him into the books. I think gags about a first-grade genius and his frustration with Nate are funny in short bursts, but I can't picture trying to sustain it over an entire book, or even a few chapters. Plus &- as you may have noticed in the picture - Peter has a minor speech impediment. He has a "slushy" way of speaking, so instead of "interested," he says "intereshted." This works okay in speech bubbles, but I think it would be quite distracting to read in text form.

Other strip characters who will likely never appear in a Big Nate chapter book are: Nate's former girlfriends, Angie and Kelly; Mr. Haney, a substitute music teacher; Nate's grandparents, Vern and Marge (although I might change my mind about those two); and Marcus, a school bully.

In a future blog, perhaps I'll discuss the other side of the coin: characters I've created specifically for the chapter books, and why they may or may not appear in the strip!

 

Thu, 06/14/2012

Man Finds Bike

The quest is over!

You probably don't remember this, but last August in this blog, I mentioned that I was looking for a bicycle. About 15 years ago, I had a red Bridgestone bicycle that I loved, and it was stolen from our garage. I've had a couple of bikes since then, but I never really liked either of them. So last summer, I decided I was going to start looking in earnest for a bike that would be a worthy successor to my beloved Bridgestone. I'm not talking about a new bike. I decided I wanted to find a vintage bike (I think older bikes are better-looking than newer models), and then make whatever modifications it needed for good riding. By October I still hadn't found anything, so I suspended my quest for the winter and then resumed this spring.

Well, two weeks ago, I found my bike. On craigslist. It's the first time I've ever bought anything on craigslist.

There wasn't much descriptive information listed in the craigslist posting, and the pictures weren't very good. But I recognized the bike as a Fuji touring cycle from the mid-1980's. So I called the number, learned that the bike was only a 20 minute drive away, and arranged to go look at it. Happily, it was in very good condition. Even more happily, it was the right frame size for me. So as soon as I hopped on the bike and took it for a trial ride, I knew I was going to buy it.

The next stop was Port City Bikes, where bike mechanics extraordinaire Pete and Mitch made the aforementioned modifications: swapped out the drop handlebars for uprights, replaced the shifters and brake levers, put a new leather seat on it, and changed the skinny road tires to slightly thicker ones better suited to around-town riding. The one thing I thought I might do that I eventually decided against was repainting the frame. I like bikes that are red, orange, or black.  But the pewter-gray color of my bike is growing on me. So for now, I'll leave it as is. I might paint the fenders red, though.

How's that for a happy ending? Man finds bike. As I've written before, though, bikes are among the items I have a lot of difficulty drawing. So I won't be drawing my Fuji anytime soon -- just riding it!

Mon, 06/11/2012

Big Nate at BEA

Just a very short entry today. I am at LaGuardia Airport in New York City (where I blogged from back in April when I was finishing up the Big Nate Goes For Broke book tour), and don't have a ton of time before my flight is scheduled to depart.

Today, for the second time in my life, I attended (Book Expo America) in New York City, where countless thousands of authors, editors, publishers, librarians, bookstore owners, etc. gather each year for a ginormous convention. When an author attends, it's usually because he or she is promoting a book -- perhaps one recently published, or perhaps one soon to be published. In my case, it was a little of both. I signed copies of Big Nate Goes For Broke -- which is only two-and-a-half months old, after all -- and posters promoting Big Nate Makes The Grade, coming in August. I met a ton of librarians, many of whom were planning to give away copies of the book or the poster as prizes for their summer reading programs.

 

A very nice benefit of attending BEA is being able to spend a little time with some other authors and cartoonists who are also there. I saw the great Mo Willems, author of the Knuffle Bunny and Elephant and Piggy books, among others. I hung out with three cartoonists I'm getting to know better: Stefan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Bill Amend (Fox Trot), and Mark Tatulli (Lio and Heart of the City. It is always great to see these gents and swap stories

 

And it's ALSO great to see all my friends from Harper Collins and Andrews McMeel, both publishers of Big Nate books. Thank you to everyone for making this whirlwind trip to New York so enjoyable.

 

And now it's time to get to work on the FINAL ART for Big Nate Flips Out.That will take me the better part of the next 4 months.I'll give you periodic updates!

Thu, 06/07/2012