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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Claire Voyant

While you're waiting for the next chapter book, Big Nate Flips Out, to arrive at your local bookstore or library, you can pass the time with some OTHER Big Nate titles that will be coming your way this summer and fall. Big Nate Fun Blaster, the latest Big Nate activity book, will be published in July. In August, Big Nate Makes The Grade, a comic compilation, will follow. And in October Big Nate: All Work And No Play, a treasury of Sunday comics in FULL COLOR, will go on sale.

In helping to make selections for these comic strip collections, I've been looking at some strips that I haven't read in many years. It reminds me of just how frequently I used to feature Nate's own comic creations - his notebook drawings on lined paper - in the comic strip. The characters you've met in the chapter books, like Doctor Cesspool and Moe Mentum, Hollywod Stunt Man, were originally introduced in the comic strip. But those two are just the tip of the iceberg. Some of Nate's other comic creations were The Snuggles Family, an impossibly wholesome but dysfunctional clan, Biff Biffwell and Chip Chipson, a couple of inept TV personalities, Superdad, the world's only bald superhero with a slight paunch, and Dan Cupid, a diaper-wearing matchmaker who flies around shooting people with love darts.

The picture you see here is the beginning of a Sunday page in which Chip Chipson conducts one in an ongoing series of celebrity interviews, this one with psychic Claire Voyant. Claire was not an ongoing character; back then, I sometimes featured one-time-only characters on Sundays. The "story" of this Sunday page is that Chip asks Claire to make some predictions for Nate's upcoming school year. After Claire predicts triumph after triumph (remember, it's NATE drawing these comics, after all!), she then receives a psychic vision of a number. A two-digit number. A LOW two-digit number. In the final panel, we jump from Nate's notebook doodlings back to the real world, where Mrs. Godfrey is handing back a social studies test. Nate's score is a 12. A low two-digit number, just as Claire Voyant predicted!

I no longer feature Nate's notebook drawings in the comic strip, because they can be too difficult to read when printed on a tiny newspaper comics page. But don't worry, there will be plenty of comics to come in future Big Nate novels!

Mon, 06/04/2012

The Buddy System

I wasn't really sure what to write about in today's entry. I spent most of my day cementing a pole in the ground (it's going to be a basketball hoop for our daughter) and taking a used bicycle I recently bought on craigslist to my favorite local bike shop to be tuned. Not much to write about there.

So I decided to take a look at the bulletin board in my office to see if that would spark any ideas. Actually, I have TWO bulletin boards: the small one over my desk, and a larger one which takes up a lot more room on the wall to the left of my desk. And there I found a picture of a project I worked on a long time ago that never really went anywhere. It was called "The Buddy System," and it was a very early attempt at computer animation. But it didn't start as an animated project. Like many of my ideas, it began as a comic strip idea.

At the time (this was over 15 years ago), I was drawing Big Nate - but I thought it would be fun to draw TWO comic strips. So I started submitting ideas, and one of them was called "The Buddy System." The main character was Buddy, a lovable but very immature bachelor living in New York City. He had a roommate named Howie who was sort of Buddy's opposite in many ways. Their relationship was a lot like the one between Nate and Francis. Buddy was fun-loving and didn't take himself too seriously. Howie was much more uptight.

"The Buddy System" never received any serious consideration for publication, but it caught the attention of an up-and-coming animation company called GLC Productions. GLC turned some of my Buddy System strips into a 3D cartoon. The picture you see here shows Buddy, on the left, shooting a nerf basketball in the crummy apartment he shares with Howie. I haven't watched the cartoon for many years, but at the time, I remember there were a lot of technical issues that made the animation very challenging. The animation you see nowadays, in movies like "Tintin" or the upcoming "Brave,"is light years away from what we were doing. And of course, the fact that we were translating a 2-dimensional comic strip into a 3D cartoon presented a lot of problems, too. That's one reason I'd never want to animate Big Nate in 3D. Can you imagine Nate's hair in three dimensions?

 

Thu, 05/31/2012

Sneak Peaks

Recognize this picture? If you've read Big Nate Goes For Broke, you know it's a drawing from the sneak peek in the back of the book. The sneak peek is intended to give readers an idea of what the next book is going to be about. But writing a sneak peak can be a bit challenging, because - as I might have explained before, I have trouble remembering what I've written about in past entries - you must write the sneak peek before you've actually started writing the book itself. So there's the very real possibility that the book you end up writing might not very closely resemble the sneak peek you wrote!

In this case - the sneak peek for book #5, Big Nate Flips Out - it's looking like I was fortunate: the book is going to be pretty much in line with the sneak peek. But that doesn't mean there aren't a few differences! The story is about Nate's problem with messiness, and his eventual decision to get hypnotized in an effort to become neater. In this drawing, Nate is flipping out because he doesn't enjoy being neat, and Francis, in an effort to encourage him, says "you're doing great!" When I wrote the sneak peak, I thought Francis and Nate would be going through this experience side-by-side and that Francis, as Nate's best friend, would be his support system and #1 cheerleader. But now that I only have one chapter left to write, I can tell you that's not exactly the case. The Nate/Francis dynamic is a very important part of the book, but not in quite the way I thought back when I wrote the sneak peek.

Soon, believe it or not, I'll have to write the sneak peek for book #6, which is going to be called Big Nate In The Zone. And I don't have the foggiest idea of what it will be about. I'm just going to make it up as I go along, and hope for the best!

 

Tue, 05/29/2012

A Championship for Yaz

Just a short entry today, I’m afraid. My dear wife has been out of town for almost a week, and there are a number of household chores I need to take care of tonight before it gets any later!

Last time I talked about my collection of Red Sox yearbooks and how I used them as a resource when drawing pictures of, and cartoons about, ballplayers. Those cartoons inevitably were about dramatic Red Sox games (sometimes real, but mostly imagined), and many of them starred my all-time favorite Red Sox player (and one of the three members of my personal pantheon of greatness, along with Charles Schulz and Bobby Orr), the Hall of Fame left fielder Carl Yastrzemski.

Yaz was not a hero in the charismatic sense.  In fact, he almost never looked like he was having any fun out there. He also had the misfortune of never winning a championship in his 23-year career. So maybe I felt it was my responsibility to create comics in which he succeeded in spectacular fashion.

Here's my critique of this drawing, roughly 35 years after the fact: it actually looks a little bit like Yaz. There's the big nose, the grim expression, and the somewhat hunched-over posture as he walks to the plate. But there are a few problems too, of course. I neglected to draw a line separating his right hand from the bat he's holding, so it looks as if the bat is growing out of his fist. I also never really finished drawing his left hand, which is sort of disappearing behind his leg. And his calves appear to be larger than his head. That's not usually the case for most people.

As you might expect, this comic ends with Yaz hitting a grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to win the World Series for the Red Sox. Wishful thinking!

 

Thu, 05/24/2012

Yearbook Influences

I've been writing this blog for a couple of years now and have devoted several entries to some of the books, comic strips, and cartoons that influenced me when I was young. Earlier today, as I listened to my beloved Boston Red Sox on the radio (they beat the Phillies, 5-1), it occurred to me that I've never mentioned another influence, one that taught me a lot about drawing bodies in action: my collection of Red Sox yearbooks.

I bought my first yearbook in the summer of 1969, and I bought two per year until 1983. Why two per year? Baseball teams traditionally put out two editions of the team yearbook each season, because so often a team at the end of September looks so different from the way it looked when the season started in April - due to trades, injuries, promotions and demotions. In the pre-internet days, yearbooks were a good way to keep track of a team's changing roster.

And the best part was: yearbooks were chock-full of pictures showing major league ballplayers in action. If I wanted to draw a picture of someone swinging a baseball bat and didn't quite know how, all I had to do was consult one of my yearbooks for reference. I never really tried to make exact copies of the pictures, because I didn't have the patience. I was mostly interested in seeing the way someone's legs, arms, and hands looked when he was throwing, catching, running, sliding, etc.

This picture shows my favorite Red Sox pitcher of all time, the great Luis Tiant. I'm afraid I don't have the words to adequately describe "el Tiante's" memorable pitching style. All I can tell you is that he delivered the ball from the mound to the plate in a much more colorful and interesting way than most pitchers did. So the pictures of Luis in the yearbook were always the most fun to look at and try to draw. I'm not sure if kids still collect yearbooks; they're sort of expensive nowadays. The one this picture is from, the 1977 second edition, cost me $2.00. Money well spent!

Mon, 05/21/2012

Quiz Answers!

Hi, everyone. You may have noticed that the last blog entry wasn’t written by me, but by my crackerjack editor, Phoebe. Why? Because on Sunday night — which is when I usually write my entry that's posted on Monday — I was in a hotel in New York City, and was having some technical problems that kept me from sending or receiving email. (These technical problems do seem to follow me around.) So Phoebe very graciously filled in and composed a Big Nate Trivia Quiz for Monday's entry. You can find the answers below.

First, though, I want to share a drawing with you by one of my favorite people: my godson, Lincoln — or, as we call him in our family, Little Linc. Linc is a 3rd grader, a Big Nate fan, and as you can see, an excellent artist. He's also, besides myself and my dad, the only Lincoln I know. (I keep waiting for my name to catch on in popularity, but it never seems to happen.) Anyway, Linc's drawing was part of a very nice packet of notes from the kids at Yarmouth Elementary School, who were thanking me for visiting their classroom last month.  There were plenty of nice drawings, but I had to choose just one to include in the blog. Great job, Linc! See you soon.

And now for the answers to the quiz! How many of them could you answer without opening a Big Nate book?

1. P.S. 38
2. He had to do a joint project about Ben Franklin with Gina.
3. IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF
4. CHAMPION DE L’ECOLE
5. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
6. A lawn gnome
7. Artur's comic strip
8. Principal Nichols
9. The name Nate WANTED to give his fleeceball team
10. Super Nick

 

Thu, 05/17/2012

Big Nate's World

This week, Big Nate is taking over the lobby at HarperCollins Publishers. For those of you who cannot be in the vicinity, here's a peek. The array of Big Nate books will also give you clues to the answers to the following questions:

1. Where do the Bobcats rule?

2. Why did Nate write POOR NATE'S ALMANACK?

3. In which Big Nate book does a fortune cookie play a role?

4. The French edition of BIG NATE IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF is called.............?

5. Which book do you need in order to play All Mixed Up?

6. Who is called Dumpling?

7. What is Fishbreath?

8. Who gave Nate a detention for the green beans incident?

9. Who are the Psycho Dogs?

10. What is Nate called in Germany?

STUMPED? Check the next Big Nate blog for the answers.

 

-Guest Editor Blogger

Mon, 05/14/2012

What's in a Name?

Today's question of the day comes from Chad, who shares a name with a character in Big Nate. Chad asks: What is Chad's last name? My name's Chad too so I'm hoping he has the same last name as me. For privacy reasons, I won't provide the flesh-and-blood Chad's last name here; but I CAN tell you that no, the cartoon Chad has a different last name.

The fact is, if I'd received Chad's question a couple weeks ago, I wouldn't have had an answer; at that point, I hadn't made up a last name for the cartoon Chad. But then I started working on a storyline for the comic strip about Nate's baseball team. A little background: To the kids' dismay, the team, which is sponsored by Cressly's Bakery, is called the Cream Puffs. This, of course, makes them something of a laughingstock in their local Little League. But there is an upside to this embarrassment: fancy new uniforms that have the kids' names stitched onto the back.

Chad, who during the past couple of years has become one of my favorite characters, ends up playing a pivotal role in this storyline. But when the time came to draw a picture of Chad during a particularly dramatic moment, I realized that this particular drawing had to depict Chad with his back turned - meaning the readers would be able to see his last name. But I've never given Chad a last name, so I had to come up with one. After rejecting the first three or four I thought of, I settled on Applewhite. I like it because it sounds sort of old-fashioned and innocent - just like Chad!

Thu, 05/10/2012

Arms And Armor

By now, many of you — I hope! -- have read Big Nate Goes For Broke.  If you have, you know that part of the story involves P.S. 38’s archrival, Jefferson Middle School.  Jefferson’s mascot is a cavalier, which is just another word for knight.  In the book, Nate and his pals encounter a real suit of armor on display in the Jefferson lobby; and later on, there are two more highly detailed drawings of suits of armor.  There was only one problem:  I’d never drawn a suit of armor in my life!  Not only that, I had to draw three different “kinds” of armor:  the aforementioned shiny suit on display; a dusty and battered suit in a storage closet; and a suit of armor sculpted out of snow.  

Fortunately my intrepid editor, Phoebe, was on the case.  She sent me several books about armor to use as a reference.  The most helpful was a book of postcards called Arms And Armor At The Art Institute Of Chicago.  Many museums have large collections of armor and weapons, and they’re fascinating not only historically, but artistically.  I used to enjoy looking at the armor at the Metrolpolitan Museum of Art when I lived in New York. One of the things it’s impossible not to notice is the size of the suits of armor.  People were shorter back then, and all the armor seems just a little bit undersized.

The picture you see here is on one of those Chicago postcards, and I found it extremely helpful.  It’s from Germany and dates from the early 1600’s. It’s hard to imagine those knights and cavaliers being able to move around very well in this stuff.  I did a little research, and learned that a typical medieval suit of armor weighed anywhere from 40 to 70 pounds.  That’s actually lighter than I thought.  Apparently, limited freedom of movement was a more significant problem while wearing armor than the weight.

Anyway, I enjoyed my experiment with drawing armor, but it’s not one I’m in any hurry to repeat.  In Big Nate Flips Out, I’m sure there will be other things I’ll be drawing for the first time — like a piece of a Mexican totem pole, for one!  But that’s a story for another day.  See you next time!

Sat, 05/05/2012

Banner in the Sky

Hi everyone, sorry this blog entry’s a little late!  My usual routine — blogging on Wednesday night — was happily disrupted last night when we had some friends visiting from Kansas City.  So I’m just now getting caught up on the tasks I set aside to spend some time with them.

Instead of reporting on all things Big Nate today, I thought I’d take a moment to once again advocate for one of my favorite books, Banner In The Sky by James Ramsey Ullman.  I’ve read it many times, most recently just a couple of months ago.  As I child, I didn’t have my own copy of this book; I borrowed it from the school library whenever I wanted to read it.  And I was the only kid who ever checked it out.  I thought of this book as my little secret.

In case you’ve forgotten what the book’s about, here’s what it says on the back cover:

THE CITADEL!  It stands unconquered, the last great summit of the Alps.  Only one man has ever dared to approach the top, and that man died in his pursuit.  He was Josef Matt, Rudi Matt’s father.

At sixteen, Rudi is determined to pay tribute to the man he never knew, and complete the quest that claimed his father’s life.  And so, taking his father’s red shirt as a flag, he heads off to face the earth’s most challenging peak.  But before Rudi can reach the top, he must pass through the forbidden Fortress, the gaping chasm in the high reaches of the Citadel where his father met his end.  Rudi has followed Josef’s footsteps as far as they will take him.  Now he must search deep within himself to find the strength for the final ascent to the summit — to plant his banner in the sky.

Wow!  Sounds like a great story.  So the next time you’re in a library or bookstore looking for the latest Big Nate book, see if you can find Banner In The Sky, too!

Thu, 05/03/2012