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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T-30 Days until Big Nate on a Roll

For today’s entry, I’m falling back on some advice that never seems to steer me wrong:  when you can’t think of something to blog about, just tell people about your day.  Or, in this case, the whole weekend.  So here goes:

Yesterday, a co-worker of my wife’s got married...on a boat!  I’ve never been to a wedding on a boat before.  It helps when it’s a beautiful boat and a beautiful day.  The boat was a schooner called the “Frances.”  There was a crew of five and a guest list of about forty.  My wife and I were not only guests; we were also responsible for getting the wedding cake on board the boat in time for the ceremony.  (We managed to do it without dropping the cake in the parking lot or into the water.)  For two hours, we cruised around Casco Bay, and when we returned to shore, the happy couple was married.

Then, today, I went to the World Cup soccer barn.  Many of you probably know that the USA women’s team played Japan today for the World Cup championship.  Some neighbors of ours who are huge soccer fans have a barn behind their house.  During World Cup soccer tournaments, they set up a giant wide-screen TV in the barn and invite all the neighbors to come watch.  There must have been over 100 people there today.  Unfortunately, the USA lost in heartbreaking fashion.  But if they had to finish second, I’m glad it was Japan that won.

Finally...what do you think of this countdown calendar?  You might be seeing one just like it if you go into a Barnes & Noble bookstore sometime during the next month.  Today we can begin counting down the final month until Big Nate On A Roll goes on sale.  30 days to go!

Mon, 07/18/2011

More Games

A few more words about games:

We spent a lot of time playing games in my neighborhood when I was a kid.  In my last entry, I talked about “Kick The Can,” which was a favorite.  Others we played frequently were:  street hockey, 4-square, freeze tag (or, at night, flashlight tag), red rover, pickle, and 21 (a basketball shooting game played with 3 people).  Ultimate frisbee and disc golf hadn’t really been invented back then, but we loved just playing catch with a frisbee.  And, believe it or not, one of my favorite pastimes was hitting rocks with a baseball bat.  There was a ravine near our house.  We’d hit small rocks (about the size of grapes) into the ravine with an old wooden bat.

I think some of the best games are ones you make up yourself.  We invented a game called “hockey ball.”  It was a lot like wiffle ball, except instead of a wiffle ball and bat, we used a practice (plastic) golf ball and a sawed-off goalie stick.  And, jumping forward many years to when my own kids were little, we spent a lot of time playing “roof ball.”  One player would throw a ball up at the very irregularly-shaped roof of our garage, and two other players would take turns trying to catch the ball.  We had a scoring system that awarded points based on whether or not the players caught the ball in the air, on one bounce, or not at all.  Hours and hours of fun.

That’s enough about games, and that’s all for this time!

Thu, 07/14/2011

Kick the Can

In yesterday’s Big Nate Sunday page (you can read it at gocomics.com if you didn’t see it in your local newspaper), Nate and his friends are getting ready to play a game of “Kick the Can.”  Artur has never played, and Nate gets very frustrated trying to explain the rules to him.  It turns out that Artur’s not the ONLY one who’s never played “Kick the Can.”  A couple of people posted comments on my gocomics page saying that they’d never heard of it before.

Well, here’s the way WE used to play the game in my little neighborhood in Durham, New Hampshire back in the day.  One person was “it.”  An empty tin can was placed upside-down in the middle of the driveway.  That location was called “home.”  The person who was “it” counted to fifty with his eyes closed while everyone else ran off and hid (behind the house, under a bush, behind a telephone pole, and so on).  Then the “it” person yelled out “ready or not, here I come!” and started searching for everyone who was hiding.  Whenever the “it” person saw someone, he ran back “home”, put his foot on the can, and yelled out the name of whoever he’d just spotted, and their location.  (Like “I see Jon behind the shed” or “1-2-3 Mary, under the car.” ) Then, whoever had been seen had to come out of hiding and go sit at the “home” location, right next to the can.  Sitting there meant you were no longer free.  You’d been caught.  Once everyone had been seen, the person who’d been caught first became “it” for the next round.

But here’s the catch (and it’s also how the game got its name):  At any time during the game, any player who was free could run up to the can and kick it.  When you did that, everyone who’d been caught automatically became free, and the game started all over again.  That’s the challenge of being “it” in a game of “Kick the Can.”  You have to wander far enough away from “home” to spot everyone who’s hiding, but if you wander TOO far away, or if you’re too slow, someone’s going to beat you back to the can and kick it.  It helped to be a fast runner, because many times during each game, there were flat-out sprints between whoever was “it” and a player who was trying to get to the can first.  If you were “it” and ten other kids were playing, and you’d managed to catch nine of them, it was devastating if that tenth and final kid kicked the can.  Then you were back to square one.  

I was lucky enough to grow up in a very active game-playing neighborhood.  In my next entry, I’ll tell you about some of the other games we used to play!
Mon, 07/11/2011

Goodbye, Kelly!

Recently in the comments forum on the gocomics “Big Nate” page, a couple of readers have asked if I have any plans to bring Kelly back to the strip.  (I think I mentioned Kelly in a blog entry a long time ago.  She was Nate’s girlfriend for a brief time.  They met at a summer soccer camp and, even though they went to different schools, the two of them had a middle school romance that lasted for several months.)  This picture shows you what Kelly looked like.  When I was deciding how to draw her, I used our daughter’s hairstyle for inspiration. (My daughter would probably want me to mention that her hair no longer looks like this!)

At any rate, the answer is:  no, currently I have no plans to bring Kelly back.  There are some characters who return periodically because it’s easy to come up with storylines that feature them.  School Picture Guy is a good example of this kind of character.  Not only does he show up every year at school picture time, but Nate also runs into him in other settings:  at a school dance where School Picture Guy is the DJ; at the beach where School Picture Guy is dressed like a giant lobster to advertise a seafood restaurant, and so on.  But others, like Kelly, are one-time only characters.  They show up in storylines that have a definite conclusion.  So once they’re gone, they’re gone.

And now, on to a different subject.  The release of Big Nate On A Roll is only about five weeks away, which means that I’ll soon be going on a book tour!  And here are the cities I’ll be visiting:  Austin (Texas), Dallas (Texas), Kansas City (Missouri), St. Louis (Missouri), Memphis (Tennessee), Nashville (Tennessee), Oxford (Mississippi), and Boston (Massachusetts).  I don’t know very many of the details yet, but if you live in or near one of those cities, keep an eye out for Big Nate.  He may be coming to your school!   

Thu, 07/07/2011

Uncle Sam

I just came across this drawing of Uncle Sam the other day.  I’m not sure how old I was when I drew it — I’m guessing 5th or 6th grade — but Independence Day seemed like the ideal time to break it out.  I hope everyone reading this had an enjoyable 4th of July...or, if you don’t live in the USA, I hope you had an enjoyable weekend!

And now my assessment of this drawing:  it’s OK, but a little sloppy.  I think Uncle Sam’s hat usually has a horizontal band of stars underneath the stripes; it looks like I forgot that and left it blank.  Also, even though it might appear that Uncle Sam is holding a ratty-looking flower, I think that’s supposed to be a 4th of July sparkler.  And obviously I didn’t have the patience to draw 50 stars on the flag he’s holding, so I just went with a lame criss-cross pattern.  I will give myself credit, though, for putting the correct number of stripes on the flag.

I don’t know if this is true or not, but I remember one of my social studies teachers telling me how the name “Uncle Sam” came about.  (I just double-checked on Wikipedia to make sure I’m getting the story right.)  Back in the early 1800’s, there was a man named Samuel Wilson who owned a meat-packing company in New York.  During the War of 1812, he signed a contract with the United States government to supply meat to feed the Army troops.  The meat was shipped in containers stamped with the letters “U.S.” which of course stood for “United States.”  But the soldiers joked that the letters instead stood for “Uncle Sam,” referring to Samuel Wilson.  By the time of the Civil War, 50 years later, cartoonists and illustrators were commonly using Uncle Sam as a symbol of the U.S. Government.

That’s the history lesson for today.  See you next time!

Tue, 07/05/2011

One of My Favorite Comic Strips

I must admit, even though I blog only twice a week, I still sometimes have trouble thinking of something to write about.  When that happens, I sometimes just stand in my office and look around, in the hopes that inspiration will strike.  That’s what happened tonight.  I noticed a very old Sunday comic that a friend sent me a year or two ago.  I’ll tell you a little bit about it.

The picture shown here is the first panel of a comic strip called “Polly and Her Pals,” by Cliff Sterrett.  It appeared in newspapers (the one I have is the Portland Sunday Herald of Portland, Maine) on September 18, 1932.  It is one of my favorite comic strips ever, even though it was popular well before I was even born.  The title character, Polly, was a glamorous but very bland young lady.  There was nothing at all comical about her, which is why the strip was dominated by the character you see here:  Sam (“Pa”) Perkins, Polly’s father.  He had a knack for getting himself into all sorts of absurd and embarrassing situations, many of which seemed to end up with Pa running around in his underwear.  

I first learned about this strip when I was 12 or 13 years old.  Even though the references, fashions, and sense of humor in the strip are from an earlier time, I liked it immediately.  It’s beautifully drawn, very quirky, and always funny.  And, as a cartoonist, I can’t help but feel a little envious of all the newspaper space cartoonists were given to work with back then.  This particular strip takes up an entire page of a Sunday newspaper measuring about 24 x 16 inches!

Earlier today, I received a package from my editor at Harper Collins.  It was her iPad (I don’t have one of my own), and it contained the ebook version of Big Nate:  In a Class by Himself.  I’d seen a version a few weeks ago when there were still some last-minute kinks to work out; now, it’s perfect!  And it’s available right now in the iBookstore for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.  Check it out!

Thu, 06/30/2011

Big Nate Japanese Edition

It’s been a lot of fun to see the different cover designs of Big Nate books in other countries.  I’ve especially liked the UK editions, and a couple of months ago I posted a picture of Big Nate in Mandarin Chinese.  But the cover shown here, the Japanese edition of Big Nate:  In a Class by Himself, might just be my very favorite.  I like everything about it — the way the title looks written in Japanese characters, the small drawings from the interior of the book that appear in the background, the yellow-and-orange sunburst pattern — but what I like most is the outline of a crown that you can see behind the title.  I think Nate would appreciate the crown, given his lofty opinion of himself.

Those of you who read Big Nate comics online at gocomics.com might know that there’s a “comments” section where readers can voice their opinions about that day’s strip.  The folks at gocomics were kind enough to set up an account for me so that I could respond to comments if I wanted to.  My screen name is bignate, and my avatar is a little black & white drawing of Nate laughing.  Well, a couple of days ago, I commented for the first time...and nobody else on the comments thread believed I was the guy who drew the strip!  I can understand their skepticism, since anyone could call themselves bignate or use a Big Nate avatar.  Anyway, I decided I didn’t want to have my identity questioned every time I submitted a comment, so in order to “prove myself,” as one reader put it, I posted a sneak peek of the next day’s strip — something only I could be aware of.  That did the trick!

Big Nate Goes for Broke update:  I’m writing chapter 6, and it’s the most difficult chapter yet.  This story is sort of split into two parts, which take place in two different settings.  Chapter 6 is the transition chapter, where the action shifts from one setting to another.  Hint:  Nate’s not very happy about ending up in setting #2.

I trust all of you are finally done with school.  Nate’s not quite finished yet, unfortunately.  In the comic strip this coming week, he’ll be taking his Social Studies final exam.  Good luck, Nate!

Mon, 06/27/2011

A Big Nate BIG Announcement!

Here’s a sneak peek at Big Nate Goes For Broke — or the back cover, anyway.  This drawing is part of what has become the official “look” of Big Nate back covers:  at the top is a drawing (like this one) that hints at what the book might be about.  Below that is a fragment of one of Nate’s notebook pages where an assortment of characters offer “raves” about Big Nate.  And at the bottom of the back cover is a picture of Nate announcing that the next book in the series will be arriving soon.  I’ve decided on a title for book 5 — keep an eye on this blog for an official announcement!

And now a word about technology.  I often refer to myself as a techno-phobe; that is, someone who is intimidated and/or confused by technical gadgets like computers, cell phones, digital cameras, and so on.  But here’s one bit of technology news that I’m very excited about:

BIG NATE WILL SOON BE AVAILABLE AS AN EBOOK for your iPhone, iPad, or iTouch!!

About a year ago, HarperCollins started exploring the possibility of offering Big Nate as an ebook.  But before that could happen, we had to make sure that each page of a Big Nate ebook would look just the same as a page from the real paper-and-ink version.  We didn’t want to re-size drawings, chop up paragraphs, change fonts, or anything like that.  So the folks who understand the technology part of it (and I’m NOT one of them) have been hard at work on that.  And the wait is just about over!

Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself will go on sale in the iBookstore next week on June 28th.  You can even pre-order it TODAY if you want to!  For the moment, only Apple users with an iPhone, iPad, or iTouch will be able to read Big Nate as an ebook.  When that changes, I’ll announce it here on the blog.

If you’ve never read a book on an iPad, give it a try!  You can read in bed (after your parents have told you to go to sleep) without using a flashlight!

Thu, 06/23/2011

Today's Horoscope

As you know if you’ve read Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself, Nate is sort of a superstitious kid.  He pays attention to fortune cookies, he believes in good and bad omens, he asks questions of his “magic 8-ball.”  And, of course, he reads his horoscope every day.

I’ve always read horoscopes.  As a kid, I was thrilled to discover that I was a Scorpio, because a scorpion seemed like a cool zodiacal symbol.  And I enjoyed reading what personality traits Scorpios (supposedly) have, and considering whether or not I had any of those same traits.  But I never put any faith in the day-to-day predictions of horoscopes.  Most of the times, those predictions seemed to have no relevance to my life as a (insert age here) year-old kid.  Now, as an adult, I still glance at the horoscope, but at this stage it’s more out of habit than anything else.

Speaking of habits, I do have a habitual way of looking at the morning newspaper.  You might think I read the comics first, but I don’t.  I read the sports first.  Where I go from there depends on which sections of the paper are available.  Our daughter is a sudoku nut and is also starting to get interested in crossword puzzles, so she often lays claim to that section of the paper that includes the puzzles, the comics, the horoscope, the advice columns, the movie reviews — all the fun stuff.  When that happens, I remind myself to look at the comics later in the day, and I focus on the front page.

Incidentally, Nate’s a Scorpio, too, and here’s his horoscope for today:  Your domestic situation needs attention, even if you just need time to reflect.  The answers might not be easily forthcoming.  Give yourself time.  Get involved with a project, situation or event you love.  Tonight:  Head home after some fun.

Hope your horoscope, and your day, is a good one!

Mon, 06/20/2011

Bruins Win the Cup!

Just a short entry today, because it’s very, very late at night.  I stayed up to watch my beloved Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup for the first time since I was eight years old.  And then, once the game was over, I had to watch all the postgame celebrations and interviews.  That explains why it’s currently 2:00 am.

I didn’t do the drawing shown here.  It was done by my friend, the very talented Jeff Heller, who drew it for me many years ago.  Back then, it was wishful thinking.  But I’ve saved the drawing for all this time, and it’s a thrill to be able to post it here now that life has finally imitated art.

But sports are the Dessert Aisle of life; other things are far more important.  Back in 2009, the great cartoonist Richard Thompson, creator of the comic strip “Cul de Sac,” was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.  As a response, he and some of his colleagues started Team Cul de Sac, a collaborative effort to raise money for Parkinson’s research.  Cartoonists everywhere were invited to create a piece of art that, in some fashion, celebrated Richard’s strip and characters.  My contribution was posted yesterday on the Team Cul de Sac blog, and you can take a look at it by clicking here:

http://teamculdesac.blogspot.com/

That’s all for now, everyone.  More next time!
Thu, 06/16/2011