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.

Sign up for the Big Nate newsletter!

It's in the mail!

I received two exciting packages on Tuesday.  The first came from England, and the second came from New York City.  Any guesses what they might have been?

The package from England contained music.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned in my blog before that I volunteer at a community radio station here in Portland, Maine, called WMPG.  Once a week, on Monday mornings, I host a radio show devoted to classic country music.  I’m not a fan of most modern country music, but ever since I was a teenager I have loved old country music — the stuff recorded in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.  About twelve years ago I got involved at WMPG, trained to be a volunteer DJ, and was given a show that aired at 4:00 am.  Thank goodness I only had to spend a few months in that time slot.  Now my show, which is called “South by Southwest,” airs from 8:30 to 10:30 in the morning.  It’s always one of my very favorite parts of the week.

So, the music in the package from England, which was almost entirely hillbilly music from the 50’s, will eventually end up on my radio show.

The second package was a copy of Big Nate Strikes Again — not a rough draft or an “advance copy”, but the real hardcover book that will go on sale October 19th.  It’s the first time I’ve seen the finished book in its entirety, and it looks great.  Remember how the first book was yellow with a blue spine?  This one is blue with a red spine.  It’s very eye-catching.

Incidentally, the “South by Southwest” drawing is by my good friend Jeff, a very talented cartoonist and caricaturist.  Just so you know:  I don’t actually wear a cowboy hat when I’m on the radio!

Thu, 09/16/2010

Use your imagination with Chester

I ended my last entry by saying that maybe someday there will be a Big Nate cartoon on TV.  It got me thinking about how often something in real life does not match up with the way we had pictured it in our minds.

Here’s an example.  I’ve written before about how much I loved “Peanuts” when I was a boy.  I had been reading the comic strip for several years before I saw my first “Peanuts” animated special on TV.  And I distinctly remember thinking to myself, as I listened to the voices on television, “THAT’S not what Charlie Brown sounds like!...THAT’S not what Linus sounds like!”  I had invented voices for them inside my own head, and it would have been impossible for any real-life voice to match those imagined voices perfectly.  I’m sure I’ll experience the same feelings, probably even more intensely, if Big Nate ever gets made into a cartoon.  And maybe you will, too, if you’re the kind of person who imagines what Nate, Francis, Gina, and Mrs. Godfrey sound like while you’re reading.  But we all get used to voices over time.  The more you listen to a cartoon voice, the more you begin to accept it as the “right” voice.

Some things, though, are best left to the imagination.  That’s how I feel about Chester, the school bully who often ends up in detention with Nate at P.S. 38.  In the comic strip and in the Big Nate books, you never see Chester’s face.  Why?  Because I think he’s a funnier and more effective character if you DON’T know what he looks like.  If I tried to draw Chester, I think I’d end up disappointing a lot of readers...and probably myself as well.  I don’t think I could do him justice.

Sometimes when I visit schools, kids ask me for predictions.  They want to know if Nate will ever get together with Jenny, or if Nate will ever get a dog of his own.  I try not to make too many predictions, because I’m never 100% sure what might happen in the next book or the next comic strip.  But I AM 100% confident in this prediction:  you will NEVER see what Chester looks like!  He’s better left to your imagination.
Mon, 09/13/2010

What other cartoons do you draw besides Big Nate?

Today’s question of the day comes from Maddie, who lives in Galveston, Texas.  Maddie asks:

What other cartoons do you draw besides Big Nate?

Excellent question, Maddie.  At the moment, Big Nate is the only one.  I draw the comic strip, which appears in newspapers every day, and I write the Big Nate chapter books.  Even though that’s only two projects, I’m finding that it’s more than enough to keep me busy for the moment.  Even if I had a great idea for a new comic strip or a new book series, I don’t think I’d have the time to tackle them right now.

But in the past (before I started writing Big Nate books), I tried on many occasions to get other projects going, mostly in the TV animation business.  The young fellows in these pictures were the main characters in two cartoons I wrote.  The first one, featuring the kid flexing his muscles, was called Super John Doe Junior.  It was a 7-minute cartoon, and it eventually ran on Nicktoons as part of their Random! Cartoons series.  It told the story of Junior, a boy who is the son of Slumber City’s most famous superhero, Super John Doe.  Unfortunately for Junior, he inherited none of his dad’s super powers, which makes him incredibly frustrated.  Nevertheless, Junior finds a way to (very briefly) acquire super powers and defeat the dastardly Evil Butthead before he can take over Slumber City.

The other character, despite the fact that he’s wearing a cape, is definitely NOT a superhero.  His name is Kevin Spang (but nobody calls him Kevin; everyone calls him Spang.)  Spang is an eccentric kid who is so nerdy, he’s actually kind of cool.  In the Spang cartoon, which was called “Something Fishy,” Spang, his classmates, and his dog Whatnot go on a field trip to an aquarium.  While Whatnot is busy falling in love with a seal, Spang’s rival, a Swiss boy named Trickel, keeps finding ways to get Spang into trouble.  Spang ends up falling into a killer whale tank, having a run-in with a giant squid, and playing basketball with some dolphins.  Spang reminds me a little bit of Nate.  He has the same type of self-confidence and can-do attitude.

Neither of these cartoons succeeded, but in each case I had a great time writing them and working with some very talented people, like my friends Matthew, Rich, Dan, Eric, and Larry.  And I learned a lot about animation and how a cartoon gets made.  I also really enjoyed writing cartoons; it’s very different from writing a comic strip, and I think those experiences have helped me write the Big Nate chapter books.  And who knows — maybe someday there will be a Big Nate cartoon on TV!
Thu, 09/09/2010

Nate Goes Back to School

Poor Nate.  As you can tell from this picture, he’s on his way to school, weighed down by a gargantuan backpack.  I think backpacks have grown larger over the years. How else can you explain the fact that some kids’ notebooks have WHEELS on them?  When I was Nate’s age, I had a small military knapsack left over from my dad’s days in the US Air Force.  It was big enough to hold a notebook, my lunch, and maybe a textbook or two.  Everything else I kept in my locker, which meant that I had the messiest locker in school.  That’s something I have in common with Big Nate:  a messy locker.  Take a look at the picture at the top of page 65 in Big Nate:  In a Class By Himself.   That’s about what mine looked like.

But here’s a hint about the upcoming Big Nate Strikes Again:  Nate very cleverly demonstrates that having a messy locker can sometimes come in handy.  And that’s all I’m saying about that!

As a kid, I assumed that being sloppy was a kid thing, and that I’d grow out of it.  Not true.  I’m STILL sloppy.  My office, where I do all my drawing and a lot of my writing, is an absolute mess at the moment.  I admire people who have the discipline to keep their homes and workplaces neat; but it’s not a strength of mine.  Fortunately, I’m a lot like Nate in another way:  even though Nate’s locker looks like a giant landfill, he knows where everything is.  He examines the massive pile of junk, sticks  his hand in, and comes out with exactly what he needs.  I’m not quite that good, but I tend to be able to find things when I need them.  So maybe I’m really NOT sloppy!  I’ll just keep telling myself that.

And now, to celebrate Labor Day, here’s a poem that appeared in the comic strip a few years back.  It accompanies Nate as he makes the long, slow walk to P.S. 38.

On Labor Day, we celebrate
The hands that built this land:
That dug the ditches, shoveled coal,
And tilled the soil and sand,
The hands that fought, the hands that healed,
The hands that held the tools...
But must we celebrate the hands
That built these stinkin’ schools?
Tue, 09/07/2010

We're Having a Heat Wave

We’re in the midst of a heat wave here in Maine — four straight days of temperatures over 90 degrees.  I’m not sure what the high point was, officially, but the thermometer at our house read 97 this afternoon.  It makes me feel a little bit like Nate in this picture.  I don’t like the heat very much.  I prefer the winter, even if it means shoveling snow.

Speaking of snow, I was speaking to my editor earlier today about — believe it or not — Big Nate book #4.  I haven’t started writing it yet, of course.  (I’m still not even halfway through book #3!)  But I’ve started thinking about it.  It’s currently scheduled to be released during winter, and I’m pretty sure that the story itself will ALSO take place in winter.  It will be a nice change of pace to do some drawings of winter scenes.  Not only that, mittens are easy to draw!

More talk about winter:  When I was a boy, my favorite book was called Banner In The Sky, written by James Ramsey Ullman.  It tells the story of Rudi Matt, a 16 year-old boy in 19th-century Switzerland who desperately wants to climb a mountain called the Citadel.  (It’s ALWAYS winter in the Swiss Alps!)  The mountain has never been climbed, and Rudi’s father, a mountain guide, was killed in an attempt at the summit when Rudi was a baby.  Rudi’s mother is afraid of losing her son on the same mountain that killed her husband, so she forbids him from becoming a guide.  Instead, he is employed as a dishwasher at a local hotel.  But every chance he gets, he sneaks off to practice his climbing on the hills and glaciers surrounding the village. He is bound and determined to become a guide...and to conquer the Citadel.

I won’t ruin the book by disclosing what happens; you might decide to read it yourself someday.  It’s a bit of an old-fashioned book.  It doesn’t have wizards or dragons or duels to the death.  But it’s worth reading.  I read it several times as a boy (the first time when I was in 6th grade), and then read it to my own children when they were younger.  Give Banner In The Sky a try.  Reading about all those icy mountain peaks might help you keep cool in this summer heat!
Thu, 09/02/2010

Nate's Nickname

Today’s question of the day comes from Thomas, who wrote:

I liked Nate’s nickname list in your book.  Why doesn’t Nate have a nickname?

The list Thomas is referring to is on page 82 of Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself.  It’s Nate’s list of nicknames for Mrs. Godfrey, and they’re not very flattering.  (My favorites are Dullapalooza and She Who Must Not Be Named).    Nate has appointed himself the official “nickname czar” of P.S. 38, and enjoys coming up with colorful nicknames for teachers and classmates.

But Nate doesn’t have a nickname, as Thomas points out.  Unlike some Nates out there, MY Nate is not short for Nathan or Nathaniel.  Not only that, Nate doesn’t have a middle name either.  His name is very simple:  Nate Wright.  He’s tried several times over the years to invent a nickname for himself, but he’s discovered the unwritten rule of nicknames:  it’s only a nickname if someone ELSE uses it when addressing you.  If you decide you want to be called “Flash”, but nobody calls you “Flash”...well, then, you’re not “Flash.”

Some of you might say:  wait a minute, isn’t “Big Nate” a nickname?  The answer is no, because nobody in the Big Nate books or the Big Nate comic strip — including Nate himself -- calls him that.  “Big Nate” is a title that sums up the way Nate sees himself  (he’s energetic, ambitious, confident, and thinks big), but it’s not a nickname.  Not unless you’re talking about the REAL LIFE Big Nate.

I have an older brother named Jonathan.  When we were kids, I realized one day that the name “Nathan” was part of the name “Jonathan.”  So I started calling him Nathan, and eventually shortened that to Nate.  And then, because my brother was a very large person, I started calling him Big Nate.  Only a very small circle of people called him Nate, but it was enough that the name stuck.  Thirty-five years later, I still call him Nate.  

So I guess, in at least one case, Big Nate IS a nickname!

Mon, 08/30/2010

Big Nate Poetry!

Before I start today’s entry, I have to mention that I think we might have a world record on our hands.  A boy named Christian has apparently read Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself 57 times!!  I haven’t met any kids yet who can beat Christian’s record.  Can you?

If you read the book (even if you only read it once or twice!), you’ll probably remember that a few of Nate’s poems (all of which were about his favorite snack food, Cheez Doodles) were featured in one of the chapters.  I know almost nothing about “real” poetry (the serious kind), but I have always enjoyed funny poems, limericks, and the kind of “literary nonsense” made popular by authors like Roald Dahl and Edward Lear.  (If you’ve never read anything by Edward Lear, give his “Book of Nonsense” a try!)

What brought this to mind was the fact that we’re very close to back-to-school time; in fact, in many parts of the country, kids are ALREADY back in school.  And in the Big Nate comic strip over the years, I have often written poems to celebrate(??) Nate’s return to P.S. 38.  This strip was published almost exactly a year ago.  Something about back-to-school time brings out the poet in me.

I enjoy writing poems like this, which go hand-in-hand with the drawings in a particular comic strip.  But it’s also fun to write the type of poem I mentioned in the first paragraph:  poems that Nate has written.  One might be an insulting haiku about Mrs. Godfrey.  Another might take the form of a pre-game pep talk to his soccer teammates.  And then there’s this very simple poem, which Nate sent to a certain girl one Valentine’s Day:

Jenny, Jenny, Jenny, Jenny,
You slay me like South Park’s Kenny.

It won’t win any poetry awards, but it’s definitely from the heart!

Haikus are fun to write because you don’t have to worry about rhyming them.  I never knew about haikus when I was young, but I’ve been interested in them ever since my son wrote one for a school assignment when he was in (I think) third grade:

Earthquakes shake the ground.
Run away, you mean old hound.
Look at the patterns.

There will be a haiku appearing soon in the Big Nate comic strip.  You can get to it from this site just by clicking the button that says “comic strip,” or you can go directly to comics.com/big_nate.  The haiku will appear on September 7th.  Happy reading!
Thu, 08/26/2010

Games, Games, and More Games!

I've been thinking about games today.  That's partly because I've just discovered a new Big Nate game I didn't know about before:  BIG NATE NETWORK.  It's not in the "games" section of the website.  To play, click on the "what's new" button.  You'll see a paragraph with a heading reading "BIG NATE NETWORK."  Click on the words "Awesome Adventure Books" and you'll find your way to the game.  It's addicting!

The OTHER reason I'm thinking about games is that I'll be playing in one later tonight.  One of my hobbies is playing ice hockey, and I play two times a week. Sports have always been a big part of my life, which means they're also a big part of Big Nate's life.  In the comic strip, Nate's played a lot of soccer, baseball, and basketball.  But he's never played very much hockey, which is my favorite sport.  The question is:  Why not?

It's a pretty simple answer:  in hockey (and football and lacrosse, for that matter), the players wear helmets and facemasks.  All that gear makes telling the kids apart pretty difficult, especially in a tiny drawing.  So I've steered clear of telling stories that involve Nate playing organized hockey, football, or lacrosse.  But that doesn't mean I don't depict those sports.  Nate plays pond hockey sometimes, and he frequently plays games of touch football with his pals.

Then there are the slightly less physical games Nate enjoys.  He likes table football.  He struggles with sudokus.  And he's an unenthusiastic caddy for his father when Dad decides to play golf.

In BIG NATE STRIKES AGAIN, games -- one game in particular -- plays a major role.  If you've read some of my earlier blogs, you may have already made a guess at what kind of game it is.  And (even though I haven't written it yet), I'm already pretty sure that Big Nate Book #4 will feature games.  

And here's some games-related news:  sometime soon, there will be an entire Big Nate book devoted to games, puzzles, comics, etc!  You'll learn more about it in the coming months.  

That's all for now.  Wish me luck in my hockey game!   

Mon, 08/23/2010

Foam Fingers and Writer's Block

I have two important items for today’s entry.  The first is this picture of Nate wearing a pair of giant foam fingers.  For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, that’s the drawing that will be on the cover of Big Nate Strikes Again.  I’ll let you in on a secret:  there aren’t any giant foam fingers anywhere in the story.  But they were the perfect prop to use for the cover, because they symbolize so perfectly the way Nate thinks of himself:  he’s number one.

The second item of the day is something called writer’s block.  It’s an expression that means you’re having trouble writing.  It might mean that you don’t like anything you write and end up deleting everything you do; or it might mean that you literally cannot think of what to write.  Your mind is a blank.  

I had a little touch of writer’s block (more the first type than the second) this week while working on Chapter 3 of Big Nate On A Roll.  I set out to write a chapter that was 18 or 19 pages long.  I got about 11 pages done, and then couldn’t figure out what should happen next.  Actually, that’s not quite right.  I THOUGHT I knew what should happen next, but after a lot of false starts and missteps, I realized it wasn’t working.  Unfortunately, because Big Nate books are a combination of text and drawings, correcting mistakes doesn’t just mean deleting paragraphs on my computer.  It can also mean deleting artwork, too — in other words, throwing it away.  Today I spent a lot of time doing drawings that I didn’t end up using.  

Happily, I think I’ve just about figured things out, but when I have difficult writing days (which happens with the Big Nate comic strip, too), it always makes me wonder why it occurs.  Why are there some days when the ideas come in bunches, and other days when they don’t come at all?  I always find myself comparing writing to baseball.  Some days Dustin Pedroia gets 5 hits, and other days he gets none.  Players, even the very best ones, have slumps that sometimes last a long time.  But most of them realize that, if they keep doing the best they can and stick to their routine, good results will eventually come.

Speaking of baseball... the Red Sox, my favorite team, lost to Texas on Sunday.  I’m hoping for better days ahead — in baseball AND in writing!

Mon, 08/16/2010

BIG NATE STRIKES AGAIN Teasers

Here we are in mid-August, which means we’re about nine weeks away from Big Nate Strikes Again going on sale at your local bookstore.  Later today my publisher will send me what’s called the “final pass” of the book.  It’s sort of like the very last “rough draft”, and it provides me and my friends at Harper Collins one final opportunity to make changes.  Maybe I’ll change a word here or a phrase there.  Or perhaps we’ll decide that a drawing on page 112 needs to be a tiny bit larger.  Whatever changes we make at this stage are likely to be very minor.  All the BIG changes have already happened.

Speaking of Big Nate Strikes Again...this picture is a snippet of a drawing from the book.  What do you suppose Big Nate is so excited about?  He appears to be reading something on the wall. But what?  Could he have just discovered that P.S. 38 is canceling all Social Studies classes?  Or maybe he’s just found out that Cheez Doodles are on today’s lunch menu.  Whatever has him so pumped up, you only have to wait nine more weeks to find out!

Here are a couple more questions to ponder.  You’ll learn the answers when you read BNSA!

What are SPOFFS?
Who is Kuddles and what does she have to do with the story?
What’s an elephant on a skateboard doing in the P.S. 38 lunchroom?

Here’s what else is happening today:

  • I’ll start work on chapter 3 of Book #3, Big Nate On A Roll.
  • I’ll do some work on the Big Nate comic strip (and hopefully get at least two strips done).
  • I’ll get a delivery of pens from Minnesota.  I ordered 100 pens (to go along with the 36 pads of paper I bought last week), which should last me at least a couple of books.  

By the way, have you played Big Nate’s Big Anagrams yet?  Click on the GAMES button and give it a try!

Thu, 08/12/2010