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

Lincoln Peirce lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Maine.

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From the "Third Floor" to "Big Nate"

I’ve had the good fortune to meet quite a few cartoonists over the years — not nearly as many as I’d like to have met, but a decent number nonetheless.  And from speaking to these very nice guys and gals, I’ve discovered that a lot of us learned our craft in much the same way:  We grew up as devoted fans of comics, we started copying characters and strips we admired, we drew cartoons for friends and family members...

And then, at some point, many of us drew comic strips for our school newspapers.

My high school had a school newspaper — I think — but I’m pretty sure it was published only once or twice a year.  So I never submitted any comics to that paper.  When I got to college, though, I went straight to the newspaper office during the first week of classes and asked if they would consider printing a comic strip.  They said they would and told me to have it in by Friday.  That was my first deadline.  The newspaper was called The Echo and was printed weekly.  For the next four years, my comic strip “Third Floor” appeared in just about every edition.  It wasn’t a masterpiece by any means, but it improved steadily while I was in college, and it was great training for the eventual day when I began doing “Big Nate” as a syndicated daily strip.

The main character was Jerry Price, the guy in the checkered shirt.  The guy holding the candy bar was Dit, his roommate.  And the chipmunk was just a chipmunk.  Yes, he was eight feet tall, but he was still a chipmunk.

BIG NATE NEWS:  If you like reading about Big Nate’s adventures in chapter books like Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself, then I bet you’ll enjoy reading a collection of Big Nate comic strips, too.  Big Nate:  From The Top will be published this fall and will include daily and Sunday comics.  I don’t know the exact on-sale date yet, but keep an eye out for it in your local bookstore when you go there to buy Big Nate Strikes Again.

That’s all until next time!

Mon, 08/09/2010

Quirky Nate

I promised last time that I’d tell you a little more about some of Nate’s quirks.  For those of you who are just getting to know Big Nate, it’s a chance to learn what an unusual kid he is.  Or maybe he’s NOT so unusual.  We all have our quirks.

Here’s a good one:  Nate enjoys hitting himself gently on the head with an empty plastic soda bottle (preferably the two liter size).  It helps him deal with stress.  I must admit, I agree with him.  There’s something relaxing about it.  It’s sort of a combination of drumming and therapeutic massage.  And it makes a cool sound.

Speaking of stress...There have been a couple of occasions where Nate, stressed out about the school year beginning, has seen Mrs. Godfrey’s face everywhere he looks.  When he looks at Francis, he sees Mrs. Godfrey.  When he looks at his dad...there’s Mrs. Godfrey.  Even his beloved Jenny looks like Mrs. Godfrey.  It makes me wonder:  does Mrs. Godfrey see NATE wherever she looks during the last few precious days of summer?

Then there’s Nate’s obsession with a local TV weatherman (I guess they prefer to be called meteorologists, don’t they?) named Wink Summers.  Nate calls Wink to complain whenever he messes up the weather forecast, and he’s not shy about offering Wink “constructive criticism” regarding his weight, his hairstyle, and his personal life.

One storyline in the comic strip which generated quite a bit of mail a couple of years ago involved glue.  Nate was working on a project in art class, and discovered that he really enjoyed coating his hands with a layer of glue, letting it dry, and then peeling it off.  I was shocked to hear from a bunch of people, both kids and adults, who admitted to enjoying the same thing.

And here’s one more:  there’s a comic strip in Nate’s hometown newspaper called “Bethany.”  It follows the life and loves of a 15 year-old girl.  Nate despises the strip and all its teen-age girl drama...and yet he can’t keep himself from reading it.  (Note to Nate:  whoever draws “Bethany” is doing a good job.  That’s the whole point of comics — to keep people reading!)

Thu, 08/05/2010

Nate's Ailurophobia?

Last time I wrote about dogs, so for today’s entry it only made sense to write about cats.  But I don’t think I’ll have quite as much to write; I don’t have any heartwarming cat stories from my childhood to share.

Charles Schulz, of “Peanuts” fame, was frequently asked why he never let Charlie Brown win every once in awhile.  His response always went something like this:  because winning isn’t funny.  I agree that there’s nothing LESS funny than a character who wins all the time, who’s good at everything, and who has no fears or phobias.  That’s why, over the years, I’ve added to Nate’s personality a few different quirks that make him more interesting (to me, anyway).  One of those quirks is that Nate is afraid of cats.  

In the comic strip, Nate often argues with Francis over the merits of dogs vs. cats.  I can’t remember exactly when, but at a certain point I thought it would liven up the debate if I made Nate afraid of cats.  You can write a few jokes about a kid who likes dogs, but you can write many, MANY more jokes about a kid who likes dogs AND is also afraid of cats.  The bottom line is, quirks and phobias and odd little habits help make people more interesting.   I haven’t included Nate’s ailurophobia in any of the Big Nate books so far, but I’ll bet it shows up somewhere down the line!  

Fear of cats is just the tip of the iceberg.  Next time, I’ll tell you about a couple more of Nate’s quirks!

Mon, 08/02/2010

A Dog's Life

First, I have a message for Max, the grandson of a dear friend.  Max is reading an advance copy of Big Nate Strikes Again, and loves it!  According to his grandfather, Max wants another Big Nate book “sooner rather than later.”  Hang in there, Max.  The finished version of Big Nate Strikes Again isn’t far away, and, as of today, I’m starting work on Book 3, Big Nate On A Roll.

When I visit schools to talk about Big Nate, kids sometimes ask if certain parts of the book are based on events from my own childhood.  The answer is usually no (Nate’s life is far more interesting than mine ever was), but not always.  There are a few aspects of Big Nate that are taken directly from my own past, and one of them is his love of dogs, and the ongoing question of whether or not Nate will ever have one of his own.  

I begged my parents for a dog for many years, but until I reached seventh grade the answer was always no.  Then, during a fierce snowstorm that winter, my brother and I discovered that the back door of our garage had blown open, and a little dog had found his way inside.  He was a cairn terrier, and he had no collar and no tags.  We took him in and cared for him, and for a few thrilling days it looked as if we’d be able to keep him.  My parents eventually located his owners, which was the bad news; but the good news was that the seed had been planted.  My mom and dad had actually enjoyed having a dog around, and later that spring we got a cairn terrier of our own, named Rufus.

Years later, I decided to make Nate’s wish for a dog an ongoing theme in the comic strip.  Each Christmas I’d devote a week to Nate’s attempts to get a dog, my own pleas as a boy never far from my mind.  Eventually I thought it would be funny to throw Nate a bone, so to speak:  he becomes the dog-sitter of the dysfunctional dog next door, Spitsy.  Spitsy, in Nate’s opinion, is an absolute failure is a dog.  He enjoys hanging out with cats, eats his own poop, and can’t play a game of fetch without running into a tree.  But despite it all, Nate loves Spitsy.  It’s not like having a dog of his own, but it’s the next best thing.

Which brings me to my own dog, who’s sitting under my desk in this picture.  Her name is Scout, and she’s a “whoodle”:  half wheaten terrier, half mini poodle.  Like Spitsy, Scout isn’t the brightest bulb in the box; she goes insane whenever a visitor comes to the front door, and her breath is horrible.  But she’s also fun to play with, is a very fast runner, and is a ferocious chaser of squirrels.  Plus, she’s my constant companion each and every day as I work in my office.  She’s a good dog.  In fact, I’m going to wrap up this blog right now and go give her a tummy rub.

That’s all until next time! 

Thu, 07/29/2010

_______ “Big Nate is going to blow your pants off.”

I’ve just read my favorite review of all time.  Liam, age 8 and a half, says:

“Big Nate is going to blow your pants off.”

Well said, Liam!  And thank you for the rave.  I’m sure Big Nate would love your way with words. You have a very bright future as a book reviewer!

Nate’s got something in common with Liam:  he enjoys rating things.  He assigns grades for certain kinds of school days, lists his worst days ever, creates a scale of annoying behaviors for his sister Ellen, etc.  Simply put, he’s always looking for opportunities to get his opinion out there.  Well, what better way to do that than by writing reviews for the school newspaper?  Just last year in the comic strip, Nate did just that.  He reviewed everything from the school musical (he gave “Bye Bye Birdie” low marks, not realizing he’d been watching an audition instead of a dress rehearsal) to an ugly sweater worn by his friend Chad.  As this strip shows, Nate’s not shy about letting everyone, even Mr. Rosa, know how he feels.

I also like rating things, which leads me to the question of the day.  I got a very nice letter from Lori Ann in Pennsylvania, who said she thought Big Nate would make a great movie.  Then she asked:  “what are YOUR favorite movies?”  Thanks for the question, Lori Ann.  Since so many of the people who read this blogs are kids, I decided to stick to kids’ movies with my answers.  I confess I haven’t had much time to go to the movies recently, so I can’t give an opinion on new movies like “Toy Story 3.”  But I’ll bet you’ve all seen some of these, even the really, really old ones.  I’ll list them in no particular order:

Spirited Away
Gulliver’s Travels
King Kong (the old black-and-white one)
ET the Extraterrestrial
The Wizard Of Oz
The Princess Bride
Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken
The Iron Giant
The Black Stallion

There are plenty of others, but those are the ones that came to mind right away.  If I were reviewing them, like Liam, I’d definitely say that they all blow my pants off.

That’s all until next time!

Mon, 07/26/2010

Practice Makes Perfect!

Hi, everyone.  Today’s entry will be on the short side (kind of like Big Nate himself) because I’m devoting almost every moment to finishing up the artwork for Big Nate Strikes Again.  I have four drawings to go.  After that I will look over all the artwork for chapters 9 – 12 (I’ve already sent all the drawings for chapters 1 – 8 to the publisher) to make sure there are no mistakes, smudges, and so on.  I’ll double check to be certain that each drawing is properly labeled — for example, “BNSA-11-208-A” is the first drawing on page 208 in chapter 11.  Then I’ll pack them up carefully and send them via overnight delivery to Harper Collins Children’s Books in New York City.  And THEN I’ll start writing Book 3, which will be called (I’m pretty sure it’s OK to tell you this) Big Nate On A Roll.

Recently a friend was nice enough to mention how much she liked the cover of Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself.  It reminded me that it took quite a few attempts before we arrived at that cover.  Here’s one of the possibilities we considered before deciding that Nate jumping out of a speech bubble was our favorite.  I think we made the right choice, don’t you?

That’s all until next time!

Thu, 07/22/2010

A Pen for Your Thoughts

Is it hot where you are?  Here in Maine, it’s been in the low- to mid-90’s.  I realize that’s really not very hot in comparison to some parts of the country, but up here that’s pretty scorching.  It makes working on the drawings for Big Nate Strikes Again a bit more challenging, because the humidity is affecting my drawing paper.  The paper starts to curl and warp due to all the moisture in the air.  We always knew that Big Nate is a little bit warped, and now we understand why!

Last time, I told you I’d blog a little more about rubber bands.  In my office, I use them to keep my pens organized.  I’ve mentioned before that I use a type of drawing pen called Staedtler pigment liners.  I have a lot of them, some of which are brand new, some are in their prime, some are beginning to dry out, and some are very nearly completely gone.  I use different types of pens to make different kinds of lines, depending on where the pen is in its life span and how thick it is.  (The pigment liners come in several different thicknesses.)

S this picture there are four pens.  The rubber bands around the caps indicate that these pens are very nearly brand new.  The COLOR of each rubber band helps me quickly and easily identify the thickness of each pen.  Blue is 0.7 (the thickest), red is 0.5, yellow is 0.3, and green is 0.1.  As a general rule, when I’m working on illustrations for a Big Nate book, I use...

0.7 for lettering
0.5 for large and medium drawings
0.3 for smaller drawings
0.1 for fine details

I have other essential drawings tools, too, like non-photo blue pencils, elliptical stencils, erasers, and two rulers.  I have a long metal ruler that says “Mr. Lincoln” on it, and a 12 inch wooden ruler that says “Limecone” on it.  And I use them for more than just making straight lines.  It turns out there’s an awful lot of measuring involved in making a book!

Just as I did back when Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself was published, I’ll be going on a book tour for Big Nate Strikes Again in October.  All the details are still being ironed out, but it looks like I’ll be in Chicago, Portland (OR), Seattle, Denver, Houston, Atlanta, New Jersey, and New York.  Maybe I’ll visit YOUR school!

Sun, 07/18/2010

Disaster Drawing!

Hi, everyone.  I mentioned last time that I’d found one of the disaster drawings I wrote about in a previous blog entry.  This is only PART of it, because the complete drawing is too big to fit on my scanner.  But you get the idea.  It’s a tidal wave.

This is actually the SECOND version of this drawing.  I started it in sixth grade English class under the not-so-watchful eye of Mrs. Schultz.  She was nearing retirement and was pretty much mailing it in at that point.  Anyway, I remember liking this tidal wave scene right away.  But I was drawing on a standard sized piece of notebook paper, and I was already running out of room.  So I brought the drawing home after school and re-drew it on a larger piece of paper.  At the time, I remember thinking that it was the best drawing I’d ever made.  That’s probably why I saved it.  It’s one of the very few drawings I made in middle school that I kept.

Today’s question of the day comes from Evan, who sent me this email:

Dear Lincoln Peirce: I came to the talk you did at Nonesuch Books.  I was wondering why you wear so many rubber bands on your wrist.

Thanks for the question, Evan.  I’m sorry to say that the answer is not all that interesting.  I just like rubber bands, that’s all.  I started wearing them on my left wrist about 25 years ago.  I never wear them on my right wrist because they get in the way when I draw.  Even though I have no real reason for wearing them, I do find that they come in handy from time to time.  More than once I’ve taken my daughter to a soccer or lacrosse game, and she realizes as she’s getting ready to run onto the field that she forgot to bring an elastic to put her hair in a pony tail.  That’s when it’s “Dad to the rescue” time.

There’s also another important use for rubber bands in my office, but I’ll save that until my next entry!
Thu, 07/15/2010

_______Big Nate and the World Cup!

I’m still pretty new to this blogging thing, but already I’ve discovered that it really isn’t all that different from other kinds of writing.  Sometimes you can’t think of anything to write about.  I asked a friend who’s a veteran blogger about this problem, and he replied:  when in doubt, just blog about what you did that day.

Okay, then:  today I drove my daughter to my brother’s house in Rhode Island, where she’ll spend the week going to camp with her favorite cousin.  And while I was there, I watched the World Cup soccer final between Spain and the Netherlands.  Spain ended up winning during extra time, 1-0, as many of you probably know.  But until they scored that winning goal very late in the match, it looked as if the championship would be decided by penalty kicks...which reminded me of a Big Nate story.

A couple of years ago, I told a long story in the comic strip about the rivalry between Nate’s school, P.S. 38, and its archrival, Jefferson Middle School.  The climax featured a soccer game between the two schools, and after overtime ended in a scoreless tie, a round of penalty kicks determined the winner.  Of course, since Nate is P.S. 38’s goalkeeper, that put him squarely in the spotlight.  It came down to the final kick.  If Nate could save it, P.S. 38 would hand Jefferson its first defeat in four years.  The above comic shows what happened!

Nate was the hero, which made a lot of Big Nate readers happy.  It also made ME happy, because I think it’s important to show that Nate has a variety of experiences.  Yes, he definitely gets into plenty of trouble, and he’s not the most accomplished student or athlete or musician or businessman in the world.  But he deserves to end up on top every once in awhile.  I think everyone does.

I found that disaster drawing I mentioned in my last blog.  More on that next time!

Mon, 07/12/2010

NEW Big Nate Fan Doodles

One of the fun things about meeting so many kids on my book tour was seeing their drawings of Big Nate.  Here are three versions from Amat, Charles, and Sophia.  Copying may be against the rules when you’re taking a math test, but it’s an important part of learning to draw.  If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve read about me copying drawings of Charlie Brown and Snoopy when I was a kid.  Some of the other comic book and comic strip characters I copied were Archie and Jughead, Spider-Man, Batman, Fred Basset, Andy Capp, Tubby (from the “Little Lulu” comic books), and Mutt & Jeff.  I also was a fan of old horror movies back then, and enjoyed trying to draw cartoons of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Creature From The Black Lagoon, etc.  I especially enjoyed Frankenstein.  I liked drawing the bolts in his head.

But every so often I’d run out of ideas and find myself unable to think of anything to draw.  One way to combat this was to play the scribble game.  (If I’ve visited your school, then you probably know about the scribble game.  If I HAVEN’T visited your school, you’ll learn about the scribble game by reading Big Nate Strikes Again.)  Another method I had, when all else had failed, was to make what I called a “disaster drawing.”  I’d find a big piece of paper and draw an enormous tidal wave or an avalanche or a cyclone.  Then I’d fill the drawing with dozens and dozens of little characters who’d been swept up in the disaster.  There might be a guy in bed, about to be buried in an avalanche, saying “I hope this is a bad dream!”  Or a mailman being blown around in a hurricane would be saying something like, “Hey, this doesn’t look like my route!”  The more crowded the drawing became, the better I liked it.  Somewhere in my office I have a disaster drawing I did in fifth or sixth grade.  I’ll look for it and try to put it on the blog sometime soon.

And speaking of WILL be a disaster if I don’t get back to work in my office!  See you next time!
Fri, 07/09/2010