Thursday Comics Hangover: Checking in with Nancy

A year ago, I had a lot of kind words for the new Nancy comic strip. Today, I just want to take a moment to remind you that the cartoonist who has taken over the Nancy comic strip under the pseudonym "Olivia Jaimes" is still killing it. As she's getting more comfortable with the strip, Jaimes is starting to make her own mark on Nancy's pacing and comedy. Look at the last two panels of the most recent Sunday Nancy strip:

The way that the giant pile of fries overlaps with the "THANKS" word balloon is a quiet act of genius; something about the visual impact between dialogue and object makes both elements more evocative. It makes the pile of fries look even bigger than it otherwise would, and it imbues the word balloon with the sound of the fries: you can almost hear Nancy gulping down fries before and after saying "THANKS."

Jaimes is also employing postmodern humor to great effect. Nancy's creator Ernie Bushmiller loved to make meta-jokes in Nancy — he always "took Labor Day off" by sloppily illustrating a strip, for instance — but Jaimes mines comedy out of the awkward limitations of a daily strip, like the problem of naming characters in an organic way. And the meta-comedy is drop-dead hilarious in its own right: this strip about optical illusions, for instance, has got to be an all-time classic of the series. Not every meta-commentary lands perfectly — this (literal) sight gag isn't quite perfect — but there's nothing lazy about any of them.

It's almost impossible to remember now, but there was one time when the most inventive, interesting comics you could find were on the comics pages. Jaimes might not be reinventing the medium with Nancy, but she's putting more thought into the kind of weight each minimalist panel can carry without breaking than just about anyone in the medium today. As she stretches and becomes more comfortable with the job, I expect to see more formal experimentation on Nancy. Hopefully that enthusiasm will spread to the other (almost entirely moribund) strips on the funny pages — if so, it won't be long before we're all thinking of the comics page as the smartest place in cartooning.