Wednesday, April 22, 2015


When Ernie Bushmiller capsized into the dreaded inkwell of eternity back in 1982 the comic strip world really lost a heavy hitter. I mean, here was a guy who had been drawing the adventures of that curly headed mulatto NANCY for nigh on almost fifty years by that time (and Aunt Fritzi a whole lot longer) and all of a sudden he was missing for good, his absence becoming a noticeable blot on the once-funny pages of the day. And really, who could have replaced such a stellar name inna world of comics as Bushmiller just as who could have replaced Al Capp, Chester Gould or even that guy who drew MR. MUM? Not Gary Trudeau that's for sure!

Yeah, many a strip out there has survived the loss of its creator (usually with disastrous effect) but in this case the creator (Bushmiller) was the strip and even the stoopidest of doopidest people out there gotta admit that trying to continue NANCY after Bushmiller's demise wasn't exactly as easy a task as it was to keep yet another top notch fave such as FERD'NAND going. But continue on with this big bucks bonanza United Features Syndicate did, but who out there could have taken on such a Herculean task of tackling a strip that looked so primitive yet took a whole lot more skill'n I'm sure even Michelangelo would have been able to muster up?

Turns out that the person who was up to such a task was none other than Bushmiller assistant Mark Lasky, who from what I would gather had been responsible for much of the daily NANCY output during Bushmiller's final days. (Though I must admit that some of the strips that were appearing in the early-eighties looked as if Bushmiller was giving 'em a go on his lonesome despite his stroke and diabetes...really bizarro primitive work featuring Nancy eating spaghetti in the bathtub for a super-droll punchline.) And if I must put my two scents into the mix lemme say that I think that Mr. Lasky did a really good job of it, at least when he was directly copying from the old Bushmiller-era strips which is no big deal since Bushmiller used to di it himself.

True that certain Bushmiller sense o' suburban slobdom isn't exactly rearing its pockmarked head in these strips, but then again these funnies do capture that weird transitional mood that affected me throughout the early-to-mid eighties. Yeah, that was a time when a whole lotta the joy de vivre that was kiddom was being replaced by something a whole lot less palatable and perhaps downright sophisticado from tee-vee programs to music as well as general slob living. Sheesh, looking back on those days I only wish that I was around to say goodbye to Bushmiller because hey, when he passed on he sure took a whole lotta twentieth-century GOODNESS with him!

Since I doubt that the Lasky-period strips are gonna be reprinting in some slick Library of American Comics collection any day soon here are just a smattering of 'em. Some do show a particular primitive nature to 'em but considering the duty that Lasky had towards his readership of six-year-old kids and aged fanablas like myself I'd say he did a way more impressive job 'n what I'm sure the majority of NANCY-mongers out there woulda thought:

Needless to say Lasky's '83 death from leukemia threw United Features into a pants down tizzy, what with their rushing a troubleshooter in to do the strip for a short while the suits went looking for a new artist to handle their still potent property. Needless to say this fly in the monkeywrench didn't go unnoticed not only to us comic strip readers of the day but the general world as well (heck, I even remember none other'n NPR's Nina Totenberg breaking the early morning radio sphere after pulling a midnight shift with a story about NANCY's current travails!). It was but a short time this artist who didn't sign his work (for professional reason I'd gather) filled in the gap between Lasky and the artist who would eventually take up the strip, but I still gotta credit whoever it was doing this for at least trying to capture that great forties/fifties/sixties thrills and feelings in an era that really didn't capture much of anything for me:

By '84 the strip was taken over by the execrable Jerry Scott, definitely a member of the post-seventies comic strip set who managed to take everything that was fun and ranch house out of NANCY and turn it into yet another one of those imitation PEANUTS strips that had been floating around since the mid-fifties. Another nail into that coffin holding all of those fun frolics of youth that were now either forgotten, mocked or (worse yet) banned. The re-appearance of the NANCY of original intent in the mid-nineties after United Features had the good sense to knock Scott on his fat butt off the strip did give me some hope for the return of good ol' cheapo gulcher in an ever-yuppified world, but even that move turned sour after the brothers found out they couldn't aspire to those stellar Bushmillerian heights and went their own way after a few months of some super copycatting. 's funny, but if Lasky could pull it off maybe 75% of the time and the unknown troubleshooter at least half of it, why couldn't any of these modern day people who you think would have had the technology, talent and BRAINS to re-create NANCY's original spirit? If man can find a cure for sideways turds you'd think he could create a decent comic strip, eh?

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