44 Comments

  1. The question I sent Bill along with the cartoon was whether we are supposed to visually confirm that the “Yeah” piece from panel 1 and the “Nancy, you’re” piece from panel 4 have been force-swapped, and would actually fit if exchanged.

  2. In the first panel, the “original” statement from Fritzi Ritz was “Nancy, you’re forcing puzzle pieces together where they don’t fit.” Her “original” statement in the final panel was a sarcastic “Yeah, right.” In putting the puzzle together, Nancy switched the statements “Nancy, you’re” and “Yeah.”

    She thereby falsified the statements by Fritzi and Nancy in the second and third panels. In the second panel, Fritzi says, “If you mess it up in one place, it will cause problems somewhere else.” But, from Nancy’s point of view, there are no resulting problems: Fritzi’s initial statement in the first panel continues to be accurately stated, and her sarcastic disagreement in the final panel is now reluctant agreement with Nancy. In the third panel, Nancy says “It will barely change anything.” But going from “Yeah, right” to “Nancy, you’re right” is a reversal of the actual sentiment.

  3. It looks like a yes on that, Mitch4. The words fit, and the lengths look like they would fit. I think it’s a rather cute fourth-wall idea. I can’t say I like the way either character is drawn, though.

  4. There is also the metaphysical nicety that they are speaking and acting FROM WITHIN the very puzzle that they are putting together!

  5. In case you’re still confused, the crooked puzzle piece in the last panel was switched with the top-middle piece in the first panel. That’s why word balloon in the first panel is awkward to understand. Switch the pieces back to their correct placement, and you’ll then see the “original” version of the strip.

    I gotta admit, this is a pretty clever cartoon, once you figure out which pieces were switched.

  6. The only problem is that in most of the bubbles the words are in lines, so the “Nancy you’re” segment should be in a line as well, not with the words on top of each other.

  7. My main takeaway was the Fritzi was absolutely correct that forcing misfit puzzle pieces will cause a problem elsewhere in the puzzle, but the last panel illustrated just the opposite.

    Sort of like I had no problem with the ludicrous tornado assertions in “Twister” but was driven to fits by the guy just laying his newly signed divorce papers on the hood of the truck with no weight when anyone who has spent time in the central plains would be in the habit of weighting papers down in such places lest his whole team spend the next hour chasing those papers across a field.

  8. My main takeaway was the Fritzi was absolutely correct that forcing misfit puzzle pieces will cause a problem elsewhere in the puzzle, but the last panel illustrated just the opposite.

    Well, it required force-fitting two pieces, and it changed the (meta) picture to a degree with a resulting shift in the meaning of the sentences.

  9. Nancy frequently finds ways to twist Ritzi’s words, in this case she did so through the fourth wall.

  10. “My main takeaway was the Fritzi was absolutely correct that forcing misfit puzzle pieces will cause a problem elsewhere in the puzzle, but the last panel illustrated just the opposite.”

    ?????

    How so? The forced piece in the first panel caused huge problems in the final panel. It altered the meaning entirely. That’s a problem, isn’t it?

  11. The brilliance of the puzzle in the comic is that it demonstrates both interpretations simultaneously. With a normal jigsaw puzzle, it is impossible to exchange pieces, because neither the image nor the shape(*) will match. In this case, the shapes are wrong (proving Fritzi’s point), but the resulting text still makes (a different) sense, showing that Nancy’s viewpoint is also tenable.
    P.S. (*) – We own a set of junior jigsaw puzzles showing the four seasons, for which all four puzzles have the same basic scene, and were cut with the same die pattern. This means that it is possible to mix in pieces from a different season, so that parts of the house are in summer sunshine, while other sections have snow on the roof. I thought it was amusing, my kid less so.

  12. Back when Jerry Scott (now of Baby Blues and Zits) took over Nancy, there was a strip fondly remembered by me and my sister in which Nancy took to doing a jigsaw with a hammer to force the pieces in where she felt they should go. We always recall that strip when doing a frustrating puzzle. (Jerry Scott deliberately ignored the old rigid Nancy drawing style for his run (it looked more or less in the style of Baby Blues), and we were OK with that. I don’t think his run lasted very long, and I think he was directly replaced by the Gilchrists, who deliberately mimicked the old stiff Nancy style to an obsessive degree, proving in our minds at least that there is no room for innovation on the comics page.)

  13. >Jerry Scott deliberately ignored the old rigid Nancy drawing style for his run (it looked more or less in the style of Baby Blues), and we were OK with that.

    I guess I’m in the minority in that I am not okay with that and think a strip should maintain original look. Otherwise it’s a different strip.

    > I think he was directly replaced by the Gilchrists, who deliberately mimicked the old stiff Nancy style to an obsessive degree

    Except his writing and character development completely reworked it (and not in a good way).

  14. Kilby, in many puzzles it is definitely possible to exchange pieces for shape at least. Ravensburger puzzles have unique pieces, but that is not usually the case. I just did one where the pieces were identical in shape, and only slightly different in color, so I put in the first piece incorrectly, and when the second clearly didn’t match the color had to search through the already placed pieces for my mistake.
    I wrote an article on the mathematics of puzzles which is on a puzzle fan site, and I got consulted by researchers from a new BBC America series, one whose episodes revolved around a puzzle.

  15. Long ago, we did a 5000-piece puzzle. We discovered that the piece shapes were not unique. Each quadrant was made of the same shaped pieces, with extras linking them and making up the borders.

  16. Opinions differ, I know. I really liked Guy Gilchrist’s version of Nancy. His writing was always upbeat, often funny, sometimes sweet and sentimental. Olivia James has a much different approach. I kept reading for a while after she took over, but to me it seemed like someone – Nancy, Aunt Fritzi, Sluggo – was always angry. I finally gave up on it. I do think Olivia’s version is better than Ernie Bushmiller’s, which was just simple humor aimed at children. (I read it all through my ’60s childhood. 🙂 ) And I think Olivia’s puzzle piece switch is certainly clever. Maybe I should give Nancy another shot?

  17. What’s going on? Aunt Fritzi used to be the second-hottest lady in comic strips (right after Janis Day and before Blondie)?

  18. @ Scott – I stand corrected. For obvious reasons, almost all of the puzzles that I have had recent contact with have been Ravensburger editions. If possible, I would be very interested in links to your article and/or the BBC episode.
    P.S. @ S.Bill – Fritzi was originally created as a hot flapper, but was toned down a lot as she mutated into Nancy’s primary caretaker. Gilchrist finally married her off in his last strip (which seems like an obnoxious continuity “gift” to unload onto an incoming artist).

  19. Mitch4, I’d agree with you where many Vivaldi violin concertos are concerned, as long as you don’t mix up the tonality too much. Not so with the Four Seasons, though. For example, I think that exchanging movements from Spring and Winter would be disorienting. Maybe that’s just me.

    I have to say though that many years ago a friend played a Mozart horn concertos CD for me, and I completely failed to notice until she told me that she’d programmed the player to swap around all of the finales.

  20. >P.S. @ S.Bill – Fritzi was originally created as a hot flapper, but was toned down a lot as she mutated into Nancy’s primary caretaker. Gilchrist finally married her off in his last strip (which seems like an obnoxious continuity “gift” to unload onto an incoming artist).

    I think maybe Gilchrist assumed the strip was ending. If he didn’t his actions are *really* obnoxious. James, like many movie and graphic novel creators, think calling something a “reboot” is a valid and consistent solution to all continuity issues. But to her credit, she thinks of the strip as just what she writes any issue of continuity is just not of any concern so that is consistent…. I guess.

    Oddly, I rather like her take on Aunt Fritzi. In general, I find her Nancy a wet squib. (And the initial controversy over it truly surreal… as it was, in actuality, just a wet squib.)

  21. Singapore Bill, I’d have put Fritzi at #1, though undoubtedly Janis is the hottest comic strip character UNDER the age of 100.

  22. “Fritzi was originally created as a hot flapper, but was toned down a lot as she mutated into Nancy’s primary caretaker. Gilchrist finally married her off in his last strip (which seems like an obnoxious continuity “gift” to unload onto an incoming artist).”

    Did James feel bound by ANYTHING that previous artists and writers had done?

  23. @ B.A. – “Did [she] feel bound by ANYTHING …
    Given that her first step as author was to establish an anonymous pseudonym, it would appear that “Olivia Jaimes” was preparing to defend herself from the inevitable flame wars that result whenever someone decides to change anything related to an established fictional continuity.

  24. And the unusual spelling of “Jaimes” led some to think it provided a clue towards her identity, maybe not something as definite as an anagram but still …

  25. I forget who the comic was who pointed out that you can mix up the lines of Christmas songs and it won’t really make any difference:

    Frosty the Snowman
    Had a very shiny nose,
    But since we’ve no place to go,
    Walking in a winter wonderland.

  26. Kilby, I really have no problem with changing continuities: Nancy has ALWAYS been about changing continuities. But when you make the decision to draw the characters in the grotesque manner of early-50s Mad Magazine parodies, I really don’t think you get to say “It’s so unfair and intolerant of people not to accept this as a continuation of the existing strip.”

  27. B.A., I don’t really expect any continuity for gag-a-day strips like Nancy except for how they look. Whatever is needed at that moment for the joke is just what it is. If they were ever trying to tell a story, they long ago forgot it. I do agree that the look of a strip is its identity. If you change it, it’s not the same strip. Don’t give me any claptrap about artistic integrity, Dear Artist. If you cared about artistic integrity, you would launch your own strip, not take a mercenary gig pulling the strings on a zombie marionette. I’m perfectly fine with people taking a gig to keep the rent paid, but be honest about it.

  28. quoth woozy:
    ““Artistically, Jaimes’ style deviated significantly from Gilchrist, portraying Nancy more like Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy”

    Say what!?”

    Sounds like a typical editing-by-committee thing, where the original was sentence was poorly and ambiguously constructed, and someone who doesn’t know anything about the subject matter edited it to be clearer, but got it completely backwards. The subordinate clause should be modifying Gilchrst, not Jaimes; I think inclusion of a “which” and moving the verb “to portray” into the past tense would fix it…

    So, which one of us is actually going to be assed enough to do it?

  29. @ larK – If the clause modifies Gilchrist, then the relative pronoun needs to be “who” (not “which”), thus: “Jaimes’ style deviated significantly from Gilchrist, who portrayed Nancy more like Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy“.
    Or alternatively: “Jaimes’ style deviated significantly from that of Gilchrist, which portrayed Nancy more like Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy“.
    P.S. I gave up trying to provide public-spirited corrections to Wikipedia a couple years ago, due to narrow minded admins who thought that arbitrary rules were more important than correct information.

  30. Kilby: yes, I guess I really meant “style” as the referent, more specifically, “Gilchrst’s style”. And I agree with your PS.
    Although…
    I went and tried to edit it; the original sentence has no supporting citations, and yet as I was actually rewriting it, I realized I was changing the meaning of the sentence, and I had no supporting citations, other than, you know, it’s correct. But I do understand where they are coming from, it would be nice if I had a citation, and if the original sentence had a citation…
    Not that the edit was accepted, even though the page said something to the effect of your changes have been uploaded, my changes did not appear…

  31. I’ve got to say that I thought the Gilchrists’ flourishes were entirely unlike Bushmiller, while the minimalist art from Olivia Jaimes is much closer to the strip’s roots. While Bushmiller would probably think that Jaimes made the strip too intellectual, I think he would approve of much that she has done.

  32. I just did a random stroll through the archives, and I realize that the Gilchrist style evolved, becoming much less Bushmiller-like than when they started. My comment above then was based on my memory of when they took over (and the style was very much aping Bushmiller), and not of the subsequent 20+ years as the style changed. So in the end, while I don’t find much in Jaimes’ style that is Bushmiller-like, I could see how it might be seen as a retreat to Bushmiller compared to what Gilchrist had become

    *Sigh*
    Everything’s shades of gray…

  33. I went back and looked at the archives in reaction to this, and I was surprised to see how much the Gilchrists’ work looked like Bushmiller’s when they started. It was a pretty passable imitation in both art and writing. Of course, nobody wants to be just an imitator, and the Gilchrists soon moved away from Bushmiller. Unfortunately, in my view, the direction of their move was to overly prettified art and saccharine humor. But your mileage may vary.

    Jaimes’s reboot is one of several that I personally find more interesting than the original, although I suppose if you liked the Gilchrists’ work you wouldn’t care for it. If your preference was for Bushmiller, though, I would argue that her work is really quite a bit closer than their was. I also prefer the new versions of Dick Tracy and Alley Oop, both of which have more continuity of art but arguably less in writing style. But I find the radically different art in Heart to be grating.

  34. Personally, I’m very tired of the trend to endlessly reboot and repackage and retread old established titles, at the expense of something new, something original, something that hasn’t been around all my life… be it in comics, in movies, in TV, in books…

    *Sigh*…

  35. >”Of course, nobody wants to be just an imitator”

    But that’s their *job*. The job of taking over a zombie strip *is* to be a zombie.

  36. While reading various comments above, I had a major change of heart with regard to artists who undertake a “zombie” continuation. It is irrelevant whether they try to maintain the original artwork or writing style: all they are doing is accepting a job offer, and probably not a very lucrative one, either. The syndicate is the guilty party: those newspaper contracts and slots are a cash cow for the syndicate, not the artist.

  37. Kilby, I imagine making a living as an artist, even a modest one, is better than answering phones in a cube at faceless, heartless corporation if you’re an artist. I know I prefer making a living writing, even if it is for corporate use, than being a phone monkey in a cube. Trying to sell a completely unknown comic to a syndicate for newspaper publication is probably quite a challenge. If they can have a passion project on the side while the zombie pays the bill, I understand.

  38. Strips have been getting new cartoonists for a long time. Should Gasoline Alley have ended in 1959 when Frank King retired? Syndicates are in it to make money. So are most businesses. Yeah, the zombies and legacies crowd out new cartoonists, but that’s the nature of the business.

    Frequently the zombie strip author does try to imitate what’s gone on before. A counter to that is Steenz, who’s Heart of the City is stylistically very different, which some people don’t like and others are accepting.

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