For a while now, people have been asking Funny Paper, jointly and severally, if we have seen the newest version of Nancy, by Olivia Jaimes. We have! It is very good—extraordinarily good, in that it achieves a magical kind of ordinariness: it feels like a strip that could just go on being good indefinitely. For all its online-ness, and the gags about people being mad about the online-ness, and the instantly viral and legendary “Sluggo is lit” prank strip, the Jaimes Nancy has been profoundly respectful of the form.
And on Sunday, Jaimes delivered an all-time great gag, so elegantly constructed it would have killed in the 1930s. It was a kid-steals-the-cookies gag and a gag—two gags!—about the nature of reality in the comics, and it was a quick, clean read, so go see it here.
One of the reasons why the new Nancy has succeeded at being a living thing—where once Nancy was a shuffling zombie-strip whose only purpose was to remind the world, through the power of disappointing contrast, that the late Ernie Bushmiller’s dead-simple comicscapes were the singular and excruciatingly difficult achievement of one of the greatest draftspersons who ever picked up a cartoonist’s pen—is that the characters stay in character, and their character drives the strip. Here, particularly, the gag about the gag about the gag is that Nancy cannot transcend being herself, even in the act of attempting to subvert the comic-strip medium. Nancy, ever overconfident, believes she has found a way to get outside the rules of the form; Aunt Fritzi shows up to enforce an even higher set of rules, from further outside the form: no matter what rules her niece breaks from panel to panel, Nancy will always be inside Nancy, a character in a comic strip, trapped inside the page.