Thursday, October 5, 2023

Book Review: Three Rocks

From Bill Griffith, creator of Zippy the Pinhead and Nobody’s Fool, comes Three Rocks: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller - The Man Who Created Nancy This is more than the story of an iconic comic book artist. It is the story of this American art form, tracing its inception to 1895 with the Yellow Kid, the creation of Nancy in 1933, and all the strips that followed, including Peanuts and The Far Side. When Bushmiller died in 1982, Nancy was running in almost 900 daily newspapers—a number few syndicated cartoonists ever achieve.

Nancy is hailed as the “perfect” comic strip by fans and cartoonists alike. The title Three Rocks refers to the trope of three hemispherical rocks often seen in a Bushmiller landscape—just enough to communicate environment to the reader. This distillation is exemplary of the iconic, diagrammatic look of Nancy, a comic strip about the nature of what it means to be a comic strip—the perfect avatar for Griffith to expand upon his philosophy of creating comics.

Three Rocks was published August 29, 2023, from Abrams Books.

I grew up with the comic strips in the daily and Sunday papers as a kid of the 70's. It even inspired me to draw my own (simple drawings I can handle). Of course, Nancy was one of those that appealed to me as she and Sluggo were just kids like me, navigating the world and trying to understand it all.

Griffith's telling of Bushmiller's story is the perfect blend of "real-life" and "comic strip life", often bouncing back and forth between the two styles with ease. He integrates the artwork and characters from the strips; this makes Bushmiller's presence a big part of the telling. You can tell the passion Griffith has for the Nancy comic strip - as shown by the segment where he presents samples from an unknown person's scrapbook of early 1960's strips that he bought off of eBay.

I liked the explanation of Bushmiller's creative process. How he would build his strips starting with the gag in the last panel and then work backwards was a very interesting approach.

Fans of classic comic strips will want to check this out.

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