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15 July 2008 @ 10:13 pm
Waiting for Nancy  

Originally published at Scott Edelman. Please leave any comments there.

Editor and Publisher reported today on the bizarre correspondence which supposedly took place in 1952 and 1953 between Samuel Beckett, the existentialist author of Waiting for Godot, and Ernie Bushmiller, the cartoonist responsible for the newspaper strip Nancy.


This sounds much too weird to be true, but then again, stranger things have happened. After all, J.D. Salinger was supposedly a big fan of Gilligan’s Island. And this was Beckett, so you never know.

One letter from Bushmiller, provided by trusted comics historian R.C. Harvey, is quoted as rejecting Beckett’s ideas as follows:

Your gag and strip ideas for Nancy are much appreciated, and I have to say interesting, too. Many readers send me ideas for the strip, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any quite like yours. …

I don’t know how well they’re going to work. I think the problem you’re having, Sam, is the same problem any literary man might have. You’re not setting up the gags visually and you’re rushing to the snapper. It seems to me you’ve got the zingers right there at the beginning, in panel No. 1, and although I have to admit you got Nancy and Sluggo in some crackerjack predicaments, I don’t see how they got there.

For instance, putting Nancy and Sluggo in the garbage cans is a good gag, but in my opinion, you can’t have them in there for all three panels. How did they get there? Same thing when you had them buried in the sand. I like to do beach gags, but I don’t think that having Nancy buried up to her waist in the first two panels and then up to her neck in the third one is adequately explained, and I’ve been at this game for a while now. Also, why would Sluggo be facing in the opposite direction when he’s talking to her?

The more I reread the news story, the more I thought—this has got to be a joke! It was just something written in jest that someone else made the mistake of taking seriously, like all those times respected newspapers pick up Onion stories and run with them as gospel, right?

I guess what it comes down to is that I’d rather be judged cynical for discounting it if it turns out to be true than gullible for believing it if it turns out to be false.

I suppose I could contact R.C. Harvey to ask him directly, but—where would be the fun in that?