Bill Griffith, the creative genius behind beloved comic strips like Zippy the Pinhead and Nobody’s Fool, presents “Three Rocks,” a captivating biography centered around the life and work of Ernie Bushmiller, the brilliant mind behind the iconic comic strip Nancy. Yet, “Three Rocks” transcends the boundaries of a mere artist’s biography; it explores the heart of American comic artistry, tracing its roots back to its inception in 1895 with the pioneering Yellow Kid.
Within the pages of this graphic novel, readers embark on a journey through time, as Griffith meticulously unfolds the story of Nancy’s birth in 1933 and the subsequent evolution of the comic strip medium, encompassing masterpieces such as Peanuts and The Far Side. The year 1982 marked the departure of Ernie Bushmiller from this world, leaving behind an unparalleled legacy. At that time, Nancy graced the pages of nearly 900 daily newspapers, a milestone that only a handful of syndicated cartoonists have ever achieved.
Nancy is celebrated as the epitome of a “perfect” comic strip, earning accolades and admiration from both devoted fans and fellow cartoonists. The title “Three Rocks” takes on a profound significance, drawing inspiration from a recurring visual motif within Bushmiller’s work—a trio of hemispherical rocks thoughtfully placed to convey the essence of the surrounding environment. This simplification embodies the iconic and diagrammatic aesthetics that define Nancy, a comic strip that delves deep into the essence of what it means to be a comic strip.
Through “Three Rocks,” Bill Griffith uses Nancy as the perfect canvas to expand upon his philosophy of creating comics, delving into the very nature of this art form. In this narrative, readers will not only discover the life and times of Ernie Bushmiller but also gain profound insights into the intricate tapestry of American comic artistry, where simplicity and complexity coexist in perfect harmony. It’s a celebration of creativity, innovation, and the enduring impact of the comic strip on the cultural landscape.
Ernie Bushmiller’s name is practically inseparable from the iconic comic strip known as Nancy. Although he didn’t originate the character, he left an indelible mark on it, transforming it into a creation that bore his distinctive signature. Nancy’s origins trace back to its roots in a spin-off from another comic strip, Fritzi Ritz, which Bushmiller took over from its creator, Larry Whittington, in 1925. Under Bushmiller’s stewardship, Nancy underwent a remarkable evolution and became a character with a personality and charm uniquely his own.
The legacy of Nancy did not end with Ernie Bushmiller. In the contemporary era, the talented cartoonist Olivia Jaimes has taken the reins of the strip and has infused it with her own creative vision. Through her artistic prowess and storytelling abilities, Jaimes has managed to craft a Nancy that is entirely distinctive and reflective of her artistic sensibilities.
This succession of artistic voices—Bushmiller, followed by Jaimes—exemplifies the dynamic and evolving nature of comic strips. Each creator leaves an indelible mark on the character and the narrative, shaping it in their own unique way. Ernie Bushmiller’s contribution to Nancy’s legacy is undeniable, and Olivia Jaimes has continued this tradition by making the strip distinctly hers, ushering Nancy into a new era while honoring its rich history. In this way, Nancy stands as a testament to the enduring appeal and adaptability of comic strip characters in the hands of talented artists across different generations.
Bill Griffith is the creator of the syndicated daily comic strip Zippy and the author of Nobody’s Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead. Griffith’s prolific output has been included in such publications as the Village Voice, National Lampoon, and The New Yorker. According to Bartlett, Griffith coined the popular phrase “Are we having fun yet?” He lives in Hadlyme, Connecticut.