In its glory days, when it was written and drawn by Ernie Bushmiller, Nancy walked the fine line that separates genius from idiocy. The newspaper comic was as inane as a dad joke and as beguiling as a Zen koan; the best path to enjoying it, and perhaps to attaining enlightenment, lay in embracing the fact that you weren't ever sure whether it was the smartest or stupidest thing in the paper.
The cartoon lost that spirit after Bushmiller died in 1982, as a series of successors churned out an ever-blander pod-person facsimile of his creation. But now a new writer-artist, the pseudonymous Olivia Jaimes, has taken over, fusing Bushmiller's sensibility with the similarly smart-dumb ethos of Weird Twitter. There are more jokes about social media now, but the flavor is happily familiar. "My sense of humor," Jaimes tells The New York Times, "is probably best described as Ernie Bushmiller with more words."
This is a rare event. If more artists were free to take a crack at the creations that populate the funny pages, we'd have more Olivia Jaimeses on our hands. But copyright law prohibits that, so instead these characters are monopolized by syndicates happy to churn out witless zombie strips. Imagine how many good Nancys we might have had if, like Oz or Cthulhu, she'd been allowed to enter the public domain.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Nancy".