Episode 552 – Bill Griffith

Virtual Memories Show 552:
Bill Griffith

“What attracted me to NANCY wasn’t the characters, or the stories, or the humor: it was the lettering.”

Legendary cartoonist Bill Griffith returns to celebrate his fantastic new book, THREE ROCKS: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller, The Man Who Created NANCY (Abrams ComicArts). We get into his lifelong history with NANCY, how that strip was like a lesson in what comics are, the time he brought his Zippy The Pinhead into Bushmillerland, why Bushmiller and Crumb are the only two cartoonists whose work gives him 100% pleasure (and don’t inspire criticism or jealousy), how the idea for Three Rocks percolated for a few decades until he read Paul Karasik & Mark Newgarden‘s book HOW TO READ NANCY, and why he decided not to draw Bushmiller’s characters in his book (he collages existing Nancy, Sluggo, & Fritzi art instead). We also discuss how many of his cartooning students have never read NANCY but still wear T-shirts with her face (& trademark spiky hair), the problems younger cartoonists have with continuity in storytelling, and what he’s learned from teaching. And then we talk about the death of Bill’s wife, the great underground cartoonist Diane Noomin, and how he’s gotten by in the year since. We get into the new comic Bill made about (& with) Diane, The Buildings Are Barking (Fantagraphics/FU), how he still hears her voice, what it’s like to work on a new book without the person who read every panel of his for 49 years, keeping Zippy going while grieving, how having a daily strip all this time seems to have immunized him from anniversaries, the ferry ride he & Diane used to share, how the death of Aline Kominsky-Crumb two months after Diane’s brought him and Robert Crumb closer, and more. Give it a listen! And go read Three Rocks and The Buildings Are Barking!

(And go listen to our 2015 and 2019 conversations!)

“Diane wouldn’t say negative things; she just gave me her critical view. She wouldn’t say, ‘You don’t put enough feeling in,’ but she’d say, ‘You need to put more feeling here.'”

“I’ve always been able to do my Zippy strips, no matter what happens in my life. It isn’t that I’m able to do them, it’s that they go along on a separate track.”

“The biggest accomplishment this book could have is making Robert Crumb a NANCY fan.”

“There’s some part of you that questions what happened: How could she not be here? I said it felt like someone came into the house and stole her, took her hostage. Because that would make sense; it doesn’t make sense that she’s gone.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

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, and Invisible Ink. Bill’s prolific output has been included in such publications as the Village Voice, National Lampoon, and The New Yorker. According to Bartlett, Bill coined the popular phrase “Are we having fun yet?” He lives in Hadlyme, Connecticut. His new books are Three Rocks and The Buildings Are Barking: Diane Noomin In Memoriam.

Listen to our 2015 and 2019 conversations.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Bill’s studio on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4 digital recorder & interface. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Bill by me. It’s on my instagram.

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