Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Nancy or The Strange Tale of Fritzi Ritz

Fritzi Ritz began life as a popular light comic strip created in 1922 by cartoonist Larry Whittington. It's heroine was a glamourous single lady, a flapper named Fritzi.

In 1925 a 20-year-old Ernest Paul Bushmiller took over the strip.Bushmiller's introduction of Fritzi's sassy niece Nancy (in 1933) brought even more fans to the strip.In 1938 Bushmiller introduced Nancy's raggamuffin friend Sluggo.Later that year, Aunt Fritzi's name was dropped from the title of the daily strip, which continued on as Nancy.Ernie's clean, bold style, and his skill of constructing surrealistic site gags propelled the strip to new heights. Nancy and Sluggo became pop culture icons, appealing to kids and their parents as well. Sluggo was soon just as famous as Nancy–or even more so, as witnessed by this rare two-pack doll set.Poor Aunt Fritzi's Sunday strip continued for a few more years before being completely taken over by Nancy.
Fritzi continued to appear in Nancy to attract male readers with her charming figure.
But it was Bushmiller's clever gags that transformed Nancy a comic strip classic.
So, Fritzi Ritz, who had once been a funny pages star, was relegated to being a bit player in the strip where she had once been the star.And Nancy and Sluggo's colorful friends soon populated the strip - forcing Aunt Fritizi into comic books to get some quality time - though she shared the bill with her unattractive beau Phil.
Fritzi's solo book continued into the 1940s.
United Feature Syndicate also launched Tip Top Comics, where Nancy's strips were reprinted alongside other UFS stars. 
When the series moved to Dell Comics, the other features eventually included Charles Schultz's Peanuts.
A Nancy and Sluggo book was soon launched.
After a stint with St. John Publishing (1955-57), Dell Comics became the home of Nancy and Sluggo. It was assigned it to popular Little Lulu cartoonist John Stanley. 
Dogs always played an important role in Nancy's adventures. As witnessed here:

After moving to Gold Key Comics, the title ended in 1963, and Nancy never again appeared in comic books.In 1942, Nancy was licensed by Terrytoons, the studio that produced the popular MIGHTY MOUSE and HECKLE & JECKLE animated shorts.Sadly, Terrytoons only produced three NANCY cartoon shorts. (Titles: School DazeNancy's Little Theater and Doing Their Bit.) It took Nancy almost 30 years later to return to the world of animation–on Saturday mornings!
In 1971, Filmation's ARCHIE'S TV FUNNIES on CBS welcomed Nancy as one of its segments — rotating with other comic strip characters like Broom-Hilda. The format was revisited in 1978 on NBC under the title FABULOUS FUNNIES - without The Archies involvement.
Bushmiller won the National Cartoonist Society Humor Comic Strip Award for 1961 and in 1976, he was awarded the Reuben Award for the Best Cartoonist of the Year from the National Cartoonists Society.
Bushmiller continued writing Nancy with Al Plastino and Will Johnson handling the art chores. He died in 1982, and the strip was taken over briefly by Mark Lansky, who died in 1983, opening the door for Jerry Scott's modern make-over of the strip. Scott ignored Aunt Fritzi during most of his run - but when left in 1995, the new team, brothers Guy and Brad Gilchrist, returned to Bushmiller's beloved style and use of sight gags.
Even still-sexy Aunt Fritzi returned - to more prominent role in the strip!And mildly dramatic themes sometimes come into play.
Fritzi Ritz and Nancy - together again. Also In 1995, Nancy, along with Brenda Starr and several others, was part of the "Comic Strip Classics" series of commemorative stamps. You can get your daily dose of Nancy here.

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