The Cartoonists by Susanna McLeod 


Review of "Big Nate From the Top" and "Big Nate Out Loud" Comics Collections by Creator Lincoln Peirce

May 21, 2011


How funny could it be, a comic strip about an average kid in school, his friends, his father? The bare-bones story line for "Big Nate" sounds like many others, but there is a difference... I smirked, I snickered, I giggled. Then I outright laughed while reading the compilations "Big Nate From the Top" and "Big Nate Out Loud". It could have been embarrassing, since I was sitting by myself. I have to share it with others - it's just too much fun to keep to myself!


Lincoln Peirce was born in Ames, Iowa in 1963 and raised in Durham, New Hampshire. He had the creator's bug pulsing in his veins since he was a child, drawing versions of his favourite cartoons. Peirce - pronounced "purse" - created his first comic strip when he was in Grade 6, a trait inherited by his star character, "Big Nate."

Attending Colby College in Maine, Peirce earned at Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. He continued to immerse himself in art studies, receiving a Master's degree from Brooklyn College. He also trained at Skowhegan School of Printing and Sculpture. "While at Colby, he created a comic feature called 'Third Floor,' about two college roommates," said "Big Nate's (and Lincoln Peirce's) story" on Facebook.

Cartoonist Lincoln Peirce, Creator of "Big Nate"

On graduation, Peirce put his skills to work, not as a full-time cartoonist but as a teacher. "I taught high school at a boys' school in New York City, for three years," Peirce said on Washington Post's "Comics: Meet the Artist" in August 2004. "I taught art and coached basketball." He enjoys the sports of baseball and soccer, and also plays in what he called "an old men's" hockey league.

While in college, the aspiring cartoonist submitted comic strip proposals to the big syndicates. "Eventually I began receiving some of those so-called 'encouraging' rejections letters, one of them from United Media in response to a strip called 'Neighborhood Comix'," Peirce told Scott Nickel on "A Nickel's Worth," June 2, 2009. The editor made the suggestion to choose one character from the cast and create a comic around that one. Peirce chose the 11-year-old Nate, a Grade Six boy with charm, over-confidence and a dash of sarcasm that leaves readers smiling. With a new title, he submitted "Big Nate" for review and was offered a development contract.

"Big Nate:  Out Loud"  Lincoln Peirce April 2011

In 1991, "Big Nate" was syndicated under the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) umbrella. Now appearing in 200 newspapers and on the Internet, the comic strip is at last gaining a well-deserved taste of fame.

In an interview with Jeff Kinney on Big Nate Books, Peirce spoke about the creation of his strip. "The cartooning is 90 percent writing, 10 percent drawing," and that working in his home office, a single four-panel strip takes from 1 1/4 to 2 hours to create. The talented cartoonist creates humour appealing to kids and adults, especially those who remember what it was like to be a kid. After all, whose parents didn't seem a little out of touch?.

As a boy, Peirce "dreamed of creating a character like Charlie Brown or Dennis the Menace that kids and adults would want to read about and care about." With Nate's school as a major element of the "Big Nate" strip, Peirce uses his own school memories as the basis for great fun, though he wasn't as confident or into as much trouble as his character.

Though "Big Nate" was popular with readers, it was difficult to attract new fans and a book deal through standard methods. Pierce's first comics compilation was produced through's print-on-demand system and advertised on "Big Nate's Island" on Poptropica.

"Big Nate" couldn't help but gain in popularity. With more books emerging. Peirce's collections include a series of six narrative "Big Nate" books featuring storylines and comics. The first, "Big Nate: In a Class by Himself" debuted in early 2010; the second book, "Big Nate Srikes Again" was released in October the same year. Published by Harper Collins, both books were on the New York Times best seller list for months, just where such good humour should be. No doubt the next four installations will be even more successful.

Peirce also debuted two collections of the comic strip, "Big Nate From the Top" (October 2010) and "Big Nate Out Loud" (April 2011) through publisher Andrews McMeel.

"Big Nate:  From the Top"  Lincoln Peirce, October 2010

 But, sigh. I have regrets about the "Big Nate" comic strip... I regret not reading it sooner! Diving into both new compilations, I giggled and chuckled, and laughed riotously "out loud," something not often accomplished. Peirce produces art easy on the eyes, with spare but sufficient backgrounds,keeping his focus on the characters. And what characters they are! Those seemingly simple lines exude loads of personality and charisma.

The expressions of Peirce's stars are enough to bring giggles (especially the ones where Nate is feeling queasy - just too funny,) and his plot lines hit home almost every time. I could just feel the exasperation of Nate's father and teachers, sense the confusion of immigrant student Artur, and winced wtih Nate's pain as he did a face-plant on the ground. Peirce seems to have a solid understanding of the human spirit, adult and child, and the ability to express it through "Big Nate." Quite an accomplishment with a pen and four small squares.

Lincoln Peirce, his fine-artist wife, Jessica, and their two children, Elias and Dana, make their home in Portland, Maine. An unstoppable creative force, Peirce also exercises his artistic abilities in animation, writing short stories, creating storyboards and characters for the Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon.

Visit Big Nate Books for much more fun, including an interview with Lincoln Peirce by Jeff Kinney, speaking about the creation of "Big Nate." (Kinney is cartoonist and author of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid".)

For a smile every day, read "Big Nate" at and get your own collection of "Big Nate Out Loud" and "Big Nate From the Top" at online stores or your local book shops. Go ahead. Laugh out loud.

Lincoln Peirce photo from Books by Andrews McMeel Publishers and Artwork © United Feature Syndicate and Lincoln Peirce.

Lincoln Peirce's "Big Nate"

© Susanna McLeod 2011