- Ada, Oklahoma

Local News

February 28, 2011

‘Big Nate’ new comic for AEN

Ada — The adventures of 11-year-old Nate Wright will be documented in the Ada Evening News starting Monday when the “Big Nate” comic strip makes its debut here. The strip made its print premiere 20 years ago.

“The poor kid has been stuck in sixth grade this whole time,” said creator Lincoln Peirce. “People ask if he’s based on me, and I say no, but he’s the sort of kid I would have liked to have been at that age because he leads such an interesting life.”

While Peirce had a relatively trouble-free childhood, he said Nate — albeit well-intentioned — is often forced to overcome adversity during his time at school. The middle school setting is based on memories Peirce rehashed years ago while teaching art class in New York City.

“I realized how much and how well I remembered my own school days,” said Peirce, who began sketching comics when he was Nate’s age. “I have memories from moments in sixth-grade that I remember more vividly than events from last week.”

Inspiration for “Big Nate” also stems from Peirce’s lifelong love of comic strips, he said, citing “Peanuts” as his biggest influence. “Big Nate” will ironically replace “Peanuts” on the daily comic strip page.

They are big shoes to fill, Peirce admits.

“Everyone sets out to try and create characters that are as memorable and iconic as what ‘Peanuts’ was,” he said, “but no one can ever meet that standard.”

The lovable characters kept “Peanuts” running strong a half-century, he said, and Peirce brings that same emphasis to “Big Nate.” The supporting cast has fueled his comic strip the past two decades, Peirce said, whether it be lovable Belarus exchange student Artur or Nate’s arch nemesis Mrs. Godfrey.

Artur was not actually an original character and instead was introduced 10 years into the strip’s run, Peirce said. He is among the very few new faces since the strip originally ran, he said, but Artur has become one of the most prominently featured characters.

“He has become Nate’s rival even though (Artur) would never consider Nate his rival,” Peirce said. “Nate likes him but finds himself resentful at the same time because he does everything just a tiny bit better than Nate does.”

“Big Nate” is new to Ada, but there are more than 250 publications that regularly print Peirce’s work in 18 different languages, he said.

“When I first started, I remember thinking how happy I’d be if the strip were in my parents’ home-town paper,” he said. “And, now to think, there is this whole new generation of kids and readers that are discovering Nate for the first time.”

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