“If Nancy was an Acid Freak.” An illustration by Joe Brainard.
Over the course of fifteen years, prolific American author and artist Joe Brainard took the much loved image of comic strip character “Nancy,” (originally conceived and drawn by Ernie Bushmiller starting back in the early 1930s) and inserted her into approximately 100 very un-Nancy-like situations. From playful and amusing—such as Nancy emerging from my grandmother’s ever-present pack of Tareyton cigarettes, to the strange unexpected pornographic depictions of Brainard’s neuvo-Nancy, 70 of these pieces included in 2008’s The Nancy Book.
“If Nancy was an ashtray.”
“If Nancy had an Afro.”
Brainard (who once sat for a screen test with Andy Warhol in 1964), sadly passed away long before The Nancy Book ever saw the light of day. In addition to Brainard’s works, the publication also includes essays from writers and poets such as Ron Padgett and Frank O’Hara. Although it’s not a part of The Nancy Book, it’s worth mentioning that punk pioneer Richard Hell wrote an essay on Brainard’s book that appeared in his 2015 book, Massive Pissed Love. Here’s an excerpt from Hell’s thoughts on Brainard’s unorthodox “Nancy”:
The pictures speak for themselves. Acid freaks, terrible diseases, afro hairdos - Nancy is the constant, the immortal essence— everything else is costume. All the world is Nancy in drag.
Another interesting bit of backstory on The Nancy Book is an amusing piece of “hate mail” (which I desperately hope is real) sent to the book’s publisher, Siglio Press back in 2011. According to the angry letter, Brainard’s “filthy weird” book was given to a fourteen-year-old girl named, you guessed it, Nancy, on her birthday by a relative who found it on Craig’s List. Here’s the letter below in all its “discusting” finger-wagging typo-riddled glory.
A few months ago my daughter 14 years old was given a book for her birthday from my 55 year old nephew. My daughters name is Nancy. She was given “the Nancy Book” By Joe Brainard and it was published by Siglio Press Co. My nephew purchased this book on Craig’s list. He had no idea that is was a filthy weird book. My daughter has a collection of Nancy & Sluggo things and books by Ernie Bushmiller. This book was discusting—I showed the drawings and fotos to my friends and their reaction was the same as mine. The book was wrapped in cellophane so we were unaware it was a truly dirty rotten book. Can you imagine a 14-year-old girl getting a book like that for her birthday gift. I know Ernie Bushmiller has died, he would be astounded that this Joe Brainard copied his comic strip and made such trash out it.
I can not understand how you and your press company would publish such filth. The price of this book was $39.95. This was not works of art.
I don’t know about you, but I’m planning on working the expression “filthy weird” into as many conversations as possible. You can pick up The Nancy Book here. I’ve also included more images—some were so NSFW you should just hunt for them on your own time—from the book as well as the trailer for a lovely documentary on Joe Brainard (which you can download here for $5 bucks), below.
“If Nancy was a sailor’s basket.”
More ‘filthy weird’ nasty Nancy after the jump…