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Lincoln Peirce talks about writing, drawing, and Big Nate

The Maine Lit Fest, a week of readings, conversations, and gatherings in Waterville and Portland, features several Maine publishers and author collectives. 

On Oct. 1, Lincoln Peirce `85, author, cartoonist, and animator, best known for the Big Nate comic strip and novels, shared his drawing and writing experiences at the Green Block Studio in downtown Waterville.

The stories of Big Nate premiered on Paramount+ as an animated series this year. Peirce has also written a number of other books, such as Max & the Midknights, a comedic adventure story set in the Middle Ages. An animated adaptation is set to  appear on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon in 2023.

Peirce’s love for comics began at a young age with Charles Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts. The four-panel storytelling format, which Peirce uses in many of his works, is inspired by Peanuts.

“I [had] loved Peanuts before I learned to read,” he recalled.

Cartoons, comedies, and posters were all sources of inspiration for Peirce.

Peirce recalled when he first learned how to draw characters consistently. He was sent by his mother to the post office and saw a “wanted” poster on the wall featuring a photo of a person from both the side and front. Peirce practiced drawing “wanted” posters to sharpen his character creating skills.

Peirce worked as a cartoonist at The Colby Echo during his time at the College.

“Doing a comic at the Echo meant a lot to me, especially at the time before the internet era when everything was printed,” he said. “It was also the first time for me to have a deadline [to finish my cartoon.]”

Peirce began sending his comics to entertainment companies while he was in college. After many rejections, his portrait of the character Big Nate was accepted.

The name “Big Nate” came from Peirce’s nickname for his brother.

“I erased the first two letters of my big brother’s name and called him ‘Nathan’ when I was a kid. When creating the comics, I deleted the last few characters.” Peirce explained.

Looking forward, Peirce is thinking about creating stories for adults because most of them are currently targeted at young readers.

Peirce explained why he enjoys comics as an artistic medium.

“Comics are so different from writing [because] each panel can serve as a visual clue,” he said. “You will not know what will happen before reaching the final panel.”

Drawing a lightbulb and adding an eyebrow for “Big Nate” on the white board during the presentation, Peirce demonstrated the simplicity of comics.

“Comics can show things happening and make changes in a simple and fun way …One thing great about comics is that you do not have to draw things to imitate real life. Everything can be exaggerated,” Peirce explained.

Peirce mentioned that he currently lives in Maine and welcomes visitors to “knock on his door” and come say hi.

~ Kristen Shen `24

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