Fritzi Ritz by Ernie Bushmiller

Ernie Bushmiller, Fritzi Ritz, April 21, 1946

Ernie Bushmiller (1905-1982) is best known for Nancy, a comic strip so minimal in its drawing style, structure and gags that cartoonist Bill Griffith (Zippy) said, "Nancy is comics reduced to its most elemental level." MAD cartoonist Wally Wood is reported to have characterized Nancy as a strip that took less time to read than it took to decide not to read it. But Nancy actually grew out of an earlier strip, Fritzi Ritz, which while drawn with a similar simplicity (which I would characterize as elegant more than minimal), had a distinct flavor to it.

Fritzi Ritz premiered in 1922 by cartoonist Larry Wittington. It belonged to a then popular genre of "flapper" comic strips, strips about independent single women. (Blondie started out this way as well.) Bushmiller took the strip over in 1925. The character Nancy was introduced in 1933 and the strip was renamed in 1938. The Sunday strip was still called Fritzi Ritz for quite some time, for some reason, even though it frequently featured Nancy as the protagonist.

Apparently, Bushmiller stopped drawing the Sunday Fritzi Ritz's sometime in the late 40s, hiring ghost cartoonists to do the work for him. So I don't know for certain if the Fritzi Ritz in this show is a Bushmiller or a clever simulacrum. However, it has the characteristics of classic Bushmiller: simplicity, elegance and, in the person of Fritzi Ritz, a surprising sexuality. Nancy may have been the ultimate kid's comic, but Bushmiller was aware that grownups read the comics as well.