Three rocks

Yesterday’s Zippy:


Great wisdom comes from the 3 Rocks. But not necessarily an understanding of what’s going on in the cartoon, which appears to be no more than playful surrealism, with a trio of talking rocks. Entertaining at that level, but as is usual with Bill Griffith, there’s a subtext: the 3 Rocks are an established thing in Zippy.

(The title is an irrelevant diversion, a jumble of Rocky Horror Picture Show, with a play on rock in the middle.)

Back to 2/1/96 and “Homage to Three Rocks”:

(#2) A Zippy, Griffy, and Claude art history tour

… which goes through Daumier, Breughel, Watteau, and Goya, ending in … Ernie Bushmiller? Ernie Bushmiller, the cartoon artist of the Nancy strip, featuring Nancy and Sluggo. There’s a surprise.

Next up, “Three rocks, one roll” from 4/3/03:

(#3) On the plainness of Bushmiller backgrounds

Fast forward to 2009. and a 7/18/09 posting of mine, “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bemildred”, with the cartoon “Not just numbers anymore”:

(#4) Good things come in threes

Two years later, on 11/17/11, “Ernest need”, on places named Three Rocks, plus a Nancy and Sluggo reference:

(#5) Oregon or California?

And two more years on, on 1/11/13, in a posting “Realism plus”:

(#6) But is it art?

Discussion in my 2013 posting, with a quote from cartoonist and cartoon scholar Scott McCloud. And now from the everything2 site, this piece “Three Rocks” (by Quizro):

[“Three Rocks”] refers to Nancy comic strip artist Ernie Bushmiller’s penchant for, whenever some rocks seemed called for in the background, always drawing three rocks. The Zen-like nature of the Three Rocks are a subject of endless fascination for several notable comics artists and Nancy fans including Bill Griffith, Art Spiegelman, and Scott McCloud. As McCloud says in his rules for the card game “5-Card Nancy”:

“Art Spiegelman explains how a drawing of three rocks in a background scene was Ernie’s way of showing us there were some rocks in the background. It was always three. Why? Because two rocks wouldn’t be ‘some rocks.’ Two rocks would be a pair of rocks. And four rocks was unacceptable because four rocks would indicate ‘some rocks’ BUT IT WOULD BE ONE ROCK MORE THAN WAS NECESSARY TO CONVEY THE IDEA OF ‘SOME ROCKS.'”

2 Responses to “Three rocks”

  1. How To Read The Nancy Comic Strip, Now In Its 80th Year of Publication Says:

    […] infinitum. Underground cartoonist and longtime “Zippy” scribe Bill Griffith has waxed eloquent on the zen nature of three stacked rocks, Bushmiller’s longtime choice of background detail. Even Andy Warhol lifted a “Nancy” panel […]

  2. How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels – Paul Karasik & Mark Newgarden, 2017 – Hilary's Book Blog Says:

    […] strolling”). It was Bill Griffith’s tributes to Bushmiller, starting with the three rocks that first opened my eyes to the genius behind Nancy’s weird and wonderful stylization. This […]

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