top of page

Olivia Jaimes

Olivia James is the pseudonym of the American cartoonist known for her work on the iconic comic strip Nancy. Nancy’s original creator, Ernie Bushmiller, passed the torch to Al Pastino, Mark Lasky, Jerry Scott, Guy and Brad Gilchrist, and Olivia Jaimes. She is the first female creator of Nancy in its 90 years of publication. Nancy Gained popularity for its playful art and beloved characters Nancy and Sluggo. Today, its long running time and its nostalgic appeal have established a dedicated fan base. Updating the strip for a more text-savvy audience, Jaimes has introduced modern aspects like phones to Nancy’s world, swimming over the hearts of the new generation with a fresh and innovative take on an old comic

Spectator Magazine: What drew you to do this job? Was it something you sought after or was it something that just happened by chance? 

 

Olivia Jaimes: I was a superfan of the original Nancy, and Shena Wolf (of Andrews McMeel Universal) reached out when the last cartoonist was wrapping up his run. So mostly chance, in that if I hadn’t proclaimed I loved Nancy as loudly as I had, the syndicate wouldn’t have thought to approach me. There’s a lesson in this, which is to be really loud about what you like in the hopes that someone will someday reach out to offer you creative control of the IP. 

 

SM: Working under a well-known company must be stressful. How do you handle the pressure of upholding such famous legacies?

 

Jaimes: Actually, it’s incredibly easy! They’re comics. I love them, but the stakes couldn’t be lower. 

 

SM: How has the original artist, Ernie Bushmiller, influenced your work as a cartoonist? 

 

Jaimes: I hereby declare that I’ve read and reread the original Nancy comics more than any other person on Earth, and anyone who disagrees can fight me. He influences my work in that I usually read Bushmiller’s Nancy for ten minutes before trying to write any of my own. I’m also wildly jealous of him for claiming lots of good joke ideas back in the 1940s. 

 

SM: If there is one thing you want the readers to take away from your cartoon, what would it be?

 

Jaimes: I want them to go, “Ha, ha, brilliant. Some brilliant genius made this.” 

 

SM: What is your writing and character development process? 

 

Jaimes: I stare at the ocean until seven joke ideas appear. Then I ruminate on whether they’re too psychologically revealing. Then I send them off to my editor anyway because the passing of time is unyielding and cruel. 

 

SM: Did you grow up reading Nancy and the Sunday comic strips? How do you think your younger self would react to your current lifestyle? What would she think of it? 

 

Jaimes: I was really more of a Peanuts kind of kid, and got into Nancy much later. Child me would be happy that I’ve found something to do that makes me happy but deeply disappointed that I still haven't mastered manga style. 

 

SM: Oftentimes readers love characters in which they see a bit of themselves. Do you feel a particular attachment to any of the characters in Nancy? Is there a character that you can see being very relatable to your audience of readers?

 

Jaimes: Every character in my version of Nancy is me, except for Sluggo, who is who I aspire to be. Horribly, I share an uncomfortable number of qualities with an awful new character I introduced a few years ago, named Mildred. I hope no one else relates to her—please, for the love of God, no one else relate to her. 

 

SM: Do you read cartoons in your free time? If so, which ones are your favorite?

 

Jaimes: Too many to count, so here’s three recommendations:

 

 1) Heart of the City, by Steenz, which continues to be amazing, 

 

 2) One Piece, obviously, and

 

 3) Rock Collector by Becca Tobin which I just read and thought was wonderful. 

SM: Which artists, writers, and cartoonists have inspired and influenced you the most?

Jaimes: Picking two at quasi-random: Richard Thompson of Richard’s Poor Almanac and Naoko Takeuchi of Sailor Moon. 

SM: What’s something you wish you could tell your younger self? 

Jaimes: I’m working on manga style. I will get it someday. 

SM: If you could tell aspiring artists and writers one thing, what would it be?

Jaimes: You don’t have to make your passion your full-time job; it can just be your passion. Make your job something where, on the worst possible day, when nothing’s going right, you’re still feeling pretty OK. If that’s art and writing, great, but do seriously think about financial security.

There’s this misconception that you only become a “real” artist the day you quit your day job and start a full-time career in the arts, which is patently false. You’re already real, and it’s better to start making art in the margins of your day than it is to saddle yourself too soon with the massive burden of self-expectations that come with “a day that’s totally free to devote to art.”  

—Olivia Jaimes for Spectator Magazine, 2023

bottom of page