I hadn't read the comic strip Nancy for years. But a couple of hours ago, for some damn reason I found myself clicking on a link in an e-mail and checking out today's strip. It featured a lame gag pretty typical of the strip as I remember it, but I was somewhat taken aback by the panel over there on the left, featuring an on panel appearance by Nancy's Aunt Fritzi.
You see, back when I would read Nancy as a kid, Aunt Fritzi never actually appeared. Though referred to often, she was at most an occasional off-panel voice. Thus, it was quite a surprise to me when I eventually learned that she had once been the star of the strip.
Another surprising thing I learned when I looked the strip up on Wikipedia just now is that Ernie Bushmiller, the cartoonist most closely associated with the strip, was not its originator. The comic began life in October 1922 as Fritzi Ritz, drawn by Larry Whittington. Whittington left after three years to start another strip, leaving Fritzi Ritz to his assistant Bushmiller. Bushmiller at first continued the strip under Whittington's name, not signing his own name to it for about a year.
In 1933, Bushmiller introduced Fritzi's niece, Nancy. She eventually took over the strip to such an extent that it was renamed for her in 1938, the same year that Sluggo joined the cast. Fritzi Ritz continued as Sunday only strip, separate from the Sunday version of Nancy, until the late 1960's.
Bushmiller died in 1982, and the strip has passed through various hands since then. In 1995, it was taken over by Guy and Brad Gilchrist, who remain to this day.