Review: Maintaining by Nate Creekmore

Maintaining Main art
Maintaining by Nate Creekmore. Used by permission of Universal Press Syndicate. All Rights Reserved.

Coming May 7th, Universal Press will debut its first comic strip of 2007 called Maintaining by Nate Creekmore. Maintaining was first published in the Lipscomb University paper, The Babbler, in 2003 and won the prestigious Charles M. Schulz Award for best college cartoonist two years in a row (2003 and 2004) and the Associated Collegiate Press’ College Cartoonist of the Year in 2005. It was at that point that Universal Press approached Nate and signed him for a development contract for syndication.

The strip focus is on a biracial (or “halfrican american” as he calls it) teen-ager named Marcus. Nate uses the strip to explore the teen social life (or lack thereof) and Nate’s own biracial outlook on social issues being not all black and not all white. Unlike The Boondocks, this strip doesn’t appear to carry a black agenda nor the anger that was Aaron McGruder’s hallmark. This feature seems more engaged in discovery of truthful observations about teen life and being biracial.

The first thing that stands out about Nate’s feature is the artwork. I was quickly impressed with how well drawn his characters are. Few comic characters are drawn with correct muscle groups and proportions – and I think that not since Liberty Meadows has a cartoonist been able to fully capture the feminine figure. The only distraction in his drawing may be the eyes. Because Nate uses a white dot for the eyes’ pupils as well as another white dot to indicate reflective light, it’s sometimes difficult to determine where the character is looking. Small detail, but both my wife and I found it distracting.

As I stated earlier, Nate’s writing strength is in his honest observations about life. That’s not to say that Maintaining isn’t funny, only that you’re more likely to think than chortle after reading this strip in the morning.

And lastly, I suspect that Maintaining has all the licensing appeal that The Boondocks strip had, but I my gut tells me its life span on the funny page is going to be much longer. Thankfully so.

17 thoughts on “Review: Maintaining by Nate Creekmore

  1. Aaron McGruder’s black agenda. Would you prefer Aaron McGruder’s ‘black-centric’ agenda? It’s a given that he does not represent ALL of black america. But he certainly does represent a segment of that population as well as a segment of ALL of America, and that’s not a small population…

  2. It’s just that that particular phrase, “the black agenda” is a little problematic and has a negative connotation, kinda like the phrase “the gay agenda”–it presumes that every night, every black person gets together on some conference call to plan out some diabolical “agenda.”

    Might be better to say that unlike the Boondocks (which is my personal favorite strip), Maintaining doesn’t focus as much on the politics of race and racism, or on black political issues. Or just that it’s not the radical political strip that The Boondocks was. (Here I will say I am biased, since the Boondocks was my favorite comic strip).

    That said, congrats and good luck to Nate with his new feature!

  3. Maintaining doesnâ??t focus as much on the politics of race and racism, or on black political issues.

    Which is essentially what I meant. Thanks for helping clarify this.

  4. I wish Nate lots of luck and hope that many newspapers will pick up “Maintaining”. I believe young and old alike will be entertained, and perhaps taught a thing or two, from this strip. My husband and I fall into the old category but neither of us could stop laughing when we read the one about the old guy with the pants up to his chin! Nate seems so full of talent in both writing and drawing that I just can’t wait to see what else he comes up with!

  5. I look forward to his success with this and seeing him reach the top of the ladder, its about time for some of this type of educational humor. Would love to see more of it accross the U.S.
    Good Luck Nate! And thanks for sharing your talent

  6. In the strip on August 27th in The Oregonian, a female character essentially said a male character was impotent, not a man and “like a loser or a pansy”. Since I’m a gay man I took offense at the reference, but even worse, this strip was putting women down because it referred to the character as taking the female role and made it obvious it was an inferior role. This artist needs to become more mature and less sexist and bigoted or at least get an editor.

  7. maintaining is the best comic ever in the newspaper better than boondocks every since this comic strip came out i always buy the newspaper every sunday.

  8. Mike, to me a gay man is not a pansy. A “pansy” is a weak, cosseted or pampered individual, overly concerned with trifles. There are plenty of straight people who fit that description.

    I accept that the screaming queen or effeminate gay might be described as pansies, but so are cross dressers and trannies (many of whom are hetero).

    I just finished writing a post on another site related to this which concerned the phenomenon of women describing themselves as “chicks” these days. When I was a younger man, that would have been the height of sexism, as a chick was a powerless, fluffy and dependant creature.

    Nowadays, women seem quite happy to be labelled “blonde” (i.e. ditzy) and gays “queers”, another formerly insulting label which has been embraced as a compliment.

    Women as fluffy inconsequential items and men as patronizing boors, that’s the way it seems to be going, check in in another thirty years and see if the pendulum has swings the other way, if you’ll pardon the expression.

  9. Quick correction, Malc. Not all gays, particularly I myself, are enamored of the term “queer.” It’s gained popular acceptance, for some reason, but it still rubs some of us the wrong way. (Perhaps because of the connotation of “not normal” in the word’s literal meaning.)

    A basic rule should be, if you don’t want to offend anyone, don’t use any possibly derogatory terms.

    If, on the other hand, you don’t care who you offend (again, like I do) then say whatever you want, and be prepared for whatever others say.

  10. My guess is Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Queer as Folk probably put the word “queer” back in the general publics lexicon of acceptable and ploitically correct terms.

    I’m not a regular reader of Maintaining but>this toon and the next days toons are damn funny! Really dislike those eyes, those…

    …and that’s not part of my Irish Agenda. We’ll be sending out emails with coupons when our agenda is ready…

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