Comics and Punk Rock are not strangers in any sense of the word. In fact, there are a myriad of intersections between the two and more developing each year (thanks, in no small part, to Image Comics). However, one of those intersections that holds a particularly fond place in my heart is Mitch Clem’s Nothing Nice to Say. Beginning as a webcomic in early 2002, NN2S has had many ebbs and flows, deaths and rebirths and paradigm shifts as Clem’s life grew and changed around him, including one singular printed collection on Dark Horse in 2008. After a multi-year hiatus, NN2S returned to the web recently with new strips thrice weekly and a brand new co-writer in Joe Briggs. With Clem cranking out some his best work in years on a regular basis again and with the 10th anniversary of the first script fast approaching, I figured now would be a great time to look back at the long, varied history of Nothing Nice to Say in all its various forms.
Click on down and let’s get to it!
From the very beginning right up until now, NN2S has starred Blake and Fletcher, two punk kids from Minneapolis with wildly different views of the world and who exist on two opposite ends of the punk fan spectrum, yet remain best friends and roommates. Modeled after a composite of several typical punk stereotypes, Blake is the reasonably calm, somewhat collective one who can take off the kid gloves if he needs to, but still prefers words over physical violence. As Clem says in the forward to the printed collection, “all of his favorite bands sound like Screeching Weasel” (which is particularly funny now, given the mess of a band called Screeching Weasel today) AKA poppy, fun and more concerned with having a good time than smashing the state. In stark contrast is Fletcher, the brash, excitable, opinionated one who causes trouble even when he isn’t really sure he’s causing trouble. The fact that his most well known attire in the strip is a plain grey t-shirt with the word “BAND” on it is both a clever joke on the part of Clem and a simple, elegant way to describe the kind of person Fletcher is. His music is his life and his life is music, ever-present band t-shirt and all. “All his favorite bands broke up in the early 80s”, says Clem of his creation.
With these two characters for anchors, Clem has set out over the last 10 years to comment on nearly every aspect on the modern day punk community, but on American/world/nerd culture on the whole. Be it the time our heroes discovered the elder God Cthulu asleep in their closet, or the multi-part story where Clem (as a character in the story) sells the rights to the comic to a conglomerate who then proceeds to censor and rewrite it all. There was also the time the two became religious Christians in the wake of Blink-182 announcing their indefinite hiatus or pro-lifers in order to be considered 9 months older to get into a 21+ show. And one of my personal favorite plots, Fletcher going into withdrawl and denial after becoming a Bad Religion fan. No matter the angle, Clem manages to keep the story consistent with his acerbic wit and constantly evolving art style.
There is more to it than that, though. Let’s face it, a webcomic starring two punks spouting the biased opinions of their creator had the potential to get really old, really fast. I believe the reason it hasn’t and, indeed, the reason it has garnered so much fan loyalty (enough to restart it itself several times), is because Clem has proven himself to me a master content juggler. Only on rare occasions has he let a mini-plot run on longer than it should have (the “biker gang” mini-series was just a little too much, Mitch), but for the most part he has known exactly when the strip needed a change in perspective in order to keep readers interested. And that does not mean drastic shifts in plot or output (although there was the time when the comic was “taken over” by two young and largely illiterate teenage punks and devolved into stick figures, scribbles and profanity for several strips, but THAT was funny while it lasted).Continued below
By shifting up the story and the approach or even the stars from time to time, Clem has not only managed to keep the strip fresh and entertaining, but built an expansive universe for it as well. While he has gone on the record and claimed up and down that there is no ongoing continuity or larger story from script to script, someone that has read the strip for long enough can absolutely track patterns and plots for much longer than Clem anticipated and it is also clear that the characters themselves have grown significantly over time (for instance, in a recent strip Fletcher admitted to enjoying a Good Luck record, something he never would have done during the earlier years of the comic). Of course, there are also just the simple interludes that end up becoming so iconic, they are almost life affirming (such as one of my own personal mantras, derived from NN2S, “WWHRD?”)
The one downside to really recommending this comic, both in print and digital form, is that it really is not for everyone. A lot of the humor, punchlines and situations hinge on the reader having at least a basic understanding of punk music and culture and, while I cannot confirm this, I’d imagine anyone that does not might have a hard time digging into this one. However, if you do have that background and haven’t dialed into NN2S then you are severely missing out.
Click on over to and catch the magic as it happens every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and if a more concrete tome is more your thing, pick up the as yet one and only collected volume at your local shop!