Lincoln Peirce did not want to overstay his welcome.
Beginning in 2010, Peirce wrote eight hot-selling Big Nate illustrated novels, based on the 11-year-old wise-cracking hero of his long-running comic strip.
A couple years ago, he decided eight books would be enough, and that he’d like to try something else. So he came up with another idea, set in a fictional medieval kingdom instead of a contemporary middle school: “Max & The Midknights.” The graphic novel, which still focuses on a young hero and is aimed at middle-grade readers, goes on sale Tuesday.
The Portland author will launch the new book with a 5 p.m. event Tuesday at Print: A Bookstore on Congress Street in Portland. Peirce will draw, answer questions and sign books. And he’ll answer questions about Big Nate, as well. Though he’s not doing anymore Big Nate books, he still does the comic strip, which began 28 years ago and appears in more than 400 newspapers.
“I didn’t want to overstay my welcome and run out of ideas,” said Peirce, 55, of ending the Big Nate books. “It’s not that hard to come up with strip ideas, it’s only four panels.”
The idea for “Max & The Midknights” came to Peirce in the early 2000s when he was pitching ideas for cartoons to the Cartoon Network. He came up with a comic medieval story with funny stuff about troubadours and kings. The concept didn’t become a cartoon, but Peirce remembered it when he was looking for new book ideas.
“Max & The Midknights” focuses on 10-year-old Max, living in medieval times and wanting desperately to be a knight. But Max is apprenticed to be a troubadour, and is traveling with an uncle.
The uncle is kidnapped in the Kingdom of Byjovia, and Max has to team with a bungling sorcerer and some other kids to save the day.
Peirce describes the book as “exciting, but with funny stuff.”
And now a spoiler alert for those who might not want to know the big reveal that comes about 40 pages in: Max is a girl. Big Nate, a boy, was based on Peirce’s own middle school memories. But writing this book took a different perspective.
“I’ve always sort of wondered if a middle-aged male cartoonist could write a good story about a girl protagonist,” said Pierce. “I may not know what it’s like to be a 10-year-old girl, but I think there are some universal things about kids. She wants to be one thing, and she’s being told to be something else.”
author and artist of the “Big Nate” comic strip and books, will be launching his new book, “Max & The Midknights.” He’ll draw, take questions and sign books.
WHEN: 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8.
WHERE: Print: A Bookstore, 273 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: Free