Sunday, July 01, 2007

Just Read: Pure Ducky Goodness by Dave Kellett

Pure Ducky Goodness is the first collection of the Sheldon strip -- which, if I've got things correctly, started as a newspaper strip but has recently transitioned to web-only. (I discovered it on the web, and bought this book because I liked it.)

The main character, the eponymous Sheldon, is a ten-year-old software billionaire. (In the first strip, it's stated that he wrote software to "speed up the Internet," but, wisely, after that, Sheldonsoft's products are about as specific and identifiable as those made by Dilbert's company.) He's being raised by his grandfather, his best friend (another ten-year-old, Dante) appears intermittently, but the best character is his talking duck, Arthur. (Like most good humor strips, describing it is mostly listing character traits, and doesn't sound all that appealing -- but these are interesting characters, will well-defined personalities that bounce nicely off each other.) Sheldon also has a good line in sly, general-geek humor -- it's mostly on the level of Star Trek and Star Wars, not as specific (one might say opaque, if one were being unkind) as Penny Arcade -- that could make it the heir to Foxtrot for that kind of thing.

I don't think Kellett has done anything major in the cartooning world before this, but his art is quite accomplished. There's an appealing solidity to his lines, and a tendency to bold angles and corners rather than curves to outline his figures. I can't find anything to complain about with his drawing; he's good at differentiating his characters, excellent at wringing humor and character out of his poses, and quite good at showing motion and energy, even within the confines of a daily strip.

The writing is equally accomplished and funny; the earliest strips here are as good as his current work. In my experience, that's rare -- most cartoonists need some time to work into their strips, to figure out what works best and get the rhythms down. Pure Ducky Goodness is not a complete collection -- it collects approximately 43 weeks of comics from the first three years of the strip -- so perhaps Kellett has already weeded out the ones that weren't as good. However it came together, it's a very entertaining book.

This, and the second book The Good, the Bad, and The Puggly (a third book will be published in the next few months) were published by Small Fish, which seems to be Kellett himself. I found Pure Ducky Goodness in my comics shop (Midtown Comics in Manhattan), and it seems to be available from the usual online retailers, but I suspect Sheldon books would be difficult to locate in your typical mall bookstore. Kellett does sell them directly through the Sheldon site (link up top), so I recommend you buy them through that channel if you're interested in the strip.

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