Friday, January 13, 2017

The Complete Cul de Sac, Vol. 2 by Richard Thompson

In early 2004, Richard Thompson started a weekly watercolor comic strip for The Washington Post Magazine, where he'd been contributing illustrations and occasional cartoons and the oddball non-continuity strip Richard's Poor Almanac for the last decade. Three years later, that same strip went national with a syndication deal with Universal Press: the first daily appeared on September 10, 2007. The last dailies appeared less than five years later, in mid-July 2012, and the last Sunday in September of that year.

That was Cul de Sac; one of the best strip comics of the past fifty years. And every last bit of it is collected into the two slipcased volumes of The Complete Cul de Sac.

Do you need to know anything more? I guess you probably do.

Cul de Sac was a family strip, focusing on the Otterloops of suburban DC -- they lived on the titular street. There were parents, Peter Sr. and Madeleine, but the kids were the central characters: four-year-old force-of-nature Alice and eight-year-old neurotic Petey, the king of picky eaters. Each of the kids had their own circle of friends -- Alice at Blisshaven Academy, her nursery school, and Petey at the local Cul de Sac Elementary school.

Look, strip comics are tough to describe, since they grow over time organically. If you haven't read it, any comments I could make here about bucket-head Kevin or the imaginary nature of Ernesto Lacuna would fly over your head. Luckily, it's still re-running on GoComics, so you can read it one strip a day, the way comics like this work best. (They're currently close to the end, so I expect they'll flip back to the beginning sometime in early or mid 2017 -- right now is a good time to jump on.)

The characters are great, the writing is bright and funny, and Thompson had a lovely scratchy pen line that's a joy just to look at. If Cul de Sac never ran in your local paper -- or if the phrase "local paper" confuses you in the first place -- check it out online, and you just might become a convert.

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