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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cul de Sac. This Exit. Richard Thompson. Andrews McMeel Publishing (2008)

This is a collection of the brilliant newspaper comic strip. The Otterloop family live in Cul de Sac, the star of the strip is four year old Alice who attends the Blisshaven Academy pre-school, her very neurotic older brother Peter goes to school, her father has a job and her mother does not work. The children are the focus of the strip, Alice and the other children in the pre-school class, Peter and a possibly imaginary classmate called Ernesto. The strips tend not to follow any particular continuity, they may follow on directly for a week if there is a seasonal theme such as Halloween or Christmas. They are sharp, artful and very, very funny.
Richard Thompson takes a standard newspaper comic strip set-up and brings it to sparkling life avoiding all the cute kid cliches that drown so many other strips. The art is rough looking, very sketchy and it looks unfinished. This gives the strip a personality right away, the art is distinctive and the figure work has a natural dynamism that is frequently smoothed out of strips. The real joy of the strip lies in the writing, it is crisp, fresh and rings true for the entire cast. The cast are not generic children and adults who exist to purvey jokes that more or less relate to some obvious situation that is described by the art. They are a collection of strongly individual characters who interact with each other and their circumstances with relish and energy. The humour arises directly from the fact that they are so much themselves, there is never a sense of a set-up and pay off at work, there is a tremendous life in the strips.
One of the very best things that Richard Thompson has done is to completely avoid the "children say the funniest things" approach, the children are true to themselves and what they want. They demand to be taken seriously and are funny because of that. This is a great collection of a superbly crafted and truly funny and truthful strip, a treasure.

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