Review: Cul De Sac by Richard Thompson

cul de sac kids
Cul De Sac © Richard Thompson; Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate

Richard Thompson’s new feature Cul De Sac just might be the break away comic strip release this year and not because it has some big name endorsements from Bill Watterson and Pat Oliphant, but because it is a really polished feature that has some depth to it that is rare for a new comic release. Perhaps having run in the Washington Post Magazine for the last three years has given it a chance to mature and find its center.

The first thing you’ll notice about Richard’s feature is the artwork. Great features have artwork that compliments the writing and humor. For example, Calvin’s rich imagination needed an artist that could make it as authentic to the reader as it was for Calvin; the Patterson family’s world is replete of real-world issues which are underscored with Lynn’s realistic artwork. Cul De Sac’s humor is slightly offbeat and quirky and Richard’s scratchy, rough style reinforces the unique tone. It also has that classic hand drawn, inked, lettered look that make it enjoyable to just observe his line art.

As far as humor the feature works on several levels. As mentioned, the line art is entertaining, but Richard’s infused it with an unpredictable wayward voice. The dad character (Peter Otterloop – a silly name, but again, it punctuates the zaniness of the feature), drives a small economic car. It’s referred to as a “teeny-weeny,” “Honda-Tonka mix (with a bit of Cuisinart),” and in one gag was once left in the driveway with the kids’ toys only to be found later in the sandbox.

The feature centers on a four year-old girl named Alice Otterloop and her family: Petey, Madeline (the mom) and Pete (the dad), and a scattering of other pre-schoolers who attend Blisshaven Preschool. Like most children in comics the Cul De Sac children’s vocabulary tends to be more inline with an adult, but Richard has successfully kept the child-like innocence and purity alive.

I thought it a bit odd that Bill Watterson would come out of the shadows to endorse another feature, but found that his comment that Richard “has a sharp eye, a fun sense of language and a charmingly odd take on the world” to be on the mark.

Cul De Sac will appear in papers on September 10 for dailies and the 16th for Sundays. Until then, Universal has posted samples on their web site.

14 thoughts on “Review: Cul De Sac by Richard Thompson

  1. I believe the “Otterloop” is a play on outerloop as in the outerloop of the beltway. The beltway I495/I95 is major highway here in the Washington DC area.

  2. A great-looking strip…I hope the Atlanta paper picks it up (the comics editor there, Frank Rizzo, is one of the few newspaper comics editors who really loves the comics!), but I’ll be happy just to read another quality strip online.

  3. I think this review is right on the mark. I really hope this takes off for Mr. Thompson. It’s the sort of timeless strip that is missing from today’s new features.

    44 Union Avenue

  4. Wow, this is a really great strip! If there’s any justice in the world, it’s destined to become a classic.

  5. I have long been a fan of the “comics”–but I deplore what seems to be a trend (at least from what you have been giving us as guest comics) to drawings that look like they were made after 27 cups of coffee. It’s hard to even relate to the characters when you can’t tell what they represent! Cul de Sac is better than some, but still appears to follow the loosey-goosey format. I will reserve final judgement until I see more, but I wasn’t impressed with the initial offering.

  6. Ted,

    I believe the drawing style for Cul de Sac is deliberate to suggest children’s drawings, which given the theme of the strip, makes it the correct choice and provides a thread of continuity between subject, style and writing.

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