Looking at this box set, I can’t help but feel a bit cheated that there are only two volumes. It’s not that anyone cut corners or exaggerated the word “complete”. On the contrary, it is THE complete collection – including the Cul de Sac strips that ran in the Washington Post before it went into syndication and the strips by guest cartoonists who stepped in when Richard was dealing with his Parkinson’s disease. The set is only two volumes because Richard was forced to retire too early and thus deprived us of his wonderful sense of humor and talent. In a just and fair universe, there would be another dozen volumes in this set.
But what we do have to enjoy is two volumes of pure cartooning goodness by a cartoonist who is as kind as he is talented.
I spent hours turning the pages of these books. Like all great collections, there’s value (and satisfaction) in taking in a body of work in one sitting without the daily pause created by newspapers. Below nearly every strip is a note or comment by Richard about the strip, the characters or a background information into his process or thinking. I enjoyed those notes as much as I did reading the strip. It’s a personal tour of the strip in Richard’s signature quirky, affable humor.
The collection contains a forward by Art Speigelman, the pre-syndicate strips that ran in The Washington Post from 2004 to 2007, and as I mentioned the guest strips.
Richard is a giant in the field when it comes to writing and art. The book belongs on every bookshelf to serve as inspiration. I’m not suggesting cartoonists would own it to try to replicate Richard’s art or writing – I don’t think that’s even possible given his unique humor and drawing style – but because Richard has elevated the bar of what great cartooning is. And that should be studied by anyone who aspires to entertain the world through pencil and ink.