Like Peanuts with Adults: Richard Thompson's Cul de Sac

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Were I to attempt to describe Richard Thompson‘s comic strip Cul de Sac, I could do little better than to describe it as Peanuts with adults. The children in the strip behave like children, yet have a delightful tendency to speak wisdom beyond their years in a way that still seems utterly age-appropriate:

Comic from Shapes & Colors by Richard Thompson

The similarly preternaturally insightful children in Peanuts lived, for the most part, in a world where adults were shadows, figures whose voices and presences only revealed themselves in the children’s reactions. Cul de Sac brings the adults into the panel with the children, to excellent effect, reminding the reader that despite the children’s knowing speech, they are still at heart children, a distinction that was occasionally lost in Peanuts. And, of course, it helps that the adults get good lines as well:

Comic from Shapes & Colors by Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson’s drawing line has an agreeable looseness that belies the depth of detail in many panels—and those panels will often be in quite non-standard configurations. Some of his finest strips feature tables that stretch over multiple panels, with each panel hosting a different person. He also knows when to omit background detail all together and focus on the character alone. And what characters they are.

Alice Otterloop is undeniably the star of the strip, ruling over her pre-school chums with a certainty born of being four, but I’m partial to her excessively introspective brother, Petey, and her unibrowed friend Beni. Throw in Dill (a combination of Linus, if Linus loved grocery carts, and Pig-Pen, if Pig-Pen ever washed, to stretch the Peanuts analogy), Nara, bucket-head Kevin, and over-mothered Marcus and you have a strip that never fails to amuse and, frankly awe.

And never forget: You can’t tie down a banjo man! Eternal words of wisdom . . .

(Images from Shapes & Colors by Richard Thompson. Buy it!)

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