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posted November 26, 2007
Universal Press, Sunday Strip, Syndicated in print and on-line
A few, brief notes on an installment of a still-new strip, Richard Thompson's Cul-De-Sac
from yesterday. I've re-arranged it for easy view here, but you can see the original arrangement at the Washington Post site.
1. Notice the weird angle that Thompson takes with this Sunday. The only reason I can think that Thompson would do that is to heighten the overall visual interest a degree or two and allow the reader access to both the body movement of his characters and the object of their attention.
2. I love the character designs here because they're adorable without the usual suite of signifying visual elements that say "adorable." In fact, they're sort of ugly in a way. I like how Thompson uses two different version of how Alice's eyes are drawn in order to convey the shift in mood from antic to calm, something he does more quietly with Petey in panel two.
3. I think RC Harvey would approve of the strip's formal power. It has a definite visual flow in terms of the character's reactions, with a lot of work you might miss on a first glance: for example, the way Petey varies the weight he applies to leaning onto the table. The verbal element works out equally as well -- Thompson letters well enough to get away with underlining certain words without them becoming a distracting visual element -- and the banter is effective, affectionate without being cloying, distinct without being over the top in either case.Together the verbal and visual tracks provide background and depth to the other element. That's assured work. Assured work not only fails to get in the way of the joke, it makes for a pleasurable experience in and of itself, just in the reading.
4. Building a strip out of subtle visual cues to make a point about people failing to understand comics' more fundamental visual oddities is pretty darn funny -- even if that was an accident.
5. Alice's flip-out has a real intensity to it that makes it funny, and the way Thompson nails the oddball elements of it in the sixth panel, with the rigid arm and the crazy babbling makes her cool-down and the heat waves emanating from her head in the seventh panel that much funnier.
6. Note how Thompson subtly turns up the temperature a few degrees by changing the way he does the sixth panel's background coloring.
7. It's a good sign that Thompson is able to make an amusing little strip out of what in the end is a negative message. Most cartoonists shy away from anything that might portray a character in anything less than Sunday-at-Grandma's-good-behavior, for risk of people having a negative reaction.