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Monday, September 10, 2012

Fifth Anniversary Special


Yeah, I know there are more than five candles in that cake. I'm just feeling generous. So generous that I'm going to share a few early, embarrassing versions of Cul de Sac that I never even showed my editor.

Here are the first two strips I tried with the Otterloop family, and you can see just how badly things could have gone. There's something that looks like it should be Alice, but it sure ain't Alice; she's too prissy by half, and that hair....  I think I drew these in 2003. By then I'd shown Wash Post Mag editor Tom Shroder some rough ideas for the proposed new comic strip, including a few featuring a family in the DC suburbs. Gene Weingarten had written a column about parents naming their daughters "Madison",  denouncing the name as laughable and pretentious. Reader reaction had been intense and humorless, as you'd expect from people who'd stick their daughters with "Madison." So when Tom made one of his periodic phone calls checking on the progress of the strip, I blurted out something about some kids? maybe a family? who live in the suburbs? and one of them's a girl? Tom asked what the girl's name was. I said "Madison." But only to make him laugh; actually I had no idea who she was.

Tom wanted the family to have a pet, nothing specific, but it should talk whether anybody understood it or not. We'd recently acquired a guinea pig named Scurry that had been evicted from my older daughter's kindergarten class because it wasn't hypoallergenic. And I'd read a comment from a comic book collector who liked the vinegary smell they give off as they decay.
I lifted Petey whole from an old Almanac about Sam, the Boy Who Talks to Animals, but I changed his name. The new kid was going to be neurotic and timid so he became "Petey" because it's a loose, finger-snappy name. So, y'know, it doesn't fit. And that makes it funny.

 I shudder to think what may have happened if my editor had been a little more impatient and his cartoonist had been a little less picky.

11 comments:

Michael Purdy said...

Thanks for sharing, Richard, and happy anniversary!

jaymarcy said...

Now this...all this cool old stuff plus the Cul de Sacs from Wash. Post Mag would make an AWESOME collection!
Thanks for this Richard. You are and always will be THE MAN.
Happy Anniversary!

carl craig said...

wow really cool to see how the charectars evolved and improved . alices hair is so bright it hurts my eyes

StrummerFan said...

I loved reading these early versions but I have to say that I'm glad you kept tweaking them! :) Happy anniversary!

H.V.Lukas said...

Yes, happy anniversary!

These awkard, first-flirtings with Cul De Sac are still really nice. Sort of like a school crush that later turned into a real 5-year Cul De Sac relationship.

Not to forget, that it's also a kind of anniversary for us readers. It's been wonderful to pick up the books, read online and follow the blog.

Dan Moynihan said...

Interesting that you noted the embryonic stage of the characters within the strip itself. Thanks for sharing these!

tcg said...

Beautiful pen and watercolor, and fascinating to see the very early kids that became Alice and Petey.
Thanks, and congrats on 5 !

Bonnie & Charlie said...

I love who Alice and Petey are now. Every day, my husband and I giggle over something one of the kids have said and it's normally something outrageously adult-like. I'm going to miss all of those kids and I'm sad that I won't get to see who Alice ends up marrying, that is if she ever gets out of pre-school!
Blessings upon you and your family as you go forward.

diego ceresa said...

I'm totally with jaymarcy: this stuff would make a monstrously terrific awesome collection, "Early Cul de Sac, in (water)color!!"

Jantze Studios, Inc. said...

I'm digging this, Richard. Thanks!

Sonny Moon said...

The Alternate Universe Otterloop Family!