Here, for the very first time, as a special teaser, are the ANNOTATIONS I wrote to accompany the section of the book that has over 80 of the watercolor strips that appeared in the Washington Post
CUL DE SAC began as a sunday-only feature in The Washington Post Magazine in 2004. I painted them in watercolors instead of the process color needed for most newspaper comic strips. Here's an extensive sampling of them.
1. Here's the first peep out of Alice Otterloop, from the Washington Post Magazine of February 8, 2004. In a note at the bottom of the page to ever-patient editor Tom Shroder I wrote, "Tom, here it is. Gulp!"
2. Petey emerged almost fully-formed. I wanted the anti-Bart Simpson and I got him.
3. Beni and Dill and Dill's hat. Official Washington is very far away.
4. The whole class. Narjeel,got shortened to Nara and lost a braid for syndication. And Marcus looks different but has the same mother.
5. It's really the Washington Monument.
7. I went down to tha National Gallery and drew that vent so it's accurate. They also have nice lightswitches.
8. I went on school field trips to the National Gallery many times. The picture with the shark in it (Watson and the Shark, 1778, by John Singleton Copley) is every kid's favorite.
9. Akin to another, similar gag from when I, thought everything in the strip could talk.
10. Mr. Danders appeared fairly early on,,foisting himself, a talking animal., into a.kid srrip like an invasive specie.
13. This was all reused in the dailies. Nothing goes to ll,waste.
15. We're jumping around chronologically. This is from 2007, but it fits the " story".
16. This is 2005. They're on the DC Metro on their way to a Nationals game.
17. RFK Stadium, now superceded by Nationals Park. I drew this from photos I took at a game.o
18. That beach house is not only a joy to draw, it's 100% accurate.
19. This is from 2004, but it fits in. Except for Alice's hair.
21. Scenic, isn't it?
24. I'm very proud of all these puns.
25. Maybe my favoritec strip. The drawing didn't come together till I blacked out the walls. Suddenly- BANG- it jumped off the page. I like the acting too. It's very simple and understated,, mostly because I used the same rough for each panel.
26. Tai Shan is a giant panda born at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. on July 9, 2005 at 3:41 AM. He is the first panda cub born at the National Zoo to survive for more than a few days. He was very big news.
27. Alice shows unusual sense in panel two. I soon fixed that.
29. This one's weird. I'd thought of doing several set in a coffee house, thinking Alice would be a good foil for the self absorbed artsy types who congregate there.
30. The Grandma Saga in shortform.
31. One of the few t imes I played with the strip's format. I usually get lost when I try thistuff. To make it worse Alice has confused "escalator" and "elevator". There are several Metro stations that have this configuration.
32. Petey dreams of Christmas with music by Tchaikovsky.
33. Taking down Christmas is always so hard. I like the timing here.
34. Washington famously panics at the first sign of snow.
35. Once I got a grip on the perspective this was just a matter of writing funny place names.
36. An early out-of-body experience for Petey.
37. Here's the beginning of Danders' first Unintentional Adventure, from 2004. He was good at letting me pretend that the strip was about something else.
39. Danders assumes a new identity or is mistaken for someone else in each strip. His protean nature and talent for assimilation is his greatest defence. Or he's so bland nobody gives him more than a second glance.
40. Coincidence? Or cheap dramatic device?
41. The ease with which Danders forgets the whole point of his job makes me happy. So doees his pirate talk.
42. The spelling of Glandey High seems uncertain.
43. Oh, this was fun to draw.
44. Ocean City is an Atlantic resort town in Worcester County, Maryland. Ocean City is widely known in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States and is a frequent destination for vacationers. It has many cheesy gift shops.
46. This is very close to a later strip I did as a daily, but this one's prettier.
47. There's a short story I love by the fantasist/tall tale teller R. A. Lafferty called "You Can't Go Back" about a bunch of kids who find a secret moon that hovers over the Osage country in Oklahoma. The kids get to the moon by whistling for it and climbing up from the roof of their grandma's truck. The image of a tiny moon appeals to me.
48. We lived within hearing distance (2 miles) of the Montgomery County Fair.
49. We went to the fair for years, so much that we recognized cows from one year to the next. And baked goods too.
50. Another of the strips set in a coffe shop. They're just not that funny. Too earnest.
52. The creepier side of Christmas. A German Expressionist Christmas has been done by someone, somewhere, I'm sure.
53. The second of Danders' Adventures, this one not so inadvertant.
54. FEDUPS struck me as hugely clever and funny when I thought of it, circa April 2006. I'm sure it's been independantly invented several thousand times at least, like all clever ideas.
55. The FEDUPS guy is one of my favorite ancillary characters.
56. I like Ms. Fermat, the Urmart greeter with the knuckle tattoos, too. I should've introduced her to the FEDUPS guy.
57. A wall full spatulas and egg timers strikes me as hugely funny too. I doubt if either one's ever been independantly invented. And if so I don't wanna hear about it.
58. There is a lesson. I made this up as I went along, like usual, not too hard considering there was a week between each.
59. An epic of love and loss with egg timers and spatulas.
60. Special effects!
61. Art equals Creativity plus Neatness. I was alwayos bad at math.
62. Money does come from pants.
63. Back-to-Schol pants-buying is a grim time. Unless you've got seven cents to lblow.
64. With this appearance I suddenly understood Ernesto Lacuna. Not who he is, he's an enigma. I understood his comic potential as a Petey-provoker. He's based on several kids I knew who're now probably highly successful and maladjusted.
65. Petey wins a passive-agressive fight!
66. Hey! Petey's not under his blanket!
67. As a long-time Renaissance Fair-goer (participant to innocent bystander), I can attest that the above is historically accurate.
68. I've lived around DC most of my life. I've seen a well-known senator leaving a drug sttore with 3 bags bulging with toilet paper (on sale), a well-known TV newsman playing on a playground swingset while waiting to do a standup, and my own mother ram then-first lady Lady Bird Johnson in the shins with a stroller loaded with my then-baby brother (she apologized). I'm not impressed by much.
69. From when Petey played the trombone, and I found it too hard to draw .
70. This is my favorite field trip.
71. This would be a great day for a nose bleed.
72. Children wearing winter coats swing their arms funny when they walk.
73. I labored a long time ghostwriting the text for Oswaldo Twee's book, both mking it apropriately dire and making it fit.
74. In the cartoon of the class approaching the library there's a rgreen towel up in a tree. Maybe the sock was in another tree.
75. This is a painstakingly accurate depiction of a DC Metro train and of my dislike of cell phones.
76. Eskimoes had only a few words for snow, but it makes a good starting place for gags. They have hundreds of words for "gags".
77. The parking garage drawing makes me very happy at the safe distance of six years later. At the time it seemed confusing, nudged into coherency only when I put in the yellow arrows. Thank god for signage.
78. Drawn from life, alas. This appeared on the First of April, making Alice more up-to-date than I'd give her credit for.
79. The payoff: Alice gets the bum's rush, her usual fate in Sharing Time.
80. The Last of Danders' Unintentional Adventures, this appeared in the Post Magazine a few months before the daily strip launched in September of 2007.
81. Could that toy truck be the feral toy truck featured in the syndicated strip on page 250? Or do I know how to draw only one toy truck, making identification impossible? Whatever, the Metro station and train are 100% accurate.
82. This and the following strips were scanned from Post Magazine tearsheets, the originalsthe having been lost. Once, at this same museum, an unknown child of about 6 turned to me and snarled, " That's not a dinosaur! That's a pterosaur!" after I misidentified a Quetzalcoatlus out loud. Kids like dinosaurs.
83. This is an accurate view of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, to whom I lent the original and who then lost it. Butterfingers! The others I lost on my own.
84. The museum had recently opened a very impressive Hall of Mammals that my daughters loved. I was very familiar with the Hall of Mammals.
85. A museum press gang! Don't laugh, they're real. Beware.
86. The museum had a life-size model of a blue whale in their hall of undersea life that I loved when I was a kid (I thought it was real). When they redid the hall in the 90s, they gave the by-then decrepit blue whale to one of the contractors. Who put it, in pieces, in his garage. I thought an affable guard giving away bits of the collection to polite visitors was hilarious. Six years later I'm still waiting for the laffs.