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Funny Books - Candorville: Thank God For Culture Clash - Darrin Bell

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Candorville Thank God For Culture Clash
Darrin Bell
Andrews McMeel Publishing 2005
128 pages

Darrin Bell is a new voice in syndicated comic strips. His seemingly autobiographical creation Candorville is available in major newspapers around the United States and will probably be all over the place in the coming years. Also known as the creator of Rudy Park (with Theron Heir), Bell has created an entertaining, thoughtful, and original comic strip that echoes the very early and funny Doonesbury, has a touch of Lynn Johnston, and, weirdly enough and perhaps I am dead wrong, something Bloom County about it. Then again, comparisons are unfair as Candorville can more than stand on its own as the first collection, Thank God For Culture Clash, proves.

Thank God For Culture Clash is the story main character Lemont Brown, an aspiring writer who can depend on his friends, Latina Susan Garcia and Clyde (aka C-Dog) a scrounger of sorts and, in some ways, Lemont's alter ego. Like any good comic strip Candorville by Darrin Bell has well established set pieces such as panels featuring Lemont's answering machine, the stoop and the rooftop where Lemont and Susan often discuss life (and something of a tip of the hat to Charlie Brown s wall and his talks with Linus) and the park bench or bus stop where Clyde and Lemont often discuss racial issues and politics.

What is also interesting about Candorville and Thank God For Culture Clash is that it manages to tackle real issues like the War in Iraq, the red and blue divide, various social issues, the job market, the economy, gay marriage, and working conditions for women without ever sounding shrill or as agenda material (although there is a very funny strip involving C-Dog's discovery of a gay agenda notepad where it is revealed part of that agenda involves grocery shopping and calling Mom).

Not that this very funny syndicated comic strip is all issues. There is the recurring character of Lemont's nightmarish vegetarian date, a few running gags about Lemont being a fairly pessimistic fiction writer, and the occasional appearance of the homeless dude that is also good for a few laughs.

Darrin Bell most certainly has a hit on his hands with Candorville. He has managed to create a fresh, different comic strip that already has enough setups to last him a long time. A particular favorite in Thank God For Culture Clash is the salute to Captain Kangaroo.

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