Tom Toles is one of the leading lights in editorial cartooning and has a Pulitzer to prove it. And that’s only about a half-dozen Pulitzers short of what he deserves, in my humble opinion. Back in the 1990s, when he was still with the Buffalo News but had already gained national fame he took the plunge and created a comic strip. This is no great surprise, as it seems most every editorial cartoonist of any note gives it a go at one time or another.
Tom Toles’ Curious Avenue, distributed by Universal Press Syndicate, debuted on April 19 1992 to a lukewarm reception. I’m betting that feature editors who liked Toles’ political cartoons grabbed the strip on reputation alone, while others wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. The strip, however, was completely apolitical. It featured a cast of rather goofy tykes who sport a host of neuroses. They generally act like kids, but they can express themselves like adults. So yeah, somewhat like Peanuts, but with an edgier and overtly darker sensibility. The strip tended to be a bit on the violent side, with physical encounters between the kids a pretty commonplace occurrence, and sarcasm was as rampant in the strip as in Toles’ editorial cartoons.
I found the strip intriguing and the drawing style attractive. I rather liked it, although I did feel it suffered for a lack of likeable characters . Apparently I was in the minority for liking the strip because it went belly-up in less than two years; the latest I’ve found it running is December 31 1994. I imagine Toles pulled the plug, seeing that it wasn’t going to be a major income-producer.
If the samples intrigue you, look for an Andrews-McMeel reprint collection of the strip issued in 1993; it’s on the scarce side, but not particularly expensive.