Welcome to Candorville!
By Lauren Bryant
For a number of people, opening up a newspaper (or browser) to a page of comic strips for a daily dose of humor is one of the small delights of the day. Combing through the funnies page, you’ll find a variety of strips with memorable characters and humorous quips. While some classics are widely known, some other more recent strips deserve a little time in the spotlight, too. Today, let’s take a trip to the world of Candorville created by Darrin Bell.
Candorville typically follows the life of Lemont Brown, a young black journalist trying to make his way in the world, along with his childhood friends Susan Garcia and Clyde (a.k.a. C-Dog). The characters, besides being overall charming, are well-developed and feel very real and relatable. They face everything from disappointment with the new direction of Star Trek to the struggles of being a single dad and short on cash. Their motives are interesting and their relationships are complex, making it a pleasure to read every day as we see the characters grow and change over time. There are also numerous side characters Bell brings up periodically, like the two homeless men Rosencrantz and Tyrone and the Mainstream Media guy, who are all equally entertaining and interesting, and a joy to see make appearances. The world Candorville contains is also very diverse, with its lead characters being black and hispanic, demographics that are overall underrepresented in the comic industry.
The comic is not unfamiliar with the happenings of the world, and it’s not uncommon to see Bell weaving in aspects of current (or historical) events into his comics. Some topics that the comic brings up include poverty, privilege, political happenings, race, war, disasters, obsessions of the mainstream media, and many more. It does this in many ways, often through exploring the characters in the strip. For example, Clyde is sometimes at odds with Lemont when he seems to play up the gangster stereotype, though as the reader gets to know Clyde, it becomes evident that there is much more to his character than his outer appearance lets on. Susan, as a successful latina businesswoman, finds herself faced with trouble in the workplace, such as with the antics of her assistant Dick Fink (who is constantly trying to get rid of her) and her struggles with her insurance refusing to cover birth control. The comic does admittedly have a more liberal slant, though it doesn’t shy away from poking fun at liberal organizations as well. Its political content has landed it at times on the editorial page. However, it maintains its humorous edge throughout, successfully being both amusing and thought-provoking.
One particularly memorable way Candorville interacts with the real world is through the train to the afterlife, Bell’s tribute to those who pass away. During the night, Lemont is visited by those recently deceased, from celebrities to victims of shootings to relatives. For a few days, the strip is committed to showing Lemont accompany a soul on a train traveling away from Earth through space on a course for the afterlife. The conversations they have on the way are informative and touching, leaving the reader with both a sense of sadness and a feeling of peace at seeing them complete their journey. While it is just a small part of the content of the comic, it is one that is memorable and worth noting.
Overall, Candorville is a joy to read every day. Its well-rounded characters are relatable, interesting, and diverse, and its storylines follow not just the lives of the main characters but also those of the side characters. It also touches base with real-world issues, making it a relevant and insightful comic. Darrin Bell has created a delightful strip, one that I highly recommend. So why not grab a paper or your phone and take a look? You may just end up with a new favorite comic.