Reviews: One Big Happy

Started as a cute family strip I could relate to, but sadly lost its way

My favorite "professional" comic strip (as in, printed in a newspaper or wherever) is Zits. Its accurate and funny portrayal of adolescence from both the insider and outsider's perspectives is second-to-none. One Big Happy at one point was something similar to that in some ways but took its own path. I used to read it for a while, then eventually stopped. A few weeks ago, I decided to check it out again and go back a few years through the recent archives. I did not like what I saw.

One Big Happy follows the extended Lombard family, with a heavy emphasis on kids Ruthie and Joe, who are aged 6 and 8. Ostensibly. While there were always some problems with the kids acting not quite their age, it's gotten a LOT worse, with there being too much humor that relies on the characters talking or acting unrealistically for the sake of a joke. That's always been one of my major pet peeves ever since I was a kid, and it's a problem that you don't see in Zits. When Zits does have the characters act unrealistic, it's only to exaggerate or parody actual traits that real people have. One Big Happy, though, gives its kids traits that actual kids don't have for the sake of a joke. Huge difference.

And if that's not enough, they added a damn dog to the comic. If you're guessing that many of the strips now revolve around the dog, or that the dog often upstages the human characters, or does something funny in the background in a strip that otherwise is about people talking, you're right. While it could be a lot worse, it's most definitely not an improvement.

Another thing I find depressing is that the imagination sequences are disappearing! Not that there were a lot of them, but the earlier strips did seem to have more. I loved seeing Ruthie's imagination come to life, almost Calvin And Hobbes style, but even that is less common.

One Big Happy started out pretty good, but it's genericizing with these changes. It's as if Rick Detorie forgot how kids act, but decided to keep his comic running after he's passed his prime. I hope he reads this review and makes an effort to get back on track. This comic used to be something special, but that's all slipping away.