Precocious Rule #4: No Dynamite
collecting the first 301 strips plus special bonus story
WRITER/ARTIST: Christopher J. Paulsen
INTRODUCTION: Bill Holbrook
How to best describe this comic? You know how kids, especially in comics, can get into mischief? Imagine if they were all geniuses who like the idea of supervillainy. That’s Precocious in a nutshell. The newspaper-style webcomic focuses on four dangerous genius kids from Poppenstock Academy who live in the Saphire Falls area. Two of the other communities near the academy also pop up from time to time. In a rarity the kids’ parents are not only in this story but sometimes have their own stories…and their own odd quirks. The comic is about the kids’ misadventures, and sometimes the parents as well. The four main kids are:
- Autumn Pingo: Easily my favorite not only because I like foxes (more on that in a moment) but because cute as the 10-year-old is with her faux schoolgirl outfit and big eyes she may be the most dangerous of the bunch. Her parents moved here (by trickery and force–I’ll get to that as well) hoping that peers might help curb her more dangerous tendencies. They goofed with this school. When I picked up the book Paulsen drew her in the space artists draw personal sketches for people at cons, not realizing he was predicting my favorite of the kids.
- Bud Oven: Bud is a latchkey kid…although his dad works in the basement and an underground path to the shed when he isn’t acting as the academy’s guidance counselor. His mom is always off on some trip for work, so Bud had to learn to cook for himself and is already a master chef. Too bad he’s also a future supervillain like Autumn. He’s the de facto leader of our gang of four. His sister, Casey, is off at school so it’s rare the four are together.
- Jacob Linkletter: If it wasn’t for Max, one of the supporting characters, Jacob would be the most normal kid in the cast. While he like getting into the other’s crazy escapades, when he isn’t the punching bag anyway, he leans more towards superhero than supervillain. He’s good-natured, partly thanks to his parents being the least cynical of the adults (but no less crazy as they’re the most “lovey-dovey” of the couples) and in an ordinary grouping would be the easiest to get along with. Normal doesn’t exist in this part of the world, however, so he tends to stand out.
- Tiffany Et: Her dad and Bud’s are cousins (Bud’s dad took his wife’s name to not subject the kids to Brungster as a last name) and so she and Bud are also related. She is the oldest of five kids, which drives her mom crazy to the point that giving away one kid is not something she hasn’t tried more than once. Tiffany loves art…possibly too much, since she lacks self-control. She once painted a mural on the neighbor’s truck and all over the walls of her house, a bid for attention perhaps. She’s also cat video levels of cute when she sleeps.
My favorite of the adults is Ms. Monster, the teacher forced to deal with these hellions. She’s learned a trick or two to keep them in line…relatively speaking. All of the characters, kids and adults, are interesting. They aren’t a bunch of cookie-cutter stereotypes (although Autumn’s parents look so much alike her friends haven’t ruled out cloning) but each character has their own distinct personality and motivation. Between four main kids, four supporting kids, a bunch of recurring characters that had their own spin-off strip, and the parents of most of the kids that’s a lot of characters to maintain. Paulsen must be as frazzled as Tiffany’s mom.
The book contains an introduction by Bill Holbrook, who produces such comics as On The Fastrack, as well as an original story just for his book, telling how Bud and Jacob roped Autumn’s parents into moving to the neighborhood (one wonders if the realtor isn’t in on it). It features my favorite strip of the book.
That’s this comic in a nutshell. While this collection doesn’t contain how-to-draw sections or character profiles, there is one thing that sets it apart from every comic strip collection, web or newspaper, in my collection. Each story arc features a brief account of Paulsen’s thoughts going into the arc, including an attempt as Sunday newspaper-style strips, as well as the aforementioned original story, which I also don’t have in any of my other collections. (Luke Foster did put the occasional comment and larger commentary section into the Moon Freight 3 books I reviewed but not during every arc.) Paulsen also includes the history of what drew him (no pun intended) to create the comic, from originally human characters to the anthropomorphic characters he ended up with, and how he almost gave up until the comic practically willed itself into creation. Considering the kids involved, that’s highly possible.
Precocious is a fun comic and this is probably my favorite collection of comic strips. I find myself leafing through it quite often and would recommend the comic and getting the books from the store (assuming they all have bonus stories not available on the site). I also got to meet the author at a ConnectiCon and talked with him after the interview. He really loves what he does, which is an inspiration to me, and was a really nice guy. Scroll back up to click the link and check out the comic for yourself.