Existentialism, Pokémon Cards, and Growth in Blind Alley: The First Year

Do you miss weekly comic strips but have no need for a newspaper in our tech-driven society? Sure there are plenty of amazing web comics, but don’t you sometimes crave the four-panel punchlines from ye olde newspaper times? Then let me put you on to Blind Alley, a biweekly online comic strip by Adam de Souza, based around a group of kids living in “the strange and lonely neighborhood of Blind Alley.” What really drew me in was the charming cast of Pokémon card-loving kids and the surrealistic off-putting world of the story. I’m glad to have the chance to review Blind Alley: The First Year, the first print volume of the series, and talk to Adam about the series.  

Blind Alley character reading comics on the floor, then upside down on the floor, then on a couch, and then in another position on the couch saying "wow."
Me reading Blind Alley

Adam landed on telling the story of Blind Alley through comic strips out of a desire to see gag strip characters change and grow, “For the longest time I had wanted to try drawing a comic strip. I grew up reading strips like Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes but I always found it frustrating that it felt like they had a very selective memory; Calvin or Charlie Brown never really aged and, while things changed in the strip over time or there’d be multi-strip long narratives, it always felt like it existed entirely in the realm of the ‘present.’” 

I’ve followed Blind Alley on Twitter for a while and I can say that the gag strip format is actually a really nice way to receive a story. It has the same appeal as other webcomics wherein seeing a new update always makes me excited to find out what’s happening in Blind Alley, but the aesthetic and focus really bring me back to flipping through the comic section of my dad’s newspapers. It is really amazing how much impact and emotion can be put into a four panel gag strip; a new update of Blind Alley can either make you smile or cry.

Four-panel comic showing three kids on a hill. In the first, one kid with their hair in a big bun and glasses says, "do you guys ever think about how one day you'll meet someone who'll love you more than your parents?" In the following two panels, the other two kids go from happy to upset. In the final panel, the first character says "Oh my god are you okay??" as their friends cry in anguish.

I really appreciate that Blind Alley doesn’t shy away from sadness and tougher themes. The kids in Blind Alley are trying to navigate a world that may seem bizarre to both them and the reader. Adam shared that “it’s important to me to represent childhood, and the extended world of Blind Alley, in a way that I feel is true of our own world; beautiful, absurd, tender, silly, and sad and almost entirely beyond our control.” Being a kid can be tough, especially in a world that feels surreal and scary. Having anxieties about the world as a kid is totally normal but not always talked about. The darker themes balance well with the whimsical ones and it really speaks to what childhood is like. Growing up isn’t always fun and games but sometimes it is, specifically the Pokémon Trading Card Game. I asked Adam about his favorite card and he said, “This is a tough one! I think the original Cubone or Tangela cards are my favorite!”

Four panel comic. In the first panel, a character in a hat says "Hope I get a shiny!" and the second character says "If you get a Raichu I'll trade you!!" Second panel: first kid says "Wow!" and the second character says "I'm gonna need a sniff of that!" Third panel: first kid says "That new card smell is worth the price of admission" and their two friends sniff the card appreciatively. In the final panel, a fourth kid walks over to join the sniffing, saying "HEY - are those new Pokemon cards? Can I get a whiff?"

Volume 1 collects all the strips from May 2021 to July 2022. The physical book is currently sold out online but copies will be sold at TCAF in early June of this year, with a possibility of being sold online again in the future. Adam confirmed that he had always planned on publishing Blind Alley as a collection, saying that “I’ve always known I’d collect the strips yearly. I think they will read much differently as a book as opposed to being read as they come out.” Reading Blind Alley as a book really makes the storylines and growth of the characters more apparent. It is also ahead of the online updates and let me tell you that the last comics in the first year tugged on my heart strings. If you’re going to TCAF I highly recommend picking up a copy to launch yourself into the world of Blind Alley

Adam is also currently working on a graphic novel about three friends who run away from highschool to join a commune. The graphic novel will be out in the fall of 2023. As for Blind Alley, the story will be taking a brief break once the first year of strips have been released and then updates will start up again twice a week in fall. Adam also plans on doing exclusive Sunday style Blind Alley strips on his Patreon. You can read Blind Alley online here or by following Adam’s Twitter where it updates every Monday and Friday. 

Harri Chan

Harri Chan

Harri is a cheesecake enthusiast, videogame lover, and disgruntled college student. When they grow up they want to be a writer, or an archaeologist, or a barista. Whatever, they'll figure it out. You can find them @heyriette on Twitter.
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