Oli Smith – I, Grumpy Toddler

Published On April 27, 2009 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, General, Reviews

Since closing down the very successful London Underground Camden Comics weekly stall Oli Smith’s obviously had time on his hands and has been rather busy. London Underground Comics isn’t finished though, far from it. There’s the promise of a mini con called LUC 176 happening on June 27th to look forward to, but not having the weekly stall means Oli gets to make more comics. This is a good thing.

I, Toddler

by Oli Smith

I, Toddler Oli Smith5.jpg

This is Oli’s most recent webcomic, a touching little 22 page fairy tale about growing up. Completely wordless and done in a slightly different style to Oli’s previously reviewed work (Summer Ball and Hazy Thursday), I, Toddler is deliberately loose black and white panels with spot colour to make an impression.

Oli’s little robot wanders into and through it’s life; red balloon in hand (a nod to the classic French film? – Joe), wondering exactly what’s in that mysterious blue box, just out of it’s childish reach. Play and exploration leads to growing up where, through a series of perfectly observed little panels, Oli paints a tiny life where fittingly, at the very last panel, you can click through and start once more, as the cycle of life goes on and on.

Oli Smith1.jpg  Oli Smith2.jpg

(Just like growing up – getting to the next thing always involves losing something you loved. From Oli Smith’s I, Toddler.)

It might be a short and simple tale, but I particularly enjoyed it; the body language in particular is almost perfect throughout – take a look at those two panels above for an example of the allegory Oli’s telling about growing up and the way he uses body language and silence so well. The desperate need to reach the box of unknown treasures, where the desire to reach the unknown overwhelms the need to keep hold of the balloon and the wistful, sad moment where our little robot realises that the balloon has really gone. Impressive to get all that in without bothering with facial features.

To say much more would give the whole thing away. And it’s hardly a chore for you to click the link and go and find out for yourself.

Grumpy Days

by Oli Smith


(Grumpy Days, the everyday tale of two comic artists. Art by Oli Smith.)

Where I, Toddler was a sweet, poignant little tale of growing up, Grumpy days is a funny and poignant tale of friendship (and, in it’s own way, about growing up as well). Just one look at the page above should give you the funny bit straight away. I chuckled like a goon for a while on that last panel, with Oli’s perfect body language as the pay-off to the gag.

But Grumpy Days is far more than just a funny strip. It’s Oli telling us about his life in pictures. London Underground Comics has done many things, but one of the major, lasting effects it has had on Oli’s life is his friendship with fellow artist Sean Azzopardi. He may take the piss out of Sean, may lampoon him mercilessly, but there’s a deep friendship going on and the warmth in each and every one of the Grumpy Days episodes is testament to that.

If I had to point out the one bad thing about the webcomics: They just aren’t big enough. Something as nice as I, Toddler or as funny and touching as Grumpy Days needs more space to be shown off than Oli gives them on his site. Oli’s only recently done a redesign on his website so he’s not going to thank me for this, but each strip really needs it’s own dedicated page. Of course, ideally he’d be making print copies someday soon – somebody give Oli the money he needs to print these things so I can read and enjoy them in comfort. But if you haven’t got the money, at least make with the clicking and visit Oli’s website to see the strips.

Richard Bruton was given a blue balloon once as a small child at the fair; to this day he still wonders how different his life may have been if it had been red.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

3 Responses to Oli Smith – I, Grumpy Toddler

  1. Kenny says:

    Don’t want to put a downer on emerging talent but I didn’t care for any of this stuff or the more recently posted fag break. They all have a cynical heart which stops them being warm, uplifting or funny for me. Oli when he puts himself in strips also seems to show an absorption with self that makes everything in the strip bar him seem secondary or something to be laughed at. I know people like Jeffrey Brown mine similar territory but at least there Brown isn’t so sure of himself. The art is also so scratchy it’s really only a sketch as if the author actually didn’t care so much about the art but more about putting his words out for consumption if he did print them someday i’d hope they would be tightened up artistically and more inclusive in their sentiments.

  2. Oli Smith says:

    Thanks so much for the kind words Richard, it’s nice to know that a comic paying tribute to the much underrated Sean Azzopardi is both enjoyed and appreciated 🙂 Sadly it seems that not everyone shares that opinion, but maybe this Grumpy Days style response will smooth any ruffled feathers.


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