The blog of Richard Thompson, caricaturist, creator of "Cul de Sac," and winner of the 2011 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Beyond Whistler's Mother

If I remember right, the painting everybody knows as "Whistlter's Mother" is really entitled "Arrangement in Grey and Black". Whistler was a great painter and an even better etcher, but not too sentimental and a real full-of-himself jerk half the time, at least. He was pretty dang witty too, at least in person; when he sat down and tried to be witty for posterity it came out strained and mannered. His book, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies is unreadable, except for the title.
This cartoon doesn't have much to do with Whistler, except for the title.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Strangled by Deadlines

A current self-portrait. More later, when there's time.

Cartoon Appreciation Week

This is maybe my favorite New Yorker cartoon, or my favorite that's not by Chast, Shanahan, Zeigler, Booth.... OK, it's my favorite by Robert Weber, the master of the soft pencil line. I like it because it's beautifully drawn, detailed without being finicky, sharply composed, surprisingly gentle, and it's got Pliny the Elder in it. Something about Pliny the Elder is inexplicably funny. He named his kid Pliny too, and who names a kid Pliny any more? And you know every angel in that giant pile of angels wishes the guy with the camera would quit fussing around and take the damn picture.
That's it, I just like this.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Alert readers (I have no other kind) may have noticed the "Cul de Sac: the Book" link to the right there.
Here's what you get-
128 pages of real paper; real ink too, a carbon-petroleum-beef mix, none of that soy stuff; there's some glue in there somewhere, too, I don't know what kind it is but don't eat it; an insightful foreword; 40+ pages of the original watercolor Cul de Sacs as they appeared in the Wash Post Magazine; the first 6 or 7 months of newspaper strips in b&w or color as appropriate; a brand new, never-seen and original isbn number; three laughs guaranteed, the rest are gravy.
Here's what you lose-
about 15 bucks including shipping; several hours of your valuable time; the respect of your peers who don't read comics because they're for little kids; some of you faith in humanity, because of all the scathing insights contained herein; your patience, because this thing isn't coming out till late summer.
Also, for the first 50 people who buy Cul de Sac, here's a limited offer! Drive slowly by my house and I'll wave to you from my basement window! Make sure your receipt is plainly visible so I'll know it's you.

How to Screw Up a Perfectly Good Joke

I got an email today from an alert reader who sent a link to the Comics I Don't Understand website. This site, for those unfamiliar with it, is where you go when you've got a comic you don't understand, and you post it and a discussion follows in the comments section where other readers try to unravel the mystery of said strip.

The alert reader sent me here , where the above strip is considered. And I was shocked, shocked. Because that's not how the joke I thought I wrote went at all. I used an old rough for this, one I did about a year ago. It went like this-

Now that makes more sense, and it's subtle, and warm and funny, yet pointed and full of heartache. OK, it's not any of that stuff, but it does make a bit more sense and it doesn't sound as unsavory as the final version. There are "Kiss and Learn" signs in front of schools around here to mark where you can drop your child off, and they parody the "Kiss and Ride" signs at evey Metro station in DC. So when I redid the rough sketch last month I carefully did it wrong, and when I did the final I lettered it in wrong again, thereby blowing the joke entirely. Proving that I don't read what I write, though my wife did ask me about it, and I sat there and read it again and didn't see anything wrong with it.

But I am kinda proud to be on the Comics I Don't Understand site for the first time. And probably not the last, either

My Yard These Days

Every one of these is drawn from life, especially the last one. We once kept Christmas lights in our big shrub in front till summertime, and I snuck out one night and pulled them out, hoping nobody'd see. We should've just kept them there and plugged them in, like it was intentional. Nothing much in our yard is intentional.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ciao, Balloons Blog

Do I make less sense in English or in Italian ? I know for sure it sounds better in Italian.

Cartoon Appreciation Week

I figured something with wiggly lines would be appropriate after the earthquake, so here are two masters of the inky jitters, Ed Koren and R. O. Blechman. Back when, I tried to draw like both of them, sometimes simultaneously, with unsatisfying results (about the third drawing I did for the Post was one where I tried for Blechmanian spareness, but I over-did it and the drawing practically evaporated in printing; I thought that was the end of my career right there). But nothing'll free you up from the awful tyranny of a neatly inked line like these guys.

That's not exactly true, their lines are perfect, it's just that neatness doesn't count. Koren draws the spaces in between things and his lines jump from one to the next like electricity, but slower, like dust motes. And Blechman draws like each line's a teeny organism in itself and they all just met up at this moment to form into something worth looking at.


So there was a big boom and the house shook slightly this afternoon. And this is why, according to the US Geological Survey.

More Cartoon Appreciation Week

And get a load of this sculpture of Rumsfeld by Oliphant! I don't know about you, but it makes me itch to take a big lump of wax and express my feelings for various incumbents and incumbent wannabees, and their henchmen too.

Those in the DC area can get a load of this sculpture in person if they head over to the Stanford in Washington Gallery on Connecticut Avenue near Woodley Park. Along with almost a hundred other Oliphant drawings, prints and sculptures. Go, it's cathartic!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cartoon Appreciation Week

Well, Cartoonist Day is over for another year and it couldn't happen soon enough for me. But it's allegedly Cartoon Appreciation Week, and to celebrate I'll put up some random cartoonlike things that float my boat and you might like too.

This is by the 19th century French scupltor Jean-Piere Dantan, known as Dantan Jeune, who sculpted many serious portraits of contemporary politicians, artists, writers, musicians, and such. He also did caricatures of them, most of them pretty dang wonderful (though not as fine as Daumier's). This is Hector Berlioz, the great romantic composer who was slightly nuts and had one of the great heads of red hair in history. It's from the book "Dantan Jeune, Caricatures et portraits de la societe romantique". My French isn't so hot, but looking at all the charming little gargoyle heads filling its pages make me wish I knew the first thing about sculpting.

A Very Happy Cartoonist Day

To one and all.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

May the Fourth

As I learned last year from my old friend Barchan, today is May the Fourth Be With You Day. Back in 1977 I went to see Star Wars (the first, real, one) on its opening night at the Uptown Theater with a bunch of friends, which establishes my geek cred if there was any doubt. All the shows were sold out, there was a line around the block, and we ended up seeing the added-on midnight show, and some of us appeared in a photo in the Wash Post the next morning of all the geeks in line to see a movie. But we all knew it was an event somehow, and the line was the place to be. The Uptown is still the best theater in DC; it's got a huge screen and a balcony and the blockbusters open there. I've stood on that sidewalk out on Connecticut Avenue for dozens of movies since and nowadays I drag my daughters along, or vice versa.

Each of the subsequent movies in the SW franchise have been another big step down for me, until when the last one came out and I was ready to throw something big and wet at the screen. The above cartoon was drawn before I saw it, but I'd already figured it wasn't going to be much fun. George Lucas will likely spend the rest of his career tinkering with his Star Wars oeuvre, reworking CGI effects and monkeying with the explosions and stuff. Which is fine by me as long as he doesn't make any more crummy movies.

Comic Strip DVD

With the excitement of Free Comic Book Day is behind us, it's time to prepare for the big celebration on May 5th! And May 5th, as we all know from watching all those beer commercials on TV, is Cartoonist Day! At least, I think that's what those beer commercials are talking about; what else could the Fifth of May be?

According to the Cartoonist Day website , the date was chosen because the first comic strip, The Yellow Kid, first appeared in a newspaper on May 5th, 1895. And I believe The Yellow Kid is still running in about 5000 papers worldwide, now drawn by its creator's grandson's second cousin's brother-in-law. And what's more, May 3-10 is Cartoon Appreciation Week! So I urge everyone to spend the week Appreciating Cartoons, and if you see a Cartoonist, give him or her a hearty slap on the back, a big "thank you" and maybe as much change as you can spare. Unless he happens to be the Yellow Kid's creator's grandson's second cousin's brother-in-law.

I'll spend the week posting cartoons, and drawing the g-dd-m miserable things too. This one is drawn from life, as we have a cat named Fred and a mouse somewhere in the house. And that looks a lot like our house, too.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Countdown to Free Comic Book Day Part II: Lo, It Approacheth Ever Closer!!

The excitement is at fever-pitch as we approach Free Comic Book Day 2008, which is of course tomorrow. This cartoon is from last year. Mangaloid Wars X: Giant Spazzoid Zombie Robots Invade! is just about my second favorite thing I've ever written, and if they made a movie of it I'd totally go see it. If only to see Michael Bay's take on Tennessee Williams.

Again, thanks to Mike Rhode.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Countdown to Free Comic Book Day

You can already feel the excitement building as we get closer to Saturday and the nationwide celebration of Free Comic Book Day, or FDCB for short. In honor of FBDC '06, I did this Almanack in, um, 2006. Twelve people probably understood it, but in '07 I did another one on BFDC and thirteen people got that one! This year, if I do a DBFC caratoon, I project an even fourteen readers who'll know what I'm talking about.

And look, you could've gotten a free Little Neuro comic book, just like Petey reads. And who doesn't want to be like Petey? I'll post the Almanack on DCVII '07 tomorrow. And my thanks to Mike Rhode for pulling this off his wall and out of its frame and scanning it for me.

Fun With Anagrams

In the post below about Hogan's Alley magazine I mentioned that it can be anagrammed as Holy Lasagne. To my shame, I got that anagram off of a web anagram generator which, once I typed in "hogans alley", coughed up almost 400 anagrams. I'd never used an anagram generator before, being staunch in my belief that such things should be handmade. But heck, this is a blog, it's not like it's a real job and who has the time to make anagrams for free these days with the price of gas being what it is?

But I remembered this cartoon that I did late in 2001. I found that "Osama Bin Laden" is good for anagrams, though nothing else, and made dozens of them all by hand then picked my favorites and gave them aliases.

And at the time we seemed to've been searching for Bin Laden very hard so I thought this might be of help.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Your Unpleasant Blooms Guide for Spring of Aught-Eight

I've put in all my wild garlic and onion bulbs and the yard is looking just the way I thought it would.

On an unrelated note, how come nobody sings "I'm a Lonely Little Petunia in an Onion Patch" these days?

A Swell Offer!

This Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, that special day when millions of Americans crowd into their favorite comic book store and strip it of merchandise, leaving every spinner rack in the nation empty and forlorn! And here's a special bonus offer from Tom Heintjes, the madcap editor of Hogan's Alley, the nation's premier comic magazine whose name is an anagram for Holy Lasagne.

Take it away, Tom!

"Send us an e-mail ON THAT DATE with your mailing address, and we’ll send you a FREE issue of Hogan’s Alley! No obligations, no strings attached; the only thing it will cost you is several hours as you enjoy the issue. (This offer is valid for all U.S. residents, whether you’re a current subscriber or not.) Remember the one condition--we must receive your e-mail request on Free Comic Book Day, not the day before or the day after."

Tom's email is . He's got a two year old daughter, so if you email after 8 p.m. please don't use any exclamation points.

Monday, April 28, 2008

More Old Stuff

This is a coupla years old. It's from a little series where Alice's parents attended back-to-preschool night at Blisshaven Preschool, and her mom found her still awake when they got back. When I redid the series as a daily this part got left out, which was too bad. I like this a lot, the colors are pretty, the acting's good and the situation seems true. What I like about it best is the black background; it was a grey-blue and it looked wrong, so I got mad and inked it all in. And then it looked fine.

Alice's parents do have names, they're Madeline and Peter, but somehow I've never mentioned it.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Today's Poor Almanack

The joke here, if there is one, is that Hillary is posing as the front-runner. Haha!

This Hillary caricature was also posted some months ago so she make look a little familiar. I think I drew it for fun a coupla years back and I've been waiting for a chance to use it since. And I did a Hillary finiger puppet joke last October, but I kinda hated the drawing, so this kills two birds with one stone.

It actually kills a whole flock of 'em, because the first idea I had was to do something like this with Hillary. This one's from about four years ago during a previous exercise in democracy. It's sort of what's called a "wallpaper gag", one where there's a simple repeating image, though this one varies a little. I've also done this with John Kerry and Al Gore, but this one's my favorite, though despite my best efforts the man got elected anyway.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Happy Arbor Day

So I just learned that today is Arbor Day in the state of Virginia. I mean, Commonwealth of Virginia. This is an old drawing I like a lot, and I keep trying to turn it into something bigger, like a watercolor painting, but it's hard to translate something so loose into something more thought-out. Like usual, the stuff where I'm not thinking works best.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Old Strip Until Something Better Comes Along

This is from the Post Mag of a few years ago. I redid it for syndication too, but the watercolor version's prettier. It's poignant, I guess. But I'd really like to know what the cat joke is.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

444 Years Young

April 23rd is Shakespeare's Birthday, and I'm celebrating by drinking lots of orange juice. My wife volunteers as a docent at the Folger Shakespeare Library and on Sunday they're doing their annual birthday party (there'll be cake for everybody so y'all come on down). One of the things they need for a children's craft project is orange juice can lids, lots and lots of them. I think they make jewelry or badges out of them. So we're pitching in and drinking frozen orange juice. or really I am, because nobody else here drinks orange juice (Sunny D doesn't count). My wife also runs the fifth grade Shakespeare program at my daughter's school. This year they're doing Richard III, or at least a forty minute version of it, with a big fight at the end, and the kids got to learn stage combat from a real stage combat specialist. So my house is full of wooden sword parts, handmade wooden-tray shields, costumes and orange juice can lids. And I'm full of vitamin C.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sky Awareness Week

It's Sky Awareness Week too. What I'm mostly aware of is how much rain the sky is currently dumping on me.

Earth Day

Here are some thoughtful cards you can give the Earth today.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

It's Still National Poetry Month

So I might as well squeeze some more jokes out of it. Last year for NPM I just illustrated one of my favorite poems, but I can't find the drawing now. The poem goes like this:

Mary had a little lime,
And quite a lot of gin,
And everywhere that Mary went,
She didn't know she'd been.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


This is from the Washington City Paper, the Paper of Record in this town (even if they did drop most of their comics and Rob Ullman's excellent illustrations, what were they thinking?). If you see it in the Washington City Paper it's so, like Virginia O'Hanlon's father said about the New York Sun. And thank you, Mark Athatakis, from this now officially designated Local Institution.

And congratulations to Mike Rhode whose blog, Comics DC, won for (Comic) Art Blog.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wright, Obama & Audience

This was done for last week's New Yorker. Reading left to right; Wright, Douglass, King, X and Obama. I don't usually enjoy "crowd scenes" but I liked drawing this. Frederick Douglass alone is one of the great faces in history and I'd like to draw him again, and larger.

A Milestone in Comics History

Here's a piece of phony Comics History, presented to you a few days early so you can plan how best to ignore it. Back in 2000 the Post ran a daily feature called The Century in the Post, reprinting whatever article was most interesting for that day from the last hundred years, duh. And the feature looked a lot like this parody, except it wasn't hand-lettered and it wasn't made up. I'll come clean and admit that I don't know when Dagwood first took a nap on his sofa, but I'll guess that I chose the date August 18th because I couldn't think of anything else to draw for that week.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


My younger daughter, who goes everywhere, went to a Nationals game today in their new stadium, the first in our family to make it there. We've all been to 6 or 7 games in the old RFK stadium and I'm looking forward to trying out the new place. I'm not a big sports fan, but sitting in the bleachers with a beer & a hot dog and trying to pay attention to what's happening on the field is one of my ideas of a good time. The first few games we attended I kept trying to explain the game and the stats, but kept hitting a wall of ignorance, especially with the stats. So we just watched and cheered whenever the Nats did something obviously good. And stretched in the seventh inning.

This was drawn for a special all-Nationals edition of the Post Magazine back in aught-five. Dad is explaining things to Alice, with probably the same level of competence that I did. But it looks like they're enjoying themselves. And, if you look closely, you'll notice they stretch in the seventh inning.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Today's Poor Almanack

The new, improved and relocated Newseum had its official opening this week, hence the above cartoon, which I thought of early in the week then put off drawing till two hours before it was due. On Friday the Newseum offered free admissioin, but as an adult ticket usually costs $20 I'm not sure how soon I'll visitor how often. When it was in Rosslyn VA, right across the river from Georgetown, I got there three or four times, but it was free then. The new Newseum sure looks nice from the outside, but it seems a little overbearing and grandiose and I mostly agree with Jack Shafer of who wrote a very funny piece on it a few months back. And the Newseum bills itself as the world's most interactive museum and I don't know about you but, being standoffish and lazy I don't really like things too interactive. If it's just pushing buttons to make the little lights in the map light up or the millwheel in the little model gristmill spin that's one thing, I love stuff like that and the old American History Museum always had lots of it. But the Newseum seems to demand a much more intense level of commitment, plus it's all in hi-def 4-D which for me gets creepy real fast. And the way things are going, someday real soon the Newseum'll have on exhibit the Last Edtion of The American Daily Newspaper, taxidermied and displayed in a helium-filled case, with low lighting to preserve it from fading and a sign saying No Flash Photography. And a button to push so the pages will turn.

Maybe I'll revise my opinion of it if I actually go see the Newseum, and if they ever install a Hall of My Cartoons I'll deny ever having doubts about the place.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Un Lavoro Bello

I got a very nice email today from Diego Ceresa, the translator who's doing a beautiful job of making Cul de Sac comprehensible in Italian so it can appear in the comic magazine Linus. I've wished for years that I'd learned Italian at some point as it's the language of Art, Music and Food, and it sounds like fun to speak. As it is, the only Italian I know is that provided by, where I just typed in "cul de sac" and got it translated into Italian as "cul de sac". So it's universal, which is a relief. "Bottom of the bag", the literal English translation of "cul de sac", translates as "parte inferiore de sacchetto", which sounds delicious and reminds me it's lunchtime.

Molto grazie, Diego!

And now, thanks to babelfish-

Ho ottenuto oggi un email molto piacevole da Diego Ceresa, il traduttore che ha fare un lavoro bello di rendere Cul de Sac comprensibile in italiano in modo da può comparire nello scomparto comic Linus. Ho desiderato per gli anni che italiano istruito ad un certo punto poichè è la lingua dell'arte, della musica e dell'alimento e suona come divertimento parlare. Mentre è, gli unici italiani che conosco sono che hanno fornito da, dove ho scritto appena "in cul de sac" ed ottenuto esso tradotto in italiano come "cul de sac". Così è universale, che è un rilievo. "la parte inferiore del sacchetto", la traduzione in inglese letterale "di cul de sac", traduce come "parte inferiore de sacchetto", che suona squisito e mi ricorda esso è l'ora di pranzo. Grazie di Molto, Diego!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Ides of April

I hate to say it, but here it is that time of year, April being the cruelest month and all. You know that if it says "From the IRS" it must be real, too.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Monday, April 7, 2008

Gene Weingarten Blows Lid Off Subway Fiddler Mystery; Wins Pulitzer

And richly deserved too. I hope you all read his Wash Post Mag story about Joshua Bell busking in the DC Metro. If not, go do it now . And watch the video of Bell in the subway. It's a fascinating piece, and it makes you wonder, what would you do if you were unexpectedly confronted with Beauty, Art & Genius in a wholly unlikely place? Especially if Beauty, Art & Genius was playing for throw money?

And my apologies for the above image. In several years of drawing Gene for his column this is the only one that looked remotely like him. Back in the early 90s, for about 5 years, I illustrated a column by Joel Achenback called Why Things Are that Gene edited (Joel & Gene, along with several others Post staffers, had migrated north from he Miami Herald when that paper took an editorial nose-dive). When Joel ended the column Gene asked me if I'd like to try a weekly cartoon, which eventually became Richard's Poor Almanac, and he was my editor for the first few years. So I owe Gene bigtime. And for a while on the side I illustrated Gene's column in the Post Magazine, where I'd often get to draw him and his fabulous mustache.

Update, here's another one, and not as mean, kinda-

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Belated Haydn's Birthday Fun Facts

Oops, his birthday was March 31st.

Today's Poor Almanack

Thanks to recent advances in technology I can now offer the latest up-to-the-minute Almanack the same day it appears in the Washington Post. So here's the one for today. As far as I can tell the only real joke is that it's all about comics but there's almost no actual drawing in it. Next time I'll try for no drawing at all, and no jokes either, and sign it "George F. Will" and see if anybody notices.

Enterprising Reporter Blows Lid Off Cartoonist's Embarrassing Secret

If you read it in the San Antoinio Express-News it must be true !

A Handy Map for Your Visit to the Damn Cherry Blossoms

We're going down to the Tidal Basin tomorrow to see what's left of the cherry blossoms.My wife's aunt & uncle, two of my favorite people, will join us down there, so I hope the blossoms haven't washed away in the rain.

When I was a kid we'd go down to the Tidal Basin at night to see the blossoms, and there'd be 3 or 4 military searchlight trucks positioned at intervals around the Basin. They'd sweep across the water, lighting up the blossoms and it was nice to see. I always loved searchlights when I was a kid and whenever we'd see one in the sky I'd want to go find it, which led my obliging parents to take me to a number of car dealerships and store openings. But I remember the lights down at the Basin in particular, and how whatever was used to fuel the flare in its central lamp (magnesium?) would hiss and how you couldnt look directly at it for more than a few seconds. I still like searchlights and whenever I see one in the sky (or several, as everybody uses those synchronized quadruple light gizmos) I get all excited and want to go find them. I'm easily amused.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Take a Poet to Lunch!

It's true! It's National Poetry Month! Here, something to help you celebrate, and so much better than that lousy CGI movie.

More Damn Cherry Blossoms

It's still Cherry Blossom Time in DC. And look, another cherry blossom cartoon. Did I mention I've got a million of these? Thankfully, it's in black and white instead of some vivid pink that sticks in your retina all day.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

First Petey

This is the first appearance of Petey, on February 15th 2004, in the second strip published in the Wash Post Magazine. He's changed only slightly; I think I like his hair better here. And below this strip is an Almanac cartoon from maybe ten years ago. See? It all fits together. Someday I'll figure out how every drawing I've ever done is a small piece of a larger picture, and my personality will then be so integrated that I'll be issued a certificate of guaranteed sanity by whoever's in charge of such things. Then I won't know what to do with myself.

I think the Captain Busybody strip just proves that superheroes are impossible to parody, unless the parody takes the form of Herbie or the Tick.