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, October 24, 2008

Saturday Night at the Writer's Center

Tomorrow night the Writer's Center in Bethesda MD is holding a panel discussion called Political Cartooning in an Election Year at 7:30. On the panel will be King Kevin Kallaugher , Master Matt Wuerker and me . Kal and Matt will present an informative, dazzling multi-media tour of recent politics, a landscape right out of Hieronymous Bosch for sure. I'll mostly defer to them, as they're far more experienced, wiser and slightly older than me. And I don't know how to work a powerpoint thing, so I'll do a chalk talk.
And afterwards we're all heading over to the Tastee Diner, so the waitress can call us Honey and bring us a plate of scrapple and eggs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bark the Vote

This is a cover for the Comic Book section of Nickelodeon Magazine. I'd probably vote for dogs, as they'd more likely have the good of the pack in mind, whereas cats would think only of themselves. Yet somehow the rodents keep getting into office.
There, that's my political thought for the day.

(The patriotic dog in the upper left corner is by the great Sam Henderson.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hello, Sailor!

This is from this very week's New Yorker, drawn for a story about how over the years Gov. Palin may have actually been courting those very inside-the-Beltway elites she so professes to despise. Shocking, shocking. Go read it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Great Divide

This was done about four years ago for the Wash Post Mag. The differences between Maryland and Virginia (the suburban parts around DC anyway) are many yet ineffable; everybody knows them but nobody can quite define them. And the Post Mag had wanted to do an issue exploring them, but it never happened, so I stepped into the breach just to muddy the waters.
I grew up in the outer Maryland suburbs, but I've lived in the inner Virginia suburbs for 16 years. So you think I'd be an expert, but as it is I still think of DC as being to my south, when it's directly east. On the other hand I don't get lost in VA like I used to, but going back to the first hand I don't leave the house often enough to have a chance to get lost.
Those of you familiar with the area will notice that Arlington is actually over about an inch to the right from what's indicated on the map. Everything else is entirely accurate.

My Personal Commintment to Recycling, or, Today's Poor Almanack

Above is today's Poor Almanack. It's a pretty bald-faced steal from one I did eight years ago when there were some undecided voters who needed help. That one is below.

And four years ago, under similar circumstances, I did another one, also meant to help undecided voters. I guess indecisive voters are just an ongoing problem.

Though I can't help but note that the indecisive voter guy who's featured in the two top cartoons sure seems decisive enough in his choice of loud-checked jackets. And I have to admit that the original cartoon of eight years ago has the strongest finish in the yard sign joke. Maybe I'll use that again in four years, when we're due for another spate of Undecided Voters

Friday, October 17, 2008

Metro Games

In these purse-tightening times it behooves us to make our own fun. This is for all you commuters out there killing some time on the Metro each day. Anybody who wants to organize a team, please let me know.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Media Darling, or, More Than You Need to Know

I talked to that nice Zack Smith at Newsarama , and that nice Amanda Hess at the DC City Paper . And they went and published it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How Things Work

It's been a while, so here are three drawings that describe How Things Work. I can't vouch for the accuracy of any of these, as I don't have a clue how anything works. It's all string theory or donut theory or little magic homunculi pulling levers to me.

The first is The Government. This was for a Dave Barry article in the Post Magazine.

The next is The Senate, and it was for the New Yorker, back when a group of senators was threatening the "nuclear option". They may be better behaved now.

The last is Everything Else. It was for a NYer piece on conspiracies and how they comfort the idiots who believe in them.

There now, hope it's all clear. I'm working on one on The Economy, so you won't have to worry about that any more.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Unseen New Yorker

This was done two or three weeks ago for a piece in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell, a book review, that will likely never run. The book dealt with a long-time head of Goldman Sachs who'd grown up poor in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood and started at the firm as an assistant janitor while in his mid-teens. He'd gone on to be a titan of finance, deal-maker & adviser to presidents, and Gladwell's take was that outsiders can often do things within the system that others can't, and hence do well. One of his counter-intuitive pieces, and it was interesting.

Well, Wall Street looks different now, and the piece may now be too out-dated to run without a lot of revisions, which is too bad. But here's the drawing to go with it, selected for finish from 3 roughs, and tweaked some. At SPX last weekend I talked to two artists who do New Yorker illustrations, Joost Swarte and Istvan Banyai, and we wept over drawings we'd done for them that because of circumstances will never see print. That collection of rejected NYer cartoons "The Rejection Collection" needs a counterpart for illustration work. Maybe call it "The Refuseum".

Two More Days of Poetic Inspiration-

Before your poetic licence expires! Michael Cavna's Comic Riffs blog is offering a signed copy of the Cul de Sac book to the winning Cul de Sac poem! See here for details!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Saturday's Almanack

In case ya need such a thing. I got one for ya.


This is one I've wanted to draw for a while now, but I couldn't figure out quite how to do it, or if it'd be something that anyone would recognize. A daily strip about daily lives is obviously dealing with the quotidian, the mundane and homely, and the hard part can be teasing out the unexpected, unnoticed and weird from all that day-to-day stuff without making it unrecognizable.
That was unnecessary exposition to lead into a personal admission: I make silly noises when I'm driving, sometimes silly faces, too. And I don't think I'm alone in this (Hi, Paul!). I once heard a radio announcer say that on the way to work every morning he'd sing the Modern Major General patter song from Pirates of Penzance, just to loosen up his face and get his tongue going. He at least had some reason to do it, but me, I just babble, sing, talk in accents, parrot radio commercials, even do bbrrrm bbrrrm car sounds. It doesn't affect my driving, on the contrary, I'm sure it makes me more alert and speeds up my reflexes.
There, I've said it and I'm proud.

Monday, October 6, 2008


To Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Frank, Ngoc, Kevin, Claire, Mark, Mark, Marc, Joost, Mary, Istvan, Brendan, Raina, Dave, Keith, Libby, Dustin, Van, Dave, Jen, Warren, Andrew, Charles, Joe, Matt, Rob, John, Zack, John, Brian, Chris, Trade, TJ, Matt, LInda, Jason, Jason, Joel, Abby, Magnolia, Calla, Paul, Jackie, Nell, David, Greg, Drew, Casey & Matt. Good to see you all at SPX!
If I've left your name off the list, please remind me.

Friday, October 3, 2008


SPX - The Expo
Just a reminder. I'll be there both days hanging around. I'll sell anybody a book who can find me. On Sunday at 5, I'll talk with Mike Rhode, mostly about our kids.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Poetry Slam

Michael Cavna at the Washington Post's Comic Riffs blog thinks I know about poetry . Here's my fragmentary entry-

There once was a rodent named Danders,
Who spoke in a voice like George Sanders,

And that's all I got.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Walk Like Groucho Day

This is a repeat of a post from a year ago. October 2nd is the birthday of Groucho Marx, born Julius Henry Marx in 1890. In celebration, I propose a national Walk Like Groucho Day, to be held on this date annually. Everybody walks like Groucho, or we line 'em up against the wall and Pop goes the weasel!

How do you walk like Groucho? You just squat and scuttle, taking long strides, not as extreme as a duck-walk and not as athletic as a Silly Walk. If you can wear a tail coat that flaps behind you so much the better. I've included this chart which illustrates Newton's 2nd Law of Motion (Force = Mass x acceleration), and shows ground reaction forces measured in various strides and different types of footwear. Please note the looping blue line labeled "Groucho". I'm sure this'll help you a whole lot. The chart was taken from Dr. Chris Kirtley's site Clinical Gait Analysis (You can't propose a day of national celebration without some kind of scientific & academic support.)

So quick everybody! Squat 'n' Scuttle!

It's also Wash Post Genius Gene Weingarten's birthday! I detect a theme, and it may not be in the way they walk.

Old Glamor Job

About 17 years ago I got a call to do a cover for one of a series of Honeymooners VHS tapes. What made the job particlarly cool was that it was art directed by Lou Dorfsman (a legend in the field), the other illustrators doing covers were some of my heroes (Hirschfeld, Brodner, Burke...), the money was swell (they bought the originals) and coolest of all there was no deadline (within reason).

So they sent me the tape I was to illustrate, something about Ed Norton sleepwalking and dreaming about his dog. Unfortunately the tape was the wrong one, and I'd never watched much Honeymooners (though I'd seen the cartoons with the Honeymooner mice several times). But I found enough photos that I could fake up a scene okay; Norton sleepwalking, dreamed-of dog, and annoyed Kramden. Here's the first skech I did, just a quick one of Kramden & Norton. I like the Norton, though from the little pen mark over Kramden's head you can see that Lou Dorfsman chose the Kramden. This was back when roughs were exchanged leisurely with a client via FedEx, or carrier pigeon, or footmen with velvet cushions. However we did it, I eventually came up with a usable sketch.

Here's the final, and the first thing you'll notice is that I slightly mismeasured the height, leaving some dead space between the focus of the illustration and the main type, but nobody minded. I did it in alkyd paint, which is somewhat like oil but it dries faster and it's a little more tar-like in consistency, and it's a little less aesthetically pleasing, if you're into that. Despite there being no firm deadline and despite the fast-drying quality of the paint, two hours before FedEx closed on the day before it was due I was down on the floor spraying the finished illustration with half-a-can of Krylon in hopes of forcing the paint to dry. I understand Norman Rockwell worked the same way.

The last cool things about the job were that the original went into a museum in New York City, I forget what it's called but it's full of TV stuff, and when the complete series of VHS tapes was released Leonard Maltin showed several of the covers on Entertainment Tonight, and not only showed mine but said my name out loud on TV (along with Hirschfeld, Brodner, etc). That was when my career peaked. The most I could hope for now is a mention by Pat O'Brian on Access Hollywood, and who wants that?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Often when I'm drawing faces I find myself mimicking the expression that I'm trying to convey. Like today I did a string of roughs with Mrs. Otterloop going from nonplussed to dawning comprehension to full awareness, and my face kept going from slack to alert in sympathetic response. Nothing too hammy, just enough that I could feel it while I drew it. Animators do it purposefully, and even keep a mirror handy so they can model for their drawings. I once read a hilarious account of Goofy's animator jumping out of his chair and lurching around the studio with that slap-footed Goofy walk, working his adam's apple and everything, then throwing himself back in the chair and drawing what he'd just done. It's the same process that kids use when they make kkkkapppcccccccchhhh noises when drawing battleground explosions. And I'm sure fine artists do it in the privacy of their studio. I'll bet Picasso yanked his face around to the point of malocclusion when he was in his cubist period. His girlfriend of the moment probably told him to quit it before his face stuck like that, too.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Saturday's Almanack

This was the Almanack for last weekend. I'm not sure if it makes sense. I was going to do a map of the National Book Festival, but I got bored with the sketch I had for it and started this about five hours before deadline. Which should be plenty of time, but I didn't realize what I was doing until I lettered the last line. I think the idea was to compare Astronomy, Astrology and Economics just to see which had the most sway over events. I think Astrology won.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Exciting Book Signing Event Thing

I'll be sigining copies of Cul de Sac at the Politics & Prose booth at the Crafty Bastards Arts & Crafts Fair this Sunday at 1 pm. The fair is at the Marie Reed Learning Center in at 18th St. and Wyoming Ave., NW, in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in DC. Those are the two most information-stuffed sentences I've ever typed, but if you need more, go here.

Update: Hello and thanks to those who came by, chatted, bought a book, or all three. It was a hoot, and thanks to my hosts Mike, AndrĂ¡s and Chad & family.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

First Anniversary Special Offer

Today is this blog's first anniversary, having opened with the memorable, oft-quoted post Okay, Now What? on September 24th back in 2007. In recognition of this important milestone I'm announcing this unique, one-time offer, which I'll be repeating as often as I deem necessary.

Now that the Cul de Sac book seems to be generally available, the thousands/many/several/both of you who've ordered it may want to have it defaced in some way. And I'd like to help you out! If you'd like me to sign my name on your book, please email me through the "My Complete Profile" link to your right ->, I'll provide my address, you send me your book (with a sase), I'll sign it, I'll send it back to you, you'll open it up and say "jeez, that took forever". What could be easier than that?

But wait! It gets more complicated! To make your book's inscription even more personalized, I'm offering this selection of autographs for you to choose from, each one a work of art in itself! Just look-

1. Otterloop Bold Distended 2. Otterloop Grotesque 3. Palmer Method 4. Otterloop Hasty 5, Otterloop Serif Formal 6. Otterloop Extra-Hasty Verging on Sloppy 7. Otterloop Slapdash Bold 8. Otterloop Fancypants 9. Otterloop Wrong-End-of-the-Pen 10. Otterloop Corroding (genuine iron gall ink) 11. Otterloop Erratum (discontinued).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Here, you may need this. For those of you outside the DC-MD-VA area, I'm sorry, you're on your own.


Yesterday was the first day of Fall and I didn't even notice, mostly because I didn't even step outside. It's perpetually summer in my studio, of course.

I see Mother Nature as Hermione Gingold in the Music Man, particularly where she's immitating a Grecian urn.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Toddler's Roundtable

This is another of the proto-Cul de Sacs from 8 or 9 years ago, back when I could still use a cartoon to make a coherent point. That skill didn't last long, but fortunately comic strips don't need a point. A couple of balloons, maybe an onomatopoeia, a laff, then off you go.

Watch me recycle that lycanthropy joke when I think nobody's looking.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fontanelle, the Imperiled Infant

This was Oswaldo Twee's first appearance, a year or so before he reappeared to read at the library, much to Alice's dismay. From his reactions here, I don't believe Twee has had much contact with actual children which, from the others I've met, isn't the norm among children's book authors.

Both my daughters read a lot, sometimes too much, like to the point of trying to multitask while reading and subsequently falling down the stairs. This only happened once, but it was memorable, and no harm was done so it was also funny.

Friday, September 19, 2008

(Formerly) Happy Amazon Robot

The Cul de Sac book is now officially listed as "in stock" at Amazon. My thanks to Mark Tatulli for pointing this out to me, as I hadn't checked the Amazon site in almost 15 minutes.

UPDATE: It's now reverted to "ships in 3 to 5 weeks". Next time I see JeFf Bezos I'm going to give him a stern lecture on Not Yanking People Around.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Let's Make Fun of TV Shows!

Since there's nothing easier than making fun of TV shows, I did these. "Flapjack" is the only thing I've ever written that always makes me laugh, but then, nothing's funnier than pancakes. Pancakes are comic gold. And laughing at your own jokes is the lowest form of comedy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

More Dirt

The above is another page taken from the mysterious disappearing Cul de Sac book (which I saw on an actual shelf at a Barnes & Nobles, who seem to've cornered the market on them). And it deals with dirt, which somewhat continues the conversation from the post below.

Back almost 30 years ago I read a short story by the tall-tale sci-fi fabulist R.A. Lafferty called "You Can't Go Back". Like all of Lafferty's work it's hard to describe, but briefly it's about this little rogue moon called the White Cow Moon that will come bobbing over the horizon and float over your head when you blow the White Cow whistle, and how some now-adults who played on it as children visit it for the first time in years. I'm sure I'm misremembering details, but the White Cow Moon disappoints them; the troll who lives in the moon's core looks moth-eaten, the little village is ramshackle, the whole place looks fake, like a beat-up amusement park (like I said it's hard to describe). And I always wanted to steal that idea, of a little untethered moon that shows up sometimes then wanders away. This cartoon is as close as I've gotten, and I even worked cows into it. Alice's final line is thanks to my old editor at the Post, Tom Shroder, who taught me that ending a comic strip with an unexpected tangent is always the most fun.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What Lies Beneath

Yesterday's Cul de Sac had some synchronicity with yesterday's Almanac cartoon, like they were almost the same joke. I didn't plan it that way, unless it was subconsciously, and when I realized they'd meshed I was a little tickled. Embarrassed too, because now it's obvious I've got only a few ideas in rotation and here they've collided.

The Almanac (above) was a retooling of one from 8 or 9 years ago (below). I didn't find the older one till a day after I turned in the newer version, though you can tell I remembered it pretty vividly. I might try doing newruns of old stuff and hope nobobdy recalls them distinctly enough to complain; I'll just white-out dated references and such to make it more germane.

Friday, September 12, 2008


SPX - The Expo
So, who all is going to the Small Press Expo in Bethesda (south Rockville) next month (October)? I am, I am! And at some point I'll be signing books (mine).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Un Lavoro Bello II

And now for something completely different- Drawing a Funny Cartoon in 20 Steps, in Italian. My awe-filled thanks for this to Diego Ceresa, the indefatigable genius translator for several comic strips (including Cul de Sac) at Linus Magazine.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Somebody's Very Special Day

Today is the first anniversary of the launch of Cul de Sac as a daily strip, courtesy of the fine folks at Universal Press.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Adrift on the Amazon

The page for the CdS book at Amazon now says "temporarily out of stock", and it lists one used copy for sale on Amazon Marketplace by Snappyshoppe. And it's only $8.29! So I guess it's been shipped to used bookstores. I'll check again later (not that I'm obsessing), but if I were you I'd jump on that.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Oswaldo Twee

I was going to write something lengthy about children's literature but I don't have a whole lot to say. My house is stuffed with children's books, and some of them predate my daughters. I've read a good bit of them, often aloud to an appreciative audience. Oswaldo Twee, the children's author I invented for the strip who produces an endless series of books about Fontanelle the Imperiled Infant, is pretty clearly based on Lemony Snicket, whose works I find alternately entertaining and annoying. I never made it all the way through one of the Unfortunate Events books, though I heard a few on cd and mostly enjoyed the movie version. I'm pretty sure I'd feel the same way about Oswaldo Twee's work, and Alice is even less forgiving.

In the last strip in this series I tried to show how kids will talk in, you know, questions? Like they want to make sure you're listening? So each sentence? Demands a response? Adults sometimes do this too. Or at least, I do. You know?

These are all in that book I mentioned below, too.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Scathing Political Satire

Or as close to scathing political satire as a strip with yacky kids and talking guinea pigs gets. Another free excerpt from the Mystery Date Forthcoming Cul de Sac Book.

Forms of Speech

While we wait to find out the availablility of the Cul de Sac book, here's something from the Richard's Poor Almanac book (which is, of course, easily available, the publisher's demise notwithstanding). This presents vital and timely information, as I'm sure you'll all agreee.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Books Almost. No, Really!

I'm told by my book editor that books should indeed have started shipping from the warehouse to stores, etc, on September 2nd. Amazon has an automatic responder that is easily confused, and when nothing shipped on the original date, September 1st, as it was a national holiday, the responder went berzerk and started spewing misinformation. So, I hope, the Cul de Sac book should be finding its way to your home bookshelf, nightstand, coffee table or little basket of old magazines next to the toilet real soon. Sooner at least than October for crying out loud.
Let me know how it goes, if you would.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cul-de-Sac the Book! Almost-

Here it is Sepetember 2nd already and the day that Amazon posted as the Cul de Sac book release date is 24 hours behind us. For the thousands/several/both/none of you who inquired about when the book will ship, I can only answer, I dunno, soon?

Till it starts actually flying off the shelves I've got another teaser. But be warned, it's really violent.