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

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sam, the Boy Who Talks to Animals

This old Almanac was an idea that went kinda nowhere. Though it did lead to Petey, and the rest of Cul de Sac. I drew it in the early 2000s and when I turned it in Tom Shroder, then editing the Post Magazine, asked me if I'd ever thought of doing a strip with continuing characters. Wisely, I said no, but it did make me think about it, if only for a minute.

The concept of this one was having a kid who could talk to animals who are never much help and yammer on until he'd wish he'd kept his mouth shut. This would drain the magic and fantasy out of the whole idea of talking to animals and also be a real rollicking hoot. It wasn't much of a rollicking hoot and this was a far as it got. The kid, Sam, was from a character played by Bruce McCulloch on Kids in the Hall, a serious, non sequitur spouting, little boy named Gavin with a backpack. In slightly different form he turned into Petey. And like I said below, birds are fun to draw.

Deleted Birds

Out of concern for those bird watchers who may be wasting their time looking for these, we post this list of birds no longer considered worthy of your attention. Actually I only did this because birds are fun to draw.

Washington DC Back When

Here are two old Almanacs I later combined into one for the book. The black and white one predates the color drawing by a few years. Allen's Mink Yard is named in honor of my then-editor, the great Henry Allen, whose family has no connection to the mink ranching business, as far as I know.

I've lived around DC for 48 years, practically most of my life, so you can trust that anything I say about the city is true.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

25 Years Ago Today

I took a portfolio down to the Washington Post for the first time on May 14, 1985 to show it to the wonderful Francis Tanabe, who was then the art director of Book World. I was mostly ignorant of what an art director really was, or exactly where I was supposed to be going, except I knew we had a 1:30 appointment. I saw this door as I walked down L Street, and it had a sign that said Washington Post so I ducked in, not knowing it was the side door for employees only. I somehow completely missed seeing the security office or the guard (who also missed seeing me), jumped onto the elevator and got off on the 5th floor, practically right at Francis's desk. He wasn't there. I was early and he was out. So I sat and soaked up the awesome grandeur of the place for a while and tried to look like I fit in.

He eventually showed up, apologized for being a few minutes late, and I showed him my portfolio.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Shiny New Website

With many thanks to the mighty Chris Sparks, renaissance man (comics, cheesemongering, websites, etc.) I am proud to announce the launch of my website, It's still being waxed and polished, and there'll be some additions over the summer and a bit of landscaping, but the construction is finished. And I think it looks pretty spiffy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Beyond Whistler's Mother

Here's a repeat for all the mothers and art appreciators out there. It didn't get any comments when I posted it in 2008 and it probably won't this time.

If I remember right, the painting everybody knows as "Whistler'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.

For more information, see here for James Abbot McNeill Whistler, here for Giacometti, here for Botero, here for Arcimboldo,  here for Damian Hirst and here for Thomas Kinkade. There. Mothers like things that are educational or uplifting.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Five years ago the comic strip Blondie celebrated 75 years of the Bumstead's wedded Bliss, and had a huge crossover party with I think thousands of comic characters. This was before my time, comic strip-wise, so I could only add to the festivities tangentially. This was hard to draw as Blondie is so cleanly rendered, with every curl in place and every curve just so. It made me feel sloppy and hamfisted.

This year will mark their 80th, which is pretty much off the charts as far as traditional gift giving goes. I'd suggest an antique, or something fossilized. But nice!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Imaginary Places in the Comics

Brian Walker sent me these photos of the show he co-curated at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa CA. It's the third of a trilogy of exhibits called The Language of Lines, and it focuses on Imaginary Places in the Comics (like I said if you'd been paying attention). It's got all my favorite places, from Coconino County and Slumberland to Camp Swampy, the Okefenokee Swamp and Dingburg. And somehow Cul de Sac snuck in there too. I'm  enormously proud to be in this neighborhood.

Here's a trio of paintings by the mighty George Herriman.

On the Beetle Bailey wall there's a pretty accurate looking map of Camp Swampy.

Here's the text for Bill Griffith's wall, and a few Zippies.

Here's Cul de Sac's corner, in a tasteful pistachio green.

A very slightly different view, with less of the floor visible.

And here's most of the art, handsomely framed and labeled.

My thanks to all the fine folks at the Schulz Museum and to Brian Walker. Sorry I missed the opening, but I hope you saved me some wine. For those closer than me (and really, if you're anywhere west of the Continental Divide you should go to this) the show runs for April 24 to August 22. If I start hitching right now I should just make it.

A Very Happy Cartoonist's Day, Again

You may be wondering, "How can I best celebrate this festive day?" You might consider:
  • Finding a cartoonist near you and mowing his lawn, at least the front lawn (especially the hard part with the hill).
  • While you're at it trim his shrubs, so the mailman can find his front door again.
  • Does his house need vacuuming? Well, what are you waiting for?
  • Who left all these dishes in the sink?
  • The cats; somebody feed the cats.
  • You could take him to lunch at the Mexican place down the street, where they're having some no doubt cartoonist-related celebration.
  • For God's sake laugh at his cartoons. If they appear in a newspaper, buy extra copies (or multiple subscriptions, even) and laugh at them too.
Note: if the cartoonist near you is a lady, please substitute "her" for "his". The original of the cartoon reproduced above is in the collection of the fabulous Mr. Jef Mallett, so this is a scan of the Almanac book page. And it's the same one I ran last year, and the year before, if it looks familiar.

Monday, May 3, 2010

New Cul de Sac Animation to Make Your Life More Fun, Awkward and Slightly Intense

"Manhole Soliloquy" is one of my favorites so far, mostly because of the fine job Peteys' voice actor does of sounding awkward and slightly intense. And Petey's monologue is pretty much how I feel all the time anyway.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Exciting Sneak Preview of an Upcoming Cul de Sac

I have no explanation for this baffling excerpt from a future Cul de Sac. It could be the strip's jumped the shark and gone in an unexpected and unnecessary direction. Whatever, we'll find out on May 30th.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Free Comic Book Day, A Compendium of Old Almanacs

As everyone on Earth knows, Saturday is Free Comic Book Day. Here, again, are Poor Almanacs from the last 4 years that celebrated this fine national holiday. In other words it's another lazy repost. Mangaloid Wars X: Giant Spazzoid Zombie Robots Invade (third below) is the best thing I've ever written, I think. I should have Petey read that comic

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fan Art Saturday Falls On A Wednesday

Ms. Tzipporah Mayesh of Los Angeles sent me this lovely drawing of Alice and Petey giving conflicting directions. She drew it on a postcard and wrote a very nice note on the back. Tzipporah attends Yavneh Hebrew Academy in Los Angeles, where she's a student in the art class taught by the great Rama Hughes. If I'd been a student of Rama's I'd really know how to draw by now. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Your Unnecessary Spot Illustration of the Day, or, Goldman Sacked

Swell pun, huh? I did this for the New Yorker some years ago to illustrate an article about the history of Goldman Sachs, with some emphasis on the firm's culture of secrecy. And now I don't remember exactly what the auction angle was. But I do remember the story wasn't exactly complimentary. I post it to show that there's no important news story that I haven't illustrated, whether I can remember why I did it or not. I got so many piles of old drawings lying around that I might as well post 'em because I don't know waht else to do with them. I do know that I'm happiest with the little pink ears on the guys in the back row there.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In Celebration of National Poetry Month

Here are two views of T.S. Eliot and a limerick. The first Eliot I did for the Wash Post Book World in the late 80s. Actually, this one wasn't used; I rejected this drawing and did a second one that, though almost identical (not shown), was somehow better to my eye and turned that one in along with a companion illustration of G.B. Shaw (and I sold 'em both to Michael Dirda of the Post for like, really cheap). But I kept this one I'd rejected. Now I'm not sure what's wrong with this Eliot. Maybe he doesn't look enough like a ventriloquist's dummy, or the nostril isn't sufficiently ornate.

The second, lower Eliot is from a great book called The Holy Tango of Literature by Francis Heaney that I illustrated back in two thousand and aught four. And the limerick I wrote because it was fun.

Though donnish and quite dignified,
Tom Eliot once versified,
On the greenish-tiled wall
Of a men's restroom stall,
He signed it and then flushed with pride.

HeroesCon 2010

Thanks to the supremely talented and hospitable Dustin Harbin, I've just been invited to HeroesCon in Charlotte NC this coming June. Oh boy! Mike Rhode and I attended in 2008, had a thoroughly wonderful time, then last year I had to cancel at the last minute because of crummy health. But this year I'll be ready for it! All those fine people and fine food and the Queen City of the South, which was my Mom's hometown.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Again

Here's a post from 2 years ago of an Almanac from 4
years ago. Because I love the Earth and I'm heavy into recycling.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another Animation

This time I"ll try to embed it here. The cartoon this is based on was originally drawn in early 2004 for the Post Magazine and redrawn for the syndicated strip in 2008. In 2005 I saw a joke about a kindergarten teacher afflicted with glitterlung at The Onion. Coincidence? Yeah, I'm sure it was, but I got there first (though they get more points for calling it "pneumosparkliosis").

You'll note that among the very talented voice actors is my wife, the fabulous Amy, as Madeline Otterloop. To see more go here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Your Unnecessary Spot Illustration of the Day

This was for something, I'm not sure what. Either a Gene Weingarten column, a Joel Achenbach column or an E.J. Dionne column, no doubt about dot coms. Whatever, I like it. Mostly because the artist looks so intense, like one of those New York abstract expressionists or post-expressionists of the 50s who in photos always seemed to have the entire existential weight of the world on their shoulders. 

Some Small Drawings for Project X

These are some small random-seeming drawings I did for a project I'm working on in all this spare time I've got on my hands. It's a secret right now, but once it's completed and unveiled before an unsuspected world you won't believe how you ever lived without it. Unless I get distracted or bored and wander off, in which case, eh, no big loss.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac

When I drew this one I fussed with the background too much, putting in all this crosshatching and textured greys and all that mess. In a sudden fit of disgust and lucidity I blotted it all out with black ink. Nice, tasteful, simple black ink. Dr. Ph. Martin's Hi-Carb Black Ink to be specific.

There, that's my tale of drama, conflict and resolution for today.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New Cul de Sac Animations to Make Your Life More Fun

Thanks to the fine folks at Ringtales, through the courtesy of Babelgum, here are four more animated Cul de Sacs. If you listen carefully to the last episode, The One That Got Away, you'll hear my wife, the fabulous and accomplished Amy Greenisen Thompson, say "no."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Wisdom of Bill Griffith

This is the best advice for drawing comics I've ever seen. Forty points by Zippy's friend, Bill Griffith. Thanks to Sherm Cohen at Cartoon Snap, passed along by Tom Spurgeon at Comics Reporter.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

One Fine Sunday in the Funny Pages

John Read, the indefatigable editor, publisher and comics fan, is putting together a show of original comic strip art that you could call wide-ranging, if you were given to understatement. He picked the publishing date of April 11, 2010 (that's today) and asked as many syndicated cartoonists as he could think of (pretty much all of them) to lend that day's original drawing for a show that, well, here's what John says-
I’m beginning with an exhibit featuring currently-syndicated comic strips. This show will be a unique, one-of-a-kind collection of today’s comics, from the oldest, The Katzenjammer Kids and Gasoline Alley, to the newest, Dustin, and will be billed as “a celebration of a quintessentially American Sunday pleasure.” One Fine Sunday in the Funny Pages will feature the original art of 85 to 100 different comic strips and panels (that will have been) published in newspapers on the same Sunday (April 11, 2010). Alongside the framed “raw” art of the strips will be displayed the actual comics sections from newspapers across the country, giving people a behind-the-scenes, before-and-after experience. The first showing of One Fine Sunday will begin in late May/early June of 2010.
A mostly-complete list of those comics John's got lined up is here, though it's grown to over 100 by now, some by cartoonists who hadn't even been born when John first thought this up I'll bet. And, if it works, I understand there'll be a printed color supplement version of the entire show, a chromatic effulgence of such brilliance and radiance it should only be viewed through smoked glasses lest it drive the beholder mad. From what I've seen of John's ingenious schemes, they mostly do work.

Above is what I came up with. The original's a mess, blops of white-out and food stains (probably jelly) all over it. So I hope the frame John puts it in is nice.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Big U

I swiped this from the Universal Press Editors' Blog. It's a photo taken by Hugh Andrews of the looming shadow of the the UPS headquarter's big U logo cast on a neighboring building. It's like that scene in Journey to the Center of the Earth where the cast shadow of the Icelandic volcano Snæfellsjökull points out the crater that will lead the Lidenbrock party to the Earth's center. I'll bet you were thinking that too, right? So, c'mon Hugh and John and everybody! See if the big U points the way to a land of living dinosaurs and giant mushrooms and Pat Boone, who was in the movie version!

A Mostly True History

I meant to repost this earlier, but in my headlong rush to promote all the flashy new media iterations of CdS I forgot this very important lesson in our nation's history.

UPDATED Chris Sparks and Me and My Big Mouth UPDATED AGAIN

UPDATE- Here's the whole darn thing in 7 (seven!) parts. Bring a snack.

My friend Chris Sparks (comics fan extraordinaire, cheesemonger, web designer, Ashevillian) made me answer questions into a microphone a few months back. Here are 3 of 4 parts of it (hint- I'm the one who mumbles): 1, 2, 3. The whole thing runs about 14 minutes, though I haven't listened to all of it yet. The part where we get into a big fight about Popeye is epic.
And here's part 4. Part 5 will appear when it's been properly vetted for language.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

New Cul de Sac Animations

Three new CdS animations by the fine geniuses at Ringtales have been posted at Babelfish. More to come. Can you tell which of the kids is voiced by an adult?