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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Today's Cul de Sac, July 27 & 28 2011

Originally I was going to have Camp Blisshaven be a craft camp where kids would make knicknacks and. tchotchkes and other hard-to-spell-things. But I changed it at the 10th hour, which is 60 minutes before the 11th hour, which is when most such important decisions are made. Please note the small injoke that I got a little wrong; the comedy & tragedy masks are based on the Andrews & McMeel logo. The goofier GoComics logo would've been more appropriate.

Theater camp was such an obvious and inevitable choice for Camp Blisshaven, not only for the ripe opportunity for small-kid comedy that it offers, but also for more sentimental reasons. My wife Amy  has worked in theater with kids for quite a few years, starting with my daughters' elementary school, which has a Shakespeare program for fifth graders. The kids spend half the school year working on a Shakespeare play, sometimes a comedy, sometimes a tragedy. It's a cut-down half-hour version with multiple casting, several to a part in the big rolls. The first time we saw a production, when my older daughter was in kindergarten, they did Romeo & Juliet. We didn't know quite what to expect.

A few minutes into the play I was almost suffocating with laughter, and some other emotion that I'm not sure what to call; awed delight, maybe, that peaked during Mercutio's death scene ("A plague on both your houses") after a hugely energetic sword fight. When I was in school we didn't touch Shakespeare till 9th grade, when we read Richard III in English class and looked confused.  But these fifth graders were giving a passionate, lively performance, made irresistibly funny by the fact that they were fifth graders. Also, all of the Juliets were about a foot taller than all the Romeos. It always takes me a few minutes or longer to get into the rhythm of a Shakespeare play, but I remember picking up on this Romeo & Juliet right away. Maybe the brevity of the production helped.

Anyway, Amy started volunteering to help run the production a few years later and got pretty intensively involved. One of the more glamorous skills offered in the program is stage combat, taught by a professional stage combat artist, where the kids learn how to fall, swordplay, do fake hairpulls and other vital life skills. There's even a production stuntman, a kid-size doll Amy made that gets tossed around and man-handled, and spends its offstage life on a chair in our living room. In the last 3 or 4 years Amy's been working at various after-school and summer theater camps too, and my older daughter's first summer job was assisting at one of them.
Surrounded as I am by theater folk, it's inevitable that some of it leaks into the strip. And I didn't even mention that my brother has been the master sound designer at Arena Stage in DC for almost 20 years.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Today's Cul de Sac, July 24 2011

I've done a few Alice-in-the-shrub cartoons and each time I think they'll be easy to draw. Alice sitting amid a mass of leaves, what's difficult about that? But somehow each time I end up getting into the leaf-scribbling a little too intensely and I have to back off and use white to loosen things up and undensify the texture. Next time I'll either use a fatter nib or stand three feet away.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stuff for Sale at Team Cul de Sac!

The following is a post from our brother blog, Team Cul de Sac, which is ably helmed by Mr. Chris Sparks. Take it away, Chris-

Team Cul de Sac Print

This is our limited edition Portfolio 11" x 13.06" print. Signed by Richard Thompson and numbered by the one and only Mike Rhode. This is limited to 25 prints. All proceeds (including any extra shipping charges) will go to Team Cul de Sac. We will be picking prints at random as they are ordered.
The prints are $50.00 each and $15.00 shipping.
I ( Chris Sparks) will also be more than happy to sign the prints.

Team Cul de Sac Fanzine
Above is the Richard Thompson-drawn cover to FAVORITES, a home-grown zine where notable comics critics, artists and bloggers write their individual answers to a single question: “What is my favorite comic, and why?” For an excerpt, see here.
The contributors are an all-star line-up: Derik Badman, Noah Berlatsky, Alex Boney, David Bordwell, Matthew J. Brady, Scott Bukatman, Johanna Draper Carlson, Isaac Cates, Rob Clough, Corey Creekmur, Andrew Farago, Shaenon Garrity, Dustin Harbin, Charles Hatfield, Jeet Heer, Gene Kannenberg Jr., Abhay Khosla, Susan Kirtley, Sean Kleefeld, Costa Koutsoutis, Andrew Mansell, Robert Stanley Martin, Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, Ana Merino, Mike Rhode, Jim Rugg, Frank Santoro, Chris Schweizer, Caroline Small, Tom Spurgeon, Ben Towle and Matthias Wivel.
FAVORITES is 40 pages long, and can be ordered via the PayPal button below. The cost is $5.00 plus $1.25 shipping and handling. (All the money that isn’t spent on envelopes and postage will go to Team Cul de Sac, and research into a cure for Parkinson’s disease.) Thank you for your support!

I hope you don't think this place is turning into some kinda rag and bone shop, pushing books (that Amazon sale is still on!) and art and such. We offer only the most select rags and bones. and all for a good cause. Namely, to bring high-quality cartoon entertainment to you, the discerning consumer of high-quality cartoon entertainment!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Today's Cul de Sac for Yesterday

I'd forgotten all about this Sunday strip. Not because I did it so long ago; it was probably drawn only a matter of hours ago. But I did get a nice surprise when it showed up, which doesn't often happen. Usually it's more a feeling of weary recognition, like, oh, you're that one, I'd forgotten about you, you  used to be funny, when did you get so worn-out looking.

This one I like just fine. It's simple enough that I could draw it half-asleep, and probably did. But it's got enough complexity to hold its own and opens the door for further elaboration in future strips. And further elaboration is something that anyone who draws a cartoon every day is always on the lookout for.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

More Savings Galore

And now the first Cul de Sac book is only $5.07 on Amazon! Is 507 a prime number? Who picks these prices anyway?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Amazon Sale!

Cul de Sac Golden Treasury a Garland of Classics is only $6.80 on Amazon! Wowee, somebody's losing money on this crazy sale!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Today's Cul de Sac, July 5 2011

Alice has a small history of putting together guidebooks (badgers), but this was mostly an excuse to use a music staff nib to draw something. In this case, water. These nibs aren't hard to find (Barnes & Noble has some in their stationery section) but they're of kind of limited value, unless you want to draw something five times at once. Or line a music staff, if people do that anymore. The nib looks like this-

and it can be a bugger to get all five nibs firing simultaneously. Usually getting just one to behave is all I ask.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Today's Cul de Sac

And while there's time, here's today's strip. Hey, look at that crosshatching, huh? Somebody must have time on his hands to monkey around with that stuff. Though it looks like he hasn't had a new idea in two years.

Fourth of July

Quick, while it's still the Fourth of July, here's an old Cul de Sac from July 2, 2006.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Today's Cul de Sac for the Last Week or So

We seem to have lost track of what's going on for the last month or two (and this isn't even today's Cul de Sac). Let's partially rectify this by cramming a week's-plus of daily strips into one belated post.

I've got to admit that when I drew this I wasn't too sure what would happen next, or how it would end.
When in doubt on this strip, it usually helps to add Dill.
But here Dill is not of much help.
In fact, he's no help whatsoever. Though his demented wasp bit was fun to draw. it's always good to drop in a little showstopper like this during the week. And lets throw in some more characters.
As some may recall, Alice got a bit of a crush on Andre when they first met last summer
So she's ready to be impressed. And Dill's not ready for anything.
I gave a talk at Heroescon in early June and I mentioned something I figured out about Petey, Andre and Loris during their cartoon camp last summer. Petey's a comic by Chris Ware, Andre's a comic by Jack Kirby and Loris is manga. I had a hard time here not expanding on Andre's warning, like "Great will be my wrath! So says Andre!" and stuff like that. Fortunately I ran out of room.
And Petey comes to a conclusion just in time to miss the whole epic adventure.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ice Cream on Sunday Again

As today's strip is a repeat, this post is too.

This is the original, slightly different, version of today's Cul de Sac (you'll note I changed Britons to Picts in today's strip for increased historical accuracy). This is drawn from life, as we have a Baskin & Robbins about three blocks from the house, and I've never been able to eat an ice cream cone neatly. I can recall eating an ice cream cone once when I was about six and having my usual trouble with it, and hearing my aunt say to my mom, "How'd he get it in his socks?" It's a skill I've passed on in varying degrees to both my daughters.

Another thing I've always had trouble with is drawing food. When I try to draw it, I end up with a mass of lumps colored brown or green, with red specks. But I do like this drawing of an ice cream cone, drawn for the Diabetes Association about 20 years ago. I like the lumpiness of the background and the textures in the ice cream (pistachio?). I wouldn't care to eat that cone, as I'd probably drop it and kill myself, but also because I'm just not a huge ice cream fan. Usually about halfway through eating it I get bored with it and give it to somebody else. Now pie, that I'll fight you for.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Chris Sparks

This is a desk at Andrews & McMeel in Kansas City MO,  and mostly obscured behind that pile of packages is Caty Neis, who works at that desk. Caty's editing the Team Cul de Sac book, a project launched by my friend Chris Sparks, whose birthday is today.

I met Chris mostly by accident at the Charlotte Heroescon in 2008, when he kinda blundered into a room where Tom Spurgeon and I were giving a talk. For scheduling reasons, the rooms had been switched around among the various panels and discussions on the top floor of the Charlotte Convention Center, and our talk was moved into a larger room so all 7 of the attendees could have their own section of 40 chairs or so to sprawl out in. Chris came in a few minutes into the talk, looked around and asked me What do you do? I must have given the right answer because we became good friends, practically family, and when he heard about my Parkinson's deal he decided to take on a project with a goal that'd make a difference.

I've met some interesting and excellent people in the last four or five years and that's the part of this side of the comics business I've enjoyed the most. Few have blundered into my life so gracefully as Chris, and I'm glad he did.
At the Reubens from left to right, me, Caty Neis, John McMeel, Chris Sparks.

Today's Cul de Sac, June 19 2011

For those who can't see it on GoComics, here's today's strip. Kids looking at clouds is one of those little comic strip conventions that pops up now and then because clouds are funny, at least when they look like something else. And people daydreaming out loud is always funny.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy Early Bloomsday!

This is an old and lost Poor Almanac from 2004 that was scanned off a newspaper and sent to me by Steve Dutky, who hoped I could find the original. I couldn't, so here's Steve's scan cropped down a little. It's the best I could do and feel free to replace "the Clinton book" with something more timely. So Happy Bloomsday!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Favorite Part of HeroesCon

These are cookies commissioned and provided by Kathy Parham, ingenious wife of the illustrious Craig Fischer. After dinner on Friday night Craig said they had a surprise dessert planned and took us up to their hotel room then sprang these masterpieces, made by Leila Jackson of Sweet Creatures Bakeshop, on us. I got Mr. Otterloop.

Craig was the moving force behind Favorites, a fanzine that consists of essays written by comics critics, artists and bloggers about their most cherished comic strips, comic books and graphic novels. It debuted at HeroesCon and sells for $5, every penny of which goes to Parkinson's research. Some fine family, those Fischers.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Something to Make You Happy

I know it makes me happy. By the wonderful Karl Kesel. Who'll also be in Charlotte.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reuben Report

It's all a happy blur. More to come when things are clearer. Right now go see Dave Kellett's journal strip.

Hello Again, Charlotte

This weekend I'll be going down to Charlotte NC with my pal and comics enabler Mike Rhode to Heroescon, well known as the friendliest comics convention on the face of planet Earth. I'll bring some books and sit at a table and look hopeful and needy, which is what you do at a convention if you're selling stuff, and woe to any passerby who makes eye contact. But I'll also be on two panels on Saturday.

10:30 AM
Richard Thompson: A Celebration
Room 209 

Is Cul-De Sac the best comic strip being published today? Perhaps, but one thing is for certain, it is the best drawn and the funniest. Okay, that’s two things. Please join Mike Rhode and some fellow strip creators as we sit down and examine the art of Mr. Thompson. In addition to discussing craft and daily deadlines, we will see if Richard can provide any insight as to whether poor Petey will make it through the entire soccer season without having a psychotic breakdown. Ahhh, total Bliss (haven).

12:00 PM
Approaches to Humor
Room 209 

Sure the convention is HeroesCon, but let’s never forget the funny side of the comic book world. Join The Beat’s Heidi MacDonald as she sits down with three of the very best cartoonists in the business. They are able to me us smile and even laugh out loud: Richard Thompson (Cul De Sac), Roger Langridge (The Muppets, Fred the Clown) and Evan Dorkin (Milk & Cheese, Yo Gabba Gabba!) are three of the wizards who put the comic in comic.

Given the touchiness of the subject matter and the volatility of the personalities involved, either one of these could turn into a chair-throwing brawl. Plan to it there but please note where the exits are, just in case.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

This Thing

The NCS handed me this last night for which I'm grateful in countless ways, not the least being that I didn't fall over. A longer post to come.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Where I'll Be

This weekend is the annual National Cartoonists Society Reuben Awards and I get to go. And I get to take my family along to subject them to all the fun. As in past years I'm taking the train from DC, this time to Boston, disembarking at South Station, which is only a few blocks from this hotel.

It's the fabulous Fairmont Copley Plaza, an ornate ocean liner of a hotel that floats on Copley Square in Back Bay. In its famous Oak Bar you can buy a special engagement martini priced at $12,500! There's a resident dog named Copley that guests may rent for walkies! There's a lobby with big plush chairs where you can sit and look directly at someone else in a similar chair! Each room features beds with a pillow arrangement so complex and hard to disassemble that most guests give up and sleep on the floor! Okay, not all of that's true, but this is the venue that the NCS has chosen for its annual bash.

We'll be staying next door at the Westin, which is also a nice place, and much taller.

More TK.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Experts Speak

Over at the Team Cul de Sac Blog Craig Fischer unveilss the cover Favorites, a zine of essays written by comics critics, artists and bloggers about their most cherished comic strips, comic books and graphic novels. 

The style is familiar.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Joyboys of Radio

Michael Cavna and I will be on NPR tomorrow at 11:00 AM.  The show's called Tell Me More and I don't know what we're going to say but it promises to be laffs galore. They'll have a sound effects guy to jazz things up when the conversation stalls.

Basically True

As far as it goes. This was drawn for the Post Magazine, and Mike Cavna's fine piece of journalism.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Post Mag Blows Lid Off Cartoonist's Shady Past

Article here, photos here, and my profound thanks to Michael Cavna for omitting the embarrassing stuff and Dustin Fenstermacher for only getting my good side.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Old Cul de Sac

This was drawn for the Post Magazine in early 2007 then redrawn for syndication later that year (I haven't recycled any old strips in a while, I think because I ran out of good ones). To see the syndicated version, plus some nice words by Tom Spurgeon, see this review.

When I first drew this it was instantly my favorite; it's got drama, comedy and meta-ness, and it makes a point that's self-deprecating enough to be self-loathing. All you could ask for from a comic strip! I was looking at this original the other day and realized something. Recently I've gotten obsessive about the shape of Alice's head. I want it to be perfectly spherical, but it keeps getting lumpier and more oblong. I've always had trouble drawing these characters on model and I stand in awe of those cartoonists who can reproduce shapes and sizes from panel to panel effortlessly. Especially someone like Charles Schulz, who designed one of the subtlest shapes in pop culture- Charlie Brown's head- and replicated it endlessly (though there was some gradual evolution in it, of course). But I realized that Alice's head here is a doughy, unformed lump, and it looks better than any platonic sphere ever could. 

 The above Alice is as close to a Platonic ideal of Alice as I can imagine. The drawing is rough and scratchy and the lines seem to have landed on the paper almost randomly. The watercolor defines things as much as the linework does, one of the main differences in the strips drawn for the Post Mag and for syndication.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Here's something from the Post Weekend section from 1996 for Friday the Thirteenth. I'm putting it up quick while it's still Friday the Thirteenth. More vital commentary to follow when I get a chance. See also here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Today's Cul de Sac for May 12, 2011

GoComics is still down for those of us browsing with Safari, so here's today's strip as a public service. Long time readers with their memory still intact will recognize the childish taunt the two rowdies are using as a cheer. And just look at that jungle gym! Giovanni Battista Piranesi would weep to see such perspecstive!

Today's Cul de Sac for May 11, 2011 is doing some upgrading, maintenance and vacuuming up right now and some people, like me, are having trouble getting to the site (Safari users are having the most trouble). So for those of you who can't see it on its home page, here's today's Cul de Sac. Didn't I start posting these every day at some point? I forget. This one's a little violent with all these tiny soccer hooligans but the perspective on the jungle gym is dandy, if you like that kinda thing. As the week goes on the jungle gym seems to get denser and more pointlessly intricate. I must've been obsessing.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Team Cul de Sac Deadline Extended; Grateful Cartoonists Nationwide Heave Great Sigh of Relief

This is a cross post from the Team Cul de Sac Blog. We have extended the deadline for donations to the Team CdS fundraiser until June 17th! This was done for a couple of reasons. Lee Salem, Caty Neis, Richard Thompson and Chris Sparks will be at the Reuben awards in Boston in less than three weeks. Chris will personally be asking cartoonists to contribute to Team Cul de Sac, Caty might be singing and Richard will be juggling (possibly unintentionally). Ooh, this could get ugly!

The following weekend please visit Heroescon in Charlotte NC. Team Cul de Sac will be releasing The Fanzine for the ages put together by Craig Fischer. The contributors are an all-star line-up: Derik Badman, Noah Berlatsky, Alex Boney, David Bordwell, Matthew J. Brady, Scott Bukatman, Johanna Draper Carlson, Isaac Cates, Rob Clough, Corey Creekmur, Andrew Farago, Shaenon Garrity, Dustin Harbin, Charles Hatfield, Jeet Heer, Gene Kannenberg Jr., Abhay Khosla, Susan Kirtley, Sean Kleefeld, Costa Koutsoutis, Andrew Mansell, Robert Stanley Martin, Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, Ana Merino, Chris Pitzer, Mike Rhode, Jim Rugg, Frank Santoro, Chris Schweizer, Caroline Small, Tom Spurgeon, Ben Towle and Matthias Wivel.

The Zine will be a word-packed 40 pages, topped off by a cover by some fledgling artist whose name I forget. Please come by and say hi to Craig, Mike Rhode , Richard and Chris.

Thank you to everyone who's helping out!
Thank you, Happy Deadline Clown!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Cartoonists Day Again, 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.
  • Is he not posting anything new on his stupid blog and it's driving you crazy? You should send him a cheerful card stuffed with cash to inspire him.
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.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May the Fourth Again

Today, for those of you who care about such stuff, 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. Somehow we all knew it was an event 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.

The above cartoon is one of a few Star Wars Poor Almanacs I drew, the others having now been lost. One was about the Star Wars exhibit at the Air & Space Museum back in the mid-90s and the only bit of it I remember is something about them discovering a colony of midgets still living in the giant rubber Jabba the Hutt. There was another, unfinished cartoon about the new characters in some of the prequel movies; one was a robot that was just a dangling boom microphone named Oopsie Boomshot, ha ha.

Each of the subsequent movies in the SW franchise were, for me, another big step down from the fun of the original. When the last one came out I was ready to throw something big and wet at the screen. The above 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. And I'll likely keep recycling old blog posts, sometimes adding a little bit here and there. Like this one.