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, September 3, 2011

Petey Sits In, or, Most Of This Week's Cul de Sac

And not in a small chair, fortunately. The dream of all who draw a daily comic strip is to have somebody else please take it off their hands for as long as humanly possible.

Happily, Petey became available at just the right moment. We were on an abbreviated vacation in Duck NC when some of these strips were drawn, which means I didn't have any of the elaborate technical apparatus normally available when I work. I've grown reliant on a lightbox, a tilty art table, 5,000 pens, a stereo, 3,000 CDs, a messy floor, etc, and downsizing to a dining room table in a beach house that also has a nice & distracting view is difficult. So I let Petey do the drawing for a week of so.

I've been making this stuff up as I go along, more or less from week to week, with only a vague idea of what happens next. It took me a while to realize that Emilio Spinnerack's assignment to draw a comic from real life would mesh nicely with Alice's play, which I hadn't really thought through. All I knew was that the play should be incoherent, as though each player was the author and star. So I get to kill two birds with one stone, or fill two weeks with one joke. Regarding Monday's strip, I don't like drawing in public much either.
Drawing in a "child-like" style is tremendously fun in many ways. I've thought about shifting Cul de Sac's art more toward a style I'd call Little Kid Expressionism for a while. By Little Kid Expressionism I mean the characters' anatomy would be clumsified, the perspective would tilt, adults would loom larger, etc and the whole thing would be easier to draw. I can see this but I can't describe it. So this is a way of sneaking up on it a bit. And if anyone complains I can blame it on Petey.

Though I do worry about the lettering being legible. I'd used Petey's handwriting a few times so it seemed a good idea to keep it going for continuity's sake. Petey is at heart a perverse traditionalist, especially fond if unnecessary traditions, and I figured he'd like cursive, probably fancy Spencerian lettering, just for its difficulty. It makes a nicely absurd mismatch with the art too.
(I forgot to include the above strip in the original post) All I can add is that drawing a ceiling always a good move.
A cameo by Kevin's dad and mayne his mom.I'm guessing the whole Kevin family is annoyinng.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Onion's A.V. Club Newspaper Comics Primer

Noel Murray writes a good, easily-digestible primer of America's Most Beloved Art Form That's About to Evaporate. And somehow uses the words "grace" and "dignity" in a paragraph about Cul de Sac.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Dave Kellett, who's a smart and articulate guy as well as the cartoonist behind Sheldon and Drive, has been working with cinematographer Fred Schroeder to film a documentary on the modern state of the comic strip for a couple of years now (and probably thinking about it most his life). Suddenly he's got a trailer put together and a Kickstarter site up for it. For donations of $35 K he'll come to your house and powerwash your deck. More reasonable donations also accepted.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Remembering Elvis Again

This continues a tradition of running this ancient pre-Almanac on the anniversary of his passing, though I usually forget to.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Collection

 Chris Sparks has filmed a video tour of the Team Cul de Sac art collection, which is housed in the plush conference room of Andrews & McMeel.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tom Spurgeon

Tom Spurgeon writes entertaining, wise and funny posts every day that covers every inch of the wide world of comics. Today, though, he writes at length about something very personal and scary. Here too he's wise and funny and even gently profound in an essay that deals with mortality, his comic collection, the working life and, somehow, the Green Lantern movie.

Today's Cul de Sac, August 14 2011

Ernesto has been barricading himself in a carrel fort in a remote corner of the library for several summers now though this is the first time he's felt compelled to explain why he'd need to. This Sunday strip is the remnant of a string of dailies featuring Ernesto's latest decline and fall. This time he was caught by the Future Adults of America appropriating a box of doughnuts meant for fund-raising and subsequently kicked out. I think he started a competing group but I forget what it was called.

The origami jumping frog is a real thing, even if Ernesto possibly isn't. I like them so much I included one in the first published drawing of Alice (below), though they don't really look much like that. My wife can make them. She used to carry origami paper in her purse and would sometimes make things at an odd time, like when waiting for food in a restaurant. Then we'd all try to make the frogs  jump into someone else's drink glass.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

National Book Festival

The Library of Congress has graciously invited me to participate in the National Book Festival, to be held this September 24th and 25th on the National Mall. I'll be joining hundreds of authors like Dave Eggers, Tomie dePaola, Rita Dove, Sherman Alexie, Jonathan Yardley and David McCullough at the dust-choked midway of gaudy tents and stands lining the Mall. There'll be diversions and games of skill galore, like Whack-A-Motif, Dunk an Unreliable Narrator, Guess-Your-Weltanschauung and Skee Ball plus greasy food on a stick, so come on down for two whole days of literary fun!

Seriously, I'm tickled!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Corey Pandolph Steps Up When Thompson Flubs It

The ever-reliable madcap polymath Corey Pandolph generously invites a few CdS characters into The Elderberries for a whole week.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

This Week's Cul de Sac, August 1 Through 7, 2011

Here's a whole, solid, brand-new week of Cul de Sacs along with some unnecessary commentary. Last summer Cartoon Camp was taught by Dan Spinnerack (below)
 But this year I wanted someone new, though it might upset some, like Pete(y).
I think I redrew him a dozen times trying to find the right guy.
In his earliest, larval stage he resembled the cartoonist Seth (below) if he was played by an anemic Johnny Depp. I didn't think the public was ready for that quite yet.
Casting the right guy for a part in a comic strip is important. It can be fun, if the right guy shows up, but if he doesn't you have to keep looking till you find him. I wanted someone who looked like he could possibly be related to Dan Spinnerack. Beyond that I wasn't sure. One role that I've always been proud of casting was the bit part of the Fed-UPS driver who gave Mr.Danders a lift back in 2006 -

I keep hoping to work with him again, but the opportunity hasn't presented itself.
After redrawing him a dozen times I eventually I found his face, got him dressed and named him. Six months of touring historic cartoon sites would barely scratch the surface of the Buckeye State's offerings (Ohio license plates bear the motto "Incubator of Cartoonists").
I like the idea of a daily diary comic. Those who do it well make lively, interesting comics out of unexpected choices and juxtapositions of the quotidian. I'm not sure that makes sense; just go read everything by Dustin Harbin and you'll be the richer for it. 
Really I just wanted the kids to have something different to do at Cartoon Camp this year and this seemed like a good direction to wander off on. Andre, Pete and Loris should each respond to it in some amusing way, I hope.
Although Pete might get too tightly focused on the boring, dull and uneventful part and produce a sluggish comic. This can drag a comic strip down and scare away readers, as I'm slowly realizing.
I've never heard windshield wipers say "Wipey". Those on my first car, an '82 Sunbird, went HIRNK-HORNK, but that sounds too much like an oboe onomatopoeia and I don't want to confuse people.

The next week of Cul de Sac is all repeats I'm sorry to say.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hey, Kids! Unrelated Cicada Comics

I'm happy to hear that 13-year Cicadas are popping up in the South and Midwest, because coincidentally I just scanned some old Poor Almanacs. They all date from 2004, when the most recent infestation of the 17-year variety erupted in the East.
 And here's an early CdS with a cicada theme. it was redone for syndication and reused a month or so ago.  Who knew cicadas were such comedy goldmines? I hope they come back more often!

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.