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

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Unseen Willie

I did this for a profile of Willie Nelson for the New Yorker six or seven years ago. Sadly, they went with a photo instead. The only thing I remember about the job was the art director's anxiety that the coffee maker behind Willie was rendered faithfully, as Willie had one on his tour bus and took its operation quite seriously.

That Thing About Valentine's Cards Again

This is from the Post mag, Valentine's Day '03. I'm lazily reposting it by massive popular request (well, my friend Brian Moore asked about it).  Every word of it is true, the result of diligent, Jonah Lehrer-like research. I was shocked to find out that my editor didn't know that diarist Samuel Pepys' name is pronounced "Peeps", especially as I'd only learned it the day before. I always thought it was Pep-eez, which is actually a stomach antacid.

Those of you interested in"Vinegar Valentines" can read more about them here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Auto Show

I did this about 5 years ago, when the auto industry was in more of a freefall than it is today, and when Humvee was still a thing.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Exclusive Wallpaper

I did a few of these wallpaper gags ten or twelve or fifteen years ago. This one still seems germane. I think it works, too, if you follow the directions carefully.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

100 Years of NIxon

This originally ran in 2011. I'm putting it up because today's Nixon's 100th birthday, and because I'm lazy.
Richard Nixon was the cartoonists' president, so here are ten drawings of him. Most of these are roughs I did for a New Yorker story that ran the year he died.
 He had so many caricaturable parts and tics and postures that any president since has been a let down, almost. The arms in the air victory pose is a good place to start, so here are several of them.
 This was a rough for a children's history book and it illustrated an ingenious rhyme by Carol Diggory Shields.
 Okay, so it gets repetitive, but I like the hands.
 Another NYer rough, this one with a Marley's Ghost angle.
 This one also for the NYer, showing him older and more pensive.
 The rough above is the one the NYer chose, and this is the rough sketch for the rough sketch.
 The final looked almost exactly like this, though I trimmed the nose down some and tilted the drawing to the right (note the horizon line). My favorite of the roughs I sent in for this story is the first one in this post, with his hands clasped.
 Here's a rough for another NYer story, dealing with the reactions of various Republican politicians to Nixon's passing and his legacy. Pete Wilson and Bob Dole choke up at the end of a Nixon movie.
A color piece for US News & World Report. I forget the exact point of the story it illustrated, but the pot full of tapes provides a clue.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Family Christmas History

I did this in 1997, on the 100th anniversary of the editorial. Francis Pharcellus and his brother, William Conant Church, co-founded  the Army and Navy Journal with Wlliam Conant as editor. William Conant also co-founded the National Rifle Association.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas 1994

In 1994 the theme for Christmas at Tyson's Corner Center, the behemoth of DC shopping malls, was "A Capital Christmas." They hired a bunch  of local cartoonists to draw Clinton as Santa to use on shopping bags and banners. This was mine (that's Sen. Dole, who I had not yet figured out how to draw) attacking his bag). For more go over to Mike Rhode's Comics DC blog. It was not a real popular theme and they returned to a less snarky decor in 1995.

Here's a Cul de Sac from about ten years later.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Richard's Poor Almanac Goes to GoComics

GoComics, the fabled online home of over 300 comic strips and editorial cartoons (including Cul de Sac, Kliban, and Tom the Dancing Bug) will start rerunning Poor Almanacs, one a week, on December 3.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I'm writing a longer post to go with this photo but it's taking too long. So here is Rotem Moscovich, children's book editor and full-sized adult, in her role as My Favorite Thing-

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why Things Are

 A selection, offered without commentary. 'Cause I'm busy, Okay?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Back to Work

On Friday morning just before the operation my neurosurgeon, Dr. Chris Kalhorn, stopped by the pre-op room where Amy and I were waiting to have a little pre-op chat. I'd gotten an email on Thursday night from my friend, colleague and fellow Parkie Peter Dunlap-Shohl with a link to a video  of bluegrass banjo player Eddie Adcock playing his banjo during surgery and some advice- Take a pencil and paper in with you so you can draw while they operate.

When the opportunity arose during our pre-op chat I hesitated but Amy jumped on it. She told Dr. Kalhorn I drew cartoons and we were hoping the procedure would restore control of my hand. "Can he draw something during the operation?" Dr. Kalhorn was delighted. He pulled a pen out of his shirt pocket. "Will this one work?"

My surgery officially started at 7:30., so it was around 10 when they woke me up. My head was securely bolted to a halo so I wouldn't wander off during the proceedings. It was like wearing a car grill, which I've never tried. Plastic sheeting stretched away above me and I could hear Dr. Kalhorn behind it chatting and keeping up a running commentary. The anesthesiologist, Dr. Tran and his team was to my left and the neurologist, Dr Mandir and his team were on my right. Both were exceptionally kind and thoughtful  as was Dr. Kalhorn. Nobody treated me like a part of a car grill.

Dr. Kalhorn counted off how deep he was positioning the first wire. When it got to where it'd do the most good he'd turn on the current ask me some questions, like it was an especially intrusive eye test. Dr. Mabdir held up a clipboard. "Richard's a cartoonist," he said, "and he'd like to draw something for us." He moved the clipboard to where I could reach it and carefully handed me the pen. "This'll be without any current." I couldn't see too well without my glasses, but this is what I drew-

Then I signed it and, at the doctor's request,  drew a spiral. Ten seconds later I drew this, but with a little current going through the wire-

It's a brain saying "Whee!", my signature, "Not to scale" and a spiral. Not the best I've ever drawn but far from the worst. Well, ten seconds from the worst.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Brain and Brain

So Friday morning I'm going in for Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. This is not only a good excuse for my continued tardiness in answering some 5,000 emails, it will also provide me with unpredictable mutant powers and a surprising haircut. And it may also get me drawing again. Besides, all the best people  have it, so what's stopping me?

I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

More Unnecessary Spot Illusreations for Today

Just because, Okay?

You Unnecessary Spot Illustration for Today: Julia

I'm posting this to break the ice, or something. It was drawn for the Washington Post's old Book World section. Damn, but Julia Child is fun to draw!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My last strip

The last Cul de Sac was drawn in November of 2007. No it wasn't, it was drawn about ten months earlier for the Washington Post Magazine. The image above is that original watercolor and, as I've said before, it was instantly my favorite, because "it's got drama, comedy and meta-ness, and it makes a point that's self-deprecating enough to be self-loathing." I traced the watercolor in ink and did an overlay with colors indicated by numbers so it could be used for the syndicated version. That's the Sunday Cul de Sac that appeared in about 70 papers on November 25, 2007 and that's the strip that Tom Spurgeon saw before he wrote a brief, meticulous and very kind review.

I'd originally planned to draw a new Sunday Cul de Sac for September 23. After umpty-ump weeks of reruns it'd be a relief to the readers and I had a good idea for a finale. Mom is reading to Alice. The story ends "And they lived happily ever after." Alice reacts badly to this bit of fairy tale boilerplate. She goes off on a rant about what a boring, vague and unsatisfying way to end an exciting story that is and why do writers do that? It's like they run out of ideas or something. Alice ends up in Petey's room,of course. And in the final panel something funny happens.

But try as I might I couldn't get it drawn. The lines wouldn't behave and the words wandered. So I emailed my editor, the unflappable Shena Wolf, admitted defeat, and requested the above strip. Shena made sure it hadn't already been used as a repeat then headed off for two weeks in Yellowstone to rassle bears. Her number two, the equally steady-nerved Gillian Titus, handled the actual substitution.

I still like this strip a lot. It's simple, built on misunderstanding and confusion, and it shows Alice and Petey at their best. I wouldn't take Petey's curtain line too seriously. He is a bit of a pessimist, after all.             

Friday, September 21, 2012

An Ignatz

The above photo shows the great Tom Spurgeon standing in to accept an Ignatz Award  for me at SPX last weekend (at least I think it is; I swiped the photo off Adhouse Books' Flickr site and it's blurry enough to be Bigfoot accepting the award). The Ignatz, like the Reuben, is another object that I never thought would have my name on it. The main thing about it is that it's an actual brick, in honor of its namesake's favorite missile.

The idea of awards as objects ideally suited for inflicting blunt force trauma is alarming, though funny. On a shelf in my dining room are a gold and a silver Funny Bone given out by the Society of Illustrators, either of which would work as a sap. It makes me wonder if anyone's ever been brained with a Nobel Peace Prize.

Anyway, my Ignatz is for lifetime achievement and it's painted gold. I haven't seen it yet but I hope it's as gaudy as it sounds. And I hope it doesn't incite a bunch of cartoonists to quit their jobs so they can get one.

I was told to write a nice thank you note for Tom to read. I dawdled around all week and finally emailed him this about ten minutes before he stepped up to read it-

I want to thank Warren Bernard, the SPX board of directors and whoever else is responsible for this. I wish I could be there myself to tell you how deeply honored I am, but I've got a note from my doctor excusing me from public speaking, My thanks to Tom Spurgeon for standing in.

And my apologies to Tom, because I don't know what to tell him to say, and I've been thinking all week.

I've had 3 or 4 real dream jobs; as an illustrator, caricaturist and satirical cartoonist,  And I've been dragged into each of them kicking and screaming, usually by someone appalled by my laziness and lack of ambition. Most recently I got to be that most noble and rare creature, a Syndicated Daily Newspaper Cartoonist, something I'd avoided for years. Oh, sure, I'd flirted with the idea since childhood; but, my god. those deadlines!. But it happened gradually, like a lobster taking a hot bath. And I realized that here was a job I really loved, despite all the writing and drawing involved.

But like I said, I still don't know what to say. So I'll quote someone more eloquent than I. A few years ago the great Shaenon K. Garrity attended her first Reuben Awards. Afterwards she wrote-


Thank you for overlooking my indolence and lack of initiative. I'm sure this Ignatz will inspire me the next time I get a dream job.

 As a bonus, here's Tom on a Deconstructing Comics podcast talking about the end of Cul de Sac.

*I don't know why this is all caps. Maybe Shaenon was yelling.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Harvey

On Saturday night Cul de Sac won the Harvey Award for Best Syndicated Strip. I couldn't make it to the awards banquet in Baltimore so the indefatigable Chris Sparks picked it up for me. And I'm told he was funny, gracious and well-spoken. Plus he wore his traffic cone shirt!

Thanks, Chris! Photos courtesy of Mr. Bruce Guthrie.

Fifth Anniversary Special

Yeah, I know there are more than five candles in that cake. I'm just feeling generous. So generous that I'm going to share a few early, embarrassing versions of Cul de Sac that I never even showed my editor.

Here are the first two strips I tried with the Otterloop family, and you can see just how badly things could have gone. There's something that looks like it should be Alice, but it sure ain't Alice; she's too prissy by half, and that hair....  I think I drew these in 2003. By then I'd shown Wash Post Mag editor Tom Shroder some rough ideas for the proposed new comic strip, including a few featuring a family in the DC suburbs. Gene Weingarten had written a column about parents naming their daughters "Madison",  denouncing the name as laughable and pretentious. Reader reaction had been intense and humorless, as you'd expect from people who'd stick their daughters with "Madison." So when Tom made one of his periodic phone calls checking on the progress of the strip, I blurted out something about some kids? maybe a family? who live in the suburbs? and one of them's a girl? Tom asked what the girl's name was. I said "Madison." But only to make him laugh; actually I had no idea who she was.

Tom wanted the family to have a pet, nothing specific, but it should talk whether anybody understood it or not. We'd recently acquired a guinea pig named Scurry that had been evicted from my older daughter's kindergarten class because it wasn't hypoallergenic. And I'd read a comment from a comic book collector who liked the vinegary smell they give off as they decay.
I lifted Petey whole from an old Almanac about Sam, the Boy Who Talks to Animals, but I changed his name. The new kid was going to be neurotic and timid so he became "Petey" because it's a loose, finger-snappy name. So, y'know, it doesn't fit. And that makes it funny.

 I shudder to think what may have happened if my editor had been a little more impatient and his cartoonist had been a little less picky.