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, October 30, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, October 31 2010, and Yesterday's Too

I drew the Sunday, below, about a month ago when I hadn't yet figured out what Alice was going to want to be for Halloween. I knew she'd started with a pangolin but didn't know if that would change or not. Knowing she was sick on Halloween I then wrote the dailies up to it which, given the strip's random nature, wasn't too hard.

The Millions Like the Golden Treasury

Which must be good news if I'm doing the math right. Thank you, fellow cartoonist Jacob Lambert! Really though, it's getting so if I don't get a good book review every day I slide into a funk and go through withdrawal. So keep 'em coming, media! 

Bonus Halloween Lazy Repost

My Halloween gift to you; an old Poor Almanac featuring three tales of terror for you to tell as you sit around the glow of your monitor. As Count Floyd would say, Pretty scary, huh, kids?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac for Like the Last Two Weeks

Let's see, where were we?
Ha! Well, that's pretty funny, I guess.
I don't remember this one at all.
 Hey, it's gettin' crowded in this strip!
 Okay, now we're getting to material with some real weight to it. This now becomes the standard source for No Duh/Big Duh disambiguation.
Mom's final line is a little thin, but the strip had advanced the plot just enough to make its point and then suddenly the deadline loomed and somebody had to say something.
 This is based on a Washington Post Magazine Cul de Sac from 2006, where Petey was first planning his Halloween costume. I pretty much traced the fourth panel. My favorite part is Petey's redeye in the fourth panel.

And Alice's method of spotlighting candy-disbursing adults seems sensible to me.
A bonus enlargement for the nearsighted.
 Dill's line is my favorite bit of the whole week.
 Note the missing word "like" in the last line. Sharper eyes at Universal Press caught its absence and neatly inserted it, sparing us the inevitable global reader outrage.
There's a corn maze not too very far from where I live that features a different shape every year. To find your way through it you have to answer questions at forks in the path, making a learning experience for all concerned. Which sounds like it'd diminish the fun a bit.
 I like the leaves blowing around in the last panel.
 Petey's pumpkin inspired my friends Libby and David Hagen to carve a similarly pokerfaced Jack O'Lantern to crush the spirits of their trick-or-treaters.
I can feel my soul shriveling just looking at it, and isn't that what Halloween is all about?
 Twenty bucks for parking! I'm scared already.
 Drawing a corn maze was harder than I thought it'd be. Looks more like a giant broccoli-corn hybrid.
 Corn smut shows up so rarely in the comics these days. The corn here is slightly better than the previous strip.

 And the werewolf was a lot of fun to draw. A reader on GoComics thought his nametag said "Stan" and I wish I'd used that instead of "Staff."
Well, this doesn't bode well for Alice's Halloween trick-or-treating chances. Cue dramatic cliffhanger music

Monday, October 25, 2010

Memories of the Ohio State University Cartoon Festival 2010 in Stream of Consciousness Form Part 2

The first order of business at the Wexner Center for the Arts's downstairs auditorium on Friday morning is refreshments and the official welcome by Cartoon Librarian Lucy Caswell and OSU President E. Gordon Gee (who gracefully combines the grandeur of a college president's name with a bit of gosh-wowiness), which Mike and I miss, arriving in time to hear most of Tony Agnes Cochran's talk, I Might Be Significant. Cochran's language describing his work is as lyrically comic as his strip, and one thing that strikes me is his admission that he hadn't been a huge comics fan as a kid; instead he'd come to cartooning through fine art, having started out as a painter. He also points out that Agnes's hair is shaped like Ohio, his home state. I admire Agnes as a character; she's ebullient and irrepressible in spite of her dispiriting life, living in a trailer with her grandmother, and she makes me laugh. Each speaker is allotted 45 minutes, the last few of which are opened up for questions from the audience. To mark the last question in this and all subsequent presentations Lucy Caswell rises silently from the audience to appear onstage by the speaker, a bit of stage business that becomes somehow funny each time it's repeated. There's now a brief break for everybody to stand up and sit down again, something I do rather gingerly as I'm wobbly and also as the guy videotaping the talks has his camera set up right behind me and I'm antsy about my head looming into his shots (assuming he's even filming the breaks). Then it's time for Jen Slowpoke Sorensen's talk, The Lighter Side of Impending Doom. Her power point shows Jen's deft, insightful and playful handling of sometimes grim material and I recognize every strip. One thing I really enjoy is how funny they are all over again when viewed with an audience, in the same way that I've almost suffocated with laughter watching an ancient Bugs Bunny cartoon for the 400th time when it's in a crowded theater. Listening to a cartoonist read his or her work also adds something to understanding and enjoying it; the timing and intonation is often different from what your mind hears while reading it. After Jen it is Dave Sheldon Kellett's turn. His talk, The Freeing of the Comics, is the keynote speech, and is billed as a reply to Bill Watterson's The Cheapening of the Comics, which was presented at OSU in 1989. Dave's a smart man, a wonderfully funny cartoonist and an especially good speaker. His talk is a fine piece of comic timing, with an entertainingly illustrative choice of photos and drawings, and the points he makes about the possibilities of the web as newspapers dwindle give me a few shreds of hope. I wish now I'd taken better notes, or that there'd been a test at the end. One point he makes is that we as cartoonists are businessmen/women/people/talkingdogs, deny it or claim incompetence as we might. Whatever, I feel some relief, though if someone had been selling time machine tickets to Newspaperland 1985 I'd still get in line. Now it's lunchtime and, though I have a ticket to a lunch put on at Mershon Auditorium, I instead follow Mike, Chris, Charles, Michele & Craig to the Student Union and have a Buckeye Cuban sandwich, which is very good as it lacks actual buckeyes. The next table over is a madhouse of editorial cartoonists who we expect at any moment to erupt in an intense foodfight, as everyone knows that editorial cartoonists are violent, opinionated and contentious, most often at feeding time. We finish and head back to the Wexner Center for the next speaker. Who is Paul DC Levitz, a droll, low-key speaker, somewhat surprising in someone from the gaudy, exclamation pointed world of comic books. His presentation, 75 Years of Mythmaking, the Art of DC Comics, is keyed to a massive book of the same name coming out from Taschen. His anecdotes are great and told with the appreciation of someone who came up through fandom. One thing he mentions is that there are at least two individuals on the planet who possess a complete set of everything DC published, one of them in the vicinity of Kent, England. Those in the audience who collect sigh visibly, little clouds forming above their heads containing the word "sigh" in comic sans. Lucy Caswell appears silently onstage next to Paul and it's time for James Market Day Sturm. I'd met James at SPX in September and heard him speak at Politics & Prose. He repeats part of that at OSU, showing how he'd developed the story of Market Day and showing work by Roman Vishniak, Raphael Soyer and others who'd inspired him, but also talks about his many other works in comics and the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction that he cofounded in 2004. His description of cartooning as "not writing and art, but poetry and graphic design" is my favorite quote of the weekend (illustrated here by Mike Lynch). Then after a string of questions Lucy Caswell apparates onstage and it's time for vaudeville! The wiseguy surrealism of Bizarro in the person of Dan Piraro, who bestrides the stage like the agile performer and passionate cartoonist he is. His show, My Life as a Pornographer, is a hoot, an string of cartoons sharp as barbwire, the highlights of which include an indescribable gag with the Lone Ranger, Tonto & a cauliflower and a describable gag with Medusa at a nude beach. Then, after being playfully taunted by Piraro, Lucy Casswell, the implacable Angel of Time to Stop Talking, rises into view, giggling slightly, and invites us to join her back at the Hyatt Regency for a reception in honor of Paul Levitz, sponsored by Heritage Auctions. And more TK; I'm posting this unfinished because I've been so slow in finishing it, and America clamors for more.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Memories of the Ohio State University Cartoon Festival 2010 in Stream of Consciousness Form Part 1

Driving to Columbus from Arlington with Mike Rhode doing all the actual driving. Using only the incremental step-by-step Google Maps directions which means we have only a vague notion of where we really are. I swear it's always foggy on this one stretch of I-68. We pull off onto a smaller road because the directions tell us to. Everything's uphill, all the way there.  Seeing a lot of the mountains of scenic southwestern Pennsylvania. Oops, tires need rebalancing. Stop at McDonald's. Pass General Braddock's Memorial marker; Mike guesses French & Indian War. A lot of towns that look like model railroad towns enlarged to livable size, some where the nicest building around is the local funeral home. Yay, West Virginia, closely followed by Yay, Ohio! And eventually Yay, Columbus, my wife's hometown! Skip through town and head right to the OSU campus Hey, there's the indomitable Chris Sparks exiting the OSU parking garage! Got to the tail end of Michael Tisserand's Herriman lecture, where he showed a photo he took of the actual Coconino County sheriff's office, bland little building with no Offisa Pupp. First of many visions of Jenny Robb (OSU Assistant Professor and Associate Curator of the Cartoon Library) ever on the wing, keeping things moving. In the registration line at the Cartoon Library Brian Walker tells me about his upcoming Garry Trudeau art book from Yale press. Time to start cleaning off the studio shelves again to make room for new stuff. Missed the Krazy Kat Kake but enjoyed the other food at the Cartoon Library reception, chatted with Columbus homeboys Nate Beeler (now of DC), who grew up romping in the wilds of the Cartoon Library and teething on Caniffs,  and Jeff Stahler, who's worked on every Festival. Met the accomplished & charming Prof. Tom Inge finally but too briefly. And here's elfin mandarin RCHarvey! All right, now we're cookin' with gas! John Read got me the last glass of wine (the birthdate stamped on some bottles of beer made them contemporaneous with the previous Festival). Established festival-long habit of standing in the exact spot most necessary for traffic flow. Goggled at the Herriman originals with Rina Piccolo & Hilary Price while getting that self conscious feeling you get when you stare at Art from inches away in public but it's Okay because it's Funny Art. Back to the hotel for check in and start bumping into people I knew or soon would. Dinner at large yet quiet sports bar across the street with Mike, Craig Fisher, Charles and Michele Hatfield, Harry Katz, Martha Kennedy and David Berona, several of whom had spoken during  the academic portion of the Festival on Thursday. We talk mostly about kittens on a Roomba. Or is that the name of a fancy drink? Memory slightly blurry. Back to the hotel, Jenny Robb flies past with Matt Groening, brief pleasantries (didn't ask him to sign anything, which seems to be his full time occupation), then up to bar on the second level of the atrium lobby, and memory gets blurrier mostly because it's late and also because, hey, there's Tom Gammill! I swear it's always foggy on the second floor bar.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Other Bargain Galore!

The second Cul de Sac book, Children at Play is also on sale at Amazon!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bargain Galore!

The first Cul de Sac book is now on sale at Amazon! For the billions of you still without one who're on a budget.

Today's Cul de Sac from Yesterday, October 17 2010

I might be remembering this wrong, but Lynda Barry (America's National Treasure and, in Ernie Pook's Comeek, the cartoonist who most understands childhood) said something once about the dreamy mood kids get into when sitting at the breakfast table reading the back of a cereal box. Why some forward looking cereal manufacturer hasn't published a great comic artist on their box I'll never know, except that there aren't any forward looking cereal manufacturers.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Where I Am

At the OSU Cartoon Festival. Posting may be spotty.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, October 12 2010

They've wished on the first leaf of Fall before, with similarly disappointing results. I'll bet it happens again too, when I'm stuck for a new idea. The first robin of Spring?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, October 11 2010

OK, who doesn't want to see comics about Italian Renaissance clowns? Nothing'll perk up a cartoon like commedia dell'arte! I'm thinking I've pretty much cornered the obscure reference niche, scaly mammal/archaic theater division, in newspaper comic strips.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, October 10 2010

This Sunday was done while I was in the thick of doing some Grandma dailies last month, so I was in a kind of Grandma mood. My neighborhood has sections like this, where some grandma-sized houses have been replaced by mini-mansions, sometimes at a rate of 1 to 3. And sometimes leaving behind a lone grandma house nestled in like a squirrel among elephants. 

When I was a kid one of my favorite picture books was about a grandma whose small house stood in the path of a planned superhighway. What I remember of it most vividly was a flock of construction machinery looming over her tiny house, poised to superhighwayize the place. It had a happy ending of course; the highway bifurcated to avoid her house and the last picture was of her waving to the endless clog of traffic like it was a friendly neighbor. I don't remember the name of the book and I've forgotten the vagaries of the plot, but that last bit I'm pretty sure is accurate. I do remember that the part of the book that most appealed to me then was the road-building machinery. I used to think that stuff was great and I still do, and I'll rubberneck like an idiot at big yellow heavy contraptions that flatten out roads and hoist bridge pieces into place. Everybody else in the car might roll their eyes, but get your fun wherever you can find it I always say.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, October 9 2010

Thanks to this blog being on Pacific time I can still call this "Today's" Cul de Sac. I've got nothing to say, except to point out what a marvel of research and scholarship this strip is. It presents facts available nowhere else, search as hard as you will. If you need a Wikipedia citation look no further.

And here's the link to SavePangolins.Org in handy clickable form.

Friday, October 8, 2010


All I want today is homemade cherry pie and a mention on Tom Spurgeon's list.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, October 8 2010

That's a nod toward Batman/Bruce Wayne there in that second panel. If circumstances had been a little different Michael Keaton might have one day donned the pangolin costume. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, October 7 2010

What can I say? This one wrote itself. Though Petey only wore a box on his head once, in Halloween 2008

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, October 6 2010

I really should find some explanation for Sofie, but I haven't thought of one yet. Though I am guessing she's a part-time student at Blisshaven Preschool, as that would explain her infrequent attendance. When I started doing the strip I assumed everything needed to be thought through and justified. But nope, most of it's just slapped together, with hopes that the logic behind it will emerge with time. I'd hate to call it faith-based, but there ya go.

Meanwhile, look at the funny face Beni's making!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, October 5 2010

Here's a cheap and easy way to draw a comic strip: use an old strip and slightly change the words so the joke part seems different! Keep this under your hat, because if other cartoonists find out about it or the syndicate learns of this, well, things could get ugly fast.

The above strip is semi-identical to one that ran on October 10, 2009, which is less than a year ago, so the gag isn't even cold in the grave yet and here I am exhuming it for another moldy run-through.

Really what happened was kind of funny- Haha, I laugh just typing about it! I liked that old strip and I wanted to draw it again, or at least the second panel of it, so I justified it by making it a flashback. Last year at this time I was having some issues with drawing, meaning in this case that the strip was more assembled than drawn, a photoshop Frankenstein's monster patched together of bits and pieces of drawing and lettering. So I wanted to try it again in hopes of getting it right this time. Though, I dunno, the crosshatching on the cannon is a little clumsy both times, so any improvement is pretty minimal. But I loved putting Dill in the cannon and I might do it again before another year's gone by. Maybe I can get a Christmas strip out of it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac, October 4 2010

Ah, a cheap yet somewhat satisfying exploding lunch bag joke. Just what the readership of the Scranton PA Times-Tribune need as an introduction to this laff-filled comic strip, making its bow in the spot left empty by Cathy's graceful exit.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

today's Cul de Sac, October 3 2010

Petey hasn't tried to chew his arm off in way too long. Somebody's got to pick up the slack.

Once again things end up in Petey's room. I must be getting lazy. The real lazy part of this is that I did one rough for the five sofa panels and just varied the poses. Which is also the part of the strip I'm happiest with, the small gestures, body language and minimalist acting that gives intensity to Alice's building frustration. And makes it funnier, I hope. The dialog is pretty much a transcription of a conversation I have about three times a week, and with about as much resolution.

Today's Cul de Sac, October 2 2010

And here's the wrap up to the great bug excursion. Petey's room is a good place to end things, I don't know if it's the dead-end quality of Petey's preferred lifestyle or that Petey just presents a good sounding board for Alice's rants. It's probably just that I like to draw Petey in his black shirt on that plaid bedspread. And I like to letter Petey's sardonic advice that always goes unheard.

120 Years Ago Today

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.)

Old Stuff by Request

This is the Cul de Sac that ran in the Washington Post Magazine on September 2, 2007, the second to last one I did for the Post before syndication. I'm posting it at the request of Haywood Wigglesworth, who sent a kind email saying that this one was a family favorite and hoping that it'd show up in one of the future collections. Unfortunately, it likely won't be included as it's a pretty DC-centric strip and those will either not be reprinted or will be saved for the special 50 year all-inclusive reprintatathalon that might already be available for pre-order on some parallel world Amazon. So I hope this will do till then.

For those not living in the DC area, Theodore Roosevelt Island is an island in the Potomac that's both a wilderness preserve and a memorial to Teddy R., with a 17 foot statue of the man himself waving at you as if to say, "Get off my island!"