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, 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.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Richard's Poor Almanac - The Book

Those of you unwilling to cough up $80 to $998.99 (or £268.55 in the UK) for a copy of the understandably scarce book collection of Richard's Poor Almanac will be happy to hear that now you can snag a copy for a more reasonable sum. One More Page Books, my friendly neighborhood bookstore that also stocks wine, has a supply of RPAs on hand, all signed by me. Copies are going for $15 (I think) and they'll ship your book right to your door for just $4. Run on over to 2200 N. Westmoreland Street, Suite 101 Arlington, VA,  22213 or call 703-300-9746 or email and tell 'em to give you a copy and quick, or you'll have some kind of Richard's Poor Almanac-related breakdown right on the spot. And maybe you should have some of that wine too.

These two tables used to be on the Amazon page for the Almanac. I don't know what they mean.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Everybody Go To Baltimore Next Weekend

Baltimore Comic-Con
Saturday Sept. 8
Room 302-303

11:00-12:00 - Team Cul de Sac

When Richard Thompson, the creator of the comic strip Cul de Sac, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, his friend Chris Sparks began a fundraising effort to honor his friend. With Richard's support, he asked others to donate artwork featuring the Cul de Sac characters for a Team Cul de Sac book with proceeds going to The Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson's Research. Now, join Chris Sparks and other members of Team Cul de Sac including Steve Conley, Matt Dembicki, SL Gallant, Roger Landgridge, Michael Cavna and others as they discuss the book, Richard Thompson's work, and their continuing efforts to raise funds in Richard's name."

Then you can all head out for crabs and beer, or perhaps a Scooch.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Another Thing About Me

R.C.Harvey explains it better than I can in his column at the Comics Journal. Please note bonus comment from my old friend Dan Steffan. Caricature by RCHarvey.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


I told Mike Peterson that I feel like Tom Sawyer must have felt when he attended his own funeral. A large dose of compliments can turn your head and right now mine's spinning.. We're currently in Duck NC where it's raining. More news as it becomes available.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wash Post Blows the Lid Off Cul de Sac Shocker

Mike Cavna has the story here.

Last night he ambushed me with some gotcha questions-

1. Can you tell me how you came to this decision now? Was there a moment that this choice became clear, or has this been a long and gradual decision -- perhaps one that had a tipping point?

 A. I've known for a year or more that I was working on borrowed time.  My lettering had begun to wander off in 2009, but that could be fixed easily enough. But when Alice's and Dill's heads began to look under-inflated last winter I figured I was losing control of the drawing too. When I needed help with the inking (the hardest but most satisfying part of drawing the strip),well that was probably a tipping point. Parkinson's disease is horribly selfish and demanding. A daily comic strip is too and I can only deal with one at a time. So it was a long, gradual, sudden decision.

2. Was there one aspect of creating a daily comic strip that made you decide this was too much? Perhaps it was more the drawing, or the writing, and/or the deadlines? And did you consider letting an assistant -- perhaps Stacy -- carry the load for an extended period of time, or not so much?

A. The deadlines would be the obvious answer as I've hated and feared them all my life (true of most cartoonists, I've found). Yeah, I thought about passing along more of the drawing to Stacy. I thought he did a wonderful job inking my roughs. But I was having trouble separating the writing and the drawing. I found that one fed off the other more than I'd realized' that it was an organic process, to use pretentious art talk. Most of the time I'd start a strip with no clear idea where it was going, or There'd be an end without a beginning. And I'd figure it all out as I was inking it, which isn't the best way to work and would've driven a conscientious editor crazy. One reason I hate and  fear a deadline is that I can't finish a damn thing without one, and everything is mutable right up till the last minute. And often beyond..

3. How are you feeling these days? And what's next for you -- perhaps short- and medium-range -- in terms of treatment?

A. Well, I need some work. Last winter I took time off for a month of BIG therapy at Bodykinetics Rehab and it was tremendously helpful. Basically it recalibrates your body using big, exaggerated movements and yelling and silly walks. But then I went back to work and slacked off and began to decline physically. This was when it became clear Parkinson's didn't mesh too well with a daily deadline. I got wobblier and had a few falls, and I've pushed the meds as far as they'll go. So the next step is something called Deep Brain Stimulation, where they implant wires in your brain, adjust the current and Boom, you're good to go. It's a process that takes 4 to 6 months and I'm just starting out.

4. Is there an overriding emotion you feel now that you've made this decision? Relief? Sadness? Resigned joy? Deep gratitude?

A. All of those. Relief because I've not lived without a deadline of some kind hanging overhead for almost 30 years. Sadness because there was more I wanted to do with the strip that would only be possible with a daily format. Resigned joy because I don't know, because it sounds good. And deep gratitude because I fell into this dream job at the last possible moment and got to produce work I'll always be proud of and made friends I'll always respect.

5. Will you continue to draw (perhaps with less demanding deadlines) -- maybe freelance, magazine covers, back to drawing cows for the FDA or Milk Advisory Board *smile*?
Or are you hanging up your Hunt #101 Imperial for good?

A. I'm not ready to quit, but I'm sure my work will change. It may look like it was done by Cy Twombly using his sleeve.

6. How do you feel about having had the space and stage and opportunity to draw Cul de Sac for as long as you did -- as well as all the acclaim, respect, fandom (from book sales to the Reuben Award)?

A. Like I said above, I fell into drawing a daily comic strip more by luck than design. And that kind of luck is unimaginable, at least to me. I feel like I've squeezed a lifetime career into way too short a time (though I started working on Cul de Sac almost 10 years ago). It took me forever to figure out the Reuben, because it's one of those "not in my wildest dreams" things.  But I finally got it: it's like finding this fabulous object, an artifact of an ancient civilization that's far in advance of our own, and it's crashed in my backyard so I get to keep it.

Mostly, I'm grateful to all who pushed me into this. Starting with Tom Shroder and Gene Weingarten, on through Lee Salem, Rich West, Bill Watterson, Greg Melvin, John Glynn, John McMeel, Pat Oliphant, Amy, Emma & Charlotte Thompson, Mike Rhode, Nick Galifianakis,  Chris Sparks, Shena Wolf and ending maybe with Anna Glynn or Emily Sparks. Without them I'd still be doing covers for the Milk Advisory Board. And also my Mom, who told me years ago if I ever did a comic strip it'd be pretty wonderful, but I'd probably drive myself crazy.

7. Any final "Cul de Sac" thoughts or sentiments you'd like to say to your many fans?

A. Don't wander off yet1 There'll be a joke after the credits.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Two Ancient Cul de Sacs

From July 2004, when all the animals could talk and I didn't know what I was doing. Snakehead fish were popular that year.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Chris Sparks, Steven Artley, Michael Auger, Carolyn Belefski, Michael Cavna,  Danielle Corsetto,    Barbara Dale, Peter Dunlap-Shohl, Nick Galiļ¬anakis, Shannon Gallant, Kerry G. Johnson, Jamie King, Donna Lewis, Annie Lunsford, Bono Mitchell, Joe Sutliff, Matt Wuerker and I will be signing the Team Cul de Sac book tonight at 7:00 at Politics & Prose. Lines formed at 5 this morning.

Monday, July 9, 2012

More Restaurant Closings Again

The last one may be real.

Wednesday Night!

Politics & Prose, DC's happeningest bookstore, will host a Team Cul de Sac group book signathon on Wednesday, July 11 at 7:00. I'll have a full list of cartoonists who're attending. Please come help make the audience more numerous than the cartoonists. Politics & Prose is conveniently located at 5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Two Old Fourths

Quick before the power goes out again-

Monday, July 2, 2012

More Restaurant Closings

After three sweltering days without power I feel like closing some restaurants. Especially since the power came back on but the air conditioner didn't.
Note: the joke about the Starbucks-inside-a-Starbucks also appeared in the Onion about a year after I did this. Not that there's a chance in hell that the Onion swiped it from me. Some jokes are inevitable. But I got there first!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Want to Join The Onion A.V. Club

Because then I could hang out with cool guys like Noel Murray, who wrote a nice review of the Team Cul de Sac book. Besides, if you're friends with book reviewers they'll sometimes give you free review copies when they're through with them.