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 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.