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

Friday, July 25, 2008


We'll be away all week in lovely Duck, North Carolina, on the fabled Outer Banks, the Graveyard of the Atlantic. The above is a vehicle used by scientists at a facility near where we'll be staying. They drive it out into the surf to study tides and waves and surf and look for pirate gold. I'm going to steal it and drive over to France. I hear the food's good.

As always, you're invited to leave a comment in the form of a joke, anecdote, poem, thought for the day, etc. I may get to look in on this thing while I'm in Duck, or even in France. And I'm taking some work along to finish up so I'll need all the distractions I can get.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Danders' Search for Love

Here's another Adventure of Danders, this one being his Search for Love, specifically a Lost Love. As I'm going away for a week I feel obliged to leave something lengthy for your enjoyment. This, like the previous Adventure of Danders, will be available in the Cul de Sac book, in full, living color, just as you see it here. Why do I post these huge excerpts from an unreleased book despite the fact that it may cut into sales because everybody's now seen it on the web? I don't know, good question.

Spoiler alert- the end is really sad, so, you know, brace yourself.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Restaurant Closings

The Post runs a weekly column of restaurants closed by the health department for various infractions. I've always found it inspiring, maybe because something about restaurants is inherently funny. Anyway, here's one from a few years back.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Rules for Tourists

Those of us who live in DC are always thankful when we see tourists in our hometown. With no actual industry beyond the manufacture of laws, DC is pretty much dependent on tourism for our local economy. Who else would buy those ugly DC-themed knicknacks, T-shirts & gewgaws? Not me, brother, that's for sure. But sometimes tourists have to be gently instructed in some of our local folkways and customs, like not feeding Supreme Court Justices if they come up to your bus and bang on the windows when you're sightseeing on Capitol Hill. The most important tip in this cartoon is the one about standing to your right on Metro escalators. Clog up the escalator with your fanny-pack-wearing family and there'll be trouble from impatient commuters, and I ain't kiddin'.

The dated reference in this cartoon is to Lawrence Small, the deposed head of the Smithsonian. He worked a cushy exclusive contractl with the Showtime cable TV company, among other deals that raised eyebrows, and I think he pocketed some objects from the American History Museum, though I may be just making that up.

Not Too Much Fun in the Sun

We plan to head to the beach next week, specifically Duck NC, more specifically several large beachfront houses in Duck because I think there are about 300 of us. As I mentioned before, I don't get along well with actual sunlight like I used to, so I wear a hat that's more like an awning plus a radiation-proof shirt and tinfoil pants whenever I hit the beach. And I stay in the shady part of the beachhouse deck anyway so why do I even step outside? Fresh air, I guess, plus the view's nice.

But I hope this will prove helpful to other solar-challenged beachgoers. It's from a few years back, when Angelina Jolie had her last baby, so for that reference please substitute the plural, babies, and feel free to make up your own celebrity baby names to make it more up to date. Pip & Oopsie works for me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Your DC Children's TV Show Host Round-Up

Though I was born in Baltimore, I grew up in and around DC. And one of the things that struck me as a child about the Capital of the Free World was the number and complexity of local TV kid's shows. These are the ones I remember best, though I'm sure I'm leaving some off the list (hello, Pick Temple).

The local TV newsman/broadcasting-personality who puts on a silly costume and stands in front of a cardboard set to introduce ancient cartoons and Three Stooges shorts is something kids today just don't have access to and I think they're the poorer for it. These shows were central to our daily routine and the local stations put a lot of love and work into them. Well, some. When you only have six or so channels available on your TV then each one has a more distinict personality, and these shows were a large part of it.

When I was about seven I got to be on Ranger Hal (I was wearing a kilt; long story) and, instantly if briefly, my status in the neighborhood shot up. I remember one kid asking me if I got to meet Felix the Cat, whose cartoons were a fixture on Ranger Hal, and I had to let him down gently as to Felix the Cat's incorporeality. I don't think he believed me.

And I think appearing on these shows probably did the TV newsman/broadcasting-persornality a lot of good too. If someone like say, I don't know, Bill O'Reilly had a half-dozen seasons in a clown wig and giant bowtie back early in his career he might be more grounded today.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Inadvertant Adventures of Danders

This is from '04. It's the first of several series where the classroom guinea pig, Mr. Danders, would get out of his cage, usually by accident, and wander off school property. My favorite bit about this one is that in each episode Danders assumes a new identity. This'll be in the Cul de Sac book, along with a few other series, so consider this a sneak peek.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Totoro Forest Project

Anybody who loves the work of Hayao Miyazaki should know about the Totoro Forest Project. It's an international charity organized by several hard-working Pixar animators. In their own words, the aim of the Totoro Forest "is to save Sayama Forest, also known as Totoro Forest in Japan. Have you watched the movie "My Neighbor Totoro"? This wonderful forest is where Miyazaki came up with the idea for Totoro. Miyazaki has been actively working towards the preservation of this urban forest, which has been in danger of the city's urban development, for many years now." Co-organizer/animator Enrico Casarosa talks about it on his blog

To that end, the TFP has organized an auction of especially created work by over 200 international artists, cartoonists and animators, as well as a gallery show and the publication of a book. Animators are the most energetic and indefatigable people out there, which may explain why their drawings move so much. I'm practically inert in comparison, yet they asked me to do a drawing for the Project, the only direction given was to draw my own Totoro. And it couldn't be Miyasaki's, so no tracing.

Well, I love My Neighbor Totoro, it's the most human-scaled of all of Miyazaki's movies, and little Mei is one of my favorite characters. I stole some from her when creating Alice (though I'm not sure they'd get along well; Mei is a lot more selfless than Alice). Here's my Totoro that I drew for the Totoro Forest Project

So please go poke around on the Totoro Forest Project site, there are some lovely things to see. And if you see one you'd like to hang on your wall consider bidding at the auction. All the info is at the site, or soon will be.

Lost Continent

Here's something for a hot July day. It's from the Post Magazine of a year or two ago. I redid it as a daily too, but I like this one. All those tube slides and ladders & gantries and stuff was fun to draw, and Dill's dreamy fantasizing between Alice's insisent practicality was fun to write.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Today's Poor Almanack

This grew out of an article in Thursday's Post about suggestions for improving DC's "monumental core" from a panel of urban planning experts. Mostly they wanted to get rid of the ugly tangle of freeways that snake around the Jefferson Memorial and the Kennedy Center, but they also proposed extending the Mall in various directions and cutting a canal across East Potomac Park. It all sounds good to me but I doubt any of it'll ever get done. In other news, the Capitol Visitor's Center is scheduled to open sometime soon, a little later than the original opening date of Bush's Second Inaugural.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Unused Obamas

These are two sketches from a New Yorker job that didn't work out. The story was about Obama in Chicago and it didn't boil down to a single image too easily. So they went with a photograph, and who can blame them?

The first one is just Obama bestriding the city like a colossus, pretty standard stuff.

But the second one, if it'd worked, would've been more interesting. It's supposed to be the big Picasso in the middle of Dailey Plaza transformed into an Obama caricature. It needs more work, but it's an idea.

Update: this would've run in the same issue as Barry Blitt's instantly-infamous Obama cover. I think mine might have looked a little puny in comparison.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Late Gentleman from North Carolina

Several times I've started the sentence "I don't wish to speak ill of the dead, but..." and then been at a loss as to how to continue. So I'll just say, Here's a sketch and a painting of Jesse Helms I did about 14 years ago for Mother Jones. I like the sketch more than the painting, which is egg-tempera & oil on board, a Renaissance technique I was trying to learn. It seemed perversly fitting to do a Cro-Magnon man in Renaissance Man style. I also started one in the style of a religious icon, with (dutch) gold leaf and everything, but I never finished it. But now I don't feel the need to, so I guess I've moved on.

This is scanned off a magazine tearsheet, but it's pretty close to the original. I gave the original to my friend Nick, whose uncle once ran against Helms, because it gave me the creeps.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Today's Poor Almanack

Thanks for this must go to faithful correspondent Here Today Gone Tomorrow, who requested a cartoon about the miles of temporary fencing along the George Washington Parkway. The GW Parkway runs along the Potomac on the Virginia side. It's a wonderfully scenic drive, running from the Beltway to Mount Vernon, and every Fourth of July its length that affords a good view of DC is jam-packed with fireworks watchers. To keep the fireworks watchers from blundering onto the busy Parkway the Park Service puts up temporary fences.
I was tickled to see a large photo on the front of today's Metro section of a stiltwalking neighborhood parade Uncle Sam. Just hope he didn't get stuck up there.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Frog Mortality

Today Mark Heath's Spot the Frog makes his last apperance in the newspapers, and the world becomes a sadder place. For the last few weeks Spot went meta when the tiny, mostly-amphibious cast discovered a pair of 3-D glasses and, looking through them, began to discern a larger world beyond the confines of their panels. It was an elegant, funny and darkly philosophical way to end a fine strip, and it's one I'll miss.
An updated note: is now running the earliest strips from their archive. After you look at the last Spot, jump to the first ones and watch Spot jump five full years into the past.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy Fourth of July

Especially if you missed Canada Day. I hear last Monday was National Self-Absorption Day, but I didn't notice it because I was too busy (insert self-absorbed joke of you own devising here).

This is the Otterloop family celebrating the 4th in 2004, and if you've been reading this week's daily strips you'll see they did it much the same way this year. Our old neighborhood in Gaithersburg had the small-child-on-a-bike parade, with all the attending parents and a fire truck that hung around until a local fireworks accident would call it to duty. And some guy on stilts would always show up wearing an Uncle Sam hat. I never saw him any other time, so he was probably a ringer brought in from outside the neighborhood to enliven the parade.

This year we're going down to the Mall in DC for the first time in years to watch the fireworks and visit the Folk Life Festival. And probably visit at least one museum too when it starts to rain.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Nature! Run!

I just did a sketch for a Cul de Sac about Petey being attacked by a flower, and this Almanac came to mind. Please pass this along to any kids you know, just in case.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Gas Pump Etiquette

I hope everyone finds this helpful in these uncertain times.This Almanac was from a year or more ago, so things've been distressing at the pump for a while. Like I have to tell you that. But I do wonder about the employee who changes the prices on the gas station sign. Does he do it late, under cover of darkness? It can't be a happy task and it's likely dangerous if done too publicly.
The enjoyable part of this cartoon is that I like drawing cars, or at least what pass for cars in the cartoons I draw. Editorial cartoonist Mike Lester, who can draw anything, passed along an insight into drawing cartoons from Arnold Roth; he draws not a car but his idea of a car, and so never has to go looking at reference photos or any of that nonsense. That's where the freedom of a cartoonist lies, in creating his or her anti-platonic ideal, and that's why I secretly pity those who draw realistically, because they're stuck with reality. I used to try that and it's too hard.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Car Trip!

Like most people trapped in a car for an extended period, we listen to books on CD during our car trips. We've done all of Harry Potter, the Hobbit, some Jane Austen (my wife's favorite), some Terry Pratchett (the Wee Free Men was especially good) and a hilarious series for girls from England called the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson. And we'll sometimes toss in a musical, most often Monty Python & the Holy Grail, the Producers, Sweeny Todd and Candide (if my daughters become antisocial misfits it may be traceable to these). In years gone by we went through lots of Sesame Street and Disney and an inscrutable series called "Dinosaur Mysteries", over and over and over.
When I was a kid we were lucky if we could get a station on the car radio that lasted for more than ten miles.

Lightning Bugs

As Cul de Sac has been featuring lightning bugs this week this old Almanac seemed timely. And as you can see, lightning bugs are pretty controversial, perhaps the most controversial bioluminescent insect around these days. Like, are they called "lightning bugs" or "fireflies", and is that a matter of regional nomenclature or what? My email correspondent cartoonist Teresa Dowlatshahi first raised this question and I don't know the answer. Around the part of Maryland, DC & Virginia that I've lived in it's always been "lightning bugs", which sounds more impressively oxymoronic though less poetic than "fireflies". To settle which is correct I've started another pointless poll on the right of this page. Though considering that the last poll, about putting CdS in the daily Wash Post, was barely launched before the Post did just that makes me think that maybe these polls are more powerful than I'd assumed.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Some Charlotte Family History

If you were to turn 180 degrees from the multiple-Charlotte sign in the photo posted below, you would see this. It's the greenspace with the outdoor performance of Romeo and Juliet, behind which is a fountain with three large sculpted fish. The red brick building behind the fountain is part of St. Peter's Catholic Church. In the 1930s that building was the Catholic Home, an orphanage, and for a time my Mom and her two sisters lived there, in the dormitory in the attic.

If you were to step slightly back now, and to your right, you'd see this. It's the Westin Hotel next to the Convention Center, where I stayed. The gabled roof below it is the old Catholic Home. My Mom's life had enough drama and coincidence to fill a novel by Dickens, but it also had a good deal of comedy in it. I think she'd be tickled to know I visited her old neighborhood 70 years later and stayed in a fancy hotel, and saw some Shakespeare right outside her old window.