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, August 23, 2008

Petey Buys Some Pants

It's almost Back to School time here in Arlington County, where most schools let out late for the summer and starts up right after Labor Day. And time to buy new pants. This is from a few years ago and, once again, torn from the pages of the Cul de Sac book.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Long as we're talking about places of enforced mass fun, can I bring up amusement parks? I have a love/hate relationship wih them. I love going to them, mostly for people-watching and fried food, but I really hate rides, unless they're "amusing" rather than "thrilling". We've got four or five parks within driving distance, spread between Hershey Park to the north and KIng's Dominion to the south, and we hit one of them once a year, maybe. We're evenly divided in our interests; my older daughter and I stay on the ground, my wife and younger daughter get on the rides.
I've only been to the Grand Behemoth of amusement parks, Disney World, twice. Once eight years ago with my family and in-laws, and that was a lot of fun, and once, when I was about 25 with some friends, and that was ridiculous, though fun. Both times it was around Thanksgiving, and when we went as a family it was so crowded you couldn't swing a mouse, never mind a cat. But when I went with friends in the early 80s Disney World was, well, not empty, but pretty sparsely attended, so much so that when we got on the Jungle Cruise Ride, it was just the five of us and the tour guide in the little boat.
The tour guide was only slightly younger than us, and we gave him a hard time and kidded around with him because he wouldn't deviate from his script. I don't remember if he actually told the "my mother irons and my father steals" joke, but most of his patter was from one of Henny Youngman's older routines, like he'd been given a list of acceptable jokes that were approved back around 1928.
Finally one of us, probably Dana, was asking the poor guy what it was like working for Disney and his Tour Guide facade cracked. He said (and I'm paraphrasing from memory), "We get an hour break in the employee lounge and the employee lounge is RIGHT NEXT to the Tiki Room, and you go in there and try to relax and you hear this 'Tiki Tiki Tiki' coming through the walls the whole time". I don't know if you've ever seen the Tiki Room, but it's kind of a big nervous breakdown in animatronic form and the thought of these beleagured Disneyites trying to get some R&R anywhere in its vicinity was almost too much to bear. I think we all said wow that's rough, and slapped him on the back or something. But anyway, he shook himself and returned to his Tour Guide duties and when he emptied his pistol blanks into the rubber hippo I think he was mentally taking aim at the damn birds in the Tiki Room.
So like I said, I go to amusement parks to people-watch. Extreme conditions always bring out the most interesting responses. And unrelatedly, the tangle of rollercoasters in the second panel was maybe the most fun thing I've ever gotten to draw.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More Fair Play

Here are the Otterloops at their county fair, wherever the county may be. It's mostly drawn directly from life, just all out of order and with the names changed. And, if more impetus be needed, these are from the early reprints in the CdS book, availble soon. Or stop by my house and I'll show you a copy, from a distance.
And my regards to all you fairground/street/party caricaturists. I tried that once at a charity and I still have nightmares about drawing people who were sitting five feet away.

Fair Warning

I grew up in Gaithersburg MD, just a few miles from the county fairgrounds. During fair season, especially at night, you could hear the grind of the tractor-pulls and the screams from the midway and you could smell the fried food and the livestock sheds. So I'm a sucker for county fairs, though I've missed the last few (you go too often and you start recognizing the animals, and they recognize you too).
Here's a double extra bonus Almanack, two of 'em joined into one long endless cartoon, and by the time you get to the end of it you'll be tired and hot and sweaty and ready to go home. Just like the county fair!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


You might've noticed it's been August for almost two weeks, and if you're in DC you might've noticed you're practically the only one here. Me, I kinda like it like this.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Remembering Elvis

And yet I forgot to post this on the 16th. Though I do remember where I was when I heard he'd died; on the way to a party at John Montrie's house. The party was pretty memorable, too.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

One More Beach Cartoon

I've just drawn a week of daily strips about the Otterloop's last days on vacation, and I've cannabalized some from this Sunday strip from last year. The last night on vacation is always poignant, of course, and I'm always torn between sneaking off and finding a place to stay for another week and jumping in the car and leaving at 4 a.m. so I can get home even sooner. But instead we compromise by staying till around noon and hitting a pancake house (see previous post). Except this year, this year we left the beach in an unpancaked state. So I still need vacation closure, and pancakes.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

LIbrary of Congress Control Number 2008926290

Yesterday the mailman brought me two early copies of the Cul de Sac book, fresh from the printers in Singapore via Kansas City MO. The knowledge that thousands of copies are about to descend on an unsuspecting world where they'll be bought, read, enjoyed, given as gifts, puzzled over, regifted, remaindered, shelved and mulched fills me with glee.
As I expected it all goes downhill after you read the foreword by Watterson, though the book does have its moments. The only error I found was in the reprints of the earlier color Sunday strips; the first of the Dander's Search for Love sequence is out of order. But it doesn't ruin the story arc, or whatever you call it. The mistake may actually enhance the book's collectability: First Edition with errata, corrected in second edition, $300. As long as it's also dog-eared from use that's just fine by me.
The image comes up real big if you click on it because I forgot to resize it. So pleae consider it an exclusive Cul de Sac poster or wallpaper for you! And I mean actual wallpaper, not the computer screen kind.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Seafood 'n' Pancakes

Oh boy, more beach stuff! When we go to the beach we eat a lot of seafood, unsurprisingly, but somehow we usually end up at a pancake restaurant too. So I combined them in this strip from about four years ago. I just drew some more beach trip daily strips that cannabalized some of these older ones and pretty shamelessly too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Slapstick Galore

So yesterday, in the midst of trying to finish inking a week of strips and do some roughs for a freelance job, I walked across my studio with a cup of coffee and tripped over a stack of drawing pads, bounced a few times off a bookcase and sat down in box of books. It was a hoot if you were watching it unfold from a distance like a silent comedy, less so if you were more intimately involved in the processs. I'm fine, but there are coffee stains all over the place, a hole poked into a nearby cabinet (nothing fancy, the hole slightly improves it) and the box of books looks like somebody sat in it.

In more pressing news, it's been decided that the correct nomenclature for bugs that fly around in your back yard and light up is "lightning bug", the final tally in our poll being lightning bugs-65, fireflies-57, electro-galvanic gnats-18, other-6. I'll alert the Society of Entomologists or whoever decides these things. And thanks to all who voted. The winner of a free dessert with a small coffee is- Mike Rhode!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Public Service Announcement from Our Friends at the Totoro Forest Project

Totoro Forest Project Tickets Available Monday 8/11 10:00am Pacific Time!

Many of you have been wondering when and how you can buy tickets for the upcoming Totoro Forest Art Auction Benefit Event to be held here at Pixar on September 6th. Finally we are ready to start selling these online! The first pre-sale will start monday 8/11 at 10am. Here's the options available - Please note that all tickets include the stunning Art of Totoro Forest Book (worth $40)

Forest Friend - 100$ regular admission + book.
Forest Sponsor - 200$ includes admission + book + signed limited edition print
Forest Champion - $300 includes middle VIP live auction seating + book + signed limited edition print + gift certificate to Blowfish Sushi
Forest Hero - $500 includes front VIP live auction seating + book + an original drawing by one of the artists

Tickets will go on sale here exactly at 10AM Monday! We have a rather limited numbers of tickets so we suggest acting quickly if you want to be part of this event. Remember many of the donating artists will be in attendance, this will be a night to remember!! All the "Totoro inspired" art is up for preview at All proceed will be donated to the Totoro Forest Foundation!! Let me know if you have any questions.

Unfortunately, I won't be there. So anybody who does buy a ticket please email me some photos and if they're serving those bowls of peanuts & raisins put some in a baggy and fedex 'em. I'd appreciate it, and we'd all appreciate your purchase of a ticket!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Games of the 29th Olympiad

This is actually from four years ago, the Athens Olympics, but it still makes some sense inasmuch as its roots are Greek. What I like best about the Olympics is that it's spread out so that I can be a sports fan every four, or two, years, and for me that works out just right.

Happy Birthday, Garrison Keillor

Although I'm two days late. About 15 or 20 years ago I read a string of Keillor's books, Lake Woebegone Days and collections of his random pieces, and I enjoyed them. He gets too folksy sometimes, especially on his radio show, but he can make me laugh, and I think he's at his best in the short comic sketches, like The Tip Top Club.
This drawing was done around 1987, when I was enamored with colored pencils. You can do wonderful things with them, if you've got time but who does? I still like this drawing just fine, though I couldn't replicate it today because I"ve gotten sloppier. I did it from a simpler pen & ink sketch that was drawn for the Wash Post Book World, and it went on to get a Silver Funny Bone from the Society of Illustrators. The SoC doesn't give out Funny Bones any more which is unfortunate as they make useful and attractive blunt weapons. I got a string of freelance work out of this piece, and the Beethoven drawing I did around the same time in a similar style, but eventually I found it was a mistake to promote this work, though fun to do occassionally when not on a deadline.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Panels & Pixels & Chat & Chew

A few months ago I talked on the phone with Chris Mautner, the noted nice guy, comics afficianado & critic who also works at an honest to god actual newspaper, the Patriot-News of Harrisburg PA. He must've taken notes or something because the whole thing has been posted on his comics blog, Panels and Pixels, which is right here.

Warning: the piece opens with a frightening photo of some unfocused-looking individual who's a dead ringer for whoever it was posed for my high school yearbook photo. Except his hair was even worse. To make the trip to the site worthwhile take a look at Chris's earlier interview with Jules Feiffer, and his current one with Darrin Bell, the genius who draws Candorville.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Fine Arf

Happy Dog Days of August, which, if I understand correctly, has something to do with the prominence of the dog star, Sirius, in the night sky. Also it has to do with the whole DC area smelling like a big wet dog all month. And dogs are fun to draw, hence this cartoon from two years ago.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Home Again

We're back home now, in that drearily enjoyable semi-letdown that comes after a good vacation. My proudest achievement while at the beach was producing a week of daily strips without a lightbox, drawing table or a congenial radio station, but with enough distractions to make my head spin. And after I fedexed the dailies I let my head spin freely, which was actually my proudest achievement, never mind the dailies. My only regrets are that while we were there nobody launched a kite, took a nighttime beach stroll or played mini golf. But that's okay, there's always next year.

Here are two old beach trip Cul de Sacs, one from '07 and the other from '06.

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.