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

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Year in Review by Dave Barry, With Added Drawings

The Post Magazine this Sunday has Dave Barry's annual review of world events, and he's not making any of it up. And I got to illustrate it, and illustrating Dave Barry's stuff is like dynamiting fish in a barrel, only more fun and less messy. The hard part is that Dave Barry tends to use up all the good jokes, leaving me scrambling to catch up. Here's the cover and below are some of the inside illustrations. I like the Gore caricature so much I'm showing it twice, because I'm show-offy.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Talking Animals Again

I have to reintroduce Mr. Danders, as he's the actual star of the strip, maybe. I know how he talks, at least in my head, but I wish I knew what he sounds like. Elmer Fudd with overtones of Truman Capote is as good a guess as any.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Alice's Indignation

I worry that the strip for December 26th dealing with Alice and her Dad may be a little harsh, and that Dad shows up in too poor a light. I got an email from a reader complaining about the Sunday strip where Dad bounces Alice on his knee; the actual complaint was based on a misreading of the strip, but it made me pause and think (which isn't always a good thing to do, but sometimes is).

But in regards to the December 26th strip, adults make a fuss over children when they do something cute, especially if it's an unwitting cute thing, and kids don't always appreciate it. Let's just say that Alice and her Dad have a loving yet fraught relationship, like all such relationships. And that she's probably got the more potent personality so they're not too unevenly matched, despite the disparity in size.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Cul de Sac of Yesteryear

This is from the Post Magazine of December 10, 2006. It's all true, pretty much. Sorry to chop it up into bits; I still don't know how to tile images after scanning them. Maybe next year.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Oh, Boy! And Hully Chee! I got an invitation to attend the Heroes Convention in Charlotte NC next June! My thanks to Dustin Harbin, the Human Fireball, Con Organizer, Comics Creator & Creative Director of Heroes Aren't Hard to Find, the Premier Comics Shop of the Great City of Charlotte. My Mom was from Charlotte and she'd've been proud. Some nice folks in Charlotte. I'm looking forward to it. Go, look around their site, ooh & ahh at their guest list, then come on down!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Elephants for Monday on Wednesday!

Since I didn't post any elephants on Monday, here are some extra bonus elephants two days late. This drawing's about 20 years old, and it's from an image I'd remembered in a Time/Life book on evolution we had when I was a kid; a creation/universe myth with a bowl shaped world supported by elephants on the back of a giant sea turtle. Terry Pratchett uses the same myth, but his is of course a disc shaped world. It makes sense to me which ever way the world's shaped, as long as I don't fall off it. I think the title of this drawing was The Commuter.

Monday, December 17, 2007

This Week's Almanack

Okay, fine. Too much Beethoven? Want some cheap laffs? Here.

I actually used the joke about a German Expressionist Christmas in a Cul de Sac a few years ago in the Post Magazine. At some point the Otterloops will go to a P J Piehole's Family Fun Restaurant and the two strips will merge into one seamless universe.

More Beethoven, with a Song You Can Learn

Since there's some discussion that Beethoven's birthday might've been on the 17th, here's this.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Favorite Drawing

In honor of Beethoven's Birthday, I'm posting this caricature of him I did about 20 years ago. It's "personal work" I did just for fun, and I was so tickled by the way it came out that I had it printed up as a self-promo piece to send out to art directors. This is scanned off one of the prints, so it's nowhere as sharp as the original.

Back in the late '80s the Society of Illustrators in New York did several annual shows of humorous illustration and gave out awards called Funnybones. So I entered Ludwig and to my delight he brought home a Gold Funnybone from the Society of Illustrators. It's an actual bone-shaped object and heavy enough to be a dangerous weapon (I got a Silver Funnybone, too, for a drawing of Garrison Keillor, so if the kids want to have fights with them they're pretty evenly matched).

The Society of Illustrators had the Humorous Illustration Show in their lovely brownstone headquarters in NY in late 1988, and a few months later I entered Herr Ludwig in their annual all-illustration-type show, and it got into that, too. And, after that show, he got into a travelling show of select small pieces that went around to various galleries around the country, many of them in colleges & universities. Then, in late summer of '89, I got a call from the then-president of th S of I saying with great regret that my drawing was among 4 peices stolen from the University of Washington gallery, that the police were involved, we're sorry about this, here's a number to call, and did I want the insurance money? I'd insured it for $500, not too much I guess, and I said OK, I'll take the money, and I did. About a year later I got a call from the Seattle police with news that the 4 stolen pieces had been dropped off anonymously at the U of W campus security office, and would I like mine back? I did, though I had to give back the $500, and the piece looked fine other than a ding to the frame so I reframed it and hung it over the piano (the other illustrators had insured theirs for a lot more, several thousand, and I think they kept the money).

That's my exciting tale of glamorous international art theft (well, national). And he's still hanging over the piano, though in a different house. But, unlike Schroeder's bust of Beethoven, I don't think he ever smiles at me, especially when I'm trying to play the piano. I guess he's not THAT deaf.

UPDATE: Here's a bonus downloadable Beethoven Wallpaper for your computer!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More Christmas Sweater

Here's the Big Payoff to yesterday's violent confrontation with the Christmas Sweater. All's well that ends well. Though I probably shouldn't've put the Big Payoff in a Saturday strip, 'cause nobody reads the Saturday paper I'm told.

Originally I had all these gewgaws & baubles hanging off her sweater, but I had trouble making the train show up. And when the strip's reduced to gumwrapper size for the newspapers the more clarity and focus the better. And visual flow and coherence, can't forget those. Plus you gotta do spelling and squeeze a joke in there somehow. This stuff is really hard, man.

Friday, December 14, 2007

MORE Unnecessary Cartoon Violence

I just said in the comments on the previous post that Cul de Sac isn't some baggy-pants big-foot slapstick fest, and here's another instance of unnecessary cartoon violence. So maybe it is a baggy-pants big-foot slapstick fest, and I just hadn't realized it. This is the penultimate panel of today's cartoon, right after Alice slammed into her mother's new Christmas sweater. More tomorrow!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Unnecessary Cartoon Violence

Here's an early sneak preview of the strip for December 29th. Things look bad for Petey but he recovers, mostly unharmed but his dignity in tatters. The strip was really just an excuse to draw stars, tweeting birds, curlicues and other dingbats. Any chance to draw dingbats or cartoon swearwords that presents itself, I say #*$%ing go for it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wednesday Bonus Pig

That's a title I always wanted to use, and since the novel didn't work out it'll do for a blog post. But I also always wanted to do a comic about a pig named Sweeney; this isn't it, this is an old sketch for an illustration job for Yankee magazine when it was art directed by the mighty J Porter. Nowadays of course Stephan Pastis has a perfectly excellent comic about a pig, named Pig not Sweeney, so I feel another pig strip would be superfluous. But if Pig ever wanders away from Pearls Before Swine like Shermy wandered away from Peanuts, here's a backup comic pig. And look how loaded with pathos & sympathy this one is! If he were converted into a line of mid-priced stuffed toys he'd fly off the shelves so fast you'd swear he had wings, and coffee mugs? They'd kill.

Though like the sign says, he does look dangerous. He must have a compelling backstory.

A Classic Christmas Carol

Everybody, go look at Mike Lynch's blog. He's got a set of links to Youtube where you'll see one of the greatest animated half-hours ever produced. It's the Chuck Jones & Richard Williams 1971 version of Dickens' Christmas Carol, that aired maybe a couple of times on TV and has since been unavailable in any form. It's done in a classic, crosshatched pen & ink style, just like the illustrations for the original book. And it's terrifically spooky, too. As Mike says in one of his comments, the part where Marley's Ghost undoes the cloth from around his head and his jaw yawns open is the stuff of nightmares.

Go here, if you dare.

Then look around at the rest of Mike Lynch's place; it's a nice one to visit.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Almanack for December 8

This is the end product of that lengthy discussion under the posting "STILL..." below. I kept changing it up to the last minute, especially when some of the jokes wouldn't fit under where I'd already drawn the paper dolls. Go to Mike Rhodes' ComicsDC blog for a lovely photo of just how festive & realistic these dolls look if properly displayed!

Elephants for Monday!

Here are two elephant sketches for Monday, just because. Every time I start a new sketchbook I draw an elephant in it, just because. Because they're fun to draw. Sometimes I never get any farther with the sketchbook than the elephant, and it's the only drawing in the whole sketchbook. Wasteful, huh?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Petey Attacked

This is the last panel of today's strip. Petey lives in a dangerous world.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Still got the Deadline Monkey on my back. Can somebody think of something funny?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Strangled by Deadlines

After a relaxing dinner on Tuesday I'll spend the rest of the week strangled by deadlines. And what better way to convey that situation than a Sad Clown Drawing?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dinner with Alan Gardner

Tuesday night a few local cartoonists and I are having dinner with Alan Gardner, who runs the excellent (there at your right). I found the above painting of him at his Wikipedia page. I look forward to hearing about his outstanding career in the Royal Navy, and I can tell him what it's like to be a guitar hero and singer-songwriter who played with Fairport Convention.

The Almanack for December 1

Catalogs! How many times have I used that idea? Lots. I'll dig up some more and prove it to you.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sunday's Cul de Sac

The strip for December 2nd is one of my favorites. I just liked drawing the rough, more than I liked drawing the final. Which is common; when drawing a rough the brain is in a relaxed, liquid state, the jaw is slack, and the hand moves easily. Drawing a final everything tightens up, neatness counts because, mistakes are made and worries form because, you know, People Will See This.

Here's a bit off the end of the rough skech for December 2nd's Cul de Sac. Actually, I did a previous quick rough for it I like even better; it's an almost incoherent tangle of lines. Somday I'll learn to draw cartoons by swinging a canfull of ink, like Jackson Pollock. I'll need a bigger studio.

Note: for some reason when you click on the image it downloads to your computer instead of merely opening in a new window. I don't know why. But please, consider it my unwanted gift to you, with all my best wishes for the Holiday Season.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy Birthday, Samuel Langhorne Clemens

Today is of course the 172th birthday of Mark Twain, who's best known as a writer and author of such classics as The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, 1601, The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and the soon-to-be-produced-on-Broadway play, Is He Dead? And my favorite book, Life on the Mississippi. And some others.

A less well known part of Twain's output is his work as an illustrator and artist. In 1903 he wrote "Instructions in Art" for Metropolitan Magazine with his own illustrations, in which he set forth several novel yet cogent theories of Art. Here are some, mostly describing his struggles with technique. I've edited it a bit for space & format, but really, how dare I edit Mark Twain?

The figure (above) symbolizes solemn joy. It is severely Greek, therefore does not call details of drapery or other factitious helps to its aid, but depends wholly upon grace of action and symmetry of contour for its effects. It is intended to be viewed from the south or southeast, and I think that that is best; for while it expresses more and larger joy when viewed from the east or the north, the features of the face are too much foreshortened and wormy when viewed from that point. That thing in the right hand is not a skillet; it is a tambourine.

The next (above) picture is part of an animal, but I do not know the name of it. It is not finished. The front end of it went around a corner before I could get to it.

We will conclude with the portrait of a lady in the style of Raphael (above). Originally I started it out for Queen Elizabeth, but was not able to do the lace hopper her head projects out of, therefore I tried to turn it into Pocahontas, but was again baffled, and was compelled to make further modifications, this time achieving success. By spiritualizing it and turning it into the noble mother of our race and throwing into the countenance the sacred joy which her first tailor-made outfit infuses into her spirit, I was enabled to add to my gallery the best and most winning and eloquent portrait my brush has ever produced.

(Guest blogging by Mark Twain. Top that, Huffington Post. I couldn't find a copy of my favorite Twain drawing; a portrait of the Kaiser he sent unsoliscited to Harper's Weekly. It was of the same quality as the illustrations above, and with it Twain included several endorsements, including one purportedly from the pope, saying "we have nothing like it in the Vatican.")

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


There's something I need to know. Are the Whos in How the Grinch Stole Christmas the same as the Whos in Horton Hears a Who? That is, are they microscopic? If so then the Grinch would likewise be teeny-weeny, wouldn't he? Doesn't that somewhat diminish him as a threat, and make the whole story less compelling? I'm sure this has been discussed and settled somewhere on the web and I'm the last to know.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Second-Favorite Drawing

The above drawing is 15 years old this week. Or last week, I forget. It's the first piece I did for Chris Curry at the New Yorker; she needed a quick drawing of Ross Perot for the last page, quick being it needed to be fedexed for the next day. I did five quick roughs, none bigger than your hand , faxed them, and she said, "This one's good. Don't do a final, just sign it and send it." I wish all my roughs turned out so well. I've tried to hit that sweet spot again, where every loose line fell into place just perfectly and, you know, the looser the better. But it's been all downhill since.

Maybe it just demands a gargoyle-in-embryo face like Ross Perot's to hit that spot again. Whatever happened to him, anyway?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Comics Reporter Blows Lid Off Cul de Sac

Thank you, Tom Spurgeon . Shucks, glad you liked it.

A Thanksgiving Memory, Belatedly

Fifteen years ago last week, my wife, Amy, and I were about to celebrate our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. We were going to serve a large feast on our new plates on our new table in our newly rented home for as many of our extended family as could make it. The night before Thanksgiving we went to a bar with friends and we had a most festive and enjoyable time, I personally enjoying it more than anyone else. When we got home, in hopes of coninuing my festively enjoyable time, I started dancing around like Fred Astaire would if Fred Astaire danced in his socks.

Our house was old and strangely shaped and it was heated by radiators, big iron monsters, all coils and ribs and flanges. The kind of fixture that would give sensitive children nightmares. I, as Fred Astaire would not, executed a kick that planted my foot squarely into the radiator in the hall, good and hard.

Amy, seeing me suddenly rolling around on the floor, thought I was still enjoying myself, until I pulled my sock off. One toe was bent completely back, and since it was the middle one, it looked like my foot was giving me the toe, if you know what I mean. It was indescrabably funny, in a silent-film-comedy-trauma way. And it hurt like "the dickens". The dickens is when the entire output of Charles Dickens-all 15 hardbound novels, plus journalism, letters and ephemera-is simultaneously dropped from a height and hits you.

The folks at the emergency room were extremely helpful and didn't laugh and didn't yell at me when I did some doughnuts with the wheelchair and knocked over the IV stand. But the nurse on duty did tell me an awful story about when he was in the Navy and won a $300 bet that he couldn't pull all the hairs off the top of his foot with tweezers without screaming. And they gave me some Tylenol 3, the kind with codeine, the kind that comes with the warning that not everybody reacts well to codeine.

So that is how I ended uup at the head of our table the next day, Thanksgiving Day, with my mangled foot elevated on another chair, presiding over our first Thanksgiving feast. And that is when, not ten minutes into the meal, I fould out I was one of the people who react badly to codeine. And it was Amy who quickly handed me a bowl, the fancy one that matched our new plates and was fortunately empty, for me to react badly in.

It's been 15 years. The toe's still there, of course, though it's still bent a little funny. The house is gone, or at least so renovated it's unrecognizable, and good riddance; it was an astestos-clad eyesore and a menace.

Somehow, subsequent family holidays have never quite matched that First Thanksgiving for intensitiy of emotion, not the Christmas of the Flaming Oven Mitt, or the Other Thanksgiving When the Fireplace Blew Up, or that Day or Two Before Easter When We Had to Evacuate Because of a Carbon Monoxide Leak That Almost Killed Everybody.

The only downside is that, ever since I broke my toe that night, I've been forced to draw with my hands.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

As soon as I've finished up some drawings we're escaping to Salem, Ohio for Thanksgiving. My wife's family farm is just outside of Salem, and it's got a huge kitchen that sometimes produces food without human intervention; at some point over the holidays, someone will discover a pie, side dish, casserole, etc. that no one's entirely sure where it came from. Everything else is made by Aunt Marge, with help from whatever spare hands are available. Every time we go there we're thankful for Marge's hospitality, and Uncle Phil's too.

Weather permitting we'll be lolling on the porch after the meal, or at least in front of the fireplace , groaning blissfully. When I get back I'll tell you the Adventure of Our First Thanksgiving as a Married Couple, and what happened that involved a trip to the emergency room and why I still walk funny sometimes.

Till then everybody go somewhere among friends & relatives, eat too much and loll around and groan blissfully. Here's a bonus Cul de Sac for you to enjoy while you do. Grandma is very much my Grandma.

Monday, November 19, 2007

More Thanksgiving Fun!

This week's Poor Almanack. Ha ha! Who knew Thanksgiving was such a fun holiday!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Is It Thanksgiving Yet?

Not quite! But you can pretend it is with this handy Thanksgiving Parade in cartoon form. From about 1999; if I drew it today the Rugrats balloon would probably be Spongebob.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dream Previews for Next Week

As it's a holiday week, you're going to be busy next week running errands, gathering supplies, seeing the relatives, traveling, etc. etc. So I thought I'd give you an early "heads up" of what to expect in the dream department.

Another Exclusive Preview Available Only Here

This is from an upcoming strip, or a string of strips, wherein Petey faces off against Babies. Reading the strips you'll suddenly realize what feral, terrifying creatures babies can be, especially if they're traveling in packs. This isn't the punchline, so I'm not spoiling anything.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's Still A-Comin'

This was prettier in color, but here it is in black & white.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thanksgiving is A-Coming

This is all true, I swear, every word of it. Kids, if you've got a report on Thanksgiving to write, please use this as a source! Then let me know how you did on it, and how the parent-teacher conference went.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What I'm Reading

When I really should be drawing. My favorite story in it so far is about an animated feature that never was, an aborted collaboration between Walt Disney and a young Roald Dahl about Gremlins. That would've been something to see, as I think of Disney's and Dahl's sensibilities as being pretty dissimilar, though both had a good sense of the dark side of a story. Heck, Dahl's stories are about as dark as children's literature gets, and about as funny, too.

I hear that Wes Anderson is doing an animated version of Dahl's The Fantastic Mr. Fox. That might be something to see, too. I wish someone would do George's Marvelous Medicine. And if you're going to animate Dahl, it'd be great to see it done in the style of his long-time illustrator, the great Quentin Blake. His is another name I meant to add to that list of those who inspire me.

Now I gotta go draw, after I read the next article in Hogan's Alley.

Sweeps Week!

Is it time for Sweeps Week yet? I have no idea, but here's a cartoon on it anyway. And a Shark Week is in the works.