Richard Thompson Ending “Cul de Sac”

Richard Thompson is ending “Cul de Sac”, a comic strip distributed to 250 newspapers on September 23. The syndicator, Universal Uclick, announced:

The last year has been a struggle for Richard. Parkinson’s disease, first diagnosed in 2009, has so weakened him that he is unable to meet the demands of a comic strip. For a time, he worked with another artist, but the deadlines became too much of a task.

Thompson said about his illness:

At first it didn’t affect my drawing, but that’s gradually changed. Last winter, I got an excellent cartoonist, Stacy Curtis, to ink my roughs, which was a great help. But now I’ve gotten too unreliable to produce a daily strip.

Thompson came out of fanzine fandom. Many of his cartoons appeared in the 1980s and 1990s in such fanzines as Stephen Brown and Dan Steffan’s Science Fiction Eye, Ted White and Dan Steffan’s Blat! and the Disclave program book.

Since Thompson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009 friends and fans have been encouraging and supporting him through Team Cul De Sac.

In June, an auction of art by his friends raised $50,000 – among the items an oil painting by Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”) of “Cul de Sac’s” Petey Otterloop. Watterson explained, “I thought it might be funny to paint Petey ‘seriously,’ as if this were the actual boy Richard hired as a model for his character.”

There’s also been a fundraising comic-art book, Team Cul de Sac: Cartoonists Draw the Line at Parkinson’s, published by Andrews McMeel and coordinated with the Michael J. Fox Foundation. The book features contributions from about 150 artists, among them Watterson, Garry Trudeau, Sergio Aragones, Jim Davis, Lynn Johnston, Pat Oliphant, Matt Wuerker and Nick Galifianakis.

Michael Cavna, who writes the Comic Riffs blog for the Washington Post, interviewed Thompson about ending his strip:

MICHAEL CAVNA: How did you come to this decision now, Richard? 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?

RICHARD THOMPSON: 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.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Watterson’s rendition of Petey Otterloop.

2 thoughts on “Richard Thompson Ending “Cul de Sac”

  1. I had posted the Watterson picture on FB a year ago, when the news broke about his Parkinson’s. Curiously, no one commented.

    Its a pity he can’t write the strip and guide it, but artwork becomes personal for certain cartoonists. There’s a certain pride some take in not dealing with hired help. Al Capp also had Parkinsons’ and had someone else do the drawings and he would carefully draw in the faces.

    Contrary to what Shulz used to claim he had helpers in the fifties, when he tried to expand Peanuts into comic books, and he did a sports strip.

    I buy the Washington Post on Sundays for the funnies and “Cul de Sac”, which is exceptional, I like it a lot, and will certainly miss it.

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