Thursday, July 28, 2016

Richard Thompson

Cartoonist Richard Thompson died yesterday from Parkinson's disease at age 58. Michael Cavna wrote a good obit in the Washington Post, for which Richard did a lot of work. Richard was also the genius behind the comic strip Cul de Sac, which, when it retired in 2012 because Parkinson's had made it too difficult for Richard to draw, I called the best comic strip of the 21st Century. So far, it still is.

Unlike most people, I don't throw around the word "genius" lightly. To me it means something beyond "extremely smart and talented." More like "sprung full-blown from the brow of Zeus," doing things I don't even understand how any human could do. Richard did that.

The past couple of weeks I've been writing the Comic Strip of the Day blog while its founder, Mike Peterson, recovered from surgery. Mike came back yesterday, and for my final two posts on Monday and Tuesday I republished the testimonial I posted here when Cul de Sac closed up shop. I won't re-repost it again, but here's Part 1 and Part 2. Richard died on Wednesday.

The timing was coincidental but providential. I'd heard from people close to Richard that he was in very bad shape but didn't know he was near death. I reposted that piece partly because I wanted people to think good thoughts about him, and hoped he might see it and it would make him happy. Monday's Part 1 post got a Facebook "Like" in his name. He obviously didn't push the button but someone near him did, so I'm grateful for that.

I never met Richard but we exchanged some messages over the years. He was the same with me as he was with everyone: kind, funny, generous with his time and praise. I live 3000 miles away but always hoped I'd have a chance to take him up on the cup of coffee he promised, and I don't even drink coffee. I'm pretty heartsick and gutted by his loss.

Chris Sparks started Team Cul de Sac to raise money for Parkinson's disease research in Richard's name. I contributed a drawing to a tribute book published a couple of years ago, and the group is still active at comics conventions and online, doing good work with the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Check them out.

I recommend two good books: The Complete Cul de Sac, which collects all of the strips in Cul de Sac's five-year run, and the Art of Richard Thompson, which, if you're an artist, will either inspire you to work harder or give up.

In addition, Picture This Press will soon release two books as part of its Richard Thompson Library: The Incompleat Art of Why Things Are, collecting Richard's illustrations for Joel Achenbach's column in the Washington Post, and Compleating Cul de Sac. 

If you're curious what a genius looks like, watch this video. I'll miss having him in the world.

1 comment:

Bookworm said...

Good post here, and good ones at Mike's site while he was away. I do love seeing comic writers/artists critiquing others, saying what they like and explaining why. It makes a drawing-impaired person like me appreciate it so much more.

I hope you will remind us when those 2 books are released. Amazon doesn't list them, so I can't preorder or put them on my wishlist yet. Thanks.