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My review: The Complete Cul de Sac

I have in my hot little hands a copy of Richard Thompson’s The Complete Cul de Sac. Let me just get the negative stuff out of the way up front.

Looking at this box set, I can’t help but feel a bit cheated that there are only two volumes. It’s not that anyone cut corners or exaggerated the word “complete”. On the contrary, it is THE complete collection – including the Cul de Sac strips that ran in the Washington Post before it went into syndication and the strips by guest cartoonists who stepped in when Richard was dealing with his Parkinson’s disease. The set is only two volumes because Richard was forced to retire too early and thus deprived us of his wonderful sense of humor and talent. In a just and fair universe, there would be another dozen volumes in this set.

But what we do have to enjoy is two volumes of pure cartooning goodness by a cartoonist who is as kind as he is talented.

I spent hours turning the pages of these books. Like all great collections, there’s value (and satisfaction) in taking in a body of work in one sitting without the daily pause created by newspapers. Below nearly every strip is a note or comment by Richard about the strip, the characters or a background information into his process or thinking. I enjoyed those notes as much as I did reading the strip. It’s a personal tour of the strip in Richard’s signature quirky, affable humor.

The collection contains a forward by Art Speigelman, the pre-syndicate strips that ran in The Washington Post from 2004 to 2007, and as I mentioned the guest strips.

Richard is a giant in the field when it comes to writing and art. The book belongs on every bookshelf to serve as inspiration. I’m not suggesting cartoonists would own it to try to replicate Richard’s art or writing – I don’t think that’s even possible given his unique humor and drawing style – but because Richard has elevated the bar of what great cartooning is. And that should be studied by anyone who aspires to entertain the world through pencil and ink.

Community Comments

#1 Tyson Cole
May/7/2014
@ 10:29 am

It looks gorgeous! Going to have to scrape together the pennies…

#2 Allan Holtz
May/7/2014
@ 11:27 am

It’s a foregone conclusion that I’ll buy this (already in my Amazon cart), but $50+ for a pair of paperbacks seems just a mite greedy. Andrews-McMeel didn’t think the project was worth the hardcover treatment, yet didn’t feel too modest to price it as if it were.

Oh well. Can’t wait to read Richard’s commentaries!

–Allan

#3 Mike Rhode
May/7/2014
@ 8:26 pm

BTW, the Complete CDS, isn’t quite complete. Richard missed sending in a few of the Post Sundays. We’re working on a kludge fix, but you should definitely plan to buy The Art of Richard Thompson in the fall. It’s got a lot of other examples of Richard’s peculiar genius.

#4 Crowden Satz
May/7/2014
@ 9:24 pm

Alan, I’m in complete agreement. If this isn’t proof that the world is unfair, I don’t know what is. To see someone like Richard robbed of the ability to continue to cartoon is, well, pretty bad. In the extreme. Certainly one of the unique talents of our (and the previous) century.

And Allan, my presumption was that the price reflects a high percentage of revenue going to Richard. I sure hope that’s the case; medical treatment isn’t cheap.

Can’t wait for the Art of Richard Thompson.

#5 Andrew Farago
May/7/2014
@ 9:54 pm

The production on the books is incredible, and worth every penny. The content would easily fill five standard-sized comic strip reprint collections, so getting that many strips in a pair of sturdy hardcovers with a slipcase is perfectly reasonable.

And Richard’s commentary is a lot of fun, too. Anyone who’s ever loved comic strips needs this one.

#6 John Read
May/9/2014
@ 8:36 pm

I’ve spent over three wonderful, bittersweet hours today (with the intent to spend many more in days to come) with THE COMPLETE CUL DE SAC. While I am very grateful to now have instantaneous access to every “Cul de Sac” strip whenever I please, I can’t help but miss the many hours of conversation I enjoyed with Richard since our first meeting in 2008 in New Orleans. In the hopes that you will see this, Richard, please know that I will always treasure your amazing cartoons and friendship; you and your art have been a source of great joy to me.

#7 b.j. dewey
May/14/2014
@ 5:09 pm

Alan, your review is perfect, right from the beginning with the “negative stuff’ when there is, of course, no negative stuff in this great collection. I still read Richard’s strips every day and it’s a bittersweet experience, laughing yet feeling cheated as you did and we all do.

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