Four panels of Cul de Sac

Blog entry
Authored by
10 February, 2023
the third panel of the Sept. 17, 2008 Cul de Sac comic strip, showing Petey holding Alice, who's scraped her knee

I've been reading the classic comic strip Cul de Sac lately, and I've been loving it - and also being struck by all the artistry that went into the drawings.

I've read a bit about cartoonist Richard Thompson and watched some short videos, and several people pointed out how deceptively simple his work appears - the visual style of Cul de Sac is suggestive of children's drawings, while still being surprisingly precise.

The Cul de Sac from September 17, 2008 has some wonderful illustrations of his skillful drawing:

  • Petey's eyes start out as dots, then become circles with pupils, largest in the last panel
  • Alice's eyebrows shift her expression from fearful to angry - Thompson is a master at using very short eyebrows, barely more than dots, to create facial expressions
  • Petey's mouth becomes a thing of terror, with teeth visible in panel three
  • even the stars that indicate Alice's pain vary from panel to panel: biggest in panel 2, outlined rather than filled in in panel three

I've noticed that the children wear a lot of different clothes in different strips (unlike, say, Peanuts, where characters tended to be dressed the same from day to day and year to year), although they also have characteristic items of clothing, like Dill's winter clown hat. In this strip, I noticed Petey's sketched-in cargo shorts; I can't remember seeing cargo shorts in other strips.

Thompson also has an excellent ear for language. Alice's "I'M BLEEDING ON MY KNEE!" is perfect.

I get immense pleasure out of reading these, just for the delightful characters and the humor and the marvelous weirdness. Getting to observe Thompson's skill and craft is a wonderful bonus.