OFFBEAT: Cul de Sac comic ends as homage to 'dying yet mighty art form'

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2012-09-24T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Cul de Sac comic ends as homage to 'dying yet mighty art form'By Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Our color comics pages in Sunday's edition of The Times included the final syndicated installment for the finale of Richard Thompson's popular Cul de Sac comic strip.

Last month Universal, the syndication company for the the comic, announced the newspaper feature, which they described as "one of the most celebrated comics of this generation," would begin what was termed "an indefinite hiatus after Sunday, Sept. 23."

The comic, acknowledged by talents such as Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes and iconic editorial cartoonist Pat Oliphant, is "closing its curtains," according to the Universal press contact, due to Thompson's battle with Parkinson's disease.

Thompson's work on Cul de Sac began in 2005 in The Washington Post Magazine and quickly spread through comic circles as a smart, emotive and hilarious series of art, where readers followed the antics and weekly adventures of the Otterloop Family.

A primary focus in the series rested on the imagination and zeal of the youngest family member, Alice, along with the quiet anxiety and deep thinking of older brother Petey.

The final panel strip was sullen, depicting the two children looking at a newspaper comics page, in particular, at "a sad cat eating a pie," and Petey explaining to his sister: "Comic strips are examples of a mighty, yet dying art form."

Earlier this month, Thompson was honored with the 2012 Harvey Award for Best Syndicated Strip or Panel, an award voted on by his peers.

Cul de Sac has been a part of the Universal Uclick/GoComics for five years and, according to the syndicator, "quickly became a favorite among both newspaper editors and readers alike."

Since February, duties associated with drawing the panel comic strip, distributed to 150 newspapers, had the assistance of Chicago cartoonist and illustrator Stacy Curtis, who, a few years back, worked just a couple desks away from me at The Times as our illustrator and editorial cartoonist, until he launched on his own in 2006.

Curtis is also featured in the beautiful, new 130-page hardcover "Team Cul de Sac: Cartoonists Draw the Line at Parkinson's" ($29.99 Andrews McMeel Publishing June 2012), among the many noted cartoonists who sketched page-by-page tributes to Thompson and his Cul de Sac character creations.

In addition to Watterson and Curtis, Garry Trudeau, who draws Doonesbury, Bill Amend, creator of FoxTrot, Jim Borgman and Jerry Scott, co-creators of Zits, Chance Brown and Brian Walker, creators of Hi and Lois, Ron Ferdinand, the cartoonist who draws Dennis the Menace, Jim Davis, creator of Garfield and Cathy Guisewite, creator of Cathy, are among the more than 150 cartoonists who contributed to the book, to generate proceeds to the Team Cul de Sac Charity organization, as well as to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

"I say without hesitation that Cul de Sac ranks as one of the great newspaper comic strips of all time, and a personal favorite of my family and myself," said John Glynn, Universal Uclick vice president and editorial director.

"When I told my 8-year-old that Cul de Sac was going to take a break, she became really emotional. She simply adores Alice."

Cul de Sac readers are encouraged to go to to read about the comic strip and leave notes discussing their appreciation of the characters, the comic strip and its creator, which will be shared with Thompson, 55, as he continues his battle with Parkinson’s disease.

When asked about the Otterloops, Thompson replied in a press release: "I've never known what they'd be up to next. It's always been a surprise. But I don't think I'm through with them just yet.”

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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