Local acclaimed illustrator dies at 58

Award-winning cartoonist dies at 58

ARLINGTON, VA (WUSA9) - The creator of the critically acclaimed comic series “Cul de Sac” died on Wednesday, after a battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Richard Thompson was 58 years old.

He was an artist, a husband, a father and a lifelong resident of the DMV.

"Richard is Arlington County's own little resident genius,” said Thompson’s friend, David Apatoff.

“Richard has been working kind of quietly in his humble basement studio… but nobody seems to know that he's here!"

Thompson was born in Gaithersburg, Md. and began drawing at early age.

Friends and experts say Thompson didn't merely make a career out of illustrating, he reinvented it.

"Everybody says he was an artists-artists because they all realize how hard it was,” explained long-time friend Mike Rhode.

“What he had was a deceptively simplistic scratchy style, but he did that by drawing the same image over and over again on a lightbox.”

Thompson started working for the Washington Post in the 1980s, and Rhode says by the 1990’s he was everywhere.

"You’d find something he drew in pretty much everyday day of the Post,” Rhode said.

“He illustrated the health section, the magazine section - did a comic strip for them. At the same time he started working for the New Yorker."

Roughly two decades later, Thompson’s work was world renowned, and his comic strip “Cul de Sac,” centered on the suburban life of a four-year old named Alice Otterloop, appeared in the Washington Post every day.

He won the Reuben Award for “Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year” in 2011.

But by 2012, Thompson’s health was deteriorating, and he decided to stop publishing “Cul de Sac.”

"The Parkinson's kind of robbed him of everything,” Rhode said. “Drawing was his life. It robbed him of that."

At 58 years old, Thompson’s life was undoubtedly cut short, but friends say the legacy he left behind is bigger than his years on earth.

"He was magic,” Apatoff said.

A group of illustrators began to raise money for Parkinson’s research in honor of Thompson six years ago.
To date, the group creator says, they’ve raised $215,000. To learn more, click here.


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment
More Stories