Got to see the talk by Richard Thompson (Cul De Sac) at the Arlington County library tonight. He’s an amiable fellow who, while not the most dynamic of speakers, did go through a nice overview of his work (which goes way beyond his more recent syndicated comic) up on the screen. A few interesting items from his talk and from the Q and A afterwards: he’s in about 250 papers, which he contrasted to Zits and a few others in 1000+ papers. He didn’t think anyone would hit that many papers again given the decline of the whole newspaper biz. I can’t remember the quote but I think he said something to the effect of you can’t make a living from a syndicated comic. I wanted to ask a question on that — something like "well why do it then and are you looking at other opportunities for Cul De Sac online and otherwise" but I didn’t get called on.
He also mentioned how he backed into the syndicated deal and how he never chased it. Essentially he’s had a successful freelance illustration career (Washington Post, New Yorker, etc) so the work ethic and output is already there (I’m sure that was a consideration from the syndicate’s perspective). In 2001 he wrote up a "poem" using quotes from George Bush to go with a cartoon of Bush at his first inauguration. The poem sans comic was posted by someone on the Internet and went semi-viral (and the version on the Internet actually credited it to him — so go Internets). Much much later he got talked into doing a weekly comic about normal life in Washington DC by the then editor of the Style section of the Washington Post (sort of Cul De Sac 1.0). Then slightly later the editor at the Universal Press Syndicate saw the poem and on a visit to DC asked Richard to lunch. Richard took the opportunity to give him a package of the weekly strip — and voila, the syndicate signed him up to do a daily version.
Cul De Sac is a very funny, sweet look at family life — the young girl is a particularly strong character and Richard gets "child logic" pretty well (even though he admits that character, Alice, has the unlikely vocabulary of a college student.). Both in print and online, the first collection is in print (with a foreword from Bill Watterson!) and the second is coming this fall .