Cartoonist Richard Thompson Made Us Laugh

Richard Thompson Self Portrait

For the fall 2003 issue of the print edition of Insights Richard Thompson ’78 drew this self portrait for a feature article about his career as a cartoonist and an illustrator. “I found I could produce on deadline, and when I realized I could do it two or three times, I realized I could do it forever,” said Thompson.

The award-winning cartoonist Richard Thompson, widely known for his syndicated comic strip Cul de Sac and Richard’s Poor Almanac cartoons, died of complications from Parkinson’s Disease on July 27, 2016.

This is personal. I knew and loved Richard Thompson long before he became famous. We worked together on the staff of The Spur, the student newspaper at MC’s Rockville Campus. He drew cartoons for each issue; I was the features editor. How I wish I still had those issues from 1976 to 1978!

Richard never graduated from MC, but the College gave him the Milton F. “Sonny” Clogg Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award in 2004 anyway. I’m sure Richard saw humor in the fact he got an alumni award although he dropped out. He also was recognized in 2011 with the prestigious Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, presented by the National Cartoonists Society, the National Cartoonists Society’s Magazine and Book Illustration Award for 1995, plus their Newspaper Illustration Award for 1995, and a Gold and a Silver Funny Bone Award in 1989 from the Society of Illustrators for humorous illustration.

Richard Thompson Comic Strips

From 1976 to 1978, while attending Montgomery College, Thompson drew comic strips for the Rockville Campus’ student newspaper The Spur. Courtesy Brian Nicklas ’75

Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia

Rubin Hood By Richard Thompson

Rubin Hood by Richard Thompson. Courtesy Gail Rubin.

It was during our time at Montgomery College that we discovered the fun of historic recreation, specifically, dressing up in medieval garb and participating in feasts, mock battles, and providing local color at Renaissance festivals.

Richard was a natural jester, and he dressed the part. He was always soft-spoken, and his wit was incredibly fast and dry. My first costume/persona was as a member of Robin Hood’s band of merry men (and women)—green tights, tunic and hood, moccasin boots, archer’s bow, and stout staff.

Richard, in addition to being a wonderful cartoonist, was also a great illustrator. One year for my birthday, Richard presented me with a beautiful painting of an archer, heroically poised on top of an outcropping of earth. The title he wrote on the back was “Rubin Hood.” I treasure this piece of his artwork to this day.

The Blue Screen of Death

In 2009, Richard announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a problem he described as “a pain in the fundament” which slowed him down but did not affect his drawing hand.

His humor stayed as sharp as ever. His cartoon from 2011, “BSOD” (Blue Screen of Death), shows the Grim Reaper staring at an unresponsive computer screen and saying, “Not AGAIN!” (Oh, PCs!)

It is a sobering thought that a classmate has died. Someone of my era. It really brings one’s own mortality into view.

And I am sad that the world has lost a wonderful voice. But we have Richard’s vast collection of art and comics to keep us company and raise our spirits. They live on, while our mortal bodies eventually fail. Rest in peace, my friend.

—Gail Rubin

Gail Rubin, “Cartoonist Richard Thompson Made Us Laugh,” A Good Goodbye (blog),, August 26, 2016

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