Sad news today as the syndicate has announced that Richard Thompson is ending CUL DE SAC on September 23rd due to his ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease.
The Kansas City-based syndicate is informing newspaper editors in a letter that reads: “The last year has been a struggle for Richard. Parkinson’s disease, first diagnosed in 2009, has so weakened him that he is unable to meet the demands of a comic strip. For a time, he worked with another artist, but the deadlines became too much of a task.”
Of the Parkinson’s, Thompson, 54, says in a comment released by his syndicate: ”At first it didn’t affect my drawing, but that’s gradually changed. Last winter, I got an excellent cartoonist, Stacy Curtis, to ink my roughs, which was a great help. But now I’ve gotten too unreliable to produce a daily strip.”
In an interview with Michael Cavna, Thompson, who won the Reuben Award in 2011, details his struggle with the disease:
1. Can you tell me how you came to this decision now? Was there a moment that this choice became clear, or has this been a long and gradual decision — perhaps one that had a tipping point?
A. I’ve known for a year or more that I was working on borrowed time. My lettering had begun to wander off in 2009, but that could be fixed easily enough. But when Alice’s and Dill’s heads began to look under-inflated last winter I figured I was losing control of the drawing too. When I needed help with the inking (the hardest but most satisfying part of drawing the strip),well that was probably a tipping point. Parkinson’s disease is horribly selfish and demanding. A daily comic strip is too and I can only deal with one at a time. So it was a long, gradual, sudden decision.
Thompson say she will keep drawing, as possible, but will go to a more aggressive therapy called Deep Brain Stimulation, which uses an electrical implant in the brain to rewire the nervous system.
This is a sad, even heartbreaking story, although the grace and wisdom which infused Thompson’s amazing comics have also accompanied him on this journey. We wish him all the best, and hope that some more masterpieces from his hand are forthcoming.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.