A photo I snapped of Richard while I was visiting his home earlier this year. He was at his drawing table teaching me how to draw the Cul de Sac characters.
Photo by Stacy Curtis.
My cartoonist pal Richard Thompson is a lucky man.
On Friday, it was announced he is ending his comic strip, Cul de Sac, because as he put it "Parkinson's disease is horribly selfish and demanding. A daily comic strip is too and I can only deal with one at a time."
Since then, on Facebook, Twitter, every cartooning site and blog, praise has been heaped upon him as if his eulogy is being delivered by one fan and fellow cartoonist at a time.
And I say he is a lucky man because he gets to sit quietly in the back row (alive and not dead) and feel the admiration, the love and respect we all have for him.
As you may know, earlier this year, Richard asked me to help him with the inking of Cul de Sac.
I never felt inking Cul de Sac for Richard worked.
It was like going into a theater to see Jerry Seinfeld do stand-up and watching Steve Martin deliver his lines.
And that's what it felt like. Every time I sat down at my drawing table to ink Cul de Sac, I could hear a narrator's voice say, "For tonight's performance, the part of Richard Thompson will be played by his understudy, Stacy Curtis."
It was tricky to ink Cul de Sac without imitating Richard's drawing style. Make it look like Cul de Sac without trying to draw like Richard Thompson. (Yeah, my brain still hurts from trying to figure that out.)
I felt the inking I did was adequate. There were no huge missteps, but at the same time, the strip which beautifully radiated from one source had been compromised by having someone else's hand in it.
For Richard, the writing, drawing and inking of the strip was all one process for him and once it wasn't, there was a disturbance in The Force.
It became apparent hiring an inker doesn't cure Parkinson's disease.
The strip went into reruns more often than not and the time came for difficult decisions to be made.
So, for my turn to stand at the podium and deliver my segment of Richard Thompson's eulogy, which really isn't a eulogy at all because Richard Thompson is still alive and far from dead, this is what I would like to say:
"Like many fans and fellow cartoonists, I will miss Cul de Sac. But Richard made the right decision. Focusing on his health now, means we will have many more years of his beautiful lines to drool over later.
I hate Parkinson's disease. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. And as often as I can find spare money in my pocket, I will continue to show my hatred of it by donating to fund research to find an end to Parkinson's disease.
Richard is amazing. As an cartoonist, he makes us want to be better cartoonists. As a writer, he leaves us in his dust and as a friend, he has brought us all together to help him fight the disease that has taken Cul de Sac away from us.
During my visit to Richard's home earlier this year, I noticed a banjo sat in the corner of his studio. As Timmy Fretwork has shown us, You can't tie down a Banjo Man.
Richard, I hope you are feeling all the admiration, love and respect we're all piling on you. Good luck with your treatments and we're rooting for you all the way."