Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Mike Rhode on Richard’s Poor Almanac(k) by Richard Thompson (2011)

This is excerpted from Craig Fischer's Team Cul de Sac fundraising zine, Favorites (2011). I was just asked for a copy, so I'll put here for those interested. Since I wrote this, Andrews McMeel scanned all the original drawings Richard had in his studio (and he'd given away a decent amount of them before the scanning) and began running them on Go Comics.

Mike Rhode on Richard's Poor Almanac(k) by Richard Thompson

When I was young, I had favorite comics.

As I grew a bit older, I had favorite comics and creators.

As I dash into middle age, I have almost no favorite comics or creators. Because I find the world opened to me far more than I ever expected it could have, and I've read thousands of comic books, tens of thousands of comic strips and millions of words. And I've liked a lot of them. So I've picked one by someone I know.

To you, I'll recommend a comic (and book) that tens of thousands of Washingtonians enjoyed for years, but one that you may not have seen—Richard Thompson's Richard's Poor Almanac (or Almanack as it later became). From 1997 through 2009, Thompson did a weekly cartoon for the Washington Post about whatever struck him as amusing that week. Which may have included Saddam Hussein bobbleheads, the Dillinger Wing of the Smithsonian Institution, county fairs, potholes, closed restaurants, ambiguous toys, or cherry blossom lore. Many of these strips were tinted with watercolor, a technique never seen in comics anymore, because it takes too much time. But boy, did it look lovely, even when applied to a red-faced "Spring [who] became irritated when asked about her vivid outfit, a flowing, low- cut gown that barely contained her fertile figure," which led her to threaten, "Watch it or I'll put 3 feet of water in your basement!" as her first public appearance ended.  In four panels, Richard mocked the overly-familiar Washington press conference, zinged the local fixation on Cherry Blossom timing, and noted the change in seasons with tongue firmly in cheek. This cockeyed take on the world, in this case the arrival of spring, is typical of his Alamanc(k) strips, and leads to a large part of the enjoyment of the strip.  If you're curious about "Our Fireworks Heritage," seek out the 2004 collection of the panels and glory in "12 Months of Misinformation in Handy Cartoon Form."

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