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Posted at 8:30 AM ET, 10/ 7/2009

Color Me Curious: Where Should 'Cul de Sac' Reside on Sundays?

By Michael Cavna

In the 1999 film "The Muse," the deadpan comic Steven Wright -- playing a loser cousin of Steven Spielberg's -- shares with Albert Brooks's character a would-be nugget of golden advice: Consider making films in color, he intones. "The people love color."

The line is delivered dryly, but not without truth. Staring at Richard Thompson's Sunday "CUL DE SAC" in The Post's Style & Arts section the past two weeks, I'm reminded anew just how much I love cartoon color.

As Comic Riffs has noted in recent days, "Cul de Sac" has relocated from The Washington Post Magazine -- birthplace of the Otterloops -- to a new neighborhood in The Post. And has happened the past two Sundays, "Cul de Sac" has run in black and white. I hold out hope that one will soon run in color, but already, my inky withdrawal symptoms are kicking in. Color me a little bit blue.

So just what's the deal? some 'Riffs readers have asked. Well, HERE is the deal:
1. "Cul de Sac" all but certainly isn't returning to the magazine, so that option's out.
2. "Cul de Sac" will run in color in Style & Arts when it's feasible.
3. Moving "Cul de Sac" to the Sunday funnies would likely require killing a current Sunday strip to make room.

Comic Riffs was curious about how often "Cul de Sac" might run in color in Style & Arts. Post management tells 'Riffs that it's a function of available "color positions" in the section: "Where color positions fall on Sunday Style & Arts and how many color positions we get inside the section is not up to the editors but [is] a function of the size of the entire paper and other production issues." In addition, Post management says: "When possible, 'Cul de Sac' will run on an inside color page but color is not guaranteed each week."

In short, color for "Cul de Sac" is now a catch-as-catch-can proposition in The Post. Granted, Thompson's black linework is a joy to behold in and of itself. Yet to my eager eye, knowing "Cul de Sac" is available out there SOMEwhere in color is like knowing that a museum has masterpieces hidden in storage: I long to seek them out. (And would I feel this way about "Hagar the Horrible" or "Marmaduke"? No, not bloody likely.)

And then, as a cartoonist, I've come to believe that readers prize color judging not just by their reaction, but also by the very price structure. For my syndicated strip "Warped," I was paid the identical amount for a single Sunday cartoon as I was for the week's other six strips combined. Given that rate scale, an artist easily believes all the more that readers must really crave color.

But perhaps I'm entirely wrong, off-base and entirely lunk-headed on this matter. I might be seeing the production of color funnies through rose-colored spectacles, in addition to the distinct tint of how syndication rewards financial green.

So the Official 'Riffs Question of the Day is: How you would you prefer to view your Sunday "Cul de Sac"?

The non-binding poll is below. Meantime, to make sure to celebrate "Cul de Sac" on a colorful note somewhere: Tomorrow is Richard Thompson's birthday. Cheers to you, O Emperor of the Otterloops.

CUL DE SAC: Is it a black-and-white issue? (UPS)Enlarge Comic


Remember the New York Post's Obama "chimp" cartoon of earlier this year that drew charges of racism? The Huffington Post now reports that the NY Post editor said to be the most openly critical of the cartoon, Tempo associate editor Sandra Guzman, has been let go. Whether her criticism of the Sean Delonas cartoon was a factor is open to reader interpretation.


THE READER POLL: "The Stimulus Chimp" -- Is This NY Post Cartoon Racist?

THE "CALVIN AND HOBBES" QUESTION: "Cul de Sac" creator Richard Thompson considers the influence of Bill Watterson.

By Michael Cavna  | October 7, 2009; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  The Comic Strip, The E-Mailbag  
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In an age of digital coloring, Richard's hand crafting is meticulous and wonderful. The originals are breathtaking (I own one)and the magazine was the best place to capture their quality in print. "All but certainly " be danged, move it back to the glossy paper!!!

Posted by: jsutliff | October 7, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Put Cul-de-Sac back in the magazine and move Dilbert to the comics section, even if it means killing a zombie strip. Duh.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 7, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Style and Arts, like Kidspost, is off my radar. So all I can do is miss reading Frazz and Cul de Sac. Both are worth hunting down, but I just don't remember to do it.

Posted by: filfeit | October 7, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand the Post's hostile attitude towards its own comics offspring. The most recent episode of Cul de Sac that's online at the Post is the September 20 Sunday strip. Will that never be updated, just because the Post doesn't want us to see by comparison with the current Sunday print version how much better it looks in color?

We have already seen that Option 2 just won't happen - contrary to that claim, the Post will run color ads on the same page that Cul de Sac is printed in b/w. The only realistic option is #3. Bye bye, Hagar.

Posted by: seismic-2 | October 7, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Seismic-2 hits upon the most important question. Since moving from the DC area, I have relied on the web edition of the Post to keep abreast of things--including Richard Thompson's comics. But the Post has not updated Cul de Sac or Richard's Poor Almanac with the diligence they show to the syndicated strips (which I can read in my local paper). What gives?

Posted by: lthomas1 | October 7, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Answering lthomas1 - the Post is not to blame in the case of RPA - Richard's been behind on doing it. You can see a recent unpublished example on his blog however. That said, the paper is usually weeks behind w/ the panel anyway so we'd be at about the same place.

Richard's not coloring his Sunday strips anymore due to time constraints. He had stopped water-coloring them when he was syndicated because his colors didn't match the syndicates. So any color missing now is what was applied by his syndicate colorist, and I believe he's happy with the work.

That said, the Post's treatment of CdS is shameful.

Posted by: Mrhode | October 7, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Put both "Dilbert" and "Cul de Sac" in the comics page where they belong, and kick out any two/all of the comic strips not being written by their original creators. Done and done. All it would take is some editorial backbone on the Post's part.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | October 7, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Move "Cul de Sac" to the Sunday Comics ASAP!

Posted by: subwayguy | October 7, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Cul de Sac is tons better than most of the zombie strips that take up space in the Sunday paper. I can't believe that the Post doesn't showcase its own quality product!!

Posted by: docmommaVA | October 7, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I second Yellojkt's motion: kill a zombie in the Sunday comics, move Dilbert there, and put Cul de Sac back in the magazine. Dilbert has no need for 4-color separations or for glossy paper.

All we need now is to agree on which zombies to kill (we need two, because everyone has said that we want Frazz back in the regular paper). I would vote for Dennis and Peanuts, but I doubt that there will be any consensus (neither here nor in the editor's office). I'll bet that the editors will sit on the status quo until it starts to rot internally.

Posted by: kilby | October 7, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Richard's hand coloring is beautiful, and I love it. But if it's a question of seeing the strip at a decent size in Style & Arts, or seeing it squashed into oblivion in the Sunday comics section, I'd rather see it in S&A.

Posted by: MaxineofArc | October 7, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I live in the far SW, so it would not be practical to get a print Post and I read Cul de Sac on the site (not here). I DO appreciate color, especially when done by the artist (as on Sundays) -not by someone who may not even read the strip. I visit various sites every morning for my comics, while I have some citrus to wake me up; it gives a pleasant start to the day.

Posted by: vldazzle | October 7, 2009 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Put it in the comics page, along with Dilbert. Considering the shrinking Post, lack of adult supervision, misuse of homonyms, misplacement of articles (Home section items in Real Estate, Style type features on the front page, political items in Science etc.)and the total absence of a fact checker (see Reliable source 10/8/09; step son identified as son-in law)the comics are the most accurate features.

Posted by: olddog1 | October 8, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Joining the conversation late - I've never visited this blog before, but motivated to find it by seeing Cul de Sac in black and white one more time. I haven't seen anything that addresses why the WP chooses to treat this strip - far and away the best comic of the past few years - so shabbily. Sunday cul de sac deserves color.

Posted by: DC20004 | October 11, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I really enjoyed this strip's original placement in the WP magazine, which is where I first started reading it. Cul de Sac is a true "Washington Post original" that is creative, unique, and distinctively local in character. And I think it deserves a more prominent spot than where it's found now. I felt kind of slighted when it was removed from the magazine without much of an explanation.

Posted by: cmsiv | October 14, 2009 1:11 AM | Report abuse

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