Parkinson’s disease has many faces as it manifests itself in the lives of it’s victims. For most it causes difficulty in the simple task of fluid movement. For many, the disease or the medications used to lessen symptoms cause extreme shaking and involuntary movements. For some it causes difficulty in speaking, and for a small number of people, a rare form of the disease can eventually cause a type of dementia, similar to those living with Alzheimer’s disease.
No matter how the disease behaves, it no doubt changes everything. It becomes a major focus of everyday life for patients, and the lives of those diagnosed with PD have to fight to find normalcy in their lives on a daily basis.
Richard C. Thompson (born 1957) is an illustrator and cartoonist best known for his syndicated comic strip Cul de Sac and the poem “Make the Pie Higher”. Richard’s work on Cul de Sac has been viewed by millions in his syndicated comic strip since its launch in more than 70 newspapers in the fall of 2007. In 2008, Thompson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and is currently working on a book called Team Cul de Sac to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which is devoted to funding Parkinson’s research.
Thompson has invited other cartoonists to donate original art for the book, and recently a mysterious painting of a Cul de Sac character appeared on the official blog for the book, where the unnamed artist was described as a “one-of-a-kind guy.” His secret identity becomes a little more apparent if you mouse over the image, however, revealing the text “Watterson.culdesac.”
For those of you who grew up reading comics strips, the name Bill Watterson will certainly ring a bell. Watterson, born July 5, 1958, is an American cartoonist and the author of the influential and popular comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. His career as a syndicated cartoonist ran from 1985 to 1995; he stopped drawing Calvin and Hobbes at the end of 1995 with a short statement to newspaper editors and his readers that he felt he had achieved all he could in the comic strip medium. Watterson is known for his views on licensing and comic syndication, as well as for his reclusive nature.
Bill Watterson, no doubt could be described as a unique individual. How many people literally walk away from a serious career as a cartoonist at the peak of their career with a syndicated comic strip, leaving readers in a state of shock? How many talented artists ignore all request to be interviewed by the media and move themselves and their family members to a place where they are totally secluded from the public eye? One did and it was Bill Watterson.
Bill Watterson is described as somewhat of a recluse, but apparently he went back to his love of painting after stopping his popular cartoon. Something cracked his armor, and caused his work to mysteriously appear back into the public eye; and it was the fact that one of his peers, another talented cartoonist was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and began raising funds for PD research through his upcoming book, and he challenged other talented artists to donate works of art for the project.
I found so much irony in this story. I love the fact that Thompson’s voice as an artist and a cartoonist has not gone quiet. He described Parkinson’s disease as “a pain in the fundament”, which has slowed him down, but not affected his drawing hand.
Thompson, has been described by Stephan Pastis, creator of Pearls Before Swine, as “probably the most talented all-around syndicated cartoonist working today” has been praised for his courage and optimism he has shown in revealing his illness.
I understand his desire to create a book to fund Parkinson’s research and applaud his choice in choosing the Michael J. Fox Foundation as the recipient of the donations from his upcoming book Team Cul de Sac.
What really stopped me in my tracks when I started researching these cartoonist was the fact that the reality of Parkinson’s disease in a fellow cartoonist was the catalyst for drawing Bill Watterson out of his silence, causing him to create a profound work of art around Thompsons’s comic strip character. Profound don’t you think? A disease that can almost silence its victims, gave a voice to one person who chose his own silence because of wanting to make a difference in the world.
I will be watching for the release of Thompson’s Team Cul de Sac book when it is released in 2012. I know it will be profoundly successful and it will raise a lot of funds towards a cure for Team Fox. There is a lot of irony in the comic strips – there is a lot of irony in life, and needless to say, there is a lot of irony in Parkinson’s disease.
My hat goes off to Thompson and Watterson for their great contributions to fund the cure and the donations that will be pouring into the Fox Foundation. And as the old saying goes, “I will see you in the funny papers!” pkp