Craig Thompson

For other people named Craig Thompson, see Craig Thompson (disambiguation).
Craig Thompson

Thompson at the 2011 Brooklyn Book Festival
Born (1975-09-21) September 21, 1975
Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Area(s) Writer, Penciller, Inker
Notable works

Craig Matthew Thompson (born September 21, 1975) is a graphic novelist best known for his books Good-bye, Chunky Rice (1999), Blankets (2003), Carnet de Voyage (2004) and Habibi (2011). Thompson has received four Harvey Awards, three Eisner Awards, and two Ignatz Awards. In 2007, his cover design for the Menomena album Friend and Foe received a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package.

Early life

Craig Thompson was born in Traverse City, Michigan in 1975.[1] He, his younger brother Phil and his sister grew up in rural Marathon, Wisconsin, in a fundamentalist Christian family. His father was a plumber, and his mother alternated between working as a stay-at-home mom and a visiting-nurse assistant for the disabled. Media such as films and televisions shows were screened or altogether censored by their parents, and the only music allowed was Christian music. Thompson's only access to the arts were the Sunday funnies and comics, since they were assumed to be for children, to which Thompson attributes his early affinity for the medium. Thompson and his brother were particularly enamored of black and white independent comics in the 1980s, such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the do-it-yourself ethic that they embodied.[2]

In high school Thompson entertained dreams of becoming either a small-town artist or a film animator. He attended the University of Wisconsin–Marathon County for three semesters, during which he began writing a comic strip for the college newspaper and "just kind of fell in love with [comics], suddenly. It filled all my needs -- I was able to draw cartoons, to tell a story; but I also had total control, and I wasn't just a cog in some machine somewhere."[3] After spending a semester at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, Thompson left his hometown in 1997 and settled in Portland, Oregon.[4][5]


Thompson worked briefly at Dark Horse Comics, drawing ads, logos, and toy packaging for the company while working on personal projects at night. After developing tendinitis, Thompson left Dark Horse and devoted his time to his own work.[4]

2003 self-portrait depicting Thompson illustrating a scene similar to the ones seen in his graphic novel Blankets

His debut graphic novel was the semi-autobiographical Good-bye, Chunky Rice (1999), which was inspired by his move to Portland and "cute cartoony stuff" from his childhood such as the work of Jim Henson, Dr. Seuss, and Tim Burton.[3] As a result of Chunky Rice, Thompson won a 2000 Harvey Award for Best New Talent and received a 2000 Ignatz Award nomination for Outstanding Artist. Thompson followed Chunky Rice with the mini-comics Bible Doodles (2000) and Doot Doot Garden (2001).

In late 1999, Thompson began work on a 600-page autobiographical graphic novel Blankets, which was published three and a half years later in 2003 to critical acclaim.[6] TIME named Blankets its #1 graphic novel for 2003,[3] and Thompson won two 2004 Eisner Awards, for Best Graphic Album-New and Best Writer/Artist,[7] three Harvey Awards, for Best Artist, Best Cartoonist, and Best Graphic Album of Original Work,[8] and two Ignatz Awards, for Outstanding Graphic Novel or Collection and Outstanding Artist.

Thompson said that he believes Blankets was a success because he was "reacting against all of the over-the-top, explosive action genre [in alternative comics, and] I also didn’t want to do anything cynical and nihilistic, which is the standard for a lot of alternative comics."[6] As a result of Blankets, he rose quickly to the top ranks of American cartoonists in both popularity and critical esteem. Pulitzer Prize-winning comic artist Art Spiegelman sent him a long letter of praise for Blankets,[2][4] and in mock-jealousy, Eddie Campbell expressed a temptation to break Thompson's fingers.[9] Despite the praise, the book, which was Thompson's way of coming out to his parents about no longer being a Christian, resulted in tension between him and his parents for a couple of years after they read it.[2]

Thompson followed Blankets with 2004's travelogue Carnet de Voyage, which received Ignatz Award nominations for Outstanding Graphic Novel and Outstanding Artist. He also contributed numerous short works to Nickelodeon Magazine, as "Craigory Thompson."

In 2007, Thompson created the artwork for the Menomena album Friend and Foe, which was released on January 23 from Barsuk Records. Thompson's design received a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package, to which he responded, "I wanna get it! I think it would be very funny to be a cartoonist with a Grammy...if nothing else it helps bring attention to the band."[10]

In late 2004, Thompson began working on Habibi, a graphic novel published by Pantheon Books, in September 2011.[6][11] The book is influenced by Arabic calligraphy and Islamic mythology: "I'm playing with Islam in the same way I was playing with Christianity in Blankets," as he said in a 2005 interview.[12] The book was praised by TIME magazine,[13] Elle magazine,[14] Financial Times,[15] Salon,[16] The Independent,[17] NPR,[18] The Millions,[19] Graphic Novel Reporter,[20] and The Harvard Crimson.[21] Other reviewers, such as Michael Faber of The Guardian, and a six-person roundtable discussion of the book conducted by Charles Hatfield of The Comics Journal, while lauding the quality of Thompson's visuals and his use of various Eastern motifs, narrative parallels and intertwining plots and subplots, had negative reactions to the book's length, or the degree of sexual cruelty inflicted upon the main characters.[22][23]

Style and influences

Thompson at his drawing table in 2009

Thompson has acknowledged the influence of graphic artists Taro Yashima, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, and Joe Sacco.[4] Thompson has said that, in his composition process, pages are initially composed "in a very illegible form, a shorthand where words and pictures blur into alien scribbles...I'm working with words and pictures right from the beginning, but the picture might not look any different from a letter, because they're just a bunch of scribbles on a page." Then he rewrites those sketches into "a detailed thumbnail with clear handwriting, and that way I can go back and edit." Even on his long works, Thompson drafts the entire book in ballpoint pen before beginning the final brush-inked version.[12]

Personal life

Thompson has explained that he is no longer a Christian, a status that evolved gradually beginning with his high school years, during which he became disenchanted with the church and its dogma, though he still agrees with Jesus' teachings.[2]




Graphic novels



  1. Thompson, Craig. Habibi. Pantheon Books. 2011. Page 672.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Mechanic, Michael. "Craig Thompson—The Devil Made Me Draw It". Mother Jones. September/October 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 Kross, Karen L. "An Interview with Craig Thompson". Bookslut. February 2004. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Gallivan, Joseph. "Blankets' statement: Craig Thompson's new graphic novel is the epic story of his younger self losing his religion". Portland Tribune. August 15, 2003. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
  5. Heater, Brian. "Interview: Craig Thompson Pt. 1 (of 2)". The Daily Cross Hatch. May 7, 2007.
  6. 1 2 3 Heater, Brian. "Interview: Craig Thompson Pt. 1 (of 2)". The Daily Cross Hatch. 2007-05-07. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
  7. "It's DC's Night at the 2004 Eisner Awards" Archived September 29, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
  8. 1 2 3 4 "2004 Harvey Award Winners". The Harvey Awards. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
  9. Eddie Campbell. The Comics Journal. Issue 266.
  10. 1 2 Lopez, Luciana. "Craig Thompson talks about Grammy nomination". The Oregonian. December 12, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-12-10.
  11. Habibi by Craig Thompson Pantheon Graphic Novels. Retrieved 2011-09-21.
  12. 1 2 Hatfield, Charles. "The Craig Thompson interview". The Comics Journal #268 (June/July 2005). Seattle: Fantagraphics. 78-119. Unprinted excerpts of the interview appear on The Comics Journal website.
  13. Wolk, Douglas. "The Line of Beauty: Habibi a graphic novel worthy of Scheherazade". TIME. October 3, 2011.
  14. Shea, Lisa. "A Magic Carpet Ride". Elle. September 19, 2011.
  15. Mukherjee, Neel. "Habibi". The Financial Times. September 23, 2011.
  16. Miller, Laura. "The Best New Graphic Novels". Salon. September 26, 2011.
  17. Iserles, Inbali. "Habibi, By Craig Thompson: An enchanting epic of love and survival emerges from the desert sands". The Independent. September 25, 2011.
  18. Weldon, Glen. "Mysterious 'Habibi' Cuts To The Core Of Humanity". NPR. September 18, 2011.
  19. Lambert, Jacob. "The Greatest Story Ever Drawn". The Millions. September 22, 2011.
  20. Hogan, John. "Game Changers". Graphic Novel Reporter. August 25, 2011.
  21. du P.C. Panno, Natalie. "'Habibi' Gracefully Subverts Orientalist Tropes". The Harvard Crimson. September 20, 2011.
  22. Faber, Michel. "Habibi by Craig Thompson – review". The Guardian. September 16, 2011.
  23. Hatfield, Charles. "A Habibi Roundtable". The Comics Journal. October 27, 2011.
  24. "2000 Harvey Award Winners". The Harvey Awards. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
  25. 1 2 "2004 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards". Hahn Library. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
  26. 1 2 "2004 Ignatz Award Recipients". Small Press Expo. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
  27. Brown, Tyler. "Blankets". Kansas State Collegian. December 7, 2010.
  28. "Archaia’s ‘Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand’ Takes Home Three Eisner Awards". Publishers Weekly. July 14, 2012.
  29. "1999 Harvey Award Nominees". The Harvey Awards. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
  30. "2000 Ignatz Award Recipients". Small Press Expo. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
  31. 1 2 "2005 Ignatz Award Recipients". Small Press Expo. Retrieved November 14, 2011.

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