Thompson's piece, Neighborhood of Mystery, is a good example of the talents that combine to make his work so special:
Who pauses to think about the significance of trash in front of a house waiting to be picked up?
Thompson sees such things as if for the first time. His perspective opens him up to the mystery and magic in mundane things.
On the other hand, when it comes to drawing his ideas, he goes from innocent to sophisticate. He can apply the tools of his trade to manipulate our responses the way a veteran actor might. For example, look at the way he staged that panel with the streetlight:
With a few casual looking lines, Thompson creates an aura of mystery-- the twilight descending from the sky, the silhouette of the man disappearing over the hill, leaving us alone with that ominous street light. If the streetlight were drawn properly with right angles, or if it were drawn only with lines rather than a scruffy brush, it would not have enough personality to be sinister. Thompson leads us by the nose to the exact spot where we need to be to participate in his joke, and we don't even recognize that he's doing it.
And that is the inconsistency behind so much of Thompson's magic: conceptually he sees things with the naivete and the openness of a snowflake, yet his technical execution is as shrewd and calculating as a highly experienced artist's. I don't know how it's possible for two such attributes to coexist in one person. It's a rare combination, and (as you will see from his new book) a highly fruitful one.