Blankets received considerable attention in the comics and mainstream book press; it was extremely well received and eventually won numerous awards (see below). Most critics considered it a milestone in the progress of the American graphic novel, not only in length but also in visual grace and technique. Critics have further hailed it as one of the best graphic novels in recent years, claiming that the book will be remembered for its superb execution a decade after publication.
The Bloomsbury Review called it "a superb example of the art of cartooning: the blending of word and picture to achieve an effect that neither is capable of without the other." Time stated that Thompson's work "has set new bars for the medium not just in length, but breadth" and listed it as #1 in its 2003 Best Comics of the Year list, and ranked it as #8 in its 10 Best Comics of the Decade. The book was called a "magnum opus" in the inaugural issue of (Cult)ure Magazine. Publishers Weekly wrote that "Thompson manages to explore adolescent social yearnings, the power of young love and the complexities of sexual attraction with a rare combination of sincerity, pictorial lyricism and taste".
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 the work, and in mock-jealousy, Eddie Campbell expressed a temptation to break Thompson's fingers. Another Pulitzer Prize-winning comic author, Jules Feiffer, wrote that Thompson's "expert blending of words and pictures and resonant silences makes for a transcendent kind of story-telling that grabs you as you read it and stays with you after you put it down". Alan Moore praised the book in interviews as "an incredibly heartwarming human document" adding that he found it "touching and engrossing", and publically defended it when it was attacked as pornography (see below). Neil Gaiman wrote, "I thought it was moving, tender, beautifully drawn, painfully honest, and probably the most important graphic novel since Jimmy Corrigan".
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." Despite the praise heaped upon the book, it resulted in tension between Thompson and his parents for a couple of years after they read it.
In October 2006, a resident of Marshall, Missouri, attempted to have Blankets and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel removed from the city's public library. Supporters of the books' removal characterized them as "pornography" and expressed concern that they would be read by children. Marshall Public Library Director Amy Crump defended the books as having been well-reviewed in "reputable, professional book review journals," and characterized the removal attempt as a step towards "the slippery slope of censorship". On October 11, 2006, the library's board appointed a committee to create a materials selection policy, and removed Blankets and Fun Home from circulation until the new policy was approved. The committee "decided not to assign a prejudicial label or segregate [the books] by a prejudicial system", and presented a materials selection policy to the board. On March 14, 2007, the Marshall Public Library Board of Trustees voted to return both Blankets and Fun Home to the library's shelves.
- 2004 Harvey Award for Best Artist
- 2004 Harvey Award for Best Cartoonist
- 2004 Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album of Original Work
- 2004 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album
- 2004 Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist
- 2004 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Artist
- 2004 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel or Collection
- 2005 Prix de la critique