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Doonesbury's War
October 23, 2006 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Getting to Know Garry Trudeau. "The first extensive profile of him in the 36 years since he began the comic strip that became an American icon." Online chat with Gene Weingarten, who wrote the article.
posted by kirkaracha (21 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
the fanboy tone of the profile does not change the fact that -- possibly because of Trudeau's own sense of self importance, maybe because characters, like storylines, have an expiration date -- his comic has been smothered, for more than a decade now, by a clammy orgy of navel-gazing

the problem is that he is, after all, a comics guy. ie, not a goto analyst of what's going on (say, like Michael Kinsley in the Reagan years). a comics guy. McGruder, probably because he belongs to a diferent generation, seems to be aware that he can't keep Huey alive forever
posted by matteo at 12:04 PM on October 23, 2006


"Let's see what's going on here. B.D. appears to be considering cheating on Boopsie, which hasn't happened to our knowledge in 20-plus years of an eccentric but strong marriage."

Not true. He had a fling with an officer during shore leave during the Gulf War.

matteo, I agree that Doonesbury has been weaker in the past decade, but it's still one of my very favorite strips. And this recent B.D. storyline has been great.
posted by brundlefly at 12:22 PM on October 23, 2006


None of this changes the fact that Gary Trudeau is a very handsome man.
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 12:37 PM on October 23, 2006


matteo can't stand the fact that Trudeau writes sympathetically about U.S. soldiers. And Doonesbury is at least as good now as it ever was, after a bad patch a few years ago.

Very interesting interview—thanks, kirkaracha!

/once sold a book to Garry Trudeau
posted by languagehat at 1:23 PM on October 23, 2006


Doonesbury is good stuff. Thanks for the FPP.
posted by ruelle at 1:26 PM on October 23, 2006


Great read, I read the WaPo daily but would have missed it. It's a touching piece. I have great respect for Garry and his work. Thanks for the post.
posted by vito90 at 1:47 PM on October 23, 2006


Gene Weingarten lives in my (extended) neighborhood. I frequently see him shopping, getting in his car with his wife and son, stuff like that. It always makes me happy, though I've never spoken to him.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:19 PM on October 23, 2006


Thanks for this.
posted by docpops at 2:40 PM on October 23, 2006


One of the warm fuzzies of moving to the DC area from Miami was discovering Gene in the WaPo. He'd been the editor of Tropic magazine in the Miami Herald and it ruled in every way that Parade sucks. An ex gf up here once referred to my having a man crush on him. I did not argue at all.
posted by phearlez at 3:16 PM on October 23, 2006


You know, I used to never really think much of Doonesbury (and tended to be someone annoyed at Trudeau at his cavalier dismissal of the younger generation), but the B.D. storyline has to be one of the most moving things I've ever seen. Years from now, when they're writing up the school text books on Gulf War II, these strips will probably be in them, and rightfully so.
posted by unreason at 3:29 PM on October 23, 2006


One of the great time wasters on the WaPo site is Gene's loyally-followed weekly chat, Chatological Humor. There is a whole set of lingo, in-jokes, and recurring themes. Heck, there's even an FAQ.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the car MrMoonPie frequently sees Gene getting into, it's this piece of work.
posted by heydanno at 5:17 PM on October 23, 2006


brundlefly: here's Gene's response in the FPP-linked chat to the Boopsie oopsie (score!):
Several readers also pointed out that contrary to my assertion toward the end of the piece, B.D. had in fact cheated on Boopsie once before, in a sequence around the time of the first Gulf War. This is true, and I had forgotten it; however, I am saved on a technicality. They weren't married at the time. It wasn't an "affair." It wasn't an "infidelity." Haha. I am home free. Scrupulously accurate, as always.
posted by heydanno at 5:25 PM on October 23, 2006


Trudeau kicks ass on the comics page.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:39 PM on October 23, 2006


I eventually got the Doonesbury CD-ROM and caught up with the first 20 years. (I'd only seen Sunday strips during the 70s, and then daily was interrupted by school and such.) Fantastic once you see the way he handles all the interconnections and even the dignity given to minor characters.

Personally, I hated stuff like "Reagan's Brain" and "Ron Headroom" and, later, "Mr. Butts" especially. They were filler schtick and not his forte. I really preferred his human, down-to-earth writing like the death of Andy (never listened to Pet Sounds the same way again) or when Mike and Kim "meet cute" under a desk or Mark's coming out. I had always seen B.D. and Boopsie as, well, more toward the comic-relief or schtick end of things. More of a stand-in to comment on Joe Sixpack values from time to time.

So when this happened to B.D. ... just wow. It's been the most exhiliratingly alive that the strip has been in years, maybe decades. I love the guy now, to the point where I can take or leave another Mike strip. Again, noting that 20-year background, it was great to have all of that in my head too (and only have to reach back ~12 years or so instead of 32!).

Yeah, that shot of him on the stretcher. No helmet. No leg. I knew it was a big signal that things had changed, remarkably, forever.
posted by dhartung at 12:45 AM on October 24, 2006


garry won the pulitizer quite a few years ago ... but he really didn't earn it until the series dealing with BD's loss.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 8:57 AM on October 24, 2006


thanks for posting this. I'd have missed it. Doonesbury has been a chronicle of important events for most of my adult life. I missed it dreadfully when he took a sabbatical. Trudeau has had better and worse storylines, but he's one of the most important editorialists alive. I have more favorites among his strips than I can count.
posted by theora55 at 3:28 PM on October 24, 2006


Doonesbury rules (though my local paper chooses not to print it). Interesting how BD survived Vietnam and the first Gulf War before he finally was wounded (both in body and in mind) and lost his helmet.
posted by UseyurBrain at 7:40 PM on October 24, 2006


I have a very large shelf of Doonesbury books, most of which were published in the 70's. I disagree that he didn't deserve the Pulitzer. He was saying things about Vietnam that nobody else was willing to say, and it did it for a huge, huge audience. His coverage of Watergate is probably the only reason millions of people had any idea of what was going on, or remembered any of the names. The B.D. strip, I remember getting misty eyed, realizing that an artist was the only national voice willing to talk about the thousands and thousands of soldiers coming home in pieces.

Trudeau redefined the space that comic strips have always held. He has probably been more influential than any other living artist, an especially true statement if you narrow it down to his genre.

Sure there have been times where everyone thought perhaps the strip had jumped the shark, but he's been spot on brilliant for the last few years.
posted by dejah420 at 9:20 PM on October 24, 2006


the fanboy tone of the profile does not change the fact that -- possibly because of Trudeau's own sense of self importance, maybe because characters, like storylines, have an expiration date -- his comic has been smothered, for more than a decade now, by a clammy orgy of navel-gazing

the problem is that he is, after all, a comics guy. ie, not a goto analyst of what's going on (say, like Michael Kinsley in the Reagan years). a comics guy. McGruder, probably because he belongs to a diferent generation, seems to be aware that he can't keep Huey alive forever


Trudeau has worked tirelessly to keep the cartoon fresh and add new characters, and while there have definitely been low points (namely the late 80's and early-90's) that the strip is still amazing to read after 33 years is an astounding accomplishment.

And Aaron MacGruder- and I'm someone who loves The Boondocks- is a tragic figure of wasted opportunity. Thanks to his own selfish and abrasive attitude, he'll be lucky to get one more season of the Adult Swim show, his strip is effectively cancelled (and he's pretty much unlikely to ever get a syndication contract again because of how he handled it) and by next year he's likely not going to be heard from again. It's embarassing to compare MacGruder to Trudeau at this point because only a few years ago they were calling MacGruder the next Trudeau, and instead he's going to be a washed-up example of everything a successful cartoonist like Trudeau isn't before he's 35.

As a cartoonist, Trudeau's work and career is something I hold in awe, and MacGruder is just a disappointment. He had so much fucking potential and he just blew it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:33 AM on October 25, 2006


Damn, I'm sorry to hear that. I always liked the attitude of The Boondocks, and I didn't know any of that stuff. Too bad.
posted by languagehat at 10:49 AM on October 25, 2006


I'd been hearing people singing the praises of Boondocks for a long time before I moved to the SF Bay Area and read it for the first time. My impression so far? Just as political as Doonesbury, except without the wit. And in Comic Sans.
posted by brundlefly at 11:44 PM on October 26, 2006


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