Friday, July 23, 2004
Garry Trudeau, author of 'Doonesbury' and cousin of Pierre Trudeau
SWARTHMORON OF THE WEEK. It's been a rocky road of late for cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who has had a long and celebrated career with the comic strip Doonesbury. Used to unending praise, he's probably found it difficult to accept that his time in the sun may finally be passing. But the spring and summer of 2004 have pestered the great man with slaps, spats and downright disrespect, and he has begun to react with irritation.
What is it that got under his skin? Was it the nagging rumor that he's too high and mighty to draw his own cartoons, which resurfaced as recently as April of this year, when all the attention was supposed to be on poor B.D.'s war wound?
I guess everyone now knows that "Doonesbury" character B.D. is going to have his leg amputated. If not, let me spoil the surprise.
Garry Trudeau, the strip's author (but not illustrator), wants us all to understand that bad things happen in war, and that people make big sacrifices.
Thanks for the tip. I had no idea.
Personally, I don't think a cartoon leg is much of a sacrifice.
When I first read the item, I thought,
"Gee, that sucks." Then I
remembered I had stopped reading "Doonesbury" in the Eighties. About
fifteen years after Trudeau hired a beard to do all the drawing for
In case you're wondering why I mentioned the fact that Trudeau doesn't draw "Doonesbury," it's because he doesn't credit the artist who does the work. Nice, huh?...
I've been checking around the web, and I
found out Trudeau denies
that his inker, Don Carlson, draws the strip. Trudeau claims it's a
false rumor that came from an "Entertainment Weekly" story. Funny, I
believe I read it in a cartoonist trade magazine back in the Eighties.
I probably still have the issue.
Or was it the sudden appearance of articles that suggested Trudeau
had lost his satirical edge and his sense of humor to boot? He couldn't
have enjoyed reading critiques like this one in the July issue of Reason Online:
Trudeau's career arc mirrors the evolution of baby-boom liberalism, from the anti-authoritarian skepticism of the 1970s to the smug paternalism of the Clinton years. In 1972 the strip was engaged with the world; in 2002 it is engaged with itself.
I mean that literally. In 1972 Doonesbury
intelligence; in 2002 it rewards familiarity with its own mythology and
conventions. In 1972 it trusted readers to know the politics and pop
culture of the day; in 2002 it trusts us to understand that a floating
waffle represents Bill Clinton, a floating bomb represents Newt
Gingrich, and a floating asterisk represents George W. Bush. The strip
has grown so self-referential that it makes jokes about its own
self-referentiality, with Sunday strips devoted to charting the
relationships among the characters. And so Doonesbury folds in
upon itself, and Trudeau ends up producing his own fan fiction.
Which is worse? Shots like that from the intelligentsia or brickbats
from the peanut
gallery like this one from May?
Mr. T, well-known lefty author of a very
well done political strip, decided to pitch a hissy-fit, en francais,
in his Sunday strip.
Evidence has been piling up for days of
illegal weapons collaboration
and outright espionage, through which the French assisted in Saddam's
accumulation of military equipement banned by the sacred UN Security
Council, and kept Saddam up to date on everything they (the French)
knew about what the US was up to during the runup to the war.
Who knows? Perhaps it has been some combination of all these factors
that caused M. Trudeau to boil over. At any rate, he started letting
in mid-July about -- who else? -- his old Yale classmate
George W. Bush:
cartoon illustrated an
article in the Yale Daily News on Bush, then a senior, and allegations
that his fraternity had hazed incoming pledges by branding them with an
iron. This... caused The New York Times to interview Bush,
who (in Trudeau's memory) told the Times "it was just a coat hanger,
and ... it didn't hurt any more than a cigarette burn." Trudeau
quipped: "On doit penser ce qu'est sa vue d'ensemble de la torture
And that's not all he had to say about Bush. The
article in Editor & Publisher quotes
these pungent remarks from a Rolling
Garry Trudeau recalls his former Yale classmate George W. Bush as "jusqu'un autre preppie qui buvait trop de biere et blessait ses amis avec ridicule." He also claims Bush helped inspire his very first cartoon.
"Il etait une artiste de la manipulation," said "Doonesbury" creator Trudeau, who served on a dormitory committee at Yale with the future president in the late 1960s. "Il pouvait vous faire inconfortable extremement ... Il etait fort a controller des gens et des resultats in cette fashion. La maitre de humiliation."
Shortly after this little explosion, the beleaguered cartoonist experienced the unkindest cut of all, also reported in Editor & Publisher:
A poll that resulted in a vote to drop "Doonesbury" was defended by the head of a Sunday-comics consortium.
"It was not a political statement of any kind," Continental Features President Van Wilkerson told E&P. "I personally don't have an opinion about 'Doonesbury' one way or another."
Wilkerson said he conducted the survey because Garry Trudeau's comic "created more controversy than other strips." In the poll e-mail he sent Continental's newspaper clients this spring, Wilkerson wrote: "(I)t is my feeling that a change in one of the features is required. I have fielded numerous complaints about 'Doonesbury' in the past and feel it is time to drop this feature and add another in its place. ... If the majority of the group favors a replacement, you will be expected to accept that change."
Of the 38 papers that run the Continental-produced Sunday comics section, 21 wanted to drop "Doonesbury," 15 wanted to keep it, and two had no opinion or preference. "I wouldn't call the vote [to drop 'Doonesbury'] overwhelming, but it was a majority opinion," Wilkerson said.
Naturally, M. Trudeau could not be silent about this outrage. He responded with great heat yesterday:
Garry Trudeau said "un processus injuste" led to a vote to drop his "Doonesbury" comic from a consortium of 38 newspapers.
"La popularite de comiques individuelles augmente et diminue naturellement, et les selections des journals reflecteront naturellement les preferences evoluant des editeurs et lecteurs," said Trudeau, in an e-mail response to an E&P request for comment. "Dan ce cas, 'Doonesbury' etait choisi pour le sondage internel cause par les vue d'une personne seule. Une idiote. C'est unamericaine. C'est un outrage, un affront a ma genie brillant. Va te faire foutre!"
Is it just us, or does Trudeau seem a bit out of touch with his audience in these remarks? Nothing we can put our finger on, but some, you know, je ne sais quoi that makes him appear distant, even cold. We hope he finds a way to get over it. Or not.