I have a Google alert that notifies me when there’s news about Doonesbury or Garry Trudeau. Last week, the app sent me an ad for an auction of a series of Doonesbury-branded NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. NFTs, simply put, are a kind of exclusive electronic “print” of a piece of artwork, and they are a … Continue reading This Week in Doonesbury: “Still a Few Bugs in the System,” or GBT Does NFTs
Since reanimating this project, I’ve focused on Duke’s time abroad, first as a colonial administrator in American Samoa and then as American ambassador to China, examining his symbolic role in Doonesbury. Beyond his original appearance as a caricature of Hunter S. Thompson, Duke personifies the selfishness, cynicism, and greed that increasingly defined American culture as, … Continue reading “Sickening Acts of Total Insanity” : Hunter Thompson, Duke and Garry Trudeau (The Gonzo Chronicles, Part X)
Last week marked the 52nd anniversary of the Kent State massacre. Garry Trudeau’s strips about the tragedy (which happened about six months before Doonesbury debuted) marked an important step in his early development as a cartoonist. For the first time, Trudeau engaged in a style of activist cartooning that was explicitly political, intentionally devoid of … Continue reading “Have a Nice Day, John Mitchell”: Kent State and the Cartoon Activism of Garry Trudeau
Nineteen-seventy-five was a good year for Garry Trudeau. Doonesbury was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone, and GBT became the first comic-strip creator to win a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. Growing appreciation for Trudeau’s work landed him a spot on the cover of Time in February 1976. Winning the Pulitzer wasn’t Trudeau’s only … Continue reading Perceptions So Frank and Candid They Were Practically Classified: Garry Trudeau in China (The Gonzo Chronicles, Part IX)
Welcome back. Let’s look at two episodes from Duke’s time in China, each of which engage with the politics of cultural expression in the context of China’s emergence from the Cultural Revolution. The first arc deals with Chinese opera; the second with the unexpected appearance of an American pop song at a Beijing function. *** … Continue reading The Gonzo Chronicles, Part VIII: “Automatic Weapons Fire Is the Overture.”
One of Doonesbury’s most complex characters first appeared on 22 January 1976. Honey Huan, Duke’s translator during his time as U.S. Ambassador to China, was everything her boss wasn’t: smart, competent, and politically savvy, Honey shepherded Duke through the minefields of Chinese politics, and became Duke’s long-time accomplice in schemes as varied as an organised … Continue reading “In a Way, I’m Sort Of Running the Country.” The Gonzo Chronicles, Part VII: Introducing Honey
Last time out, we looked at how Duke’s time as ambassador to China provided a window into the inner workings of Chinese domestic politics as the country came to terms with the passing of the first generation of Chinese Communist Party leadership, culminating in the political rehabilitation of Deng Xiaoping. As Duke stumbled through the … Continue reading “Independence, Self-Reliance and Millet. Plus Rifles”: Duke and China’s Foreign Policy. (The Gonzo Chronicles, Part Six)
One of Duke’s first official acts as U.S. ambassador to China was to participate in an exchange of toasts with the man who would eventually replace Mao Zedong as China’s paramount leader: Deng Xiaoping. Garry Trudeau, showing a level of political prescience that he would probably be the first to deny, focused much of his … Continue reading “There Is Great Disorder Under Heaven, and the Situation Is Excellent.” The Gonzo Chronicles, Part Five: Duke and Deng.
Possibly my favorite Doonesbury panel. 17 July 1971. The French intellectual André Malraux enjoyed what was probably his sole mention in American newspaper comics in the July 17, 1971 Doonesbury strip. The strip is part of an arc in which Mark Slackmeyer, the ultimate bourgeois revolutionary, tries to burnish his working-class credentials by working at … Continue reading “An Especially Tricky People”: Duke Goes to China. (The Gonzo Chronicles, Part Four)
It’s not often that a comics panel will make me put a book down to catch my breath. Our Cancer Year, a 1994 comics memoir by Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner and Frank Stack, chronicles Pekar and Brabner’s lives as Pekar, a legend in the history of underground and independent comics, was being treated for lymphoma. … Continue reading “A Story about a Year Someone Was Sick”: Two Comics about Cancer.