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)
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)
In my last post, I looked at how Garry Trudeau wrote about marijuana in the 1970s and reviewed Box Brown’s comics history of marijuana prohibition, ending with Brown’s chronicle of the gradual legalization of cannabis in some American states as activists promoting the medical benefits of cannabis used the courts to undermine the state’s attempts … Continue reading Marijuana in Doonesbury, Part II: Medical Cannabis, AIDS and the Law
In 1984, I was a first-year student at John Abbott College in suburban Montreal. In my last year of high school, I had heard about a John Abbott English teacher named Rod Smith, who taught a course titled “The Vision and the Apocalypse," which focused on books and films that came out of, or dealt … Continue reading The Gonzo Chronicles, Part I. “That Place Where the Wave Finally Broke and Rolled Back”: Reconciling Duke and Hunter S. Thompson.