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
There have been, by my reckoning, five significant Doonesbury characters who have died (not counting Duke, who has “died” twice, once when he was mistakenly declared dead after being taken hostage in Iran in 1979, and once when he spent some time as a zombie in the employ of Haitian strongman Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier). … Continue reading “Well, Great. A Massive Coronary”: Death and Dying in Doonesbury
In my introduction to this series of posts about Uncle Duke, I argued that Garry Trudeau’s caricature of Hunter S. Thompson revealed the “excess, racism, greed, self-interest, and ground ethos of amorality” that defined much of American culture as the nation emerged from the failed revolutions of the 1960s.In these next two posts, I’m going … Continue reading “I Bring You Greetings from President McKinley”: Duke in American Samoa. (The Gonzo Chronicles, Part Two)
On 23 June 2019, Garry Trudeau returned to a topic that has woven its way through Doonesbury since the earliest days of the strip: marijuana. Zonker asks Zipper to sweep out the drying shed at their (now quasi-legal) marijuana grow-op, Z&Z Bud. Zipper resents having to do menial work when he could be focusing on … Continue reading “It Sure Is Against the Law.” Marijuana, Part One: Zonker’s Bust and Box Brown’s Cannabis.
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.
Recently, I watched Studio 54, a documentary film by Matt Tyrnauer that chronicles the rise and fall of the famed Manhattan discotheque that was the hottest spot in New York City in the 1970s. In its heyday from 1977 – 1979, the club, owned by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, attracted crowds that included A-list … Continue reading “Where a Man is Judged by His Moves”: Doonesbury Goes Disco
America’s disengagement from a brutal, unpopular, and ultimately failed war in Vietnam began in 1969 with Richard Nixon’s announcement of his policy of “Vietnamization.” The 1973 Paris Peace Accords marked the end of America’s formal commitment to fighting in Vietnam; the war finally ended on 30 April 1975 with the fall of Saigon to North … Continue reading Vietnam, the Aftermath. Part IV: “Explain My Wound to Me.”
My last three “Long Strange Trip” posts have looked at how Doonesbury treated the Vietnam War during the first few years of its run, starting with B.D’s experience in ROTC through his decision to enlist and his encounter with Phred the Vietcong terrorist. Though B.D. was sent home as part of Richard Nixon’s policy of … Continue reading He’s Black, He’s Beautiful, and by Gosh, He’s Angry: Race in the Early Doonesbury Strips, Part I.
This week’s Doonesbury is a powerful comment on a contemporary political movement, the emergence of which over the last few weeks was both long overdue and largely unexpected. Gun-control activism has attracted the energy and attention of America’s youth in the wake of the Parkland shootings. This movement was long overdue because the stakes are … Continue reading This Week in Doonesbury: “We’re Not Going Anywhere.”
On 14 January, Garry Trudeau addressed the single most important social, cultural, and political issue of our time: the movement by women to raise awareness of, and fight back against, systematic sexual abuse by men in a number of fields, including politics, the entertainment industry, the news media, sports, and the tech world. In recent … Continue reading This Week in Doonesbury: A Missed Opportunity.