Doonesbury appreciation thread.


That had its origin in his depiction of George H. W. Bush as invisible during his vice-presidency of Reagan, to symbolize that there wasn’t any substance to him…the once very-different Bush had made himself silent of Reagan-criticism upon becoming VP. There was a hilarious sequence of strips in the early 80’s in which Reagan had Bush sign over his manhood, to be placed in a blind trust. And there was once during the early stages of the 1988 Presidential campaign in which it seemed Bush was about to say something un-Reagan like, and an outline of a person came into view, only to disappear again when he revealed that in the end, he was convinced that Reagan had been right about that. Since that time, GWHB, even after assuming the presidency, was depicted as invisible.

Then Dan Quayle was given a “feather” icon because he had to be seen as having less intellectual heft than an invisible man.

Then it got out of hand when a bunch of (I assume) right-wingers demanded that Clinton be given an icon, so Trudeau made him a waffle. From then on, all prominent politicians were assigned icons.

Oh, for the classy old days when he just used the White House backdrop to indicate the president was speaking!

AFAIK, Trudeau has never portrayed a sitting president in the strip. Never.

Even before Quayle, he used “Ron Headrest” as a substitute for Reagan. It’s a little late in the game to start accusing him of this.

Wendell Wagner’s list is of the individual volumes. The list of large format collections is:

The Doonesbury Chronicles
Doonesbury’s Greatest Hits
The People’s Doonesbury
Doonesbury Dossier: The Reagan Years
Doonesbury Deluxe: Selected Glances Askance
Recycled Doonesbury: Second Thoughts on a Gilded Age
Action Figure!
The Portable Doonesbury
The Bundled Doonesbury

Exapno, I’m pretty sure he showed Nixon in some very, very early strips. But he stopped pretty soon after (probably when he realized he couldn’t draw, so trying to depict real people would be way too embarrassing. The art on the strip looks polished now, but the earliest ones rival Dilbert in the bad-art department).

Doonesbury remains a great strip. Its strength, I’ve always felt, lies in the versatility of its characters. Their lives are not rigid; they change direction, they change opinions—they die. How many cartoonists let their established, beloved characters die? Peter Bagge comes to mind, but that’s about it.

The whole life of the strip has centered on the characters trying to find their centers, and their centers keep moving. Mike Doonesbury himself voted for Bush in 2000, f’Chrissakes, and you know, it really made sense.

Apart from the changes in drawing style (and administrations,) a lot about the strip has changed. The style of humor has changed. It’s not as wacky as it used to be, but it holds its own very well. And Trudeau continues to skewer anyone and everyone in power, and I don’t expect him to be at all kind to the next Democratic president.

I think his caricature style should be checked a little bit. I think the last person he drew as a person was Mike Dukakis. This “floating icon” bit needs to stop. I think it was brilliant the way he drew George H.W. Bush as the little speck in the air, non-entity that he was. And I’ll even agree that George W. Bush, drawn as an asterisk, is acceptable, since apart from summing up the 2000 election very well, it suggests a family resemblance. But Trudeau strained the joke a bit much with Dan Quayle’s feather, Bill Clinton’s waffle, Newt Gingrich’s bomb… (and did Bob Dole even have an icon? John Kerry?) Had Trudeau drawn other politicians as human beings, the non-entity joke would have been funnier. Or even if he gave other presidents and politicians the same kind of nudge he did to Reagan with his “Ron Headrest” character. Frankly, I think that would have been far more entertaining than the floating icons. (And anyway, there’s no way he could simply draw straight-up images of politicians after the way he skewered Reagan and Bush.)

Doonesbury has a point of view, and it can get preachy on occasion, but to dismiss the July 10 strip linked in the OP as preachy is hyperbole. Trudeau stays as topical as ever, drifting occasionally into preachiness, but that’s the risk you have to take with topical humor. On the whole he’s fair. Even those who disagree with him have to admit that he gets his facts right, and that he can back them up with solid information. This is why I don’t get how anyone can compare Doonesbury with the one-note, two-dimensional screeds of Bruce Tinsley’s “Mallard Fillmore.” Honestly, I don’t believe that conservatives can’t be funny; Bill Buckley certainly was funny, even though I agreed with him about practically nothing (and anyway, Buckley’s probably too erudite to translate to a comic strip.) Where are the (good) conservative humorists?

Anyway, Trudeau’s strip reflects his generation very well. And it reflects the generation before his very well. And he reflects the generation born during the last couple of decades of the twentieth century very well. But my generation, well… the poor guy just doesn’t get us. You know, the “Generation X” that the media tried to pigeonhole a few years back. He seemed to think we were good for another generation of campus radicalism, as with Mike’s kid brother Sal and the “Dr. Whoopie” franchise. Sal seems to have vanished somehow. Where’d he go, anyway? I can’t fault Trudeau for not getting us; my generation is just something too bizarre for the Baby Boomers to square with, it seems. The Baby Boomers, be they liberal, conservative or whatever, are chronic idealists; my generation have a “whatever works” kind of attitude, though we’re hardly devoid of ideological orientations, ourselves. So regardless of the fact that Trudeau can’t speak to my generation, I like what he has to say, and the way he says it.

He showed Kissinger during a sequence in the early '70s. It was just horrible.

I always liked the bad art in the early strips, particularly the Yale Daily News ones, and Bernie turning into a werewolf.

I remember Dukakis drawn as a walking mudpile who constantly chattered about being the child of Greek immigrants. It was a comment on the mudslinging Bush/Atwater campaign of 1988.

Well, “Ron Headrest” is close enough to showing the president as to make no difference as far as I’m concerned–saying “It’s not really the president, but a talking video image of the president that looks just like him” is a pretty fine line to draw, but even excepting Headrest, he certainly showed actual Watergate conspirators (“We’re Richard Nixon’s secret tapes club band!”…which was a funny punchline), Presidential daughters (Amy Carter for sure and I believe Trish Nixon) and other political figures.

I just don’t think the symbols are as good or as funny as showing the actual characters and while I gave up on Doonsbury in the mid-'90s, I believe that he stopped showing most major political figures. Even a voice balloon from the White House was better than pounding the same stale joke (“waffle”, “white feather”, etc ) day after day into the ground, IMO, YMMV.

And Ike–I loved Bernie the Werewolf!

Yeah, but I voted for him anyway.

Seriously, I never saw the mudpile, but I’m sure I haven’t read all the strips from 1988. I only remember seeing Dukakis once, showing up in October, if I remember right. It was just a straight caricature. I guess that since he was trailing in the polls by about 17 points, it was an excusable kindness.

I’ll have to dig into the archives and see this. I do remember the 1988 campaign as particularly nasty, and I remember not blaming America for such a dismal turnout at the polls that year.

See? Horks off the right people! :smiley:

And I have to say I prefer the “White House talking shots” over the use of Presidential icons. I know, the icons are more visual, but if you’re not going to draw someone, just don’t draw them.

Thanks for the list, Expano! Time to go browse Amazon…

One of the covers of TIME during the '88 election was a quite passable Trudeau showing Dukakis and Bush literally throwing mud at each other. His own characters are not terribly complex to draw, though, and most politicians have such similiar clothes and hairstyles it’d be hard to tell them apart unless he spent a lot of time on the faces.

He had a strip with Ted Kennedy speaking but all we saw was the press audience, with Rick finally giving him the immortal plea, “A verb, Senator, we need a verb!” I thought I remembered seeing TK once as himself, though, could be wrong.

I think he had portrayed Dubya as an asterisk with a cowboy hat at first? Then, for a while in 2004, as an asterisk with a Roman soldier outfit, in an increasingly battered helmet and cape. Has he ever done Cheney?


Not wrong, I definitely remember his face being depicted, I think it was on a TV screen showing a “life of the Kennedys” documentary. (“Young Kennedys are not allowed to run for office until they graduate college…”)

Exapno Mapcase writes:

> Wendell Wagner’s list is of the individual volumes.

That’s because what rjung asked was:

> I just wish there was a one-stop comprehensive guide to what large-collection
> volumes I need to buy to get a complete set.

I don’t believe that it’s possible to get all the strips in large-format volumes. I believe that there are lots of strips only available in the small format volumes. That’s why I listed what I did, which is the books it’s necessary to buy to get all of the strips.

Except that the collections contain some strips (or panels) not given in the original volumes. To be truly comprehensive you have to have both.

Or get The Bundled Doonesbury that has the CD with all the strips up to that time in it.

Still, when a newbie asks that question I’m always going to tell him to get nine easily available volumes rather than 50, especially if many are almost impossible to obtain collectors items. I’m a completist fanatic, and you may well be also, but that’s not who rjung is or what he was asking for.

rjung wrote:

> . . . a complete set . . .

Sounds like a completist to me.

Would it help if I admit that I didn’t know the large collections omitted strips from the smaller ones? :slight_smile:

I’ll do a complete Doonesbury collection after I replace all my Terry Pratchett novels with first-edition hardbacks. :smiley:


I picked up an almost complete set of that series up through That’s Doctor Sinatra, You Little Bimbo a few years ago at a library sale for 25 cents a pop.

No Doonesbury collection would be entirely complete without a copy of the scipt for “Doonesbury: The Musical.” It’s a genuine part of the Doonesbury characters’ ongoing story, bridges the gap between “You Give Great Meeting, Sid” and “Check Your Egos at the Door”.

There’s a distinct downside to owning “Doonesbury: The Musical” though.

It sucks. Powerful sucks. Immensely, immeasurably, immodestly.

And I actually own the damned thing.

I’ve seen the script in paperback format. You probably should have bought that instead.