Aaron McGruder talks about season 2, movies, returning to comics

The L.A. Times has an extensive profile on Aaron McGruder and his work on the second season of the television version of The Boondocks. Aaron talks about the difficulties of putting out the comic while being thrown into making an animated television show, what to expect in season two that starts next week, more use of the “N” word, the possible movie, and the potential to come back to the comic strip.

McGruder is still haunted by the memories of bouncing between supervising a complex animated series and churning out a seven-day-a-week strip. The ordeal of juggling both gigs nearly crushed him. He was unhappy with the early storyboards and artwork on the series, and he was increasingly frustrated by the relentless delays, snafus and difficulties of working with an overseas studio.

“There’s only one word for that first season — insanity,” he says. “It was just a horrible situation. I hadn’t worked one day of TV in my life, and all of a sudden I’m running my own show. I didn’t know when you work on an animated show that there’s a crisis every week. Only the first year working on the strip alone was harder.” What’s more, McGruder admits he’s a lot less confrontational. “I was absolutely a [jerk]. There were certain things that I gave up — patience, sleep. I was under so much pressure. I took myself too seriously.”

From this distance, he’s far from dissatisfied with the inaugural season — the series represented the realization of a lifelong dream, and it earned solid ratings for Adult Swim — the home of off-the-wall fare such as “Robot Chicken” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” — and a fan base that hailed McGruder at last summer’s Comic-Con.

More significant, “The Return of the King,” an episode about Dr. Martin Luther King’s reversal of his “turn the other cheek” philosophy after awakening from a 32-year coma and witnessing bling-wearing rappers and raunchy images on BET, scored him a Peabody Award for “distinguished achievement and meritorious service.”

Now, the cartoonist who once bragged about calling Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a “murderer” to her face and who has taken on BET, the Bush administration and the Democratic Party, is emerging gradually from his self-imposed exile. He’s still intensely private — McGruder does not discuss his personal life, and don’t expect to see him pop up on “The View” or other shows to promote his series.

But his “dark side” has lightened up considerably in sync with his satisfaction over “The Boondocks.” In addition to working with his team — a dedicated collection of writers and artists who share his vision — the key difference was giving up the strip. “If I have achieved anything, it’s not so much financial independence but to give myself the opportunity to relax, to not stretch myself too thin,” he says. “If I’m happy, it’s because I’m happy with the show. I was not cut out to be a cartoonist in a newspaper. Doing it on their terms was not working.”

2 thoughts on “Aaron McGruder talks about season 2, movies, returning to comics

  1. “Plus, I see the demise of newspapers, the erosion of circulation, and I thought, ‘Is this really a secure job? Comics may not last forever.’…

    …Huey and Riley might even wind up in a future version of a “Boondocks” strip. “I can go back and do the strip whenever I want to,” he says. “Now I could go online, go wireless. There’s a whole [new] distribution out there. So it’s not necessarily gone.”

    Hmm, what an interesting take on things. 🙂

    As much as I disagreed with a lot of the opinions he expressed in the strip, I was a little peeved when he seemed to casually throw it all away in favor of an animated cartoon. It’s kind of nice to hear it wasn’t a casual thing.

  2. There is an early interview I read and to be honest I can’t remember where I read it. I know it was an interview in a college paper when Boondocks was first syndicated. In it McGruder admitted that his character designs were heavily influenced by anime and that he hoped to move his characters to animation, and had designed the characters to make it easy to do so. So I believe from the start he wanted to use the comics as a springboard into the television arena.

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