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The Comics Journal bashes Doonesbury

Tucker Stone takes an ignorant review of Doonesbury over at The Comics Journal:

At this point you?re probably thinking one of two things: either that Doonesbury is such an easy target at this point that criticizing Trudeau for being a complacent self-important boomer is about as shocking as the assertion that Orson Welles put on a little bit of weight towards the end of his life; or, that I?m a callow stripling whose disdain for Doonesbury is a direct function of a deep and abiding moral bankruptcy. To these hypothetical criticisms I will say that there is probably a grain of truth in both of these statements. On the one hand, I do not believe it is at all controversial to assert that it has been a long, long time since anyone in the world of cartooning actually cared about Doonesbury as an actual cartooning artifact. By far the most interesting thing about the strip is how generations of successive ghost artists have interpreted Trudeau?s, shall we say, strange anatomical proclivities. Seeing any of his characters? noses drawn in 3D is about as terrifying a spectacle as the modern comic strip has to offer

To summarize his main points: “I’m younger than the Doonesbury strip therefore it must suck. And I didn’t do much homework before I wrote this piece.”

But I appreciate this part of R. Fiore’s response on the comments:

By now Doonesbury is without a doubt the greatest of all topical strips. It has the breadth and depth of a social novel, and a cast of characters that can encompass any subject he cares to address. To say that he created the self-absorption of the Baby Boom generation is ridiculous, though it is perfectly just to call him an exemplar of it. He retains far more of his original creative force at this stage of his career than Schulz did.

Correction: The afore mentioned critique of Doonesbury was written by Tim O’Neil, not Tucker Stone.

Community Comments

#1 Norm Feuti
August/6/2012
@ 10:59 am

I guess there’s absolutely nothing else going on in the world of comics if he can only come up with “I don’t like Doonesbury” as a topic to write about.

#2 Jamie Smith
August/6/2012
@ 11:44 am

Tim O’Neil contributed the “review” in question.

#3 Jeff Knurek
August/6/2012
@ 11:59 am

I was wondering why the word “douche” has come back into fashion. Obviously to describe the author of this idiotic piece of dribble.

#4 John Read
August/6/2012
@ 1:36 pm

I wonder how many people who read The Comics Journal read “Doonesbury.” Or comic strips. Or mainstream anything.

#5 Stephen Beals
August/6/2012
@ 2:28 pm

Wow? Where to begin? Oh, why begin? I’m surprised the Journal is still around. I would be surprised if Doonesbury wasn’t still around.

I like Fiore’s comment, but I have to point out that Trudeau is younger than Schulz was in the forth decade of his strip. I still say the last couple of years of Peanuts was hilarious.

#6 Tom Richmond
August/6/2012
@ 4:37 pm

Another example of the incredible self-centered nature of the internet generation. If it’s not in their radar, it must suck. Garry has forgotten more about great cartooning than 90% of any young cartoonists with this attitude will ever know. Sad.

#7 Donald Rex Jr.
August/6/2012
@ 5:46 pm

Funny how so many wonder why the Comics Journal is still around who have never read it. No one can deny Doonsbury is complacent, or support the claim that TCJ is or ever has been.
All those dern words! Grrrr!!

#8 Stephen Beals
August/6/2012
@ 5:58 pm

I read the Comics Jornal. A lot. It went off my radar around 1991. Doonesbury didn’t.

#9 Tony Isabella
August/7/2012
@ 5:17 am

A few days ago, I made my usual complaint about the lack of mainstream material in the annual Best American Comics anthology. Asked to define “mainstream,” I included comic strips. On that note, I would say that Doonesbury’s week-long storyline about voter suppression and the following “Alex taking over the strip” story are both worthy of inclusion in next year’s volume. Topical humor and generational humor and both were executed wonderfully.

#10 Tom Heintjes
August/7/2012
@ 8:33 am

Wow, I was overcome by douche fumes just reading that article.

#11 Dave Astor
August/7/2012
@ 10:09 am

The writer of “The Comics Journal” piece is just plain wrong. I think “Doonesbury” was, and remains, a great comic. Funny, insightful, and all that, decade after decade. Garry Trudeau juggles humor, social/political commentary, and a huge cast of characters that one cares about as people.

And the writer’s comment that only one other comic (“Peanuts”) has been done by its original creator into a fifth decade (40-plus years) is not true; other examples off the top of my head include Mort Walker’s “Beetle Bailey,” Bil Keane’s “The Family Circus,” Mell Lazarus’ “Momma,” Johnny Hart’s “B.C.,” and Lee Falk’s “The Phantom” and “Mandrake the Magician.”

#12 Anna Martina
August/7/2012
@ 9:00 pm

I disagree with the response, but only when it comes to the Schultz point. If you ask me, the low point in Peanuts was during the 80’s. If you do the math, Doonesbury has been around for 42 years now. So to do the kind of comparison the response calls for, one would be looking at Peanuts during the early 90s, or exactly 8 years before the strip ended.

During the last decade of Peanuts, Schultz breathed new live into his feature. Schultz’s drawing style became looser than it’d ever been, he started drawing Snoopy in positions he hadn’t in decades, and even added dot gradients to enhance the art. Additionally, Rerun’s resurgence as a regular character enabled Schultz to experiment with different settings and new plots- particularly once Lucy mellowed enough to create three-way sibling conflict. Schulz brought back his original creative force, but made it better.

Doonesbury, on the other hand, has seen far less change in the past 20 years. The art style has stayed consistent, and with a few exceptions nothing particularly new has happened in terms of the strip’s “routine.” (That’s how I think of the standard plot lines that a strip falls back on- like Snoopy’s WWI Flying Ace bit, or Zonker working at McFriendlies.)

See, Peanuts was a strip with ups and downs, while Doonesbury has remained somewhat consistent. The author of the response either failed to take that into consideration, or did the math wrong and is thinking about 80s peanuts. 90s is some of the freshest and most original work of Schulz’s career.

#13 Jeff Darcy
August/8/2012
@ 11:11 am

Trudeau deserves another Pulitzer for his strips/reporting on soldiers
fighting in the mid-east wars. Reading Doonesbury the other day I was simply just awestruck of how he’s been
able to maintain such freshness,richness and sophistication
after all these years.

Amazing after all the Coors drinking and tanning his characters
are still looking sharp and going strong

#14 JLG
August/25/2012
@ 6:09 am

Anna Martina:

I couldn’t possibly disagree more. Doonesbury is INCREDIBLY different from where it was in the early 1990s. Nothing about it is the same, because none of the characters are at the same point in their lives. They’ve divorced, remarried, found new careers, seen their kids grow up. They joined the dot-com bubble, seen it collapse around them, and start over. They’ve run for president, moved to Iraq to commence with the war profiteering, and given shelter to a deposed dictator. And the political and cultural context from then to now is different as can be, and it’s to Trudeau’s credit that he continues to keep abreast of it all and weave it into the writing so well.
Compared to Doonesbury, Peanuts’ changes in the late 90s amounted to very little. (Not knocking Peanuts, just saying that in terms of changes to the strips, there’s no comparison).

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