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Doonesbury – Past, Present, and Future

NPR talked to Garry Trudeau and a couple others about Doonesbury.

It all began as an irreverent strip called Bull Tales in the Yale Daily News when Garry Trudeau was a junior… The strip caught the attention of a fledgling newspaper syndicate which told Trudeau the drawing and lettering needed work but also told him it read like dispatches from the front lines of the counter culture.

“You can’t exaggerate the importance of novelty in jumpstarting a career,” Trudeau says. “People were so surprised by this strip that was about sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll and politics and all the things that I was concerned about and was thinking about in college that I got cut a lot of slack.”


Doonesbury © G. B. Trudeau

Although Trudeau has opposed most American military interventions of the last 50 years, he developed great respect for the men and women who have served in the all-volunteer armed services. Col. William Nash, a fan of the comic strip, arranged to have Trudeau snuck into Kuwait in the aftermath of the first Gulf War so the cartoonist could get a sense of military life.

“He brought the reality of war to the American people. And that’s a very important thing to do,” Nash says, his voice choked with emotion. “Bringing the reality of the world through a cartoon, is his great contribution to our society.”

The interview segment discusses Doonesbury introducing gays and feminism to the comics page, and taking on insane political policies.

As for being a Sunday-only page now:

“The one thing I miss about not being able to write the [daily] strips is that I can’t tell stories anymore.” But Trudeau says he doubts he will return to writing a daily strip because he has fallen out of the rhythm of it.

The very near future:

[O]n inauguration day, he plans to suspend work on the Twitter feed of his character Roland B. Hedley, Jr., which has been a comedy haiku that gave the cartoonist an opportunity to comment on the Trump administration.

Listen to the NPR audio and read the transcript.

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