Recent FAQS

FAQs

Beta-fresh answers, uploaded occasionally

Lets face it, our favorite comic strip is often obscure or inconsistent, and key characters are sometimes left stranded for years. Long-suffering readers are within their rights to demand some clarification. Use the "Ask GBT" form to email us your questions, and we will answer those we can on the Blowback page, and also archive the answers here.

Q: Is there a winner in the Bush Guard contest?
-- Lauren P., Santa Rosa, CA | March 19, 2004
A:Few will be surprised to hear that not even the proferred $10,000 flushed out a reliable new eye-witness to George W. Bush's alleged service at Dannelly Air National Guard base. The good news is that over 1500 of you took a shot at the consolation prize, providing us with hours of fascinating and only occasionally vituperative reading.

Out of respect for the quality of the submissions received, we have upgraded the consolation prize -- an original strip signed by a top studio intern -- to an original strip signed by her supervisor (GBT). The second place winner will receive a fully-autographed copy of Got War?, the latest Doonesbury tome. Third place gets you a genuine Duke swizzle stick.

Only-partly-judgmental souls that we are, the DTH&WP staff has not been able to agree on a runner-up. But we have managed to winnow an overwhelming harvest of prose down to three striking submissions. We leave it to you to make the final selection by voting for one of these finalists in the current STRAW POLL.

Next up on FAQ: A generous sampling of Bush Guard Service contest submission.

Q: Can we read some Bush Guard testimony? Who won?
-- Patrick P., Lompoc, CA | Storyline | September 16, 2004
A:Alas, none of the over 1600 entries we received qualified for the proferred $10,000.Three carefully and arbitrarily selected runner-ups were posted on the Straw Poll site, where DTH&WP readers passed judgement on them. Here are those submissions, and the prizes they have won -- followed by a generous and representative sampling of the entries that overflowed our in-box. We truly appreciate the efforts of all those who selflessly joined us in our efforts to take the Bush Guard story out of play.

FIRST RUNNER-UP (original of the 2-26-04 Doonesbury strip, signed by G.B. Trudeau):

I can't verify Bush's presence in Alabama, but as a dental professional I am intrigued with his dental records. Generally, an individual with a large bank account doesn't have any missing permanent molars without receiving a fixed bridge (#3 is missing, yet no bridge is placed between #2-4, #2 has a crown, but #4 only has a three surface restoration). The American public needs to see his posterior bitewings from 1973 and a current series of bitewings to better judge the authenticity of the information provided.
-- Barbara Vanderveen, Galt, CA

SECOND RUNNER-UP (signed copy of Doonesbury collection Got War?)

Bush and I were together during those months on a mission so secret it's taken years of therapy for me to remember. We were on board an alien vessel during the time in question, emissaries of the Pentagon on a successful mission to obtain "mental weaponry" far in advance of anything the Soviets had. Our memories were then wiped clean, except for the deepest recesses of the unconscious. I weep for the president's struggle with this trauma, and am coming forward to share my pain in interviews, book contracts, and the like. God bless America.
-- Matthew Wills, New York, NY

THIRD RUNNER-UP (fully-branded Duke swizzle stick)

I am an employee of the Nigerian government Toastmaster's Club. I am in hiding while rebels loot my country. In 1972 I was a colonel in the Alabama Air National Guard and flew many aircrafts. I was Bush's wingman. I was with him for his dental exams. I warned him against medical physical exams. You must keep this in strictest confidence. If you wish to pursue this business venture, then I shall need your fax and baking preferences.
-- Dr. Abdula E. Fraudena, Lagos, NIGERIA

Note: Management apologizes to those contestants whose testimony does not appear in the following sampling. In some cases, recent FCC rulings were an inhibiting factor. Essays over 10,000 words in length were not posted out of respect for those using dial-up modems. Special thanks to everyone who offered to sweeten the kitty. If we'd had a winner and all of you had followed through, the USO would have received an additional $16,590. If you would like to contribute directly, write to: Edward Powell, President, USO World Headquarters, 1008 Eberte Place SE, Suite 301, Washington Navy Yard, D.C. 20374.

Click here to read Bush Guard testimony

Q: What's the deal with the new "Blowback" feature? How is it different from the FAQ? How do I submit content?
-- A. Sims, Madison, WI | Out There | April 26, 2004
A:For years GBT has used this FAQ feature to answer selected queries from among those submitted to the DTH&WP. But Management has been criticized, understandably, for not making available a generous sampling of the other feedback the site receives. In response we have launched BLOWBACK, which will provide a constantly updated, judiciously edited supply of share-worthy e-mail regarding the strip and the site. Submissions to BLOWBACK can be made on the CONTACT page.
Q: I'm shocked by the current storyline. B.D. losing a leg? What was Trudeau thinking?!?
-- Lela A., Portland, OR | Storyline | May 08, 2004
A:This is what GBT told ABC News on 'This Week with George Stephanopoulos' last Sunday:

The strips are about sacrifice, about the kind of shattering loss that completely changes lives. In B.D., I've placed a central character in harm's way, and his charmed life takes a dramatic turn on a road outside Fallujah. In the opening panels, he's in shock, hallucinating, with voices cutting in and out. Medics call this time the golden hour, that small window of opportunity when lives are most easily saved. B.D. is medevaced out, and in the third strip, the point of view is reversed, revealing just how grievous his wound really is. We also see his hair, its presence almost as startling as the absence of his leg.

What I meant to convey is that B.D.'s life has been irrevocably changed, that another chapter has begun. He is now on an arduous journey of recovery and rehabilitation. What I'm hoping to describe are the coping strategies that get people through this. There is no culture of complaint among the wounded -- most feel grateful to be alive and respectful of those who have endured even worse fates. But for many, a kind of black humor is indispensable in fending off bitterness or despair, so that's what will animate the strips that follow.

I have to approach this with humility and care. I'm sure I won't always get it right, and I'm also sure people will let me know when I don't. But it seems worth doing. This month alone, we've sustained nearly 600 wounded-in-action. Whether you think we belong in Iraq or not, we can't tune it out; we have to remain mindful of the terrible losses that individual soldiers are suffering in our name.

Q: In a column called "Dissent Stinks if It Exploits the Pain of GI's", Bill O'Reilly criticized the current B.D. storyline, accusing Garry Trudeau of "using someone's personal tragedy to advance a political agenda". What's GBT's response to O'Reilly's assertion that he "crossed the line".
-- D.T., Hartford, CT | Storyline | May 10, 2004
A:While it's hardly a secret that Trudeau opposes the war in Iraq, he doesn't view it as a contradiction to value the warrior -- and the sacrifices he's making in our name. In a response to O'Reilly, Trudeau pointed out that he's been doing it for years. During the first Gulf War, Trudeau wrote over 200 consecutive strips about Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and at the request of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon Sullivan, the Pentagon assembled a show of those strips to tour in theater. Shortly thereafter, Trudeau was invited to Kuwait by a commander who had first read Doonesbury in Stars & Stripes in Vietnam and thought the cartoonist should meet his men. Upon arrival, Trudeau received two medals of commendation from different units in Kuwait. Most of the soldiers who followed the strip seemed to appreciate the attention paid to the day-to-day conditions of their lives, whether absurd or inspirational or tragic.
Q: Isn't this week's Sunday section out of sequence -- not to mention inappropriate?
-- C. Pulver, Hartford, CT | Storyline | May 26, 2004
A:Yes. Due to boneheaded creator scheduling, this week's Sunday section appears before B.D.'s arrival at Walter Reed Hospital (the facility referred to in the strip), and while he's still at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

As to the unfortunate coincidence of the last panel's artwork (drawn in April) with the recent grisly tragedy in Iraq, Trudeau shares your chagrin: "Most Sunday sections are prepared five to six weeks in advance, and today's strip was unfortunately overtaken by events. To 'hand someone his head' is a common expression, not normally associated with actual violence. I regret the poor timing, and apologize to anyone who was offended by an image that is now clearly inappropriate."

Those newspapers around the country who print their Sunday sections late were offered a substitute strip.

Q: How old is B.D. supposed to be? Chronologically, since he was in college in 1970, he should be in his mid-50's now. So how did he wind up "over there" in Iraq? I applaud what you're doing with his storyline wholeheartedly, but confusion reigns for me on this small point. By the way: What's his full name?
-- D.B. Selden, Sarasota, FL | June 03, 2004
A:B.D. (full name: B.D.) suffers from the same chronological incongruities as all inhabitants of the Doonesbury universe. The initial cast spent an inordinately long period of time in college (in Zonker's case, willfully), but in 1983 GBT's sabbatical allowed him to graduate them all into the wider world, a traumatic event depicted on Broadway in Doonesbury: A Musical Comedy. Ever since the return of the strip in 1984 and the post-Walden diaspora, the cast has lived within a chronology more in synch with the one readers experience. All of which is to say your sense of B.D.'s age is as good as anyone else's. If you put aside the dozen years he spent frozen in time at Walden and figure he graduated in 1983 at age 22 or so, he'd be in his mid-forties now. But even if he's in his mid-50's, he is realistically placed in Iraq alongside peers. The list of casualties confirms that Reservists of his age are indeed among the fallen.
Q: What was the inspiration for last Sunday's honor roll strip?
-- Peter D., Baltimore, MD | June 08, 2004
A:The famous Life magazine issue published the week of June 27th, 1969. It was entitled "Faces of the Dead in Vietnam, One Week's Toll", and contained photos of the faces of all 241 servicemen who died in Vietnam during a single week. Recalls Trudeau, "I remember exactly where I was standing in our kitchen when I picked up that issue. It's hard to overstate the impact it had on the country. The numbers had become faces, and the faces were heartbreaking."
Q: What did Ronald Reagan think of cartoonists?
-- P. Debray, Pittsburgh, PA | June 15, 2004
A:Reagan never took any press criticism personally, one of his greatest qualities. He claimed he read every one of the comics published in the Washington Post every day, and on one occasion invited editorial cartoonists to the White House. There he made a playful reference to Doonesbury's "Return to Reagan's Brain" series, saying "Cartoonists occupy a special place in my heart. I hope Garry Trudeau will remember that. It's heart. Not brain, heart." Nancy Reagan, however, was less forgiving. On reports that the president had stopped reading Doonesbury, she commented, "He hasn't stopped, but I have."
Q: In the June 9 strip published on Slate.com, the last panel reads "Tenet can't take all the blame." But, when I picked up my June 9 L.A. Times later that same day, the final panel read "Someone's got to take the blame." What gives? Are there alternative versions of the strip for more or less conservative publications, or do the local publications have some liberty in changing your text? Inquiring minds want to know (or at least I do).
--Ken Luer, LA, CA

Are you aware that NY Newsday is censoring the strip? The name of Tenet was removed from the strips of 6-9-04 and 6-10-04.
-- Larry S., NY, NY

June 23, 2004
A:The recent week of strips on the CIA had already been shipped to clients when director George Tenet suddenly resigned. GBT quickly re-wrote dialogue in the Wednesday 6-9-04 and Thursday 6-10-04 strips to reflect this development, and sent the new versions out. Some clients received them in time, but others (especially those not yet receiving the feature electronically) didn?t -- or failed to notice that they had. Hence the disparity between published versions.