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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 frequently answer some of the best!
Doonesbury is almost as old as I am (I was born eight months before it launched in October 1970) and I’ve only recently discovered that I love the strip. I have been reading all of it, from the beginning. I am wondering why there are no strips in the archive between January 2, 1983 and September 30, 1984. Is there any way I can see these missing strips?
Kandy Smith | Creating the Strip | Poplarville, MS | April 06, 2011
Unfortunately the answer to your question is “No,” but there’s an interesting explanation. On January 2, 1983 Doonesbury ceased publication as Trudeau began an unprecedented 18-month sabbatical from the strip -- causing, among other things, the Wisconsin State Assembly to issue a declaration pleading for “public calm in the face of this grave crisis."
In the recently-published 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective GBT commented on this transitional period:
"For the first twelve years, the core characters in Doonesbury stayed put, happily hunkered down at Walden, the cozy commune that housed them as they faithfully failed to age out of college. Finally, in 1984, I took a sabbatical and hit the reset button. The strip’s static universe lurched into real time, dislodging the cast from their bucolic surroundings and sending them to join secondary characters such as Duke, Lacey, J.J., and Zeke, who had been growing up in a parallel universe more responsive to the passage of time."
The details of what transpired among the various Doonesbury cast members during this period were chronicled by Trudeau in Doonesbury: A Musical Comedy (with music by Elizabeth Swados), which opened on Broadway in November 1983. The strip’s return to syndication on September 30, 1984 was heralded on the cover of Life magazine, and the accompanying story provided status updates on the main characters. Trudeau later referred to this period, during which he wrote the Broadway show, a political cabaret called Rap Master Ronnie, and two screenplays (and had two children with his wife Jane Pauley) as “the most interesting two years of my life.”
When I heard that Liz Taylor had died I immediately remembered that she was in Doonesbury once, but I can't remember when. When?K. Berg | Characters | Aptos, CA | March 23, 2011
When John Warner of Virginia, then married to the legendary actress, was elected to the U.S. Senate, Congresswoman Lacey Davenport and her husband Dick attended a soiree honoring "Senator and Mrs. Elizabeth Taylor," as recounted in this series from January 1979. Although the Warners were furious at the time, and GBT was censured by the Virginia Assembly, we revisit this small annoying moment for Ms. Taylor as our way of honoring her larger-than-life life.
As long as the Red Rascal is passing into legendhood, can we please take a look back at his human origins? When did Jeff first show up in the strip?Phil | Characters | Minneapolis, MN | March 18, 2011
At the time of his sudden and dramatic entrance, the mere mortal subsequently revered as the Red Rascal had not even received his nomme de Redfern yet, as chronicled in this series from the end of 1982.
The Royal Wedding is a conflict on Zonk's calendar? Can you run a refresher course on his time as an English peer? I don't remember the title or how he got it.Peg | Characters | Calgary, CANADA | March 08, 2011
Your memory lapse is regrettable but understandable, and we are pleased to revisit the 1986 episode in which the High Prince of Inner Space acquired an actual Old World title. Cheerio.
I'm so sorry that Daisy Doonesbury died without a word. In the last few years she was a hoot. I wish I could see her in her prime, which I don't remember.Esther Lee Davenport | Characters | Culleoka, TN | February 16, 2011
Throughout her life Daisy Doonesbury displayed a high level of hoot, not to mention can-do and fortitude, as evidenced by her response to The Great Flood of '93.
The strips on politicians carrying handguns reminds me of the time Mike was involved in a subway shootout, where everybody was carrying and everybody opened up. As I recall, it was inspired by the Bernie Goetz case in New York City. How about sharing that blast from the past?H. Soto | Storyline | Brooklyn, NY | January 29, 2011
Good memory. You are thinking of the 1985 "Subway Avenger" series, in which a simple question led to an action-packed storyline. To read the sordid tale, click here.
Okay, clearly I've lost a few brain cells. Who the heck is the bearded dude in a top hat with Zeke in last Saturday's strip?Carl | Characters | KC, MO | January 20, 2011
That be Skid, a retired biker and one of the Widow D's numerous colorful paramours. Their courtship had a rather nasty hidden dimension -- one which involved Zeke, naturally -- as revealed in this series of strips from 2007 and 2008.
Where the heck did Benjy Doonesbury come from? Google yields no results. He doesn't have a Cast bio. He is vapor. Is GBT jumping the shark with a new "old" character? Or did I miss something?Wayne | Characters | Hazel Park, MI | January 05, 2011
Yep, you missed a few things, but we're happy to catch you up on Mike's baby bro. While still in high school he changed his name from Benjy to Sal Putrid; in college he tried to change his roommate (but was stuck with Trip Trippler); and post-college he banked some serious change as legendary safe sex representative Dr. Whoopee.
Where does Doonesbury rank with respect to daily cartoon longevity? Has it surpassed Li'l Abner or Charlie Brown?David Sullivan | Creating the Strip | Las Vegas, NV | December 23, 2010
At 40, Doonesbury is getting up there in terms of a feature created by a single person, but Li’l Abner ran for 43 years, Peanuts for almost 50, and at 60, Beetle Bailey is the longest-running feature still being done by its original creator. There have been longer runs when the torch was passed to someone else. Little Orphan Annie ran from 1924-1974, then again as Annie from 1979-2010, a total of 81 years of new material. Bringing Up Father (aka Jiggs and Maggie) ran for 87 years. Popeye, launched in 1929, ended its daily run in 1994, but continues in Sunday-only form, as does the 113-year-old Katzenjammer Kids, and Gasoline Alley is still going at 92 -- the longest-running feature still appearing as both daily and Sunday.
I was enjoying the "Zonker Harris Day" storyline as a fun fantasy, but I see from the latest Blowback entries that it has a reality-based dimension. Could you please clarify a bit on what the heck is going on? Thanks!Grady S. | Storyline | Santa Cruz, CA | December 03, 2010
Zonker Harris Day and Duke Day are decades-old traditions at Wesleyan University -- hallowed occasions for celebration and music. Several months ago residents of the Westco dorm wrote GBT to make sure he knew that Wesleyan's president had called Zonker Harris Day "stupid," and banned the Z-man's name and image -- leading students to dub the festival "Ze Who Must Not Be Named Day." Understandably outraged, the Westco denizens defended the legendary slacker, telling Trudeau, "We cannot stand for an excellent babysitter, student, football player, and beach rights activist to be so dishonored." For more on the developing crisis -- and for an interesting gloss on the "Ze" aspect -- check out this Wesleyan Argus article.