Have pecked around the 40th Anniversary “Doonesbury” collection (and strips after) and have some followup thoughts.
Turns out the daily strip has been running classics since March of last year not because Trudeau wanted to blow away the a-historical fog (though it has the advantage of doing that), but because he wanted to take time off to write for the political sitcom “Alpha House.” Still does new Sunday strips. That, however, is one process used to retired strips in the past, so makes you wonder …
I missed the strip that makes the connection between Mr. Butts and “Zap” comix (that is, R. Crumb), but glad to find it was acknowledged.
A more troubled homage/swipe, of course, was Duke and Hunter S. Thompson. I knew Thompson was plenty pissed about Duke, but did not how intense and long-term the resentment was (sending Trudeau a letter full of used toilet paper — whew!). Trudeau notes: “Like most people, I never met Hunter S. Thompson. It’s just as well.” I did meet him, once, and as I noted elsewhere, it seemed to me he had been taken over by his persona. So I have a half-baked theory about the Duke thing. Trudeau goes on: “”In his view, I had appropriated his greatest asset — his wild-man image — and simultaneously devalued it through ridicule (even though Duke had inarguably contributed to his fame). The loss of control seemed to unhinge him.” But if you’ve been absorbed by your persona, it’s all you got — it’s your whole self, and so messing with it is a more extreme violation than it is with somebody for whom it’s only an act, however heartfelt. Trudeau hit about the right note by saluting Thompson after he offed himself and then having Duke continue on, no longer tethered at all to his inspiration.
Last, I have long puzzled why I could not get a bead on Nguyen Van Phred. Humanize the Viet Cong, sure, but I was not around for his earliest encounters in Nam with B.D. and he always seemed cartoon-y in the not-good way. Sure enough, Trudeau now thinks Phred was misconceived at the start. “The war I’d conjured up [in 1972] was a young man’s magical thinking, a hippie fantasia where everyone would get along if just given half a chance. The GIs in the field reading the strip in Stars and Stripes knew better, but many of them told me later they were just glad someone was paying attention to them.” More than getting B.D. and Phred back together on the killing fields of their youth during a reunion in Viet Nam, Trudeau made up for his early lapse by ensuring he never overlooked what has been called “the hue of war” during the strip’s lifetime. Trudeau explained why he sent B.D. to Iraq: “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.” Hence the permanent injuries to both B.D. and Toggle. I’m pleased that the one newspaper strip I ever sent away for and framed features Alex Doonesbury and Leo “Toggle” DeLuca (and, offscreen, his madcap Mom).
PS: For those wondering if I keep up, yes, I think Treudeau has real hoof-in-mouth diseases with this one and has not through trough the issues enough.