Martha Thomases: Disappearing Doonesbury
Doonesbury is going on an open-ended hiatus. Boo. Hiss.
In the link above, creator Garry Trudeau says, “I’ve done the strip for 43 years — 45 if you include the college edition [at Yale] — and I’m ready for an extended break.” He wants to spend his time writing Alpha House, his brilliant series on Amazon Prime that stars John Goodman and Clark Johnson.
But what about me? What about my needs?
I’ve written before about how much I love Trudeau’s brilliant newspaper strip. I’ve been reading it almost as long as it’s been running in syndication. Back before the Internets, my mom would cut each strip out of the paper and mail them to me when I was away at school. That started when I was in high school. The Beatles were still together.
Since then, I think I’ve read the strip every day it’s run. Trudeau took some time off over the years, to take a break, to recharge his creative batteries. At first, this caused something of a scandal, since no other syndicated cartoonist had done that before. The risk of losing income through losing audience and subscribing papers was too high.
Trudeau showed it could be done. These days, cartoonists take breaks when they need them.
I get that intellectually, and politically I’m with them. No one should be burned out by over-work, whether that work is drawing Pulitzer Prize-winning comics or making fries. We each deserve to live a life balanced among responsibilities, joys, family and community. If we’re going to talk about the “dignity” of work, we should treat all workers with dignity.
Having said that, I really resent this break he’s taking. He made me fall in love with these characters, to watch them live and grow, and now he’s taking them away. I’ve loved B.D. and Joannie and Mark and Duke and Mike and especially Zonker as much as — no, more — than some people in my own family.
Trudeau promises they will be back on Sundays, at least for the foreseeable future. I can read my old collections, and the archives online. It will be like going off to college, where, instead of seeing your folks every day, you call them once a week. They are still part of your life, just not as much.
Don’t forget to come home for Thanksgiving, Garry. We’ll save you a seat at the table.
I remember the last break, when he went off and wrote the musical. Indeed, I’m not sure it is WAS a break; I think he’d chosen to end the strip and pursue other interests, and came back to the well when others’ only interest were “When you doin’ Doonesbury again?”
Aaron McGruder ended his strip The Boondocks to do the animated series, just returned fora new season. They are together some of the best work in satire in the modern era. Easily on par with Lil’ Abner and South Park.