Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Doonesbury Chronicles

1975, undated later edition, from Holt, Rinehart and Winston
G. B. Trudeau
The Doonesbury Chronicles
Bought newish for $10.95
Worn paperback with stains

The first large collection of the newspaper strips shows Trudeau improving his artwork (soon the non-speaking characters no longer lack mouths, as in the era represented in Just a French Major) and broadening his scope.  Trudeau not only moves off the campus at times, he follows regulars, semi-regulars, and guest stars to Washington, D.C., Berkeley, and Saigon.  Such major characters as Zonker and Joanie make memorable entrances.  There's a definite irony to B.D. thinking Mike is going for some "Mrs. Robinson" action, since Joanie's daughter will years later become Mike's first wife.  Zonker is a mostly asexual hippie "freak," who does wacky things like scuba-dive in Walden Puddle.  It's implied that protestor Mark dates girls, but we never actually see it.  (Years later, he'll have a neocon boyfriend.)

Just in the four or five years that this collection covers, the characters change, most dramatically with Joanie, who goes from runaway wife to daycare worker to law school student.  And of course, we see the country move from the might-as-well-still-be-the-1960s to the post-Watergate era.  Not surprisingly, this is the first book I own to mention President Ford.

Reading it this time, I remembered that I liked Nichole, partly because I identified with her as a young sarcastic feminist with brown hair and glasses, and I was disappointed that she was phased out after a few years.  I was surprised this time to see how much Doonesbury uses child characters, most notably Ellie at the daycare, but also a few short-lived characters during a school-busing thread.

There seems to be less pop culture in this collection than later, just a few music references (including a Sunday spread from the POV of Gladys Knight's Pips) and some morphing Calder art.  As I recall, as Doonesbury moved into the later 1970s, there was more about things like disco and jogging, while still including deeper social and political issues.  Reading this comic is usually a painless way to revisit the past.

I just wish it were, um, funny.  It makes me smile but it rarely makes me laugh.

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