Doonesbury was created by G.B. Trudeau
, a Yale
undergraduate, in 1968. Born as "Bull Tales
" and rechristened "Doonesbury" upon syndication
in 1970, the comic strip's title character was modeled after G.B.T.'s classmate Charlie Pillsbury
(currently running for Congress
as the Green Party
's candidate from Connecticut
's Third Congressional District1
). Pillsbury's college nickname was "Doone", a slang
term meaning "someone not afraid to make a fool of himself", and Michael Doonesbury was correspondingly earnest and laughable. The comic strip originally focused on the title character's hapless antics, and his interactions with fellow Walden College
. But while the strip still remains character based and its tens of primary characters live interweaving, near soap opera
tic timelines which continue to puzzle non-devotees, it also came to express a sharply editorial
political slant. Trudeau's ultra-liberal
perspective is best expressed for me in character Mark Slackmeyer
's gleeful GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY!
verdict, handed down from the vantage point of a radio reporter covering the Watergate
scandal. In fact a number of Doonesbury characters are members of the media
, or politician
s, or soldier
s, or otherwise in a position to observe and participate in the popular trends of their day. Art
istically, Doonesbury began as very roughly sketch
ed, but in the past decades Trudeau has learned how to draw
and some of his strips are striking, if not beautiful. His particular talent
lies in drawing backdrop
s and interior
s whose subtle details often morph as a strip progresses. His characters routinely break the fourth wall
, advising readers, setting up backdrops, or presenting coupon
s which can be clipped and mailed to real world politicians
. Trudeau acknowledges his humor's inpenetrability- in one long Sunday strip, his characters set up a helpline
that readers can call to have a particular punchline
explained to them. Other occasional and surreal device
s include a plot
defying summer daydream
cum reality, icons such as a bomb
, or feather
used to represent prominent political figures, and animated objects such as Mr. Butts
and Mr. Jay
Characters, and their current avocations, include:
- Mike Doonesbury- Baby boomer, co-founder of the Walden Commune, runs the software startup Mikim. Ex husband of J.J., husband of Kim, father of Alex.
- Kim Rosenthal- Airlifted Americanized Vietnamese orphan, Gen X coder. Mike's wife and business associate.
- Alex Doonesbury- Pre-teen ecoterrorist. Mike and J.J.'s daughter.
- B.D.- Based on the Yale football player Brian Downing. Veteran of Vietnam and the Gulf War, football coach at Walden College. Husband of Boopsie, father of Samantha, employer of Zonker.
- Barbara Ann Boopstein ("Boopsie")- Cheesecake, B-level, sometime pornographic actress, previously a juror in the O.J. Simpson trial, channels the ancient warrior Hunk-Ra. Wife of B.D., mother of Samantha.
- Samantha- B.D. and Boopsie's daughter.
- Sid Kibbitz- Boopsie's agent.
- Zonker Harris- Terminal stoner, lottery winner, prize winning tannist, previously lieutenant governor of American Samoa, bakes marijuana brownies for AIDS patients. Samantha's nanny.
- Zipper Harris- Walden College football player, cofounder of EVulture.com. Zonker's half-brother.
- Uncle Duke- Based on Hunter S. Thompson. Previously a gonzo journalist, Iranian captive, orphanage entrepeneur, currently an advisor to Jesse Ventura. Not really Zonker's uncle.
- Honey Huan- Previously a translator for Chairman Mao Zedong. Duke's sidekick and wannabe girlfriend.
- Joanie Caucus- Justice department attorney. Deadbeat mother of J.J., mother of Jeff.
- Rick Redfern- Investigative reporter for the Washington Post. Joanie's husband, Jeff's father.
- Jeff Redfern- Cofounder of EVulture.com, twentysomething C.I.A. operative. Son of Joanie and Rick.
- J.J. Doonesbury- Performance artist and sculptor. Mike's ex-wife, Alex Doonesbury's mother.
- Zeke Brenner- Previously the caretaker of Duke's Montana estate. J.J.'s rugged but fundamentally scrub-ish boyfriend.
- Mark Slackmeyer- Previously a radical campus activist nicknamed "Magaphone", radio disk jockey and, along with his conservative life-partner Chase Talbott III, a commentator on NPR's All Things Being Equal
- Alice P. Schwartzman- Ex-homeless heiress. Elmont's wife.
- Elmont- Schizophrenic sax player for Elmont and the Dumpster Divers, floor reporter at the 1996 Democratic convention for NPR's Urban Home Companion. Alice's husband.
- Roland Hedley- Television reporter for ABC Wide World of News
- Jimmy Ray Thudpucker- Leader of the Ho Chi Min City band Hearts & Minds
- Rev. Scot Sloan- New Age-y minister/enabler
- Andy Lippencott- Died of AIDS in 1989. Law school classmate of Joanie's and a recurring figure in her dreams.
- Mr. Butts- Gigantic walking cigarette, a spokesproduct for the tobacco industry
- Thanks to sighmoan for info on whom the characters were based on