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 students B.D., Boopsie, Mark and Zonker. But while the strip still remains character based and its tens of primary characters live interweaving, near soap operatic 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 politicians, or soldiers, or otherwise in a position to observe and participate in the popular trends of their day.

Artistically, Doonesbury began as very roughly sketched, 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 backdrops and interiors whose subtle details often morph as a strip progresses. His characters routinely break the fourth wall, advising readers, setting up backdrops, or presenting coupons 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 devices include a plot defying summer daydream cum reality, icons such as a bomb, waffle, asterisk, or feather used to represent prominent political figures, and animated objects such as Mr. Butts and Mr. Jay.

Characters, and their current avocations, include:
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  • Thanks to sighmoan for info on whom the characters were based on