is a daily comic strip
written and drawn by Bruce Tinsley. Started in the early 1990s at The Daily Progress
in Charlottesville, Virginia
, it has been distributed by King Features Syndicate
since 1994. The strip's name is taken from its main character, a politically conservative personified duck
. The premise: Mallard is a retired newspaper
reporter who now works as a reporter for a TV
station in Washington, D.C.
Featuring a handful of regular supporting characters (nearly all of which are stereotypes), the strip focuses on Mallard's right-wing viewpoint. Favorite targets of Tinsley's jabs include Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, the Democratic Party, the "liberal media", liberal Hollywood celebrities, the National Endowment for the Arts, Environmentalists, Feminists and the rest of the Republican Party's hit list.
Tinsley describes his target audience as "the average person out there: the forgotten American taxpayer who's sick of the liberal media and cultural establishments that act like he or she doesn't exist." Shortly after the strip got started, editors at The Daily Progress asked Tinsley to tone down its conservative bias. He refused; he was fired. Mallard Fillmore was then picked up by The Washington Times for their commentary section, but later moved it to the regular comics page. Syndication came shortly thereafter. As of this writing, it is run by about 400 newspapers in the United States, and enjoys an exceptional growth rate.
Some source material was obtained from kingfeatures.com
I have been a big newspaper comics fan since I was a kid. As a teen, I thought Bloom County and The Far Side were as important to starting the day as cereal and milk. When Berke Breathed and Gary Larson decided to retire, I was devastated. Gary Trudeau's sabbatical was long and painful for me. The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics has been a book on my coffee table for over a decade. I think I know from comics as much as the next person.
I was introduced to Mallard Fillmore by the Tallahassee Democrat, which runs it beneath Doonesbury in the daily comics section. At first, I thought How interesting... I've never seen a serialized strip with such an overt conservative viewpoint... a sort of political counterpoint to Doonesbury! However, after several years of reading it six days a week, I have concluded that it is pure crap.
Granted, I am not of a conservative mindset, but even as a comics fan, I view Mallard Fillmore as simplistic garbage. And I'm talking Nancy and Sluggo simplistic. Bazooka Joe simplistic. Which means it's just lame, and that might be okay in itself, but Mallard Fillmore isn't funny — it's mean. Oftentimes hateful. Sometimes even bigoted. I find it to be a good example of the pitiful debasement of political discourse in America. For example, during the 2000 presidential campaign and for weeks after the election was finally resolved, one of Mallard Fillmore's running jokes was over Al Gore's lack of perceivable eyebrows. Eyebrow jokes. Weeks worth of them. And while Doonesbury is one day making clever character references to George W. Bush's DUI arrest and hypocrisy, then moving on the next day to an unrelated topic, Tinsley is cracking wise about Barbra Streisand having cross-eyes from donating money to the Democrats, and day after day about Al Gore "inventing" the Internet. This is political commentary? It's just f—king sad.
Finally, there's the unexplained name play of the strip's title character, referring to America's thirteenth president, Millard Fillmore. Fillmore was a moderate in the Whig Party, serving as President from 1850-1853. He was big on political compromise, and after the Whig Party disintegrated in the 1850s, he refused to join the Republican Party. I'm not sure if the association with an ultra-conservative cartoon duck is ironic or just plain stupid. Maybe it doesn't matter. Perhaps the joke is on Tinsley: Millard Fillmore was America's most forgettable President.