Garry Trudeau Critical Essays

Introduction

Garry Trudeau 1948–

American cartoonist, essayist, and screenwriter. "Doonesbury" evolved from a series of cartoons entitled "Bull Tales" written for the Yale Daily News while Trudeau was an undergraduate. The strip, which poked fun at campus celebrities, interested a newspaper syndicate and was launched nationally in 1970. Along the way the scope was broadened and the comic became a satire of contemporary politics and culture instead of campus hijinks. "Doonesbury" is one of a few politically oriented comic strips with a continuous story line. It was recognized as revolutionary in the medium because it satirized public officials without the mask of fictional locales such as Al Capp used in "L'il Abner." Real life characters appear as themselves and Trudeau allows them to damn themselves with their own words. All political persuasions come under attack from Trudeau's pen, and he is as unsparing with left-wing characters as he is with right-wing. An intelligent follower of the news and a meticulous researcher, Trudeau sometimes creates strips that are obscure to those without his knowledge of current political events and cultural trends. He does not write his strips far in advance of publication, which makes their appearance in the papers almost concurrent with the events he is satirizing. Because of this topicality and his cutting irony he is sometimes censored in newspapers when his satire strikes too close to home. A strip on Nixon's visit to Watts, for instance, was dropped from the Los Angeles Times. On occasion Trudeau has defended his work from editorial criticism, but such public statements of intention are rare. A reclusive man, he rarely interviews or makes public appearances, preferring to speak through his comic strip or in the essays that appear in various magazines. In addition to a 1975 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, Trudeau has received an Academy Award nomination for the short subject A Doonesbury Special and several honorary doctorates. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 81-84.)