Garry Trudeau Allan Parachini - Essay

Allan Parachini

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

To Trudeau, [Doonesbury] is simply his public voice, his vehicle to inveigh against social and political wrongdoing, and to cuff wrongdoers. (p. 4)

What is it that has made Doonesbury such a runaway success? One simple reason is that it has attracted … support from young readers…. They find the strip believable and identify with its characters…. [Don Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist,] has high praise for Trudeau's dialogue. "He's a damn good writer. His style is clean and uncluttered…."

Nicholas Von Hoffman … catalogues another Trudeau strength. "He has a golden ear. He pays attention to words and the way they're said, and captures the essence of what's there that most people don't hear." The power of the dialogue and Trudeau's use of a device perfected by Jules Feiffer—keeping the art in each panel reasonably static—increases the impact of the message.

Some critics, including gun-shy editors, find the message all too strong, the humor too harsh and brittle. They also question Trudeau's ability to sustain the strip's momentum in the less turbulent post-Watergate milieu. The growing number of Doonesbury advocates among newspaper readers tends to refute the criticism about excessive harshness. In fact, on subjects other than Watergate, Trudeau displays a droll, subtle sense of humor that works because it underwhelms rather than overpowers. (p. 7)

Allan Parachini, "Social Protest Hits the Comic Pages," in Columbia Journalism Review (© 1974 Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University), November-December, 1974, pp. 4-7.