Another milestone in the collapse of civilization

I am rummaging through my extensive and slightly dusty library of satirical and other comic and cartoon works. Hogarth, Gilray, Gustave Dore, Alfred Bestall’s light-surreal Rupert Bear, Steve Bell’s If, the Malaysian Lat’s Kampung Boy, Giles, a first-edition Pogo, and on and on (and let’s add a plug for our own Mr Coates)… And here it is: In Search of Reagan’s Brain – a collection of Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury strips from 1980-81. It is the 40th anniversary of Doonesbury, so even this little nostalgia trip lands us 10 years into what has now become a multi-generational soap-saga.

Unlike the other illustrators on my shelves, Trudeau is a lousy draftsman. Doonesbury when it was a quarter of its current age was even more crudely drawn than now. He does satire through language and gags: the TV interviewer respectfully addressing the former Haitian dictator as ‘ex-President-for-Life Duvalier’; Zonker expressing relief about how Carter’s draft registration would be organized (remember that bit of Cold War saber-rattling?)…

One criticism of the strip is that it has come to take itself too seriously. The author was accused of pretentiousness for taking a sabbatical at one point, and for rebelling against the National Cartoonists Society (as with the rest of the USA’s fourth estate, this is an occupation that thinks highly of itself anyway). It also descends into mawkishness, as with the character BD’s leg amputation and PTSD after Iraq and the death of an earlier character of AIDS. Real, harder-hitting satire would skewer someone rather than do tear-jerking…

The joy of re-living those carefree days of the Carter era through 1980 Doonesbury strips is that we were so much younger then; no-one had kids. Today’s second- (or strictly speaking, third-) generation characters, notably Michael’s daughter Alex, with her techie-obsessions and contrived relationship with Iraq-brain-damaged-trailer-dweller-boy, are irritating. Things really were funnier back then…

And just another reminder of how long ago it all was…

Shallow mass-market pap, really. For a seriously deep dig into the darkest recesses of the bowels of popular culture, click to hear (Big Boy Pete) Miller’s ‘Baby I’ve Got News for You’!

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Another milestone in the collapse of civilization

  1. Sir Crispin says:

    Personally I was always more partial to Bloom County than Doonesbury. It’s funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same. This sounds just like Fox news today, with all their mindless blather.

  2. Maugrim says:

    When I start seeing the sort of ‘satire’ that occurred during G W Bush’s Presidency, continue to apply to subsequent Presidents, (and not just Palin, god forbid) then ill have a little more respect for such brave artists.

  3. Big Al says:

    Why no mention of our own home-grown Gavin Coates? One of the best, but sadly no longer in The Standard since it became free …

    … and speak of which, although The Standard boasts a large circulation, how many people actually READ it? Most of the people I see queuing up for it are old folk who collect armfulls of free papers to sell to recyclers …

  4. Big Al says:

    … by the way, check out for Gavin’s cartoons – they’re superb!

  5. Mike Hunt says:

    Big hand for Gavin’s mum

  6. Old Codger says:

    Big Al – you refer to the Standard and “old folk who collect armfulls of free papers to sell to recyclers …”

    Don’t speak of Sally Aw like that…..

  7. oddsox says:

    I remember reading my much older brother’s Doonesbury from the early 70s and thinking it hilarious. These days its substituted a tiresome social and political agenda for satire. Its kid gloves treatment, no adulation actually, of Obama is shameless. I agree Bloom County was way better. But what happened to it? Once upon a time I was reading it sydnicated in my local newspaper and then it was gone inexplicably.

  8. Sir Crispin says:

    Bloom County morphed into Outland and some other strips, but I lost interest in them as they weren’t the razor wit of Bloom County.

  9. But One Get One says:

    I can’t stand Doonesbury.

    Although beautifully drafted, I got the impression that Coates invariably felt the need to “explain” his cartoons.

    I am in love with the SCMP’s Harry. If I were a woman, I’d fill my loins with his sperm.

  10. Mike Hunt says:

    Coates’ art displays a lot of ‘influence’, most notably from Mad magazine and, I think it is called, Spy magazine from the U of K, or whatever they call England these days.

Comments are closed.