Tuesday, August 24, 2010

18. And That’s My Final Offer! (1980)

This collection overlaps with the previous book and reprints 124 daily strips from:
June 18 1979 to July 7 1979
July 23 1979 to August 4 1979
August 27 1979 to December 29 1979
*August 6-26 were repeat weeks.
14 strips from these blocks are not included (see comment for list).

This book again juggles the order of the strips around, in order for the first three weeks of Duke’s latest misadventure can run with the rest of the saga. This time out, Jim Andrews hires Duke to go into Iran and make a payoff to an operative named “Dipstick” in order to keep the oil flowing during the chaos of the Islamic Revolution. Naturally, it is a disaster.

Duke’s caretaker Zeke Brenner is finally seen on-panel on June 25, and it is later established that he’s the fiance of the newest major addition to the cast: Joanie’s daughter J.J., who looks up her mother after she had split seven years previously. Joan Jr. begins her undergraduate career at Georgetown, rooming with Honey. After Zeke has Duke declared dead, Zonker, who’s found the White House quite unconcerned what might have happened to the former US Ambassador to China, has to fly out to Colorado to take care of his estate.

In national news, Rosemont Indiana is hit by a major media event as candidates for the 1980 election, and hundreds of reporters, descend on the town. Dr. Henry Kissinger releases an enormous book, and the Seventies come to a spectacular end with a Revival Party at Walden.

(As the 1970s end, so does this format for the blog... when I resume, I'll just be detailing the printed stories and not determining what was excised. Too much work! Bleah!)

17. A Tad Overweight, but Violet Eyes to Die For (1980)

This collection overlaps with the next book and reprints 124 daily strips from:
Jan 1 1979 to June 16 1979
July 9 1979 to July 21 1979
32 strips from the period are not included (see comment for list.)

As the 1970s draw to a close, international politics become more important to the strip than in recent years. Trudeau starts things off with the brilliant tactic of moving Honey to Dr. Kissinger’s class at Georgetown. Unfortunately, most of their headbutting plays out in the Sunday strips, but this book contains a few choice moments. In Southeast Asia, Viet Nam invades Cambodia (or is it Kampuchea?) and China invades them right back, keeping Ambassador Phred quite busy at the United Nations.

The book’s title comes from a week of strips tweaking John Warner, who began a three-decade career as US Senator from Virginia in January, and who was at the time married to Elizabeth Taylor, she of the “violet eyes to die for.” The book’s back cover suggests that Virginia Republicans were incensed by the mocking – neither Lacey nor her husband, who threatens to stay in the car, are much impressed by their new Senate colleague – but Trudeau is pretty even-handed doling out the harshness during this period. Warner doesn’t get it nearly as roughly as Ted Kennedy and the political “cult” in Massachusetts that Roland spotlights in an ABC News special, and California governor Jerry Brown really takes it on the chin for weeks. Carter’s Secretary of Symbolism, Duane Delacourt, returns to resign from the White House and move to California, sharing a flight with Zonker, to work with Brown’s “Mellow Mafia” and investigate – slash – announce, not a candidacy, but a context for his candidacy.

Duke’s time as the Redskins manager comes to an ignoble end. He briefly entertains a plan to murder the team’s owner in Miami, but flies home to Colorado instead. A whole week of this is cut, but we do learn that his wife has divorced him before the NRA recruits him to testify on behalf of gun owners before a Senate judiciary committee. Another week cut from the book has Ginny and Clyde trying to provide a little support for an unemployed friend.

Other stories for the other regulars include Jimmy Thudpucker retiring from the music industry in order to return to school, and Boopsie posing for Playboy’s “Girls of the Ivy League” feature, much to the overprotective Zonker’s horror. Interestingly, the gang’s alma mater has still not formally been named as “Walden College” at this point. It’s likely that Trudeau was just quietly treating the place like Yale and simply not naming it at the time, but I suppose we can retcon Walden as being the smallest of the Ivy League schools in the Doonesbury universe.

Friday, June 25, 2010

16. We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet (1979)

This collection reprints 124 daily strips from June 26 1978 to Dec. 30 1978
37 strips from the period are not included (see comment for list.)

After several years, Trudeau finally found something to do with Boopsie. In one of the era’s most delightful sequences, she takes a two-week trip to Graceland on the first anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. From here, Trudeau finds a real voice for the character as a great way to comment on celebrity trends. Also among the Walden regulars, Mike and Zonker visit Studio 54, and Zonk takes Kirby, his often-confused teammate, under his wing as the bespectacled receiver tries to find his place in the era.

In Washington, Duke finds complications besetting his tenure as manager for the Redskins. In a week’s sequence cut from the book, we learn he’s not paying much attention to the NFL’s regulations on gambling. That he’s not paying any attention to their regulations on steroids and dexedrine is a given, but he has plenty of complications, as Lava-Lava Lenny makes a suspicious number of tackles, and a linebacker, Eddie, popped to the eyeballs on speed, clotheslines two quarterbacks. This prompts his assistant Riley, the fifteen year-old nephew of the owner, to go to the papers. Interestingly, the last line of the September 16 strip had Riley threatening to “go to the feds,” but this was changed to “papers” for the book.

Of course, the biggest complication of all comes when Duke attends a reception for Chinese students at Georgetown and learns, on November 9, that Honey has come to the States. He hasn’t entirely figured out that she’s in love with him – there’s some question as to whether he ever does – but nor does he ever figure out how to get away from her.

Also in Washington, Joanie’s old law school nemesis, Woody, gets a job with the House ethics committee, earning $6000 more a year than her. Much of the Washington material is cut from the book, including an entire three-week sequence in December where Rick is assigned to figure out just how in the world all the incumbents involved in the Korean scandal managed to get re-elected in the midterms, but we do get a couple of weeks of Roland hosting an ABC special on the Camp David summit, Cabin Fever: Footpaths to Glory.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

15. “But the Pension Fund Was Just Sitting There” (1979)

This collection reprints 124 daily strips from Jan. 9 1978 to June 22 1978
18 strips from the period are not included (see comment for list.)

After fourteen editions in the original size, the books get their first makeover. These colorful versions are an inch wider and just a hair taller, and each is labelled on the front as “a Doonesbury book.” Simultaneously, the first fourteen books were reissued in the new packaging, each as “a Doonesbury classic.”

In current events, Dr. Kissinger’s students at Georgetown, Barney and Mr. Weinburger, join a protest against the Shah of Iran, whose wife appears at a New York dinner in her honor. A mellow lifestyle and biorhythms are keys to happiness; Dan Asher becomes a regular visitor to WBBY, principally in the Sunday strips, to talk about keeping it laid-back. The Post assigns Rick Redfern to White House detail, following President Carter to Lagos because Rick’s physical, intellectual and emotional waves are all scheduled to peak there. Rick meets Roland Burton Hedley Jr., his future partner in the Press Corps, on March 30. TV programming wunderkind Fred Silverman moves from ABC to NBC, just in time to take credit for a new “jiggle” sitcom called Spa, whose teenage starlet appears fully nude in each episode.

Uncle Duke’s been unemployed for about a year. He earns a little money lecturing at colleges like Walden, but finally finds some stability putting his sports medicine background to use as the new general manager for the Washington Redskins. The team has already traded away its first six rounds of draft picks; Duke’s strategy is to raid the players’ pension fund to acquire free agent “Lava-Lava” Lenny, whom we met when Duke was governor of Samoa, from the Detroit Lions.

Phred becomes Viet Nam’s new ambassador to the UN. He meets two friends also representing the third world nations who will appear sporadically for the next few years, Victor (Benin) and Eddie (Togo), and they all enjoy listening to the sultry-voiced French interpreter on UN channel two.

At Walden, Mark has actually dropped out of school to devote time to WBBY and earn some money and make contacts bartending at reunions. He meets his father at the Class of ’43 shindig and resumes his well-intended efforts to reconnect with him. Later, he gives the booth over to Zonker while he goes to Washington to interview Lacey Davenport about the Korean scandal. At the time, the House was in no rush to investigate ethics complaints against congressmen, including Speaker Tip O’Neill, for their involvement with a South Korean businessman, Tongsun Park, who had been throwing enough money around in Washington to raise eyebrows. On Friday, June 16, two panels of the strip were given over to a coupon intended to be mailed to Speaker O’Neill’s office, cheekily urging some action and information. The strip was hugely controversial, and really got under O’Neill’s skin.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

14 B. The Doonesbury Special (1978)

I’m afraid I haven’t had the pleasure of watching the lone Doonesbury animated special, which aired on NBC on Sunday, November 27 1977, as a lead-in to Rankin-Bass’s cartoon adaptation of The Hobbit. The film, which was seen by an audience of about 18 million, was directed by John and Faith Hubley. John passed away while the film was in pre-production. It was later released on VHS and laserdisc, but has never been seen on DVD, apart from bootlegs, and has been out of print for years.

The companion book, released the following January, features the script of the film along with stills from the finished piece along with production art and designs. Hardcover and paperback editions are available.

While the daily strip tied into the special by having Jimmy Thudpucker get ready for an appearance on TV’s Midnight Special in the six days leading up to the broadcast, the film’s story actually takes place about three years earlier in the continuity, with Joanie still living at Walden and working at the day care. Some of the exchanges between Jean, Ellie and Howie (“Simone de Beauvoir’s got your number, Slim.”) are verbatim from the original strips.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

14 A. Doonesbury’s Greatest Hits (1978)

According to the entry at Wikipedia, this collection contains 516 daily strips published Jan. 7, 1975 to Dec. 10, 1977 and 80 Sunday strips from Jan. 26, 1975 to Dec. 25, 1977. An editor estimates this as 55% of the printed material from the period.

As noted in the entry for book nine, “Speaking of Inalienable Rights, Amy…,” this treasury completely goes against the industry standard and actually restores some of the material that had been cut from the earlier, smaller books. Of course, they did this while at the same time chopping out material which did previously appear in them, but it remains quite remarkable to me that almost the entire two-month 1975 sequence of Uncle Duke in Samoa is available in print here, and not in a smaller book. Does anybody know of any other comic strip collection that has done this? There are also other small restorations here and there, including a Friday, July 29 1977 strip of Zonker and Duke in the southern California desert, slowly realizing they’ve been duped into a land fraud scheme, which had been cut from book fourteen.

The collection includes a genuinely fascinating foreword by William F. Buckley Jr., who had performed the commencement speech for Trudeau’s graduating class at Yale, and had never heard of Doonesbury before being surprised by the standing ovation that Trudeau received from his fellow graduates when his name was called.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

14. “Any Grooming Hints for Your Fans, Rollie?” (1978)

This collection reprints 124 daily strips from:
July 4 1977 to October 15 1977
October 24 1977 to January 7 1978
*October 17-22 was a repeat week.
32 strips from the period are not included (see comment for list.)

If you want to read a Doonesbry book that really defines the 1970s, this is the one. Joanie starts the book working hard for the Congressional Ethics Committee, and is later called on to sub for Lacey in a debate against Phyllis Schafly about the ERA. Mark interviews an expert on the new craze of jogging, Zonker explains the Panama Canal Treaty to the football team, and the wannabe serial killer “Son of Arnold and Mary Lieberman” pesters Jimmy Breslin for tabloid media coverage.

Just to keep things very topical, Jimmy Thudpucker cuts some new songs and frets about his forthcoming appearance on the syndicated music series The Midnight Special. His nervousness about appearing on TV for the first time came the same week that the animated A Doonesbury Special aired on NBC. More about this in entry 14B.

As for the regulars, Uncle Duke has a scheme to extract laetrile, a substance used in shady cancer “treatments” of the period, from apricots and buys a farm, only to find himself on the receiving end of a land fraud scheme. He lands on his feet and starts working the college lecture circuit. Mike and Zonker move back into their old dorm, McClatchey, roomsitting for their friend Richard Hendrie. It’s there that they again cross paths with Roland Hedley Jr., who’s now a correspondant for ABC Wide World of News, and Zonk once again completely flummoxes him about barbituate use on campus.

This time out, the book’s editors saw that it was mainly the political stuff that failed to make the cut, and not stories with the regular cast. Some storylines are chopped entirely, but these are all Carter White House weeks starring Duane Delacourt.

One final note on this period: Duke’s caretaker, Zeke, was introduced in a Sunday strip, July 24th. Zeke appeared in two further Sundays in 1977, but didn’t make his way to the dailies until 1979.