Saturday, February 27, 2010

10. You’re Never Too Old for Nuts and Berries (1976?)

This collection overlaps with the next book and reprints 124 daily strips from:
Aug. 4 1975 to Dec 20 1975
Jan. 26 1976 to Feb. 14 1976
14 strips from these blocks are not included (see comment for list).

This book again shuffles content between what should have gone here, if these were done completely and chronologically, and what ended up in the next book. It looks like there was a little logic to it. The skipped storyline – the first chunk of the epic with Duke as the new ambassador to China – ran for a full four weeks, but the editors only had seventeen pages left at the end of this book, so they brought forward the three week series where Joanie meets and falls in love with Andy Lipincott, and Ginny decides to run for congress, cutting one of those 18 strips for space reasons.

The rest of the book is very Uncle Duke-heavy, as he continues his domination of the strip. He’s forced to temporarily leave Samoa after Rolling Stone takes his name off the masthead, and is reassigned to the Cher-and-Gregg-Almann Bureau, but quits the magazine after oil is discovered in Samoa. After hefty negotiations and bribes, he sells the mineral rights to Jim Alexander and Universal Petroleum for a reported $500 million.

The other major storyline sees Zonker’s father turning up at the commune after his wife leaves him. This leads to another three-week flashback to the days of Zonker’s colonial ancestors Nate and Amy, reflecting the contemporary fight for the ERA, and to Zonker forcing a reconciliation between his parents after Mark takes his dad out partying.

Also in this book, Scot Sloan resigns as the university’s chaplain. Nobody but Mike seems to care, and even he botches the speech at the testimonial dinner.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

9. “Speaking of Inalienable Rights, Amy…” (Mar. 1976)

This collection reprints 124 daily strips from Dec. 23 1974 to Aug. 2 1975
69 strips from the period are not included (see comment for list.)

This is certainly one of the more unusual Doonesbury collections. If you were following along from a complete archive, you’d suspect that the major storyline in this book should have been Uncle Duke’s tenure as Governor of American Samoa. The character, who first appeared in four July 1974 strips, returned just before Christmas and immediately took over the strip, first waking and recovering from a month-long drug-induced coma, then spending two weeks making life miserable for his neighbor John Denver and for the editor of Rolling Stone, then somehow wrangling his appointment to the government job. His new aide MacArthur meets him at the airport on January 16, and most of the next two months were spent in Samoa dealing with sacrificial volcano virgins and other disasters, almost none of which made it in, nor did any of the follow-up strips in the spring and summer, where Duke plans an invasion of Australia and siezes a cruise ship in order to get a response from the US military.

The industry standard for the large format books from most newspaper comics seems to be to only reprint some of the material that made it into the smaller books. Whether you’re looking at Fox Trot or Calvin & Hobbes or Get Fuzzy, the typical treasury edition contains about 80% of the contents of two smaller books. Interestingly, however, most of the Samoa sequences, excised from this book, were dusted off for the second treasury, Doonesbury’s Greatest Hits, appearing there in collected form for the first-ish time. Many of the Samoa strips were reprinted as illustrations in Tales from the Margaret Mead Taproom, a book co-written with Nicholas von Hoffman, which I'll come back to after I finish the main feature text.

Forgotten Duke fact: At this point, he’s married to a woman named Sandy, who never appears on panel, but appears, from her long-distance dialogue, to be a really nice person…

What does make it into the book? Zonker and his plants, a government scheme to ease unemployment stress with federal film nights, lots of Phred and the re-education of new Communist Party members after the fall of Saigon, Mark convincing Benjy to take some liberal arts classes, and the introduction of future major player Kim Rosenthal as an orphaned infant.

The book’s title comes from the final twelve strips in the book, a two-week sequence where Zonker’s ancestor Nate Harris and his wife Amy deal with life in colonial Massachusetts, joining the minutemen and considering the Declaration of Independence.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

8 A. The Doonesbury Chronicles (1976)

According to the entry at Wikipedia, this collection contains 501 daily strips published Oct. 26, 1970 to Dec. 20, 1974 and 79 Sunday strips from Dec. 27, 1970 to Dec. 22, 1974. An editor estimates this as 38% of the printed material from the period.

For thousands of readers, this was the entry point into 1970s Doonesbury, and even though it is woefully incomplete, this was a phenomenally popular book which went through about two dozen printings and is easily found in just about every used bookstore on the planet. Even though it only contains just over a third of the material from the first four years, it’s still a very good starting point.

8. Wouldn’t a Gremlin Have Been More Sensible? (Dec. 1975 [?])

This collection overlaps with the previous book and reprints 124 daily strips from:
June 4 1974 to June 15 1974
July 1 1974 to July 12 1974
July 29 1974 to December 20 1974
22 strips from these blocks are not included (see comment for list).

Trying to guess the logic about why storylines were included, excluded, skipped, or shuffled out of sequence from one book to the next is usually a fool’s errand, but you can make a pretty good guess about this one, in part. The sequence from July 1 to 12 is the one where Zonker accompanies Joanie to California, and looks up his Uncle Duke, who makes his first, fleeting appearance here. By keeping these in the same collection as the subsequent stories of Joanie, her new rommate Virginia (“Ginny”) and her hopeless dolt of a boyfriend, Clyde, it forms a more satisfying read.

On the other hand, that logic doesn’t apply to moving the second series of strips about Czar Simons from the previous book, where they should have appeared, to this one. The character is retired from the strip after the June 4-15 strips.

While Uncle Duke doesn’t get much screen time here – only four strips, just enough for him to make an impression as a Hunter S. Thompson parody and exit stage right – we do meet two new, very young characters of Rufus’s acquaintance, Bobby Matthews and Malcom DeVeaux, aged seven and dealing with the effects of bussing.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

7. Dare to be Great, Ms. Caucus (June, 1975)

This collection overlaps with the next book and reprints 124 daily strips from:
Dec. 26 1973 to May 31 1974
June 17 1974 to June 29 1974
July 15 1974 to July 27 1974
Aug. 12 1974
36 strips from these blocks are not included (see comment for list).

The major storyline reprinted in this book is Joanie’s long wait to be accepted into law school. She finally gets the good news that the University of California has offered her a place. Zonker, though heartbroken that she’s leaving the commune, accompanies her… but wait, that was the first of July, and those strips were held over to the next book.

Other major storylines include Mark meeting up with a trucker and helping him organize a demonstration in Louisville, Kentucky over gasoline rationing. This leads to a confrontation with the Energy Czar, “Bill” Simons, who brings an end to the energy crisis simply by declaring it over. Personal to Glenn Beck: yes, the US government had czars in 1974.

Roland B. Hedley Jr. is introduced, at this point working for Time. He interviews our heroes about college life, leading to Zonker’s surprise appearance on the magazine’s front cover in a feature story about “The New Hedonism.” This is one of my all-time favorite Doonesbury storylines.

There are several curious omissions from this book. A six-day storyline about the university’s “Conference on the Mid-East Crisis,” in which Mark debates a fellow student, Ollie Amen, is excised, as are the first, fleeting appearances of Universal Petroleum CEO Jim Andrews, some time before he crosses paths with any other characters, and years before he was shown to be friends with Phil Slackemeyer. Most bafflingly, B.D. does not appear in this book even once. All of his appearances, including an argument with Zonker about the phone bill during a far-too-short “state of the commune” meeting in March, and four days’ debate with Mark on his radio show in defense of Nixon, were cut.

Left in, happily, is a strip from May 15 which introduces Lacey and her future husband, Dick Davenport, as old-timers enjoying their class reunion. The characters would be revisited and developed some time later.