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.