Cartoonists Garry Trudeau, Charles Schulz and Milton Caniff have organized a Thanksgiving Day cartoon forum on world hunger. On that day, virtually every comic strip in America's newspapers will deal in some way with the issue of hunger.
"I don't think there's ever been a simultaneous effort on the part of all comic strip artists like this," Schulz said yesterday.
Trudeau ("Doonesbury"), Schulz ("Peanuts") and Caniff ("Steve Canyon") also are proposing accompanying comics page ads soliciting donations to USA for Africa.
"It was Garry Trudeau's idea," Schulz said. "He called to see what I thought about it and it sounded all right to me. We sent out a letter to all the syndicate cartoon strip artists, asking each to do something . . . to draw attention to the problem, which is, I think, all cartoonists can do."
"Garry wanted to show that cartoonists, too, can be involved," said Lee Salem, editorial director of Universal Press Syndicate, which handles "Doonesbury."
According to Salem, the August letter included samples to show the cartoonists "what they had in mind -- not to be heavy-handed or go outside the parameters of what individual artists would normally do in their strips."
Schulz, admitting that hunger is "a difficult subject to treat" in comic strips, pointed out that "in some cases, it might be virtually impossible because [cartoonists] might not have the right group of characters for this sort of thing. Or they might not have the right format. And there's always the embarrassing risk of doing something which is trite or cheap, and we all hate something like that."
Another challenge is the lead time involved. Trudeau works on an eight- or nine-day lead, but some strip artists work two or three months in advance. "I was almost up to [Thanksgiving] when Garry first approached me with the idea," Schulz recalled.
Trudeau, who could not be reached for comment, is coordinating the project. He has just published "Check Your Egos at the Door," a collection of his strips on the USA for Africa recording sessions and subsequent trips to Africa; proceeds will go to the relief effort.
The Thanksgiving Day strips probably will be collected and auctioned to raise additional funds, said USA for Africa's chief organizer, Ken Kragen.