An illustrated chronology of impact

For over forty years Doonesbury has had an uninterrupted history of inspiring controversy and generating fallout. It has consistently helped steer the national conversation - by commenting on it, provoking it, and sometimes being the subject of it. From cancelled papers and angry commentary to military commendations and the Pulitzer Prize, "Timeline" chronicles the real-life adventures of a strip that can't stay out of the news.


  • March 20, 1990

    Sunday strip features "protest stamps," which Zonker urges readers to affix to correspondence in opposition to proposed postal rate increase. United States Post Office officials issue an internal alert. Postmaster General Anthony M. Frank calls the strip "a mistake."

  • March 26, 1990

    Several papers drop Doonesbury series on Dan Quayle's purchase of an anatomically correct gag doll during an official visit to Chile. The Pine Bluff, Arkansas Commercial explains: "Those of us in the newspaper business are obliged to cover the tasteless, but we see no reason to publish material on this page that is both tasteless and boring."

  • May 24, 1990

    Andy Lippincott finally succumbs to AIDS. The San Francisco Chronicle runs news of his death on its obituary page, and Andy is remembered by a square in the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

  • October 15, 1990

    In a 20th anniversary profile, Trudeau describes himself as "Joan of Arc's spouse."

  • November 1, 1990

    Trudeau is bounced from a USO-sponsored Gulf War trip to Saudi Arabia. U.S. Headquarters in Riyadh claims the cartoonist was not barred but his visit merely postponed "due to logistics and transportation limitations." A senior administration official denies the White House knew of Trudeau's trip, adding "If we had known, we would have bumped him, too."

  • December 15, 1990

    Trudeau devotes almost 250 consecutive days to the Gulf War, and receives a Certificate of Achievement from the 4th Battalion 67th Armor in Kuwait City, "for significant contributions to the morale of the United States forces deployed on Operation Desert Storm."

  • January 28, 1991

    Numerous papers pull a Sunday strip which features cartoons by "Zorro," a Desert Shield airman stationed in Saudi Arabia. The mordant military humor draws a barrage of critical editorials and calls to the syndicate, and several papers cancel Doonesbury outright.

  • March 1, 1991

    Trudeau receives a Desert Storm Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Army "with heartfelt thanks for your generous support of the members of this high-caliber force," and donates two Gulf War strips to the Army Art Collection.

  • March 30, 1991

    A Sunday Doonesbury strip comments on Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca's recent TV commercials touting Chrysler's airbags. Iacocca calls the series "bullshit."

  • October 1, 1991

    Trudeau launches "The Great Doonesbury Sellout" catalog, offering 35 items, including the Mr. Butts "Go Ahead, You're Immortal" ashtray, the Dr. Whoopee condom case, Club Scud swizzle sticks, and the Desert Storm camo bikini. Proceeds go to the Coalition for the Homeless and other nonprofits.

  • November 13, 1991

    Scores of newspapers and commentators denounce a Doonesbury series about Dan Quayle's DEA file and Brett Kimberlin, a federal prisoner put in solitary confinement to keep him from repeating his claim that he sold marijuana to the vice president. "Who cares what a comic strip may or may not say about me or anyone else," says Quayle. Trudeau is denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate, as numerous papers withhold the series and some drop the strip.

  • February 2, 1992

    When a Doonesbury Sunday strip encourages readers to seek Texas residency, over 45,000 Lone Star wannabes send in coupons from all 50 states. Canada, Brazil, Japan, and Kuwait. Texas Controller John Sharp refuses to give the names of Pennsylvania applicants to tax officials from that state, who want "to see if they had paid their state income taxes."

  • February 3, 1992

    Ambassador Duke joins the David Duke campaign.

  • June 1, 1992

    J. Edgar Williams of Chatham County, NC, files a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Trudeau, Trudeau's syndicate, and every newspaper carrying Doonesbury, contending that two February strips carrying Jerry Brown's 1-800 number amounted to millions of dollars in free advertising and violated campaign finance laws.

  • November 19, 1992

    Mr. Butts appears in The Great Smoking Debate: The American Cancer Society vs. Mr. Butts, a pamphlet distributed by the ACS as part of its annual "Great American Smokeout" event.

  • December 1, 1992

    Working Woman magazine names Doonesbury's Joanie Caucus and Lacey Davenport as among the best role models for women.

  • December 21, 1992

    President George Bush names his 1,000th "Point of Light."

  • January 19, 1993

    Attorney General nominee Zoe Baird is forced to withdraw after admitting that she employed undocumented aliens. Two Doonesbury strips featuring Baird appear in newspapers before Trudeau is able to re-write the dialogue on the rest of the week-long series.

  • March 1, 1993

    The Oregon Department of Health takes Mr. Butts as their symbol, and formally adopts the term "Butt Head" to describe nicotine addicts.

  • May 11, 1993

    Justice Department attorney Joanie Caucus goes to the White House to meet with the new administration's deputy cabinet liaison, the fictional "Josh Lyman." The young Clinton staffer's name will reappear seven years later attached to one of the main characters of NBC's "West Wing."

  • June 1, 1993

    Newspaper editorials protest when a high school senior's sculpture, which includes cigarette packs and a "Mr. Butts" comic strip, is ordered out of an exhibit in the Nabisco Food Group's Morristown, PA art gallery. Calling the prize-winning piece "disturbing and offensive," Nabisco explains that they did not want to offend R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, a corporate sibling.

  • June 2, 1993

    Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards denounces Trudeau for a series on the Louisiana shooting death of exchange student Yoshihiro Hattori. Gunned down when he accidentally knocked on the wrong door, Hattori's killing horrifies Japan. Edwins derides Trudeau as an "out-of-state columnist."

  • August 1, 1993

    A Santa Barbara skateboard shop gets in trouble with a customer's mother for selling a pirated "Mr. Butts" skateboard. Owner of the shop Michael Magne urges a reporter, "Make us look like we're straight from hell because that's the best kind of press. The kids are going to look at us like Gods."

  • August 27, 1993

    Apple launches the much-anticipated Newton, a hand-held Personal Digital Assistant. Trudeau's series on the less-than-perfect product puts Mike on the cover of Personal Electronic News magazine and leads Apple chairman John Sculley to lament "We either get more credit than we deserve or get beat up more than we deserve."

  • June 8, 1994

    At least four papers drop the strip and Trudeau is criticized in numerous editorials as Mark Slackmeyer discusses Yale Professor John Boswell's Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe. A Catholic paper in Texas calls Trudeau "an apologist for homosexuality."

  • August 22, 1994

    Trudeau announces the results of a national referendum in which he invited readers to vote on the appropriate comic strip icon for President Bill Clinton. Newspaper editorials herald the selection, which one calls "frightening."

  • September 16, 1994

    In a Sunday strip Mike asks, "Will you be part of the new Cognitive Elite? To find out, contact me." Thousands of readers e-mail Trudeau's Compuserve account and receive this response: "Regret to advise that you are unlikely to join the new cognitive elite: You have too much time on your hands. Sincerely, Mike."

  • March 19, 1995

    Responding to Bob Dole's plan to announce his presidential candidacy on the 50th anniversary of receiving his WWII wound, Trudeau criticizes the use of the wound as a "political asset" in a Sunday strip. Numerous editorials criticize Trudeau, and Sen. Bob Kerry and Sen. John McCain denounce him on the Senate floor.

  • July 3, 1995

    A UC Berkeley professor receives 4,000 tobacco company documents in a box with a return label marked "Mr. Butts." After reviewing depositions, which include questions about the professor's relationship to "Mr. Butts," the state Supreme Court clears the way for release of the documents, which show that the nation's third-largest tobacco company concealed knowledge of nicotine's addictive qualities.

  • August 28, 1995

    Joanie "leases" the strip in order hold public hearings for women who have charged Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon with sexual harrassment.

  • October 26, 1995

    Doonesbury turns 25. A 21-year-old college student in Oregon comments, "It's not something people discuss much. I find myself talking about 'Beverly Hills 90210' or 'Friends,' things like that."

  • December 1, 1995

    The Massachusetts Department of Health runs a 30-second animated TV spot, "Mr. Butts Goes to Washington," written by Trudeau and created by J.J. Sedelmaier. The New York Times cites the spot as a bright moment in a generally "colorless" year for advertising.

  • January 1, 1996

    Two months after Mike Doonesbury builds his first web site, Trudeau launches www.doonesbury.com.

  • January 1, 1996

    The Washington Post names Trudeau as one of ten people suspected of being "Anonymous," the author of Primary Colors, a bestselling novel based on the career of Bill Clinton. The Post puts 8-1 odds on Trudeau, who says, "I refuse to be bullied into issuing a denial just so you can move on to another, more plausible suspect."

  • January 11, 1996

    Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski and timber officials attack Trudeau for a series critical of management of the Tongass National Forest. "I can only assume the environmental groups have access to the opinion makers," says Murkowski, adding that the offending strips "are not worth the wood they are printed on."

  • February 5, 1996

    Ben and Jerry's launches "Doonesberry," a sorbet made with raspberries and blueberries. Co-founder Jerry Greenfield describes the flavor as "robust and sweet, with more than a hint of tartness. Zonker would be proud."

  • May 18, 1996

    After being nominated 16 times in 26 years, Trudeau wins the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award as "Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year."

  • September 1, 1996

    A company in California begins marketing the Bill Clinton Waffle, a 4" x 6" grid of baked dough and imported Belgian sugar.

  • September 16, 1996

    A series of strips draws attention to H.R. 3819, a bill that would amend the National Park Foundation's charter and allow private entities to buy sponsorship in the National Park system. Editorials praise the strips, but fear that readers will assume the "surreal concept" is the product of Trudeau's imagination.

  • October 1, 1996

    California Attorney General Dan Lungren rails against a series that calls attention to Prop. 215, the state's medical marijuana initiative -- and to a Justice Department's raid on the Cannabis Buyer's Club in San Francisco — and calls on Trudeau's syndicate to pull the strips, and newspapers to boycott them.

  • February 21, 1997

    Donald Trump protests a series of strips that draws attention to efforts to dislodge Sabatini's, a family restaurant blocking expansion of the Trump Plaza casino in Atlantic City. Trump calls Trudeau a "jerk" and a "total loser", but eventually backs down.

  • November 3, 1997

    GeekWeek webzine names Doonesbury the leading "Geek-toon," dislodging Dilbert.

  • February 9, 1998

    Numerous papers respond to a series on the Monica Lewinsky scandal — some drop the strips, some move them to the editorial page, others run "adult content" warnings. One editor drops Doonesbury completely, but after a picket line and an exchange of letters with Trudeau, reinstates it in the classified section.

  • May 10, 1998

    Trudeau launches "The People's Doonesbury @ Amazon.com," an Internet contest inviting readers to write dialogue for a Sunday strip posted on the site. Each night the winning entry for one panel is filled in. Trudeau writes the final panel, and one of the daily winners is awarded a trip to Seattle.

  • May 17, 1998

    "Doonesbury has been skewering Nike for labor conditions at its factories in Asia for more than a year," notes a Boston Globe editorial. The paper gives Trudeau partial credit for Nike chairman Phil Knight's decision to raise the minimum age of overseas factory workers to 16 and raise health and safety standards.

  • August 15, 1998

    After a long struggle with Alzheimer's, Congresswoman Lacey Davenport succumbs. "This is not ordinary comic-strip stuff," opines the New York Daily News. Numerous people caring for Alzheimer's patients thank Trudeau for focusing attention on the disease.

  • August 7, 1999

    Mark and Chase exchange marriage vows in a plane over the Pacific Ocean.

  • October 9, 1999

    Rocker Jimmy Thudpucker writes an anthem for the NetAid benefit, which supports UN efforts to battle global poverty. Downloads of the song-in-progress — and entries from Jimmy's studio log — are posted weekly on www.doonesbury.com. The finished tune goes up on the day of the NetAid broadcast and Web event.