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.
July 19, 2010
Roland Hedley rents a house in Wasilla, Alaska, next door to real-life journalist Joe McGinnis, who has rented a house next door to former governor Sarah Palin while writing a book about her. The Anchorage Daily News reports on the Hedley strips, and several days later two women from Texas pull up and tell McGinnis, "We know that's Palin's house, and this house is where that writer lives -- what we want to know is where's Roland Hedley's house?"
A semi hauling 3,000 copies of the anniversary tome is hijacked en route to a distribution center. The truck, 30,000 lbs. of hot Doonesbury still on board, was later found abandoned, presumably on the orders of the hijackers' unhappy supervisor.
October 27, 2010
After 14,600 strips, the feature's fourth decade is marked by 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective, a weighty 700-page slip-cased tome. The volume features 18 character essays by Trudeau, and a four-page centerfold map tracking the web of relationships among the strip's 78 central players. Reviews compare Trudeau's work to that of Trollope (The New York Times), Dickens (The New York Review of Books) and Tolstoy (The New York Times Book Review). The book sells out at Costco. A companion volume by Brian Walker, The Art of Doonesbury and G.B. Trudeau, is published by Yale University Press. Notes one review, "Trudeau somehow took his inconsequential college-paper strip and created a f***ing universe."
November 4, 2010
Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library opens a special exhibit, "Doonesbury in a Time of War," focusing on founding character B.D., veteran of Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. "One of the defining elements of Doonesbury has been the hue of war," notes curator Louise Bernard.
November 29, 2010
Wesleyan administrators rename Zonker Harris Day, the campus's 30-year-old spring music festival, calling the character "a druggie." Upset students write to enlist Trudeau's support, and Zonker takes up the cause. In the final strip in a week on the subject, Harris "breaks the fourth wall" by calling the university's President on his cell phone. Notes Trudeau, "I briefly considered reaching out to President Roth quietly, but I finally decided it'd be better to blindside him."
February 13, 2011
In a Sunday strip, radio host Mark Slackmeyer notes that in the nine years since 3,000 died in the 9/11 attacks (inspiring two wars, a vast homeland security apparatus, and trillions in spending), 270,000 Americans have been killed by guns in the U.S. (inspiring a loosening of the gun laws). Urged to look at Trudeau's numbers, Politifact confirms their accuracy.
April 6, 2011
Wesleyan's administration finally relents, announcing that Ze Who Shall Not Be Named Day will once again be known by its original title: Zonker Harris Day. Says Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whalley, "I have come to a better understanding of their position with respect to the name of the event."
May 6, 2011
A Duke-and-Earl series about lobbyists accepting money to represent the interests of authoritarian regimes cites Lanny Davis Associates for working with Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo. Davis publicly demands an apology, calling the strip "morally reprehensible." "There will be no correction," replies Trudeau. "Odious bedfellows are a traditional subject for satire."
September 16, 2011
The Chicago Tribune decides not to run a week of strips in which Roland Hedley tweets excerpts from Joe McGinnis' as-yet-unreleased book about Sarah Palin, explaining that they would need "more information, context and a response from Palin." The Tribune also notes that because the book has not yet been published it is "unavailable for review or verification." Writes an offended journalist, "Does that mean the Tribune routinely reviews each strip to ensure its factual integrity?" Other papers also decline to run the series, including Newsday and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which cites "strong partisan content."
February 2, 2012
During a week of Reader Mail strips, Mike and Zonker display a QR Code which lnks to the award-winning nonprofit fundraising site Donorschoose.org. Readers visiting the site can make donations to a public school, doubling their contribution by entering the code word "Zonker." The Chicago Tribune drops the strip, explaining that their editorial policies "do not allow individuals to promote their self-interests." Notes Trudeau, "Curiously, the Trib had no problem with the previous day's strip directing readers to my website, which actually was in my self-interest." The stunt raises $180,000, benefitting over 400 classrooms, overwhelmingly in low-income communities.
March 12, 2012
A week of strips about Texas's new mandatory vaginal sonogram bill is bounced from some 70 newspapers across the country, more than in any other controversy in the strip's history. A complaint from Oregonian editor Peter Bhatia was typical: "The graphic nature of the strips went too far."
April 26, 2012
In a daily strip, two deployed soldiers run into a Fox News reporter intending to do a story about how well the war is going. "More evidence that watching Fox really does make you stupider," notes Mel. "It's like getting your news from the town drunk." The episode provokes the ire of Bil O'Reilly, who dubs Trudeau "a pinhead."
June 22, 2012
Throughout a two-week wedding series, readers deluge the Doonesbury web site with emotional commentary as Leo "Toggle" Deluca and Alex Doonesbury exchange vows at Walden. The ceremony, conducted by Rev. Scot Sloan, is witnessed by many members of the extended Doonesbury tribe. "My handkerchief drawer may never be the same," laments one reader. "Beautiful," says another. "Almost makes me love my own family."
November 4, 2012
While working for Elizabeth Warren's Senate campaign, Joanie Caucus contributes in a modest way to the candidate's keynote address at the Democratic Convention -- specifically the three words "to be rigged," which actually appeared in Warren's speech the night before the strip appeared. Parts of the text had been leaked in advance to Trudeau by the candidate.
November 26, 2013
The Pacific Media Workers Guild makes former Washington Post reporter Rick Redfern an honorary member, and sends him a Guild Freelancers press pass, honoring his perseverance in his post-layoff life as a free blogger for The Huffington Post -- whose practices had been criticized in the strip. "Redfern stood his ground," says Guild executive director Carl Hall, "and we're all grateful. The idea that journalists deserve to be paid clearly needs to spread beyond the funny pages."
November 20, 2012
A post-election Doonesbury series features a "Math and Science Victory Lap," including a Bureau of Statistics float carrying Nate Silver, "the hardest-working man in poll analytics," whose extremely accurate blog FiveThirtyEight was essential reading during the campaign. Tweets the real-life Silver, "Now I can die in peace."
December 12, 2012
A Doonesbury series reignites interest in a petition to allow Texas to secede from the Union, helping to swell the number of signatories to almost five times the 25,000 needed to evoke a White House response. In that response, titled "Our States Remain United," the White House pointed out that the Civil War had vindicated the principle that the union established by the Constitution is premanent.
February 2, 2013
In a mailbag sequence, Zonker and Mike express their concern over the future of the comics in a post-newspaper world by letting the middle two panels of the strip go missing. "Stick with print, folks. This doesn't have to happen!" urges Mike. A legion of offended web cartoonists immediately begin posting versions of the strip with the empty space filled in by their own work. One says the strip represents "an archaic, narrow-minded, elitist mindset." Another includes a farting alien.
March 3, 2014
After a successful initial season of his Amazon Studios political sitcom "Alpha House," Trudeau announces an open-ended hiatus from new daily strips in order to devote himself to writing further episodes of the show. While he continues to do original Sunday strips, the syndicate launches a daily series called Classic Doonesbury, offering readers a retrospective journey through the strip's history from its earliest days.