Disabused early in his Walden College career of the conviction that he was "God's gift to women," Michael J. Doonesbury gave up on dating and founded Walden Commune in l972. That summer he and sidekick Mark Slackmeyer embarked on a classic cross-country road trip to San Francisco, the most lasting benefit of which was his friendship with Joanie Caucus, whom they picked up hitchhiking near Denver and brought home to Walden.
Years later, working with Joanie on the Anderson campaign, Mike finally met her daughter J.J., which led in short order to romance, graduation, marriage, a computer, and a job in advertising. The pinnacle of Mike's career: A much-praised anti-tanning spot for the American Cancer Society. Low-points: His campaign to sell Ronald Reagan to black voters, and the inexplicable creation of Mr. Butts, spokesproduct for the tobacco industry. Also difficult were the '80s haircut, his stint as "The Subway Avenger," and separation from budding performance artist J.J. The marriage was band-aided back together when daughter Alex was born in 1989, but did not survive J.J.'s fling with Zeke Brenner.
Lifted from post-J.J. depression by a summer fantasy come true, Mike found a new life, a new coffee habit, and a new career as marketing director for a Seattle software company run by his college roommate Bernie. To both his and daughter Alex's delight, he was wowed by and wooed Gen-X coder Kim Rosenthal. The three, united by both nuptial vows and a business plan, launched a mom 'n' pop 'n' pre-teen software startup. To the regret of his employees, Mike nobly passed on the chance to be bought by Microsoft, which led to being run out of business by them. The financially stripped-down family went on to buy myVulture.com, a startup whose business plan called for feasting on the remains of other dotcom casualties.
Like many Americans, Mike had a personal connection to the 9/11 tragedy. His former boss, Mr. Bellows, was among the WTC victims, leading Mike to return to Manhattan for a memorial service in the jittery post-attack days. In an effort to help the slumping economy and prepare for the invasion of Iraq during the harsh winter of 2004, he purchased his first big-screen TV.
When Alex finally left the nest and headed east to MIT, the drama level at home went down, but only until Mike's mom, the notorious Granny D, moved in. A reluctant transplant from Oklahoma, where age was rapidly thinning the ranks of her friends and suitors, she accepted temporary residence as a Seattlean. Despite Mike's best efforts, she was enthusiastically courted by a hefty, colorful biker named Skid, who, not surprisingly, turned out to be scamming her in cahoots with Zeke. To Mike's bemusement, the rise of the Tea Party provided new outlets for his mother's passion. Dutifully escorting Daisy to a rally, he watched her take the stage and burn her Medicare card -- a bold act quickly regretted when she needed hospitalization shortly thereafter.
While the family biz had its ups and downs during the ought decade, the trajectory of Alex and Toggle's romance moved steadily upward until, by the time of her graduation from MIT, even a skeptical Mike was forced to realize it might be for real. Equally real, the demise of Daisy. Ever the grownup in the room, Mike presided over her funeral service, which brought together the disparate members of the extended family, including the wayward egomaniac younger brother Sid, the bitter ex-daughter-in-law J.J., and her drunk, hitting-on-a-mourner husband Zeke.
Mike's annual Summer Fantasy remains a highlight of his year, and he still pitches decent startup ideas to longtime venture capitalist pal Bernie. The two graying colleagues console one another over the fact that to attractive young women they are now just a couple of generic Old Guys, and hence invisible. But there is tremendous consolation in Mike's assuming a new role, one for which grey hair is suitable -- that of grandfather to Alex and Toggle's twins, Eli and Danny, and to their young daughter Rosie.