Creating the Strip


Beta-fresh answers, uploaded occasionally

Lets face it, our favorite comic strip is often obscure or inconsistent, and key characters are sometimes left stranded for years. Long-suffering readers are within their rights to demand some clarification. Use the "Ask GBT" form to email us your questions, and we will answer those we can on the Blowback page, and also archive the answers here.


I noticed that on 11-1-15 there was no 45-years-ago-today strip on the Flashback page, and that in 1970 that date was a Sunday. I assume the two facts are related? When did the Sunday strip commence, and was it an eight-panel extravaganza from the get-go?

Jamie Kennedy | Creating the Strip | New South Wales, AUSTRALIA | November 04, 2015

Well observed. Although the dailies launched on 10-26-70, the first Sunday Doonesbury did not show up until almost five months later. It was in fact a nine-panel extravaganza, as you'll see here.


(Note: The resolution on the early Sundays leaves something to be desired. Upgrading these is on our To Do list, and we regret that squinting may be required until that task is accomplished. To those who have taken the time to write about this issue, thank you!)


I've had some technical problems getting to the site the past couple of days. Is everything okay?

Charlene | Creating the Strip | Peoria, IL | April 28, 2014

All is well. As of today the site has moved, lock, stock and barrel, to The Washington Post. The glitches you experienced were no doubt a result of our behind-the-scenes preparations, but everything seems to have gone smoothly. You can read AMU's announcement about the move here, and Michael Cavna's Washington Post column here.


Speaking of re-reading older strips, I have a question: Why aren't there any 30-years-ago-today strips on the site's Flashbacks page? They've been missing and I've been missing them for quite a while now.

Margo Darling | Creating the Strip | Castlegar, CANADA | February 28, 2014

A timely question and an interesting tale: The gap you refer to references the major sabbatical GBT began on January 2, 1983 in order to write Doonesbury: A Musical Comedy. When the impending leave was announced, the Wisconsin State Assembly issued a declaration pleading for "public calm in the face of this grave crisis," and former president Jimmy Carter said he was "heartbroken."

The Broadway show, a collaboration with composer Elizabeth Swados, chronicled Mike and J.J.'s engagement and the graduation of the denizens of Walden Commune from college. It opened at the Biltmore Theater on November 21, 1983. Trudeau wrote the book and lyrics, and was nominated for two Drama Desk Awards. The cast album received a Grammy nomination. A college, high school, and regional theater perennial, Doonesbury: A Musical Comedy can be ordered from Samuel French. And you can view an ad for the original show here.

The strip resumed on September 30, 1984, so 30-years-ago-today strips will once again appear on the Flashbacks page next fall.



Is Garry Trudeau suffering writer's block, or is he -- heaven forbid -- ill? There have been Flashback strips for so long!
-- Richard Hoffman, Melbourne, AUSTRALIA

Oh Lord, if we are in permanent Flashback mode, please let us know.
-- Tom Testpilot, New York, NY

Creating the Strip | September 26, 2013

Not to worry. In early June, with Alex and Toggle on the brink of parenthood, GBT began an extended hiatus from Doonesbury in order to write a political sitcom called "Alpha House" (trailer here) . Flashback strips began running at that time. Although he'd hoped to return to the strip at the end of summer, just before Labor Day Trudeau wrote to subscribing newspaper editors saying he had "hit the wall," and realized that he couldn't complete the show while doing both daily and Sunday strips. Original Sundays resumed on September 8th (a week later Alex and Toggle's twins made their much-anticipated first appearance) but the dailies will continue in Flashback mode until Monday, November 18th.


You can read more about the "Alpha House" project here, here, and here. And a CNN piece on Amazon Studios, which includes a Jake Tapper interview with GBT, is here.


I follow the strip on GoComics, but I would like to re-read the whole thing in real (paper) books. I have the first large-format anthology, The Doonesbury Chronicles. Could you please give me the names of the subsequent volumes, so I can read through the entire series?

Ronny Temple | Creating the Strip | Olympia, WA | September 11, 2012

With pleasure. You can't read every single strip in book form, but you can get pretty darn close. For quite a few years the 8 1/2" x 11" anthologies combined the strips from the smaller collections, minus the 10-15% that GBT would edit out in the process. Here are the first eight anthologies:

The Doonesbury Chronicles
Doonesbury's Greatest Hits
The People's Doonesbury: Notes From Underfoot
Doonesbury Dossier: The Reagan Years
Doonesbury Deluxe: Selected Glances Askance
Recycled Doonesbury: Second Thoughts on a Gilded Age
The Portable Doonesbury
The Bundled Doonesbury: A Pre-Millennial Anthology

After that the smaller books stopped, and 8 1/2" x 11" became the main format:

Virtual Doonesbury
Planet Doonesbury
Buck Wild Doonesbury
Duke 2000: Whatever It Takes
The Revolt of the English Majors
Peace Out, Dawg!
Got War?
Talk to the Hand
Heckuva Job, Bushie!
Welcome to the Nerd Farm
Tee Time in Berzerkistan

The fall 2012 book debuted a new, horizontal 8 1/2" x 9" hardcover, all-color format, which remains the norm:

Red Rascal's War
Squared Away
The Weed Whisperer

Many of these volumes are available via our STORE, and all of the older titles are frequently listed on eBay. Happy hunting!

NOTE: You can also read the entire run of Doonesbury online for free at, beginning with the very first strip, which ran on October 26, 1970. Bon voyage!


Roland getting his hands on the new Palin book reminds of of the time the strip leaked a bio of Nancy Reagan. Can we please revisit?

S.D. | Creating the Strip | New Rochelle, NY | September 14, 2011

The episode you recall was not actually a "leak." GBT obtained first serial rights to Kitty Kelley's unauthorized biography of Nancy Reagan, and in a series that began on the book's pub date Mark and Zonk read excerpts and discussed it on "All Things Reconsidered." You can tune in here.


Doonesbury is almost as old as I am (I was born eight months before it launched in October 1970) and I’ve only recently discovered that I love the strip. I have been reading all of it, from the beginning. I am wondering why there are no strips in the archive between January 2, 1983 and September 30, 1984. Is there any way I can see these missing strips?


Kandy Smith | Creating the Strip | Poplarville, MS | April 06, 2011

Unfortunately the answer to your question is “No,” but there’s an interesting explanation. On January 2, 1983 Doonesbury ceased publication as Trudeau began an unprecedented 18-month sabbatical from the strip -- causing, among other things,  the Wisconsin State Assembly to issue a declaration pleading for “public calm in the face of this grave crisis."


In the recently-published 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective GBT commented on this transitional period:


"For the first twelve years, the core characters in Doonesbury stayed put, happily hunkered down at Walden, the cozy commune that housed them as they faithfully failed to age out of college. Finally, in 1984, I took a sabbatical and hit the reset button. The strip’s static universe lurched into real time, dislodging the cast from their bucolic surroundings and sending them to join secondary characters such as Duke, Lacey, J.J., and Zeke, who had been growing up in a parallel universe more responsive to the passage of time."


The details of what transpired among the various Doonesbury cast members during this period were chronicled by Trudeau in Doonesbury: A Musical Comedy (with music by Elizabeth Swados), which opened on Broadway in November 1983. The strip’s return to syndication on September 30, 1984 was heralded on the cover of Life magazine, and the accompanying story provided status updates on the main characters. Trudeau later referred to this period, during which he wrote the Broadway show, a political cabaret called Rap Master Ronnie, and two screenplays (and had two children with his wife Jane Pauley) as “the most interesting two years of my life.”



Where does Doonesbury rank with respect to daily cartoon longevity? Has it surpassed Li'l Abner or Charlie Brown?

David Sullivan | Creating the Strip | Las Vegas, NV | December 23, 2010

At 40, Doonesbury is getting up there in terms of a feature created by a single person, but Li’l Abner ran for 43 years, Peanuts for almost 50, and at 60, Beetle Bailey is the longest-running feature still being done by its original creator. There have been longer runs when the torch was passed to someone else. Little Orphan Annie ran from 1924-1974, then again as Annie from 1979-2010, a total of 81 years of new material. Bringing Up Father (aka Jiggs and Maggie) ran for 87 years. Popeye, launched in 1929, ended its daily run in 1994, but continues in Sunday-only form, as does the 113-year-old Katzenjammer Kids, and Gasoline Alley is still going at 92  -- the longest-running feature still appearing as both daily and Sunday.


Q: As far back as I can remember, Garry Trudeau's post-election strip has never assumed that one candidate won over another. Why did Trudeau feel compelled to call this election for Obama? Why didn't he provide strips for a McCain win as well?
-- Micah, Portland, OREGON | Creating the Strip | November 12, 2008
A:Actually, GBT has handled the challenge of writing for election week in a variety of ways. In 1988, he had Peggy Noonan call the race a full week before the mere formality of voting gave President Un-Dukakis his victory. In 1992 GBT thoroughly hedged his bets, offering strips with alternate lines of dialogue so newspaper editors could check off boxes, selecting the versions that had proved to be the most appropriate. The strips that ran during election week in 1996 ignored the voting completely and focused on Mark and Chase's surprise outcome, as they accidentally outed themselves live on public radio. Election week 2000 chronicled the bitter end of Ambassador Duke's "Nothing Left to Lose" campaign for the White House, which had been chronicled in a remarkable series of campaign videos. In 2004, with a close election expected, Mark and Chase spent the week discussing the 2000 race, the role of the Supreme Court, and the rarity of a candidate choosing to concede a contested outcome for the good of the nation.

This year, with poll data indicating that an Obama victory is extremely likely, GBT chose to go with the odds in order to have the chance to comment on events as they occur. When the strips were distributed to client newspapers, numerous reporters questioned Trudeau about them. This Associated Press story includes some of his comments.

Q: OK, so I have been reading Doonesbury from the start, and know how to spell it. Today's comic heaves the question: Where did the name "Doonesbury" come from? What was its genesis?
-- Dennis Degen, Frederick, MD | Creating the Strip | October 09, 2007
A:GBT created the name "Doonesbury" by combining "doone" -- prep school slang for a socially clueless "genial fool" --and the last name of his college roommate, Charles Pillsbury.