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.

Q: My newspaper, The Boston Globe, doesn't run the first two panels of your Sunday strip. Do they have the right to edit your work like that?
-- B.W., Lowell, MA | Creating the Strip | February 12, 2007
A:Newspaper editors can choose among several formats for their Sunday color comic sections. Although the Sunday Doonesbury in its entirety typically consists of eight panels (plus a title panel), some formats can only accommodate six. For this reason, the first two "throwaway panels" are usually related to, but not necessary to, what follows. The good news is that you can always read the complete Sunday Doonesbury strip here at the Town Hall.
Q: Your daily archival Flashbacks feature, which shows the strip 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 years ago, has a serious Leap Year flaw. Only occasionally would a strip that originally appeared on a February 29th have the chance to be displayed. How about dusting the nine neglected bissextile Doonesburys off and showing them the light of day?
-- M.B., New Haven, CT | Creating the Strip | January 09, 2007
A:The fact that G.B. Trudeau was on sabbatical in 1984 whittles the Leap Year nine down to eight, but we are pleased to share those strips with you here. Thank you for suggesting this small adjustment, which we hope will put the Doonesbury Calendar back in synch with the cosmic flow of time.
Q: I read in the Kansas City Star that Doonesbury is 35. I wasn't around back then, so could you please post the very first strip? Thx.
-- J.M., KC, MO | Creating the Strip | November 17, 2005
A:Doonesbury debuted on October 26, 1970. In celebration of the strip's 35th year, we're happy to post THE FIRST 35 STRIPS. Enjoy!
Creating the Strip | September 16, 2004
A:The Doonesbury Town Hall mourns the passing of Enzo Baldoni, a long-time friend and supporter of the strip. For many years Enzo translated Doonesbury into his native Italian, bringing the feature to his countrymen and making possible a shelf full of collections. Enzo's love of Doonesbury and comics was but one facet of a rich and well-lived life. He was not only a major force as an advertising creative with his group The Whales Strike Again, but also worked as a journalist and as a Red Cross volunteer. It was the latter two roles which drew him to Iraq (see BLOGHDAD). As these stories from CNN and the BBC show, his kidnapping and execution sent shockwaves far and wide. Italy's Olympic athletes wore black armbands and tags to commemorate Enzo during their final competitions in Athens.

Garry Trudeau has sent the following message to Linus, the Italian magazine for which Enzo translated Doonesbury for many years: "Enzo Baldoni brimmed with the kind of passion and joyfulness that we Americans like to associate with being Italian. Such was the size of his life force, that he literally laughed at death, always brushing aside the concerns of friends who begged him to stop exploring the world's most troubled regions. Chiapas, Columbia, East Timor, Iraq -- these were the kinds of places Enzo was drawn to -- out of compassion and concern and curiosity. When he left for Najaf earlier this month, he sent me his usual breezy email, informing me that he was off to do something well-intentioned but insanely dangerous. I told him to email again as soon as he left Iraqi air space, never imagining he wouldn't be able to cheat death one more time. And why not? He was Enzo the miraculous. He had always come home before.

"I do not speak or read Italian, so I was never able to evaluate our collaboration. However, since I seem to have Italian readers in abundance, I can only assume that he improved my writing, making it livelier and funnier. When we finally met during a trip to Italy in 1991, I could tell that the strip was in good hands -- nobody as effusive and generous of spirit as Enzo could fail to leave Walden a happier place than he found it. And nobody could have represented my intentions with greater fidelity -- he regularly wrote to inquire about some nuance that he felt he might be missing (but rarely was).

"Although we have not seen each other in some time, I will miss my friend tremendously. My thoughts are with his family and colleagues during this sorrowful time."

Q: In the June 9 strip published on, the last panel reads "Tenet can't take all the blame." But, when I picked up my June 9 L.A. Times later that same day, the final panel read "Someone's got to take the blame." What gives? Are there alternative versions of the strip for more or less conservative publications, or do the local publications have some liberty in changing your text? Inquiring minds want to know (or at least I do).
--Ken Luer, LA, CA

Are you aware that NY Newsday is censoring the strip? The name of Tenet was removed from the strips of 6-9-04 and 6-10-04.
-- Larry S., NY, NY

Creating the Strip | June 25, 2004
A:The recent week of strips on the CIA had already been shipped to clients when director George Tenet suddenly resigned. GBT quickly re-wrote dialogue in the Wednesday 6-9-04 and Thursday 6-10-04 strips to reflect this development, and sent the new versions out. Some clients received them in time, but others (especially those not yet receiving the feature electronically) didn?t -- or failed to notice that they had. Hence the disparity between published versions.
Q: I just saw an article on the CNN site about your 9-7-03 Sunday comic about the masturbation study. Why did you agree to send out a substitute? Do you really think newspapers have a legitimate reason to pull your comic? I'm not saying you betrayed your art, I'm just curious about your reasoning.
-- Todd B., Houston, TX | Creating the Strip | September 17, 2003
A:Actually, some of us who hold down the fort here were wondering the same thing. The quick answer is that offering a substitute was the price GBT had to pay to put the strip in play at all. This is how he explained it this week to the Sacramento Bee:

"The strip isn't really about masturbation or the prostate cancer study as such, but about the shifting nature of taboos and the inability of two adults to have a certain kind of serious conversation. It was inspired by a similar conversation I had recently with friends. The more traditional viewpoint (Boopsie's) is represented without mockery, so readers who share her discomfort shouldn't be offended. There's a laugh in there, but not really at her expense.

"Still, I understood that the mention of certain words per se would not be acceptable to some family newspapers, which is why we made the alternative strip available. This is likely a one-time departure from past practice, and it does not signal our intention to start supplying replacement strips (what Pogo's Walt Kelly used to call his 'bunny rabbit strips') every time there's a chance someone might be offended by the regular release. It's a 'South Park' world now, and younger readers are unlikely to be shocked or confused by anything they find in Doonesbury. Besides, our general experience is that most children don't understand Doonesbury in any event, and thus sensibly avoid it."

Q: Today's strip with Roland looks very familiar. What's going on?
-- S. Blue, Anoka, MN | Creating the Strip | September 09, 2003
A:Do not adjust your consciousness. You are experiencing a "Doonesbury Flashback", an aberration fully sanctioned by syndicate policy. Closely observing the much-lamented early retirement of both Gary Larson and Bill Waterson, Universal Press wisely proclaimed that every UPS cartoonist with five years or more of active duty would henceforth receive a month of downtime annually. This humane shift was nothing short of revolutionary. Whenever GBT takes advantage of the much-needed opportunity for re-charging, UPS issues a week of previously-published "Doonesbury Flashback" strips. Such is the case this week. New material will resume on Monday, June 9.

Q: I noticed that something was "whited out" in the last frame of the 6-22 Sunday strip in my Gannett paper (Journal News). I went online to read the omitted name -- "Bill Bennett". Are they allowed to censor your strip that way?
-- Fredrica R., Bronxville, NY

In my local paper the last panel of Sunday's strip had been altered to conceal the name "Bill Bennett". It's a good bet someone scratched it out.
--T.C., Larchmont, NY

Creating the Strip | July 03, 2003
A:According to an article in Editor & Publisher Online, Bill Bennett's name was obscured due to a snafu at American Color, which prints Sunday comics sections for hundreds of papers. Only the Journal News comics section was affected. "There must have been a bad spot on the film that caused a blur," explained AC accounts manager Andy Olsen, "It was totally accidental." Here at DTH&WP we're confident that an explanation so implausible must be true.