Oh No What Will You Do Without ‘Doonesbury’? (If You Are 89 Years Old)

Oh No What Will You Do Without 'Doonesbury'? (If You Are 89 Years Old)Now that his Amazon sitcom Alpha House has been renewed for another “season,” Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau will put the comic strip on hold. Fine, just as long as there’s not another Doonesbury musical. This development in no way means the newspaper comic strip is a dying medium or anything (it totally is).

Trudeau will continue doing new Sunday strips each week, but starting February 24, new installments of the daily strip will go on “long-term and open-ended hiatus.” Distributor Universal Uclick will offer Doonesbury “flashback” strips to replace the dailies, drawing on an archive that goes back to 1970. The syndicator proudly says that there are over 13,000 strips that haven’t been published in newspapers since their original run; in reality, of course, gags about Gerald Ford’s press secretary Ron Nessen are probably well past their shelf life.

This will be Trudeau’s second extended break from the strip; he had previously put the whole thing on hiatus for 22 months from January 1983 to October 1984, after which he retooled it to allow the characters to graduate from college and age. He also retconned a number of elements in the strip, to its detriment — Zonker still talked to his plants, for instance, but now their previous 2-way conversations with him were attributed to his being stoned.

Trudeau told the Washington Post’s “Comic Riffs” blog that the choice between the strip and the TV series wasn’t especially difficult:

I’ve done the strip for 43 years — 45 if you include the college edition [at Yale] — and I’m ready for an extended break. A hiatus comes with uncertainty, of course: I can’t assume I’ll be welcomed back a year or two from now.

He also said that while he does intend to return to the daily strip at some undefined point in the future, he’s well aware that “in Free Agent America, nobody stays put. It’s hard to promise anything in an era that so prizes disruption.” Even so, he thinks of himself as a “comic-strip lifer,” annoying though that can be to younger artists trying to find a spot on the comics page, and that’s why he’s continuing with the Sunday strips. The only real good side to the hiatus for comics fans is that if newspapers drop the daily reruns, they may well also get rid of “Mallard Fillmore,” Bruce Tinsley’s unfunny rightwing duck comic that exists largely because cowardly editors want to “balance” Doonesbury with a “conservative” strip.

As for Alpha House, gotta confess I haven’t seen it, because I’m worried that after watching the first four or so episodes for free, I’ll be hooked enough that I’ll go and sign up for Amazon Prime, the only way the full series can be viewed. May end up going there anyway, since it’s never going to show up on Netflix.


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  • PubOption

    ‘Boondocks’ never returned after it was put on hiatus while Aaron McGruder worked on a TV series.

    • BMW

      Well, in fairness, the TV show has kept him pretty busy, what with its breakneck pace of 3 seasons in 8 years and all…

    • Snarknado

      Not that you could really tell the difference either way, since even prior to the TV series it had taken a liking to the “same frame copied three times with speech bubbles” approach to comics.

  • CHUDster A. Arthur

    I think I still have my unopened Uncle Duke action figure somewhere.

  • Dragoon21b

    I wouldn’t right off jokes about the Ford administration…half of them were in the Bush administrations…

  • Kobayashi Maroon


  • Joseph

    At first I was depressed but then the DVD of Dolly Parton skipping rope in the nude arrived so it’s a wash.

    • Daniel P

      Wait, what? How much and where?

  • andreamd

    When I was in England for 7 months during my junior year in college(1973), my mom cut out the strips every day wile I was gone. I had them until a few years ago

  • msanthropesmr

    Heck, who hasn’t needed a good Jeb Magruder joke recently?

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  • marindenver

    I accidentally signed up for Amazon Prime then I forgot to cancel it before the free trial was over but Alpha House has made it worth it.

  • lljktechnogeek

    We’re getting more Alpha House, so I consider Doonesbury an acceptable (albeit tragic) sacrifice.Seriously, if you have any interest in politics, you should watch that show. The GOP primary debate from “In the Saddle” is practically worth the cost of Amazon Prime itself.

  • Swampgas_Man

    My only problem is that this strip is the “counter” to fucking Mallard Fillmore, The Unfunny Duck. NOW what am I gonna do? Besides avoid the letters-to-the-editor page, I mean.

  • hippie1367

    Trudeau does more in 3 daily panels than Bill Keller has ever created

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      • hippie1367

        True, but his output has been off since he has been dead for 40 years

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  • kath1y

    Oh, noooooooooooo! I am a person who has been reading Doonesbury since it was first syndicated and who owns a first edition of every single Doonesbury book. Even now, I read the strip every morning in my paper newspaper, the kind that folds. I do not have Amazon Prime. Whatever shall I doooooooo???Please don’t suggest I go all 21st century. I think Trudeau is being unfair to his fellow elderly who made him who he is. My days will just not be the same. Really, I don’t mind change but I do require that changes represent an improvement.