Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

HAWK TALK – Doonesbury

This would usually be a skip week, but thanks to some generous donors to Equality Florida, Hawk Talk is back! This week’s topic was chosen by Andy Bartholomew.


  1. Trudeau arguably ran Mr. Butts into the ground, but the final panel of the strip when he was first introduced was absolutely brilliant. I have a very vivid visual memory of that panel from reading it in the Irish Times in the school library on the day it appeared.

    Appeared in Ireland, anyway. Doonesbury’s international reach is noteworthy — it’s not necessarily what you would expect, given that it can be very American and very topical, and Young Me absolutely did not get all of the jokes. But it was more-or-less the only American newspaper strip that I knew growing up; it was quite interesting when I moved to the US to see that serious “quality” newspapers would have loads of them stretching across two pages. Newspaper strip cartoons, as distinct from editorial cartoons, have never really been much of a thing in the broadsheet press in Britain and Ireland. Aside from Doonesbury, that is.

    1. I love this biographical detail. The US comic strips I grew up with were Feiffer and Peanuts. It was the Peanuts Sundays in the Observer on a Sunday. I expect Feiffer was a weekly comic as well. Started reading Feiffer during Watergate. It had an impact.

  2. I first encountered Doonesbury at Uni in the mid 80’s where the main library kept a number of foreign papers, including the not actually foreign but fascinating in pre-Internet terms because it was basically a US paper in the UK “The International Herald Tribune” which carried “Doonesbury”, and was also my introduction to “Bloom County” and American crosswords (Loved the first two, but the last of these I found terribly disappointing, but that’s not the topic here)

    I think I also applied the comic book readers instinct of “Jump right in and see if I can pick it up as I go along” which I sort of did, though more awareness of the US political complexities would have helped.

    I think the abiding quote that stuck in my head and still lives there rent free every time I watch a politician speak, was the press conference with a journalist heckling the waffling politician: “A verb Senator, we need a verb!

  3. This episode made me squeal. When I began marathoning the podcast a few years ago, the Doonesbury references were one of the things that kept me on the hook. I came to Doonesbury and X-Men at around the same time, third grade or so, so they were already inextricably linked for me. Both appealed to my slightly smug sense of my own precociousness- if I was smart enough to glean 30ish years of Marvel continuity from context clues then by god I could parse and ultimately succumb to Watergate and Iran-Contra-era political humor. Mr. Butts was especially timely for me, growing up in Joe Camel’s back yard during THAT controversy, but my favorite character was always Duke, who felt like the closest thing in the strip to other celebrated avatars of mayhem like Calvin or Bart Simpson.

  4. I binged the first 15 years of Doonesbury sometime during high school in the late 90s. I still have a hand silk-screened tee shirt featuring Comrade Phred from the series, and a scrapbook with cut out dailies from the Beanie Babies era.

    The gentle ribbing toward Gerald Ford still makes me giggle.

  5. Woo hoo! I’m so honored to be a part of this!

    I had forgotten that Mike was a Steve Forbes Republican. I chalk it up to using him as a representation for all the Boomers who gradually became more conservative over the years.

    I also forgot that Alex married Toggle! And remember when Duke found out he had a son? And I tuned in a few years ago and Mark and Chase had gotten divorced! I guess I need to go sign up for that GoComics account so I can catch up on the past 15 years or so. A few years ago I bought this digital “Complete Doonesbury” thing that was totally broken and I had to send it back.

    How do people introduce their kids to newspaper comics these days? Should I plan to get a paper delivered when my newborn is old enough to read? I have way too much pop culture to show her.

  6. The special is very good in my opinion and available on Youtube in kind of a crummy version (but better than nothing). Look up Doonesbury special. It’s strangely elegiac – I found it at my library – and it reads like saying goodbye to these characters, which I suppose in a way it was – everybody moved away eventually; starting with Joannie going off to Law School soon after this. Did Zonker Graduate? I got the impression he was the last to leave largely because he avoided Graduating.

  7. My experience with discovering Doonesbury was with finding some of the same collections that Jay did, but in a different location – my local library. Indeed, as a possible alternative option, if buying copies of the collected editions used (or getting an online subscription to the archive) is unavailable or not affordable, a lot of those collections may be available through your local library as well, so you might check there too.

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