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: I've noticed that for several years now, conservative commentators and bloggers have used the Condi Rice/Brown Sugar strip as evidence of Trudeau's contempt for black conservatives. Any reaction?
-- Stanley M., Santa Cruz, CA | Storyline | October 16, 2008

That criticism only makes sense if you strip the Rice cartoon of all context. It appeared as part of THIS WEEK of dailies commenting on George W. Bush's life-long practice of assigning demeaning or diminishing nicknames to those around him. For instance, he dubbed Karl Rove "Boy Genius" (notice the "boy") and "Turd Blossom" (as apt as it is vulgar). Giving out nicknames is both cocky and controlling -- and a revealing signifier of character. The Rice strip, shown below, simply depicts Bush, who feels he's being patronized, reining in his advisor in trademark fashion. To isolate Bush's fictional words and reassign them to Trudeau himself is to deliberately miss the whole point of the strip, if not satire generally.

To read an essay that GBT wrote for Time magazine about Bush's use of nicknames, click HERE .

Q: Thanks to Bill O'Reilly's criticism of the 10-12-08 "family values" strip, the DTH received an outpouring of unusually acerbic email. Rather than overload BLOWBACK with a surfeit of posts on one topic, we are providing a generous sampling of the reaction on this dedicated page.
Storyline | October 16, 2008

How can you portray Governor Palin the way you did in your boring cartoon and live with yourself? Your crap is something I don't read and after this latest BS I know why. (I only know about it due to press coverage not because I have read your cartoon crap.) Cartoons should be humorous. Yours are not. No laugh from me. And how about Osama Obama -- how many colleges did he go to? And how did he pay for college? Drug dealing or radical Muslim support? Did he ever actually work? Oh yes, it must have been his white grandparents that supported him, not the black grandparents. Who are they anyway? Maybe they were building his radical Muslim funds in Africa.

-- Pam Mrjenovich, Aurora, CO

I just read your smear of Sarah Palin and her family. If anyone had said anything remotely as vicious about Saints Barack and Michelle Obama, you and every other goddamn liberal would be screaming "racism, racism, racism - mean-spirited, mean-spirited!" All you leftist liberals are assholes.
-- Leon McKinney, St. Louis, MO

How does anyone call this funny? Your comic strip has sucked since the beginning. The end of your commentary would make this country a better place.
-- T. M.

Trudeau is an idiot for his latest work against Palin. He makes all of us liberals look bad.
-- L.N., Pittsburgh, PA

How do you pass yourself off as being funny? You are just spreading hate. But then, I think you stopped being funny when you started your political agenda. My voice will now be heard by the papers that print your radical prejudiced pictures (can't call them "comic strips").
-- Cindy, CA

Talk about a herd mentality. You just couldn't resist attacking the most honorable female candidate we've had on a national basis, could you. Cheap. Damn cheap-ass. You want a little credibility? Try attacking Dems. Then maybe you will be taken seriously.
-- Charlie Springer, Louisville, KY

Dude, you are so far off base with running down Mrs. Palin. Grow up, lose the self righteousness, and change your diaper, k?
-- Mickey, Greenville, SC

Have you ever thought about the likelihood of your parents aborting you? If your parents are anything like you, and found out that you may have some sort of deformity, we would not have to worry about your thoughtless so-called art, because there is no doubt your mind is warped.
-- Michael Crowley, NY

How lame! Is this the best you can do? I would expect better satire than cheap crap than this. If this is the attitude and what passes for humor back in the States from the left, I am so glad I decided to bring my family back to Europe.
-- Michel, Toulon, FRANCE

I respect your First Amendment rights, and I respect your opinions. However that does not give you the right to bash Sarah Palin in your comic strip. It is one thing to criticize her policies, but you should not be going after her personal life. If you want to go after someone's personal life why not go after Tim Mahoney, the Florida Congressman who had the affair, or why not John Edwards, who cheated on his wife when she was fighting for her life against cancer. I have read and often enjoyed your comics, however I will refuse to read your comics until you apologize. All I ask you is for you to not involve personal lives in your comic strip.
-- Will Parker, CO

It's easy to take cheap shots at Palin when you know that you can shade any aspect the way that you want to and have no fear of being shown as a biased political hack.
-- David, Richmond, VA

I've enjoyed your comic strip for so many years I can't remember, but I'm determined to wean myself off of it, at all cost! Your Palin rant went off the deep end, and while I like poking fun at others in a fun manner, this is just hypocrisy of the left, screaming out at the world "Do what I say not as I do!" You should be ashamed to have printed this, as an American and as a professional. I'll find other entertainment to read.
-- John Quintero, Houston, TX

Most of the time I enjoy Doonesbury comics. But the Oct 12th strip made me angry. This was a low. All you can do is print cheap shots at the candidates, like a couple of kids getting together to insult each other's mothers.
--Iran Cooper, Lebanon, OR

Character assassination of Sarah Plain is not funny. I am tired of court jesters like Trudeau trying to influence the people. Doonesbury no longer will be read by me and I will share my influence on all that I come in contact with. Good riddance.
-- Joel G.

Q: Did Obama really sink eight out of ten from downtown?
-- Mark G. Smith, Chapel Hill, NC | Storyline | October 27, 2008
A:Indeed he did. GBT and Newsweek's Jonathan Alter were chatting with Sen. Obama in a hotel lobby in Berlin about the widely-seen video of the candidate sinking a three-pointer in front of a gym full of troops. Obama explained that in fact he'd gone on to sink seven more during two games of Horse. He was justly proud of his performance, and GBT got the clear sense that he wouldn't mind if the full story got out -- hence Rick's big break, as "Jon" leaked him the hot item for his fledgling blog.
Q: In the Sunday 11/30/08 strip Boopsie and daughter are heading home -- in the snow -- to make muffins. I'm more used to seeing the Malibu coastline as a backdrop to strips with B.D. and Boopsie and Sam and, for a time, nanny Zonker. So when did they make the move to warmer climes? I don't remember.
-- Graeme Roberts, UK | Storyline | December 11, 2008
A:It's not surprising that your memory has failed you, as their big move east occurred clear back in the late 20th century. It all began with a crisis at Walden College and an irresistible offer of gainful employment, as chronicled in this series of strips from the fall of 1997.
Q: I'm confused. I thought Alice inherited a couple mil when dear Congresswoman Lacey Davenport passed away. How is it that she and Elmont are still among the homeless? Is it by choice?
-- Allie, Gettysburg, PA | Storyline | May 13, 2009
A:Congresswoman Davenport did indeed leave a considerable sum to Alice, whom she mistook for her sister Pearl. But Alice and Elmont's good fortune -- and indoor life -- lasted little more than a year, as documented in these strips from the late 90s.
Q: I'm getting a little turned on by the series on bulb catalogs. And it's not the first time bulbs have been featured in the strip, right? What was the name of the famous flower you featured back in the day?
-- J. Lawson, San Bernardino, CA | Storyline | November 04, 2009
A:Ah, you are referring to none other than B.J. Eddy, who served as head tulip in the White House garden for eight years. Zonker Harris and Patty the potted palm heard him speak at a house plant convention in Hartford, Connecticut in 1975, a year before Eddy was given the axe by the Carter administration, as chronicled here.
Q: It is clear from this week's series that GBT is a knee-jerk liberal gun-hater. Why?
-- R.S., Davenport, IA
Storyline | April 13, 2010
A:GBT does not hate guns. He grew up in a family of hunters and sport shooters -- his grandfather had over 20 shotguns and rifles -- and joined the NRA as a kid. He got a .22 when he was seven, a shotgun at 12, and his first deer rifle at 16. The NRA's main message at that time was gun safety, and he was completely on board. He got their magazine, and competed in NRA marksmanship events, winning several medals. When GBT moved to the city he took one of his guns with him, and within a few months it was stolen out of his house. He parted ways with the NRA when it ceased to be a sporting association and turned into an insane political lobby.
Q: Around the time of the coup in Russia, I remember that Sal Doonesbury, Dan Quayle, and others attempted a coup in Doonesbury. It's been so long I can't remember exactly how it played out. Any chance of seeing those strips again?
-- Mark Schmidt, Rochester, NY | Storyline | September 09, 2010
A:A very good chance indeed. To revisit the gripping drama that unfolded over three Sundays in the Fall of 1991, all you have to do is click here.

I was enjoying the "Zonker Harris Day" storyline as a fun fantasy, but I see from the latest Blowback entries that it has a reality-based dimension. Could you please clarify a bit on what the heck is going on? Thanks!

Grady S. | Storyline | Santa Cruz, CA | December 03, 2010

Zonker Harris Day and Duke Day are decades-old traditions at Wesleyan University -- hallowed occasions for celebration and music. Several months ago residents of the Westco dorm wrote GBT to make sure he knew that Wesleyan's president had called Zonker Harris Day "stupid," and banned the Z-man's name and image -- leading students to dub the festival "Ze Who Must Not Be Named Day." Understandably outraged, the Westco denizens defended the legendary slacker, telling Trudeau, "We cannot stand for an excellent babysitter, student, football player, and beach rights activist to be so dishonored." For more on the developing crisis -- and for an interesting gloss on the "Ze" aspect -- check out this Wesleyan Argus article.


The strips on politicians carrying handguns reminds me of the time Mike was involved in a subway shootout, where everybody was carrying and everybody opened up. As I recall, it was inspired by the Bernie Goetz case in New York City. How about sharing that blast from the past?

H. Soto | Storyline | Brooklyn, NY | January 29, 2011

Good memory. You are thinking of the 1985 "Subway Avenger" series, in which a simple question led to an action-packed storyline. To read the sordid tale, click here.