Recent FAQS

FAQs

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 small drawing errors lately -- like the manila file folder should be blocking more of Mr. Azizah's shirt in panel 1 of 5-23-03. This kind of thing didn't happen before the move to Slate. So is it Microsoft's fault?
-- James I., Madison, WI | June 24, 2004
A:Your attention to detail is impressive, James, and ordinarily if you discovered some inconsistency in the art, we'd be the first to congratulate you. But in that particular panel, Duke is holding the right flap of the folder with his right hand, reading a page that is on the left side of the open folder. In subsequent panels the folder has been closed. As for Microsoft, you've incorrectly made a post hoc, ergo propter hoc inference. But thanks for your vigilance and concern
Q: In the June 9 strip published on Slate.com, 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: In regards to your present strip with BD recovering in hospital, what the heck is a physiatrist? I thought on the first day you had just misspelled something, but now fear there is a great joke going over my head.
-- Richard Williamson, London, UK | Storyline | July 08, 2004
A:No joke. GBT has been receiving enthusiastic e-mail from the physiatrist community, happy that B.D.'s relationship with Dr. Nitz has focused attention on their important, awkwardly-named and little-known profession.

We've borrowed the following explanation of the physiatrist's role from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilition Web site, where you can go to get more information.

What is a Physiatrist?

A physiatrist (fizz ee at' trist) is a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Physiatrists treat a wide range of problems from sore shoulders to spinal cord injuries. They see patients in all age groups and treat problems that touch upon all the major systems in the body. These specialists focus on restoring function to people....

Physiatrists treat acute and chronic pain and musculoskeletal disorders. They may see a person who lifts a heavy object at work and experiences back pain, a basketball player who sprains an ankle and needs rehabilitation to play again, or a knitter who has carpal tunnel syndrome. Physiatrists' patients include people with arthritis, tendonitis, any kind of back pain, and work- or sports-related injuries.

Physiatrists also treat serious disorders of the musculoskeletal system that result in severe functional limitations. They would treat a baby with a birth defect, someone in a bad car accident, or an elderly person with a broken hip. Physiatrists coordinate the long-term rehabilitation process for patients with spinal cord injuries, cancer, stroke or other neurological disorders, brain injuries, amputations, and multiple sclerosis.

Physiatrists practice in rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and in private offices. They often have broad practices, but some concentrate on one area such as pediatrics, sports medicine, geriatric medicine, brain injury, or many other special interests.

Q: As I recall, B.D. was also wounded in the first Gulf War. Why is Trudeau putting him through so much hell? Is he some kind of sadist?
-- Bill E., Alameda, CA | Storyline | July 26, 2004
A:B.D. was wounded in Vietnam, where he was (erroneously) awarded a Purple Heart after cutting himself on a pop-top beer can. He did serve in GWI, but it was his comrade-in-arms Ray Hightower who suffered a leg injury when their Humvee was hit by an artillery shell. Ray didn't lose a limb, but the wound was serious enough that he was evacuated to a hospital ship and eventually sent home. The series covering his brush with amputation began on February 6, 1991.
Q: I heard something about Doonesbury getting dumped from 38 papers. What's going on?
-- Dean M., Berkeley, CA | August 05, 2004
A:The president of Continental Features, a Sunday-comics consortium serving papers mostly in the southeast, asked his 38 clients to vote on the idea of dropping Doonesbury from its Sunday section. Two expressed no opinion, twenty-one voted to drop it, and 15 voted to keep it. "I wouldn't call the vote overwhelming, but it was a majority opinion", said Continental's Van Wilkerson. One of the 15 opposed to dropping the strip, the Anniston Star, criticized the Continental decision as censorship, pointing out that no other strip had been singled out for similar polling. Executive Editor Troy Turner said the Star would find some way to run the strip if it is indeed dropped from the Continental package.

Asked by Editor and Publisher magazine to comment on Continental's decision, Trudeau said:

"The popularity of individual comic strips naturally waxes and wanes, and newspaper lineups tend to reflect the evolving preferences of editors and readers. Moreover, a newspaper consortium will represent those tastes imperfectly, a price the individual papers pay for joining it. However, in this case, Doonesbury was singled out for internal polling because of the views of a single individual; other competing strips were not put to the same test. In this way, one opinion drove a process that eliminated the strip from 38 newspapers across the entire region, including 15 papers that wanted to keep it.

I greatly appreciate the Anniston Star's speaking out against such an unfair process, asserting its right and responsibility to put in front of its readers a diversity of opinion. This seems particularly important during a time of war, with all its grave implications to public life."

Q: You seem to have done a prodigious amount of research in creating the soldiers-in-Iraq and B.D.-loses-his leg storyline. How exactly was that accomplished?
-- Steve W., Turlock, CA | August 30, 2004
A:GBT addressed this subject in "Doonesbury at War", the cover story in the August 5, 2004 issue of Rolling Stone. Here is an excerpt from his interview with Eric Bates:

You're focusing a lot on the war in Iraq. I've noticed that your military characters, like B.D. and Ray, sound like real soldiers. Have you been talking to the troops for research?

Yeah. During the first Gulf War, I'd meet them because they contacted me. This war is a lot easier, because it's an e-mail war. I hear from soldiers who are actually in the field. That changes all the rules of the game. They can't censor soldiers with laptops -- it's literally impossible. It's a way for somebody like me, sitting in this office, to get a view of what soldiers are experiencing.

What did you do to prepare for B.D. losing his leg in combat?

In the case of B.D. suffering this grievous wound, I went down to Walter Reed hospital, in Washington, D.C., to talk to some of the amputees. It's important to me to get the details of his recovery right. There's a great deal of pain on Ward 57, where the amputees are sent. Most of the soldiers will admit to having bad days when they feel overwhelmed -- either by their physical pain or by the hard work of looking at themselves in a new way. But it's not as depressing as you might think. In fact, it's uplifting and inspirational. Part of it has to do with the fact that these guys are wrapped in a culture that is very positive, very can-do. Their whole mind-set is: This is a problem I can overcome. Almost all of them want to return to their units, which is a fascinating response to the crisis they're undergoing.

Q: IN MEMORIAM: ENZO BALDONI
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: I see the Texans for Truth are offering $50,000 to anyone who can prove Dubya served in the Alabama Guard. What ever happened to Doonesbury's offer of $10,000 for the same thing? If you announced a winner I missed it.
--David L., Indialantic, FL

With all the current Swift Boat Vets and Bush Guard brouhaha I was just wondering -- did anyone ever collect on the $10,000 reward for confirming Bush's Guard service in Alabama? Thanks.
-- C.A., Milton, MA

Storyline | September 29, 2004
A:We wish the Texans for Truth luck. Though it's clearly in the president's interest to have his Guard story confirmed, two presidential campaigns have as yet failed to inspire the appearance of a single definitive corroborator. Nor did Doonesbury's $10K reward do the trick. Our Bush Guard contest, announced in the strip, inspired an impressive number of entries, but most proved distinctly un-authoritative, albeit surreally entertaining. Nonetheless, first, second and third-place winners were selected and their Doonesbury prizes shipped off, and GBT made good on his $10K contribution to the USO (he saw no reason why the organization should lose out just because a credible witness couldn't be flushed).

While waiting for the recent Texans for Truth reward offer to produce results, we invite you to peruse our contest winners and selections from the Bush Guard testimony.

Q: What?s Tanner on Tanner, that Sundance is putting out. I assume it has something to do with Tanner 88?

-- Barry M., Toledo, OH

Is Sundance the only channel that will be showing the new Tanner show? If so, will it be coming out on DVD for those of us who don?t get Sundance Channel?

-- Kandee, Indianapolis, IN

September 29, 2004
A:Tanner on Tanner, a Robert Altman-Garry Trudeau four-part follow-up to the award-winning Tanner 88, premieres on the Sundance Channel Tuesday, October 5th, and runs through election day. In the new series, filmed during the 2004 presidential primaries, Jack Tanner (Michael Murphy), who failed in his 1988 bid for the Democratic nomination, is the subject of a documentary film directed by his daughter Alex (Cynthia Nixon), who?s attempting to explore the price paid by failed contenders. Like its predecessor, Tanner on Tanner features numerous cameos, including appearances by Ron Reagan, Tom Brokaw, Dick Gephardt, and Alexandra Kerry.

Each of the four new half-hour episodes premieres on a Tuesday night, with numerous re-broadcasts sheduled throughout the week.

During October, the Sundance Channel will also complete its re-broadcast of the 11 original Tanner 88 episodes, updated with new documentary introductions that lead into the new series. Tanner 88 in its entirety will be available on DVD on 10-5-04. Tanner on Tanner is scheduled for release on 11-23-04, and can be ordered directly from Sundance.

If you?d like to read more, check out A New ?Tanner? Joins the Race, a New York Times article about both programs.

Q: What's Tanner on Tanner, that Sundance is putting out. I assume it has something to do with Tanner 88?
-- Barry M., Toledo, OH

Is Sundance the only channel that will be showing the new Tanner show? If so, will it be coming out on DVD for those of us who don't get Sundance Channel?
-- Kandee, Indianapolis, IN

October 13, 2004
A:Tanner on Tanner, a Robert Altman-Garry Trudeau four-part follow-up to the award-winning Tanner 88, premieres on the Sundance Channel Tuesday, October 5th, and runs through election day. In the new series, filmed during the 2004 presidential primaries, Jack Tanner (Michael Murphy), who failed in his 1988 bid for the Democratic nomination, is the subject of a documentary film directed by his daughter Alex (Cynthia Nixon), who's attempting to explore the price paid by failed contenders. Like its predecessor, Tanner on Tanner features numerous cameos, including appearances by Ron Reagan, Tom Brokaw, Dick Gephardt, and Alexandra Kerry.

Each of the four new half-hour episodes premieres on a Tuesday night, with numerous re-broadcasts scheduled throughout the week.

During October, the Sundance Channel will also complete its re-broadcast of the 11 original Tanner 88 episodes, updated with new documentary introductions that lead into the new series. Tanner 88 in its entirety will be available from Amazon on 10-5-04. Tanner on Tanner is scheduled for release on 11-23-04, and will be available directly from Sundance.

If you'd like to read more, check out A New 'Tanner' Joins the Race, a New York Times article about both programs.