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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 11/ 1/2009

RT This, Roland: 'Doonesbury' to Get a Major Change in The Post

By Michael Cavna

"Doonesbury": Back with flying colors. (UPS)
Enlarge Comic

First The Washington Post pulled a trick on loyal "DOONESBURY" readers. Now, for the second straight week, fans of Garry Trudeau's satirical strip get a welcome treat, especially in light of syndicated cartooning's general tough times.

Starting Monday, The Post will run "Doonesbury" -- which now occupies Style's Page-2 -- in color. Vivid, eye-catching color -- from the camouflage greens and beiges of the strip's Iraq troops to Rick Redfern's rust-colored post-buyout beard and the precise tint of Zonker's man-'do -- a shade perhaps best dubbed Walden Blond.

" 'Doonesbury' will now be in color daily," Style Editor Ned Martel confirms to Comic Riffs. Moving the strip to Page-2 amid the recent redesign has made that possible, Post management said.

Upon discovering this news, Comic Riffs can't help but be struck by the thought: What a difference two weeks make. A mere fortnight ago, The Post began running "Doonesbury" at the shriveled, barely legible size of roughly one less inch in width (which Comic Riffs immediately rallied against). Then last week, The Post restored the strip to near-prior size (which 'Riffs heartily applauded). Now, The Post editors make a smart "Doonesbury"-related decision for the second straight week.

(At this rate, I'm liable to get downright, well, optimistic and hope for "Frazz's" return to the daily comics -- or perhaps a longer shot yet, "Cul de Sac's" return to Sunday color.)

The print Post begins running the strip in color just in time to see fictive Fox News journo Roland Hedley start to promote the new true-life "DOONESBURY" book, "My Shorts R Bunching. Thoughts?" -- a collection of Roland Hedley's narcissistic Tweets. (I read this breezily hilarious book two weeks ago and I must say: I was laughing at conspicuously audible levels at how dead-on it parodies some Washington pundits' Tweet nothings.)

As for "Doonesbury's" open in-strip promotion of its own book, that merely seems to reflect the current frequency of this stunting as newspaper comics combat tough trends. (As "Dilbert's" Scott Adams told Comic Riffs this year: What better place to do it?) Plus, Trudeau has long been a master of the fourth-wall wink -- even in fewer than 140 characters.


TRUDEAU TWEETS: The "Doonesbury" creator tells Comic Riffs why his character Roland Hedley has a use for Twitter.

THE 'RIFFS INTERVIEW: Garry Trudeau on the powers of political satire.

TRUDEAU'S 'POST' LAYOFF: Rick Redfern tries life as a (gulp!) blogger.

By Michael Cavna  | November 1, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Comic Strip  | Tags:  Doonesbury, Garry Trudeau, The Washington Post  
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Printing Doonesbury's daily strips in color is an interesting experiment in bells and whistles, but hardly a major achievement. Even on Sundays, Doonesbury rarely uses color for any significant comic or political expression (although a superb exception to this rule appeared on 10 May 2009 *).

Surely there are other artists that could do more with colors that a syndicate employee painting by numbers (I doubt that Trudeau will be doing the new daily colors personally). Nevertheless, given the extra effort needed to colorize the panels, not to mention the additional printing costs and presumably also licensing fees, it might have made more sense to experiment with a strip that could really take advantage of the artistic potential.

The floor is open for other nominations, of course: How about Non Sequitur for starters?

P.S. Here's a direct link to the Doonesbury strip for Sunday 10 May 2009:

Posted by: kilby | November 1, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

And Cul-De-Sac gets printed in black and white on a page with seven wedding announcements in color. When is WaPo going to 'fess up to the BS about printing it in color when possible?

Posted by: yellojkt | November 1, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

And hasn't this past week been a repeat?

Posted by: tkavanag | November 1, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

With all respect to Garry Trudeau, Doonesbury is 30 years, at least, past its prime. To say that much of it is retreads gives tires a bad name. Retire, sir!

Posted by: ggreenbaum | November 1, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Great-now how about a make over for the Home and Garden section? French country would be a welcome break from the harsh lines and muted colors on...the hard wood floor, against the either white walls or headache inducing highway dept. yellow in someone's kitchen recently? blah, blah, blah, boring.

Posted by: BallyJamesDuff | November 1, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Please put Alice Otterloop and her friends in the glorious color they so richly deserve. Otherwise I may have to go back to the 60's and stage a protest. WHAT DO WE WANT? CUL DE SAC IN COLOR! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW!!!!

Posted by: The_Hermans | November 2, 2009 7:23 AM | Report abuse

I agree with yellojkt 100%. When are we going to get an explaination for this?

Posted by: subwayguy | November 2, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I found the color strip to be much easier to read this morning. Perhaps the color variation helps.

And Trudeau is hardly close to being done.

Posted by: JkR- | November 2, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Yellojkt just about says it all, I think. Even though the Post has a plethora of online Q&A sessions every week where editors and writers answer questions from their readers on all sorts of Post contents from news to editorials to obituaries to television to sports, we probably shall never have anyone from WaPo have an online session in which he or she says, "I'm the person who is in charge of the comics, and here's the reason that we do things the way that we do." Instead, we get cock-and-bull stories about the use of color "whenever feasible", etc., all passed along to us second-hand, usually from unnamed "management" sources at the paper. Didn't the "Judge Parker" incident (and the "Mark Trail" incident before that, and others) serve to demonstrate that the comics section is an important part of the Post, at least to a significant minority of WaPo readers, and it needs to be as responsive to reader input as does the rest of the paper?

Posted by: seismic-2 | November 2, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Just to say; Sunday's Fuzzy was the best I've seen in a long time, perhaps since the time Bucky fielded a telemarketer call....

Posted by: tws1372 | November 2, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Does WaPo do The Argyle Sweater? That is a comic taht needs, nay, requires color, to make it pop.

Posted by: ZeldaJane | November 2, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Doonsebury is already colorized daily. So no extra effort is probably needed by the Post, especially since the Post owns "Slate" which hosts the Doonesbury "Daily Dose" at .

One thing I've always been curious about, though, is with each section seeming to have its own comic strip why Tank McNamara doesn't move to the Sports section. It would just seem to make sense.

Posted by: DKUVA | November 2, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

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