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: 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 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: Some years there have been cool Christmas-themed Sunday strips. How about re-running one of those Christmas classics, like the strip where everybody is singing?
-- Charlene T., Carmichael, CA | Storyline | January 07, 2005
A:Here's a jolly old look back at some of the Yuletide strips of yore. Merry Christmas, Charlene! And Happy Holidays to all.
Q: I'm surprised the whole gay marriage debate hasn't inspired Mark and Chase to tie the knot. I figure Mark would be all for it, and Chase would hold back.
-- Thomas Moore, Long Beach, CA | Storyline | February 15, 2005
A:They're way ahead of you -- Mark and Chase celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary last summer. Their differences at the time were mostly about venue, as you'll see when you read THE WHOLE NUPTIAL SERIES.
Q: Although I'm a longtime fan of Doonesbury, I periodically lose track of it. I've been in the South Pacific for a while (don't ask) and now I'm trying to pick up the thread. What the heck happened to B.D.? And more to the point, when did it happen, and how can I read about it?
-- S. B., Walnut Creek, CA | Storyline | February 23, 2005
A:On April 19, 2004 B.D. was on patrol near Fallujah when his humvee was hit by an RPG. Since that day the strip has chronicled his treatment -- in Baghdad, then Landstuhl, Germany, then Walter Reed Medical Center -- and the ups and downs of his ongoing recovery. You can read the initial series here, and more of the storyline in the current Doonesbury collection, Talk to the Hand.

A special volume completely devoted to B.D.'s healing journey will be published at the request of WRAMC, the real-world facility where he has received much of his care and therapy. We'll be happy to announce it on the DTH home page when The Long Road Home: One Step at a Time is published this spring.

Q: A sampling of the BLOWBACK response to the 7/3/05 Sunday strip:

Your "starving, unkempt blogger" represents actual bloggers about as much as Sambo represents black people.
-- Brian Boyko, Austin, TX

Considering who GBT works for, it is not surprising he believes (or has his cartoon characters believe) that all bloggers are crackpots who eat cat food. I guess all corporate cartoonists are sell-outs and shills, even the so-called "liberal" ones.

-- Kurt Nimmo, Las Cruces, NM

Your recent strip attacking bloggers has shown that you are really just another elitist corporate media lackey.
-- Lewis J. Scannon, Grand Rapids, MI

I and all other honest people are ashamed of you!
-- Derek Bickerton

I think that the cartoon about bloggers was absolutely disgusting∑. I will never read another Doonesbury cartoon again, I swear to God.
-- Lindsey Tackett, Atlanta, GA

Why does Trudeau hate bloggers?
-- Steve Brodie, Salem, NC

Storyline | September 10, 2005
A:Huh? Regular readers know that for several years GBT has repeatedly addressed blogging from a variety of angles, often sympathetically. In fact, no fewer than five Doonesbury characters are currently bloggers themselves, and some of them were online long before blogs became ubiquitous.

For example, this pre-blog-era series follows Mike's first on-line sojourn in 1993 (this and other links coming shortly!). His much more savvy daughter Alex followed with her own web site in 1996, later developed it into a profitable "video blog" web-cam site, and in 2003, turned to blogging for Dean.

Then there's Zipper, who from his dorm room at Walden College runs a modestly trafficked blog devoted to a niche audience. His inspiration? The legendarily uninhibited blogger Jenny McTaggart, Girl Pirate (nom d'offline: Elmont). Meanwhile, B.D.'s recovery after losing a leg in Iraq was aided and abetted by a CaringBridge blog, ably handled by Boopsie, who dispensed updates to loved ones and conveyed their good wishes to her husband. And more recently, Ray Hightower, B.D.'s comrade in arms, has been painstakingly blogging his detailed way through his tour of duty in Iraq.

It's a common error to assume that Doonesbury's characters each express the precise views of their creator, who would have to be highly schizophrenic to embrace them all. In this particular instance, it's worth noting that Mark Slackmeyer, who trash-talks blogging, is himself a political screedist who has spent the last 30 years passionately expounding his point of view to an almost nonexistent audience. There's a reason why he might feel threatened by a blogosphere that gets far more attention than he.

On the other hand, he does seem to have flushed out an awful lot of pretty defensive people. Cat food sales must be brisk.

A:Thanks for requesting a reality check. In this regard, the strip happens to have been pretty accurate. So far this year, Dubya has gone before the press corps six times in the strip, not counting the speech he delivered as part of Mike's Summer Daydream. On the other hand, those six appearances unfolded over a total of 13 days, which may be why you thought the president was catching an unearned break.
Q: I don't remember Doonesbury ever including Santa Claus in the strip, or addressing the holiday at all. Is GBT part of the War on Christmas?
-- Hank I., Galesburg, IL | Storyline | January 03, 2006
A:If we didn't know better, we'd take this to be a thinly-veiled attempt (a successful one, we might add) to summon visitations by a few of our favorite ghosts of Doonesbury Christmases past. Merry Holidays!
Q: Are you going to make a cartoon response to the plight of your fellow cartoonists in Denmark who are now in hiding, in fear for their lives? Will you be making any sort of public statement?
- - Larry, Santa Rosa, CA | Storyline | February 24, 2006
A:This issue may or may not prove to be something GBT addresses in the strip itself, as he did when the fatwa was declared against Salman Rushdie. However, we're happy to share with readers his recent comments to the San Francisco Chronicle:

What do you think of the State Department's statement, essentially condemning the publication of the cartoons in European newspapers?

A concession to reality. It's the State Department. What is the U.S. supposed to say -- that it approves of cartoons that set off demonstrations around the world? Just how much more hated in the Muslim world do we need to be?

Why has the U.S. news media (broadcast and print), almost universally refused to publish the cartoons?

I assume because they believe, correctly, it is unnecessarily inflammatory. It's legal to run them, but is it wise? The Danish editor who started all this actually recruited cartoonists to draw offensive cartoons (some of those he invited declined). And why did he do it? To demonstrate that in a Western liberal society he could. Well, we already knew that. Some victory for freedom of expression. An editor who deliberately sets out to provoke or hurt people because he's worried about "self-censorship" is not an editor I'd care to work for.

Will you be including any images of the Prophet Muhammad in upcoming cartoons?

No. Nor will I be using any imagery that mocks Jesus Christ.

What do you think of the Joint Chiefs issuing a protest to The Washington Post over the cartoon of the U.S. soldier/amputee returning from Iraq?

Well, it was a literal reading on their part. Toles wasn't mocking wounded soldiers -- he was just using a strong metaphor. I thought it was an effective cartoon, but the blowback was understandable, and I'm sure Tom was ready for it.

Is there an echo?

If you mean a personal echo, not really. I have 600 client editors, and I don't for a moment expect them all on any given day to judge my work suitable for their wildly different audiences. We have editors for a reason. Just because a society has almost unlimited freedom of expression doesn't mean we should ever stop thinking about its consequences in the real world. If The New York Times had commissioned a dozen vicious, anti-Semitic cartoons, would we be having a comparable debate? I don't think so.

Q: Okay, is there any truth to the assertion in a recent strip that close to 90% of the U.S. military in Iraq think Saddam Hussein had a role in 9/11? I'll admit to feeling a little ridiculous asking that question - it seems impossible. Then again, close to 50% of all Americans believed it as recently as the last presidential election, so it isn't completely out of the realm of possibility. If I'm betraying my own gullibility, you can thank me for the laugh.
-- Jon Olson, Washington, D.C. | Storyline | April 11, 2006
A:No joke. Not funny. Here's a Stars and Stripes story about the recent real-world poll the strip was referring to.