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.
I've recently returned to reading Doonesbury, and am missing some of the connections. For instance, who is the young man with the eyepatch? Thanks a bunch!
That is none other than Leo "Toggle" Deluca. He and Alex Doonesbury were married in June of 2012. While serving in B.D.'s old unit, Toggle was blown up by a VBIED, lost an eye, and suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. The intial phases of his recovery are chronicled in Signature Wound: Rocking TBI, the third book in the Wounded Warrior series, but we'll get you started with these Toggle strips.
Two tips on catching up: There's a four-page foldout map that charts the web of relationships among the strip's 90 characters in 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective, and you can read through all 43 years of strips on GoComics.com. Have fun!
Is Garry Trudeau suffering writer's block, or is he -- heaven forbid -- ill? There have been Flashback strips for so long!
-- Richard Hoffman, Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
Oh Lord, if we are in permanent Flashback mode, please let us know.
-- Tom Testpilot, New York, NY
Not to worry. In early June, with Alex and Toggle on the brink of parenthood, GBT began an extended hiatus from Doonesbury in order to write a political sitcom called "Alpha House" (trailer here) . Flashback strips began running at that time. Although he'd hoped to return to the strip at the end of summer, just before Labor Day Trudeau wrote to subscribing newspaper editors saying he had "hit the wall," and realized that he couldn't complete the show while doing both daily and Sunday strips. Original Sundays resumed on September 8th (a week later Alex and Toggle's twins made their much-anticipated first appearance) but the dailies will continue in Flashback mode until Monday, November 18th.
A friend of mine -- who doesn't usually read the strip and knows I'm a huge fan -- bizarrely took the September 8th Sunday as some kind of slam on the firefighters who are risking their lives out West. I told him it was just follow-through on the decades-old storyline about Zonker's dream to become a pot grower. Could you please revisit some of the backstory about Z's now-vaporized Colorado grow? I'd love to show my misguided pal that this is about the pot, not the firefighters. They were just a brave, hardworking crew that happened to be in the right place at the right time. Thanks in advance!
Indeed. Recent legal developments in California and Colorado have been promising for Mr. Harris, a longtime cannabis aficionado. His torched field in Colorado (whose state slogans include "Enter a higher state") was preceded by a test crop three years earlier in California (whose motto "Eureka! I have found it!" tags the biggest city in its billion-dollars-a-year Emerald Triangle grow zone). It's also worth noting that Colorado's official state song is "Colorado Rocky Mountain High." Enjoy these Flashbacks.
Delivering my daughter to summer camp triggered the memory of a long-ago Alex storyline in which Mike dropped her off at Nerd Camp. Can we please go back there?
Ah yes, it was a mere 12 years ago that the future MIT grad packed her Mac and headed for the not-so-wilds of Camp Appleseed in order to "re-think packet-switching." Enjoy.
I love seeing Melissa again, and appreciate the Blowback comment about her being "no longer the hunched-over girl we first met." As long as Mel's revisiting all the stuff her father doesn't want her to "dwell" on, how about we revisit those earlier periods in her life as well? Thanks.
Good idea. In 2007 Melissa's story intersected with that of B.D., who she encountered in the waiting room at the Vet Center.
Clotheslines are a hot issue in Massachusetts these days, and it seems to me the strip had something to say on the subject a while ago. Can you refresh my memory, please?
Certainly. A storyline so violently dramatic that it involves a brick being tossed through the window of Zonker's parents' house is well worth hanging out for a re-view. Enjoy.
With the recent decision by SCOTUS regarding DOMA, would it be possible to take a quick step back in time, and see the Sunday strip that showed Mark and Chase enjoying a quiet evening of domestic bliss?
We are delighted to oblige. Short-lived though it was, we raise a glass to their happiness.
Concerning the Doonesbury population crisis, rather than a spinoff have you considered the obvious answer of simply killing off cast members? There are lots of interesting story possibilities; death in childbirth, from AIDS, in traffic accidents, in combat, from drug overdoses or simple old age. I have been reading Doonesbury for nearly forty years, but off and on. Has anyone in the story ever died?
Yes, half a dozen by our count -- not enough to solve the alleged problem: Andy Lippincott, his employer Congresswoman Lacy Davenport, her husband Dick, their friend Alice P. Schwartzman, Mark Slackmeyer's father, Phil, and Mike's mom, Daisy, aka "The Widow Doonesbury." As it happens, two characters died in ways that you suggest, so let's pay homage by revisiting those. In 1986 Dick Davenport suffered a heart attack in his old age, and in 1990 Andy Lippincott died of AIDS.
I'm enjoying the current Walden reunion storyline, and liked seeing Zonk back in the puddle. But I'm surprised he's having trouble remembering what "the commune" was all about, because I remember him going on and on about it an an earlier reunion. Could we revisit that series please? I remember a stretch limo, so it must have been after Zonker won the lottery. Thanks!
Quite. In the mid-80s, as Mike and J.J. prepared to move to Manhattan, the denizens of Walden gathered to ponder the fate of their beloved abode. The Sunday strip included in the series echoed events depicted in the 1983 Broadway show Doonesbury: A Musical Comedy, specifically the song "Just A House." Enjoy.
I love to see Zonker and Zipper going back to the land to become "farmers." And I recall that Zonker had some great times in his "Thoreau period," and later with his horticultural buddies. Could we have another hit of some of that?
Zonker Harris's strong ties with the botanical world proved extremely productive during the early years at Walden Commune, and his conversational skills bloomed considerably thereafter. Unfortunately, his photosynthetic charges suffered when he left them in the care of Mike while serving as lieutenant governor of Samoa, as chronicled in this series.