Garry Trudeau Returns to ‘Walden’ to Celebrate Doonesbury at Forty
November 3 will be Doonesbury Day at Yale, when Garry Trudeau (B.A., 1970, M.F.A. 1973) returns to the campus where Bull Tales, the prototype for the satirical strip, first leapt from his imagination onto the pages of the Yale Daily News.
The celebration of the strip’s 40th anniversary of syndication includes a book signing at Barnes & Noble for “Doonesbury and the Art of G.B. Trudeau,” by Brian Walker; a talk by Trudeau on “Doonesbury in a Time of War” at the Yale University Art Gallery and an ongoing exhibition on that subject at the Beinecke Library.
Since it first became syndicated in 1970, Doonesbury has become a staple of American culture, and, even in the age of Jon Stewart, continues to be a major injection of daily satire for some 100 million readers. While the strip has kept up with the times and has never lacked for material to lampoon, it remains firmly rooted in the Yale that Trudeau experienced as an undergraduate. Most of its main characters—Mike, Mark, B.D., Zonker, Rick Redfern, the Rev. Scot Sloane and Roland Hedley among them—were based on people Trudeau knew at Yale, and the fictional “Walden College” has become an icon of the 1960s for the Boomer generation.
Encapsulating the spirit of a daily cartoon strip that has been satirizing the prevailing social and political winds for more than four decades was a challenge for Louise Bernard, curator of American Literature at the Beinecke, who was charged to capture that literally in one display case. Trudeau himself proposed that she use the theme of war, which is threaded throughout the strip. More specifically, Trudeau advised her to follow the fortunes of the ever-helmeted B.D., based on Yale football star Brian Dowling, from the quarterback’s enthusiastic support for and later combat in the Vietnam war through his tours of duty in both Gulf Wars, and the loss of his leg, and helmet, in Iraq. Mirrored in B.D.’s evolution from gung-ho recruit to wounded vet is Trudeau’s own political development from observant satirist to unabashed advocate for the plight of injured soldiers and founder of The Sandbox, a blog for men and women currently in service, notes Bernard.
The exhibition, “Doonesbury in a Time of War,” will be on view at the Beinecke at the intersection of Wall and High Streets, through Dec. 17. Exhibition gallery hours are Mon–Thurs 9 a.m.–7 p.m.; Fri 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sat 12 noon –5 p.m.
Trudeau, who rarely makes public appearances, will join Walker to sign copies of “Doonesbury and the Art of G.B. Trudeau” at Barnes & Noble, 77 Broadway, 12:30–1:30 p.m. Published by Yale University Press on Nov. 2, Walker’s book offers an in-depth view of the Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip. Walker, a leading authority on the history of comics and the organizer of the first major exhibition of Garry Trudeau’s work in 1983, also examines the creative process and Trudeau’s evolution as an artist in this book, which includes nearly 500 illustrations, many rare and previously unpublished. “Publishers Weekly selected the book for its ‘Indie Sleepers’ list for Fall 2010, noting that it ‘could become a collector’s item,’” notes the publisher.
Trudeau will give a talk at 5:15 p.m. at the Yale University Art Gallery Lecture Hall, 1111 Chapel St., in which he will expound on the theme of “Doonesbury in a Time of War.” A complement to the Doonesbury exhibition at the Beinecke, the talk is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and will be available on a first come, first served basis.