Trump and ‘Doonesbury’: The Comic Gift That Keeps On Giving


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A comic strip panel featured in “Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump.”

Credit
G. B. Trudeau/Andrews McMeel Publishing

Sometimes, it seems, you can judge a book by its cover. And so it should be no surprise that “Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump,” a recently published book by Garry Trudeau that collects Donald J. Trump-themed newspaper strips (and shows a glaringly stern Mr. Trump, his hair emanating an orange glow, on the cover) from over the years, does not pull any punches.

Mr. Trudeau’s introduction sets the tone for his feelings about the G.O.P. presidential candidate, whom he describes as “the gold standard for big, honking hubris.” Thus this collection comes across as a very opinionated time capsule of Mr. Trump’s transformation from New York real estate mogul to presidential candidate, as seen, interpreted and drawn by Mr. Trudeau.

The journey begins Sept. 14, 1987, just after some musings from the real-life Mr. Trump, on the possibility of a presidential bid, and it ends on the campaign trail April 17, 2016, with the cartoon version of the candidate hawking Trump-brand insults.

Mr. Trudeau responded to questions about the book by email this week, including revealing one of his favorite strips, which ran July 26, 1988. It was part of a sequence about the Trump Princess, in which its owner informs the new captain of the 300-foot yacht’s virtues.

“Quality means everything, captain!” the cartoon Mr. Trump says. “The gold fixtures! The tortoise shell ceiling! It’s unbelievable this much quality exists outside my imagination. And over there, that’s my wife! Look at that quality!”

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Garry Trudeau.

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Maarten de Boer/Getty Images

Looking back, were you surprised by how often the Donald Trump character appeared in “Doonesbury”?

No, relieved. I needed enough strips to do a book. I wanted to remind people just how long he’s been struggling with acute self-regard. Even though he’s changed wives twice and party affiliation five times since I’ve been watching him, the underlying personality disorder has remained remarkably stable.

Does “Yuge!” include every appearance through April 17, 2016?

Probably not. We were in a hurry, and I think my editor was skimming. Who wants to read 30 years of “Doonesbury”?

Was there a single event that made you aware of him and think that he might be someone to incorporate into the cartoon strip?

I’d been aware of him for some years — he was inescapable in New York — but his “open letter” in 1987 to the American people was the tipping point. That’s when we first learned that the world was laughing at us.

When you first started referencing him in September 1987, did you have any concerns that he was too local a figure for your national audience?

No. By 1987, he and his imaginary press agents had done a pretty good job of getting his name out. Besides, my Trump wasn’t really a parody. He was an actual cast member, a fully formed toon who interacted with the other characters as a peer. It didn’t matter if people knew he was commuting in from real life.

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A favorite strip of Mr. Trudeau’s from July 26, 1988.

Credit
G. B. Trudeau/Andrews McMeel Publishing

What have you learned from covering Trump all these years?

Nothing. It’s made me stupider, or at least I feel stupider. After he got a taste of double-digit poll numbers in 2011, I assumed he’d run, but just to burnish the brand, not torch the party. I never saw that coming.

Does he ever respond to his portrayal in the strips?

He used to respond like clockwork, but I think he’s over me now. And I totally understand. Why waste a perfectly good tweet on some cartoonist when you could be sliming the pope?

Are there any other politicos or celebrities that you have featured who have responded as strongly, good or bad?

Frank Sinatra came the closest. During a performance at Carnegie Hall, he announced that I was “funny as a tumor.” Fair enough. But then he took it too far and attacked my wife, breaking the first rule of the neighborhood. The audience booed him.

How has your approach to presenting him changed, in appearance or in dialogue?

What continues to evolve is my understanding of how he achieves his signature effects. The tangerine skin and raccoon eyes are easy to explain, but I’ve never been able to reverse-engineer the hair in a way that makes any sense. The understructure is completely baffling. If I could take notes and then wipe the image from my memory, I’d give anything to see Trump step out of a shower.

If he wins in November, what’s your plan?

I don’t know, but we’ll all need one. In fact, there could be another book in that. Thanks, madman!

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