B.D. the Focus As ‘Mother Jones’ Talks to Trudeau

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By: E&P Staff

Garry Trudeau has plans for his B.D. character, who’s recovering from losing a leg in Iraq.

In an interview for the January/February issue of Mother Jones, the magazine and the cartoonist had this exchange:

MJ: Is B.D. going to make it?

GT: That’s the plan. I’d like to have him return to Walter Reed as a peer visitor, so I can get into the subject of traumatic brain injury, the signature wound of this war.

The interview, linked on Doonesbury.com, was conducted by Elizabeth Gettelman. Here are some other highlights:

GT: My research [for the B.D. strips] was mostly at the VA, and then Vet Centers, where I interviewed counselors. Later trips to VA facilities such as Walter Reed hospital included meeting with veterans. The B.D. story has been a sustained experiment in naturalism. I usually don’t tell stories with this much realistic detail, so most weeks there’s no need to leave my studio.

MJ: Did the reporting for the B.D. story change how you want to do your strip?

GT: It may have set the bar higher, but I can’t research every topic on a granular level. For example, I’ve already written weeks of strips about MIT, which I’ve never laid eyes on.

MJ: What kind of reception have you gotten from the troops?

GT: At both readings I’ve done at the Pentagon, I signed over 400 books, so I can hardly ask for a better reception. I got one drive-by dis from a soldier, but it was over strips that pissed her off during Gulf War I.

MJ: The forewords of your two latest books are by Senator John McCain and General Richard Myers. Any reservations from them?

GT: If so, they went unvoiced. Both men knew where I stood on the war. But the B.D. story is politics-free; it just means to be a clear-eyed accounting of the sorts of sacrifices that thousands of our countrymen are making in our name.

MJ: Doonesbury’s political barbs got you in hot water in the past. Do your strips still get pulled from papers periodically?

GT: Rarely, and it’s usually about language, not political content. I’ve gotten very little public push-back on the B.D. series. Politics is only a small part of what I do; the strip is mostly about the characters.

MJ: When B.D. went to Vietnam, you treated it humorously. Why the more serious approach to B.D.’s time in Iraq?

GT: When I was writing about Vietnam, I was 22. Now I’m 58. I know more.

“Doonesbury” appears in about 1,400 newspapers via Universal Press Syndicate.

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