By: Dave Astor
A poll that resulted in a vote to drop “Doonesbury” was defended by the head of a Sunday-comics consortium.
“It was not a political statement of any kind,” Continental Features President Van Wilkerson told E&P. “I personally don’t have an opinion about ‘Doonesbury’ one way or another.”
Wilkerson said he conducted the survey because Garry Trudeau’s comic “created more controversy than other strips.” In the poll e-mail he sent Continental’s newspaper clients this spring, Wilkerson wrote: “(I)t is my feeling that a change in one of the features is required. I have fielded numerous complaints about ‘Doonesbury’ in the past and feel it is time to drop this feature and add another in its place. … If the majority of the group favors a replacement, you will be expected to accept that change.”
Of the 38 papers that run the Continental-produced Sunday comics section, 21 wanted to drop “Doonesbury,” 15 wanted to keep it, and two had no opinion or preference. “I wouldn’t call the vote [to drop ‘Doonesbury’] overwhelming, but it was a majority opinion,” Wilkerson said.
One of the 15 papers, The Anniston (Ala.) Star (
Turner added that he doesn’t recall Continental doing polls about any of the other 22 comics in its package; “Doonesbury” was singled out. Wilkerson acknowledged that the survey was out of the norm.
The Continental head said he doesn’t know exactly when “Doonesbury” will leave the package; he’s currently polling clients to see if they want to replace it with “Agnes,” “Get Fuzzy,” “Pickles,” “Zits,” or another comic.
If Continental does pull “Doonesbury” from the package, “we will find a way to run it in the Sunday paper,” said Star Editorial Page Editor Bob Davis. He noted that the Star already publishes the daily “Doonesbury” in an unusual locale: the back page of the “A” section.
As previously reported, Star Publisher H. Brandt Ayers e-mailed Wilkerson to say he and his paper’s editors “strongly object to an obviously political effort to silence a minority point of view. For years, my New Deal father bore the opposition views of Orphan Annie and Daddy Warbucks, and I believe he would have fought an effort to silence them a by a simple majority vote. This is wrong, offensive to First Amendment freedoms.”
“Doonesbury” — which appears in more than 1,400 papers via Universal Press Syndicate — has made a lot of news this year with strong criticism of President Bush and the Iraq war. In one sequence, Trudeau offered $10,000 to anyone who could prove Bush served in the Alabama National Guard. And, in an ongoing story line, the B.D. character lost a leg in Iraq and is dealing with the aftermath of that devastating injury.
The 38 papers running the package from Salisbury, N.C.-based Continental are predominately located in the Southeast.