I attended scores of church fairs with my mother and grandmother when I was a young tyke. The main attractions at these events (besides the barley sugar candy which kickstarted my present state of dental decrepitude) were the white elephant tables where the incomplete wreckage of a previous generations’ playthings and a treasure trove of second-hand books were available for purchase on the uber-cheap.
This being the late 1970s, the used tomes in question featured a substantial number of “all documented, all true” explorations of paranormal phenomena, horror novels of the most lurid variety, DIY martial arts manuals, and paperback collections of comic strips. I bought every item in the latter category as a rule because, hey, comics, which meant I eventually acquired a small stack of Doonesbury books alongside a significantly larger one of Peanuts reprints.
Much (if not “all”) of Garry Trudeau’s topical humor was lost on my younger self, who had yet to progress beyond an osmotic “Nixon = bad” stage of political evolution. Doonesbury was a “grown-up” strip, and even a bizarre animated special couldn’t clarify why that one guy always wore a football helmet or what was up with the zany bearded hippie dude. It wasn’t until high school until I bothered to read the strips on a regular basis, at least for a short while until my liberal politics veered into more radical territory.
Even if Doonesbury never was (or will be) a “thing” for me, its forty-plus year archives make for some fascinating reading as they run parallel to my primary area of historical study — the upheavals of the late 1960s and the social/political/cultural aftermath which unfolded during the decades that followed.
Daily comic strips, like all periodical publications, are products of the “now,” which makes Doonesbury helpful in sussing out what “was” as opposed to what became “remembered” as history calcified into a set of consensual narratives.
The above strip, originally published on September 7, 1976, was part of a sequence in which a harried foreign policy coach attempted to consult with a very “down home” Jimmy Carter, who showed more interest in catching frogs than in current global events. Trudeau’s take was as harshly prescient in terms of the policy disasters which derailed Carter’s bid for a second term as it was utterly bizarre in light of the respected statesman he would go on to become.