G.B. Trudeau’s 40-year legacy of hard-hitting truths, sugar-coated with just enough laughter to make them palatable, is all the more awe-inspiring when viewed as a collection, in the Beinecke Rare Book and ManuscriptLibrary’s “Doonesbury in a Time of War” exhibition.
Opened yesterday, the exhibition’s purpose is twofold, said Louise Bernard, curator of American literature at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library: to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Doonesbury as a syndicated comic strip and to support a new book by the Yale University Press titled“Doonesbury and the Art of G.B. Trudeau” by Brian Walker.
Doonesbury began its life as “Bull Tales” in the Yale Daily News, when Garry Trudeau was an undergraduate at Yale College, and was picked upin 1970 by the Universal Syndicated Press for syndication. Trudeau was the first comic strip artist to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1975.
The Beinecke exhibition showcases a variety of Trudeau’s works-in-progress, from pencil sketches to ink strips to the first finished colored Sunday strip. His handwritten directions to his inkers and publishers can be seen in the margins. Also on display are several published Doonesbury novels, as well as a set of printing plates used for color printing.
“We came to the idea of the theme at Garry Trudeau’s suggestion, because one of the defining elements of Doonesbury has been the hue of war,” Bernard said. “There was the idea that we would focus on one particular moment in the script and its referencing to the experience of war.”
Bernard said she was particularly interested in trying to depict the evolution of a single character throughout the exhibition, which resulted in afocus on “B.D.”inthe three-month-long exhibit.
B.D., she said, was comically named after understated Yale quarterback Brian Dowling ’69, who she described as the complete antithesis of the beloved, hot-headed and autocratic football captain. Different sections of the exhibition follow B.D.as he goes from being a football star to traveling to different war zones.
While Bernard said she recognizes that a comic exhibition at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at first glance seems a bit strange, she explained that comics still remain a chronicle, and thus a historical document, of a particular time and place.
“It is a literary satire in which he’s been able to mime and represent to an everyday audience the experience of American popular life both political and cultural,” Bernard said.
Yale students on the whole seem to be excited about the display of Trudeau’s work.
“I love Doonesbury comics, I get a lot of inspiration from them,” Amelia Sargent ’13 said.
Garry Trudeau will be speaking about his work at the Beinecke on Nov. 3.