Doonesbury fans in San Diego were dismayed to open Sunday’s San Diego Union-Tribune and find the strip missing — replaced in the comics section by Marmaduke.
What taboo topic did cartoonist Garry Trudeau tread upon this time? What controversial content might have led to it being yanked?
Nothing like that.
U-T Editor Jeff Light said it was a contractor’s mistake and promised that the Sunday strip — about Donald Trump’s “huge” presence in the presidential race — would appear in the B-section of Wednesday’s city edition.
Responding to a handful of reader complaints, Light explained that the Florida service that lays out the comics section accidentally left out Doonesbury for the Metro zone version of the comics — four full-color pages. The strip made it into the North zone comics, which has six pages of comics — including some strips formerly in the North County Times.
Why didn’t Doonesbury simply go in its traditional spot — vertically stacked on the far-right side of the fourth page?
“The comics are paginated,” Light wrote. “That [Florida] group receives the art from the syndicates, arranges it on pages and outputs PDFs for our pressroom in Los Angeles. Not too challenging an exercise, but it can be a bit of a jigsaw puzzle.”
In Sunday’s case, however, Doonesbury was drawn in an unusual shape — four panels instead of seven, including an oversized one featuring Trump dwarfing his GOP rivals.
“In trying to make everything fit, the paginator moved Marmaduke, a North zone strip, to a full-run page, and Doonesbury, a full-run strip, to a North zone page,” he said. “Result: No harm in the North [but] Marmaduke instead of Doonesbury everywhere else.”
Adrian Vore, the paper’s readers representative, told Times of San Diego: “The folks in Florida are being told to not do that in future.”
Chicago-based Tribune Publishing owns the U-T and sister Los Angeles Times, having bought the San Diego daily from Doug Manchester in May. The U-T has been printed in Los Angeles since mid-June.
Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes the nearly 45-year-old strip, didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.
Readers couldn’t be blamed for suspecting a problem with Trudeau’s subject matter.
Washington Post comics columnist Michael Cavna, a UC San Diego graduate who was a deputy arts editor at the U-T and a syndicated sports cartoonist, has written about Doonesbury being pulled by papers.
Most were withdrawn for controversial material.
- In October 2008: Obama Wins? Yes, ‘Doonesbury’ Calls the Election!
- In September 2011: Papers pull ‘Doonesbury’ — but must satire really be ‘fair’?
- In February 2012: Trudeau responds to Chicago Tribune’s decision not to run DonorsChoose cartoon
- In March 2012: Next week’s abortion-law strips pulled by at least several papers
Trump and Trudeau have crossed paths before:
Fun fact: Doonesbury character Uncle Duke, based on Hunter Thompson, was briefly captain of Donald Trump’s cruise ship, the Trump Princess.
— Joe Hagan (@joehagansays) September 25, 2015
Readers rep Vore was relieved that he didn’t get more complaints, but he said: “I’m going to write an explanation to run along with the comic that will appear Wednesday.”
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