It’s hard to believe, but two of best cartoonists/satirists of our time were on the sidelines during a pivotal period of the presidential campaign. When the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s heart and mind reached a fever pitch, both Garry Trudeau and Aaron McGruder were content to watch all the fun from the sidelines and let their respective creations, Doonesbury and The Boondocks lay dormant.
Trudeau’s absence was just a three-month hiatus; he returned in June and we can look forward to his own unique brand of satire in newspapers as we march to perhaps our most historic election in November. But Aaron McGruder’s case is more disappointing.
A couple of years ago, McGruder halted his daily, nationally-syndicated newspaper strip to devote his time entirely to the TV-animated version of The Boondocks. At its best, Boondocks walked on and often leapt over the edge with its cutting humor and commentary. McGruder’s work was often banned in newspapers for its message. Following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, The Boondocks was barred in some papers for suggesting that Ronald Reagan funded terrorism. In subsequent years, McGruder stirred uproar with his use of the N-word and satirical want ad to find a mate for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
McGruder and his Boondocks made people uneasy because he spat in the face of what’s considered taboo. He told the dirty truth – the kind of dark, filthy truth that most people don’t like to hear and can’t handle. He shoved the mirror into people’s faces and forced them to look.
But somewhere along the line, McGruder grew tired. He burned himself out. He thought he would get better satisfaction out of the often hilarious, brutally raw animated version of The Boondocks. The TV version of Huey, Riley, and Grandpa is good, but it’s not the same as the comic strip. TV’s Boondocks is missing some of the characters who were regulars – and hence part of the satire – seen in the newspaper comic. And the focus appears of both versions seem different.
You have to wonder what McGruder thinks of Obama and this presidential race. You have to wonder what ideas have floated through his head through this 18-month-and-counting process. McGruder had to be chomping at the bit on some days. This race for the White House could have given The Boondocks newspaper strip plenty of material. Boondocks TV is fine but there’s one key shortcoming. TV shows take a longer time to produce, animated shows even longer. So essentially, McGruder could remain silent well through November and let John McCain and Obama walk away from his mirror unscathed – and that’s a dirty shame.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Come back, Aaron. We miss you. We need you to tell The Dirty Truth.