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Boom in 'Boondocks' Client Papers as Comic Strip Sets Start-Up Record

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Boom in 'Boondocks' Client Papers as Comic Strip Sets Start-Up Record

Article excerpt

The Boondocks" will enter syndication April 19 with more clients than any other comic in the 29-year history of Universal Press Syndicate.

Aaron McGruder's total of about 160 newspapers surpasses the start-up lists of "Doonesbury" (begun in 1970), "For Better or For Worse" (1979), and "Calvin and Hobbes" (1985).

"To launch in more papers than 'Calvin and Hobbes' is a shock," says the 24- year-old McGruder. "I think Bill Watterson is the best cartoonist who ever lived."

One reason for McGruder's surprise is that he didn't think he would even get syndicated a couple of years ago. As a black cartoonist doing a comic that reflects hip-hop culture and comments candidly on racial matters, McGruder wasn't expecting the mainstream media to welcome him with open arms. Indeed, several major syndicates rejected "The Boondocks." But Universal signed it, as have papers in many big and smaller markets.

Lucy Shelton Caswell, for one, isn't surprised. "It's very exciting to see a strip of that quality artistically with writing that strong from someone so young. It's marvelous," says the professor and curator of the Ohio State Cartoon Research Library.

"The art and humor are outstanding," agrees Universal president John McMeel. "It's not a gag strip; it's a strip about life. It's authentic." He adds that Universal likes "cutting-edge" features.

McGruder says Universal didn't try to tone down his strip, and notes: "They've been putting out 'Doonesbury' for almost 30 years. That gives them some experience with controversy."

But McGruder adds that while social and political satire is a crucial component of "The Boondocks," his first goal is to be funny. "If you're not, people will stop reading you and nothing else you say will reach anybody," he observes. McGruder did emphasize that he's trying to do intelligent humor (with some "silliness") rather than sitcom-type humor. …

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