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> Megaphone Mark Slackmeyer, an unregenerate campus radical, whose disapproving father rented his room when he left for college, and who gets a job as a disk jockey, reciting his own "Watergate Profiles" between platters ("Okay! Profile of John Dean III going out to Joey with hugs from Donna").
> Virginia, a superliberated black law student who next week will announce her candidacy for Congress. Ginny will also continue to suffer the affections of Clyde, a jive-spouting lay-about who buys a new Buick with silver-fox fur seats because "I'm into comfort."
> Joanie Caucus, Ginny's roommate and perhaps Trudeau's most popular character. A lumpy, fortyish housewife, Joanie enrolls in law school after walking out on her husband and children: "He put his arm around me and said, 'My wife. I think I'll keep her.' I broke his nose."
In Doonesbury the real and the fictive combine, and actuality blends into commentary. The results are often closer to truth than mere news reports. A week ago, for instance, a presidential aide was complaining in Doonesbury that the congressional report on CIA assassination plots did not give the agency proper credit for bumping off Spain's Generalissimo Francisco Franco last fall: "He was giving us some trouble over our bases in Spain, so in 1963 one of our agents poisoned him with a time-release capsule. It reached full potency last November." "Really? ... That's amazing," says an incredulous Ford. "Have there been other successes?" Mutters the aide: "Not to hear Congress tell it!"
No other strip could make that statementno other would want to. Yet such material has propelled Trudeau, at the age of 27, to the top of two professions: funny-paper illustrator and political commentator. The only difference between Garry Trudeau and Eric Sevareid, say Doonesbury fans with some hyperbole, is that Sevareid cannot draw. But then, neither can Trudeau. An indifferent draftsman, the artist is usually just good enough to strike an attitude or sink a platitude. But at his best, Trudeau manages to be a Hogarth in a hurry, a satirist who brings political comment back to the comic pages.
Trudeau's dislikes are ambidextrous. Neither radicals nor reactionaries are safe from his artillery. Stuffed shirts of Oxford broadcloth or frayed denim receive the same impudent deflation. Yet Trudeau attacks with such gentle humor that even hard-nosed presidential aides can occasionally be heard chuckling over the daily White House news summarywhen it includes a Doonesbury. "It has replaced Peanuts as the first thing I read every morning," says Ron Nessen. Admits Snowbunny himself: "There are only three major vehicles to keep us informed as to what is going on in Washingtonthe electronic media, the print media and Doonesbury, and not necessarily in that order."
Last May Trudeau received the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, the first comic-strip artist so honored. This election year, Doonesbury should reach unprecedented popularity. With public confidence in elected officials and democratic institutions about as low as the temperature in New Hampshire on primary morning, many citizens have concluded that there is only one way to take the 1976 presidential race: lightly.