On the End of "The Boondocks"

I discovered Aaron McGruder’s comic strip, The Boondocks, in 1999, about the time of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. It was an amazingly funny comic strip about the lives of two young black boys–Huey and Riley–who moved from the projects to live in the ‘burbs with their grandfather, and their culture shock in dealing with American suburban culture.

Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder went on a sabbatical six months ago. The comic strip had spawned an animated series on the Cartoon Network, and McGruder wanted a six month break to recharge his energies. But the six months came due, and yesterday Universal Press Syndicate pulled the plug on The Boondocks according to an article in today’s Washington Post:

It’s over now for “The Boondocks” comic strip, at least for now. After six years–a remarkably short run for a strip that found its way into 300-plus newspapers, including the Washington Post–Universal Press Synidcate told subscribers yesterday they should start looking for someone to replace political/social satirist Aaron McGruder.

McGruder, a Columbia native who in his twenties became the Garry Trudeau of the hip-hop generation, took a sabbatical six months ago to recharge. The syndicate kept checking with him, reminding him that its newspaper clients needed several weeks in order to prepare for his return or his departure.

The article goes on to say later:

The heavies at Universal are clearly not happy with the way McGruder handled the situation, although they worded their press release carefully.

“Although Aaron McGruder has made no statement about retiring or resuming The Boondocks for print newspapers… newspapers should not count on it coming back in the foreseeable future,” Universal’s president, Lee Salem, said in the release. “Numerous attempts… to pin McGruder down on a date that the strip would be coming back were unsuccessful.”

According to industry sources, McGruder’s editor at Universal, Greg Melvin, flew to Los Angeles recently and spent a couple of days trying to get the cartoonist to abide by the terms of his agreement to return in six months.

“We were getting dozens of phone calls every day from newspapers asking when he was coming back,” Salem said in a phone interview. “It seemed unfair to keep them dangling.” He added that if McGruder decides to return, Universal would welcome him back.

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune Boondocks reprints, which have been published since March in newspapers carrying the strip, will cease to be distributed to newspapers in the Univeral Press Syndicate on November 25th.

The Boondocks prompted me to write two letters to the Raleigh News & Observer over the years, though neither were printed. The first, sadly, I no longer have a copy of, but it was to implore the newspaper to publish the storyline in which Huey and Riley tried to find Secretary of State Condi Rice “a man.”

The other letter, which also wasn’t published by the newspaper, was as follows:

4 August 2005

To the Editor:

Wednesday’s News & Observer published two letters concerning last Friday’s Boondocks comic strip. Bob Petrolino’s letter referred to the strip as “obscene garbage,” and Sharon Ferguson called Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder “a tasteless and heartless jerk.” Why did the strip deserve such condemnation? In that strip McGruder commented on the news coverage of the disappearance of Natalee Holloway by comparing the reporting on events in Aruba to reality television programming. McGruder’s strip was insensitive neither to Ms. Holloway’s disappearance nor her family’s suffering; rather, he made a point about the media’s coverage of her disappearance and the subsequent investigation which trivialized Ms. Holloway’s tragic disappearance to the level of reality television. The characters in Friday’s Boondocks note that the lines between television news and reality programming have blurred on occasion to the point where people cannot tell the difference between the two. Clearly McGruder’s point was too subtle to be recognized for its value as social commentary.

I’ll give the Boondocks some props. It never failed to amaze me and amuse me. 🙂

Perhaps McGruder will come back. Perhaps he won’t be like Dave Chappelle, as the Post article speculates. But there’s a risk in staying away, as the Post notes: “When you leave, Americans’ attention goes on to something else.” Let’s hope that never happens.

One thought on “On the End of "The Boondocks"

  1. Sounds like McGruder has gotten too big for himself.
    There’s some stuff that went down between him and Dwayne McDuffie over the cartoon, of a similar nature. If I could find the discussion ’bout it, I’d tell you more.

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