Rather Than Pull Stale, Liberal Doonesbury, Wash Post Runs 41 Year-Old Reruns

[UPDATED with response from the Washington Post. See below.] The liberal comic Doonesbury has been on hiatus for ten weeks with no return date in sight. Instead of removing the strip from its pages, the Washington Post is running 41-year-old reruns. However, when the non-political Get Fuzzy comic took too many breaks, the Post simply axed it. On November 5, 2013, writer Donna Peremes derided, "At this point, 'Fuzzy' seems to be entering a zombie territory all its own. Out of the past 44 weeks up until we dropped it, 27 had been reruns." 

Yet, in an interview with the Post on March 2, creator Garry Trudeau allowed, "I can’t assume I’ll be welcomed back a year or two from now." So, Get Fuzzy is removed for taking too many weeks off, but the Post will continue to run stale Doonesbury strips for years?

Trudeau is using his off time working on the Amazon series Alpha House.

For the last few weeks, the paper has been running Trudeau's comics on Watergate. Instead of focusing on whether people want to read 41-year-old strips, writer Michael Cavna focused on the printing of a "spiked" Doonesbury:

THIS WEEK, The Washington Post ran, for the first time, a comics-page strip in which a character declared former Nixon attorney general John Mitchell guilty for Watergate crimes.

All it took was 41 years, the cartoonist’s hiatus and a “Flashback” comic that was not technically a rerun in The Post because, well, it never ran the first time.

You mean The Post — the paper that won a public-service Pulitzer for its Watergate-affair coverage, led by the legendary reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein — refused to run a political cartoon about the case against Nixon’s 1972 campaign director? And in an era when Herblock was drawing cartoons that traced Watergate directly to the White House?

Well, in a phrase: Guilty, guilty, guilty.

On Monday, to kick off a weeklong Watergate-themed story arc, The Post’s Style section ran a famed 1973 “Doonesbury” strip in which radio host Mark Slackmeyer — in rendering a political “obituary” — lets out a punch line that hits quick like a Tommy gun, as Mitchell the Watergate-era defendant is judged by the DJ to be “Guilty! Guilty, guilty, guilty!!”

(Mitchell — who famously once issued a colorful body-part warning to then-Post publisher Katharine Graham over the paper’s Watergate coverage — would, of course, be found guilty in 1977.)

The comic resurfaces because while “Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau is on open-ended hiatus from his daily strip (he’s still providing fresh Sundays), The Post is publishing his reruns, and the current offerings — as selected by Trudeau and his syndicate, Universal Uclick — are from 1973.

How deep does the Post's liberal, baby boomer love for Doonesbury go? Will the paper continue to run old strips for multiple years? The Post already places Doonesbury at the top of the comics page. 

[UPDATE 2014-05-03 11:30am ET]: Reached for comment, the Post's Donna Peremes responded:

These decisions are not made by me alone. When Doonesbury announced it was going into a second hiatus, we discussed dropping it altogether and running a tryout strip in its place. But Doonesbury is wildly popular; Get Fuzzy, while it has its fans, polled nowhere near as high as Doonesbury. In addition, Fuzzy never announced its breaks -- it simply took them. They came willy-nilly, and too often for comfort. Doonesbury is always 100 percent upfront when the strips are not new; hence the "Flashbacks" and "Classic" labels. In short, keeping Doonesbury was a business- and quality-drive choice, not one based on ideology. 

Gary Trudeau
Scott Whitlock's picture