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Good Read Column for December 13, 1998

The Bundled Doonesbury

By G.B. Trudeau
256 pages, Andrews McMeel, $22.95

(of a possible five)


Run, don't walk, down to your local comic store (or, if they don't carry comic strip compilations, your local bookstore) and pick up The Bundled Doonesbury. This is without a doubt the best Doonesbury collection ever published.

Wait a minute, you say, I've got several Doonesbury collections on my bookshelf and several of them are terrific. What makes this one so great?

Well, to explain that we have to delve into history a bit. A few years ago (1995, to be exact), I read a newspaper article about a new CD-ROM that was coming out just in time for Christmas. It was to be called "Doonebury Flashbacks" and it would contain nearly 25 years of strips - from the very first one to May, 1995. I asked my Mom for it for Christmas. She looked everywhere for it, but couldn't find it.

She looked again for my birthday, and the next Christmas. I looked, too. I won't say I turned over every rock I could - possibly if I had been determined enough, I might have found it somewhere. But it didn't show up in any of the stores I shop at, and most people probably never heard of it.

Well, at last, everyone can have it, because The Bundled Doonesbury, the 10th large format collection of the famous comic strip, comes bundled with the "Doonesbury Flashbacks" CD, plus most of the strips (the large format books are not, alas, complete) from the beginning of 1995 to spring of this year (on the last page, the gang is talking about the final episode of "Seinfeld"). Together, they make an unbeatable package.

Now, back when I first read about the CD, I thought it was an unbelievable bargain at $30. But now you can get it free! Well, more-or-less. The Bundled Doonesbury does cost a bit more than you expect to pay for a TPB comic strip collection - but only about $5 more.

The book itself is pretty good. It contains, for example, the story of J.J. running off with Zeke, Mike moving to Seattle, his meeting and courting Kim, and Zeke and J.J. crashing (literally) their wedding. A great storyline, bringing back a character we never thought we'd see again (a character who had been so minor she's not even listed in the "characters" section of the CD). Kim Rosenthal was the "last orphan out of Vietnam," adopted by the Rosenthals in '75 and appearing in a few strips that year and the next. I had thought we hadn't seen her again until she showed up working for Bernie, but in fact she appeared for one week in 1988.

I discovered that '88 sequence (repeated in '92, by the way) using the "Search" feature of the CD. The "characters" page explains relationships while you drag your mouse across faces, or opens a list of strips associated with that character if you double-click on one. The politics page lets you browse the strips involving past presidents or other political figures, or topics from ABSCAM to the Yom Kippur War. You can choose strips based on their location in the Geography section, browse articles written about Doonesbury or the script for Trudeau's Broadway musical in the Media Room. There's even a Trivia Quiz!

There's some funky music - the timeline has a rendition of a popular song for each year - and some animations. You can turn off both if you find them annoying. All in all, this CD is a treasure, easily worth more than the price of the book.

There are, of course, "still a few bugs in the system" (does everyone remember that that's the punchline from the very first strip?) - for some reason, Zonker getting hired as nanny for B.D. and Boopsie's kid shows up on the list of strips about Kim, for instance, and while Sunday strips viewed from the chronology work just find, the ones that come up from a search lose the right edge to some weird distortion.

But these are minor quibbles. This is a great package. I highly recommend it.

Christmas is coming up once again, and if you know anyone who loves Doonesbury and owns a computer, this is positively the perfect present. I just hope my Mom doesn't see it, or I may end up with two.

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