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the take

‘Doonesbury’ Remembers David Halberstam

Courtesy of Doonesbury

We first heard of the journalist David Halberstam, who died last week, thanks to Doonesbury. Growing up as we did in Wisconsin, studying American-history books that ended at the Korean War, that's how we learned about every important person and world event of the seventies. We devoured the flimsy paperback collections of Garry Trudeau's comic strip we purchased at yard sales for a quarter each, and they served in a way as a day-by-day portrait of an entire era in American politics and culture. From Watergate and Vietnam to Studio 54 and mellow California rock, our views of the decade are still almost indistinguishable from Trudeau's.

Reading Doonesbury's 1979 Halberstam strips, reposted on Doonesbury.com, is a reminder of how an on-his-game Trudeau can efficiently skewer a target with just a few carefully scripted panels. Even years later, having read plenty of Halberstam's work, we can never shake Trudeau's portrait of the journalist as the kind of guy who, asked how he takes his coffee, would respond, "Black, Joanie, very black. Utterly without cream and sugar."

David Halberstam [Doonesbury.com]