The comic strip Doonesbury, by Garry Trudeau, has featured many recurring characters since the comic strip began in syndication in 1970. Most have interacted with each other at various times, and with only a few exceptions these individual histories are maintained consistently through the entire series, even where a character may disappear from the strip for years at a time. First appearances are noted in parentheses.
- Mike Doonesbury (10/26/1970) - Former Walden College student and commune member, ex-advertising man and then co-founder of a software start-up; ex-husband of JJ, husband of Kim, dad to Alex. Originally from Tulsa.
- B.D. (10/26/70) - Husband of Boopsie. A reservist and veteran of Vietnam and both Gulf Wars, he lost a leg in Iraq. Known for his conservative views and (until 21 April 2004) wearing a series of helmets (originally football helmets, and later desert camouflage, riot gear, and California Highway Patrol). A running gag involves his name never being revealed; when his own future-wife queried him on his surname, he replied "D." The only hint as to his full name came in the Doonesbury musical, in which he's referred to as "B. John Downling." The character was originally inspired by Brian Dowling, the captain of Yale's football team in 1968.
- Mark Slackmeyer (11/19/70, unnamed until 11/30) - Former campus revolutionary turned radio commentator, and one of several openly gay characters in the strip.
- Zonker Harris (9/21/71) - Stereotypical hippie and founder of the Walden Commune, during college he was also a football player, briefly Lieutenant Governor of American Samoa, and a professional tanner. After graduation he went to Haiti to study medicine, won $23 million in the lottery, and spent most of it to buy his Uncle Duke out of zombie slavery and the remainder to become an ennobled British lord. Also works occasionally as a nanny. After his campaign to enable public access to some of California's beaches, a beach access road in Malibu was named in his honor. He now works at McFriendly's.
- Joanie Caucus (9/10/72) - Ex-housewife and "libbie" who left her first husband Clinton Caucus and daughter J.J. to join Mike and Mark "on the road" in Colorado, went to law school, and worked with Mike on the John Anderson campaign, was chief of staff to Congresswoman Lacey Davenport, and worked in the Clinton Justice Department. She lived with and eventually married journalist Rick Redfern, with whom she had a child, Jeff.
- Rick Redfern - Husband to Joanie and father to Jeff. Used to be a reporter for The Washington Post before being laid off. Generally portrayed as very weary/phlegmatic and somewhat clueless as a father. The character is based on Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward as he was portrayed by Robert Redford in All the President's Men.
- J.J. Caucus (possibly 4/22/73, as a child, unnamed until 9/10/79) - Daughter of Joanie (JJ is 'Joan Junior'). She was originally engaged to Zeke, but married Mike, left Mike for Zeke, and later won a MacArthur Fellowship (but still doesn't know that she was nominated by Mike, who did so in the hope that her winning would relieve him of paying alimony). Performance artist. Mother of Alex Doonesbury. Uninvited and reluctant attendee of her ex-husband's wedding to Kim (on the grounds that the barge which she and Zeke were using to transport a commissioned piece got lost in the Puget Sound fog and run down by the cruiser on which the reception was being held; she and Zeke were picked up by the wedding party but not made welcome). Refused to attend her daughter's wedding (when Alex refused to let her turn it into another performance art piece and banned Zeke from attending), but attended secretly disguised as a bartender (not that anyone was fooled).
- Zeke Brenner (heard 7/24/77, appears 6/25/79) - Former caretaker for Duke's house and responsible for it burning down. He married JJ on the second try. Despised by his wife's daughter Alex, who refers to him as "Uncle Stupidhead." Zeke doesn't really like Alex either. Recently increased Alex's dislike of him by his hitting on her best friend Drew. Still does not hold a job. Also secretly attended Alex's wedding disguised as a bartender.
- Kim Rosenthal (5/5/75) - Jewish-raised Vietnamese orphan (the "last orphan out of Vietnam"), geek and Mike's second wife. Dropped out of a program towards a Doctorate in Computer Science at MIT because it was "too easy".
- Alex Doonesbury (born 11/30/88, named 8/9/89) - Daughter of Mike and J.J. who lived with her father and Kim, before attending and graduating from MIT. A techie, Alex bonded with Kim over the computer and holds several patents. More or less a liberal foil for her more moderate father. She met Toggle on line (3/21/2009) but B.D., who knew both, facilitated their meeting (4/6/2009). The two hit it off and began dating. They got engaged in early March 2012 and married in June (sequence 6/11 - 6/22/2012).
- Toggle (real name Leo DeLuca) - a veteran of the Iraq war. Toggle, a young heavy metal fan, was wounded in an ambush while serving as Ray Hightower's driver, and has returned home with expressive aphasia and a loss of sight in one eye. B.D., his former commanding officer, often checks in to see how he is doing. He juggles music studies with working as an engineer in a recording studio. While recovering from his injuries, Toggle met Alex Doonesbury through Facebook. The two hit it off and began dating. They got engaged in early March 2012 and married in June (sequence 6/11 - 6/22/2012).
- Jimmy Thudpucker (mentioned 9/23/75, appears 9/25/75) - Overnight success as a rock star at 19. Later caught politics and moved to Vietnam. Modelled partially on a combination of Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne and John Denver.
- Barbara Ann "Boopsie" Boopstein (9/15/71, as "Boopsy")- Cheerleader turned actress, model, New Age channeler, and generic starlet. She is married to B.D.; they have a daughter named Sam.
- Zipper Harris (9/7/98) - Zonker's nephew and current Walden undergraduate; his roommate was Jeff Redfern.
- Nguyen van Phred (2/16/72)- "Phred" for short. The Viet Cong "terrorist" who became friends with B.D. when B.D. was deployed to Vietnam and got lost and captured by Phred while out on patrol; later Vietnamese delegate to the United Nations, last seen working for Nike in Vietnam.
- Roland Burton Hedley, III (mentioned 3/4/74, appears 3/5/74) - Former print journalist (to use that term generously), moved to television and then the Internet. Currently working for Fox News.
- Jeff Redfern (born 12/31/82, appears 1/1/83) - Joanie and Rick's son. Jeff graduated from Walden (and stopped rooming with Zipper Harris), formerly worked for the Central Intelligence Agency with Havoc, and was in Afghanistan working for contractor Jack Overkill. Through social networking, Jeff established himself as the mysterious but fictional anti-Taliban fighter known as the "The Red Rascal". In early 2012, he received a seven-figure advance for his next two books, enabling him to purchase a 12-bedroom trophy mansion, but was evicted in October 2012 when he was unable to keep up the payments.
- Uncle Duke (mentioned 7/5/74, appears 7/8/74), "Uncle" of Zonker, former Rolling Stone writer, governor of American Samoa and ambassador to China, once the proconsul of Panama, former owner of "Club Scud" in Kuwait City, ex-orphanage manager (where he realized one of the orphans, Earl, was his illegitimate son), and former mayor of the fictional Al Amok, Iraq. He has also been a drug smuggler (and heavy user), an enemy of John Denver, manager of the Washington Redskins, toady to Donald Trump, and a zombie slave to ex-Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier. Currently works as a super-lobbyist for his son Earl's lobbying firm (which seems to specialize in representing dictators and tyrants); one of his biggest clients was Trff Bmzklfrpz, the now-former President-for-Life of the Republic of Berzerkistan. His character was initially based on Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson's pseudonymous self-portrait, Raoul Duke.
- Ching "Honey" Huan (1/22/76) - Duke's constant companion until 2006 when she grew disillusioned with him. - Inspired by Tang Wensheng (Mao's interpreter when meeting with Nixon) and partially Marcie of Peanuts.
- Mr. Butts (4/19/89) - A hallucinatory walking, talking cigarette - Represents the tobacco industry.
- Alice P. Schwarzman (8/24/73) and Elmont - Two homeless people, Alice first appeared as a garment worker who was a regular at a bar where Zonker was bartender. She later re-appeared as a homeless character and subsequently married Elmont, a deranged man, in order to move up the list for public housing. Rev. Sloan performed the ceremony. As the affluent Rep. Lacey Davenport became senile, she began to believe Alice was her deceased sister Pearl.
- The Rev. Scot Sloan (1/10/72) - Chaplain at Walden - Named for the Rev. William L. "Scotty" McLennan, Jr., Trudeau's undergraduate roommate, and the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Yale's chaplain when Trudeau attended.
- Sid Kibbitz - Sid first appeared in 1982 to help Duke and Alice Schwarzman produce a movie on the life of John DeLorean, and later became Boopsie's agent.
- President King (11/30/70) - The president of Walden College - Based on Kingman Brewster, Jr., president of Yale when Trudeau was a student. (Indeed, the same character appeared in Bull Tales more directly as Brewster.)
- Jim Andrews (2/9/74)- A greedy executive who worked for Universal Petroleum, and was later employed by the administration of George W. Bush. Favors lax government oversight on environmental protection. Was friends with the late Phil Slackmeyer. Jim was named after Trudeau's first editor at Universal Press Syndicate. The book, The People's Doonesbury, is dedicated to the memory of Andrews.
- Mr. Jay (5/21/89) - A hallucinatory walking, talking marijuana joint. Feels inadequate next to Mr. Butts because despite his reputation, he is relatively harmless.
- Lacey Davenport (5/15/74) - Republican U.S. Congresswoman, now deceased - reminiscent of New Jersey Congresswomen Millicent Fenwick. Trudeau was asked in 1976 if the similarities were deliberate, and laughed at the reporter, saying "I really don't know her that well." Fenwick was said, in the same article, to not know about Doonesbury and could not remember having met Trudeau.
- Dick Davenport (5/15/74) - Lacey's longtime friend and later husband. An avid bird watcher of endangered bird species. Died in a controversial 1986 strip asking God to let him live just long enough to take a picture of a rare bachman's warbler. He did.
- Benjamin (a.k.a. Sal Putrid or Benjy) Doonesbury (possibly 6/11/71, unnamed, or 12/27/71)- Mike's younger brother. He later became a stereotypical punk rocker. Like his brother Mike, he too went to Walden. Started a condom distribution franchise at Walden called "Dr. Whoopee". The company was later revealed to be run by Uncle Duke. He currently lives in a mansion in Florida.
- Daisy Doonesbury (6/5/71)- Mike and Benjamin's mother. Often called "The Widow Doonesbury", she lived in Seattle before her death. She used to live on the Doonesbury farm near Tulsa and represented the current state of the ailing family farms in America. The Widow's health began to deteriorate and she moved in with her son Mike in Seattle. Her funeral was shown in the January 3rd, 2011 strip.
- Marcia Feinbloom - Mike's former secretary at Mr. Bellow's advertising business. She is still looking for her perfect man to marry even though she's in her 60s. She once dated Zonker, but nothing got serious between them. Last seen following the September 11 attacks. Her religious background is Jewish.
- Havoc (8/26/86) - A CIA operative - real name Terry Blackburn Jr - who has conducted numerous covert operations in Nicaragua and Afghanistan. He was Jeff Redfern's boss during his internship at the CIA and has a class on torture at Walden.
- Ray Hightower (9/24/90) - An African-American who has a friendship with B.D. that started when they first met during the Gulf War, in which Ray was wounded. They were unemployed until the 1992 LA riots when they were called up to quell the riot and later by the California Highway Patrol following that event. Ray fought in the Iraq War with a blog updating his status and telelinking his wife from time to time and survived the bomb which injured Toggle. He was later discharged with PTSD when his marriage fell apart, living near B.D. and attending classes at the vet center.
- Rufus (a.k.a. Thor) Jackson (4/5/71) - A poor African-American who gave a viewpoint on the Civil Rights Issues in the 70s. Much younger than the rest of the main Doonesbury cast.
- Calvin (1/18/71) - Campus radical and Black Panther, prominent in the strip in the early seventies.
- George (2/9/72) - One of B.D.'s fellow soldiers in Vietnam. Later gained a great deal of weight and went into business with Phred in Vietnam, giving tours to former American GIs.
- Andy Lippincott (1/27/76) - Joanie fell in love with him, but on a date, he revealed that he was gay. Was later diagnosed with and died of AIDS. His ghost makes occasional appearances in the strip.
- Didi Robins (mentioned 4/28/71, appeared 6/12/71) - One of the members at the Walden Commune, originally introduced as Bernie's girlfriend. Her hair is so long she resembled Cousin Itt from the Addams Family. She helped found a lesbian magazine, but is straight. She was also J.J.'s art assistant when she lived in New York in the 80s.
- Phil Slackmeyer (12/13/70) - Father of Mark. A wealthy, conservative, corporate businessman. Served a term in prison for insider trading. He died in 2002. (On 18-Aug-1971 he is referred to as Morris, not Phil)
- Marilou Slackmeyer (12/18/70) - Mark's mother, later divorced from Phil Slackmeyer in favor of a trophy wife.
- B.D.'s parents (4/14/71)- introduced without names when B.D. goes home after his father loses his job. His mother is Maria (8/6/71).
- Zonker's parents first appear briefly on 12/20/71, but are redeveloped later. His father appears in regular form at 6/27/73, his mother at 12/14/1974.
- Virginia "Ginny" Slade (8/19/74) - During the 1970s, when Joanie moved to California to study law at Boalt Hall, she moved in with Ginny, a much younger, African-American law student. Ginny ran for Congress as a semester project, with Zonker, Andy Lippincott and Jimmy Thudpucker contributing to her campaign. She lost the Democratic primary to a scandal-ridden incumbent, Congressman Ventura, then re-entered the campaign as an independent. Close to Election Day, she chose to drop out so that long-time Republican candidate Lacey Davenport would win.
- Clyde Montana (8/19/74) - Ginny's boyfriend whom she later married. He's an obnoxious, but lovable guy. Clyde himself later ran against Davenport in 1986. Clyde eventually did make it to Congress as a Republican (replacing Lacey Davenport when she stepped down in 1997) and in the snack business trying to create the perfect cookie for all races. He lost his re-election bid in the general Democratic victory in 2008.
- Woodrow (11/19/74) - An overachieving student in Ginny and Joanie's law classes. Obnoxious, sexist and disliked by practically everybody (but perfectly oblivious to it).
- Bobby Matthews (10/30/74) - A white boy attending an integrated school in the 1970s as a way to introduce the subject of busing into the strip.
- Malcolm Deveaux (11/2/74) - a black boy attending the same school.
- Kirby (possibly 4/3/71, unnamed) - Player on B.D. and Zonker's college football team. Slightly timid personality, admires Zonker, who sometimes takes him under his wing.
- Clinton Caucus (heard 9/12/72; appears 9/27/72) - Joanie's ex-husband.
- Chase Talbott III (10/28/96) - Formerly Mark's significant other, a conservative Republican, and co-host of their NPR show, "All Things Being Equal."
- Bernie (2/22/71) - Mike's college lab partner and member of Walden Commune. A mad scientist, he invented a werewolf potion and spent a summer in Scotland searching for the Loch Ness Monster. He later founded a computer company and hired Mike.
- Cornell - Zonker's longtime friend. Helped out terminally ill patients by handing out desserts filled with cannabis. Currently serving a ten year prison sentence for the distribution of cannabis to the terminally ill.
- Earl (4/12/95) - Discovered in an orphanage Duke attempted to run in the early 90's. Honey sent one of Duke's warts off for DNA tests, which proved Earl was his son. He shares many of Duke's physical and moral qualities. Currently a lobbyist.
- Elias - Is a Puerto Rican Vietnam veteran. He's B.D.'s counselor after the coming home from Iraq War. Tries to help B.D. and others to overcome their post-traumatic stress.
- Ellie, Howard, and Jeanie - Three kids that first appeared at the Walden Daycare where Joanie Caucus worked. They mainly gave the input on the women's right issues and children issues in the 70s and 80s.
- Uncle Henry - Mike's uncle and tends to the Doonesbury farm. He's also a former county commissioner in Oklahoma and got caught in a corruption scandal only later to be acquitted.
- Mini-D - The small man who looked like Duke sometimes pops out of Duke's head (via a flip-top scalp) when Duke is stoned.
- Nicole (9/29/71, spelled Nichole in the strip until 1977) - A radical feminist and member of the Walden Commune. She and Mike almost had an affair after meeting at their class reunion, but broke it off when Mike learned J.J. was pregnant.
- MacArthur - A native Samoan, Duke's assistant during his tenure as Governor of American Samoa. Appointed as Governor after Duke resigns to become Ambassador to China. Last seen running a resort in Pago Pago.
- Samantha - B.D. and Boopsie's daughter born in 1992. Mainly raised by her sitter Zonker. For a several-year period, she was shown to own an action doll modeled after Sarah Palin that had been shown to come to life when humans are not around, as well as a few other toys such as a Raggedy Andy doll, Mr. Potato Head, a My Little Pony figure, and a piggy bank, but they were dropped from the strip after Sam outgrew them.
- Skip (4/4/73) - a Vietnam POW who joined the commune for a period following his release.
- Trff Bmzklfrpz - Former President-for-Life of the fictional Republic of Berzerkistan, apparently a former Eastern Bloc country. Ex-President Bmzklfrpz was a typical dictator, and, according to an interview with Mark Slackmeyer, engaged in genocide and is anti-Semitic. In a parody of former Turkmenistan president Saparmurat Niyazov, he renamed the month of April (as well as a species of plant and a type of bird) "Trff", after himself. Uncle and Earl Duke acted as his advisors, and after he was airlifted out of Berzerkistan he moved himself into Duke's home. Until he is able to return to power, he is sponging off Duke while working on receiving asylum on the U.S. (8/9/11) and trying to get his memoirs published (8/16/11).
- Drew - Alex Doonesbury's very attractive roommate at MIT.
- Mel - Melissa Wheeler (03/26/2007) - a US Army aviation mechanic who has been victim of command rape. She first appears when B.D. meets her at the Vet Center where he gets treatment, and later re-enlists and deploys to Afghanistan. She has been promoted to grade E-5, Sergeant. Her best friend is Roz, a gay Army Specialist.
- Trip Tripler - Benjamin Doonesbury's college roommate. Writer for George Will, officer in the U.S. Navy.
- Cricket (9/14/98) - Zipper's classmate at Walden.
Numerous real-world figures, especially from politics, have appeared in the strip.
Since the late 1980s some prominent politicians were given direct, but metaphorical, visual portrayals via Doonesbury Icons, avatars in the strip which abstractly represented them.
- Ronald Reagan - A character named Ron Headrest appeared as a computer-generated alter ego of President Reagan. Headrest was a composite of Max Headroom and Ronald Reagan. A similar caricature of Reagan appeared briefly in the film Back to the Future Part II.
- Dan Quayle - Famously appeared as a feather, depicting what Trudeau saw as The Vice-President's lightweight status.
- George H. W. Bush Trudeau drew the first Bush President as one of his "thousand points of light" from his speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention.
- Bill Clinton was depicted as a waffle, emphasizing the popular image that Clinton avoided taking firm stands on political issues.; the symbol was voted for by readers over the alternative choice of a flipping coin.
- Newt Gingrich - Trudeau drew Gingrich as a lit bomb, that eventually exploded.
- George W. Bush was initially depicted as a "point of light" like his father (and the rest of the Bush family), later topped with a baseball cap and then a cowboy hat. Following his inauguration as President, he was depicted as an asterisk to indicate his dubious status as a Supreme Court-appointed head of state, still wearing a cowboy hat ("all hat, no cattle", a phrase used in Texas), then after the beginning of the Iraq War as an asterisk wearing an imperial Roman military helmet. As the second Bush presidency encountered repeated difficulties, the helmet became continually more battered, so that, by his final appearance in office on January 18, 2009, the helmet had lost all of its decoration and was missing several large pieces.
- David Duke was depicted as a swastika, due to his extreme stands on racial issues, and his former status as a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger was drawn as a groping hand, and often addressed by other characters as “Herr Gröpenfuhrer,” a reference to accusations of sexual assault.
- Dick Cheney, late in his vice-presidency, was occasionally represented as a dark cloaked figure, reminiscent of the Grim Reaper or the Emperor from Star Wars, bearing a Roman Imperial staff.
- Ben Quayle (son of Dan Quayle) was depicted 9/19/10 as a smaller feather when he and his father are interviewed by Mark.
Most other prominent figures, after the strip's early years, stopped appearing directly in-frame, and were represented solely by their dialogue emerging from outside the frame, or from a television or a building shown from the outside (especially the White House). The small number of exceptions to this rule are below.
The following figures have been directly portrayed in-frame in the strip.
- ^ Article originally published in the Brunswick, NJ, Home News, 10 October 1976. Reprinted on the Doonesbury Flashbacks CD-ROM.
- ^ a b Barron, James (August 31, 1994). "A Cartoonist Feasts on a President. So?". NYTimes.com: The New York Times website. The New York Times Company. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D03E7D61638F932A0575BC0A962958260&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/T/Trudeau,%20Garry. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
- ^ Gibson, John (November 21, 2001). "The Big Story w/ Gibson and Nauert : Humor That's Out of Line". FOXNEWS.com. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,39261,00.html. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
- ^ a b Leepson, Marc (June 2006). "Cartoonist For The Vietnam War Generation". VVA.org: The VVA Veteran website. http://www.vva.org/veteran/0606/trudeau.html. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
- ^ a b Glaister, Dan (May 27, 2004). "Doonesbury at war". Guardian.co.uk: The Guardian website. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/may/27/iraq.iraqandthemedia. Retrieved 2009-01-21.