In Memoriam in comics

From time to time the complaint is raised that the “Comics” page is less than an appropriate forum for the “Doonesbury” strip. Agreed. But it’s not a matter of political partisanship.

If Thomas Sowell, for example, could draw something other than conservative conclusions, I wouldn’t want his paneled politics on the “Comics” page either. “Doonesbury” belongs on the editorial page even more than “Dilbert” belongs on the business page.

Never, however, was the context more inappropriate — and jarring — than on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Both metro newspapers ran “Doonesbury” as they normally do in the Sunday Comics. Only this time the strip’s six panels were devoted entirely to the names of those American G.I.s killed in combat in Iraq through April 23.

It came from a good place, and Gary Trudeau is to be saluted for his tribute. Our fallen troops can never be remembered enough.

However in this case, an otherwise legitimate “In Memoriam” tribute was trivialized by its “Comics” context. In one newspaper, which ran the strip vertically, “Doonesbury” was under “Marmaduke” and adjacent to, among others, “Mother Goose and Grimm” and “Hi & Lois.” In the other, which ran “Doonesbury” horizontally, it was sandwiched between “Hagar the Horrible” and “Luann.” Positioning next to “Non Sequitur” would have made more sense.

Unlike the generic issue with “Doonesbury,” this was no mere journalistic judgment call. It was, however much unintended, disrespectful.

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