On this day in comedy on April 19, 1999, The Boondocks made its national syndicated debut.
The original syndicated comic strip was created by animator, Aaron McGruder. It began as a daily for the online music site Hitlist.com in 1996 and then on The Diamondback. The latter paid McGruder $30 per strip; a boost from the usual compensation of $13. The high wages weren’t the problem with The Diamondback. They omitted running the strip and refused to run an apology after making it look as though it was McGruder’s fault. So he pulled The Boondocks from The Diamondback in 1997, the same year it made its first appearance monthly in the hip hop magazine, The Source. It wasn’t long before the popular strip was scooped up by Universal Press Syndicate and became a coast-to-coast hit. Satirizing popular culture and racism The Boondocks is seen from a black point of view.
The strip was plagued with controversy. McGruder was unyielding in his attacks on black culture and many of its absurdities. Targets such as BET music videos, Whitney Houston’s drug problems, Larry elder, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and politicians were ripe for ridicule. McGruder spared no none. The chief protagonist was the character of Huey, a pint-sized radical in a little boy’s body. He was too young to have learned how to bite his tongue. He and his brother Riley were moved out of South Side Chicago to a neighborhood surrounded by white folks. They’re with their World War II veteran grandfather who thinks Huey is too militant and Riley is too materialistic (he wants to be a gangsta). They live next to an interracial couple and their mixed and mixed up daughter, Jazmine, who likes Huey. There’s a standard issue friend of Huey’s named Michael who’s just as crazy as Huey, but with a dash of humor. Rounding out the principle characters is Uncle ruckus, a blatant Uncle Tom who hates everything Black (including himself) and loves everything white (including Ronald Reagan). The teachers and the principal have a similar dilemma – they love white, but fear black and rely on old stereotypes (some from Blaxploitation flicks) to figure out how to handle the two Black brothers.
During the course of its run, other artists helped illustrate The Boondocks to keep things on schedule as McGruder’s schedule became more and more crammed with commitments, but he always had his hand in the final product. Nevertheless, internal battles came to a head when McGruder put the strip on a six-month hiatus so he could work on the TV version. The Boondocks premiered as a fully animated cartoon on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim in late 2005. McGruder made his announcement in early 2006 about th temporary suspension. Well, after seeing some papers run provided reruns and others opting to move onto other strips, Universal Press cut their losses and informed papers that they shouldn’t count on a timely return and they canceled The Boondocks September 25, 2006.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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