Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Obscurity of the Day: Thatch
In the seemingly unending quest to duplicate the success of Doonesbury, Creators Syndicate revived Thatch from college newspapers where it had been running 1988-91. Jeff Shesol's strip was covering much the same ground as Doonesbury had, tracking the lives of a group of college students. The strip came out of Brown University but made claim to running in over 200 college papers.
The strip was a pretty slavish imitation of Trudeau's early work. The characters were doppelgangers; Thatch was Mike Doonesbury, roomie Tripp Biscuit was B.D., Sumner Phillips was Zonker, Kate Stephens was a regendered Mark, even minor character Bernie had a clone in Reed James.
Thatch debuted in its Creators run on October 1 1994. With Doonesbury now going on hiatus on a regular basis newspaper editors, seldom ones to think too far out of the box, were willing to give Thatch a chance in the role of pseudo-Trudeau. Thatch, though, couldn't seem to find its own voice and fittingly never ran in very many papers. It did have one pretty good hook in Politically Correct Person, an alter-ego of Thatch who wore superhero tights and sought to stamp out all he saw as anti-minority, anti-woman, pretty much anti-anything.
In a turnabout on the normal course of events Thatch made its biggest publicity splash when it ended on April 11 1998. In 1997 Shesol had published a book on the feud between Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson titled Mutual Contempt. President Bill Clinton read the book, was impressed, and asked Shesol to come work for him as a speechwriter. Pundits of course had a field day with the idea that a cartoonist was going to write speeches for the president.
A reprint book of Shesol's college strips, Thatch Featuring Politically Correct Person, was issued in 1991 but there were no reprint books of the syndicated strip. You can find more samples of the strip from throughout its run on this site.
Oct 1, 1994 was a Saturday. As far as I know, most (if not all) syndicated strips begins on either a Sunday or a Monday.
Wall, the art on Bloom County in turn looked a lot like the early Doonesbury (before Trudeau wised up and hired a ghost).
Just to clarify, Trudeau still does detailed and very tight pencil work of his comic. The "ghost" merely inks it.