Popular comic strip canceled indefinitely

By Jim Vorel

It’s all over for Huey Freeman.

The young radical who entertained millions nationwide in “The Boondocks” comic strip has disappeared from newspapers, and it does not look he will return anytime soon.

Similarly missing is Freeman’s younger brother Riley, his cantankerous grandfather, and a wide cast of supporting characters that made “The Boondocks” one of the best-known and edgiest comics to be in syndication.

The comic’s mix of extremely political and biting racial humor made creator Aaron McGruder a well-known national figure and popular speaker on college campuses and meetings of literate politicos.

But after six straight years of writing “The Boondocks,” during which time the strip was picked up in about 350 newspapers, McGruder announced in February of 2006 that he was going to go on a six-month hiatus in order to “recharge his creative abilities”, with a scheduled return slated for October of 2006.

McGruder did not return when his newspaper syndicates expected him to, in fact, he did not return at all.

The strip was officially cancelled on Oct. 27, 2006. It has been reported that McGruder’s editor flew to Lost Angeles for several days in an attempt to try and make McGruder stick by his commitment to return to his comic strip, without success. The 31-year-old cartoonist has denied requests for interviews by many media sources, going only as far to say that he is continuing to take time off to “restore his creative juices.”

This is seen by some fans as an indication that McGruder has “gone Hollywood,” and has decided to eschew his hit comic strip in favor of the hit television series that it has recently spawned. His television series, which animates the adventures of the Freeman family, was recently renewed for its third season, and is considered a hit on the Cartoon Network. Its first season DVD has also been released, and a full-length feature film of The Boondocks is also reported to be in the works.

“As a fan of the strip for a number of years, I was disappointed to see it go,” said Vimal Soni, a 22-year-old University alumnus who runs a Facebook group dedicated to the comic strip. “I believed that the strip was not only extremely funny and witty, but also that it spoke to a lot of political and social problems that are facing the country. I think there are very few people in the world that can make you laugh and think at the same time and Mr. McGruder was one of them.”

Executives of Universal Press Syndicate, the syndicate that “The Boondocks” belonged to, are particularly pessimistic about the prospect of seeing the strip return anytime soon.

“Although Aaron McGruder has made no statement about retiring or resuming ‘The Boondocks’ for print newspapers . newspapers should not count on it coming back in the foreseeable future,” said Lee Salem, president of the syndicate, in a press release. “Numerous attempts to pin McGruder down on a date that the strip would be coming back were unsuccessful.”

Salem did add that if McGruder wishes to return in the future, Universal would welcome him back.

McGruder’s exodus seems oddly familiar and can be compared to the incidents that occurred last year when extremely popular black comedian Dave Chappelle left his hit show on Comedy Central, “Chappelle’s Show.” He gave up a multi-million dollar deal and left for a number of months to Africa, and eventually returning to the stand-up stages where he got his start.

Both Chappelle and McGruder’s motivations seem to their large fan bases to be mysterious, leaving them waiting for some sort of explanation for why they’re choosing the courses they have chosen.

Soni, for one, does not believe that McGruder has “gone Hollywood.”

“I was privileged enough to see McGruder when he came to U of I to give a speech on his comic strip and politics in general,” he said. “After listening to him talk about how he used his strip to talk about his politics and as a form of activism I know that he has not gone ‘Hollywood’ in his aspirations. I honestly think that he did not have time to do both the strip and the cartoon, and that he must believe that more people will be able to access his beliefs through the cartoon than the strip.”

There is some question as to whether or not McGruder will be successful without the comic strip, though it is not known what his plans are outside of “The Boondocks” television show and possible movie. There is always an outside possibility that, like several other famous comic writers before him, he will return to writing “The Boondocks” as a comic strip after some time has passed.