It was 1974 when Gary Trudeau debuted the newest member of his Doonesbury comic crew, “Uncle Duke,” to the world. And the man whom the character was based on, gun-toting Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson was not pleased. In an interview with High Times, Thompson recalled the moment he became aware of Uncle Duke.
It was a hot, nearly blazing day in Washington, and I was coming down the steps of the Supreme Court looking for somebody, Carl Wagner or somebody like that. I’d been inside the press section, and then all of a sudden I saw a crowd of people and I heard them saying, “Uncle Duke,” I heard the words Duke, Uncle; it didn’t seem to make any sense. I looked around, and I recognized people who were total strangers pointing at me and laughing. I had no idea what the fuck they were talking about. I had gotten out of the habit of reading funnies when I started reading the Times. I had no idea what this outburst meant…It was a weird experience, and as it happened I was sort of by myself up there on the stairs, and I thought: “What in the fuck madness is going on? Why am I being mocked by a gang of strangers and friends on the steps of the Supreme Court? Then I must have asked someone, and they told me that Uncle Duke had appeared in the Post that morning.
Thompson went on to say that “no one grows up wanting to be a cartoon character” and that if he ever caught up with Garry Trudeau, he would “rip his lungs out.” While that never happened, in 1992 Trudeau published book called Action Figure!; The Life and Times of Doonesbury’s Uncle Duke that chronicled the misadventures of Uncle Duke that came with a five-inch action figure of dear Uncle Duke along with a martini glass, an Uzi, cigarette holder, a bottle of booze, and a chainsaw. While the Doonesbury creator has never been one to shy away from controversy, this bold move seemed rather suicidal or at the very least a very direct threat to the current location of Trudeau’s lungs. You can actually still find the book and its sneering Uncle Duke action figure on auction sites like eBay and on Amazon like I did. More images follow.
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