Updated: Apr 8, 2019
How do you use an iconic anti-war, anti-establishment comic strip as a platform for selling Swizzle Sticks? No problem. It was 1970; The comic strip “Doonesbury” debuted. A tour-de-force of “liberal” political satire, Doonesbury characters became household names. Over the years the strip covered communism, the Vietnam war, the tobacco industry, and made relentless fun of a litany of US presidents. My personal favorite? George Bush, Senior, an invisible character and later George Bush Junior drawn as a large asterisk.
If Doonesbury was a “brand”, the brand was “anti-establishment”. The syndicated comic strip became conic, a battle cry to college students everywhere.
So, when, in 1991, Doonesbury creator Gary Trudeau made his first major foray into the world of product licensing it was not without a touch of irony. The Ad campaign had a tightrope to walk: how to sell out without selling out? Enter the campaign “The Great Sell-out”. According to an article in the Sentinel in 1991, cartoonist Garry Trudeau did get into merchandising, but the royalties went to benefit causes.
Doonesbury “Club Scud” Swizzle Sticks were sold as a set of 24 colorful swizzle sticks, in a purple plastic box, described as:
"All made of quality, non-bendable plastic that will snap crisply during a late-night difference of opinion.''
The swizzle stick set featured three of the Doonesbury cast of characters: 1) Uncle Duke, 2) Honey Huan and 3) Mr. Butts
Uncle Duke "Welcome to Club Scud!" (Purple) Honey "I'm Concerned about Your Mood Swings, Sir." (Pink) Mr. Butts “Mr. Butts Sez "Just Say Yes!" (Green)
Uncle Duke, introduced in 1974, was a caricature of the gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson
Ching "Honey" Huan, introduced in 1976, was Duke's translator when he was Ambassador to China during the Nixon era, she fell in love with him (a feeling that was never reciprocated) and became his constant companion until 2006 when she grew disillusioned with him. “Honey” was inspired by Tang Wensheng (Mao's interpreter when meeting with Nixon) and partially, Marcie of Peanuts.
Mr. Butts, introduced in 1989, was a hallucinatory walking, talking cigarette, symbolizing the tobacco industry.