Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News
Aaron McGruder in NPR's Los Angeles studios.
Cover of The Boondocks compilation, A Right to Be Hostile (Three Rivers Press 2003)
About four years ago, newspaper readers opened the comics section to find a new strip featuring black characters with wickedly sharp observations about everything from racists to bad rappers.
It's a "fish out of water" setup, with a twist — two young boys from the city go to live with their grandfather in the suburbs. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates recently spoke with The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder about what inspires and irritates him, and what his characters might do next.
McGruder doesn't shy away from controversy. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, McGruder drew a series of strips featuring a talking American flag and a yellow ribbon — and they had very critical things to say about the Patriot Act and the Bush administration. Some newspapers dropped those strips entirely.
The cartoonist also take swipes at Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, the two most prominent and powerful African-American members of the Bush administration. Shortly after Rice was ridiculed in a series of The Boondocks strips, she and McGruder ended up on the same stage as recipients of NAACP Image Awards.
Conservatives haven't been the only targets of McGruder's satire. Gangsta rappers and Black Entertainment Television (BET) also get the Boondocks treatment.
Regardless of the scorn he sometimes heaps on his subjects — or perhaps because of it — The Boondocks is a hit. McGruder recently signed a deal with Fox and Sony Pictures to create an animated version of The Boondocks. The daily strip appears in more than 250 newspapers in the United States.