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Aaron McGruder Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Trivia (17) | Personal Quotes (7)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 29 May 1974Chicago, Illinois, USA
Nicknames Tha A-double
Brotha A-dub
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

An unlikely firestorm was ignited on the 19th of April, 1999. The Universal Press Syndicate made the largest launch ever of a single comic strip in the history of the printed page when it debuted an off-beat work in more than 160 newspapers that day (and 40 more by year's end). The strip, centering on two prepubescent Black youths transplanted from the inner-city of South Chicago to the lily-white fictional suburb of Woodcrest, immediately set off controversy with its daily skewerings of race, politics, music and every other slice of Americana considered taboo to the "funnies". And yet both the success and controversy of the comic happened so fast that few knew about the man behind it all. The strip is "The Boondocks", brainchild of Aaron McGruder.

Born in Chicaco, Illinois in 1974 under the sign of Gemini, Aaron and his parents soon moved to from their largely-Black neighbourhood to a mostly-white suburb in Baltimore, Maryland when Aaron was about to start school. Spending the majority of his life there, young Aaron got a first-hand education on race relations; often feeling like an outsider as a minority. Yet, he was never unhappy. It was during his productive and highly influential youth that McGruder would come in contact with the things that would change his life forever. The first was Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). After his first viewing of George Lucas' galaxy far, far away, McGruder become one of many children his generation to have a life-long obsession with the film (not unlike Jersey-borne filmmaker Kevin Smith). The second was Hip-Hop. The uniquely African-American musical style became to new generations what jazz and the British invasion had been years before. As the civil rights movement ended and Reaganomics took over, Hip-Hop became the only viable, uncensored outlet for Black youth to express themselves unchallenged. The third was comics. Not just the "funny books" containing the adventures of Superman and Spider-Man, but comic strips. Aaron's tastes over the years ranged from the funny-yet-true child's POV as shown by Charles M. Schulz with "Peanuts" to, eventually, the irreverent humour of Berkeley Breathed and Bill Waterson "Bloom County" and "Calvin & Hobbes" (respectively) to the biting political satire of Garry Trudeau's "Doonesbury."

After graduating high school, McGruder enrolled in the University of Maryland where the budding artist found his first widespread outlet for his creativity. After fellow UofM student Frank Cho (author of the cult comic "Liberty Meadows") graduated in the mid-90s, the school newspaper, The DiamondBack, was left without a leading comic strip. The paper's lead editor, Jayson Blair (who would later court his own controversy with his infamous run at The New York Times), doubted that anything would grab as much attention as Cho's work. Aaron gladly volunteered for the job, creating a strip that would combine elements of his own life with an all-around "Hip-Hop perspective" of world events as told through the eyes of young Black children wise beyond their years. With that, "The Boondocks" premiered in The Diamondback and became an instant hit, introducing UofM students to Huey Freeman, an afro-sporting, self-appointed revolutionary (named after Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense); Riley Freeman, Huey's unapologetic "gangsta"-wannabe younger brother; and Jazmine DuBois, a bi-racial girl with little more control over her racial identity than her own fussy hair.

With the help of fellow student and aspiring DJ, Rhome Anderson, McGruder began showing the strip on the internet. The strip achieved enough popularity to the point where in 1998 it received its first national print publication in the pages of the Hip-Hop magazine "The Source" for three months straight (details of why it was removed vary). After graduating UofM with degrees in Afro-American studies, McGruder and Anderson courted several offers to publish the strip in national newspapers before finding an agreeable one with Universal Press Syndicate. The strip made its national premiere April of 1999 with the largest debut for a new comic in a record 160 papers nation-wide. The strip immediately caused controversy. Everything from the characters' (anime-influenced) designs to the handling of the bi-racial Jazmine seemed to stir the ire of someone no matter where the strip was published. Some Blacks claimed it was stereotypical and derogatory; many whites claimed it was outright racist, hurtful and divisive. Parents found such common strip activities like the boys being spanked by their Grandfather and young Riley's bullying of other children undeserving of print space alongside such veteran "G"-rated fare as "Garfield" and "Peanuts". Even fellow UofM alum Frank Cho--whose strip "Liberty Meadows" was taking heat for its blatant sexual content and toilet humour--called McGruder's strip "racist and hateful."

Yet for all the angry resentment, the positive response to the strip was equally-strong. In fact, many papers struggled with whether or not to drop the strip because of strong following. Many fans celebrated its genuine Hip-Hop references and championed it as a long-silent voice for the Black community now having the opportunity to be heard. The characters were championed for the way Aaron had the characters ask questions from "Why are there no good Black TV shows?" to "Why is Black History Month in the shortest month of the year?" McGruder himself seemed to take it all in stride frequenting the late-night rounds on such series as Politically Incorrect (1993), BET Tonight with Ed Gordon (1998), and 20/20 (1978) among others.

Over the years, the strip's controversy and popularity have only continued to grow. McGruder has had his characters speak on everything from exploitative rap videos, the NRA, Black conservatives, and inter-racial marriage to such trivial pursuits as lawn-mowing as a form of illegal child labour and the surge of rappers as movie stars over the past ten years. The strip is constantly a hot topic with several paper often moving it out of the "comics" section to "Editorials" and some removing it from the paper altogether. Recognizable personas from BET founder Robert L. Johnson to conservative columnist Ward Connerlly have publicly condemned the strip (and have often found themselves the subjects of its jibes). Right-wing "avengers" often criticise the strip's constant "attacks" on George W. Bush.

Nothing seemed to escape the wrath of the Freeman brothers, not even McGruder's beloved "Star Wars". In the weeks leading up to the highly-anticipated released of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), Huey and Riley were shown lining up in eager anticipation. After the film was released, the boys expressed reactions felt by many life-long fans when they skewered the movie and its supposedly racist character Jar-Jar Binks. Ironically, the strip found one of its biggest fans in that film's co-star, Samuel L. Jackson. In late 2001/early 2002, the strip found itself with more controversy than usual (if that's at all possible) when, after the attacks of 9/11, McGruder swayed away from mainstream opinions of the country and had his characters criticise every thing from the mainstream media's cheerleader-like support of war and Bush to the false patriotism of flag-wavers in light of the attacks. The strip was pulled from several major papers (particularly in New York). Rather than back down from this position, McGruder satirized his "banning" by pretending the strip was being replaced with mock characters in the form of a US flag and ribbon. Many assumed that the strip has actually been canceled and that the new "patriotic" comic was permanent, unknowing that McGruder himself was proving his point all the more.

In the years since its introduction, the strip has gone through minor changes: Rhome Anderson is no longer involved with the strip; several new characters have been added; McGruder has compiled two books of collected strips (with a third due late 2003); he's gotten the opportunity to meet his influential heroes, including Garry Trudeau and he is currently teaming up with filmmaker Reginald Hudlin in an attempt to get an animated version of "The Boondocks" off the ground. Love him or hate him, Aaron McGruder finds himself in that great pantheon of classic satirists: his opinion may not be yours, but he has a basis from which he speaks that makes his a voice worth listening to. Were his strip nothing more than senseless rambling (something he himself has often joked about), it wouldn't have nearly gotten the amount of attention it has. It is a sharp perspective from someone whose generation is constantly said to have none. You needn't agree, but you'd do best to give it a listen.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Buddy-L, Daly City, Ca.

Trivia (17)

Notable fans of the strip include Spike Lee, 'Julian Bond' (II), 'Chris Rock', Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Moore. Moore wrote the introduction to the "Boondocks" collection "A Right to be Hostile".
The strip is so often pulled for controversial material that he sometimes puts in fake "substitute" comics in order to satirise the controversy itself. After 'Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace' (1999) premiered, he ran a strip called "Wacky Fun with Jar-Jar Binks". After having his strip pulled from several papers due to opinions post-9/11 he ran a strip called "The Adventures of Flagee and Ribbon."
When his comic strip, "The Boondocks", debuted in newspapers 19 April 1999, it had the single largest debut for a new strip with a record 160 papers printing it, with a count of 200 by year's end. To date (2004), the strip is carried in 300+ papers in the United States alone.
Among his most out-spoken critics are: Black conservative radio talk-host Larry Elder, who said that a cry-baby award should be created for Black celebs called "The McGruder" ("The Boondocks" responded with its characters holding "The Most-Embarrassing Black People" Awards a.k.a "The Larry Elder"); Robert L. Johnson, founder of the B.E.T-Black Entertainment Television network (known for its racy music videos, the characters of the strip refer to the network as "Black Exploitation Television" or "Butts Every Time"); and conservative Black columnist Ward Connerly (who the character Huey once said should be beaten with a spiked bat).
Usually a newspaper comic strip is completed and sent to papers roughly a month before its intended run-date. However, to keep the topics of his strip current, he uses a lead time of no more than only two weeks. In 2000, under pressure to meet in looming deadlines, he was hospitalized for exhaustion. He still holds the two-week deadline, but has hired artists Jennifer Seng and Carl Jones to assist with the artwork (not unlike the artistic staff of "For Better of For Worse" artist Lynn Johnston and "Garfield" creator Jim Davis).
Won the "Chairman's Award" at the 2002 NAACP Image Awards. Backstage he conversed with National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, just as the George W. Bush administration had invaded Afghanistan. Although the exact nature of their conversation is unknown, McGruder (who is often critical of the Bush and his cabinet) reportedly referred to Rice as a "murderer" for taking part in the administration's "war on terrorism". McGruder himself says that Rice jokingly requested to be drawn into the strip. She was: in October 2003 the characters of the strip humourously attempted find Rice a boyfriend because "if she had someone she loved, she wouldn't be so hell-bent on destroying the world".
Known for being as outspoken in public as his characters. Appeared at the 138th anniversary for renowned left-wing magazine "The Nation" in December 2003. A year earlier, the magazine honoured the strip and its creator with a cover article, "Huey Freeman: American Hero" featuring the young character on the cover. At the 2003 gala, McGruder got into several shouting matches with guests, criticizing the mostly-Democrat crowd for their less-than-aggressive reactions to George W. Bush's policies.
His art is anime-inspired, and he's occasionally cited the genre in his strip.
Is a friend of US Congresswoman Barbara Lee, one of the few politicians to be openly critical and objectionable of the Bush administration. In 2002, Lee invited McGruder with her on a trip to Havana, Cuba, where the two met with President Fidel Castro.
A lifelong fan of the Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) films, his favourite character is Yoda whose quotes often find their ways into his works. Whats more, he named his production company "Rebel Base".
Has a long rivalry with fellow comic-strip artist Bil Keane, creator of "Family Circus". When McGruder attended the Reuben Awards (the cartoonist industry's highest honour) in 2000, "The Boondocks" (which remains only one of a handful of strips featuring minority characters) was nominated for "Best New Strip", which it did not win. At one point Keane took to the stage to introduce an award and joked "There's a lot of diversity in comics these days. They don't have to be funny, they just have to be diverse."
McGruder created "The Boondocks" comic strip job in college at the University of Maryland. The school's paper, The DiamondBack, needed a new lead comic strip, after it's previous occupant, a strip by Frank Cho, ended when Cho graduated. McGruder got the job from the paper's lead editor, Jayson Blair. Cho would later go on to fame as the creator of his own comic strip and book series, "Liberty Meadows" (he has been publicly critical of McGruder and "The Boondocks"). Jayson Blair later rose to infamy when he became a reporter for The New York Times and was caught plagiarizing stories.
Met film-maker Reginald Hudlin in 1998 when McGruder signed his cartooning contract with Universal Press Syndicate--McGruder and Hudlin were represented by the same legal firm. Hudlin was instrumental in getting the show The Boondocks (2005) made without creative compromise and was an executive producer on the series. Their professional partnership ended in July of 2005 when Hudlin was named President of Entertainment for the Black Entertainment Television (BET) cable network, the channel which is often lampooned in the "Boondocks" comic strip and t.v. series.
Announced on 28 Feb. 2006 that he would be taking a six-month sabbatical from the strip starting on 20 March, just as the animated series had been renewed for a second season. He released a statement to newspapers saying "Every well needs occasional refreshing and I hope that this fall you will agree that time away from the demands of the deadlines has served the strip, your readers, and me."
Resides in Los Angeles where he still serves as writer and artist on "The Boondocks." Currently planning the strips animated debut with producer Reginald Hudlin. [August 2003]
Resides in Los Angeles where he still serves as writer and artist on "The Boondocks." Executive-producing the animated version of the strip with Reginald Hudlin. The programme is set to debut on the Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" line-up Autumn 2005. [January 2005]
Resides in Los Angeles where he still serves as writer and artist on "The Boondocks." Executive-producing and writing the animated version of the strip. The programme debuted on the Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" line-up in Autumn 2005 to rave reviews. [December 2005]

Personal Quotes (7)

"No one feuds with me. I'm nobody. Nobody cares about what I say. People don't even read the strip." - response to word that he's making enemies.
"It would be innacurate to say that Huey's opinions are my own. I think there's a broad opinion being put through the strip with a combination of all the characters' voices." - on whether or not Huey Freeman, the strip's main character, is a mouthpiece for McGruder himself.
"I'm ready to fight outside work. If someone wants to come up and start a political conversation with me, it can quickly turn into an argument. People don't understand; a lotta this shit is not funny to me." --On his reputation for making out-spoken comments at public appearances.
"We did our best to do a Fox show, but frankly, I don't think the difficulties we had at Fox would be exclusive to Fox. I just think that broadcast television in general is a very restrictive place. It's tough to be funny because there's so many eyeballs and there's so much money at stake that I think everything is just kind of over-thought. And it's tough to be daring and do something different, either with regards to content or structure." - Describing the failed attempt of making his series The Boondocks (2005) for the FOX network in 2003. The series was later picked up by, and premiered on, the Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" programming block.
I went to Havana, and I was like 'Wow! There's culture everywhere! I don't think the American government has a lot of respect for culture. That was the one thing did notice when I went to Cuba was that artists are paid to be artists, poets are paid to be poets, and musicians are paid to be musicians by The government. The government - and I'm not saying the Cuban government's perfect - but the government does place a value on culture. Much more so than here, where culture is just a matter of commerce. -- Describing his 2002 trip to Cuba with Congresswoman Barbara Lee
I use it. A lot of young black people use it, and a lot of old black people use it. At a certain point it starts to feel fake if you're not using it. The question is when are we going to stop talking about people using the N-word?
BET may be the worst thing to happen to black people since Jimmie Walker. I'm a big fan of hip-hop culture, but BET is only exploiting the culture and making the race look idiotic. It's all bitches and hoes and grandiose jewelry and fancy cars.

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