The Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau has never been to Iraq or Afghanistan. But for years, his strip has chronicled the wars in those countries, with the stories of characters like Ray Hightower and B.D. — the football coach and Vietnam vet who went to Iraq with the National Guard.
Trudeau's latest project involves real-life soldiers. Doonesbury.com's The Sandbox is a compilation of writings by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan that were posted on a blog at Doonesbury.com.
Trudeau tells Michele Norris that his goal was to provide a general audience the "flavor" of what life is like for troops overseas.
He asked soldiers to provide writing that "spoke to the texture of quotidian, day-to-day activities of [their lives]" and that were not rants about the war or the politics of the war.
Dark humor characterizes many of the blog posts.
"That black, M*A*S*H-like humor has traditionally been the thin membrane between these guys and insanity," Trudeau says during a recent book signing at the Pentagon, located just outside Washington.
"They have to look at horrible things and somehow detoxify them, and often they'll do that with humor."
Trudeau says his views on Iraq and Afghanistan didn't evolve so much as deepen as a result of the project.
"I just hope these guys get the credit that's due them," Trudeau says. "If it also helps people understand what these guys are going through, on a day-to-day basis, I think that [will be] a contribution."