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Aaron McGruder Tele-Stomping for Boondocks

Cartoonist Aaron McGruder recently met with reporters around the country to discuss the upcoming Adult Swim premiere of the cartoon version of his in-your-face BOONDOCKS comic strip, which debuts Nov. 6, 2005, at 11:00 pm. That it was a virtual meeting via a telephone conference call gave the event the feel of an electronic séance, with an unseen moderator/medium directing unseen participants to pose their questions to the unseen subject whom for all we knew couldve been a ringer filling in for McGruder. (An unlikely possibility, but not entirely unimaginable since McGruder is quite open about the fact someone else is actually drawing the BOONDOCKS strip these days.)

To put it simply, BOONDOCKS the cartoon is hysterically, audaciously funny. The series will hit the mark for Adult Swim, following in the jaw-dropping, my-God-did-they-really-say-that-on-TV? tradition established by THE SIMPSONS, SOUTH PARK and FAMILY GUY. The first episode may set a new record for the use of the n-word, and did not shelter its African-American central characters from any of its scathing satire. (In what will probably be the first of many Family Guy-style cutaways to quickie gags, a flashback to Granddads previously unseen younger days shows him arriving too late for a 1950s civil rights march. Seems he went home first to get his yellow rain slicker, a fact the fire hose-soaked marchers didnt seem to appreciate.)

Asked about the road to the series, McGruder said weve been in talks with one entity or another for six years now. Deals didnt happen for a number of reasons, mostly around creative control reasons. The project has been all over town, and ended up here at Sony [the entity producing the series for Adult Swim].

We were given all the leeway we needed to say what we wanted here he added, further explaining how the show wound up on Adult Swim. We did a pilot for FOX actually a much softer, six-minute presentation but Adult Swim saved the day. There is no risk of FOX ever running this show.

A Minnesota reporter asked if McGruder thought the n-word had lost its power to offend. Probably not if were still talking about it. Its important for me to say a lot of things in this series it aint the nigger show nigger nigger nigger we say a few other things as well. I like to talk the way people talk. I look forward to the day where racial discourse has evolved past the same conversation weve had for 30 years.

AWNs correspondent wanted to know if McGruder found the shift from writing four panels to 22 minutes challenging. I wrote most of the 15 episodes. I had to be the one to show everyone. There was some help there, a couple of people as opposed to a full writing staff: Reginald Hudlin, Yamara Taylor, Rodney Barnes, the co-exec producer is an experienced writer, he also does Everybody Hates Chris. Id developed a few pilots, some live action between the years I started BOONDOCKS. Obviously they didnt go far, but doing screenwriting is not as dramatic a transition as you might expect.

McGruders strip bought the anime look to the comics page, a style the show in turn preserves. I always wanted it to be an anime show. Its the most cinematic and gives you the most flexibility in terms of humor for adults. I think THE SIMPSONS is genius, but we wanted to be very, very different from the style Matt Groening set for adult animation. It took us a while to get it right and were still working, still going for some stylistic things. Its difficult we cant find American artists whove worked on this thing in the past.

McGruder spent an hour and a half taking questions in stride and answering them with a focused confidence. Hed obviously been waiting and planning for this moment for a long time. Or as he said at one point during the call, You have to know what you want. Joe Strike