Thatch reaches agreement with his college roommate, Tripp. Artist: Jeff Shesol.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Published by: Brown University
First Appeared: 1988
Creator: Jeff Shesol
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Thatch started out the way Doonesbury had — as a comic strip about the doings of a bunch of college students, in and around their campuis, running in that campus's …

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… student newspaper. Thatch even, like Bull Tales (as Doonesbury was called during its nascent stage as a student project) appeared in an Ivy League institution, Brown University as opposed to the other strip's Yale. And like Bull Tales, it was intended for mainstream syndication when it finished its college run.

Berke Breathed's Bloom County. too, was syndicated nationally after having run, as The Academia Waltz, in a college paper. For this and other reasons, Bloom County was accused, not entirely without justification, of imitating the earlier strip. But to the extent the criticism was ever valid, Breathed quickly asserted his strip's own identity, establishing himself as a having a voice of his own, with a unque point of view.

Thatch was also accused, with a great deal of justification, of being a Doonesbury imitator. In fact, it was accused of being a character-for-character rip-off of Garry Trudeau's comic. It never did establish itself as anything but a Doonesbury clone.

Cartoonist Jeff Shesol launched Thatch in the 1988 edition of Brown's student newspaper, as a typical college comic about typical college guys. If the characters seemed analogous to those of Doonesbury, that's because Bull Tales, too, had been about typical college guys, and from one college to another, typical college guys have a certain sameness about them. It was syndicated to over 200 college papers, and struck a responsive chord at each because wherever it was published, the students knew people just like the ones in Thatch. Not every social group included a guy who, like the title character, put on a superhero suit and combatted impropriety as Politically Correct Person,, wherever he could imagine offense being taken whether or not anybody ever actually took offense at it. But most people knew (or were) the kind of guys who probably would do something like that if they were inclined to put on superhero suits in the first place.

Thatch ran in college papers until 1991, when it was collected in book form. Thatch Featuring Politically Correct Person emphasized the one aspect of the series that has been specifically cited as lying outside the Doonesbury mold. It was a couple of years before it was picked up by Creators Syndicate (Andy Capp, BC). Creators launched it on October 1, 1994. The characters had, like the students who read about them, graduated college and gone out into the world. And with real-world concerns weighing him down, Thatch himself no longer had much interest in maintaining his alter ego as Politically Correct Person.

People with the political orientation displayed by Doonesbury or Thatch were starting to work in the new Clinton administration, so that's the direction these characters went in. This accorded with Shesol's interest in politics, which he also displayed in his choice of non-cartoon book topics. A book he wrote about the Kennedy/Johnson administrations caught the eye of Bill Clinton himself, who offered him a job writing speeches.

As a result, Shesol emulated his own characters, and went to work for the administration. The final Thatch appeared on April 11, 1998.


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Text ©2009 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Jeff Shesol.