Kudzu (comic strip)

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Doug Marlette's first Kudzu Sunday strip in 1981 toured Bypass.

Kudzu was a daily comic strip by Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Doug Marlette about rural Southerners. Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate, the strip ran from 1981 to 2007.

The title came from the kudzu vine which was introduced to the Southern United States (and initially encouraged) as a soil erosion control plant, but soon became an out-of-control invasive species.

The daily strip was launched on a Monday, June 15, 1981.[1] At its peak, it was syndicated in 300 newspapers.[2] Marlette's flippant treatment of depression—a character read a magazine called Modern Depression which featured "Suicide notes to the editor"—drew criticism from advocates for the mentally ill.[2]

Characters and story[edit]

The cast included Kudzu Dubose,[3] Nasal T. Lardbottom, Rev. Will B. Dunn, Ida Mae Wombat, Veranda Tadsworth and NASCAR Dad. Comics historian Don Markstein described the strip's characters:

The nominal star of Kudzu is Kudzu Dubose, a 16-year-old resident of Bypass, NC... The real star is Rev. Will B. Dunn, a minister who in some ways conforms to the stereotype of the Southern preacher—loud, always ready to speak his mind, and somewhat more materialistic in the eyes of others than in his own self-image. But in other ways, such as his ready sarcasm and a rather eccentric way of looking at the world, he's unique. Apparently, readers take to him more enthusiastically than they would to a more conventional fire'n'brimstone type, because the first entry in the successful series of Kudzu reprints in paperback appeared the year the strip began. Other regulars include Kudzu's mom (pushy and possessive, but loving), Uncle Dub (Kudzu's main male role model), Veranda Tadsworth (Kudzu's lust object, considerably less interested in him than he is in her) and Maurice Jackson (Kudzu's pal). The town of Bypass is a small Southern hamlet, with all the favorable and annoying traits that implies, affectionately rendered by Marlette, himself a native of North Carolina.[4]

Will B. Dunn (the name is a play on the phrase "thy will be done", spoken by Jesus Christ at the Garden of Gethsemane), was modeled, at least in clothing and appearance, on Will D. Campbell, a preacher, director of religious life at the University of Mississippi, civil rights activist (the only white man in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) and author. Following Campbell's Death in 2013, Marlette's son, Andy, honored Campbell with a final comic strip featuring Will B. Dunn, holding the Holy Bible at Campbell's grave.[5][6]

CBS aired a pilot for a Kudzu sitcom on August 13, 1983, but ended up airing as a TV special instead. A musical based on the strip was produced in Washington, D. C. in 1998.[7]

Marlette was killed in a car accident on July 10, 2007, in Marshall County, Mississippi.[8] Kudzu is no longer in syndication; the last daily was published on August 4, 2007. The Sunday strips ran until August 26, 2007.


  1. ^ The Chronicle-Telegram (Elyria, Ohio), June 15, 1981.
  2. ^ a b Winerip, Michael (1993-06-06). "On Sunday; What's Humor To One Brings Pain to Another". The New York Times. p. 37.  (Syndicated in 300 newspapers; criticized by the National Stigma Clearing House, an advocacy organization for the mentally ill)
  3. ^ Kudzu Dubose, comicspages.com
  4. ^ Toonopedia
  5. ^ Black, Patti Carr; Marion Barnwell (2002). Touring Literary Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1-57806-368-X.  p. 114-5; [1]
  6. ^ Cyndi Soter (2000-10-19). "Editorial cartoonist and "Kudzu" creator Doug Marlette to speak at UNC-CH". University of North Carolina. Retrieved 2008-01-08. : Will B. Dunn patterned on Will D. Campbell
  7. ^ Rick Bragg (1998-06-18). "In 'Kudzu,' the South Faces Itself". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2007-12-26. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  8. ^ Waggoner, Martha (2007-07-10). "Cartoonist Doug Marlette killed in crash". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 

External links[edit]