Who is Aaron McGruder?
Aaron Vincent McGruder is an American cartoonist and producer best known for creating the comic strip ‘The Boondocks’ which earned him a lot of fame and a little notoriety as well. A rebel at heart, he has been outspoken about his views from an early age and this attitude is reflected in the works he creates. As a young boy of color, he often faced harassment as a child which in a way liberated him instead of repressing him. Unhappy at school, he started drawing cartoons as a way of distracting himself and this paved the way for his future career. He went on to earn a degree in African American Studies from the University of Maryland. It was during his university years that he began his work on ‘The Boondocks’ which was run in the university’s newspaper, ‘The Diamondback.’ The comic became instantly popular and within a few years it was running in more than 160 newspapers. The resonating success of the comic strip led to McGruder’s creation of an adult animated sitcom of the same name on Cartoon Network's late-night programming block, Adult Swim. While much loved by the majority of the audience, the brash and politically incorrect content of ‘The Boondocks’ also earned McGruder quite a few critics.
Childhood & Early Life
Aaron McGruder was born in Chicago, Illinois, on May 29, 1974, to Bill McGruder and his wife Elaine. He has one elder brother, Dedric. His family is multiracial.
His father, a communications expert, took up a job with the National Transportation Safety Board in Columbia when Aaron was six years old. Thus the family relocated to Columbia where they finally settled.
The family lived in a predominantly white neighborhood, and the young brothers received a normal upbringing, filled with movies, video games, and rap music. Aaron was sent to a Jesuit school with highly restrictive rules. Even though he initially felt repressed, he later stated that the regressive atmosphere of the school compelled him to express his frustrations in a creative way.
Eventually he was shifted to a predominantly black high school where he became increasingly aware about the racial inequality in his country and became associated with groups that encouraged the black youth to challenge the status quo and bring about reform.
His interest in the African-American culture led him to pursue a degree in Afro-American studies from the University of Maryland. It was here that he began his work on the comic strip ‘The Boondocks’ at the Presentation Graphics Lab on campus. The strip was run in the university’s newspaper, ‘The Diamondback’ under its then-editor, Jayson Blair.
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Aaron McGruder’s ‘The Boondocks’ was a satirical take on the Afro-American culture and American politics. While his brash, unapologetic and politically incorrect language intrigued and delighted many readers, it also alienated him from a few. Following a misunderstanding with Jayson Blair, McGruder removed his strip from the college newspaper.
The popular strip was later printed in the monthly hip hop magazine, ‘The Source.’ Even though it did not appear in the magazine for long, McGruder’s association with ‘The Source’ led to a chance meeting with Harriet Choice of Universal Press Syndicate at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention.
Choice was highly impressed with the young man’s comic strip and offered McGruder a lucrative deal. Their association proved to be very fruitful and within a few years, the comic started appearing in hundreds of newspapers.
By 1998, ‘The Boondocks’ was running in 160 newspapers. In February 1999, it was appearing in 195 newspapers. The figures continued to rise steadily and as of 2005, the strip was running in 250 newspapers.
The comic strip offered a satirized commentary on African-American culture and American politics, as seen through the eyes of a ten-year-old black boy, Huey and his brother Riley. The strip was humorous, with heavy doses of political content and commentary about issues like interracial marriages, racism, modern black culture, and class-divide in the United States.
Even though ‘The Boondocks’ had been a bit controversial from the very beginning, its notoriety reached newer heights following the September 11 attacks in 2001. During this time, he heavily criticized President Bush which earned him quite a few detractors but also added to his popularity simultaneously.
The rising popularity of the comic strip prompted Aaron McGruder to create a television series based on it. The adult animated sitcom ‘The Boondocks’ premiered on Cartoon Network's late-night programming block, Adult Swim, on November 6, 2005.
Just like its literary counterpart, the television series too proved to be a popular yet controversial one. It retained the comic strip’s focus on race, culture, and politics, and often featured content that intended to shock the audiences. A much loved show, it ran for a total of 55 episodes over a course of four seasons. McGruder, however, was not involved in the production of the fourth season.
Having gained immense popularity as the creator of ‘The Boondocks’ franchise, Aaron McGruder delved into other unrelated projects as well. In the mid-2000s he collaborated with Reginald Hudlin to co-author a graphic novel, ‘Birth of a Nation: A Comic Novel’ about African Americans in East St. Louis during an election. It was moderately successful. In the recent years he has developed into a public speaker on political and cultural issues as well.
Aaron McGruder is best known as the creator of the comic strip ‘The Boondocks.’ The series debuted in 1996 on Hitlist.com, an early online music website, and was also printed in the magazine ‘The Source’ before being picked up by the Universal Press Syndicate. The strip which satirizes African-American culture proved to be a highly popular one, though also controversial at times.
The television series, ‘The Boondocks’, based on the comic strip was also a huge success. McGruder created the series and co-wrote some of the episodes. The series premiered in November 2005 on Cartoon Network's late-night programming block, Adult Swim and ran until June 2014. McGruder, however, was not involved with the production of the fourth and final season of the sitcom.
Awards & Achievements
Aaron McGruder won the Chairman Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 2000.
In January 2006, his show ‘The Boondocks’ was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series at the 37th NAACP Image Awards. It won a Peabody Award the same year for the episode ‘Return of the King.’
Personal Life & Legacy
Aaron McGruder prefers to keep his personal life guarded. There is not much information available about his dating history or romantic relationships. There are rumors afloat that he has been married to a woman of Asian ethnicity since 2011, but there is no evidence to prove the same.
He is a big-time dog lover and has three dogs, Remix, Retro, and Hooligan.