Comic-strip panels portraying U.S. soldiers in Operation Desert Shield in today's "Doonesbury" are actually the work of "Zorro," a member of the Air Force who is stationed in Saudi Arabia, according to a spokesman for the comic strip's syndicate.
The panels deal with the bleak living conditions of troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. In the first panel, "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau drew a soldier who tells readers, "Check out these cartoon dispatches from the front, created by 'Zorro,' an airman stationed at Central Command in Saudi Arabia."
The rest of the strip presents Zorro's black-humor takes on life at the front. Panels include a man in fatigues roasting on an open spit above the words "Desert Shield Rotation Policy;" a soldier who hanged himself after months of waiting for mail from home; and an off-course Scud missile hitting a bored soldier dead-on.
Zorro titled his seven scenes of military life "Living in Purgatory."
Lee Salem, editorial director of the strip's distributor, Kansas City-based Universal Press Syndicate, said Mr. Trudeau convinced him that Zorro was a real person and a member of the Air Force stationed at Central Command.
"Zorro had put some of his cartoons on the bulletin boards of Central Command," said Mr. Salem. "He began corresponding with Garry, and Garry decided he wanted to show Zorro's work to the public. Zorro's the real thing."
Mr. Salem said the syndicate received the completed drawings from Mr. Trudeau Dec. 24, three weeks before the outbreak of war.
A spokesman at Langley Air Force base in Hampton, Va., said Zorro was the pseudonym of an airman who had attempted last fall to get his strips published in The Desert Defender, a Central Air Force Command newspaper published at Langley. The newspaper is distributed in Saudi Arabia.
"He sent them to us, but we thought the strips were very inappropriate," the spokesman said. "They bordered on obscene. The Desert Defender is trying to stay positive and in good taste."
The spokesman said Zorro's home base wasn't Langley. "We've narrowed it down to one of three or four bases further south," he said. He would not say how this had been determined and would not comment on why Zorro chose to remain anonymous or if he would be reprimanded if identified.
Mr. Trudeau, who wasn't available for comment, is sick with the flu and taking next week off, Mr. Salem said. Universal Press Syndicate is sending old "Doonesbury" strips to run tomorrow through Saturday.