People Staff
July 26, 1999 12:00 PM

Chicago inner-city natives Huey and Riley are strolling down a leafy street in their new suburban hometown. “We’ve been walking for 10 minutes and haven’t passed one subway stop, ball court, Chinese carryout or rib shack,” Riley observes. “Riley,” Huey replies, “we are pilgrims in an unholy land.”

Huey and Riley are the central figures in the nation’s brashest new comic strip, The Boondocks, which made its debut in April and already appears in nearly 200 newspapers. They are also windows into the soul of their creator, Chicago-born Aaron McGruder, 25, whose family moved to the squeaky-clean suburb of Columbia, Md. “A lot of me comes out in the strip,” he says. “There are themes of interracial and intraracial alienation, and on top of that some childhood silliness.”

Still, the University of Maryland graduate’s satire has ruffled plenty of feathers. Some blacks see the characters as stereotypes, while many whites feel they are the butt of McGruder’s jokes. The strip has its defenders too. “It’s a conservative medium, and by that standard it’s controversial,” says Lee Salem of Universal Press, which syndicates it. “But newspapers were looking for something to appeal to young readers, African-American readers. Aaron was the right talent at the right time.” So much so that there’s talk of a Boondocks TV show and a book—not too shabby for a young man who had no art training and still lives with his parents, Elaine, 50, a homemaker, and Bill, 52, a communications specialist. “All this hoopla is nice,” says McGruder. “But my focus this year is to make a living and get out of the house.”

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