Forty-two years after Mike Doonesbury was first introduced to the American public, the titular star of Garry Trudeau's long-running newspaper strip stepped down this weekend to let his daughter Alex take center-stage. Or did he? It turns out, things aren't necessarily as they seem.In one of his occasional breaking-the-fourth-wall strips, Trudeau's Sunday strip this past weekend featured Mike asking readers "Have you noticed how much the strip seems to center around Alex lately?" before explaining "That's because it's Alex's time -- and turn! I'm officially turning the reins over to her!" The daily strips since then have featured Alex talking about what's going to change now that she's in charge; "Job one? Freshening the stale, aging hippie vibe by introducing fresh, new characters, themes and arcs!" she boasted in Monday's strip, for example.

The changeover was met with excitement from some quarters, with Think Progress' Alyssa Rosenberg writing a great piece about the importance of the changeover. There's only one problem: It's all a fake-out.

In email with the Poynter blog, Trudeau called the sequence, which ends this Saturday, "a bit of a head fake - as you'll see Alex doesn't actually replace her father as the titular character." As he went on to explain, the sequence is "an acknowledgment that Alex and her peers have become more fun to track than the foundational characters," adding that the original idea behind the strip -- which he describes as it being "inherently interesting to watch a generation come of age" -- is "just repeating itself."

Given that we're already at Thursday and Alex is still explaining who's going to stay in the strip, it'll be interesting to see what Trudeau plans for the punchline to the sequence - or even if there's any real punchline at all.

[Via TDC]