Imagine someone told you there were going to be more Watchmen comics without Alan Moore or Dave Gibbons. Now you have some idea of what The Boondocks fans felt on Friday when news broke that the long awaited fourth season of the award-winning animated series would finally debut on April 21, but without its revered creator, cartoonist Aaron McGruder.

A ruthless satire of American culture, media and politics, The Boondocks is the story of Huey, a 10-year-old black revolutionary -- "Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the Devil, and the government is lying about 9/11" -- his bratty little brother Riley, obsessed with vapid pop culture trends and a cold blooded master of disses --  "Game recognize game and you lookin' kinda unfamiliar right now" -- and their Granddad, a deeply eccentric, old-fashioned and not particularly gentle man tasked by Huey and Riley's late parents with raising them out of trouble's way -- "How many times have I told you you better not even dream of telling white folk the truth? You better learn how to lie like me. I'm gonna find me a white man and lie to him right now."

McGruder created The Boondocks in 1996 as a newspaper comic strip while a student at the University of Maryland. The provocative and hilarious comic blew up in syndication, and McGruder continued drawing it until 2006, when he devoted himself to the animated series full time.

The Boondocks TV show debuted in 2005 and became one of Adult Swim's most popular original series, and certainly its most acclaimed. McGruder's show won a Peabody award for "Return of the King," in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. awakens from a coma to confront all manner of subjects, from contemporary African American culture to America's war on terror. The third and most recent season took on topics including the work of Tyler Perry, the inauguration of Barack Obama, country music, the criminal justice system and medical marijuana.

An Adult Swim press release announcing the fourth (and final) season's start date of April 21 came with the terse statement, "This season was produced without the involvement of Aaron McGruder, when a mutually agreeable production schedule could not be determined." Emails to Sony Pictures Entertainment, the production company behind The Boondocks, were not returned.

The news comes just days after McGruder stated that the Boondocks' Facebook profile had been "hijacked" following the posting of a teaser image for season four. In a status update on the Facebook page of Black Jesus, a new series McGruder is developing for Adult Swim, he wrote, "Just found out someone has hijacked The Boondocks Facebook page. This was done without my permission and I have absolutely no control over the content being posted as of Friday, March 14."

It now seems evident that The Boondocks' Facebook page wasn't so much "hijacked" as it was used by its owners -- Adult Swim or Sony, presumably -- for its intended purpose; to promote The Boondocks.

While McGruder's reaction to the Facebook teaser was the first public indication that anything was amiss with The Boondocks, it is extremely doubtful that it was the first time the writer and cartoonist realized the new season was moving forward without him. The nature of television animation is such that The Boondocks season four would have been in production for several months at least, and McGruder's status as creator of the show (and the comic strip upon which it based) would, we're reliably informed, entitle him to some kind of communication to the effect of, "Hey, we are making season four without you" before March 14. McGruder has yet to comment further.

Given the uncommonly long four-year gap between seasons, it's easy to believe there was indeed a conflict over production schedules, as the Adult Swim press release states. But McGruder's remarks and seeming bewilderment raise questions about the exact nature and timing of his break with the show he created and produced to immense acclaim.

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