If you've been reading the Observer's comics pages this week, you've noticed a new name in the line-up. Steve Kelly's and Jeff Parker's 'Dustin' debuted Monday, replacing the single panel 'F-minus'. Kelly, the editorial cartoonist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune introduces his work this way:
TWO HETEROSEXUAL MALES START FAMILY TOGETHER.
Okay, now that I have your attention, let me explain.
Florida Today political cartoonist Jeff Parker and I are launching a comic strip, “Dustin,” that will appear in The Times-Picayune and more than 50 newspapers across the country starting today. At its heart is the Kudlick family: Ed and Helen and their two children, Dustin and Meg.
You must be thinking, whoa, Steve, that is such an original premise. Husband, wife, two kids — does your sizzling creativity know no bounds?
Again, let me explain.
Dustin is what trend-spotters call a “boomerang kid” — in his case, a 23-year-old college graduate who moves back in with his parents to save money until he is established in the workforce.
But as sociologists (and common sense) are quick to remind us, these arrangements seldom proceed as anticipated. Sometimes the temporary houseguest grows comfortable with the situation. As his stay extends beyond what anyone intended, nerves begin to fray and relationships are tested. The nest begins to feel crowded. . . .
Jeff told me that when he describes our comic strip to people, they often tell him, “Oh, I have a Dustin living at home.” He’s quick to remind them, “Yes, but ours is funny.”
Both Kelly and Parker are accomplished professional cartoonists. In addition, Kelly moonlights as a stand-up comic. So 'Dustin' promises to be a polished strip, consistently humorous, as opposed to 'F-minus', whose amateurish look was considered part of its charm.
The most interesting thing to me about the new strip though, is how newspapers buy and syndicates market comic strips these days. They're not talking art, but demographics. The first concern seems to be not so much a product of the imagination as a product to be peddled to a specific readership niche. Here's how King Features starts their 'Dustin' press release: " As the national
unemployment rate for 20-24-year-olds soars, 80% of 2009 U.S. college
graduates dubbed “boomerang kids” have returned to their parents’ homes
after graduation according to CollegeGrad.com. A growing trend around
the country, the Boomerang Generation is now taking center stage in the
hilarious new comic . . . "
Newspapers have lots of 'family' and 'kid' strips on their pages already. So that makes it harder for another in the genre to break into a paper, even if that strip is wonderfully drawn, creatively conceived, hilarious, and penned by a comic genius, Richard Thompson, one of the nicest guys in the cartooning industry. Oh, yeah, it's also one of my favorite comic strips. Thankfully, the Observer runs it on Sundays, but I'd love to see it on the daily pages:
So, in the meantime, the key to getting published is to think of a neglected demographic -- something that will ensure one's success as a comic strip artist. Any suggestions?