He’s 23, single, a college grad, can’t — or won’t — find a job, and lives at home with his parents and younger sister. Again.
Sound like anybody you know?
Meet “Dustin,” a new comic strip starting in today’s Bradenton Herald.
It replaces “Cathy,” which concluded Sunday after 34 years.
The brainchild of 51-year-old political cartoonists Steve Kelley and Jeff Parker, Dustin Kudlick is a “boomerang kid” and chronic dreamer who believes his path to fame and fortune is right around the corner.
The same corner on which he holds up a sign advertising condo sales, one of several temp jobs he’s held.
n Apprentice ice sculptor.
n Hooters waiter.
n Party clown.
Although Dustin is a good son and big brother, his parents don’t know what buttons to push to motivate him:
“You know, Dustin,” his father tells him. “If you spend your time lying on the sofa and watching TV, you’ll never find a regular 9-to-5 job.”
“Promise?” Dustin answers with a big smile.
He is not the only personality in the comic strip, which was started last January by Kelley, of the New Orleans Times Picayune, and Parker, of Florida Today.
“As tough as the newspaper market’s been, we were told if we got picked up by 35 to 50 papers, we’d be good. If we make 100, that’s a home run,” Kelley said.
They surpassed that.
Ten months later, Dustin is syndicated in 300 newspapers.
“The response has been phenomenal,” Parker said. “It’s taken off like a rocket. We had the strip planned way before the economy tanked, but it’s worked for us.”
The rest of Dustin’s cast of characters are:
n Ed, his dad, an attorney who handles everything from criminal defense to divorce — and jokes he can’t tell the difference.
n Helen, his mom, a popular radio talk show host whose passion for shoe buying harkens back to Imelda Marcos.
n Megan, his sister, everything big brother isn’t — disciplined, organized and studious.
n Simone is Dustin’s boss at Turbo Temps agency, and keeps him around as a foil for her acerbic wit.
The comic strip emulates the wit of Kelley, who’s done standup comedy, including appearances on “The Tonight Show,” both with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno.
“Standup is good training for a comic strip,” said the Richmond, Va., native. “I build relationships between the characters and have gentle conflicts. You’ve got father-son, brother-sister, husband-wife — you crack those rocks and the sparks are funny.”
What’s it like coming up with daily ideas for the comic strip?
“It’s like the plant from ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’ It follows me around, going, ‘Feed me! Feed me!’ ” Kelley joked.
Parker does the actual sketching and for the 1977 Melbourne Central Catholic grad, Dustin is art imitating life.
“I moved back home after high school, annoyed my parents and drew comics, so I relate to Dustin completely,” he said. “I think when things are kind of real, people relate to it much better. It can sink in and become a routine in our daily lives. Realism is a vehicle that works well for comic strips.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.