Dustin is a daily comic strip created by Steve Kelley, editorial cartoonist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and Jeff Parker, who holds the same position for Florida Today. It is carried by King Features Syndicate and started running on January 4, 2010. Dustin won the National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award for Best Newspaper Comic Strip in 2010. Focusing on the present boomerang generation and post-2008 recession period, it also deals with varying topics from everyday life and social commentary.
Dustin was initially planned as a collaboration between Kelley and Steve Breen, who was Kelley's successor as the staff editorial cartoonist of the San Diego Union Tribune after Kelley was fired from that position in 2001. Breen later decided not to proceed with Dustin, leading to a 2008 lawsuit by Kelley against the owners of the Union Tribune, alleging that Breen had been improperly pressured not to collaborate with Kelley; the case was dismissed in 2009, but reinstated in 2011.
At its outset Dustin was carried in more than 100 newspapers nationwide, and by October 2010 it had expanded to 300. In several papers, Dustin was the replacement strip for Cathy, which ended its run in papers on October 3, 2010. Among the papers that carried Dustin from the beginning was the New York Daily News, but due to a recent cutback in the paper's comic section Dustin, along with several other strips, were jettisoned from the paper.
Dustin Kudlick, the titular character of the comic strip. A 23-year-old college graduate who failed to find regular employment in the current economy after graduating and thus moved back home to live with his parents. He is constantly trapped in a cycle of dead-end temp jobs and grueling manual labor, frequently shown putting in long hours at a car wash or asking his supervisor at the temp agency for more career-enhancing assignments that might help him break out of the cycle of wage slavery, not to mention troubling in developing relationships with women and a budding inventor. Despite his dysfunctional family atmosphere, Dustin remains stoic, a heroic everyman and inspiration to the reader, as he endures and strives, trying to find true employment and happiness.
Ed Kudlick, Dustin's father, is an angry, bitter lawyer who despises Dustin's apparent laziness and is the strip's main antagonist. Ed is never supportive in any way, and always seeks to crush Dustin's attempts to find meaning and useful employment, ceaselessly mocking his son and putting him down, yet the only thing they have in common is their love of golf.
Helen Kudlick, Dustin's mother, is a radio advice talk-show host of "Here's Helen," who occasionally endures one airheaded marijuana-advocate caller named Carl with some of his crazy questions. Always keeping faith that her son will do good eventually, even though she does have a shopaholic problem, especially over shoes.
Megan Kudlick, Dustin's teenaged sister, seven years younger than her brother, also resides in the house and is the strip's secondary antagonist. A bit of an overachiever, she tends to follow their father's example and also insulting and undercutting Dustin at every possible turn, showing how poor parenting can poison the next generation as well. But at times, they do have a true sibling bonding and often encourages him to keep trying.
Simone Fontenot; the salty owner of TurboTemps, a one-woman employment agency. Simone provides Dustin with temporary job assignments and unending criticism, sarcasm and almost always mispronounces his last name.
Kevin Fitch, Dustin's best friend, who actually works but is less ambitious and intelligent than Dustin is.
Hayden, a precocious seven-year old kid and next-door neighbor who balances between wisdom and antagonism for Dustin from time to time.
- New comic 'Dustin' tells tales of boomerang kid
- Introducing, "Dustin"
- National Cartoonists Society Division Awards (accessed 2012-06-13).
- Michael Cavna, "The comic strip that ruined a friendship, rankled a newspaper and landed in court. And that was BEFORE being launched.", The Washington Post, November 12, 2009.
- Don Bauder, "Appeals Court Reinstates Kelley Suit Against U-T", San Diego Reader, July 20, 2011.