September 28th, 2017
This week, we’re reading Dustin, by Steve Kelley and Jeff Parker.
In the midst of the Great Recession, Steve and Jeff, two celebrated editorial cartoonists, wanted to explore more closely the way the economy was affecting American families. With more young adults moving back home after college, and more formerly full-time jobs moving to contract work, the “traditional” models for family and employment were changing, especially for millennials. But that story took more space to tell than a few editorial cartoons would permit.
So they teamed up to create Dustin, a comic strip about the Kudlicks, today’s average American family. Dustin is a young college grad who is stuck in a cycle of revolving door temp work, looking for that dream job, and still suffering from a case of arrested development– not quite ready to grow up. His parents, Ed and Helen, are successful baby boomers who are trying to adjust their expectations for what family and career mean to this new generation– they want to see Dustin succeed, but aren’t quite sure how to push him in the right direction now that the rules have changed.
Dustin’s sister, Megan, in a high-achieving high school student with big dreams and a lot of cynicism. She and Dustin are great foils for each other: He’s a lofty idealist with little skill at motivating himself, while she’s hypermotivated but not sure if she’s getting as much as she puts in.
Dustin’s sometimes-mentor, sometimes-antagonist is Simone, the owner of his temp agency, who sees something in Dustin in spite of his foibles– enough that she keeps trying to find him that perfect job, even though she sometimes has her doubts.
Dustin is a great comic that perfectly reflects the experience of so many families today. The characters feel authentic and lovable even when they’re not acting in their own best-interests, and there are so many moments that remind us of what it’s like to be a young adult– or a parent of a young adult– in today’s tough world.
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