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A Desert Island Cartoon Before It Became Cliché


© Bill Griffith 2020

Of the 126 or so cliché cartoon gags probably none is as well known as the one with a palm tree on a small tract of land sticking up out of the ocean. After all, you aren’t asked what ten CDs you would want if you were abducted by aliens, or to take with you through the gates of heaven, or listen to if you were hanging on a dungeon wall.
No, it’s what comical-type books would you want if you were stuck on a deserted island.

When Bill Woodman drew a two page spread of cartoon clichés for National Lampoon he positioned all the other clichés on or around a desert island.

 
© National Lampoon, Inc.

So where did the idea originate? Mike Lynch points to the probability of it coming from fictional and non-fictional stories of sailors stranded on islands as they began circumferencing the globe in the 17th and 18th Centuries.  With cartoon gags beginning in the humor magazines of the latter half of the 1800s.

Dick Buchanan has dug up a very early sample (he is not calling it The First, though it may be).

Mike Lynch has a post about Dick’s discovery of the earliest (so far) Desert Island Gag.
Is this 1887 Michael Angelo Woolf cartoon the beginning of a cliché?

Oh, about those 126 cartoon clichés … Mike has that covered too.

Community Comments

#1 Kip Williams
July/11/2021
@ 10:15 am

My version of the desert island thing was having the gaunt castaway next to his single palm, and the whole thing is in a lagoon in the middle of a shopping mall full of people.

Beavis & Butt-Head ended up in a similar situation some time later, and didn’t do badly with it.

#2 Fred King
July/11/2021
@ 10:22 am

“Dungeon Disks” would keep the same alliteration, but if you were hanging from your wrists you wouldn’t be able to change records.

#3 Mike Lynch
July/15/2021
@ 7:10 am

Gosh, thanks for the shout out. I have heard that there may be a New Yorker collection of nothing but desert island cartoons.

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