Steve Kelley and Jeff Parker Talk Dustin

The Lawton (Oklahoma) Constitution adds Dustin to its lineup today.
(I’m guessing to fill the space made by the retiring Pajama Diaries.)

Dustin creators Steve Kelley and Jeff Parker talked to the paper about its new addition.

When [Steve Kelley] approached his friend and fellow editorial cartoonist Jeff Parker about teaming up on a comic strip, he had already been developing “Dustin” for a few years. The challenge of creating a daily strip was too much to take on for one person, Kelley said, but he knew together they could make it work.

“When Steve phoned me to pitch ‘Dustin,’ I knew anything he came up with would be a sure thing, so I leapt at the chance,” Parker said. “A daily strip is an enormous undertaking because you’re always having to feed the beast. Teaming up lets us play to each other’s strengths and spreads the workload. Steve is deeply funny, and while a great cartoon artist in his own right, he felt more comfortable writing the gags and having me draw it.”

They pitched “Dustin” to various syndicates and it was soon picked up by King Features. After that, the pair got busy. Now, a decade later, they have perfected their production methods.

Kelley writes the strip in what he calls a “sit-comic” format, a word he and Parker coined to describe their creation process, one that they model after TV sitcoms.

“I send Jeff a week’s worth of written scripts. If you looked at them, they would look like the scripts for a TV show,” Kelley said. “I write stage directions, list the character’s name, as well as who is in each block and the dialogue. Then Jeff interprets that.”

“I’m kind of an old school big nose/big feet cartoonist who likes over-the-top visual gags,” Parker said. “When we first started, Steve sometimes had to pull me back here and there when I got too broad with a facial expression or a reaction to the punch line. His humor is smart, low-key and subtle, sort of conversational too. I quickly learned to appreciate his style and now it’s become second nature for me to work in ‘Dustin’s’ more realistic setting.”

Read The Constitution’s article about the strip and the creators, that includes profiles and work habits (“Parker tries to get three strips “penciled” in a day … a Sunday strip will take Parker a solid two days to ‘pencil’ and ‘ink'”).