Alf and Sandy. Artist: Howard Post.

THE DROPOUTS

Original Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: United Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1968
Creator: Howard Post
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For a standard cartoon gag situation, the motif of a couple of guys walking around on a desert island has inspired surprisingly few comic strips. In fact, other than cartoonist James Childress's Conchy and this one, The Dropouts, by Howard Post, it's …

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… hard to think of any at all. But considering the relative lack of outstanding success shown by those two, maybe it's not all that surprising after all.

"Relative" lack of "outstanding" success isn't the same as failure. Conchy's circulation while it was syndicated was about twice that of, say, Steve Roper & Mike Nomad toward the end of its run; and that of The Dropouts was about the same, and it lasted longer. United Feature Syndicate (Tarzan, Broncho Bill) launched The Dropouts on September 9, 1968, and it quickly achieved circulation of about 150 newspapers, including the prestigious Los Angeles Times.

Post, whose comic book work includes Jimminy & the Magic Book, Rodeo Rick and much more, was just ending his long association with DC Comics, where his final creation was Anthro, when he started The Dropouts. Its stars were a couple of castaways, Alf and Sandy, who coped with their lack of civilization's amenities on a daily and Sunday basis for over a decade.

Where they were wasn't exactly a "desert" island, i.e., one that's neither inhabited nor occupied by any human population. There were natives, whose society sometimes resembled civilization to an amazing extent. There were natives who performed the functions of doctors, policemen, restaurateurs and other civilized occupations. There were social types like drunks, feminist politicos and religious nuts. The comic wasn't just about Alf and Sandy.

A comic's roster of newspapers isn't the only determining factor of its circulation. In this case, it also suffered from at least one paper's attitude toward it. In Los Angeles, according to comics blogger Mark Evanier (Blackhawk, Crossfire) it was often used to check the popularity of other strips. The paper would simply shelve it for months on end, then drop a different comic and see how many people protested. Meanwhile, The Dropouts would run in its place, but if the first strip wasn't brought back, wouldn't be used as its permanent replacement, but would soon go back to standby status.

After reasonably long run of lackluster circulation, The Dropouts ended. The last strip came out in 1981. Post died in 2010.

— DDM

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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © United Feature Syndicate.