Tuesday, April 02, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: Dillon
Steve Dickenson decided at an early age that he was destined to be a syndicated comic strip creator, and he began working toward that goal after he got out of the Navy in 1980. Many submissions later, he finally got a few syndicates interested in Dillon, a strip about a 6-year old kid. Tribune Media Services signed him and he worked with editor Evelyn Smith for over a year at turning the submission into a strip they were willing to solicit. In my opinion, what they came up with was way too self-consciously sassy, with kids behaving and talking in ways that serve only the gag, and are completely inappropriate and out of character for their ages. But this was still the '80s, and I guess you could get away with 'hip' kids written with that awful sitcom sensibility of the day (think Diff'rent Strokes, Family Ties, and all those dozens of others that TV watchers endured back then).
The daily and Sunday strip was supposedly picked up by about 70 papers according to a promotional article, and debuted on January 9 1989*. The strip didn't exhibit any particular growth during its run except that Dickenson's art improved along the way. The gags remained firmly dependent on that annoying precocious child syndrome. Dickenson and the syndicate finally gave up and the strip ended on June 28 1992**. That end date is for the Sunday; I believe the daily probably ended a few weeks earlier.
Steve Dickenson learned from his experience on Dillon (perhaps to not take the opinions of syndicate editors as gospel) and he tried again with Tar Pit, which I liked but didn't catch on. Finally he hit paydirt in 1999 teamed with Todd Clark on Lola, which is now embarking on its third decade in syndication, though Dickenson bowed out in 2008.
PS: Dickenson is credited with two more syndicated strips -- My Brother's Keeper and Retro Geek. Unfortunately I can only find either these appearing in newspaper reader's choice contests (which they apparently didn't win). Can anyone tell me of newspapers that ran these as regular features?
* Source: Des Moines Register
** Source: Tallahassee Democrat
And as a tryout in the Casper Star-Tribune in 2007: