Morpheus on… “Castaway” Cartoons

The thing about a cartoon format is it is usually owned and jealously guarded by ONE cartoonist – normally by giving it a name. But the castaway cartoons were only a concept – and a surreal one at that – so EVERYONE did them.

I am talking of the Sixties and Seventies – when people used to READ (I get sixty thousand hits a day on my VISUAL uploads, but only eighty a day on my WRITTEN ramblings – not eighty THOUSAND – just EIGHTY). In those halcyon days, there were things called “newspapers” and “magazines” and single-panel cartoons would litter their pages, to add contrast to the print.

And the castaway scenario cropped up time and time again. It consisted of a bloke, sometimes two (it would only include a woman if the gag called for one) and there they stood, in raggedy clothes, with long, unkempt beard and hair, surrounded by ocean, the sun in a clear sky, with the ONE palm tree in the middle for visual effect – on an island about the size of a DOUBLE-BED.

I SAID it was SURREAL! I mean, where did the occupant(s) get WATER from? And aside from a fish or two – what would they EAT? And with only a single palm tree, it would be a toss-up whether they would die from exposure, sun-stroke, thirst or malnutrition. Either way, they would not last a week.

But this did not matter – Wile E Coyote would never survive a five-hundred-foot fall into a ravine, either. As previously stated, it was just a CONCEPT. A frame into which humour could be painted – an island the castaway(s) could have SURVIVED on would have required too much detail and been a distraction from the GAG.

I used to have HUNDREDS of these things in magazines – but a flooded celler KILLED them all, a few years ago. However, I have seen sites on the Interweb where vintage cartoons are displayed – so you should be able to find some somewhere.

From MEMORY, I still recall a few (and if a cartoon can stay with you for forty years, it must have been pretty good!) Even the great Don Martin, of “Mad” magazine, did some.

There was the one (which was a STRIP) where the bloke sees a crate floating towards him and risks a shark-attack to recover it. On opening it, he discovers it contains a HAMMOCK! (Remember, he only had the ONE TREE).

And what about the poor chap with FOUR trees which are now only STUMPS, because he has chopped them down to build a boat – but he has only managed to half-finish it, so now he is watering four TINY NEW trees…

The above were universal, needing no dialogue – but my all-time favourite is another single-panel one with TWO guys – and just one line of dialogue. From their standard raggedy clothes and long, unkempt beards and hair, it is obvious they have been on this pin-prick of an island for YEARS and one of them says – “I keep thinking it’s Thursday.”

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for reminding me of the Castaway cartoons! As I read your piece, I realised that they are my favourite type! The unquestioning acceptance of the castaway, always standing there, observing the situation without complaint, but with just a touch of concern and disappointment…

  2. Posted by Anonymous on October 2, 2011 at 7:56 am

    Nice, Thanks for sharing, good stuff {;^)

  3. Save the newspapers!

  4. Thanks for reminding me of a happier time, when having fun was fun, not a chore. Peace.

  5. Posted by Vincent on July 26, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Thanks. I just finished an e-mail to a friend where I noted that if the “social innovations” that have occurred since 1973 had ALL occurred DURING 1973 – by 1974, Britain would have been a post-apocalyptic, smoking ruin!

    Like, in the days of the “Castaway” cartoons, you could smoke in a pub…

  6. I liked the two-man gag… on the horizon is a nuclear mushroom cloud and one says to the other, “Ah, civilisation at last!”

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