It’s a simple and instantly recognizable premise; a man, a tiny deserted island, and a lonely palm tree. Cartoonist Allan Jardine discusses why this humble scenario can tell so many stories.
When Farhad Vladi, founder of international island brokerage Vladi Private Islands, approached graphic designer and visual artist Allan Jardine to create a volume of cartoons about islands, a little pink book called ‘Robinson Crusoe’s Inselcartoons’ was born. A German-language classic filled with insightful and amusing plays on the ‘desert island’ theme, the book is a wonderful celebration of hundreds of years of castaway mythos. Allan is especially suited to pay this tribute; as a descendant of ‘Robinson Crusoe’ author Alexander Selkirk, deserted islands are in his blood!
PIN: What do you find inspiring about the ‘desert island’ scenario, which is simple, but has so many variations?
Allan: The ‘island’ cartoon is the most popular form of ‘spot’ cartoon in the world: a spot being one frame or image as opposed to a series of images in a ‘strip’. When Farhad asked me to do a series of cartoons on the island theme I had not done any before, and I had to research other island cartoons that had been published before so that I would not inadvertently copy someone else’s work. This made things difficult as I could not stop thinking of all the good cartoons that I had seen!
PIN: How many cartoons in the genre do you think you’ve created over the years?
Allan: The scenario of the remoteness, coupled with the reluctance of the doomed, stranded castaway lends itself to many
intriguing ideas. I came up with around 100 cartoon ideas over a period of several months and let the German publishers select the 50 or so for the ‘Insel Cartoons’ book. I tried to get away from the traditional ‘lump of sand with palm tree in the middle of the ocean’ and have the island seen as other forms of isolation, like the one where the man is surrounded by a painted floor in a room, or in a crater on the moon, or my favourite, the eskimo fishing through a hole in his little floating ice island.
PIN: It seems like there is no end to the ways in which the island scenario can be used!
Allan: Yes, I even went on to do a cartoon for a mug for Vladi Private Islands which featured our doomed hero reflecting on the fact that he ‘hates Monday mornings’. The irony being that when stuck on an island, all concept of a ‘Monday morning’ should be lost, and it was on a ‘morning’ style coffee mug. After that I had to have a break from all things ‘island’ for a while. Maybe one day I’ll have a go at another volume!
PIN: Why do you think that this premise, in particular, is so enduringly popular?
Allan: The popularity endures because everyone can identify with the predicament of the castaway, whether it is being stuck in a job/relationship/ situation one can’t escape from, and the subconscious desire at times to actually want to be marooned somewhere Crusoe style, to escape the stresses of surviving everyday life. I had thought out a strip cartoon called Desert Island Dick, who shared his little piece of sand with some philosophical coconuts in the tree, a sceptical starfish, and a really stupid shark in the sea around him, then I discovered it had already been done in a children’s comic called ‘Topper’ back in the 70’s. Oh well!
Here you can buy Robinson Crusoe’s Inselcartoons: vladi.de
View Allan Jardine’s cartoons in PIN: Link