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Match to Flame 30

posted on October 9, 2016

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Around this time Funky began pondering things like why there were cloakrooms in elementary schools when no one ever wore cloaks and continued that line of thinking with a series of readings from the I-Chong, a second cousin to the I-Ching, a tome that blossomed in popularity again with the burgeoning hippie culture. I recently discovered that Sydney Smith, the creator of the Gumps, had also come up with a strip called Ching-Chow, which played with the premise in much the same manner, only fifty years earlier. This points up a couple of things: one, that no matter how successful a cartoonist may be, and this includes the almighty Charles Schulz, there’s always that gnawing sense of insecurity that leads him to try to create a second strip in case the first one fails (some cartoonists have even been known to create a third strip, but these sad cases have obviously lost some of the buttons on their raincoats), and, two, that there’s really not too much that’s new under the word balloons anymore.
Except that . . . well, maybe there was. In volume one of this Funky collection (and may I say that no truer words have ever been written about a collection of comic strips) we met the band director at Westview High. His name was Harry. Well, almost. Actually, in that very first appearance, he’s referred to as Al. Shades of Stan Lee and Peter Palmer the Amazing Spider- Man. Now, I could blame a notoriously bad memory, as Stan did when he forgot Peter Parker’s name, or I could make up some story about Al being the band director who preceded Harry at Westview, but, let’s face it, who am I trying to kid? In this, the definitive collection, definitive answers must be provided. When you’re wrong, you’ve got to step up and fess up. So I’m going to come clean and admit that it was obviously some sort of foul-up that took place during the printing process. Perhaps a glitch in the printing press or sabotage by a foreign agent. We’ll probably never know for sure. The point is not to dwell on it and move on. He was Harry after that, and Harry he remained. Also, while we’re loitering around Harry’s first appearance, I should point out that, while Harry’s uniform appears to be white in those early Sunday strips, it really wasn’t. Trying to take advantage of the fact that color was involved in the Sunday strips, I was coloring his uniform a garish shade of purple, and the uniform had to be left white so the color could be added later. This sad state of affairs continued through the February 29, 1976, Sunday strip that appears on page 198. In the March 7 strip that follows immediately on page 201, his uniform assumes its familiar and graphically punchier black color (I kind of forgot that black is a color too) and stays that way thereafter.

*From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Two