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Match to Flame – 48

posted on July 27, 2017

Well, actually, the arrival of John Darling was a bit more involved. It seems that not long after I had visited the syndicate with my Rusty strip, a submission came in from another cartoonist named Tom Armstrong. He had sent them a panel called Heads and Tales that featured a head-shot of a different celebrity each day with some sort gag based on that person. The people at the syndicate loved Tom’s art and his ability to do caricatures, but they were less enthused about the writing (or maybe it was the premise itself, because Tom would later prove to be a fine writer on his own comic strip, Marvin). As they cast about for someone to write for this new submission, someone suggested that they give me a call since I had just been looking to create a second strip with Orbit and Rusty (see?). So they called me up and explained the premise, and I told them no thanks. While I could have provided the gags they needed for such a feature, I really had come to prefer character- and story-driven work. But I also told them that what they should do is make it a strip about a talk show host who interviews various celebrities. This would not only provide a natural stage for the TV and movie stars but also enable more extended interaction and some character development to take place. They got back to me saying that they liked that idea and asked me again if I wanted to do it. I then pointed out that I actually had something like that going on in Funky with this character John Darling and the cast and crew at a bottom of the ratings barrel TV station called Channel One. This work had become almost a strip within a strip, and John was already hosting a local talk show there called Feedback Forum. There were already more than enough characters associated with John Darling and Channel One to easily sustain it as a separate entity. I didn’t feel that performing a Darlingectomy on Funky would harm it in any way because I already had plenty of characters to work with and more were showing up every day (mea culpa, Flash). I had the syndicate make sure that Tom Armstrong was cool with the idea, and then with his imprimatur I worked up a sample Sunday page for a strip called Darling. Everyone including Tom A. liked what they saw, and he and I began working up the first several weeks of strips.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Three