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Match to Flame 1

posted on August 4, 2015

15-Rapping Around

It was September 1970, and I was a week away from having my bluff called. From the time I’d seen my first comic strip, I’d been telling anyone who’d listen that I was going to have a comic in the newspaper one day. At my high school prom, I told my future wife that I was going to be a cartoonist, and she replied that I’d outgrow that when I matured. Fooled her on both counts. But in that halcyon fall, in seven days, I was going to have to put up or shut up: The following Tuesday, on the Teen- Age page of the Chronicle-Telegram in Elyria, Ohio, a new comic panel was going to make its debut, a panel about teens written and drawn by yours truly. My first published cartoon in a real bona fide newspaper. It had to be good, because that only happens once.
Now, a teen strip was, frankly, the last thing I ever thought I’d do, or ever want to do. My comic strip tastes had been shaped early on by the comics that my dad would read to me from the Akron Beacon Journal and, later, by the pulp sensibilities of comic books. I was in awe of the grandeur of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, the otherworld beauty of Mac Raboy’s Flash Gordon Sunday strips, and the total bravura insanity of Chet Gould’s Dick Tracy. Even at that tender age, I was already formulating a plan, because I knew that when the time came to take shot, I wanted to do stuff like that.

* From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume One