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Match to Flame 14

posted on January 27, 2016

Match 14-Rapping Around

From the very beginning, I had some definite ideas about how I wanted to approach a teen strip. The crop of teen strips in the early seventies seemed oblivious to the time in which they existed. The enormous changes taking place in the youth culture were quickly making the strips with the jalopies and letter sweaters irrelevant. They’d all been around awhile and were being done by middle-aged men who were viewing things from a rose-colored distance. My new cartoon was going to be an inside job. I was just out of school myself and, even more important, was teaching in one. I decided to avoid the standard teen strip clichés. There would be no teenagers hanging on the phone or parents yelling at them to clean up their rooms; there would be no letter-sweatered football hero trying to decide which cheerleader he wanted to date. Instead, I was going to write about the realities of the school that I knew, from the tedium of being an unheralded and unrecognizable member of the band to the horrors of having to climb the dreaded rope in gym class. Rather than focus on jocks and cheerleaders, I was going to write about everyone else. Avoiding the parent-teen clichés also meant that with one small exception there wouldn’t be any parents in the strip. The only adults would be the teachers—but, again, since I was one, it would be an inside job.

*From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One

Match to Flame 13

posted on January 25, 2016

Match 13-Rapping Around

My first meeting with Shannon established the pattern that we followed from then on. I’d show up on a Saturday morning with eight or nine cartoons for her to go through. Chuckling at the appropriate spots, she’d choose the cartoons for the next couple of weeks. It always seemed to me that a good editor was one who sought ways to identify what you were doing well and then challenge you to do more of the same, and this is how Shannon operated. She encouraged my best, and I, in turn, was eager to please. I needed that experience, and it became particularly important in my development, because, as it turned out, Shannon, for better or worse, would be the last true editor I would ever have. The weekly cartoon was a perfect way to break into the process of working with an editor and meeting a regular, but not oppressive, creative deadline. People would ask how I came up with the ideas, and I’d say that I didn’t really know, but I did know that I had all week.

The day my first cartoon was scheduled to run, I stopped at a drugstore after school and bought a stack of papers to take home, I suppose to reassure myself that my cartoon was actually in every copy of the paper. Plus, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to bump up the number of copies that were sold every Tuesday. I imagined the managing editor sitting there each week going over the circulation figures and smiling at the spike in sales as he congratulated himself on having had the foresight to hire that young cartoonist. As time went on, there was occasionally a week when the cartoon would get bumped by breaking teen news or advertising, so I quickly learned to check first to see that my cartoon was there before I bought my stack. There’s nothing quite as deflating as bringing home a stack of papers without your cartoon in them. The panel eventually acquired the name Rapping Around, and for the next year it became my home in the newspaper and my training ground.

*From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One

Flash Fridays – The Flash #124

posted on January 22, 2016

The Flash no.124

It was a thrill to pull from its plain brown wrapper, this issue which featured not only the return of Captain Boomerang in a story that featured the Elongated Man, but a reprise of CB launching the Flash into space while strapped to a giant boomerang (still trying to get it right apparently). The thing about the boomerang launch was that it strengthened the idea of returning concepts. While intrinsically silly in and of itself, it paved the way for some more substantial continuity down the road. The story itself is a clever one in which The good Captain invents a time traveling boomerang which allows him to commit crimes and establish an alibi for himself at the same time. The problem is that as the boomerang travels through time it also traverses a neighboring dimension in which the inhabitants like to sit in the driveway and yell at kids to stay off their lawn. This arch attitude of theirs leads them to invade our dimension in order to cut off these presumed attacks. Meanwhile back in our dimension, the Flash has called out to his friend Ralph Dibny AKA the Elongated Man (their ongoing friendship being another nice continuing touch) to help him solve Boomerang’s crime spree. When the aliens invade, the Flash, Elongated Man and the good captain put their immediate differences aside to team up to defend good ol’ Mom Earth. Once the aliens are dispatched, all bets are off with, as mentioned above, Captain Boomerang once again trying to launch the Flash into space. The Elongated Man manages to save the Flash and Captain Boomerang’s short parole comes to and end.

With the Comics Code being in full force in the late fifties and early sixties and horror and bloodletting off the table, the writers of that era were forced to turn to science and cleverness to draw readers to their tales, and John Broome, aided and abetted by his SF grounded editor, became a true master at telling such stories. The second story in this issue is about a man who invents a device which allows him to use brain waves to control people on television. The people he chooses to control are the people who put him in jail such as the judge, the prosecutor and reporter Iris West. He then goes after the man who actually captured him, the Flash, and appears to have gained control over him as well. In a nice twist ending, it’s revealed that the Flash taped an episode where he only pretended to be under the villain’s control and thus saves himself from being unmasked and frees the captives as well. In a nice framing device, the story is told by Iris as she records the events in her diary.