Match to Flame 24
posted on July 5, 2016
The strip’s launch had been pushed back so far that I thought I might be able to finish the school year. But it was now clear that that wasn’t going to happen. Something would have to give—the teaching job, the cartooning job, or me. After talking it over with Cathy, we decided I’d leave teaching to focus on the strip. It would leave me without a fallback position in case the strip didn’t sell, and, of more importance concerning the work, I’d lose my insider status. When Jim Mateer heard that I’d have to leave my teaching position, he invited me to come out to his classes at Midview, my old high school, to sketch and hang out whenever I wanted. Jim understood perhaps even more than I did at the time how important my being in school was to the particular comic work I was doing. So at least once a week I’d head out to Midview to spend a period or two sketching in Jim’s classes. The fact that it was my old high school didn’t hurt one bit either. When I’d walk into the gym, it still smelled like the gym did when I was a student there only a few years before. Now, maybe I would have written about Les having to climb the dreaded rope in the gym class anyway, but being in that place surrounded by those memories certainly didn’t hurt. It also helped me establish a work pattern of getting close to and researching my subject matter that I follow to this day.
Later, I began subbing for Jim. It was a good fit because I knew the layout and the lesson plans, and the students knew I’d be back and could narc on them if they caused any problems, so I like to think it worked to everyone’s benefit. It would have been easy to become isolated from my subject matter, but Jim’s foresight and generosity in inviting me into his classroom kept that from happening. When the school year ended, Shannon and I put Rapping Around on summer hiatus, intending to pick it up again in the fall. But, as it turned out, I had done my last Rapping Around.
*From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One
Flash Fridays – The Flash #138 August 1963
A cartoonist mentor once told me that you can’t have a blockbuster every day, and I suppose the same observation applies to comic books as well. You just can’t have a blockbuster every month, something that today’s comic book publishers would do well to mull over. And so the Flash #138, following on the heels of the previous issue’s blockbusterness, is just going to come off a little quieter. The lead story features a nice little mystery with the Flash, the Elongated Man and the Pied Piper. The Pied Piper was never destined to become a major Flash villain partially because of his silly looking throwback of a costume, but mostly because his stories were always just a little bit weak. The Pied Pied was never destined for blockbuster status.
That being said, sometimes a quit story can be very rewarding as in the the issues’s second offering, Mystery of the Matinee Idol. The story centers around a down-on-his-luck actor named Dexter Miles who finds himself in the Kid Flash’s town of Blue Valley looking for work at their new summer playhouse. He doesn’t find it and is basically living homeless in the park until getting a boost up from Kid Flash. Even at my tender age at the time, this story resonated deeply with me and became a part of my inner landscape. Maybe it was the work I was hoping and planning to take on that created that empathy. As much as I wanted to be alive and involved with the cultural tsunami that was the sixties, I always had a cold hard eye on that point down the road when the tide would leave you stranded after your short sweet ride. I’m sure that Dexter Miles was subconsciously present when I created Cliff Anger, the forgotten actor who had portrayed Starbuck Jones in an old movie serial, and who was found living in a flophouse in New York City in Funky. To me, this throwaway story in the back go the magazine was the more powerful of the two pieces, and it’s interesting to note that Dexter Miles role in the magazine would one day eclipse the pitiful Pied Piper.