posted on August 31, 2018
The Silver Age of comics has lost some of its luster with the news that Russ Heath has died. As a youth scouring the comics spinner racks, Russ Heath quickly became one of the artists I sought out. Back when few artists signed their comic book work, I first learned who Russ was in a Sea Devil’s comic wherein we the readers were asked to vote among several artist who were being tried-out for the book. In a testimony to the impression he made, his is the only name I still recall from that tryout issue.
I followed his work on The Silent Knight and The Haunted Tank and, when the time came to find and artist for my Tank Thompson cover in Funky, Russ was quite naturally the first artist I thought of. Not many of us get to meet our heroes let alone work with them, and it was an honor and a privilege to be able to do that. The Silver Age firmament will be a little darker now with the loss of one of it’s brightest stars.
Match to Flame 80
posted on August 28, 2018
Meanwhile, back in the funny pages, school bus driver Ed Crankshaft made his first appearance in the strip. I was a city boy at the start of my school experience, so walking back and forth to school every day as I had been, I was my own man. Whether I got home late or early was purely my call. A story long told in our family was of how on one rainy afternoon following school, after I failed to make a timely appearance at home, a search party was dispatched and they found me slowly meandering home in the rain, taking my time to walk around each puddle I encountered along the way. There was apparently something interesting going on there, and I was taking the necessary time to thoroughly examine it. Whatever problems ensued, they were of my own making. In short, I held my destiny in my own hands. When we moved from Akron to a more rural setting, the transition to having to ride a school bus every day was, putting it mildly, traumatic. Suddenly my fate was in the hands of others (anyone else picking up a theme here?). A fact that was exacerbated by the bus driver on my route who was, shall we say, unusual. My normal method when developing a character is to take someone’s quirks and personality traits and exaggerate and expand upon them to create the character. In this case, I had to take the personality of my bus driver and tone it down quite a bit to make it believable enough for a comic strip. When I first started riding the bus, I would sit right behind the bus driver, all the better to make sure that he dropped me off at the correct house rather than the wrong house where I would no doubt have to be taken in by strangers for the night. From my vantage point behind the driver, I once watched him pull up so close to a Volkswagen beetle that the car disappeared from view. When you couple incidents like that with frantically hurrying out of school at the end of each day desperate to find the right bus in a field of yellow to ensure it didn’t leave without you, or watching for the bus in the morning and then running down the driveway in ice and snow with your books and a trombone case or, worse, a science project consisting of a papier-mâché volcano on a plywood board, it’s no small wonder that I came away scarred by these experiences. The comics have always given me a place to go where I could make sense of the world, first as a reader and later as a creator. So it’s no surprise that I drew upon these experiences when I created the trauma-inducing Ed Crankshaft. What was a surprise is that it appeared I wasn’t alone.
From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Five