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Match to Flame 93

posted on February 5, 2019

Okay, so I just lied to you. I’d forgotten about the weekend that Cathy and I used her pizza-making skills (one of the reasons I married her, folks) to lure Gerry Shamray over for an evening during which we spread eight weeks of the teen pregnancy story line across the living room floor, and, with a great deal of back-and-forthing and pizza dribbling, selected the four weeks that I eventually used. Not strictly a gag session per se, but more like a soft-rollout-beta test. Just thought I should mention that for the record.

Now all that remained was to convince the syndicate that we could run with this story and that the world wouldn’t come to an end, at least I was pretty sure it wouldn’t. At Rick Newcombe’s invitation, I flew out to California to personally make my case for the story. I knew that this work was something different and I didn’t want to sandbag an editor by simply allowing it to show up in the mail unannounced. To his credit, Rick, who had a lot on his plate at that particular moment and who may have had some personal reservations about what sort of reaction we would receive, had my back the whole way. Rather than the typical “no, we don’t dare do that because someone might write a letter to the editor of the paper and complain” syndicate reaction, Rick made some suggestions that strengthened the piece, which I happily incorporated. Ironically, just as I had acquired editorial control, I found someone who could work side by side with me to make the strip better. The syndicate also created a lot of sidebar material that editors of newspapers on Funky’s client list could use in conjunction with the strip to inform readers and to create a discussion around the issue of teen pregnancy. In essence, the problem of putting this story before the readers was flipped on its head and it was used instead to present a teachable and reachable moment. Rather than saying that work like this didn’t belong on the comics page, the syndicate said let’s use the comics page to shine a light on this problem, to start a discussion. And it worked, but at first it almost didn’t.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Five

John Darling – Take 152

posted on February 3, 2019

Flash Fridays – The Flash #216 June 1972

posted on February 1, 2019

Upon reading the past couple of issues, it’s hard not to feel that The Flash has recaptured some of the great feeling and momentum of the early books. The writing especially is reminiscent of John Broome and Gardner Fox, the two writers in particular who set the templet for what was to come. With this issue, it starts with the terrific Nick Cardy cover and it’s evocation of the frontispiece of issue #115 where we saw Grodd in his human guise of William Dawson firing a weapon at the Flash as he runs by transforming him into an altered form of himself. It continues with the fact that the villain firing from the building is Mr. Element, again, one of the Flash’s earliest antagonists. Like the previous two rogues gallery villains Abra Kadabra and Vandal Savage, Mr. Element remains true to, or returns to, his established character.

Not only is Mr. Element the villain we all know and love/hate, but writer Cary Bates expands upon his back story in a very credible way. We learn that his father, Peter Desmond, was an astronomer and also the owner of a strange gem known as the Dragon’s Eye. When he discovers a pulsating star in the Dragon constellation, a beam from that pulsing start come through Professor Desmond’s telescope, hits the ring, and then his infant son Al and installs the evil rampages that will lead the emergence of Mr. Element and set him up for a lifetime of therapy (when I said “credible”, by the way, I meant that in the broadest comic book sense… really broad). My only knock on the story at all is that, while attempting to discharge the negative energy from the ring, the Flash spends an inordinate amount of time in outer space which, even though he did this before in the good old days, always seemed like a leap too far. But, all in all, the story represents a welcome return to form. It even ends, as it has so often, with Al Desmond returning to the ranks of the good and vowing to be rid of Mr. Element for good… which we all know ain’t gonna happen. Which is what we love about it.

The Kid Flash story shows him arriving for a college orientation where he runs into some dimension-hopping aliens who are abducting faculty and students to be used as slave labor in their dimension. So it looks like college is going to be pretty much like high school for the “kid”. I do like the aspect of moving Kid Flash along in life rather than permanently being stuck as a teenager. It opens up a new world of possibilities. Hmmm… is there a lesson in there?

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