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Match to Flame 149

posted on June 3, 2021

At the same time, the editor position at King Features changed hands and Jay Kennedy came on board. Having only recently gained editorial control of my work, I was wary of anyone with the title of editor and tried my best to keep them at arm’s length (octopus arms). I only learned after the fact that Jay had been one of my supporters from the start. When a printer threatened to not run one of the Sundays in the teen suicide series, it was Jay who stepped in to protect the piece and make certain that it ran. I only found out about this years later over dinner with Jay. He said he’d been afraid I’d get mad if the strip didn’t run and then also proceeded to categorize my work in a way that modesty prevents me from repeating. Suffice it to say, I wisely did nothing to disabuse him of either notion. It was Jay who also encouraged me to submit my work to the National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award which would result down the road in my being a Reuben Awards Division nominee in 2004. He also nominated two of the stories in this volume for a Pulitzer Prize. Jay would continue to have my back as he shepherded my most difficult work to the comics pages until his untimely death at far too young an age.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 9

Match to Flame 139

posted on January 13, 2021

The First Cartooning Commandment: Thou shalt only do funny comic strips. They’re called the “comics” for a reason.

Which, of course begs the question . . . what reason? Now, before I start to come off like some pedantic schoolmarm from a bitter hollow, I’m going to do my Pontius Pilate bit here and pass the baton off to comic historian R. C. Harvey. He laid it all out in his masterful biography of Milton Caniff. So, here is Comic Strip 101:

Today’s Comic Strip is the lineal descendant of the humorous drawing that first appeared in weekly humor magazines like Puck, Judge, and Life in the 1880s. Offering comical drawings and amusing short essays and droll verse, Life, Judge, and Puck were dubbed “comic weeklies” in common parlance—or, even, “comics”. So when [Joseph Pulitzer’s] the World launched its imitation “comic weekly” in November 1894, it was lumped together in the popular mind as another of the “comics”. And then, once the World had shown the way, papers in other cities began publishing humorous Sunday supplements full of funny drawings in color and risible essays and verse. In a relatively short time, obeying the dictates of demand, newspapers eliminated the essays and verse and concentrated on comical artwork, which was increasingly presented in the form of “strips” of pictures portraying hilarities in narrative sequence. It was but a short step to the use of comics to designate the art-form (comic strips) as distinct from the vehicle in which they appeared (the Sunday supplement itself). Once that bridge was crossed, meaning deteriorated pretty rapidly. Storytelling (or “continuity”) strips arrived soon after, and even when the stories they told were serious, they were called “comics” because they looked like the art-form called comics and they appeared in newspapers with all the others of the breed.

Well, there you have it; they were called comics for a reason alrighty, just not the reason everyone usually thinks. It was more appellation than definition, but the definition that they’re supposed to be funny is pretty much the only thing most folks equate the term “comics” with today. So anyone (ahem, me) wanting to extend the format and broaden the definition during the years collected in this volume was going to be rowing upstream against the prescriptive (and as we now know erroneous) notions of what a comic strip should be.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 9

Jim Mooney

posted on May 13, 2008

As many of you already know, I was in a car accident recently and the recovery process has hampered my ability to stay on top of some things… these blogs being one of them. One of the things I had wanted to mention was the April 13th Sunday which showed Les and Summer as Superman and Supergirl in a reprise of the cover for Action Comics 252. When the strip was about to be penciled, I had called Jim Mooney who had been the Supergirl artist supreme for most of the early run and asked him if he would like to recreate that cover for me. Even though he hadn’t actually done that original cover, Jim agreed to step in and reprise his old characters. The result speaks for itself and if you’d like to see it, it’s up in the archive section.

Sadly, Jim passed away a few weeks before the Sunday appeared in the paper. I had only known him from our phone conversations, but I had been a fan of his work when I was growing up, and had found him to be a true gentleman and a genuine pleasure to work with. It was a thrill to work with one of the legends from my youth, and to know that, quite possibly, that Funky Sunday was his last published work.

When I sold my comic collection last summer, I kept a half dozen books that had, for one reason or another, a special meaning for me. I plan to do some homages of those covers with my characters from time to time with the next one appearing on June 15th.

Finally, thanks to everyone who e-mailed about the strip being a Pulitzer finalist this year. Again, the above mentioned accident kept me from responding in a timely fashion, but I did appreciate your good wishes. You can check it out in the interview section along with a cool interview from Rambler Magazine.

And now it’s back to catching up on the strips.