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Match to Flame 121

posted on April 30, 2020

 

 

With everything I needed finally in place for the time-jump, the next step was to present it to the people at King Features. I was going to need their help and support because, while I felt confident that this was the proper move, it still entailed a tremendous risk. Change in any way, shape, or form is anathema to comic strip readers. The syndicates even have a name for a reader’s response to change: the squeal factor. So, even though my confidence in the move was high, I still needed to convince my syndicate and my readers. To their credit, and with my everlasting gratitude, the syndicate’s president Joe D’Angelo, comics editor Jay Kennedy, and the syndicate’s publicist Ted Hannah took me at my word that this was going to be the best thing that ever happened to Funky Winkerbean and unquestioningly (mostly, more foreshadowing here) jumped in to start paving the way for the change. As I mentioned earlier, I had been already doing quite a bit of writing on the side with the future Funky folks and had the distinct advantage of knowing what was going to happen and how things were going to unfold. Somehow I had to relay the excitement and possibilities that I knew were coming to the people at the syndicate. In turn, it became their job to dope-slap me when, in my exuberance, I failed to notice a rather major flaw or two in my planning. For example, I was on the phone at one point with publicist Ted Hannah, regaling him with my plans for each of the characters. I told him how Les, an English major in college, would be coming back to Westview High as a rookie English teacher, mirroring my own experience of coming back home to teach art at Eastern Heights Junior High. I also revealed to him how Bull Bushka, Les’s arch nemesis from high school, would be returning to Westview High to be an assistant football coach and how Crazy Harry would be working as a postal employee (this was around the time that post office workers were “going postal,” and Jay Kennedy was particularly amused by Crazy’s future vocation). After I had laid out the script for most of Funky’s major characters, Ted asked (See? A question.) what Funky would be doing. I laughed and replied that, ironically, of all the characters in the eponymously titled strip, Funky was the lone holdout and that I still didn’t know what Funky would be doing. There was a long pause at the other end before Ted changed from his Bruce Wayne voice to his Batman voice and asked very slowly, and I must say with a slight bit of an annoyed edge, enunciating every word carefully as if to somehow help it penetrate my thick scull, “WHEN . . . WILL . . . YOU . . . KNOW?” I told him I’d call him back in half an hour!

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Seven