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Match to Flame 129

posted on October 7, 2020

The signature image of the story, the working handle of which would become “the teen suicide story,” was the Sunday strip where Susan is lying facedown on her bed with a bottle of pills at the end of her outstretched hand. It would not only be unlike anything I had ever seen on a newspaper comic page, but it would be sitting right there alongside Nancy, Blondie, and Snoopy. A pretty tall ask. So, in order to make that happen, I would once again need my syndicate’s help in taking my work to the street. Another advantage of being way ahead of deadline is that it afforded my editors at King Features the chance to do the necessary spadework to prepare the ground for this story arc. The work was previewed with groups that dealt with teen suicide to garner information and support. Extracts were created for editors so they could review the entire story. Sidebar pieces providing contact and support information were prepared to accompany the strips as they ran in papers across the country. These efforts included a special guide on suicide prevention that was prepared and presented to editors so they in turn could offer it to their readers. However, at one point, in spite of our best efforts, the Sunday strip with Susan came perilously close to not running in almost half of Funky’s papers around the country. The color comics printers in the West initially refused to print the strip, and it began to look like this idea, on a scale of one to “Hey, let’s fill up the Hindenburg with hydrogen,” was tending more toward the latter and wasn’t going to fly (bad zeppelin pun not intended . . . well, maybe). In stepped King Features’ managing editor Jay Kennedy, who told the parties involved that if they didn’t run the strip, the next people they would be hearing from would be King’s lawyers. They ran the strip.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 8