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Match to Flame 167

posted on January 31, 2022

This story, which came to be called Lisa’s Story, was going to have to be worked on apart from the regular strips. There was simply no other way to do it. The requisite amount of research, both technical and anecdotal, was going to absorb much of that time, while the writing would require even greater care and consideration. I picked up an extra writing book and dedicated it to this body of writing. As books and other materials were brought into the house, I’m sure that my wife Cathy knew something was up (at one point, since early detection seems so crucial, I even ordered a breast self-exam pad for her), but she didn’t question it and gave me the space to work on this story tout seul, the way I needed. The work on Lisa’s Story was sporadic and open-ended. Often it was interrupted by deadlines on Funky and Crankshaft, and at other times my focus on the medical aspects would cause my anxiety level to climb a bit and I would have to step back for a period of time. It’s hard to quantify how long this process took, but it covered at least a couple of years. I know that I slotted it a number of times into the schedule only to pull it back because it didn’t feel ready. Because of the isolated nature of the work, Lisa’s Story became a piece removed from time, adrift from any temporal shore. With my daily strips, I still colored within the lines, but, when I would slip off with Lisa, I worked with a free hand I hadn’t imagined possible. For whatever reason, Lisa’s Story reached a level of writing that for the first time totally erased me. The story was no longer mine; it was everyone’s. When I finally took the work to Chuck Ayers for the strips to be penciled, he completely threw himself into the scripts, bringing the same playing-for-keeps emotional intensity to the effort. As I then inked the drawings, I found myself including more gray tones than usual, not as a stand-in for the color of something but as an element of light and shadow that the work seemed to require.

From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 10