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Match to Flame 78

posted on August 2, 2018

While I was flying around the country that frosty March, my syndicate (and me as well if you read the contract carefully) was being sold. I woke up one morning to find that I, and everything I ever created, was now owned paper, pencil, and penholder by Rupert Murdoch. To be fair, I doubt that Funky Winkerbean was even on Rupert Murdoch’s radar. The primary target in his acquisition was the Chicago Sun-Times, and the syndicate just came along for the ride. Nevertheless, I just had this sinking feeling that Rupert and I weren’t exactly on the same comics page. In fact, we weren’t even reading the same newspaper. It seemed to me that this shotgun marriage was not going to be a happy union. As the grandson of union men and living in a home where as a child the Weavers could be heard on the record player, I came by my progressive leanings honestly. Rupert Murdoch, as far as I could ascertain, was not in the same place, and it didn’t seem that this turn of events was going to accrue to my benefit. Just call me “Nostrathomas.” Right out of the gate, it cost me one of the biggest papers on the East Coast and a paper that had been a Funky cornerstone from the start. When Murdoch decreed that some of newly christened News America Syndicate’s highly valued properties should be moved from the Boston Globe to the Murdoch-owned Boston Herald, the Globe retaliated by dropping their remaining News America features, including Funky Winkerbean, and I lost a major presence on the East Coast and one of the bigger clients on my list. Although Murdoch’s ownership of the syndicate would be relatively brief (he would be forced to divest himself of it by government mandate due to overlapping media holdings), it was long enough to do some real damage. In fact, down the road, he would still get one more shot at me when the British managing editor he installed at the Sun-Times would drop Funky over a story about a young woman dying of cancer. A story that violated his obdurate dictum that comics should only be funny. However, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself and that story will have to wait for a future Funky volume. Needless to say, the circumstances I found myself in were a little disquieting. Make that a lot disquieting. Had the gentleman brought in to manage the Sun-Times instead been installed as the president of the syndicate, my career trajectory might have taken a far different and downward turn. Just as I approached the cusp of blossoming as an artist, all the buds could have been shorn. But.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Five