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Match to Flame 79

posted on August 7, 2018

The man brought in to be the president of News America Syndicate would turn out to be a surprise to everyone, not the least of whom I’m sure would be Rupert Murdoch. Rick Newcombe came to News America by way of United Press International, where he was an editor, and the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, where he was the general manager. Although only a few years younger than me, he seemed much younger and full of energy and enthusiasm. He brought with him a creator-oriented philosophy that was the antithesis of anything I had experienced up to that point. Rick was concerned with the needs of the feature writers and cartoonists and wanted to do whatever he could to help make them more productive and, by extension, his syndicate more successful. In line with that thinking and as time went on, Rick would travel to meet with the syndicate’s contributors to introduce himself, to get to know them, and to see how things were going. He came out to visit a couple of times, and, on one of those trips, he stayed overnight with us and the next morning while we were out jogging he asked me if there was anything that was bothering me or that I needed regarding the strip or the syndicate. Having recently been made aware of what a blunt instrument my contract with the syndicate could be in the wrong hands and how fugitive and vaporous the verbal inducements saying it was a “gentlemen’s agreement” truly were, my first and only thought was to protect my work. I said that I would like to have complete and absolute editorial control. The rest of the discussion consisted of two words. Rick said, “Done.” I said, “Thanks.” And a butterfly flapped its wings. Editorially speaking, I was a free man, but freedom can be a tricky concept. While I now felt free to shift the terms of the engagement, I had to decide exactly what it was that I was going to do with that freedom. To paraphrase Stan Lee, with full editorial control comes full responsibility. And, of course, while I was free to create what I wanted, my creations themselves weren’t free. Work remained.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Five