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Match to Flame 90

posted on January 8, 2019

I was also wondering what the world was coming to back in the fall of 1986 when it was announced that News America Syndicate was to be sold to King Features. Once again, I and my creations were on the block, and once again I was made aware of the tenuousness of my situation. My body of work and my brand were for the second time being sold for a bundle, and all I received from it was a notice that in January of the coming year I should begin sending my finished strips to a new address. I was starting to become a little desperate and in that desperation, an idea occurred. In my craziness, I decided to do the only reasonable thing a person could do under the circumstances and began work on a new strip. The tremendous response I was getting to Crankshaft had started me thinking about having my school bus driver drive out on his own, and I had even begun pulling some sample strips together. I got a very positive response to the strips as I showed them around to friends and decided to see if News America Syndicate would want to syndicate Crankshaft—which I knew they couldn’t do. Why would I do that, you ask (you know, you ask the most prescient questions, which is why writing for you is so much fun). I recalled my previous attempts at syndicating a second strip back in the good old lazy days when I was working on only one, and I remembered that when the syndicate turned them down, I had asked for and received a release allowing me try to syndicate them elsewhere. I knew that with its pending sale, News America Syndicate was in no position to launch a new comic strip, and, when they turned me down, I’d ask for the usual release I’d gotten several times in the past. So I did and they did, and then I did and they did. I now had a release to take Crankshaft somewhere else. There were no guarantees that it would ever lead to anything, but, with the leverage of being able to walk away from any contract offer that wouldn’t let me own my own character, I at least had a ray of hope that such a possibility existed. It was a desperate long shot, but that’s why they’re called desperate long shots. I received news of the release while attending one of the world premieres of Funky Winkerbean’s Homecoming in Dallas, Texas, and that night even the fact that the “élan” line once again failed to elicit even a snicker didn’t bother me nearly as much. Oh, and along with the new strip, I also sent the syndicate a letter from my attorney saying that I wanted to renegotiate my contract.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Five