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Match to Flame 92

posted on January 28, 2019

The smell of cut grass drifted through the screen as I sat writing in my studio in the late summer of 1986, contemplating her (Lisa’s) return. I was leafing through my sketchbook looking for, I don’t know what exactly, when I idly turned a page and saw a sketch I’d made of a girl at the high school who was pregnant. I began to explore the idea of doing something with that in the strip. About ten years earlier I had written a single idea dealing with a pregnant teen and was told in no uncertain terms by my syndicate that there was no place for something like that on the comics page. In all fairness, I’m glad they did because the idea was too flippant and too light. No, this time it would be something much different. This time it would be more substantial. Somewhere during that work session, the idea about writing about a pregnant teen and the desire to bring Lisa back joined hands, and so when some time in the strip has passed and Les sees her again, Lisa is pregnant.
If I may digress for a moment, from the earliest days of the strip I would get together with Cathy and my folks for something we called a gag session wherein I would test a lot of new material. It was a great way to cull only the A-list ideas for the strip and relegate the other ones to notebook purgatory. It seems rare when you can demarcate a clear inflection point in life, but, in hindsight, the teen pregnancy story is where the storm front broke. All of those ideas that I had for the direction in which I wanted to take the work started to coalesce, and going forward—not all at once, but over time—the strip was going to become something different. Lisa had her eye on the bigger picture, so I discontinued the gag sessions and began to follow her lead.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Five