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Match to Flame 117

posted on March 24, 2020

Meanwhile (I’ve always wanted to write that), as the lawsuit burbled along, I figured I just wasn’t creating enough problems for my attorneys and decided to move Crankshaft to another syndicate. My main reason for doing that was fear. Let’s just say the Funky lawsuit didn’t go my way. Where would that leave me and my Funky friends? The possibilities were wide open, and not knowing was a cause for concern. I was also concerned about Crankshaft and Creators Syndicate. Two of Crankshaft’s top sales reps and supporters had left the syndicate, and, given the Funky situation, I was looking for a little more security and growth on the Crankshaft side. I thought I might find it at Universal Press Syndicate, so they were approached and, as it turned out, were interested. Moving Crankshaft to Universal Press would reunite me with John McMeel, who had been my initial stop when I first arrived in New York to try to get my strip syndicated. McMeel had built Universal Press into a powerhouse syndicate. In a time of tumult, I needed a safe harbor, and having Crankshaft there allowed me to lower my anxiety level down to DEFCON 2. 

Match to Flame 116

posted on March 19, 2020

At some point in 1990, I became committed to the idea of jumping my characters forward in time to a point just beyond their college graduation, otherwise known as adulthood (I get that that’s a debatable point, but we still have a good bit of the intro to get through together, so just work with me). It had been gestating ever since I’d written the teen pregnancy story line, and I’d been beta testing the idea on anyone who would listen for a while, knowing that if I wanted my characters to grow, they were going to have to grow up. I’d even determined when it would happen. Funky Winkerbean’s 20th anniversary would be coming up in 1992, and what better occasion could there be for a senior year and graduation from high school followed by a small time jump? It seemed tidy. The only thing I hadn’t figured out was the trigger for the jump, and it would take a conversation at a Superman convention in Cleveland to point the way (clever bit of foreshadowing there). What this meant, of course, was that my high school characters were all going to disappear and be replaced by their adult (ibid.) selves. I was okay with that idea with one glaring exception . . . Cindy Summers. Cindy, the most popular girl in the school, was coming on like gangbusters at this point, and I felt that I had barely scratched the surface of her potential as a character. I didn’t want to lose all of that, so I did something stupid. I cloned her and created her little sister/doppelgänger Sadie. Flash Fairfield, the editor who way back when had tried to school me on character development, would have been spinning in his grave at that move, and, if he weren’t in his grave, that would have probably finished him. Mea culpa, Flash. It was a totally misguided reason for creating a character. It was dumb, stupid, boneheaded, half-baked, ill-advised, risible, and done for all the wrong reasons. In an effort to not lose big-haired Cindy, I created her big-haired little sister and in doing so brought about character confusion, redundancy, overpopulation, and just about everything else that Flash had warned me not to do. And I paid the price. Sadie would limp along for a while after the time-jump, but she was and would always be a pale imitation of her big sis until she was eventually banished to the Dumb Character Phantom Zone, where she could pal around with the Moon Maid from Dick Tracy and Snoopy’s brothers Andy, Marbles, Olaf, and Spike. 

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 7

Match to Flame 116

posted on March 5, 2020

And that’s not all that was going on while the lawsuit inched forward, folks. There’s a John Keats poem that begins, “When I have fears that I may cease to be / Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,” and, I’ll tell you, there was a heck of a lot of brain teeming and gleaning going on during this period for sure. Alongside characters that we were leaving behind in John Darling, the great begetting of new characters in Funky continued apace. The new arrivals included Superintendent Shoentell; Claire Voyant, a Gypsy fortune-telling guidance counselor (who I have to say I’d forgotten about and who I particularly enjoyed upon rediscovering her); and Harry L. Dinkle’s piano teacher in his youth, Mrs. Thompson. Also appearing for the first time is Sadie Summers, Cindy’s little sister, and the worst mistake I ever made in creating a character. 

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 7

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