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Match to Flame – 56

posted on October 31, 2017

I was totally in my comfort zone. That’s not necessarily a good thing. As 1981 dawned, the new year found me deftly dealing with the dual deadlines of both Funky and John Darling, and, even though I was still a Swiss army knife doing everything but the art on John Darling, I was finally able to lean back a little and enjoy myself. I had completed the process of trying to assimilate my various influences, screwed it up, and was now left with the finished product, my style. It was a freewheeling, wide-open style that for the moment was serving me quite well. I had put in my 10,000 hours (I always wonder how that came out to such an even number) learning my craft and was now getting a chance to put those lessons to good use as I played with my characters for the amusement of my readers. I’m fully aware that hindsight is affording me a rather rosy view of that time and that deadlines once met are deadlines forgotten; nevertheless, I had rounded my learning curve and was happily cruising down the straightaway at the wheel of a pretty smooth-running machine. Which meant, of course, that I was about to enter the most dangerous territory of all.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Four

Match to Flame – 55

posted on October 5, 2017

So, for the moment, a crisis had been averted. I was quickly assured that no one would be changing anything in my work (except for fixing the spelling on bananas) without consulting me first, and they were as good as their word. But the incident had exposed a vulnerability that concerned me. My contract had been a burr under my saddle from the very beginning, but this was the first time I had really felt the pinch. The people I was working with were content to leave me alone for the moment, but what if something crazy happened like, say, Rupert Murdoch buying my syndicate? (Oh, wait . . . Rupert Murdoch did end up buying my syndicate. Hmmm . . . So maybe I wasn’t so paranoid after all.) Plus, there was one other thing that would make my spider-sense tingle every now and then, and paying heed to it might not sit too well with the folks at my syndicate. It was something the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer had written when he was announcing that they were replacing Little Orphan Annie with Funky. It was one of the reasons he gave for dropping Annie. He said that “the trouble was that Annie never grew up . . .”

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Three

Match to Flame – 54

posted on September 2, 2017

Things were rolling along pretty smoothly and life was good, when Publishers-Hall hired a new managing editor and, after years of being the de facto shaper of my own work, I suddenly had a brush with the heavy hand of an editor, and not a very good one I’m afraid. He apparently wanted to write a comic strip of his own and, not having one, chose to flex his writing muscles in the strips he was editing. At one point he made an arbitrary change in one of my strips without consulting me. It was neither a good change nor a necessary one. The editorial rewriting took an update I had made to an old trope and reverted it to the tired and shopworn cliché I was trying to avoid. By itself, the incident was small and wasn’t the end of the world, but it felt like it to me, and my spider-sense was blaring like a tornado siren in Kansas alerting me to what this might portend for the future. More than the actual change itself, I was completely taken aback by the fact that someone could just arbitrarily make changes in my work and that there was nothing I could do about it (that furshlugginer contract again). That scared me. I’m not exaggerating for effect here; it truly reached into my soul with chilling effect. These feelings didn’t come from arrogance but from fear. This wasn’t some comic strip that I was tossing off just to collect the money. This was my life. These were my thoughts and emotions that I was putting into my character’s word balloons, and the fact that someone felt they could insert their own thoughts and feelings on a whim made me slightly insane. Now, I realize that I probably would have benefited from working with a really good editor. In fact, I sometimes wished that I could have worked with a truly knowledgeable mentor, someone who could encourage my best work while gently steering me away from my excesses. As I pointed out earlier, I was a freewheeling creating machine at that point, spewing out ideas in every conceivable direction. Having someone to tame and focus that creative energy and help me shape my ideas might have enabled me to tighten the work and find my adult voice sooner than I did. It was the reason I had hung onto Flash Fairfield’s note for so long. It was also the reason that Cathy continued to be such a good sounding board for me and why I still paid close attention to those newspaper articles that continued to slide my way from her side of the breakfast table. And she never cut me any slack when she felt I could improve upon what I was doing. I may have grumbled about it at times, but always in the end attention was paid. Anyway, I immediately fired off a letter to the offending editor, and it was probably still smoking when it landed on his desk. But he never saw it, because by that time he was gone. I can only assume that the editor in question had transgressed in the same fashion against some of the other cartoonists as well, including some who had much more clout than your humble scribe. All I know is that his was a blessedly short tenure.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Three

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