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Match to Flame 76

posted on June 20, 2018

The year kicked off with me crisscrossing the country in support of a Funky book collection entitled Funky Winkerbean: You Know You’ve Got Trouble When Your School Mascot Is a Scapegoat. You also know you’ve got trouble when something like that is the title of your book. The ever-expanding repertory company of characters collectively known as Funky Winkerbean was never an easy brand to wrap your arms around and market. It lacked the one-cat-fits-all mentality. When you couple that with the direction in which I wanted to take the work, the picture for licensing the strip didn’t look rosy. In a period when licensing dollars were falling from the sky like snowflakes in an Alberta clipper, not many stuck to Funky. Of course, if I had to deal with tons of licensing, the work and time dedicated to that would have splintered my focus and inevitably caused the strip to suffer. When you add to that the fact that a large market presence would have no doubt dictated that the original Funky gang remain in high school forever, endlessly repeating their high school hijinks, you would have found me to be quite the unhappy camper. Granted, I’d be camping in a much bigger house on a massive estate with a horse in the Kentucky Derby and whatnot, but unhappy nonetheless. But while the book tour wasn’t about to land me on the New York Times Best Sellers list, it did have one fascinating spin-off.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Five


Match to Flame 75

posted on June 12, 2018

There were times when I would imagine that I lived in a world where cartoonists were free to write about whatever interested them, that their creations would belong to them and no one else, that the concerns of commerce were not their concerns. In essence, that they were happily free to pursue their art. Then a butterfly would flap its wings and I would find myself back in 1984 (not that 1984, but close) and the vexing realities of the real world would set in. I was entering a period of bone-rattling changes. My syndicate, Field Enterprises/Publishers-Hall, was about to be sold; my cocreator on John Darling, Tom Armstrong, would soon take leave of the strip; I would attempt to syndicate yet another comic strip with a brand-new syndicate; I would coauthor a high school musical; and I would begin taking steps to rectify the draconian contract that I signed in my callow youth. I had been tagged by my syndicate as one of their “quiet” contributors, and that was true because until that point everything had been OK. However, things were becoming less OK by the minute.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Five


Match to Flame 74

posted on May 23, 2018

As long as I’m at it, the whole Pop Art movement was wrong as well. The artists of the Pop Art movement treated the comics as something disposable and shallow even as they tried to emulate them. It’s a pick ’em call whether they were reflecting them or critiquing them, but in either case I had a bone to pick with their terms and conditions. It would still be awhile before comics were accepted by institutions of higher learning and elevated to the status of a legitimate art form, but from the get-go, work of genuine quality was always present and appreciated by the cognoscenti twelve years old and up. It never occurred to me that comics should be denied a seat at the art table. It was always my unshakable belief that comics could achieve substance and chronicle like any other art form what it means to be human. I bring all of this up for two reasons. One, I needed a way into this intro, and, two, I wanted to make a couple of points (it’s always nice when you can do both). I wanted to clarify my mind-set at the time the strips in this volume were being created. As I mentioned in the previous volume, my work had been slowly edging toward the idea that my characters could evolve. That their perceptions and personalities could be molded by events. In short, I wanted to introduce drama into their lives. But as I also discussed earlier, it would have to be done in the face of prescriptive expectations as well as cultural and editorial resistance. The years contained within this volume are where that process begins to gain purchase. The teen pregnancy series will provide the beginnings of an answer, but I would be tiptoeing into my sixth decade before I would truly seal the bargain I was about to make with myself. To move toward this future, I would need to look to the past with an eye toward reclaiming the full genetic code of the American comic strip.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Five


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