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Match to Flame 104

posted on July 25, 2019

Speaking of pretty darn cool, around this time there was a poster created to raise money for the benefit of the Child Welfare League of America that featured a cartoon character choir made up of all of the characters from the existing newspaper comic strips of the day. A print of it hangs in my studio today; it’s a remarkable piece of American comic strip history. The original piece was mailed around the country so that each cartoonist could add his or her character to the choir, and, when it got to me, it even came with some instructions as to where I should put one of my characters. Paul Burke, the owner of Stabur Graphics (the company that was producing the poster), called me and told me that when Bil Keane (the creator of Family Circus) was adding his characters to the piece, he said that the perfect character to be directing the choir would be my band director Harry L. Dinkle, the World’s Greatest Band Director. I was very flattered by Bil’s incredibly kind and generous suggestion and somewhat intimidated as well. I never would have elected to do something like that on my own. I have as big an ego as any other cartoonist (it’s what allows us to spend the better part of our lives alone in a room and not mind it because we find the company so fascinating), but, given some of the names and characters who were already on the poster, that would have been a pretty daunting thing to do. As it was, when the poster arrived at my studio, I opened the bottle of India Ink I was planning to use in the other room just to avoid any accidental spills. When I was done, my band director was on the podium in front with Charles Schulz’s Schroeder playing the piano just to his right. Pretty heady stuff. And back in the choir, John Darling and Funky are singing in between Dagwood and Beetle Bailey. Awesome. It’s an amazing snapshot of a generation of comic strip creators who, by the way, all signed the litho copies of the prints. Paul Burke actually drove the finished piece around to each cartoonist so they could sign all of the litho copies. When he got to my house, Rog Bollen, the creator of Animal Crackers and a mentor to me from before I was even syndicated, joined us to sign the prints.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Six

Match to Flame 103

posted on July 12, 2019

To King Features’ credit, they did make an effort to insert Funky into the marketplace. Not as much for Funky all on its own, but generally as part of a bundled package that would include the other comic characters that they syndicated. One of these efforts involved Funky appearing on a box of morning cereal called Morning Funnies, which would feature comic strips on the box. The concept seemed like a natural transition and should have been a screaming success—which it might have been if not for the fact that the cereal was pretty much inedible. It was oddly colored with all of the colors of the rainbow and then some, and the oddness continued with the taste itself. Great box concept, though. At least Funky got to appear in an ad with Popeye, which all on its own was pretty darn cool.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Six

Match to Flame 102

posted on June 25, 2019

What had taken me to New York was a meeting between King Features and ABC television about turning the teen pregnancy story arc from Funky into an ABC Afterschool Special. ABC’s Afterschool Specials were geared to students and appeared in the hours just after school but before evening prime-time programming. They were very thoughtful productions that tackled issues facing young people, and the teen pregnancy story seemed perfect for that format. The meetings went well and two scripts were eventually produced, but, in the end, nothing ever came of it. Thus began my long extended courtship with Hollywood. Over the years my work has been optioned numerous times and the dance was always exciting and fun, but no one ever popped the question and said, “Let’s get married.” Other than the fact I was able to enjoy a small side-line cottage industry in collecting option checks, Funky and my other work have always managed to avoid being exploited or stained by Hollywood as if the strips had been Scotchgarded against the very possibility. I won’t ever know how Funky landing on the big or small screen would have changed things, but I do know that it left me totally free to follow my idiosyncratic urges as to what the work could aspire to be.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Six