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Match to Flame 12

posted on January 13, 2016

Match-Rapping Around

My next step was to head back to my local paper. My thinking was that I could get a job doing some freelance spot cartoons for them and that some syndicate executive would then see them and say, “That guy should be doing a syndicated comic strip!” Or something like that. I figured I’d work out the details once I’d gotten my foot in the door. This time I’d go there personally, instead of mailing in my submissions, so I could explain why they couldn’t live without these cartoon illustrations. I showed up and was ushered to the desk of the managing editor, James Dauble. As luck would have it, I had taken along my sketchbook, and as Dauble looked through it he noticed some of the sketches I’d made while at school. As a way of inculcating the idea with the students that they needed to keep a sketchbook, I’d get mine out from time to time and sketch the students . . . except that I’d add humorous captions or word balloons. When I was in junior high we used the Reader’s Digest in English class, and the moment I got my copy I’d go through it and add silly word balloons to all the people in the ads. My sketchbook takes were just an extension of that. Dauble liked them and asked if I’d consider doing a cartoon for a new page they were starting called the Teen-Age page. His mouth had barely stopped forming the question when I agreed. He then introduced me to Shannon Kaiser-Jewell, editor of the Teen-Age page, and we set up a time for me to bring in some cartoons. I had gone in seeking a job doing spot art and had left with my own cartoon.

*From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One

Match to Flame 11

posted on January 6, 2016

Match - Mateer

There are inflection points in life that, for better or worse, send you on a new path, and I was about to arrive at one. My high school art teacher, Jim Mateer, used to hold open sessions for his students in his art room on Saturday mornings. When I was his student, he’d never let me work on cartoons in class. He had various explanations for this, but I suspect that the real one was that he intuitively understood that telling me I couldn’t do something was the best possible way to motivate me to do exactly the opposite. Along with being an expert practitioner of reverse psychology, Jim was also a great teacher in the best and broadest sense of the word. Sure, he taught us art, but he also taught lessons about life. He had theories about almost everything, which he delivered in fascinating down-to-earth homilies that were generally right on the money. In my hour of wavering, I found myself heading to his open art room one Saturday morning to seek his counsel.
We spent the morning talking, and, over the course of our conversation, Jim presented his general theory of how people end up doing what they do in life, all the while taking great pains, of course, never to tell me directly what I ought to do. He described the various ways people tend to make decisions or the ways people let decisions make them. “And then, of course,” he said, “there’s the bulldog approach, where people focus on one goal to the exclusion of everything else.” I left his art room that morning having been cleverly nudged back onto the bulldog track. Careerwise, cartooning and only cartooning was where I was going to expend my energy. Sorry, Eastern Heights Junior High.

*From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One

Match to Flame 10

posted on December 11, 2015

Eastern Heights Jr. High

I returned home from my visit to Marvel Comic fully intending to take Roy Thomas up on his offer to go back to Marvel with new material, but along the way my focus became somewhat diffused. That fall of 1969 I took a job teaching art at Eastern Heights Junior High in Elyria. I’d get home each day and work on material for Marvel, but I also began work on newspaper comic strip submissions and some on-spec spot art for the local paper. At one point I even considered getting part-time work with a local ad agency as a means of gaining some professional experience. My scattergun approach wasn’t producing any results, and the ad agency idea was about to send me off in a direction that I knew deep down wasn’t the right one. In short, I was at a crossroads.

*From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One