About the comic
John Darling appeared in the early months of Funky Winkerbean as the roving reporter who showed up to interview the football coach. He went on from there to eventually interview almost every character in Funky (It was a much smaller strip back then). John was based on a local Cleveland news anchor, and became one of my most enjoyable characters to work with. Never did it enter my mind to try to spin him off into his own strip.
Enter Tom Armstrong who had approached my syndicate with a strip called Heads and Tales featuring one-off guest celebrities each day with a topical joke. Tom was a talented caricaturist, but the syndicate wasn’t in love with his writing. So they approached me about writing the strip, and I told them I wasn’t interested. It wasn’t the kind of writing I enjoyed. They called back and asked what kind of writing did I enjoy. I told them I liked writing stories and developing characters. I said the strip needed a plausible reason for the celebs to appear, such as appearing on a recurring talk show. They asked if I would enjoy working with Tom on something like that and I said sure. In fact, I already had a TV personality in my pocket named John Darling who would make a perfect talk show host. Thus in 1979, John Darling landed on the comics pages across America.