It was a warm July evening in 1973 and I was lying on the bed in our apartment doing some writing for Funky. As is my custom, I was grousing to myself about having to write when I could’ve been goofing off, with little inkling of what the Muse had in store for me that night. Now lying on a bed is pretty conducive to letting your mind drift off, and, since Funky and the gang were about to head back to school in the strip, my mind was drifting back to all the things you associate with the start of school… football games, homecoming preparations, the usual stuff.
However, when I was in school, I hadn’t been on the football team or the homecoming committee. What I did do was play trombone in the band.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You probably figure I’m going to say I jumped up off the bed at that point and ran around the room shouting “eureka!” Well not exactly. What I did do was begin to jot down memories of long cold bus rides with wet feet and itchy wool uniforms… of singing “A hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall” until the bus driver turned his hearing-aid off… of selling band candy to all of my relatives. I also jotted down the idea for a new character… a band director named Harry L. Dinkle. Harry L. Dinkle the World’s Greatest Band Director. Even then the “eureka” didn’t come.
The fact of the matter is, it really came later in a whole string of retroactive “eurekas”. First, as the mail began to come in… followed by invitations to speak at band awards banquets… and then the honorary inductions of Harry (and sometimes myself) into various state band organizations… the penning of the Harry L. Dinkle March… watching Harry march in the Tournament of Roses Parade… a line of Harry L. Dinkle band shoes and so much more.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than thirty years since that summer evening. Frankly, it seems like only yesterday that Harry first marched onto the comics page and started selling band candy. And could the first band camp we attended together really have been that long ago?
Much has changed in the world since then. And now it’s time for Harry to change too. Time to put aside the uniform that has served and identified him for so long and move on into administration as so many have before him. All the characters in Funky have grown over the years and Harry is no exception.
Does that mean that Harry and the band are going away? Not by a long shot. Harry has some new challenges ahead, as will Becky as the new band director. And someone has to be there to launch the new Harry L. Dinkle Performing Arts Center. As much as the arts and music belong in a school curriculum, so Harry, Becky and the band belong in Funky. Recently, at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago, I drew my last public picture of Harry in his uniform. This week inaugurates the new look Harry, and I’m looking forward to drawing him in the strip for, hopefully, a long time to come.