Match to Flame 107

Sep 12, 2019

I sent Crankshaft to all of the major syndicates, including King Features, and I received interest from every syndicate except one. Each one, however, came with some kind of drawback or another. One wanted to sign me to a development deal first where they would work with me for a year developing the strip (with no compensation). I was hardly an untested neophyte, having done Funky for fifteen years at that point (fifteen years constituted the entirety of Milton Caniff’s tenure on Terry and the Pirates), and, besides, I’d already gotten quite used to the idea of having editorial control. I rolled my eyes and moved on. Another syndicate, which I knew really wanted Crankshaft, started by playing some peremptory negotiating games that involved devaluing the work in my eyes to make me nervous, scared, and subsequently grateful for any interest at all. I rolled my eyes again and, again, moved on. And then there was Creators Syndicate, which offered a no-bullshit short-term contract where I would own the feature. Oh, and I’d have editorial control. Creators was small, new, and untested. Going with them would be a huge gamble, but I’d already seen how the other half lived and I thought it was worth the gamble. And so on August 30, 1987 (sorry, Wikipedia, but you’re not even close), Crankshaft debuted. The early strips consisted of my samples, but in short order Chuck Ayers slid into the seat in front of the drawing board and took over the complete art chores. That was necessitated by the fact that, for me, doing the art was indeed a chore. I was so painfully slow on the art end of things that there was no way I was going to be able to handle drawing two comic strips while still hanging onto my sanity. I had initially contacted a different artist, but that person said that Chuck would really be perfect for the job and that I should call him. He was right. Chuck was absolutely perfect for the strip. I had known Chuck from when we were both students at Kent State. Chuck was the cartoonist who replaced me after my short tenure as the cartoonist along with friend Dave Miles for the Daily Kent Stater. Chuck was working as a staff artist at the Akron Beacon Journal, and I guess, along with his job at the paper, working on Crankshaft offered him a little more security. Although, in the art world, there is no such thing as security.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Six

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