Match to Flame 170

Mar 22, 2022

Okay, it’s time for me to introduce fudge factor number two (which I believe puts me one up on Einstein). There was one part of the strip that I was still hesitant to tamper with, and it involved Harry L. Dinkle, the World’s Greatest Band Director. From Funky’s early days, one of the best conceits that I introduced into the strip was the fact that Harry always appeared in his band director uniform. It was a great artistic set piece within the strip. As soon as Harry stepped onstage in that all black uniform, even before a word balloon was spoken, the reader was already expecting some outrageous new scheme to win an award for himself and his band or to sell more band candy, turkeys, cheese, hedge fund shares . . . you get the idea. His mere appearance was all that was needed to sell the most outlandish idea. My having been in a school band let music educators know that it was an inside job and, as I’ve mentioned in previous volumes, they became some of the strips’ biggest supporters. There were times when a newspaper would drop Funky from their comics page, and the band directors and their students would write in in such numbers that the paper would be forced to retreat and reinstate the strip (this would always call for some sort of celebration, usually involving pizza and the playing of a John Philip Sousa CD). And there was a brand-new book collecting the latest band director strips called The Grass Always Looks Greener on the Other Side of the Football Field!, proving as if it needed proving that titles are not my strongest suit. Plus, there was even a shoe company, Up-Front Footwear, that produced marching band shoes with Harry’s picture in his uniform inside each shoe and called them DINKLES. I felt that I owed these people for their support and that it would be a little bit of a betrayal to take Harry out of his uniform. Down the line, when I finally did de-uniform Harry after the second time-jump (yes, kids, there’s a second time-jump, but we’ll worry about that when we get there), I gave Up-Front Footwear a chance to abrogate our licensing deal, but the fine folks there assured me that Harry had become the then modern version of Buster Brown, another comic strip character who successfully transitioned into a shoe brand, and that they were perfectly happy to keep working together. It was all of this that made me loath to remove this one anachronistic bit of business in the strip. Change, as I’ve alluded, would be coming for Harry, too, but not just yet.

From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 10

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