Match to Flame 184

Dec 26, 2022

Once again, John Byrne has come onboard to grace Funky with his artwork. Chuck Ayers is not a big science fiction fan so I asked John if he would step in for the last week of Funky when the strip makes its final time jump, this time into the future. I couldn’t be happier with the results which send Funky off in futuristic style.

This isn’t the first time John has helped me out on the strip. He sat in for an extended piece when Wally was in Afghanistan and which I wrote about in the forward to Volume 11 of The Complete Funky Winkerbean. I’m sharing it here for your edification.

I had worked hard to bring John on board; but inking that work was more difficult at first, and Chuck and I found that it took some time for us to adjust to incorporating and internalizing the new look going forward. But the result was work that couldn’t be ignored . . . and it wasn’t. I wasn’t a fool; I knew that the discerning eye (meaning every twelve-year-old kid) would notice the subtle and not-so-subtle difference in the art. I wasn’t quite prepared for the massive outcry from readers whose existential comics world I had just upended. It had kind of slipped my mind that change of any sort was anathema to readers of the newspaper comics, regardless of how good it was. Along with the perception that comic strips should only be funny (see? I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep from bringing that up again) came the proscription that anything that threatened their familiar comic strip–reading experience had to be bullied into submission and hectored out of Dodge.

I will share some of the email comments that you won’t see us using on the back of the dust jacket.

It started with fairly innocuous ones like, “Is there an apprentice stripper drawing things these days?” (No, I’m afraid my wife won’t allow that.)

To fairly artful ones, such as, “To lift from My Fair Lady, I’ve grown accustomed to their faces.” (Sweet.)

Or, “Funky looks like Michael Jackson after one too many plastic surgeries.” (Kind of harsh.)

Or, “It reminds me of the old Mary Worth look.” (I only wish I could draw like Ken Ernst did.)

Or, “The cartoonist drawing Funky looks like the kids subbing for Bil Keane on Family Circus.” (Ouch.)

Then it escalated: “It looks like the comic is suddenly being drawn by a disturbed twenty-three-year-old.” (He should have seen it at the beginning when it actually was being drawn by a disturbed twenty-three-year-old.)

And finally, my personal favorite, “We didn’t let the artist of Sally Forth get away with it, and we’re not going to let you get away with it either.”

From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 11

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