Match to Flame 185

Oct 15, 2022

Now, normally, whenever a new hand came onto a newspaper comic strip, every effort was made to make sure that, let’s say, Dagwood’s and Blondie’s chairs were exactly where they had always been, that the sheets in their bed had the same thread count, that Blondie’s curls were equal and uniform in number, and that whatever those antenna-like things that were sticking out from Dagwood’s head looked as they ever had since the dawn of Blondie. But the change in Funky didn’t bother me because I felt I was striving daily to make the strip better. Just coasting wouldn’t have required half the work. It brings to mind the words of Picasso: “To make oneself hated is more difficult than to make oneself loved” (of course, Picasso hadn’t met the internet). When I was a kid, I had written to an editor of a comic book to suggest that he try another artist on the book because I thought it would be interesting and fun. Unfortunately, I had recommended an artist who had supposedly tried to shove the editor out of a window, so there was a certain enmity between the two, and my request fell on nearly dead ears. That being said, comic book readers like myself were way more open to changes in artists and writers, to the point where during the auteur era of comic books in the nineties, a hot new artist/writer on a book was an actual selling point. So, my mind-set was not that of the typical newspaper comics page reader. I didn’t care if the work looked different . . . as long as it looked better. In the examples shown here, John Byrne’s work seems to drop quite easily to the strip’s milieu. Nevertheless, I had to calm the masses on the Unofficial Funky Winkerbean Fan Page with the following message:

Over the course of my career, I’ve been blessed to have worked with some very talented artists. On John Darling I worked with Tom Armstrong of Marvin fame, and of course the art on Crankshaft has been handled from the very beginning by the amazing Chuck Ayers. The brilliant Batman colorist, Lee Loughridge, has been coloring Funky for several years now. Chuck has also been helping me with the penciling on Funky, and when some recent foot surgery among other things caused us to get a little behind in our schedule, I asked John Byrne, one of the top comic book artists in the business today and an artist whose work I’ve long admired, to step in and do a guest shot sharing the art duties with my Funky characters for a few weeks on a cool story I had in mind. Fortunately, he was able to do it and the work he did is exceptional.

While it’s extremely flattering my readers are so engaged in the lives of the characters in Funky that the slightest change upsets them, it tends to make things a bit confining. Over the years my work on Funky has evolved and grown, and will continue to do so. When the current story arc concludes (and it is a very cool, contemporaneous story), the art will settle into a more familiar but improved version of the characters which will afford me the opportunity to work with a more mature and nuanced type of humor. Rather than an obsessive fealty to a tedious status quo, what I do owe my readers is the very best comic strip that I can give them, and I’ve found that trusting my creations to others, especially others as talented as those I’ve just mentioned, can bring a whole new energy level to the work. It’s akin to the electricity created by having a talented musician sit in with your band. Besides, it just makes it flat out more fun, which in the end is what this should all really be about.

Reading this post after all of this time, I was pleased to see how locked in and unshakeable my thoughts are regarding the need for my readers to be more flexible. {note to editor: I know this is a book, but is there any way we can insert a smiley face here?} {sure, Tom.} 😊 That post seemed to quell everyone’s anxiety, and, after a while it was like nothing had ever happened. I’ve found over the years that comic strip readers, while a little trigger happy, are willing to tag along and keep pace if you simply provide a reasonable explanation for what just happened.

From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 11

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