In my work, I’ve found that it helps to have stages for my characters that are actual settings with which I’m familiar to ground the work for me. For the longest time, a pastiche of my old high school and the school where I taught stood in for the Westview High School stage. Later, Montoni’s, which is based on a real pizza restaurant named Luigi’s, became a second stage for my characters in the strip. From the beginning, I knew that the story Lisa had to tell was going to need a stage all its own. Two Joes helped me out with that problem. Joe Filipiak, the art teacher at my old high school and who I had gone to high school with, was the teacher there who kept the door open for me to stop by to sit in on his classes and soak up essential and valuable references. I’d basically been auditing high school for more than thirty years at that point. So much of Funky grew out of those visits that I would have been lost without that access. Joe also provided me with studio help. His daughter Mary Ann and son Joe worked in my studio at different times when they were in high school. When the younger Joe got married, he and his wife were about the age that I pictured Les and Lisa being, and, when they bought a house, I asked if I could borrow it for Les and Lisa. It became my third stage in the strip. Toward the end of Lisa’s Story, when Darin and Lisa finally meet, the reunion took place on the front porch of that house. That particular panel generated more reader response than any single thing I had ever done in the strip.
From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. 12