Match to Flame 205

Feb 13, 2024

Ever since dealing with a couple of severe bouts of illness a few years earlier, along with getting both Funky and Crankshaft a year ahead, I had toyed with the idea of seeing what it would be like to have another writer briefly lend a hand with the writing of the strip as a possible insurance policy against an ill-starred future. Someone to whom Cathy or I could turn should the need arise. One of the new elements that I wanted to add to the strip was having Summer turn out to be a gifted athlete, the polar opposite of her athletically challenged father who would get stuck up on the rope in gym class, ending up at one point as a decoration at the homecoming dance. It just happened that my friend, comic book writer Tony Isabella, had a daughter who played softball for her high school. So I decided to ask Tony if he’d like to save me some research and writing time by writing a couple of weeks about Summer playing in a traveling softball league. He agreed and wrote some baseball weeks for me shortly after that. Sometime later, Tony and I were talking on the phone, and he commented that I was the easiest person to write for because I never asked for any rewrites. Frankly, it had never occurred to me. When I went through his scripts, if I found something I wanted to change, I simply changed it and put it in my voice. I did wonder what Tony would think when he finally read the strips in the paper, but he never said anything. Of course, it was a year later so he may not have even recalled exactly what he’d written by that point. However, the process was instructive and revealed a couple of things to me. As good as Tony’s scripts were, it turned out that I didn’t really feel comfortable with someone else writing the strip, no matter how good a job they did. I didn’t want anyone else plotting and dialoging my characters. Good to learn. On the other hand, I kind of enjoyed a collaboration where someone would take a plot of mine and throw some springboards at it, which I, in turn, could use or not use to add things or take the work in an entirely different direction. It reminded me of my high school friend Butch and I creating comedy skits with his tape recorder and laughing ourselves silly as we spitballed ideas back and forth (I had some of our old tape reels committed to CDs awhile back, and most of the skits are drowned out by our laughter. We were great appreciators of our own humor). I found that it was fun to let others play with your toys in a limited way. So Tony and I did a few more things where I would lay out the story plot, which he would then use as a jumping-off point for coming up with some springboards. When I got the “boards,” the process usually went something like: “No, no, nah, nope . . . Oh, wow! Why didn’t I think of that!?” A great example of that is a note that Tony included with the baseball scripts, saying that I should think about replicating the first Supergirl comic book cover where her rocket to Earth is greeted by Superman, but instead replacing the two superheroes with Les and Summer. I was totally charmed by the idea and even got Jim Mooney, the original artist who drew the comic book cover, to pencil the Sunday strip for me to ink. That was crazy fun on multiple levels, and it opened the door to an exploration in Funky of my comic book/strip roots. One of the early examples of that was using the cover of The Flash #115 by replicating it in a Funky Sunday strip and inserting Funky as the Flash.

From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. 13

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