The strip’s launch had been pushed back so far that I thought I might be able to finish the school year. But it was now clear that that wasn’t going to happen. Something would have to give—the teaching job, the cartooning job, or me. After talking it over with Cathy, we decided I’d leave teaching to focus on the strip. It would leave me without a fallback position in case the strip didn’t sell, and, of more importance concerning the work, I’d lose my insider status. When Jim Mateer heard that I’d have to leave my teaching position, he invited me to come out to his classes at Midview, my old high school, to sketch and hang out whenever I wanted. Jim understood perhaps even more than I did at the time how important my being in school was to the particular comic work I was doing. So at least once a week I’d head out to Midview to spend a period or two sketching in Jim’s classes. The fact that it was my old high school didn’t hurt one bit either. When I’d walk into the gym, it still smelled like the gym did when I was a student there only a few years before. Now, maybe I would have written about Les having to climb the dreaded rope in the gym class anyway, but being in that place surrounded by those memories certainly didn’t hurt. It also helped me establish a work pattern of getting close to and researching my subject matter that I follow to this day.
Later, I began subbing for Jim. It was a good fit because I knew the layout and the lesson plans, and the students knew I’d be back and could narc on them if they caused any problems, so I like to think it worked to everyone’s benefit. It would have been easy to become isolated from my subject matter, but Jim’s foresight and generosity in inviting me into his classroom kept that from happening. When the school year ended, Shannon and I put Rapping Around on summer hiatus, intending to pick it up again in the fall. But, as it turned out, I had done my last Rapping Around.
*From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One