The dentist visit wasn’t a total loss, because by the end of the afternoon I had acquired my first comic book. Our dentist, who obviously was no fool, used to give my sister and me a prescription for an ice cream cone at the end of our exams. The scrip was worth a dime at the drugstore on the corner. That day, as we stood at the ice cream counter, my dad said we could buy anything we wanted. I had him repeat that so there would be no question as to exactly what had been said, and then I responded, “I want one of those,” pointing at the comics spinner rack. I left that afternoon with my very first comic book, a copy of Tom Corbett Space Cadet. To help cement the deal, I had pointed out to my dad that I was allowed to watch Tom Corbett on TV, so the comic book must, by extension, be okay as well. Besides, my dad had specifically said, “Anything you want . . .”
Inside that Tom Corbett, I saw my future, and, inspired and empowered, I began buying comics whenever the opportunity presented itself. When the monthlong wait between issues became too much to bear, I began writing and drawing my own comics to bridge the gap. When I wasn’t creating cartoons, I was working on my novel. I had a little green notebook in which I chronicled my western opus The Arizona Ranger. Its portability allowed me to take it with me on our forced marches every Sunday to visit relatives in Akron, which we had been doing since my dad’s job had taken our family about an hour away to North Eaton. While the adults talked and the cousins played baseball, I’d find a corner somewhere to work on my story. Occasionally, someone would ask to read what I was writing and would comment approvingly, but mostly I was simply regarded as a curiosity.
*From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One