The syndication of John Darling wasn’t a straight-line deal, however. It came about in part due to two other strips I created. One was called Orbit and the other was Rusty. Orbit came first. In casting about for a strip idea that would be unique on the comics page, I went back to my first love: the comic books and the science fiction that I found there. Except that the strip I had in mind would be a bit more sophisticated than the space opera of my younger days (although I’m still wondering where the flying cars are). My elementary school was visited every two weeks by a bookmobile, and it was there that I discovered the science fiction of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Alfred Bester, and Daniel Keyes. Soon, paperback collections of these and other writers began accumulating on the bookshelf in my bedroom at home. Those writers elevated science fiction to a new sociological and psychological level, and I wanted to try and emulate that type of work while still retaining some of the action elements that graphic art could showcase so well. What I had in mind was a science fiction anthology strip that would (again choosing to eschew Flash’s advice) feature disparate and unrelated stories without a continuing central cast of characters. Doing it wouldn’t be a problem because writing was easy for me. Doing it would be a problem because drawing wasn’t easy for me. So I enlisted the aid of a talented, idiosyncratic young comic book artist named P. Craig Russell. I’d been a fan of Craig’s work for some time, especially a book he had done for Marvel called War of the Worlds. His style seemed perfect for the approach I wanted to take. I wrote up a week’s worth of strips, which Craig illustrated beautifully, and, after preparing a promotion piece and a logo with a spaceship flying through it, I sent them off to my syndicate.
From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Three