Match to Flame – 45

Jun 21, 2017

If I may, let me step back for a moment here to reflect on the role that luck has to play in determining whether a strip gets picked up for syndication or not. It’s huge. It’s enormous. It’s megagoogle enormous. Much like TV networks, the syndicates are always doing their best to try to tap into what they perceive as the prevailing American zeitgeist. It’s not an easy task for them or for the hopeful cartoonist. The trick then is to somehow show up with exactly what they’re looking for on the exact day that they’re looking for it. The odds are pretty slim, a fact I try not to think about too much lest I get the shakes retroactively (there are times when being young and ignorant is not necessarily a bad thing). Sometimes the syndicates are right and sometimes they’re wrong. Remember, these were the same syndicates that all took a pass, some more than once, on Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman submission, a character destined to become the most popular cartoon creation ever. So it’s a dice roll.
And then there are times when the syndicates are simply right. Orbit probably set some kind of speed record for being turned down by a syndicate. I handed the mailman my package of strips and he handed me the rejection letter, or so it seemed. The perceived wisdom was that the time had passed for science fiction on the comics pages, and that to try to bring it back would be a fool’s errand not unlike that of Don Coyote trying to tilt against the Roadrunner. Even with the success of Star Wars happening then, comic strips would not be regaining their former glory as a home for speculative fiction and bravura adventure. As if to highlight that point in Day-Glo yellow, NEA and my old mentor Flash Fairfield did bring out an SF strip called Star Hawks helmed by the crazy good team of science fiction writer Ron Goulart and comic book artist Gil Kane, but even a strip with that distinguished pedigree could survive only a short while. Flash, bless his heart, was living in the same it’s gone, forget about it, it ain’t never coming back past that I was. So much for going with your heart. It wouldn’t be until well into the next millennium that I’d finally get to sate my science fiction jones in the comics with a character that I’d created in the fifth grade.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Three

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