Match to Flame – 46

Jul 5, 2017

My next attempt at a strip was a little less starry-eyed but still born out of a sense of fun rather than deft calculation. I had only been working on Funky for about three months when I was visited by an aspiring cartoonist named Bob Vojtko, wanting me to evaluate his work. He had a crisp, clean, and inviting look to his cartoons that belied his short time on the planet. I think he may have still been in high school at the time, but he clearly had some decent cartooning chops. I should have tried to discourage him and urge him to take up truck driving (insecure cartoonists, remember?), but instead I shared with him all of my insight gleaned from my total of ninety days or so on the job. Over the next couple of years, Bob would come by from time to time to show me the latest stuff he was working on. On one particular occasion, as I leafed through his latest batch of cartoons, I saw something that piqued my interest. Now memory can be kind of selective so I’m hesitant to say how much was already there and how much I later brought to it, but what intrigued me was a drawing of a little rabbit wearing big round tortoiseshell glasses. That was what started the wheels turning a little bit. I was amused by the premise of a shy little geeky rabbit who couldn’t get a date. So I asked Bob if he would mind if I took a whack at working something up around that character. Bob said fine, so I began assembling a cast of characters for a strip set in a national park that I initially called Woodsite. I worked on it intermittently for several months until I had the cast I wanted. It started with Norman the rabbit, who had to read books on how to pick up girls. He was followed by Ranger Woodsite, a forest ranger who was forever getting lost in the woods; a mountain goat who was afraid of heights; Warden Jordan, whose allergies kept him indoors; and even a fly who envied and resented the great reputation that bees had. The final piece to go in place was a somewhat disreputable bear named Rusty who lived for the big mixer/kegger that annually kicked off mating season. It wasn’t anything earthshaking, but it was kind of cute. At least it amused me, and it amused Bob. So we took some of the best stuff and he began working it up into a strip. Within a short while we had enough samples to send off to the syndicate of the strip that we were now calling Rusty.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Three

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