I was ready to send Rusty off in the mail to Publisher-Hall, but I didn’t. I liked the concept and the characters enough that I went to Chicago to deliver them personally. This time I wanted to be there to pitch the work and answer any questions, observations, or outright objections that might crop up. Cathy and I stopped for lunch at the Berghoff, an old German restaurant near the Loop, before we dropped by the syndicate, and at this point, I’d like to send a retroactive shout-out back through the mists of time to the kind waiter who came running after us with the portfolio containing the Rusty strips that I had left behind at our table. It would have been kind of a skimpy presentation without them. When we arrived at Publishers-Hall, the execs at the syndicate smiled indulgently at the strips and what I had to say about them and then said they would get back to me. And when they did they said no. This time, however, I decided to not let it rest with that.
When we got home I consulted my draconian contract, which said that the syndicate got first look at any new work I created and that, if they passed on it, I’d need a written release to take it anywhere else (going back to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for a moment—they sold all of the rights to Superman in perpetuity throughout the universe yadda, yadda for $130 and ever since then young aspiring cartoonists have confronted the smiling businessmen with the stain of Jerry and Joe’s original sin on their souls). Having fulfilled the first contractual requirement, I asked the syndicate for a release so I could take it to the competition. And I got one. Interesting. I noted and then filed that information away in case it might ever come in handy again. (Which it would, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait until Volume Six to find out exactly how.) So Rusty went out to all the other viable syndicates and it met with the same reaction that I had received at Publishers-Hall (yawn). Which is how I ended up with a second strip called John Darling.
From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Three