Match to Flame – 54

Sep 2, 2017

Things were rolling along pretty smoothly and life was good, when Publishers-Hall hired a new managing editor and, after years of being the de facto shaper of my own work, I suddenly had a brush with the heavy hand of an editor, and not a very good one I’m afraid. He apparently wanted to write a comic strip of his own and, not having one, chose to flex his writing muscles in the strips he was editing. At one point he made an arbitrary change in one of my strips without consulting me. It was neither a good change nor a necessary one. The editorial rewriting took an update I had made to an old trope and reverted it to the tired and shopworn cliché I was trying to avoid. By itself, the incident was small and wasn’t the end of the world, but it felt like it to me, and my spider-sense was blaring like a tornado siren in Kansas alerting me to what this might portend for the future. More than the actual change itself, I was completely taken aback by the fact that someone could just arbitrarily make changes in my work and that there was nothing I could do about it (that furshlugginer contract again). That scared me. I’m not exaggerating for effect here; it truly reached into my soul with chilling effect. These feelings didn’t come from arrogance but from fear. This wasn’t some comic strip that I was tossing off just to collect the money. This was my life. These were my thoughts and emotions that I was putting into my character’s word balloons, and the fact that someone felt they could insert their own thoughts and feelings on a whim made me slightly insane. Now, I realize that I probably would have benefited from working with a really good editor. In fact, I sometimes wished that I could have worked with a truly knowledgeable mentor, someone who could encourage my best work while gently steering me away from my excesses. As I pointed out earlier, I was a freewheeling creating machine at that point, spewing out ideas in every conceivable direction. Having someone to tame and focus that creative energy and help me shape my ideas might have enabled me to tighten the work and find my adult voice sooner than I did. It was the reason I had hung onto Flash Fairfield’s note for so long. It was also the reason that Cathy continued to be such a good sounding board for me and why I still paid close attention to those newspaper articles that continued to slide my way from her side of the breakfast table. And she never cut me any slack when she felt I could improve upon what I was doing. I may have grumbled about it at times, but always in the end attention was paid. Anyway, I immediately fired off a letter to the offending editor, and it was probably still smoking when it landed on his desk. But he never saw it, because by that time he was gone. I can only assume that the editor in question had transgressed in the same fashion against some of the other cartoonists as well, including some who had much more clout than your humble scribe. All I know is that his was a blessedly short tenure.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Three

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