Tom Batiuk, creator of the comic feature Funky Winkerbean, was one of three finalists for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. Judges said his work was considered “for a sequence in his cartoon strip Funky Winkerbean that portrays a woman’s poignant battle with breast cancer.” It was only the fourth time a cartoon strip was a Pulitzer finalist.
Funky Winkerbean made its debut on the comics pages in 1972, and today appears in more than 400 newspapers worldwide. Batiuk chronicles the lives of students and faculty at Westview High, including the Harry L. Dinkle character, the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Band Leader.”
Batiuk, a former middle school teacher, is such a fan of music education that he created the comic strip Halle Dinkle just for MENC members. Halle is Harry’s daughter, and the strips chronicle the trials and triumphs of a general music teacher.
Halle Dinkle strips previously appeared in the MENC magazine, Teaching Music, but now appears online every other month on the MENC News Stand. Here some questions and answers from a recent interview with Batiuk.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process? How far ahead do you plan daily strips since they have a definite story arc?
A: I do work pretty far ahead, and I plan to tell a definite story. Recently I had Harry Dinkle dealing with a bad economy, working with his band boosters. I did them as “flashbacks,” but they are relevant now. Also, I wanted to get Harry back in his band uniform.
Q: The comic strip seems like a difficult art form to master. You can’t use that many words in a strip. How do you come up with just the right words to use?
A: I write on a laptop and I do rewrite, though I probably don’t spend as much time polishing the text as I should (laughs). The characters’ voices are just in my head. They pretty much write themselves, and that has been true since I first began doing the strips. The football coach, Harry Dinkle, these kinds of guys just write themselves.
— Roz Fehr, February 11, 2009. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education.