John Darling (comic strip)
|Illustrator(s)||Tom Armstrong (1979–1985)|
Gerry Shamray (1985–1990)
|Current status/schedule||Concluded daily strip|
|Launch date||March 25, 1979|
|End date||August 4, 1990|
|Syndicate(s)||North America Syndicate|
|Preceded by||Funky Winkerbean|
John Darling, a talk-show host, was originally a supporting character in Batiuk's strip Funky Winkerbean before being spun off into his own strip. The original artist was Tom Armstrong, who left the strip in 1985 for his own creation, Marvin, though he did return to draw the final three weeks of the strip. His replacement was Gerry Shamray, whose first strip was dated March 3, 1985.
Much of the strip's humor came from Darling's quirks and occasional displays of ignorance; in one strip, he interviews musician Prince, asking him "Exactly which country are you a prince of?"
Batiuk had a contractual conflict with his syndicate over ownership of the character, so he stunned readers by killing off Darling, leaving the syndicate with a largely unusable property. Darling was shot by an unknown assailant in the second to last strip. The murder stayed unsolved until a 1997 Funky Winkerbean storyline celebrating that strip's 25th anniversary. Over the course of the storyline, Winkerbean character Les Moore wrote a book on Darling's murder ("Fallen Star") and solved the case. The murderer was revealed to be Peter Mossman, alias Plantman.
While Darling himself was rarely mentioned in Funky Winkerbean in the years immediately following his 1990 demise, Darling's daughter Jessica appeared as a regular in the Funky Winkerbean strip until 2007, when the feature was reformatted by moving the continuing story up several years. The book about Darling's murder was referenced again during a 2010 strip, and Jessica reappeared in 2011. By 2013, John was mentioned quite often, as a continuing Funky WInkerbean plotline had Jessica actively searching for information about the father she lost at a very young age.
- Strickler, Dave. Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists, 1924-1995: The Complete Index. Cambria, CA: Comics Access, 1995. ISBN 0-9700077-0-1.