Mr. Fitz artist couldn’t stay away from comics

PHOTO COURTESY DAVID FINKLE GROUP PHOTO — Characters from Mr. Fitz pose for a “photo” for this article. The strip is a modification of a strip artist David Finkle drew for the comic’s 10-year anniversary.

They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Well, you’ll never really retire, either.

Earlier this year, DeLand High School teacher and cartoonist David Finkle retired his comic strip Mr Fitz after 22 years. The strip followed Fitz, an educator, through the ups and downs of teaching. A lot has changed in education since Finkle started Mr Fitz in 2000, and he just couldn’t keep himself from making comics that commented on current events.

Now he’s publishing his comics once a week on his website.

“If it’s just online, I don’t have to worry about newspaper deadlines,” Finkle told The Beacon. “If I want to do more, or do less, or take time off, I can.”

Broaching tough subjects with humor was always a hallmark of Mr Fitz. As public schools continue to become highly politicized, Finkle said, he finds value in the occasional joke.

“Part of the conclusion I’m coming to is people are just shouting at each other online,” Finkle said. “Unless it can make people stop and think, maybe it’s not effective. I’m trying to do things that are humorous enough to catch people off guard.”

Another reason he started making comics again was the support he received from readers. When he first retired Mr Fitz, Finkle continued to post old comics on his website. The support never quite stopped.

Finkle has a number of fans on the Patreon website, which allows people to contribute money monthly to creators in exchange for exclusive benefits. His “patrons” donate anywhere from $1 to $20 monthly and get benefits, including personalized postcards with original art.

“Hardly anyone quit [supporting] when I stopped drawing,” Finkle said. “They were willing to support blogging and the reruns from way back.”

COMIC COURTESY DAVID FINKLE
COULDN’T STAY AWAY — Above is one of the latest Mr. Fitz comics from cartoonist, teacher and writer David Finkle. Finkle only managed to stay retired for a handful of months before he started making new comics again. There was just too much happening in the world of education to not be commenting on it, he said.

The added flexibility of online publishing allows Finkle to better juggle his comics, his 30-year teaching career, and work on the novel he’s writing, Reform School.

The novel, a fictionalized period piece, follows a teacher over the course of four school years in the 1990s as they juggle a tidal wave of education reforms like the advent of standardized testing.

“The premise is, if you did all of the reforms of the last 30 years in two years in one school district as a trial run, what would it look like?” Finkle explained. “I don’t think people realize what schools used to be like — what teaching used to be like — and how much that has transformed.”

Rather than a traditional novel, Reform School will be told through lesson plans, journals and emails between teachers just figuring out how to use the new method of communication.

Finkle has “hit his stride” with the novel, he said, and he hopes to have a draft of the book finished by the end of the year.

Public school teachers may get a bad rap sometimes, Finkle said, but his teaching career and works as an author and cartoonist show how much he loves his job.

“Done right, teaching is magical,” Finkle said. “I don’t have — knock on wood — complaints from parents. I have a good time.”

Finkle shares the latest Mr Fitz comics on his website, www.mrfitz.com. Readers can expect new comics on Sundays and occasionally on other days. Finkle’s website, www.mrfitz.com, also includes links to his blog on Patreon.

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