After a run of more than two decades, a comic strip produced by a DeLand artist will come to an end early next year.
Mr. Fitz, which chronicles the world of a high-school teacher, has been written and drawn since 2000 by David Finkle, who extensively uses his own career as a teacher as inspiration for the comic.
The strip debuted March 28, 2000 — running the past three years in The West Volusia Beacon after The Daytona Beach News-Journal decided to drop it.
But Finkle has decided the strip will end next March 27 — the last day of the comic’s 22nd year.
“When I began writing Mr. Fitz, I hoped for national syndication, fame, and fortune. None of that happened,” he said in Twitter and Facebook posts announcing his decision. “I later hoped that I might somehow sway education policy with my satire. None of that came to pass.”
But he finally decided it was time to end the comic.
“Twenty-two years is a big chunk of life: I was 33 and had been married for nine years when I started the strip, and my children were 4 and 5. I am now pushing 55, I’ve been married for 30 years, and my children are now in their mid-twenties,” his post says. “My teaching career will be 30 next year.”
When he came up with the concept of Mr. Fitz, he shopped around a six-week sample — unsuccessfully — to syndicators, as well as The News-Journal. After initially turning Finkle down, an editor at the Daytona Beach paper later asked him if he wanted Mr. Fitz to be a replacement for another strip that was ending. Mr. Fitz graced its comics page for more than 18 years.
After being told The News-Journal was going to drop Mr. Fitz, Finkle and his wife, Andrea, were in Downtown DeLand on business. Andrea suggested David stop by The Beacon to see if it was interested in picking up the strip.
“[Publisher] Barb Shepherd said ‘yes’ within 15 minutes!” Finkle said.
The Beacon started running a three-day set on its comics page the week following the strip’s last week in The News-Journal.
Now it’s all ending. Finkle said the four- to six-week story arc leading to the finale has been written, and there will be nearly eight months of weekly sets of strips to produce in the meantime.
“I have a lot I still want to say through Mr. Fitz in the next few months!” he said in his Facebook post.
And he plans to continue posting “flashback” strips on his website, mrfitz.com, to keep blogging, and keep being a voice in support of public education done right. He also has other writing and drawing projects he wants to work on once the weekly deadlines are gone.
Through it all, one sentiment sustains him.
“One thing I am proud of is that the little community of people who read Mr. Fitz has nearly always been a positive one,” his Facebook post says. “I am happy if I have brought a bit of happiness into your lives.”