Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Nighti

Link to today’s strip

Epicus had a great comment yesterday, and judging by the upvotes most of you agreed. There was one thought in particular that gave me pause. He said, “A child could write it. Unfortunately though, no children were available so BatYam took a stab at it…”

When I was younger, I used to do theater. My first role, when I was 12, was the mother in James and the Giant Peach. I was eaten by a giant invisible rhinoceros at the very beginning of the show. I flung myself all over the stage screaming and dying, and I got a pretty big head by thinking I was good at it. That was, until I heard my director say, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”

As near as Grandpa Google can tell me, the actual origins of that famous turn of phrase come from a story movie director George Seaton told about going to see his friend, the actor Edmund Gwenn on his deathbed in 1959.

“All this must be terribly difficult for you, Teddy,” [Seaton] said sympathetically.

Gwenn didn’t buy that sympathy. A smile touched his lips.

“Not nearly as difficult as playing comedy,” he answered cheerfully.

They were his words of exit. His head turned on the pillow. He was dead.

As a kid that pithy little aphorism was a revelation. Melodrama is easy. It’s easy to act, and it’s easy to write. Death hangs like the sword of Damocles above us all, and in time every sword will fall. Who do you love? Your mom? Your spouse? Your goldfish? Find the fear you hold inside knowing they are mortal, and you’ve found the massive emotional button any artist worth their paycheck can push at will. Entire genres of weepy books and Hallmark Channel movies are built on the cheap, baking-soda-and-vinegar, combination of love and death.

Twelve years ago, Batiuk pushed that button. And, go back and read those strips, he was effective.
cheap and effective, like your mom
This strip is cloying. It’s maudlin. And yet, it is 110% more real than anything we’ve seen in years. A mother won’t see her daughter grow up. A father struggles to explain. A child tries to comfort a loved one they can hardly realize they’re about to lose. Death is taking a knife and cutting to ribbons the story of a happy family just as viciously as Rose stabbing a precious comic book.

We’ve gotten none of this in Bull’s death. None. We didn’t see Linda calling her children. We didn’t see the pain of Jinx thinking about how Dad wouldn’t be there to walk her down the aisle. Or Mickey realizing her own kids would never know a Grandpa Bushka. We didn’t linger on Linda’s pain as she sits through a funeral full of terrible secrets, as she comes home to an empty house, as she has to do laundry that will only remind her of her dead husband’s illness.

It should have been easy. A child could have done it. But Batiuk decided to give us a death without really showing the love that death was cutting off.

Instead Batiuk decided to end this arc (for now?) with a week of strips where Linda gets down on her knees in front of his author avatar so she can fellatiate Les Moore’s metaphorical ego-dick.

In the past, I’ve tried to cut Tom some slack. But not today. Please insult this man.

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Lisavania: Legacy of Darkness

Link to today’s strip

And here we come to the Axis Mundi of the Funkyverse. The centerpoint around which all things turn. Lisa’s Legacy.

And what is Lisa’s Legacy? In universe, her legacy seems to be appropriating the suffering of others to line the pockets of her foundation. From Funky passing out during her annual ‘fun’ run, to Phil Holt’s lifetime of work being auctioned off to honor a woman who never read comics. All the people who stand in Les’ book lines to tell him that they were compelled to buy the book because the tragic story inside mirrors their own past trauma, all feeding her legacy with their dollars and pain.

And now we learn of Bull’s yearly guilt offering. Money poured into Lisa’s Legacy by a man who would later despair when the NFL refused him monetary help. This strip is completely nonsensical for so many reasons.

1.) As many of you have pointed out, Bull helped with the organization of several Lisa’s Legacy events. In that light a yearly donation is hardly surprising. So why does Les look so bemused?

2.) Why is Linda only seeing this when going through old check stubs? Did her and Bull have separate accounts? Even so, if the donation was substantial in the least, shouldn’t Linda have been aware of it? They’ve got kids who had college to pay for.

3.) Why wouldn’t Les be aware of Bull’s yearly donation? Who cashes the checks and handles the finances for the foundation he started? Even if others are helping to run it, do we really believe Les wouldn’t keep tabs on the donors?

Batiuk twists his characters in knots and throws logic out the window just to name drop the foundation that serves as an evergreen reminder of the ‘most important’ thing he ever wrote.

He’ll do anything to plug Lisa’s Legacy.

Even kill.

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We have Always been Allies with Eastasia.

Link to today’s strip

I hope no one expected much out of me this shift, because I literally cannot see the screen through my seething rage. There’s nothing more I can possibly say that others haven’t said better. In case anyone out there doesn’t read the amazing comments provided everyday by our Funkysnark crew, here are couple that show we know Batiuk better than any New York Times reporter. I promise tomorrow, when I’ve had time to process my anger, I’ll attempt to mold it into something of my own creation, rather than plagiarize the hilarity of others.

beckoningchasm
Oh
My
GOD

Batiuk is going to make Bull’s death All About Les, isn’t he? Good GOD, is there no depth to which this man will not sink to promote The Worst Character In The Entire World?

Banana Jr. 6000
Let’s cut to the chase here… this is going to be about Les getting over being bullied, isn’t it? Even though they had a friendship for many years in adulthood, that extended to Bull helping Les’ daughter rehab her knee, and Bull managing Les’ precious Lisa’s Legacy run. But no, as we saw at the funeral, Les just isn’t over it yet.

It’s creepy how much the town of Westview indulges Les’ bizarre psychological needs. Like with the new Lisa’s Story movie, he didn’t even start it – Mason Jar did! And then a random person came up to say yes, Lisa’s Story is a universal tale that must be seen by all. Now Linda invites him over to show him this picture when he should be the one consoling her.

Les’ life is like the part in Being John Malkovich where John Malkovich takes the passageway into his own head, and all the dialog in the world is just “Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich.” Which should be horrifying, but Les’ ego is so huge it seems perfectly normal to him.

Epicus Doomus
Sometimes I seriously believe that BatYap is writing this shit just for us and amusing himself by our consistently outraged, bored and disgusted reactions. “Heh heh, watch them freak out when I have Bull and Les sharing a water bottle on the football practice field, they’ll lose their minds!”.

See above. Now it’s not only not about CTE or suicide anymore, it’s not even about Bull OR Linda, but LES! Apparently this old and totally implausible photograph that Linda lovingly shared with Les triggers Les’ memories about what a disgusting slobbering animal Bull was, all sweaty and gross and germ-laden. That’s some truly touching and timely stuff right there. I’m wagering that he didn’t share this part of his big prestige arc with the NYT people.

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The first cut is the derpest.

Link to today’s strip

Yesterday our amazing Batiukstorian, Billy the Skink, was able to dig back in his prodigious archives and find us some context.
The horror...the horror...

So Batiuk is, once again, referencing actual past strips and not wildly making up new scenarios set during Act I as many of us had assumed. Which is the niggling pebble in the metaphorical shoe that is Batiuk’s relationship to his ‘canon’.

On the one hand, he’s always ready to wildly re-contextualize the past, or out and out retcon it. Major arcs and characters get Memory Holed and never show up again, even when it would be appropriate. Such as, say, the wedding of a parent.

On the other hand, we have this. Batiuk calling back to an obscure strip that was printed before my parents had graduated high school.

If Les was only on the team for a week, who took this picture? Why was it taken? Who developed it? And who thought to give it to Bull? And why, of all the piles and piles of memorabilia packed in that basement Bull-pen, did Linda think this one picture was significant?

I’m guessing most of us have shoved in a box somewhere an odd collection of random pictures from highschool. Including several standing next to that one kid in choir. That awkward smelling kid, whose name we now couldn’t recall if someone had a taser to our armpits.

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Running on Empty, Running Blind.

Today’s strip, when it drops.

Comic Book Harriet, back in the saddle again. I want to thank BeckoningChasm for a great stint through this horrorshow. He really puts me in a tough spot. Because what is there to say about this nightmare abortion of a plot arc that hasn’t been said already by our crack team of beady-eyed nitpickers?

I’d never expected to see the loss of a father, spouse, and friend, approached with every character acting so sedate that depression is indistinguishable from boredom.

I remember those times when our esteemed historian Billy the Skink has put up strips from Act II full of intense soap opera pathos. Les running down the street shouting “USA! USA!” Wally trembling and crying while standing on a landmine begging whatsisface to tell his wifey something something he loves her.

Bull’s been dead for over a month, and we’ve yet to see a single tear.

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Watch Out, The World’s Behind You

Link to today’s strip (eventually).

As usual, Sunday’s strip was not available for preview.   It’s impossible to know what we’ll “get,” except that pneumonia would be better.  But me, I’ll go on and on for paragraph after paragraph!

I’m thinking we’re going to get more Les-Linda commiseration.

It’s an interesting compare-and-contrast with the characters Batiuk likes and those he’s, at best, indifferent to.

Les, Dinkle, Dullard and Pete have fortune rain from the skies on them. They’re handed good luck, wealth, perfect jobs (in the case of P&D), and (in the case of Dinkle) awards with no effort at all.  Heck, Dinkle’s deafness and Mort’s dementia have been completely reversed (though the latter was only to bedevil Funky).

Linda, on the other hand, just can’t catch a break. Of course, Batiuk is using her to Prove A Point, so she’s doomed.

If only she’d thought to start writing comic books.

I’m also thinking that the commentators here are correct, that Linda is going to ask Les to write a book about Bull.  “After all,” she’ll lie, “you were his friend.  You knew him best.”  Of course, the resultant book  won’t be about Bull, it’ll be all about Les.    He could call it “Bully Pulped–How a man discovered he was a monster, and got what he deserved.”

It also might be, as others have guessed, that Les will encourage Linda to write her own book.   That seems to be Batiuk’s gateway to redemption; if a horrible character like Lillian can write a book, why now she’s a lovable old coot like Crankshaft.

The only thing certain is that it will be done completely ineptly.  As the whole arc has been.  If this story had focused on Bull’s perspective, on his anxieties over his condition and his fears about what he might do, and his worries about Linda’s future, well, then the story could have been an interesting one.  But Batiuk being Batiuk, Bull is barely in his own story and it’s all about how Linda Feels Bad.  Say, that’s a great title for her book!

Well, that’s it for my turn in the chamber of torpor.  Tune in tomorrow, as Comic Book Harriet takes the reins and educates us, as the Batiuk Zone rotates trivially around us.

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Same Brain, Different Damage

Link to today’s strip.

The expressions in today’s strip are really something.  Panel one’s Les looks like he’s ready to burst into a whine.  “I’ve been listening to you talk forehhhhhhhver.  It’s miiiiiiiiiiii turn!”

Panel two’s Linda counters with “Gad.  Why am I talking to this excrement stain.  I could be watching TV, or eating toast.”

I’ve no opinion on the NFL-as-monster issue, though it’s pretty clear Batiuk is saying they have blood on their hands because they won’t fund Linda’s post-marriage lifestyle.  “It’s not fair.”  Well, Linda, I’d say that if Bull never played in a game, his brain damage can’t be ascribed to the NFL.  Some players have a career in the NFL that lasts years, and I’m sure their brain damage would be far worse that someone who (apparently) got his CTE while in high school or college.   The NFL can reasonably say “We don’t know who this guy is.”

Fair?  Maybe not, but life isn’t fair.  Never has been, never will be.  The NFL is not, repeat not in the business of providing health care for its players.  It exists to make money through entertainment.  That’s an argument that ought to be applied to comic strips, but somehow never is.

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