The Touchback

Voting Ends Sunday Night for the 2021 Funky Awards.

At least they’re not sneering at each other today.

And remembering Bull fondly for once is nice.

But…wait.

Uhhh….

But then again,

So, I guess..

And that’s it for me today! Join me tomorrow as we begin AWARDS WEEK at Son of Stuck Funky!

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Funk You! It’s January!

VOTE! Only Two Days Left

Funky in today’s strip has, once again, gone full Crankshaft on us.

This Sunday, many of you pointed out that poor Funky in the final panel was looking like He-Who-Shall-Usually-Not-Be-Named-In-This-Strip.

But when I really thought about it. Funky has been Crankshaft every single time he appeared this week.

Sunday. He complains while watching football.

Wednesday. He fails to find something he’s looking for in the basement.

Thursday. He wears stripey old man pajamas and gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

Friday. He refuses to lose weight with the power of wordplay.

Today. He sneers and ‘corrects’ a beloved family member who was attempting humor or encouragement.

And you know what? I like Crankshaft better. Crankshaft has always been a cantankerous old coot. It was what he was designed for by his creator, and he works hard at it. Funky has fallen and decayed to this state due to neglect and indifference.

Today’s strip stands out to me as especially mean spirited, even for Crankshaft. It is approaching Lockhorns levels of snippy. This is a strip that needs some smirks. But instead Funky looks offended as he slaps down his wife’s futile attempts at wordplay and spoons up another dripping cotton ball to eat.

As Banana Jr. 6000 put it yesterday.

FW makes no distinction between groan-inducing but harmless dad jokes, and hurtful remarks poorly disguised as humor. I’m sure you’ve known people whose idea of a “joke” is really just backhanded, passive-aggressive insults about people. Then when you don’t like it, they accuse you of having no sense of humor. Westview is full of that guy.

As Professor Fate said, “It felt mean spirited and a substitute for confronting the deeper conflicts that nobody wanted to face.”

Duck of Death put it more bluntly. “But this type of humor, Snappy Answers to Perfectly Normal Requests, is just assholery.”

This week of pathetic non-humor felt like it was cobbled together from stuff they dug out of the trash. They just put all this out here to fill some time, to take up space. It reminded me of an old running gag from one of my favorite YouTube channels, RedLetterMedia, making fun of how January and February are used by movie studios as a dumping ground for movies they’ve lost all hope for.

Did you want entertainment? Did you want quality? F**k you, it’s January!

(This video has foul language. Obviously. Viewer Discretion Advised.)

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Shape of the Past

IF YOU HAVEN’T VOTED FOR THE FUNKY AWARDS THEN YOU HATE DEMOCRACY AND JUSTICE.

How appropriate in today’s strip that Funky is reaching for some leftovers. Because we seem to have reached the end of the leftover strips that Batiuk’s been serving up to us all week, without even having the decency to warm them over to make them fit.

True, today is just another stolen joke told better a million times before. But Holly is back on her crutches, and we’ve nary an out-of-season fall leaf in sight. And ruining a promised New Year’s Resolution diet is a time honored January tradition.

Whatever congealed horrors await Funky’s appetite in that teal Tupperware aren’t the only relics pulled from the deep past today. In panel three Holly is giving us some vintage Winkerbean final-panel side-eye.

The final-panel side-eye was a staple in the old glory days of Funky Winkerbean. Back when my parents were wearing brown leisure suits and paisley patterned bell sleeves to the senior prom.

It used to be that every third or fourth Funky Winkerbean strip would end with some character staring glumly out at the audience, letting you know that THEY were playing the suffering straight man to whatever dumb thing the other character had just said or done. But there was usually a weird resignation to the stare. Like the staring character also acknowledged that by engaging with the zany character earlier, they had brought this upon themselves.

Batiuk hardly ever does this any more. And in one of his interminable Match to Flame digressions posted to his blog he lets us know his reasoning.

You can use time to more fully resonate with your readers on a real and believable level while you begin to discard the gimmicks that threaten that bond. For example, from the git-go in Funky, I would break the fourth wall on a day-to-day basis by having a character do a side-glance to the reader (a device I unashamedly “borrowed” from Tom K. Ryan’s masterful strip Tumbleweeds . . . I’m done with it now and have since returned it). I stopped doing that because, while it’s funny, you lose the investment and involvement of the audience. They know the characters are going to be just fine, and they don’t really care about their fate. By breaking the fourth wall, I inject myself into the story to wink at the reader as we share the joke. Now, however, I began telling stories where my presence was less intrusive and less needed. 

From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 10

So for the TL:DR summary: He chose to stop breaking the fourth wall because it breaks the immersion and thus lowers the stakes when the story gets serious.

But what I don’t know if Batiuk realizes is that he never has completely gotten away from the gags and zany antics/beleaguered straightman humor that he’d spent decades hammering away at. The rhythms of that humor were beaten into him as a child and he is compelled to continue.

Whenever my mom was doing something and would ask for a hand, my dad would break into applause. My mom never thought that was funny. I, on the other hand, found it endlessly amusing. At other times around the dinner table, my dad, my sister, and I would conduct a conversation consisting of nothing but non sequiturs, with my mom being the odd person out. We all found this to be great fun—again, my mom not so much.

From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One

The very foundation of his humor is that someone doesn’t find it funny. The ‘joke’ isn’t the joke. The ‘joke’ is the set up. And the punchline is annoyance. Someone has to be exasperated. Someone has to be his mom in the scenario. What this meant for the long term tenor of the strip, is that when he took away the side eye, all he had left for the final beat of his punchline was either allowing the annoyed person to speak. Which can lead to strangely aggressive strips like this.

Or leaving the baffled or annoyed person(s) staring into the scene in awkward silence, with nothing to defuse the tension.

I’ve seen comments in the past about how mean spirited Funky Winkerbean characters seem to each other. How easy it is to hate these people, because they are always snipping and needling one another. And I think this is the main reason why.

In the context of a real family or friendship habituated to this kind of teasing, there is the unspoken agreement that everything is in jest. It’s playfighting, like puppies or LARPers. Everyone is in on the joke.

In the context of a gag-a-day strip it can be mean spirited because it never seeks to be realistic or uplifting or educational. Everyone is exaggerated because it’s supposed to be funny. No one is being hurt. Everyone reading is in on the joke.

In the context of a strip that’s dealt with cancer death, suicide death, addictions, terrorism, PTSD, gun violence, divorce, mental illness, and comic books, he’s made it too real. And yet, not given us enough information on these relationships to believe that these ‘jokes’ are all in jest.

So, you know, if he wants to give us some more side eye. Wants to poke a few holes in the fourth wall to let the air in. Release the tension. I’d say we let him.

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I Wanna Go Home

FUNKY AWARDS VOTING! IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO PICK WHICH LES MOORE FACE IS MOST PUNCHABLE. VOTE TODAY!

Link to today’s nonsensical offering.

Many of you yesterday were baffled by how obtuse and unfunny Funky telling his wife he couldn’t find hamburger was. So much so, that poor Duck of Death could only wave the white flag of defeat.

Batiuk’s done it. He’s created The Unsnarkables™️, a series of comics so nondescript that they can’t be mocked. Like a piece of driftwood, a discarded gum wrapper, or a random rock in a park, they just exist uselessly without making any kind of impression, leaving no openings for snark or humor.

I admit defeat. Tom has won.

This is TRAGIC. A valued commenter has been weighed down by the sheer baffling yet boring inanity of Funky Winkerbean in January, and now sits slumped in the trenches, unwilling to fight. I hunch down by our wearied and war torn comrade, shell shocked by a barrage of nonsense, and I whisper in their ear the warcry of the Son of Stuck Funky blogger: “Nothing is Unsnarkable.”

Pick those Nits RIGHT OFF EM, BOYS!

Our gallant sergeant SpacemanSpiff85 once snarked for 100 words on a silent strip of sidewalk renovations. Staff-sergeant Billy the Skink once wrote six hilarious haiku on three wordless panels of a woman realizing her brain damaged husband had taken the car keys. I’ve snarked over dialogue-less panels of SALAD DRESSING! Look around you Duck of Death! These brave nitpickers once snarked for an entire week on nothing but envelope opening!

Are you tired? Rest. We shall take up your burden. But know. Know deep in your heart. That someone here will fight this beast. Someone here will take on this monster. Someone here will find SOMETHING FUNNY to say ABOUT NOTHING.

11 military propaganda posters that are surprisingly convincing - We Are  The Mighty

And cheer up. While today’s strip makes somehow even less sense than ANYTHING I’ve seen in weeks. At least it has the possibility to get a great Beach Boys song stuck in your head.

And now for your Comic Book Harriet Useless Factoid Report.

  • It is believed that there was a real Sloop John B. It sunk off the coast of the Bahamas in the 17th century.
  • The lyrics to the Bahaman folk song were first published in 1916, by Richard Le Gallienne, in Harper’s Monthly Magazine.
  • Richard Le Gallienne had a friendship, and even a brief love affair, with Oscar Wilde. Though he was also a notorious womanizer who was married three times.
  • Poet, Carl Sandberg, included “The John B Sails” in his 1927 collection of American folksongs, The American Songbag.
  • Carl Sandberg won three Pulitzer Prizes in his lifetime. Which is three more than Tom Batiuk has won.
  • Carl Sandberg claimed he collected the song from American artist, war correspondent, and political cartoonist John T. McCutcheon.
  • McCutcheon owned a private island in the Bahamas, where he often lived.
  • In 1932, McCutcheon won a Pulitzer Prize for cartooning. Which is one more than Tom Batiuk has won.

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The Allegory of The Freezer

2021 FUNKY AWARDS VOTING! VOTE TODAY! VOTING ENDS JANUARY 16TH!

Link to Today’s Philosophical Dialogue.

And now consider this: If this person who had climbed out of the basement were to go back down again and look in the same freezer as before, would he not find in that case, coming suddenly upon the myriad of frozen packages and frost, that his clouded eyes be filled with confusion?

Now if once again, along with his wife, the married person who had looked there had to again engage in the business of digging and searching about the freezer– while his eyes are still weak and before they have readjusted, an adjustment that would require quite a bit of time — would he not then be exposed to ridicule down there? And would she not let him know that he had gone up to say the thing is not there but only in order to come back down into the basement to look with his ruined eyes — and thus it certainly does not pay to go up at all.

And if she get hold of this searched for thing, finding it there all along, and takes it in hand to bring it from their freezer and to carry it up. If she could kill him, will she not actually kill him?

She certainly will.

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Chain of Events

DON’T FORGET TO VOTE FOR THE 2021 FUNKY AWARDS!

When I first saw today’s strip, I thought, ‘Isn’t that kind of racy for kids to be playing?’

But that is, of course, because the song ‘Unchained Melody’ has for more than 30 years been chained to a certain famous, and much parodied, pottery making scene in the movie Ghost. To the point that playing the first few notes of the Righteous Brothers cover of the song instantly cues many brains to expect slow motion montages of wet, spinning clay.

But the song was created 35 years before Patrick Swayze ever slid his hands over Demi Moore’s while Bobby Hatfield crooned. American composer Alex North, (most known for scoring Spartacus and the jazz infused soundtrack to A Streetcar Named Desire,) wrote the melody that has no bonds for the movie he was currently scoring. A completely forgotten 1955 prison pic called Unchained. (Which was based on a real experimental reform prison in Chino, California.)

Unchained (1955) - IMDb
EVERY REVELATION THAT CAUSED A SENSATION IN READER’S DIGEST!

North asked lyricist Hy Zaret, (famous for later writing children’s educational songs such as ‘The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas’) to write the words. The producers had requested that the word ‘unchained’ be used in the lyrics. Zaret refused, so instead the whole song was called ‘Unchained Melody.’

The first singer to record ‘Unchained Melody’ was African American opera singer and actor Todd Duncan, who had a bit part in the movie as an unnamed prisoner singing a shortened version of the song.

Since then “Unchained Melody” has reached number one on the UK four times with four different recordings. It is currently one of the highest grossing royalty earners for it’s copyright holders of any song.

Was that a great musical education? Maybe not. I mean, I stole most of those facts off of the internet and I knew NONE of this before I looked it up today. But I guarantee you it’s a better musical education that Lefty usually provides. And I suspect Batiuk doesn’t care at all about the song, its history, or if it would be appropriate, or even possible, for a high school band to play an arrangement of it. He just heard a song title and thought, ‘Heh, I can make a quick band joke outta this.’

Thanks everyone for the warm reception to the Funky Awards! Tell your family! Tell your friends! Voting will continue through January 16th. VOTE HERE!

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Making History

Spaceman Spiff jinxed me yesterday! But joke’s on him, I’m not even going to talk about today’s dumb Dinkle strip.

Why?

Well, I and others on this blog have long admired the blog Mary Worth and Me. It has been going strong for 15 years, all helmed by the esteemed blogmeister, Wanders. The undoubted highlight of each year on the blog is the Worthy Awards, which just wrapped up voting. Many have expressed a desire to see a similar event for Funky Winkerbean.

This year, Son of Stuck Funky is proud to announce the first ever Funky Awards!

Votes will be accepted through midnight January 16th. Winners will be announced throughout the following week.

Vote Early! Vote Often! Vote HERE!

Before we present our nominees, I would like to take a moment to thank Wanders. I reached out to him for pointers on how to set these up, and he responded with the kind of humor and advice that would have made Mary herself proud.

I know that I speak for all of us here at Son of Stuck Funky when I extend my heartfelt condolences to the Mary Worth community as they mourn today’s tragic cruise ship death of strip regular Wilbur Weston.

And now onto the nominees!

The Thatsnot Hewmore Award for Standout Unnamed Character

1.) Referential Heckler

2.) Suffering Saint Nursing Assistant

3.) Average Comics Fan

4.) Mature Comic Con Attendee

5.) Zombie Orderly

6.) Oblivious Parade Spectator

***

The Livinia Memorial Award for Achievements in Feminism

1.) Women Be Shopping

2.) Women Be Changing Their Minds

3.) Women Be Jealous

4.) Women Be Catty

5.) Women Be Another Species Entirely

6.) Women Be Tiny and Disappearing in the Background

***

The Backpfeifengesicht Award for Most Punchable Les Moore

1.) Remembering Old Friends (For the First Time in Years)

2.) A Single “Manly” Tear

3.) No True Sports-Fan Fallacy

4.) Self-Centered Stage

5.) Deadly Pundemic

6.) The Smile on My Face

7.) Interacting With Fans

***

Most Puzzling Continuity Questions of 2021

1.) Who Directs the Community Band?

2.) What is Rachel’s Major?

3.) Who Did the Dinkles Have for Thanksgiving?

4.) Are the Reindeer Broken or is Tony Dead?

5.) Was Phil Holt Really a Ghost?

6.) Where Are the Kids? Who Are the Kids?

7.) What Even Is Continuity?

***

Story Arc of the Year

1.) Dinkle Joins the Choir

2.) ‘Lisa’s Story: The Movie’ Wraps and Flops

3.) Phil Holt: Resurrections

4.) The Winkerbeans Rehab, Reno, and Recover

5.) Tom Worships Idols of Silver

***

The Panel of the Year

1.) The Final Note

2.) Rare Flying Discman

3.) Take THAT History!

4.) Smoking Vader

5.) Les Waterboards Himself

6.) Eros Panoptes

7.) Stag Film

8.) Pizza Box Signal

***

The Best Funky Winkerbean Strip 0f 2021

1.) Expensive Equipment

2.) Accessorizing

3.) The Joys of Reading Over 50

4.) Interdisciplinary Thinking

5.) Funkyverse in a Cookieshell

6.) I’ve Seen Things You People Wouldn’t Believe

***

The Worst Funky Winkerbean Strip of 2021

1.) War of the Word Zeppelins

2.) Post Pandemic Doom Posting

3.) ‘Disappointed a Lot of Fans’

4.) Feeling Blue

5.) Randy Old Man

6.) Gross Randy Old Man

7.) Just Gross

Once again, vote HERE! Voting ends January 16th.

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This Strip Should Be Under Review

Well, at least there’s no more Dinkle in today’s strip. We do have seven panels of a guy watching TV, which isn’t the most engaging thing for a comic to depict. And we have a gag that could’ve been told in just one or two panels, or even in Crankshaft, for that matter. And it’s a complaint that probably gets made repeatedly on every sports radio station in the country on Mondays. But hey, no Dinkle, so things are looking up.
Speaking of looking up, we all have ComicBookHarriet’s return tomorrow to look forward to! For her sake, I hope this “no Dinkle” trend continues.

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Don’t Worry, One of You Will Surely Die Soon

Dinkle’s garage door is like bricks, falling leaves, and Becky’s pinned-up sleeve-they all have to be featured as prominently and as often as possible. “This guy has a treble clef painted on his door, isn’t that wacky?”.
I find it really, really hard to believe anyone from Westview could ever receive that many awards.
This strip is just another example of how Batiuk can’t seem to decide if Dinkle is supposed to be an egotistical maniac or actually great. And I wonder if Dinkle’s name legally includes “World’s Greatest Band Director”, or if that’s the award he won (which you think someone would have mentioned it at some point). I guess all those other band directors were wrong when they referred to themselves that way. If Dinkle calling himself WGBD is supposed to be humorous, you shouldn’t have him literally receiving awards referring to himself that way.

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It Was a Thrill, Just Like the Last Two Times

Three things about today’s strip:
1. Batiuk still depicts signs as being on the inside of the door, which is silly.  I’m guessing he’d think people would miss the vitally important detail that this conversation is taking place in the band room, and he can’t think of a way to arrange the layout so you can see the outside of the door.  (Also, there’s no hilariously crappy tape holding the sign up.  Maybe we’ve made a difference!)
2. Based on my ten seconds of Googling, “finale list” isn’t a thing. I’m assuming it’s a play off of “bucket list”, (“he’s a musician, he wouldn’t talk about buckets, he’d talk about finales!”), but just swapping one word for another doesn’t instantly make comedy, despite what the existence of Crankshaft would have you think.
3. But hey, Dinkle is talking about his finale, which can only mean he’s about to die soon. Here’s hoping for a Sunday sideways “Death of Superman” “homage”, which will be extra awkward when it’s Becky cradling Dinkle’s corpse in her arm.

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