1996: Westview Post Office Bombing Arc

I recently acquired a copy of Could Be a Book Deal Here, a Funky Winkerbean collection from the mid-’90’s. I wanted to summarize the events around the Post Office bombing. This page is a work in progress…as I scan the strips, I will upload them and add commentary… The arc begins on a Sunday, and I’ve taken some Photoshop liberties and colorized the strip myself. Sunday, July 28, 1996:

Tony’s listening to “that guy” on the radio. Les, apparently, is not a fan. It’s not clear how the first amendment rights of “that guy” pose any threat to those of Les. “That guy” is holding forth about “filth” on the internet, before turning his vitriol on “the Sunday comics”. “Teen pregnancy, guns in schools, teen suicide…when did this garbage suddenly become fodder for the funnies?”

Beware anytime someone starts invoking “common sense” in a political argument…

Les is “on a roll” all right, as is “that guy” on the radio.

Is that bomb cartoonish enough for you? I’m surprised Batiuk didn’t draw the stereotypical round, black “cartoon bomb” with a sizzling fuse.

I like Tony’s thumb gesture and the knowing looks exchanged with Funky in panel 2: “Eh, a-de wimmen, am I-a right-a?”

Window-shattering blasts are more of a “What the fuck?” than a “What on earth?”, Les.

“!!” John’s ponytail was only slightly less creepy that his current dead skunk head ‘do.


BeckoningChasm January 19, 2013 at 1:09 pm In that post office image, I would’ve sworn the figure running down the street was yelling “USA!” I couldn’t imagine such a context.

…spot the injured fiancé. Hint: her engagement ring is still sparkling.

Pre- network Cindy Summers, still sporting the unicorn ‘do from high school. (I missed a strip here, which I will scan and add as time permits: Les tells Funky that “Lisa has to undergo surgery, but she has a rare blood type and they’re not sure if they have enough on hand!” Funky gets on the phone to Cindy and asks a favor…)

Get used to being in this situation, Les buddy!

“…[T]he world was cool and good and our fate rested in our own hands…” Hoo boy! At the prom, Les confides to Lisa his dream of being a Writer. Lisa, ever the nurturer, immediately tries to disabuse Les of the notion. Based on what (writing is hard? he has no talent?), we’ll never know.

Funky helpfully provides exposition to take us from the prom to Lisa’s teen pregnancy.

Does anyone remember Les punching out Bull? Well, young Wally and Monroe were there, dude! And it was cool!

The courtship scenes that Les is flashing back to here are all contained earlier in Could Be a Book Deal Here.

Not for nothing do we refer to her as Saint Lisa…even back then…

A little foreshadowing of the eyebrow-wagging Les Moore of Act III here. The 5 o’clock shadow looks more like persistent acne.

Nurses! Hospitals! Hoo-boy, amirite?

Oh, Les, the weeping is just beginning. Back at Montoni’s, Tony and Crazy Harry discuss the bombing. Harry’s comment is intriguing, huh? What does he know about what they know? Compare Crazy’s skinny wrist with that of whoever’s planting that dynamite above…yeah, he did it, all right.

The arc circles back to where it began…that guy on the radio. Tony decides he’s heard enough. As he walks to the back of the store, the radio seems to be fuming behind his back. Lisa’s recovery and rehab would continue for a few more weeks, followed by her and Les’ storybook, I mean, comic book wedding.

45 responses to “1996: Westview Post Office Bombing Arc

  1. Epicus Doomus

    Batty was the one on a roll with this one. Kind of a combination dig at “shock-jocks”, “domestic terrorists” AND FW critics all at once…with Les as “the voice of reason” and guest starring Lisa as The Imperiled One. Man, the way he aged Tony is just as cruel as what he did to Funky, right?

    TB only wishes anyone was paying enough attention to FW back then to actually mention it on a popular radio program. It was as obscure then as it is now.

  2. Beanie Wanker

    Oh, yeah. Anyone who listens to Rush Limbaugh has no choice BUT to bomb a post office. Logical, BatTax.

    USA! USA! USA!

  3. I got this from the library a lot time ago and reading it now boy is Les annoying.

  4. Señor Tortilla

    Hey, it’s Not Yet DSH John! I didn’t notice, as the character saying “There’s been a bomb at the post office” didn’t give off serious creep factors. He looks like a harmless “adult nerd” guy. Probably has a funky smell, but ultimately won’t harm anyone.

    Compare DSH John who fits the FBI profile of a child molester perfectly.

  5. Helskor

    Ah, the good old days. Back when Batiuk could still tell stories, ludicrous as they were. Back when FW was entertaining, although not even remotely in the sense Batiuk intended.

  6. Flummoxicated

    Lisa got blown up before she got cancer TWICE? She’s the ultimate author’s punching bag.

  7. John

    Les slays me when he reacts to the windows shattering.

    “Land sakes! Shuck the pigs and slop the corn! Whut in tarnation happened out yonder?”

    Also, I can’t help but wonder at the content of those stories. Did Les ever dare to sully himself with evil, filthy genre fiction? Or is it all book-report-style accounts of his life? Hmmm.

  8. Helskor

    If I recall correctly, at some point in Act II Les had just sold a short story to The New Yorker (yeah, right) and immediately afterwards Lisa told him she had breast cancer.

  9. John

    Les pioneered the “Ohio Angst” sub-genre.

  10. Rusty

    This would later be known as The Age of Elongated Heads.

  11. Wait, what? How does listening to Rush Limbaugh complain about the Sunday funnies drive you to bomb a post office? How are those things connected??

  12. John

    Well, you see, Inkwell, while John selling X-rated comic books in which big-breasted cartoon skunks love being treated cruelly will have NO EFFECT AT ALL on his reader’s feelings and attitudes, anyone who listens to talk radio is automatically and innately an evil murderer.

    Because they just ARE, that’s why!

  13. Epicus Doomus

    Holy crap, just utterly hilarious. Lisa was always Batom Inc.’s favorite toy, it was always one thing after the other with her.

    Totally awesome how he stuffed a Dinkle joke in there, too. Regardless of how completely awful and stupid Act II was, you nonetheless had the feeling that he actually liked the characters. Makes it even weirder how he seem to relish making them all so miserable now.

  14. Helskor

    “They’re the ONE’S [?]” – second panel in second strip down from the top. No one at the syndicate was bothering to read Batiuk’s stuff in 1996 either.

  15. Epicus Doomus

    Nothing…and I mean nothing…about FW is funnier than Les shrieking in bold type. “LISA!!!!!”, “I CAN GET HER THERE FASTER MYSELF!!!!!”…man that shit is comedy GOLD!

  16. Wait wait wait. That frizzy-haired nerdlet trying to convince Les to give up his dreams is Saint Lisa? Ay-yi-yi.

    Also, is the implication supposed to be that The Guy On The Radio was the bomber? Because that’s totally how I read that.

  17. John

    Silly Inkwell! The true message here is if everyone stops liking things Tom B doesn’t, then there’ll never be violence again!

    Didn’t you know terrorism is caused by the things that annoy you? Yeesh. I guess there WERE some children left behind!

    …my deepest apologies. : )

  18. John

    Seriously though, the real message here is then, as now, that Les and Lisa were The One True Couple, the Love Of Which All Other Loves is the Mere Shadow.

    That’s the real reason why Fishstick Annie and Delivery Helper Fred were retconned into bitter, loveless old phonies. Tom just couldn’t stand ANY possible challenge to the utter pure PERFECTION of Les and Lisa.


  19. Jeffcoat Wayne

    An arc like this makes you wonder if anyone’s ever bombed a post office or other public building as a result of reading Funky Winkerbean.

  20. S.P.. Charles

    No, Jeffcoat, though several people have attempted to bomb the local newspaper.

  21. Thanks for this. I had forgotten how badly TB abused Lisa from day one. Like a mouse in a glue trap, the poor kid was doomed from the start.

  22. John

    You’ll note that before the cancer, pretty much the ONLY things we ever knew about Lisa were that-

    1) She got “in trouble” back in school

    2) She totally loved Les, because only someone as pure and noble as him could have treated her with simple decency.

    Now we know so much MORE, though! Why she’s so fully dimensional, so nuanced now. We know that she had an illegitimate kid, she Died of Cancer, she Totally Loved Les, and…*….uhm….and….





    ….she had much rather spend her dying days recording countless videos in order to remind her loved ones of her death on every potential future occasion in their damn lives? I guess?

  23. bad wolf

    By the way, here’s a nice example of unexpected ret-con fallout. Les hitting Bull after Bull was a bully? Great comeuppance! Les hitting Bull after he was “looking out for him” all those years? What an ungrateful tool!

  24. Señor Tortilla

    YES! The Argument at Montoni’s is fanonized!

    Anyway, surely I wasn’t the only one to think that the “you punched Bull out at the high school reunion” was cribbed from Back to the Future, right?

  25. billytheskink

    Bull once insulted Lisa? I’m suprised TB let him survive to Act III.

    Love Lisa’s broccoli hat in that Act I flashbacks…

  26. A HREF

    So Lisa got knocked up, blowed up and then got the cancer, twice. And then she died and made a cell phone call to Les after she died?

    I think I’ve just solved the Manti Te’o mystery. It was Tom Batuik all the time!

  27. BeckoningChasm

    I was going to note that the “wake up to go to sleep” bit was done better in a W.C. Fields film (It’s A Gift), but I think I’ll save time and just go with the following, which applies to Funky Winkerbean at all times.

    “The bit about _____________ in Funky Winkerbean was done in a far superior fashion in _________________ by _________________.”

  28. BeckoningChasm

    Also, gotta love how one of Les’ treasured memories is of he and Lisa using a Walkman. Aside of the sheer inanity of such a thing (let’s take pictures and put them in our album!) I guess it shows that not all technology is evil.

    TFH sez: Oh yeah, the Walkman, glad you brought that up. In addition to the P.O. bombing arc, CBABDH details the whole Les and Lisa courtship and marriage. See, Lisa was working in Seattle for some reason (I’ve already forgotten the particulars). She and Les carry on a correspondence by sending messages back and forth via audio cassette (this was before the Skype, kids). Later, she gets a job offer, teaching English to embassy staff kids in France “tutoring the children of American families in France.” Les decides this is true love: he decides to propose to Lisa to get her to stay. He records said proposal on an audio cassette (natch), which falls into the hands of smitten student Susan Smith. Susan destroys the tape in order to have Les all to herself. Lisa, thinking that Les is not marriage-minded, departs for a pre-employment jaunt around Europe with an unnamed, unidentified female friend. Les takes off and follows Lisa All. Over. Europe. A series of wacky close calls ensue before he finally catches up with her and she accepts a proper marriage proposal.

  29. Jimmy

    So, when exactly was this strip funny and/or entertaining? I recall FW having merits, but I’m not seeing any empirical data to support my claim.

  30. Jimmy: at the risk of drawing the wrath of the syndicate, I’ll try to put up some Act I strips (circa 1982) from “You Know You’ve Got Trouble When Your Mascot is a Scapegoat”. Believe it or not, there are some truly funny strips in there. You’ll see.

  31. BeckoningChasm

    I remember one very funny FW from the early age–“That’s your cookie.” I can still recall that one decades later. I can’t recall the majority of the strips from recent months without effort–an effort that isn’t worth the effort, really.

  32. Beanie Wanker

    Sucks to be Lisa.

    By the way, when the football team comes to donate blood, why are some of them still wearing helmets??

    Kudos to BatTurd for reminding us that anyone to the right of Nancy Pelosi is a wild eyed whacko mad bomber, incited by loud mouth nut job talk show hosts.

    USA! USA! USA!!

  33. $$$Westview Oncologist$$$$$

    Strangely enough these strips aren’t that bad. I mean it’s nothing spectacular, but it at least tells an interesting story. Plus the character’s seem a bit more likeable and relateable back then.

  34. Helskor

    Westview Oncologist is right. Act II FW wasn’t that bad. It certainly wasn’t good-good, but it was sort of bad-good (or good-bad). You can tell Batiuk was excited about telling a narrative, no matter how overwrought and ridiculous, and he managed to keep a story arc going instead of letting them peter out like he has since 2007.

  35. BeckoningChasm

    @TFH – Thank you for clearing up the Walkman bit, but it still doesn’t sound photo-worthy to me.
    Les: Hey Bull, take a picture of me listening to a Lisa tape!
    Bull: Jeez, another tape? I should start calling her “Tapeworm!”
    Les: *PUNCH*

  36. The subtext is this story is that listening to Rush Limbaugh causes people to blow up public buildings. If’s not the bomber’s fault; it’s the media’s. Or it’s society’s. Or the government’s.

  37. BeckoningChasm

    Reading the full-size strips, one is struck by how everyone, everyone, has the tiniest, beadiest eyes in the entire comics page. It’s like they’re all eyeless mole people with a little ant perched above the nose.

  38. BeckoningChasm

    @TFH teaching English to embassy staff kids in France.

    Wait, I thought Lisa was a lawyer? She’s an English teacher too? Is she also an award-winning Formula One racer, the inventor of the DVD, and a secret crime-fighter?

    Also, if that’s the American embassy, why do the kids need to learn English? Wouldn’t they already know English?

    I know, I know, the answers will both surprise and delight us!

  39. Helskor

    What’s with Batiuk’s apparent hostility towards post offices? Not the USPS per se, just the physical buildings. First he blows up Westview’s, then he closes it down, and today Crankshaft destroys his friend’s model of the Centerville PO with a model train. Bet they love him down at the Medina PO.

  40. Charles

    Old Gross John looks a lot like Butthurt Dweller. It’s uncanny.

    He also looks more than a bit like the pompous, self-righteous asshole who worked at the comics/D&D/SF&F bookshop my brother frequented back in the late 80s. He’s just a little fatter.

    In either case, old and new, I wouldn’t let my kids hang out with him.

  41. Charles

    By the way, when the football team comes to donate blood, why are some of them still wearing helmets??

    Because DUH, okay??

    Also, I found the radio announcer to be bizarrely apolitical and unfocused. Truly, the only similarities between him and Limbaugh is that they’re both on the radio and that their fan suggest that they’re comedians as a way to deflect criticism. It’s weird and off-putting. And because the “screed”, if it can even be called that, is so unfocused, the connection between it and someone bombing a government building is absurd. Someone got so riled up about teenage pregnancy in a comic strip that he just started randomly murdering people.

    I think it’s because Batiuk is both a coward and a solipsist. He’s too afraid to actually make the radio host a loathsome personality who underhanded, at best, advocates violence against political opponents, so he replaces that slice of unvarnished reality with his personal strawman opponent who complains about him.

    Right, Tom. You’re really fighting the good fight here.

  42. One thing I notice that I failed to when I first read the story: HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE HURT KILLED IN THIS EXPLOSION? The 0nly character TB seems to give a rat’s buttocks about is St. Lisa. It reminds me of Cell Phone Girl. TB was slapdash even then.

  43. John

    Unfocused? Charles, I’m shocked you missed the many headlines Funky Winkerbean made back in the 90s, with its famous and well-publicized feuds with the political commentators of the day. Why, Tom B was the only cartoonist to be on the National Review -and- Mother Jones’ sortie roster list, so fearless and fiery were his bolts fired at the extremists left and right!

    Hmmph. I guess there were some children left behind!

  44. Señor Tortilla

    Hold up–at this point, John’s store is above Montoni’s. When the explosion happened, neither Funky, Les, nor Tony had any idea of what it was, indicating that it was too far away. But John, rushing down from the second floor immediately, did. How did he know what and where it was, so quickly after the fact?

    Sounds like the bomber had an accomplice…

  45. Señor Tortilla

    Interesting how this arc has Les exhibiting the last signs of the “lovable loser” Les of Act I (note: by the end of Act II, this was gone) but the “smirky know-it-all” Les is already to begin its onslaught, even in 1996.