Prom Mom

C’mon, who ever heard of a senior citizen (not a faculty member) volunteering to hang around the high school for no pay?

Batiuk often finds inspiration on return visits at least once a month to his old high school (Grafton Midview), where he attends classes and observes students. “I just sit and let things go by,” the 65-year-old said. “It’s a great experience. It keeps me grounded and keeps me real.”

Funky strip to address hot-button issue“, The Columbus Dispatch, Friday April 27, 2012

Oh, right, right…well anyway, looks like Roberta Blackburn, Becky’s Mom, has gotten over the sting of the failed school levy, and has decided to once again grace the Westview School system with her presence. “My best prom ever”? Well, it’s guaranteed to be better than Becky’s senior prom…the one after which she lost her arm…


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  1. Epicus Doomus

    TFH: awesome post to kick off the Big Prestige Arc. As a longtime Westviewian, she’s probably as adept at taping up signs as anyone in town, so they called her in to lend her expertise. While every other business in town tanks, the Village Tapesmith laughs all the way to the bank.

    Really that old bag is a perfect choice to be the intolerant, gay-bashing, no-fun-allowed bully. During the “levy” arc last year he re-established her as a curmudgeonly old crackpot (for those of us who forgot her after she last appeared in 1997 or whatever), plus she’s obscure and unloved even by FW standards and she’s already somewhat affiliated with the school, too. So he’s free to portray her as unflatteringly as he needs to without worrying about alienating a popular character from its fan base (chortle). A nice, safe, risk-free choice.

  2. Flummoxicated

    A helicopter grandparent?? A grandparent volunteering put up prom advertisements in the school? Because that is SO what happens in real life. Wow, this is real 1/4″ from reality, folks.

    I picked a bad FW storyline to give up drinking.

  3. Now why did you have to go and say a thing like that, Roberta? You might as well announce you’re three days away from retiring from the police force, then go put on a red uniform and volunteer for an Enterprise away team.

  4. TFHackett

    I wonder how many people who are excitedly Tweeting and retweeting over the Coming Gay Prom actually read FW and know it like we know it? “Beloved newspaper comic strip to feature gay couple attending prom” (via @HuffPo) is an example of the typical Tweet on this topic. Beloved newspaper comic? Hoo boy.

  5. Epicus Doomus

    TFH: My guess re: how many actual readers? Zero. REAL FW readers would never, ever “tweet”, much less re-tweet. And if they did they’d call it “twittering”.

    “Beloved”…lol. More like “inexplicably long-running” or “extremely obscure”.

  6. David O

    Aha! Even without peeking ahead I guessed it would be Becky’s mom. The perfect non-character paper cardboard cutout to act as a foil against the likely two stock characters that are going to act as stand-ins for gay students.

    Enjoy those two lovebirds while you can because after the prom we’re *never* going to hear from them again.

  7. TFHackett

    I like this story mentioning the 22-year-old mayor of Holoyoke, MA.

    If the story sounds familiar, it might be because a lot of real-life high schools have been dealing with the issue. The mayor of Holyoke, for one, knows the situation quite well.
    Six years ago, when he was an out gay student at Holyoke High School, Alex B. Morse helped organize the Holyoke Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Task Force, which in turn created the Western Massachusetts Youth Pride Prom. The event annually draws hundreds of gay youth who would otherwise find little or no acceptance at their own high school proms.
    Although Morse is not an avid “Funky Winkerbean” reader, he applauded Batiuk’s initiative. (Emphasis mine)

    Yeah, what 22-year-old would be an “avid” FW reader?

  8. Beanie Wanker

    Let’s see – Fat ass? Check! Ugly pants suit? Check! Brutal, witchy face? Check! Wimpy husband obediently following with videocam? Check! What more could you want in a predictable, prepackaged villain?

    I can guarantee it will be like a little piece of Westboro Baptist “Church” broke off and landed in Ahia. That’s because it won’t be enough to show someone whose old fashioned morals make them a tad conflicted about a gay prom couple. No, Fruitbat is going for seething hate and blind rage.

    Fruitbat was never very good at the whole subtlety thing. Gotta beat everybody over the head with Becky’s severed arm.

    Sit back and enjoy several weeks of quarter mile from reality.

  9. sourbelly

    Good news: The Cody/Summer/blondie shitplot is falling down the bottomless Memory Hole, never (I hope) to be seen again.

    Bad news: Armagayddon begins! Featuring an easily forgotten, easily hateable, unattractive character as the villain! Can’t wait her one-armed daughter’s “It’s OK to be different” speech!

    Let the smirky, smarmy preachiness begin! I can already hear the clatter of various cheap plastic awards being dumped at TB’s doorstep. Huzzah!

  10. Jeffcoat Wayne

    “Best prom ever”? By jove, THAT’S the spirit, Mrs. Blackburn! Damn right this year’s prom can and will be the best ever, especially since it’s the Official Prom of Summer Moore. I like your positive attitude, lady. That’s exactly what’s needed in this strip filled with Gloomy Guses who can’t ever see the forest for the… Oh, wait — you don’t know yet about the two gay dudes who are coming, do you? Whoops! This is gonna be one hell of a four weeks. I hope I get an award, just for having to endure its entirety.

  11. Beanie Wanker

    Hmmm, yeah, since as it turns out, there’s NO apparent tie-in from the bully-Summer-anonotext arc, that’s an entire storyline that went absolutely nowhere and was utterly pointless. But Fruitbat does this all the time. It’s called “writing filler.”

  12. flappy

    #@$^&%$##% eckeee its started noooo!

  13. billytheskink

    From TB’s notes:

    Need villian for award winning gay prom story.

    Idea #1 – Mira Sobinski
    Status: Dropped, received cease and desist letter from Lynn Johnston.

    Idea #2 – Use main cast character. Grow said character out of intolerance with deft writing.
    Status: Dropped, requires effort.

    Idea #3 – Create one-off strawman character.
    Status: Dropped, already spent time creating pair of one-off promgoers.

    Idea #4 – Dig Roberta Blackburn out of Batiukgatory.
    Status: Eureka!

  14. bad wolf

    Aah, the straw(wo)man’s here. Or perhaps the term should be ‘scapegoat’?

    Scapegoat definition: Lev. 16:8-26; R.V., “the goat for Azazel” (q.v.), the name given to the goat which was taken away into the wilderness on the day of Atonement (16:20-22). The priest made atonement over the scapegoat, laying Israel’s guilt upon it, and then sent it away, the goat bearing “upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited.”

  15. David O

    I was thinking the same thing, Billy, use an existing character that can take some soul-searching as a time to grow. Rita isn’t going to change after prom, she’s just going to burrow back into the ground and pop out again in 7 years like a locust the next time Backache wants to write about incest or chimp-human hybrid tolerance.

    For the record, I grew up in Ohio, wear a red tie on Friday and am looking forward to next week and all of the groans that come with it.

  16. Beanie Wanker

    From sourbelly:
    “Let the smirky, smarmy preachiness begin! I can already hear the clatter of various cheap plastic awards being dumped at TB’s doorstep. Huzzah!”

    Quote of the week nominee. No need to read the next four weeks of BatDreck. The above sums it up quite neatly.

  17. Sgt. Saunders

    Maybe Linus will show up at the prom and lay down that rap to the assembled Scapegoats, after which the Rear Reverend Blackburn can just go off, railing against the Soddomites who are spoiling her best prom yet. I wonder who the band is at this Westeeew Prom…I’d like to see Yellowman, but it will probably be Devo for the umteenth time. Although I would love to see Summer, drunk as a lord on Old English 800, on her back at midcourt (of course, it’s in the gym) just screaming “WORKININNACOALMINE!!!” Over and over, laughing hysterically at whatever.

  18. Epicus Doomus

    “Not an avid FW reader”…Mr. Morse and 99.99999% of the world. I’d love to meet an avid FW fan someday, though. Or any kind of FW fan for that matter, just to confirm that at least one exists. It’d be kind of cool if there was some sort of “Funk-storian” out there who could be counted on to provide dates, back stories and such. He/she’d be a valuable resource when TB, for example, dumps some sketchy, obscure, long-forgotten Act II character on his readers out of nowhere. He/she would no doubt despise us, though, but still.

  19. O.B. Dan

    Is it just me, or does anybody see a resemblance between Alex Moore and Tom Batiuk…?[img]

  20. O.B. Dan

    Hmmm…guess that “add images to your comment by clicking here” doesn’t work…

  21. S.P. Charles

    2005 called, they want their cutting-edge controversy back

  22. professor fate

    And behold the strawman cometh – and with her assertion this will be her best prom ever que the Jaws music – or in this case “it’s raining men”.

    I notice that Batuik has managed to make this person bossy and completely unlikeable in 3 panels. Well go with your strengths I guess.

  23. Merry Pookster

    Next thing you know she will be protesting the selling of modern comic books. Taking that crusade all the way to a judge trial and embarrassingly loose then changing her attitude for ever.

  24. Helskor

    If there were enough (any?) sincere FW fans out there, Batiuk wouldn’t have to rely on publicity stunts like this month’s arc or Lisa’s death and the media attention they generate to remind people the strip still exists.

  25. billytheskink

    Next thing you know she will be protesting the selling of modern comic books. Taking that crusade all the way to a judge trial and embarrassingly loose then changing her attitude for ever.

    You’re referencing the spring 2005 storyline where Roberta got DSH arrested for selling Japanese comics that may or may not have been pornographic, right?
    That was one of best FW storylines of all time, in my opinion, simply for the entertainment value of DSH getting arrested and hauled away in a squad car right at Komix Korner.

  26. TFHackett

    From USA Today, “‘Funky Winkerbean’ comic takes a same-sex couple to prom”:

    “There’s still a certain audience out there that prizes the definition of comics — they’re only supposed to be funny, which is wrong, of course,” Batiuk explains. “They’re called the comics through an accident of history, but there are people who prefer to define it that way. I can tell right away: Their e-mail starts out with, ‘My dictionary defines comics as…’ or they go, ‘It’s the comics…’
    “That audience is always going to be there, but for me it’s a little bit easier to do because I’ve done this before enough where it’s not unexpected.”

  27. Jeffcoat Wayne

    Ah, so Batiuk realizes there’s nothing funny about his comic strip. Although, the art itself is usually good for a laugh.

    So how many of Batiuk’s faithful readers recognize Roberta Blackburn on sight, and how many are scratching their heads wondering where this storyline is going. It kind of scares me that we all know who she is, though we’re neither loyal nor faithful readers except in the context of being prepared to snark on it every morning. Personally, I think Batiuk’s lucky if that’s the extent of his “fan” base.

  28. I feel a little bit sorry for Mrs. Blackburn, I mean she is never given the chance to have any character development, not that really any character in this strip is, but she is only used as the strawman. Would it kill him to give her a small arc were she shown in somewhat of a positive light? It would make what ever he is trying to do be more effective.

  29. Jimmy

    That TomBat quote sums it up nicely. Oh, so comics are traditionally maudlin and only by a historical “accident” are people expecting them to be a fun diversion? Someone alert Pastis that he’s doing it all wrong.

    By the way, are proms still held in schools? I was under the impression that they’re always at an off-site location.

  30. davidorth

    Bautick is still dredging out the “People think comics are supposed to be funny” bit? Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t Pogo and Peanuts pretty darned deep and philosophical at times and *also* funny? We’ve had Barefoot Gen, Manga, the Watchmen, graphic novels, ect for decades now.

    Not to mention the fact Mary Worth, Rex Morgan and Garfeild have been around a long time as well and they’re not supposed to be funny.

    The fact Funky Winkerbean (Such a stupid name in retrospect when trying to make a serious Pulitzer grab) isn’t funny isn’t the problem; it’s that it’s not very good.

  31. Epicus Doomus

    He comes across as a real tool whenever he starts pontificating on his “craft”, doesn’t he? He sure has some ego on him for a guy who “writes” an obscure comic strip most people have never even heard of. “Accident of history”, what a ludicrous, self-aggrandizing thing to say. Now he’s trying to retcon reality LOL! As noted above, he doesn’t “tackle” these “issues” because he really gives a shit, he does it because it’s easy publicity.

  32. TFHackett

    According to this Tweet, in the news report video that I embedded in Saturday’s post, at 3:10 the reporter emits an audible fart.

  33. John

    “Why are you telling me this?”

    “It’s plot exposition, dear. It has to go -somewhere-!”

    — from THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER, which I’m betting is in no danger of being out-entertained by this arc.

    As far as the Tom quotes go, GAH! Pompous, preachy, and utterly clueless. Get ready for orientation rights to be set back 15 years, folks!

  34. $$$Westview Oncologist$$$$$

    Anyone notice that in panel 1, the red shirted chick has a goatee, that mysteriously vanishes in panels 2 and 3????

  35. Flummoxicated

    Uh oh, I hope the Chillicothe Gazette doesn’t file a cease and desist against this fine blog!

    And geez, TomBat quote from The USA Today is so typical. “My critics are critical because they don’t get it!” MEMO TO TOM BATIUK: You are a crappy writer. We are critical because your writing sucks. We could maybe forgive the depressing tone your “comic” strip takes if your writing wasn’t so awful.

  36. Epicus Doomus

    I guarantee you that as this plays out it’ll turn out that Becky’s two-armed mother won’t even be homophobic, ultra-religious or anything of the sort. Nope, she’ll be opposed to a gay couple attending the prom because “in my day, boys went to the prom with girls and that’s the way it should always be”. Homosexuality and/or gay rights will be barely touched upon, if at all. I’ll be surprised if the word “gay” is even used once. For all of its supposed “groundbreaking gutsiness” FW always but always takes the safest, lamest, least “controversial” path possible and always has.

  37. sourbelly

    “Not to mention the fact Mary Worth, Rex Morgan, and Garfield have been around a long time as well and they’re not supposed to be funny.”

    I see what you did there, davidorth. Just quoting this because I figure it deserves more than a mere “Like”.