Dear Tom Batiuk:

Over the course of 2½ years of presiding over this forum, sharing nearly a thousand daily posts and over 19,000 reader comments about your work, I’ve managed to hang on to a tiny shred of admiration for you. When the “Fuck you, TB” comments flew, I could confidently poke my head out of the foxhole and say, “Hey! Give the man credit. He’s made a forty-year career of doing something he loves.” Or, “He’s seems like he’s actually a nice guy in person.” Or, “Well, he has some interesting musical tastes.” Or, “He’s raised a fair amount of money and awareness to fight cancer.” Or, “O.K., today’s strip is truly funny.” All right, that last one, not so much.

And then, today, Tom, you pull this. You spend three weeks on an arc where Crazy Harry gets fired (or retires, according to one strip), with one week’s notice, and no severance, pension or unemployment benefit, and has to sell off his books and comics before accepting a part-time temp job (which he’d willingly do for no pay) at the Komix Korner. Come Sunday, he-e-e-e-e-re’s Harry, in full postie drag, to deliver the annual “Buon Natale dalla soleggiata Florida!” postcard from Tony (along with a bonus potshot at e-mail).

Admit it, Tom: your heart’s just not in it any longer. This is more egregious than having Les show up in Westview a week after getting on a plane to Tanzania. You fancy yourself a writer; you regularly lecture and chastise the readers; you dismiss as “beady-eyed” anyone who finds fault with your creative output. Even in a fictional milieu where continuity long ago became an afterthought, today’s strip signals to the readers that you flat-out don’t give a shit anymore.


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29 responses to “Dear Tom Batiuk:

  1. S. P. Charles

    Okay, it gives me heartburn to defend Batiuk, but… a comics strip’s daily and Sunday storylines don’t always match up chronologically: it’s a bit sloppy, but reasonable that this scene could take place just before the Crazy-loses-his-job marathon.

  2. bobanero

    @Charles – That point could hold if we hadn’t already seen many Sunday strips that DID match up with the weekly story line. I find it hard to believe that the AUTHOR of a comic strip would have no control over the order of the strips.

  3. BeckoningChasm

    TFH – your post has more emotional and intellectual honesty than every Time Jump III strip ever.

    Tom Batiuk should really just give it up. If he had the slightest shred of an honest bone popped somewhere in his longboxes, he should say, “Dear readers, thanks for hanging on, and stay funky! (ie, become mean fat alcoholic bastards). I’m sad that you refuse to worship Les as you should, as you ought to–damn, look how superior that man is!–but I can’t fight everyone all the time. I’m therefor going to retire the strip and eat all the bacon I can grab until…until you all come to your senses and admit the wondrousness of Les Moore. I mean, COUGH, um no I meant Les Moore.”

    Funky Winkerbean has now assumed the mantle of the worst comic strip of all time.

  4. Epicus Doomus

    Aewsome rant, TFH. Just a few days ago out of nowhere he mentions a character that hasn’t appeared in the strip in a dog’s year (presumably a nod to continuity), then two days later he completely ignores the events of the last three weeks and has Harry delivering mail again. perhaps this one just ran out of order or something but still, c’mon. Just more proof that no one, especially his employers, are paying any attention to this thing at all. I’m more convinced than ever that TB completes a year’s worth of these strips over the course of one long weekend in January, then spends the rest of the year gazing out the window at leaves, following women’s basketball and trying to figure out how to get his email to work. My biggest regret in life is that I didn’t parlay my quick wit and high school doodling into a long-running comic strip because apparently it’s the easiest gig on the face of the earth.

    As far as the “joke” itself, it would have been funnier if he was also sporting one of those mini-helmets on his crotch. Then again, a blank panel would have been just as funny too.

  5. S. P. Charles

    bobanero, some Sunday strips are integrated into the daily storyline (most recently, I think, Les and Cayla’s improbable Monday wedding), but most are not. Today’s strip could just as easily have run last month or last year.

    That being said, I agree with the premise that Batiuk doesn’t give a shit, and I’m pretty sure the last shit he gave was many years ago. He certainly COULD HAVE scheduled this to run before the interminable and pointless Crazy storyline, the same way he could schedule his strip so that the high school’s summer vacation begins before July and Summer and Keisha doesn’t go up to college a month after they’re supposed to.

  6. davidorth

    Funky Winkerbean began as a gag-a-day comic strip about high school life, but the strip evolved as cartoonist Tom Batiuk himself matured.

    There’s nothing wrong with gag-a-day strips. There’s nothing wrong with serialized strips like FW, though I prefer them a LOT less maudlin.

    You can’t, however, as a writer, expect us to remember every little detail of the comic and follow it religiously and then pull this shit.

    You can’t write out characters like Kevin with a single “And after Kevin yadda-yadda, accident with the circus elephant, we’ve needed another employee.” strip.

    Summer’s first days at college? Missed. Cory going through boot camp and emerging a wiser, more mature, upstanding young man can’t be done off-comic. If you expect readers to care about this shit, then SHOW, don’t tell. Comics are a visual medium. Stop filling up character space with Macy’s Day parade sized word balloons and make comics.

  7. sourbelly

    Oh, what a relief. Here I was, so worried about whatever happened to Tony. Here I thought he’d just retired to Florida, when it turns out, he’s…retired to Florida. Except with a golf ball landing near him! And Crazy illegally delivering Tony’s mail to Funky!

  8. Rembrandt36

    “It’s called writing.” No, it’s called dimensia. Please retire. I mean – do release books of when Funky was y’know, funky – but please retire.

  9. Merry Pookster

    And from the Westview Sports Desk:
    KSU Women Basketball 2012-13 W/L is 1-8

    As for today’s brain fart: Many have mentioned that TB cut out 3 week episodes of Lisa sightings during the wedding & honeymoon arch… this is what through the Crazy Harry arch out of sync.

    Meanwhile Cindy is still being embedded.

  10. Professor Fate

    I had thought that Tony was already well established a) being retired and b) spending most of his time in Florida? If so this is a strip pointing out something that was already established while ignoring the previous three weeks. Well done sir I must say.

  11. Well, since two weeks ago today he showed the Westview Post Office as being closed, I have to point the blame at TB. And the strips were done with plenty of lead time. No excuse.

  12. John

    Funky: “Land O’Goshen! I need my readin’ glasses to understand this epistle. Could you be a good sweetie pie and help me find them, darlin’?”

    Harry: “Um, okay. I think you’re wearing them, Funky.”

    Funky: “Well shuck the pigs and slop the corn! So I am. Oh, Nana is such a noodle-brain!”

    Harry: “Um, so…is he doing okay?”

    Funky: “Oh my, oh gracious, oh certainly yes, precious pie. Now, would you like some moo juice? Give Nana a sugar and I’ll pour you some.”

    Harry: “….just coffee, thanks!”

  13. John

    *peers at the new logo*

    Oh, man. I never, ever wanted to see Crazy Harry’s o-face.

  14. I realize that, for several reasons, Sunday editions of comics don’t always sync up with their daily counterparts, but really, was it too much effort to make sure Crazy Harry’s layoff occurred after the holidays? (Actually that would make a lot more sense, since the postal service tends to be kind of busy this time of year, but I’m not the “writer” here.)

  15. S. P. Charles: Okay, it gives me heartburn to defend Batiuk, but… a comics strip’s daily and Sunday storylines don’t always match up chronologically…

    davidorth: You can’t, however, as a writer, expect us to remember every little detail of the comic and follow it religiously and then pull this shit.

    I totally understand that this could be some kind of production error. However, my point is more along the lines of davidorth’s. I think a cartoonist with 40 years in the game has sufficient pull with the syndicate to insure that the chronology makes sense. That is, if said cartoonist even gives a shit. Which said cartoonist obviously does not.

    I will admit that I’m fascinated with Crazy’s ability to reach into his mailbag and, without even looking at it, be able to describe the piece of mail he’s touching. “Hmm, looks like you’ve got another…postcard…from Tony!” He’s like fuckin’ Karnac.

  16. DOlz

    @TheDiva, “but I’m not the “writer” here.” and neither is he.

  17. Beanie Wanker

    Coming next week! More crazy hijinx on the way up Mount Kilimanjaro!

  18. Merry Pookster

    From the 1/4″ desk:

    So Toni was able to “sell” Montoni’s to Funky for enough $$ to retire to Florida and live on a golf course?
    That and FW being ale to afford that large ahia house…hire so many employees, go hi-tech, have green pitchers…..she-it. I’m going to redirect my mutual funds and invest the wad into pizza futures..and a % into comic books.

    Fiscal Cliff be damned

  19. Charles

    I initially would find the unsynched nature of the Sundays a partially valid defense of this, but that ignores two important pieces of evidence.

    First, he’s spent three weeks on Crazy losing his job. That’s roughly 6% of the strips for 2012. You’d think that would mean this would be part of the larger plan for the strip. Evidence suggests that the three week slog of Crazy losing his job isn’t a one-off deal. Therefore, he would’ve known this was coming weeks if not months before he drew them.

    Secondly, two weeks ago he had a Sunday acknowledging that Crazy had lost his job. That was the one where Donna wanted to get crazy with Crazy by giving him pity sex for his lost job. So he’d have to have drawn this Sunday before that Sunday, which strains credibility.

    And it’s a Christmas strip, which makes this worse than Les appraising Funky’s car when he was supposed to be in Tanzania. At least there he might be able to claim that he ran the weeks out of order for some nebulous and important reason that he won’t explain. He simply can’t do that here. There is no excuse.

    And what a stupid strip to demonstrate this incompetence. You can’t even form an argument to justify this postcard from Tony being essential. Plus, it’s a go-nowhere update from a departed character one day after Batiuk deep-sixed another character sight unseen. Is there any departed character you’d like to hear less about than Tony Montoni? Lisa doesn’t count, since she never departed in the first place.

  20. Helskor

    Looks like Batiuk came up with the gag in the last panel, realized it wouldn’t work in Crankshaft, and shoehorned it into FW, continuity be damned. Maybe he’s weary of the soap opera concept and wants to return to his gag-a-day roots.

  21. sgt. saunders

    That Tony is in Florida is one of the zany running gags Tombat promulgates. Tony in Florida is a band turkey, a losing football team, rainy band competitions, and from way back when, Les’ hall monitoring gig, a talking rock. Look it up.

    That said, though, I suspect that today’s episode might be perfectly in sync in that Crusty may still be delivering the same post card to Funky every day, then settling in for his coffee while watching the Budweiser clock spin around for about two hours, or more. Yes, with uniform in tatters and a ragged post card, Crazy gets busy earning his nickname.

  22. Comics Kingdom won’t load at all for me. Probably better for my mental health that I read secondhand rage, anyway.

  23. davido

    Did cranky Tommy just take his ball and go home today?

  24. Beanie Wanker

    No creature with a penis should wear reading glasses on a little string or chain. Sorry. Too precious. If you are an 80 year old woman playing canasta, sure.

  25. Cherokee Jack

    Harry must be delivering sacks of mail he never delivered when he had a job. You know, the ones he didn’t have time to deliver after sitting too long drinking coffee, or buying comics. After all, it’s Sunday.

    Then again, maybe Westview has Sunday mail delivery.

  26. billytheskink

    Imagine if a late act II Sunday strip in which Les visits Lisa at the hospital ran the week after Lisa died. That’s what this is.

    The situation is slightly less ridiculous, but the level of continuity error is pretty much the same.

  27. Señor Tortilla

    I’VE GOT IT! Between Act II and Act III, Crazy Harry did lose his job as a mailman. Since then, he’s been pretending to be a mailman: stick some envelopes in a ratty Goodwill handbag, mooch off of generosity of friends. Those post cards? It’s just some Photoshopped picture. Crazy’s wife knows Harry has been a homeless person for years working off handouts–he’s asked her to keep silent from it, and in her depression and fear, stuffed her face until she became a blob.

  28. S. P. Charles

    Merry Pookster, Tony just tells people he owns a nice home near a golf course. The truth is, his money’s gone and he works as the groundskeeper; and he really needs a few bucks, he caddies.

    No, wait, that could be kind of interesting. That would be called writing. Never mind.

  29. Jimmy

    That’s the whole thing, isn’t it? This could be an enjoyable strip today if he hadn’t killed off Harry’s job. Also, nice catch TFH on being able to read mail without seeing it. I thought it was a federal offense to read other people’s mail, though I would give him a pass when it’s from a mutual friend.