The View From Sunset Boulevarde

Link to today’s strip.

Thursday’s episode was not available for preview, but when has that ever stopped me?  My assumption is that we’ve got more hand-wringing from Bull about changing jobs, but that’s not a given–to give him credit, Tom Batiuk can still be surprising, though rarely in a “Yay!” sort of way.

Commentator Bad Wolf found an interesting article yesterday about Funky Winkerbean in Variety.   It’s already been discussed in Wednesday’s comments…

(Fun fact:  I wrote most of this earlier in the day, and now pretty much all my points have been made in those aforementioned comments, but just like Tom Batiuk, I’m going to go ahead anyway, because I have nothing else!)

…but if you haven’t read it, take a glance; it’s an interesting read, though a very puzzling one.  It’s puzzling because it reads as if the author has never actually read any examples of the actual strip, and is just summarizing press releases and Tom Batiuk panel appearances.    In the first paragraph, Mr. Steinberg talks about Holly’s quest for comics and Les’ adventures in Hollywood…without mentioning how those stories played out.  We’re told that Holly “searches fervently” for comic books, when in actual fact she was pretty much handed the damned things at every opportunity.  Everyone else did the leg-work and just pointed her in a direction to find what she wanted.   And we’re told that Les “grapples” with Hollywood producers over “Lisa’s Story.”  I think the author mistyped “gripes,” since all Les ever did was whine and mope and be seen ostentatiously suffering.  Whenever changes to the story were presented, Les just gasped and got the vapors, without ever arguing for his own vision.  Les wanted to play the martyr, and all his energy went to that end.

At the end of the article, I was left feeling the way I do at the end of a Funky Winkerbean story–unsatisfied, with the nagging feeling that the author was capable, and playing with ideas that had potential, but then decided “the heck with this, I’m bored now” and just phoned it in.  “Hey, Steinberg,” said the Editor in Chief, “comics are hot at the movies these days, and I read somewhere about this thing, Funky Winkerbean.  Do a story and have it on my desk at 5:00.”  It’s not that kind of comics, Steinberg thought, concealing his haughty superiority behind a hidden smirk.  Then he began typing…

I will grant Mr. Steinberg his main point, which is that Funky Winkerbean is different from other comic strips.  However, I will not grant the unspoken idea that “different” always equals “good,” or “better.”   A pizza topped with chewing gum, cork, and rubber bands is different from every pizza you’ve ever seen.  Do you want to eat it?

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24 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

24 responses to “The View From Sunset Boulevarde

  1. Epicus Doomus

    BC: I was jabbering about it in the comments all day. At the heart of the scam is the fact that almost no one actually reads FW other than a few lonely band directors and a handful of dedicated masochists. “Fervently searching for comic books”…that’s what Batiuk told him it was about and the author said “oh my…fascinating fare for a comic strip!” without ever reading it. Otherwise the author of the piece would have realized that the only fervent desire involved with that story was the reader’s desire for it to end.

    Batom cruises under the radar, surfacing every one in a while to wave his arms around politely while reminding everyone about his upcoming prestige arc about bullies/cancer/alcoholism/suicide/gay proms or whatever his stupid issue of the moment might be. He knows no one’s ever going to read them, so simply telling everyone he’s doing it is good enough. Then he cranks out his usual sub-moronic tripe and no one’s the wiser because who cares? Then someone somewhere says “holy shit this things been running for 30/35/40 years, human interest piece!” and the cycle begins anew. It’s a hell of a good scam.

  2. Nathan Obral

    The good news is, even with this ghastly Variety puff piece (written by a person who likely has never even read the actual strip), a “Funky Winkerbean” movie will never be made.

    After all, the only directors who could competently handle the source material would have been people like Coleman Francis, Hal Warren and Ed Wood.

  3. @Nathan – I’d suggest that a better director might be Ron Ormond. His “Mesa of Lost Women” is worse than anything Francis or Wood did, and the score is like listening to Les Moore make puns for hours on end.

    Jerry Warren would be another good candidate, since his movies clearly show and utter and total contempt for the audience.

    Sadly, both men are long gone, thus the dreams of a Funky Winkerbean movie are now in the hands of…shall we suggest…Tommy Wiseau.

    Pleasant…dreams? Ha ha ha ha ha!

  4. Epicus Doomus

    Today’s strip is more of the same, just milking the premise with more hatchet-faced obnoxious wordplay. This is the stuff the puff-piece interviews usually never touch upon, the foul sickly lifeblood of FW. Huge scam.

  5. Nathan Obral

    Well, it looks like I’m off of Brian Steinberg’s holiday card list.

    And would you believe that I am the first person who he has directly responded to about the article on Twitter?

  6. SpacemanSpiff85

    @BC: You touched on what bothers me most about this strip: I really do think Batiuk is, or at least was, capable of a lot better. Most of his storylines, if you describe the basics of them to someone, have comedic or dramatic potential. Les having to deal with a movie where Lisa lives could easily have led to him imagining how life would have turned out differently, or dealing with his fixation with her death. But most of Batiuk’s plots don’t really end badly so much as just sort of fizzle and crap out, the “kill fee” being the best example I can think of.
    I read the Comics Kingdom archives a while back, and the strip really did used to be good. It had way, way too much dumb band humor, but I actually did find myself caring about the characters and wanting to know what happened next, right up until Lisa failed to save a guy from Death Row and then got cancer again, and everything went downhill from there.

  7. Speaking of things fizzling out because Batiuk got bored with them, we have a misspelled hint that something is going to sink Bull’s hopes of escape from Funkytown. Whatever that thing is, it’ll be really implausible and we’re going to be asked to accept it because thinking of something realistic is too much like work.

    Also, watch the whiny idiot get huffy when called on a factual error. We could well end up with a month-long rant about the need for spelling reform so that he isn’t outed as an ignorant idiot.

  8. A pizza topped with chewing gum, cork, and rubber bands is different from every pizza you’ve ever seen.

    Oh! A Montoni’s #9!


    From today’s strip:

    Linda: Very nautical… Call the man back and tell him it’s anchors away! [sic]

    How about that Thomm Battick? What a lamb lobber! I’ll bet he’s never even seen an angkor, much Les wayed won. I just hope he doesn’t depict Bull and Linda doing anything nautical, if you know what I mean. Because that’d really make me [sic].

  9. In Westview, the only ships that come in are the Titanic and the Lusitania.

  10. sgtsaunders

    That’s anchors aweigh, numb nuts. I swear, sometimes Battic just makes me sick in my pants.

  11. I’d like to come to Brian Steinberg’s defense. He has been a reader and critic of FW and Crankshaft for years over at examiner.com, and in fact we’ve corresponded a couple of times. His Variety article, while not the scathing expose we’d all love to see, was not a puff piece in my opinion; at least it wasn’t the cookie-cutter Batiuk profile we’ve been seeing for years (he frankly addresses the “depressing” nature). Contrast that with the “ComicStripCritic“: he posted some critical (and pretty funny) vlogs against FW, which he took down after Batiuk granted him an interview.

  12. billytheskink

    OK, are we sure this isn’t a case of mistaken identity and that DUI doesn’t actually think they’re hiring former Kansas coach and Orange Bowl winner Mark Mangino?

  13. Professor Fate

    well reading the article does give a bit of an insight into why the strip is the way it is the quote from the strip’s editor saying the strip is ‘untouchable’… which I read as admitting that the author pays no attention to anything the syndicate’s editor might say about the train wreck this strip has become –

  14. Epicus Doomus

    Me, I’d just like to see a TB article where he DOESN’T mention the famous pregnancy arc of 1984. We know.

  15. @TFH – I don’t doubt Mr. Steinberg’s integrity or abilities, but I maintain that the article reads like someone who has never actually seen the strip, but used press releases and TB interviews for research. The fact that that is not the case makes the article even more puzzling. I’m not looking for something scathing, but I’d like something more accurate. His title, after all, proclaims that FW is the “savior” of the comics page and I don’t buy that for an instant.

  16. The Dreamer

    Returning to FW matters who were the two women Bull was talking to on the computer? I take it one was his adopted daughter Jinx who is off at college, but who was the other?

  17. $$$WESTVIEW ONCOLOGIST$$$

    —OK, are we sure this isn’t a case of mistaken identity and that DUI doesn’t actually think they’re hiring former Kansas coach and Orange Bowl winner Mark Mangino?—-

    I’d be inclined to think this is some confidence scam, but what does Bull have of any value that a scammer would want?

  18. Epicus Doomus

    The Dreamer: That would be Mickey, who is apparently Linda’s daughter from a previous blah blah. In Act II – early Act III the cast of characters expanded greatly as everyone suddenly had kids, step-kids and various other relatives, all with their own ponderous back stories.

    Also, I have no “personal beef” with the author of that article or even with The TomMan himself…just the strip. I like to make that clear now and then. I’m with BC, that piece was a tad too “glowing” IMO, but my opinion is all that it is. It drives me Batty (see what I did there?) when he references that stupid pregnancy arc, though. It wasn’t nearly as historic as TB thinks it was.

  19. Dreadnought

    to me, there wasn’t anything wrong with the Variety article itself. Regular readers know that what was written just doesn’t match up with reality. The article makes FW sound like it really goes against type, which it sort of does. The problem is in execution–it’s artless and unimaginative. TB has grand literary intentions (delusions?) with only gag-a-day abilities.

  20. Don

    Wait, don’t tell me, let me guess; he arrives for his first day of work at DUI, just as the NCAA releases a scathing report that results in the school having its football program shut down. “Er, Bull, your contract says that you are the football coach – but we don’t have football any more, so you’re fired.”

  21. I’m the writer of the Variety article and I find all your comments very interesting. By the way folks, I DO read the strip regularly. I make no judgments about the quality of the comic, but my take was that it is very different from what the rest of the 60-year old comics try do do and has held on to what few newspapers are publishing it and so warrants an examination.

    Here’s what puzzles me: If the comic is so egregiously bad, why oh why do you folks gather EVERY DAY to write more paragaphs about it? Usually things that aren’t worth people’s interest are ignored. Yet you folks analyze it ad infinitum day in and day out. When I don’t like a comic, I STOP READING IT. Maybe you folks should do the same and save yourselves umpteen dollars in blood pressure medication.

    Brian Steinberg

  22. Semiauto Batiuk

    Because it’s hilariously awful. Like purposely watching “Santa Claus vs. The Martians” every Christmas Eve just to get in the spirit of the season.

  23. Charles

    I DO read the strip regularly. I make no judgments about the quality of the comic,

    Well, that much was obvious.

    If the comic is so egregiously bad, why oh why do you folks gather EVERY DAY to write more paragaphs about it?

    Because it’s fun. Any other stupid questions now that you’ve got my attention?

    Usually things that aren’t worth people’s interest are ignored.

    To actually address your point, it’s because Batiuk considers himself above the rest of the stuff in the comics pages. He’s convinced he’s creating relevant cultural commentary, but it’s hilariously awful. That’s how it’s different from Family Circus or Hi and Lois or whatever comic you’re comparing it to when you claim it’s “different”. It’s remarkable because Batiuk is uniquely craven and his half-assedness in every single strip is only surpassed by his enormous self-regard. He’s a wonderful target for snark.

  24. Epicus Doomus

    What Charles said. I enjoy mocking FW, it’s fun. If you genuinely like the strip, that’s great. To borrow an oft-used phrase, if you don’t like our take on FW, don’t read it. We’re not some sick band of weirdos looking to ruin anyone’s life, we’re not taking potshots at TB personally, it’s all about the strip, which is always fair game. That’s how it works here at SoSF. No vicious personal attacks, no comment section “battles” between various posters, it’s all about the comic strip.