Night of the Meek

Link to today’s cover.

So, as predicted, it’s a comic book cover using someone else’s artwork, and the Batiuk characters are pasted awkwardly in the corners to ruin the effort.  The characters have nothing interesting or funny to say, but they have to be there because we can’t have nice things.  At least you folks get to read it right-side up!

People here have long speculated–if Funky Winkerbean is such an onerous chore to create, and Starbuck Jones is obviously where his true passion lies, then why doesn’t Tom Batiuk drop Funky and take up Starbuck.  After all, he’s gone to great lengths to detail a lot of Starbuck’s world, and it clearly holds a great deal of importance–heck, unless you follow Batiuk’s blog, there are all kinds of things in the strip that simply come out of nowhere.  By contrast, over in Funkytown, he can’t even be bothered to remember names or hair color and the characters are stagnant and miserable.

My guess (and it is only that) is that Tom Batiuk has enough self-awareness to know that if he were to tackle Starbuck Jones, he’d ruin it.  So far, the only appearances of Starbuck Jones have been comic book covers.  Never an actual adventure.  Well, a cover can promise a great deal, and it never has to deliver.  It isn’t expected to deliver.  It’s just supposed to make you buy the magazine.  It’s supposed to set up a story, not tell it.

But, if you’re going to make a space adventure comic, you cannot just promise adventure and then have people smirking over old comic books.  It’s going to require actual storytelling.  Moon Mile Meek has to leave the space house and find a giant monster somehow.  (Although I’d be willing to bet that Kloog showed up on the doorstep, thus obviating the need for Meek to do anything.  I’m also getting the distinct vibe that Meek touched one of Kloog’s comic books, and that’s what set everything off.  Sigh.)

To do actual storytelling, you have to have excitement, drama, action, violence, fresh fruit.  Passion.  Thrills.  Spills.  Romance.  Adventure–all the things you would expect to find in a space adventure book.  And when presented with the chance to do any of these things in Funky Winkerbean, Tom Batiuk turns away and does essentially nothing.  A chance for some police action with Dick Tracy?  No way, let’s have Tracy haul boxes of comic books.  How about romance, with Wally and Rachel?  Not really–that whole thing was presented as “Well, everything is only going to get worse, might as well get married now.”  Danger and intrigue in the Middle East with Cory Winkerbean?  Sorry, the cat’s eaten it.  Adventure?  Ah, usually fresh on Monday, today the van broke down.  And so on.

Even if he only did the writing, there isn’t a way that I can see that Tom Batiuk could produce a Starbuck Jones story that would satisfy anyone, including himself, and its lack of substance would probably depress him even further.  It would emphasize the various things lost to this strip over the years.  Storytelling, for one.  I don’t see any storytelling going on in this strip.  Ergo, Starbuck Jones will continue to be mentioned and continue to appear on covers, but that will be the extent of it.

Ultimately, my point is this–that those expecting anything of interest to pop up in this strip had best appreciate things like today’s artwork, junked up as it is with crap.  Let’s face it, there are some stains that no detergent can remove, and that shirt is always going to look like that.

Well, my guest stint now comes to an end.  Tune in tomorrow when the unparalleled Epicus Doomus takes over center stage.  I thank you for your indulgence, and I am outta here!



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

13 responses to “Night of the Meek

  1. bad wolf

    Great analysis, BC. The idea that there could be an actual Starbuck Jones adventure taking place in the strip has been so long deferred that I have to agree: there is no way anyone would be satisfied, least of all TB. Sigh.

    I did want to mention that I met Rick Burchett through a mutual friend at a con years ago and found him the most warm, pleasant and generous person I ever met in the comic book world. Always a pleasure to see his work, even when it is put to such strange uses.

  2. SpacemanSpiff85

    First piece of evidence that Batiuk would suck writing Starbuck Jones:
    The fact that he thinks “Moon Mile Meek” is the kind of name and character to get people intrigued enough to read a comic.
    Second piece:
    Moon Mile Meek’s debut issue features another character.

  3. bayoustu

    “…sort of looks a lot like…”?! Well, which is it, Pete Rambsganss: he SORT OF looks like Stogie McMustache(less), or he looks A LOT like him? “Little bit pregnant” comes to mind…

  4. Epicus Doomus

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but these Sunday comic book covers were better when he used to work FW characters into real comic book covers, as opposed to these make-believe Batom Comics covers with the little “reality bubble” crammed into the corner. Moon Mile Meek? Kloog? Come on, there’s a fine line between clever and stupid and BanMan is stomping all over it and smudging the hell out of it with this nonsense.

    So when you cut right to the chase here, it seems that this BanTom guy has some sort of deep-seated issues with authority. Aside from the creators themselves, every single person involved in the “entertainment business” is a despised and obnoxious taskmaster and/or a contemptible greedy weasel. It’s just hilarious to me how a guy who quite obviously puts as little effort into FW as possible does these stories about weary writers going through the daily grind and doing battle with all kinds of obstacles. Maybe it’s a guilty conscience kind of deal, who the hell knows? All I do know for sure is that the whole thing is really strange.

  5. Frank Bolton

    Epicus Doomus, don’t forget the possibility that Batiuk’s laziness directly stems from that kind of worldview — rather than the worldview being used to justify his laziness.

    It’s easy to see how someone like Batiuk would develop a persecution complex and then develop a ‘if people are just going to try to drag me down, why should I even try?’ defense mechanism. Aside from being a junior high school teacher (one of the worst jobs ever) there’s the fact that the Funky Winkerbean/Crankshaft strips continually runs just shy of greatness; comics like Baby Blues and Heathcliff, let alone true giants like Peanuts and Garfield, end up breaking outside the small pond of newspaper comics. And with him being this close to getting a Pulitzer, it’s not hard to imagine him feeling that he deserved such a place in history, too.

    That didn’t happen, of course. People rarely react well to coming just shy of tasting success, and Batiuk’s reaction was sadly typical. I know plenty of people like Batiuk and H. L. Mencken describes them quite well:

    The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true deserts. He ascribes all his failure to get on in the world, all of his congenital incapacity and damfoolishness, to the machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street, or some other such den of infamy.

    That perfectly explains why Funky Winkerbean has such a misanthropic, antiestablishmentarian, “no, fuck YOU dad” edge to it that didn’t exist even when the comic was being gleefully sadistic and melodramatic. I’d say that the rot set in shortly after the Pulitzer failed to arrive; the first few arcs involved Funky losing his business and blaming evil Wall Street people instead of his own damfoolishness. Little did we know that would just be a taste of the psychodrama that would make this comic increasingly excruciating. So rather than redoubling his efforts or just learning to accept his mediocrity/obscurity, Batiuk retreats into bitterness and nostalgia; two traits that will completely kill off any forward-thinking or contemporary insight. So things just keep getting worse and worse for him artistically and professionally. But due to the persecution complex, he can’t see where the problem lies.

  6. billytheskink

    Looks like a Warhammer figure attacking Salacious Crumb and the Fugitoid from TMNT. More of an 11 year old from the early 90s playing with his action figures than an homage to Silver Age comics, I’d say.

  7. There’s something that the Sage Of Baltimore forgot to mention: the afflicted moron’s blind hatred of anyone who yells horseshit when confronted with his pet grievances. On the one hand, we have evil editors telling him what to do and on the other, us calling him on his weak bullshit.

  8. Also, don’t compare this idiot to a real writer.

  9. HeyItsDave

    @Epicurean Doomus – T-Bats crosses the line between clever and stupid virtually every time he picks up his Funky Felt Tip, and it goes all the way back to the beginning with his punny character names. He couldn’t even resist it when he was dreaming up his masturbatory superfantasy The Amazing Mr. Sponge, calling the sidekick “Abosorbing Jr.” Really? Naming a major character after a linament (Absorbine Jr. for you kids out there) in his grandma’s medicine cabinet? How weak is that? It’s as bad as having a secret nerve gas formula called “Preparation Itch.”

    As for his issues with authority…Bats doesn’t have issues, he has subscriptions. He hates authority, he can’t believe that a woman can perform successfully in any kind of career, he still nurses deep grudges rooted in his high school loserliness, he punishes any happiness or contentment his characters experience (with the exception of his avatar Les,) it goes on and on. It’s a damn good thing he’s got these little scribbles to pour his poison into. Keeps him off the streets.

  10. @Frank Bolton -I think your analysis is on target. It explains why the strip is becoming even weirder and more disjointed, raising questions about what could be going on in The Author’s head. The Batom flashbacks seem to be taking more and more prominence in the strip, but he hasn’t identified any of the characters or presented a cohesive storyline (although in this week’s offering the writer called the illustrator, who’s called Phil Holt in The Author’s history of Batom, Darin, merging him with DSL’s son).

  11. All of this, of course, is insignificant compared to the real issue, which is “Hur hur, editors suck.”

  12. Meanwhile, the insanity crosses over to Crankshaft. Today it’s disclosed that he dropped off a 5th grade class at the Science Center and went back to the bus depot. Lena, the dispatcher who bakes antimatter brownies, incredulously asks, “You left them there?”, to which CS replies, “Nobody said anything about bringing them back!”

    The Author’s misanthropy is becoming more and more evident.

  13. hitorque

    Someone needs to e-mail this rant directly to Batiuk…