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!