The Dead Zone

Link to today’s strip.

I don’t advocate violence against anyone, but I think Bull here would be perfectly justified in punching Linda right in the face, as hard as he can.

Here, Bull has just failed at a final task his former coach assigned him, and all she can think to do is make a joke basically saying, “Well, Bull, we knew you’d fail from the beginning.  We just wanted to see it happen.”

That, my friends, is the very definition of mean-spirited.  The only way this could work would be if Bull was in on it–“You knew I’d do that, didn’t you?”  Easily done:

Just add a half-lidded smirk and the venom is drained out of it.

However, this also illustrates a point made by our very own Paul Jones on the 29th.  If I may quote:

His metier is really the gag a day strip that has no consequences to its jokes but he doesn’t realize it.

In a nutshell and on target.  That is the major failing of this strip–Tom Batiuk is trying to tell long-form stories here, but he is still in the mindset of the gag-a-day strip, where everything must be status quo ante after the day’s last panel.  The two forms really don’t mix well at all.  It’s why medical and psychological conditions have no real consequences, and why–in this instance–someone can make a cruel joke about a character’s failure and we’re all supposed to brush it off.   As Scarlett O’Hara might have said (were she to find herself in a mediocre comic strip), “Tomorrow is another gag.”

As I’ve said before, I think the worst thing that ever happened to Tom Batiuk was being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  We’ll never know the reasoning behind that nomination, but it basically said to Tom Batiuk, “Yes, the long-form dramatic comic strip is what you should be doing.  You should never go back to gag-a-day.  You are on the right path.”  And all the evidence that he is not on the right path gets swept aside in the waves of an ego-storm.  Criticism that might make him take a second look is overshadowed by the words “Pulitzer nominee.”

The thing is, of all the long-form stories that he’s told, none of them have been told well.  They’re not interesting–or if they start out that way, they are quickly mediocre’d until they stop that.  They’re not insightful or poignant or heart-warming or anything at all.  They just take up space.

Something I’m guessing Bull will stop doing shortly.

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15 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

15 responses to “The Dead Zone

  1. Epicus Doomus

    That’s right Bull, it’s just like how that awful old 70s song goes, everything is dust in the wind. Your mentor’s career was all a big fat nothing and so was yours. Two lives utterly wasted on stupid sportsball, dumb jock culture and meaningless rituals that do little more than mark time between the seasons. Poor perennial loser Jack Stropp once again falls short at the hands of his prize pupil, the buffoonish clumsy moron who concussed himself into oblivion, who now walks his precious football patch for the last time as a pitiful beaten figure, a sad-sack-sorry loser being salted with pity as he makes an ass of himself one last time.

    Oh sure, Guy Author tries to mask it as slapstick goofball humor and nothing more but I know the deal. This is another revenge fantasy, like when he banished Susan Smith from the strip for loving Les too much. Granted, it’s nowhere near as sick as that one was but still, you can see the pleasure he took in shoving Bull’s face in the dirt one more time. What a sicko.

  2. spacemanspiff85

    The thing is, before the Epic Tragedy of Les and Lisa, Batiuk could actually tell good stories. I remember going back and reading the old strips and actually caring about Funky’s alcoholism and his relationship with Cindy. And that was all woven in over a year or two, with other storylines going on. Something happened once Batiuk got fixated on Lisa and his writing has been terrible ever since.

  3. HeyItsDave

    I’m really glad this arc is just about over. Bull’s taken enough shit these past couple of weeks to last until Bathack retires. I don’t know what T-Bats has in store for him next, but here’s one of my favorite Act III Bull comics. The joke’s a little lame but not bad, Bull’s just being a casual doofus, and best of all, I’ve cropped Les’ more-annoying-than-usual tilty-headed smirk out of the last panel, which makes the strip about 600% more enjoyable.

  4. ComicTrek

    No, Linda. No. That was disastrous. That was beyond disaster, beyond epic fail. That task was freaking annihilated (not in a good way), and he knows it. We all know it.

    I theorize that in doing this, TB is trying to make things “funnier” for the audience/snarkers. Creating scenarios that are so insanely messed up that readers just have to laugh, right? Because I can’t take any of this seriously!

  5. What irritates me is not that cremation urns do not work that way because that’s (shitty) writing or that not even in Death can Stropp make the end zone because that’s a bone-headed bad joke that ran too damned long. What irritates me is that he can’t simply use a yard brush and sweep the ashes across. Who’s gonna know? Who’s gonna care? Why don’t they do the smart thing for once?!

  6. Rusty Shackleford

    Well I will say one thing, Batty’s work is very alternative. Alternative to good.

    Wait, I think I’ve said that before. Oh well, Batty recycles material. Why can’t I ?

  7. sgtsaunders

    Shit. Stropp has already suffered significant indignities, from being stashed in the locker room to his very name. Just scoop the fucker up and dump him over the goal line, for pity’s sake. Better yet, go over and give Les the beat.

  8. Gerard Plourde

    @spacemanspiff85 – You’re right that Batty was a decent storyteller for much of Act II. Something happened with the return of Lisa’s cancer. It may have been that he preordained the outcome – Lisa was destined to die. In order to bring that about he made the inexplicable choice to have her give up. I’ll admit that I’ve never had to face that kind of choice, but it seems to me that a woman in her 30’s with a preschool daughter who had dealt with teen pregnancy, lived abroad, put herself through law school, set up a solo practice, and, having beaten cancer once, would fight to stay alive. Her passive resignation seems to have infected the entire strip.

    I’m not saying that tragedies shouldn’t be part of the strip. My point is that somehow he’s forgotten that life is made up of small victories as well. He used to know that, which makes the current treatment of characters so infuriating.

  9. @Gerard Plourde: That is correct. Her shrugging and sighing and passively dying because chemo huuuuurts is what destroyed him as a creator…..and he doesn’t even realize it.

  10. Just when I thought Batiuk couldn’t get any sick, he does.  If I were Bull, I’d tell to go f— herself!

  11. Eldon of Galt

    Paul Jones and Beckoningchasm have really brought some insight to one of the elements that makes “Funky Winkerbean” such a fascinatingly terrible comic strip. Among its baffling stupidities is the “no consequences” thing. Les, Funky, and many other characters say stunningly hurtful things to their friends and associates, and no one minds. Cindy meets her bosses at the blog job, immediately dishes out some brutal insults, and yet keeps her
    job. Examples like this abound. Seeing it in the light of “long-form drama versus gag-a-day” really brings some clarity to the idiocy.

  12. ComicTrek

    ^Little does he know, his “gag-a-day” strip has remained that way! Except the meaning of the word is different now.

  13. Epicus Doomus

    The sad truth is that BatNom couldn’t manage to “write” a halfway decent sendoff for a forty-four year old character who’s being written out of the strip after suddenly being stricken with a degenerative brain disease for no other reason than spite. He did absolutely nothing with the “concussion issue” and had nothing else in mind for the character other than a stupid pratfall. IMO the whole point of it was nothing more than “ha ha jocks are stupid” which he (probably) could have managed to get across without permanently disabling the character. No one is shocked, upset or saddened by Bull’s terrible prognosis, just handshakes and looks of sympathetic pity from his weary long-suffering wife. Mean-spirited just for the sake of it, no narrative or continuity to be found here.

  14. Rusty Shackleford

    See, that is the problem. Batty writes for himself, not his readers. It’s all about him. His crappy interests, his crappy dialog…etc

  15. Ryokomayuka

    Me personally going back and reading old strips when they dealt with Lisa and her law practice I find awful. The rest was okay and at the time back then I didn’t find so bad but going back and reading them now. I just can not stand her. I would say the strip started to go down with Lisa’s law practice and her getting cancer and the way that was handled was awful.