Yeah, I know, Frankie’s been there for several weeks, but how could I resist that title?
There’s a marked difference in tone when Tom Batiuk loves a character (Les), hates a character (Bull et al) and when he doesn’t give a damn about a character (a lot of them).
Mason seems to fall into this third category; once Batiuk got the pun through, he really seemed to lose interest in Mason. Oh sure, he’s a nice guy, well off, generous to a fault (or a Darrin), a bit dim, very good at calming Cindy’s many fears…other than that, he’s a paper towel. He’s there to get the job done and that’s it.
Cindy seems to be somewhere in the half-world between hatred and indifference. On the one hand, she’s a mass of neuroses which need constant tending; she’s rude to every female she meets; and she gave up on Funky. On the other, she’s been given a guy who goes out of his way to help her feel good about herself. The only other person who has had such a devoted mate was…Les Moore. It may be that now she’s “old” and feels terrible about her condition, she’ll be allowed some relief.
Though I would have said that about Bull up until last week. He was actively trying to cut down on bullying in the school, wanting to atone for what he’d done as a student. And then he got handed his ass. That still seems like the cruelest blow ever struck by this strip (though BillyTheSkink’s rundown of Coach Stropp’s last days seems definitely worse).
I guess in Tom Batiuk’s mind, Bull was turning out to be an “okay” person, a candidate for possible redemption, until Tom Batiuk happened to thumb through one of the high school yearbooks that he keeps close at hand, and noted that the guy who bullied him in school was named “Jerome,” and then something snapped.
And now, taking up the entire stage right, we have Frankie. This is not my favorite drawing of Frankie. This–
–is my favorite drawing of Frankie. Look at that openly happy and joyous expression! There’s a man about to explode with happiness–or a man surgically altered for transfer to the “Popeye” comic strip. He’s also hiding a turkey baster in his shirt, which shows preparedness! Unless that’s Kuato waking up.
Despite his status as a villain, Frankie is another character that Tom Batiuk seems to have no idea what to do with. (Sorry about the grammar, there.) It’s clear that Batiuk wants a villain (not recognizing that Les Moore fits that role to a T), but it’s also clear that he doesn’t want a real villain–someone that could only be defeated through cleverness and *cough* work. Hence, Frankie is always portrayed as somewhat hapless and unprepared, and his schemes (such as they are) are so blatantly stupid that even a half-wit like Darrin doesn’t fall for them. With a spot of cleverness, Frankie’s schemes could probably work; all he needs to do is disguise his intent somewhat and the Westview morons would fall into line. Unfortunately, that “spot of cleverness” will always be lacking. Because there can only be one “smart” person in the comic strip. And anything that takes away from Les Moore’s lustre is not to be permitted.
So…any guesses as to the form his latest scheme will take? A headline like “Elder Stars of ‘Starbuck Jones’ in Torrid Affair!” seems likely. Of course, “Elder Stars of ‘Starbuck Jones’ Enjoy Ice Cream!” is also a good guess. Remember, this is Frankie we’re dealing with.