Your Cheatin’ Heart

Link to today’s strip

No, sorry Baby Ruthie and Tommy Batiuk. Sad, yes, but not ‘true.’ And having a character say, “Sad, but true.” to add truthiness to this dubious story of sexism in early comics is worse than disingenuous. You are willfully furthering a narrative that seems plausible without any real facts behind it because you like the message. You’re Mason Locke Weems, making up the story of George Washington and the cherry tree, and sticking it in a biography.

That last panel is really a hoot though. Batiuk’s bumbling dialogue makes it sound like Ruth’s hubby was really into polyamory, with three wives and two mistresses simultaneously. Hey, Ruthie, you know who else had two wives and two mistresses? Jacob the patriarch! Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Mindy meanwhile looks like she’s about to bolt. She’s leaning waaaay away from Ruth now, like bitterness is a disease and she’s afraid to catch it.

The ‘truthiness’ of Ruth’s statement in panel two is partially contingent on when she started working. During WWII there was an uptick on women working comic books to make up for the men who were at war. So that might have been when the editor was ‘in a pinch.’

The unrealistic statement is that Ruth would be expected to stop working when she got married. All the women I looked at didn’t stop working when they got married, some started working married, but many stopped working when they had kids. Women like Dorothy Woolfolk and Ramona Fradon returned to comics once their kids were older. Other women found different careers in illustration, like children’s books, magazines. You know, Batiuk, not every comic creator is a massively passionate fan of the genre, some just did it for the money for a while and then moved on.

Ramona Fradon did love working on comics though, and went back to it when her daughter was in school. I found a great interview with her from the 2016 issue of the Comic Book Creator Magazine. This might be a long quote, but I think it speaks volumes about what it was actually like being a married mother in comics.

CBC: So “Aquaman” was just boring?
Ramona: Well, yes. I hate to say it.
CBC: Did you hate it so much that you used raising a daughter as an excuse to quit or you really had to?
Ramona: Well, she was two then, hanging on my knee, and I’d be trying to meet deadlines. It was ridiculous. I couldn’t continue to do that.
CBC: Did you have to stay up late often? What did you do?
Ramona: I would, of course, wait ’til the deadline was looming. What did
I do? I went crazy. And the poor little thing. We used to drop pencils and
crayons—Dana [her husband], too—on the floor and she’d be down there coloring, you
know? [laughs]
CBC: That’s what mommy’s doing, right?
Ramona: She has told me she liked that! But it wasn’t fair to her. I
couldn’t keep doing it. If I had been faster it would have been one thing, but
I wasn’t.
CBC: Did you really need the money?
Ramona: No, but my mother used to say, “Don’t do what I did.” She gave
up her work. She wanted to be an artist, too. So I had it stuck in my mind
that because we got left high and dry I figured somehow I had to keep
working no matter what, even though I wasn’t making any real money. But it
was something, you know.
CBC: So did your husband have a studio in the house?
Ramona: Yes.
CBC: So you were both there during weekdays? Did you interact with
each other at all?

Ramona: Oh, sure. We weren’t in the same space—I had a little studio
and he was up in the attic studio—but, yes, we were both there and we’d
eat lunch together and we’d work around the place.
CBC: Were you friends?
Ramona: Yes, we were.
CBC: It’s probably about a year, year-and-a-half that you just worked
raising Amy, right?

Ramona: No, it was seven years! I waited ’til she was in school. I hadn’t
planned to go back, but I was getting a little restless just being a housewife.
And then one day Roy Thomas called me and asked me if I wanted to do a
story.
CBC: So the Metamorpho thing was just an anomaly?
Ramona: Yes. I just did that to help George out, to get it started.
CBC: Right. So then you went back to child-rearing. Were you just planning, “That was the last thing I will do in comics”? Was that the thought?
Ramona: I didn’t have any plan. I never do.
CBC: Just day by day?
Ramona: [Laughs] So this wave came along and I got on it when Roy
called me.

17 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

17 responses to “Your Cheatin’ Heart

  1. billytheskink

    The second panel is not just something an editor would never say (why would he care about Ruby’s marital status, was he planning to hire her future husband?)… it is something no human would say.

    This is, sadly, not an unprecedented occurrence in the Batiukverse.

    • Epicus Doomus

      Because in Batiuk’s mind the business end of the entertainment industry is populated entirely by ravenous amoral scumbags who sneer at your creative agonies and only seek to exploit your craft, wring you dry and throw you away to forever rot. While there may some truth to this, BatHam’s experiences seem to have consisted solely of interacting with really vile cigar-chomping humorless asshole editor-types straight out of 1955 central casting. His hatred of the business comes through loud and clear during these arcs, it’s so intense that it even radiates through his completely imaginary comic book sub-universe, the one that’s based on the thing he supposedly loves. It’s really dark and twisted in a stupid sort of way.

      I mean it’s an imaginary look at the workings of the imaginary old-time comic book industry, why couldn’t he have done an arc where Ruby wins over the backward-thinking menfolk and becomes a trailblazing comic book icon instead? Because his hatred for “the business” is so overwhelming he can’t do an arc that deviates from that default premise, that’s why. That and the laziness, of course.

  2. Epicus Doomus

    This couldn’t have anything less to do with the goddamned comic book business, it’s just a bunch of terrible, dated tropes used to generate sympathy for a ridiculous comic book artist character whose work, aside from a T-shirt, hasn’t yet been seen or even discussed. “Gender inequality was rampant back in the good old days”…yeah, we know, but what of it? What happened? What did Ruby do about it? And if she didn’t do anything (always the most likely FW outcome) why should I care about the mundane complaints of someone whose story just boringly reiterates something I’m already well aware of? This drivel is BatYak at his worst, with the dry, wry, world-weary, droning dialog that doesn’t mean anything or go anywhere.

  3. Excellent work, CBH. The research you’ve done here in a matter of hours or days beats anything Batiuk has (allegedly spent years on).

    And I agree with Epicus–this is the basic Funky Winkerbean philosophy, “Don’t even try anything because you will fail since the universe is against you.”

    And Ruby’s face in panel two is just terrible, unless you’re illustrating one of the Martians in the final act of Bradbury’s “Mars is Heaven.”

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yeah that Ruby sure is an inspiration, all she does is blame men for all her problems. Maybe she was paid less because she wasn’t as great as she thought.

      Ah, those greedy editors. Of course if they were that greedy, they would have only hired females, paid them a lot less, and then they could have made even more money and gotten the same results. But maybe they wouldn’t have gotten the same results.

      Either way, if Ruby was so great, then start your own damn company and make whatever comic books you want. Ah, but that requires work…easier to just complain.

  4. Epicus Doomus

    And on top of that you have his seething hostility toward The Business and on top of THAT you have Martyred Artist Syndrome too. Almost the entire Book Of Batiuk is on display here, they just need to order pizza to make it complete.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      You know, for a guy who constantly complains about editors, Batiuk doesn’t seem to be subject to much editing. There seem to be no limits on how self-indulgent his subject matter can be.

  5. Banana Jr. 6000

    “I alao lost my winning lottery ticket, my car got stolen, my cat died of leukemia, and I got hit by lightning. Did you notice I only have one leg?”

  6. spacemanspiff85

    Batiuk writing about sexism gives me the strong impression that he’s heard of sexism, and heard of women, but never actually met one.

  7. ian'sdrunkenbeard

    “So I asks him how come he’s cheating on me with all these other women, and you know what he has the nerve to say to me? ‘It’s the hat’, he tells me!”

  8. Paul Jones

    The irritating thing about Batiuk’s “Throw bullshit on the wall and see if it sticks” way of writing is that he stands every chance of successfully making at least some readers gladly partake of his horseshit sundae and swallow his ludicrous and mawkish premise.

  9. Rusty Shackleford

    Today’s guest author: Lynn Johnston.

  10. Count of Tower Grove

    Unseen fourth panel Rubella says,
    “And so I decided to find out why my husband roamed. Turns out I like furburgers too!”

  11. Charles

    It’s a minor thing, but I absolutely hate Ruby’s carrot/celery stick nose. It’s been consistent these last two weeks and it’s terrible.

    And Ruby was apparently waiting around the gallery opening so she could find someone she could bitch and moan at for several hours. I can’t imagine meeting someone you idolize and spending the entire time pissing and moaning about grim and miserable ordeals that took place decades ago. Wouldn’t you rather celebrate the good things she’s done?

    But I forget who writes these strips…

    • Count of Tower Grove

      I have a friend who got to interview his idol, Kurt Vonnegut. It turned out that KV in real life was Kilgore Trout.

  12. Charles

    Seriously, if he wanted to have this discussion between these two characters, instead of Mindy asking Ruby about art, or marveling at her drawings, or praising her for how inspiring she is, or any number of more realistic discussions, here’s what he should have done:

    “Is that a Miss American shirt you’re wearing?”
    “Yes! Are you a fan?”
    “Actually, I created her!”
    “…. But Richard Lith created Miss American…”
    “Yes, that’s the name they gave me because little pissboys in the fifties wouldn’t read comic books written by a woman.”

    And go from there. Instead, he introduces Ruby and THEN has her bring up this whole thing, which appears to be news to Mindy, because the established stakes here are so low that Mindy was never aware of them.

  13. William Thompson

    In Act II of this arc, Mindy tells Rubella how wonderful things are at Atomik Komix. She just doesn’t mention there are no men there to harass her.