Fear And Self-Pity In Westview

Link To Today’s Strip

Uh, it’s called “moral support”, Linda. It “helps” you by connecting with others in similar situations. If the other people in the support group could magically help you, they probably would have already helped themselves too, thus they wouldn’t need a support group. See how that works?

Well, if you thought the Big Moment was coming anytime soon, guess again sucker, because it looks like we’re in for a week of typing. It’s typically Batiukian how Linda’s last-ditch Hail Mary plea to the NFL represented her last glimmer of hope, as in the Funkyverse it’s always something and it’s never, ever your fault. One thing I find baffling is how the entire town just totally deserted Bull after he retired. No one wanted to organize a fund raiser or help Linda mow the lawn? Could his multi-decade tenure as head sports coach and athletic director really have made THAT little of an impact? Wait…don’t answer that.

Coming tomorrow: FW at long last answers the question that’s been plaguing FW scholars since Darin found out the identity of his birth mother, that being is watching a FW character opening and reading mail more interesting, less interesting or equally as interesting as watching them type on a laptop computer?


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

43 responses to “Fear And Self-Pity In Westview

  1. Banana Jr. 6000

    Look at the next-to-last word: “Me.” How does that help me? Not us. Not Bull. Me. That is a damning reveal, for both the character and the author.

    • Epicus Doomus

      Just like “Lisa’s Story” was really about Les, “Bull’s Story…The Other Cleat” will apparently be about Linda, one of the dullest and most humorless characters in the strip. Sigh.

  2. William Thompson

    More Linda? Whose suicide is this, anyway?

  3. billytheskink

    “Just know that many here are going through the same thing…”

    “Yeah, my husband spent 6 years blocking for Lynn Dickey’s sorry ass in Green Bay and the NFL claims he couldn’t have sustained disabling injuries as a pro even though he was getting bull-rushed by 3 players every down because opposing defenses knew Dickey couldn’t throw the ball in ocean if he was stranded on a buoy!”

    “My father was denied benefits even though he played 14 years for the Pottsville Maroons and the Portsmouth Spartans. They said that CTE couldn’t have affected him too badly if he’s still alive…”

    “By the way, Linda, who did your husband play for?”

    “Oh, he went to training camp with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982. Jim Otis made him carry his pads one day, which I think was a big factor in CTEing him.”


    At least this is consistent with Linda’s character. She has never shown empathy in this strip, so it stands to reason she would be unable to identify it.

    • Epicus Doomus

      It really does come across as somewhat callous, doesn’t it? I mean it’s a support group, not a problem solving group. She’s not really very tenacious or proactive either and furthermore she’s never really explained exactly what it is that she’s looking for. A home health aide? Assisted living? Stem cell therapy? Obviously she’s tired and exasperated, but is that all she is? We just don’t know.

  4. William Thompson

    Linda does have a point. If this support group was any use, someone would have told her long ago that she had no chance of money from the NFL. She wouldn’t have pinned her hopes on that. They also would have suggested alternatives, including “Talk to a lawyer about liability issues and ask your teacher’s union what else they can do.”

  5. William Thompson

    Well, Linda, you may have to sell the house, put Bull in an Alzheimer’s ward and move into an apartment. At least it’ll get you out of Westview.

  6. comicbookharriet

    Good point Epicus. You know what could help you Linda? Telling your adult daughters, other family, former coworkers, or friends, that you’re having a hard time. Instead of relying on one man from another town you’ve only known for a few years.

    My mother right now has basically a full time job arranging the care of her own very elderly mother as well as helping my brothers who have mental health issues. She regularly asks me, my sisters, and her own sisters (who live in other towns), and even my cousins, for help if she needs it. She got professional help in for my grandma, so she wasn’t trying to do everything herself. (I guess maybe not an option if funds are tight, but she could at least find some volunteers.) And she goes to her sisters and friends for fun and emotional support as well. Linda locks herself in a dark room with a computer, and then complains that commiseration doesn’t help her.

    We could try to fanwank this as Linda not wanting to embarrass Bull by showing his declining state to people who knew Bull before. Except that she was only to ready to spill the beans to Les any time he asked.

    • Epicus Doomus

      I’ve been there too and bitching at her support group isn’t going to help. As I wrote above, we’re not even sure what she wants here. Sure, Bull is getting annoying and doing weird things but seriously, how does that differ from before? The entire town, his former students, his former high school and college teammates, his fellow faculty members, they’ve all deserted the guy. That Westview is a cold, cold town.

      • Jim in Wisc.

        But they will all be at the funeral, telling Linda how sorry they are for her loss. Of course, the real reason they’ll show up is for the free food. And they’ll bitch about it only being ham sandwiches and potato salad.

  7. louder

    “And that helps me how?”
    Maybe Linda, try typing “When you all were turned down by the NFL, where did you turn to for help?” That just might start a conversation with positive options, rather than sitting in a dark room feeling hopeless.

    For someone who supposedly researched CTE, it’s amazing how clueless BatHack is. One letter, it come back with “no”, and it’s all “I give up.” That’s what your vaunted research show about family of people with CTE? BatHack is the hopeless one, not Funky.

  8. William Thompson

    Now that I think of it, it was very clever of the NY Times and Sports Illustrated to give this arc some coverage. Imagine what will happen when the uninitiated see Funky Winkerbean for the first time and sit through ten weeks of this insulting idiocy. The responses may cost Batiuk a lot of markets. Well played, journalists, well-played!

    • spacemanspiff85

      This is the part that truly baffles me. For years I’ve been convinced by the way Batiuk writes this strip the last thing he wants is for people to pay attention to it. So of course he goes and brags about his bold shocking deep insightful timely storyline, to get people to read his strip. And then spends a week on someone holding an envelope, and then another week of someone sitting in the dark in front of a computer.

      • Epicus Doomus

        I absolutely believe this and have for years. Gaining new readers is the last thing he wants, as if people really start paying attention the whole jig is up. At this point I assume he figures that no one’s reading it no matter what he says and furthermore by letting the NYT publish the payoff strip no one has to. Anyone who reads the interviews just assumes it’s true…”oh yeah, I’ve heard of that, it’s the comic strip that addresses real life issues and does big shocking stories”…and that’s it.

        It’s sort of like the band Anvil. “Oh yeah, they were that band who influenced all the big heavy metal bands but never got a break, hmm-mmm, sure I’ve heard of them”. But no one actually went back and listened to the records, as if they did they’d know exactly why they never made it big. FW lives on reputation alone and no one (other than us) questions it or even gives a shit. Don’t let his “awww shucks” demeanor fool you, he knows exactly what he’s doing.

        • Charles

          My feeling is that it’s hubris instead. Batiuk actually thinks he’s presenting this in a thoughtful, tragic and provocative manner. He didn’t do any research because he thinks he already knows all about this. Why would he waste time researching when all he’s going to discover are things he already knows? It doesn’t even occur to him that an unfamiliar reader might read this storyline and have an issue with the way he’s presenting it.

          And he thinks focusing on Linda rather than Bull is where the drama is. It is true that when you’re dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s that more profound suffering is often found more in the caregivers than the victims. But it’s not like this. Again, he doesn’t research, and that same hubris prevents him from considering how to make this dramatic. He just assumes that by expositing that Linda is suffering that that’s sufficient.

          I mean, seriously, go back and look at the line he had Les write that led to him taking a metaphoric home run trot. That was taken word for word from an earlier strip where Cindy said those lines to Lisa. They’re not particularly dramatic or profound or even heartwarming. But the way Batiuk has treated them demonstrates that he thinks they’re genius. He thinks that line’s a money shot, the emotional peak that you build a story around.

    • Count of Tower Grove

      Can you provide a link to SI? I couldn’t find anything there. Thanks.

  9. Wow, what storytelling. Two days of reading the same sentence in a letter, and we just skip right over the actual content. Not that’s really a complaint, in that we’d be in for another week or two of her going over every word. “Very…sincerely…yours…”

  10. spacemanspiff85

    Is it just me, or is that first sentence absolutely terrible? Like clearly Batiuk needed to tell his readers Linda was posting in a CTE support group, so he does the laziest, most unnatural thing and just has someone welcome her to the CTE support group. Because there’s only one on the entire internet, apparently. Is this supposed to be email or chat? Because if it’s email it’s super weird that someone would welcome her back, like she’s been gone for ages, and if it’s chat it’s even more awkward since whoever is saying this is probably just retyping what Linda just typed.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Dilbert actually does this well. If context or exposition is necessary, he’ll place a small narration box like “Dilbert is forced to work in accounting” and get on with the story.

      Here we get, as you note, a very forced and unnatural dialogue.

  11. 7dials

    There’s a saying in disability activism, which runs: Nothing About Me Without Me. It’s a call to remember that, when it comes to working with disabled people, they should be at the centre of decisions about their treatments and day-to-day care and considered to be competent and capable until it is proven otherwise. Even if the person is for whatever reason not able to manage their own affairs – and getting someone declared incompetent is a considerably higher bar to clear than many would assume – their input should still be sought and given priority where possible. It’s considered particularly important by people with learning disabilities and – yup – cognitive impairments.

    Bull, incidentally, has not appeared onpage in this prestige arc that we already know will end in his suicide for six days.

    He hasn’t spoken a word for even longer: ten days have passed since he last got to say anything, and even then all he said was, “I’m fine”.

    I’m a disabled adult who very recently started to have to use a wheelchair. My husband has yet to have someone ask him about me as if I’m not right there when we’re out together, but it’s probably coming. I also lost a grandfather to vascular dementia long before his death two years ago. This arc is so tin-eared on the matter of disability, it’s actively offensive.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Sorry to hear you are in a wheelchair. A colleague at work was in a car accident last year and is now paralyzed. He is on disability but hopes to retrain himself for another job. He just wants people to talk normally with him and quit focusing on his handicap.

      • comicbookharriet

        Awesome input 7dials! Thank you for the Disability Activism viewpoint. My mother goes through similar things with my grandmother, making sure people give her a say in her own care.

        There is a difference between the way most people normally react to people who are physically and mentally disabled. With a physically disabled person, people can easily use cognitive empathy to transfer their own thoughts and emotions to the other person and assume they may feel or think similarly. The only exception I see is for people with speech disabilities making communication difficult for the uninitiated, such as severe Cerebal Palsy.

        With a brain illness or disability people don’t know the abilities of what other people feel or think or understand. So they want to defer to a person who knows them better. They shouldn’t. They should try to include the person and engage them as much as possible. But it’s an understandable, if infuriating, fault.

        I think that is why we aren’t getting Bull’s take on any of this. Batiuk doesn’t know how to inhabit his mind since he’s made him ‘so sick.’

  12. Paul Jones

    And here, I used to think that the Pattersons from For Better Or For Worse were horrible people for the way they talked around Grandpa Jim like he wasn’t there. At least Mike was there to call a stroke victim insane for not giving him the answers he wanted. Liz was there to sit in the background and soil herself looking at him because she felt Death was going to crash her wedding. Linda makes them look like saints.

    • William Thompson

      I want to feel sympathy for Linda, but not today. Her reaction would only be credible if Batiuk had spent a *lot* of time on her and Bull, and shown us the bleak side of their lives. Instead Bull hasn’t been a real problem and Linda isn’t physically and emotionally exhausted. We haven’t seen her worrying about the finances, then repeatedly trying–and failing–to find ways to stay afloat. We haven’t seen why she had to take early retirement and babysit Bull 24/7. That would justify her frustration, and if Batiuk respected any of his female characters we could see a more realistic response from her.

      Okay, it’s Batiuk for whom I have no sympathy. Linda isn’t bad, she’s just written that way.

    • AmigoLupus

      From what I gather, Foob is a comic strip defending an abusive parent while showcasing Lynn Johnston’s hatred of motherhood and children. So if Mike and Liz grow up lacking in empathy for a family member, then all of that’s on El/Lynn’s shitty parenting.

      • Paul Jones

        That’s for sure. I’ve spent the last twelve years on a forum about what a wretched and imbecilic failure Elly is as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, employee and employer. There, I go by the screen name DreadedCandiru2.

  13. Gerard Plourde

    William Thompson’s comment about being dropped by papers got me wondering whether these weird arcs might be a response to some economic pressure. My local paper has dropped the Sunday strip from its print addition and I wondered how being carried digitally only might affect a contract. I went to the King Features web site for submission by new artists and found this:

    Payment varies depending on the distribution channel (print vs. digital) and the popularity of the comic. For some people, it can be a nice way to earn a little extra income; for others, it can pay enough to be your full-time job.”

    And this:

    We are looking for unique voices, writing, and artistic content. We are also looking for ideas that seem like they can carry a daily comic strip for many years without getting ‘stale’.”

    Could these factors be behind the weird zig zags in plot and tone that have become hallmarks of TomBa’s output? I’m guessing that he’s probably safe from being dropped outright, but a loss of actual print outlets must reduce his income.

    Maybe what we’re seeing here is his attempt to expand his physical paper and ink distribution.

  14. Rusty Shackleford

    I’m looking for old strips to see if/when Bull retired. If he was having symptoms before he retired, he could have gone on long term disability using benefits from Westview Schools.

    I know Batty has to blame the evil (and greedy, never forgot greedy) NFL, but I just don’t understand why they don’t have any money. Teachers have great retirement benefits—better than most of us working stiffs.

    Why am I even putting this much thought into it? This isn’t about Bull. Bull is not the crazy one, Batty is.

    • Count of Tower Grove

      Bull lost to Less in tennis. He went on a crazy drive. He did retire and tripped over a pennant when scattering the cremains of Jack Stropp in the end zone. Then he dug up a chunk of turf from the end zone and planted it unpotted on the mantel in his mancave.

    • Jim in Wisc.

      “Teachers have great retirement benefits—better than most of us working stiffs.”

      He would also be eligible for Social Security disability benefits and possibly even early enrollment into Medicare.

      But, this is in the same universe where, when the Westview post office was permanently closed, Crazy Harry lost his job (instead of simply being transferred to another branch) as well as his pension, and was forced to take a part time job at a comic book store to make ends meet. The sad truth is that Tom Batiuk doesn’t have a clue how the real world works.

  15. AmigoLupus

    Someone posted before how this slow-ass pacing would look better in the collected edition, but I feel that TomBat’s just using that as a crutch so he can deny he needs an editor to tell him what to do. Compare this to something like Modesty Blaise, where every strip is incredibly economical in showing action AND advancing the plot.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      [Someone said] this slow-ass pacing would look better in the collected edition,

      Some comic strips make an effort to be good in both daily newspapers and compilation books. Calvin & Hobbes, Bloom County, Dilbert, Fox Trot, Peanuts, Pogo,, even Garfield are all fun to read either way, if you enjoy the strip. In fact, almost all comic strips work in both mediums.

      So even if Batiuk is playing to his Kent State University Press sycophants (and he probably is), that shouldn’t be such a visible problem.

      Like William Thompson (IIRC) said a few days back about the grim subject matter: the pacing wouldn’t be a problem if it were done well. It’s not. It’s too slow for any medium, there’s nothing visually interesting, and the story doesn’t justify it.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Of course with Calvin and Hobbes and Bloom County the authors took the time to add new artwork in order to make the book more interesting. Batty just reruns the strips after a long word filled introduction

        • Jim in Wisc.

          “Batty just reruns the strips after a long word filled introduction”

          You should have included “self-congratulating” in there.

  16. Professor Fate

    “But what about ME? What about MY needs?”
    Linda of course is showing the basic FW world view – anything that happens matters only in how it effects THEM. And that if at first you don’t succeed quit and blame everything on others. It’s what makes them all so hateful.
    Even in the strip world just how does Linda getting denied by NFL even matter? One Bull never played a down, two she is already on record as saying she didn’t think the NFL would accept the application, seeing as Bull NEVER PLAYED for the NFL. Listen the NFL has a horrible record regarding CTE and even for folks who have played for the league, getting disability payments from the league has difficult. anyone with the brains god gave a rabbit would have known the odds were bad. Did she not have a plan B?
    And her response to people saying we’ve been there too is god awful. If they are in the same boat why not ask them how are you handling what are you doing? But no she just starts whining. I’d say more but I think i’d like to get something useful done this morning. Arggg this strip.

  17. Merry Pookster

    Well , a least Linda and Bull have a loving and supportive daughter.

  18. Count of Tower Grove

    Thanks T. F. Hackett, I’ve read the preview of the upcoming SI piece in Great Bend Tribune. It says Todd diligently researched CTE and found information from the CTE center at Boston University. I guess BU hasn’t told Todd the CTE can only be diagnosed in a postmortem.

    • Professor Fate

      It says Todd diligently researched CTE and found information from the CTE center at Boston University.”
      Which is what the SI reporter was told. My guess is that the reality is that the Author barely remembers what he glanced at a year ago and it doesn’t matter as Linda is the focus of the story line anyway.
      Still i’m going to get too bent out of shape about the reporting on FW, after all they are just doing what they are told to do, “Go talk to a comic strip writer who is doing a story on CTE,” They would have no earthly reason to suspect that the Author would feed them a line of stone bullshit about how the strip handles the story. i mean we know, some other folks know but why should they? Why would they suspect that level of dishonesty from a guy in the funny pages? Again , we know but at what coast?