Epicus had a great comment yesterday, and judging by the upvotes most of you agreed. There was one thought in particular that gave me pause. He said, “A child could write it. Unfortunately though, no children were available so BatYam took a stab at it…”
When I was younger, I used to do theater. My first role, when I was 12, was the mother in James and the Giant Peach. I was eaten by a giant invisible rhinoceros at the very beginning of the show. I flung myself all over the stage screaming and dying, and I got a pretty big head by thinking I was good at it. That was, until I heard my director say, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”
As near as Grandpa Google can tell me, the actual origins of that famous turn of phrase come from a story movie director George Seaton told about going to see his friend, the actor Edmund Gwenn on his deathbed in 1959.
“All this must be terribly difficult for you, Teddy,” [Seaton] said sympathetically.
Gwenn didn’t buy that sympathy. A smile touched his lips.
“Not nearly as difficult as playing comedy,” he answered cheerfully.
They were his words of exit. His head turned on the pillow. He was dead.
As a kid that pithy little aphorism was a revelation. Melodrama is easy. It’s easy to act, and it’s easy to write. Death hangs like the sword of Damocles above us all, and in time every sword will fall. Who do you love? Your mom? Your spouse? Your goldfish? Find the fear you hold inside knowing they are mortal, and you’ve found the massive emotional button any artist worth their paycheck can push at will. Entire genres of weepy books and Hallmark Channel movies are built on the cheap, baking-soda-and-vinegar, combination of love and death.
Twelve years ago, Batiuk pushed that button. And, go back and read those strips, he was effective.
This strip is cloying. It’s maudlin. And yet, it is 110% more real than anything we’ve seen in years. A mother won’t see her daughter grow up. A father struggles to explain. A child tries to comfort a loved one they can hardly realize they’re about to lose. Death is taking a knife and cutting to ribbons the story of a happy family just as viciously as Rose stabbing a precious comic book.
We’ve gotten none of this in Bull’s death. None. We didn’t see Linda calling her children. We didn’t see the pain of Jinx thinking about how Dad wouldn’t be there to walk her down the aisle. Or Mickey realizing her own kids would never know a Grandpa Bushka. We didn’t linger on Linda’s pain as she sits through a funeral full of terrible secrets, as she comes home to an empty house, as she has to do laundry that will only remind her of her dead husband’s illness.
It should have been easy. A child could have done it. But Batiuk decided to give us a death without really showing the love that death was cutting off.
Instead Batiuk decided to end this arc (for now?) with a week of strips where Linda gets down on her knees in front of his author avatar so she can fellatiate Les Moore’s metaphorical ego-dick.
In the past, I’ve tried to cut Tom some slack. But not today. Please insult this man.