China Hates Lisa

today’s strip

Man, that Les face in the first panel is priceless.  Poor, poor Les.  Being forced to have a movie made of Lisa’s Story.  If only he could say no.  Which he could, of course, but won’t, because he’s a whiny child.  A whiny child who called his wife up to whine about the travesty being done to the memory of his dead wife.  Which, if it’s not the world’s story, then why did he publish it in a book as “Lisa’s Story”, exactly?  

This really is Les at his most insufferable.  I have an extremely hard time believing that even Batiuk thinks Les is sympathetic or at all likeable, but apparently he does.

39 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

39 responses to “China Hates Lisa

  1. Oh…Les, oh you’re the most perfect human ever, the only person ever who knows what suffering means…you are SO perfect,…

  2. William Thompson

    Les, maybe you should try telling Lisa’s story instead of your story. Don’t get me wrong, I love to hear about you suffering, but your story doesn’t have that “red hot pincers, wielded by an inquisitor” quality that would make your misery more artistic.

  3. William Thompson

    What’s wrong with having Marianne Winters play Dead Saint Lisa? She’s a spineless non-personality with an unwarranted sense of good cheer who gave up on life at the first sign of trouble. Selznick should have had such an easy time casting Scarlett O’Hara!

  4. Epicus Doomus

    It’s been quite a while since I’ve legitimately boiled over with Les rage but that sulking disembodied Les head took me back to the early ’10s, back when Dick Facey was carving a trail of whiny-ness and woe through the funny page each and every day. If he had reservations about sharing “Her story” with the world why the f*ck did he write it all down to begin with? Oh wait, silly me, that’s a question based on Earth logic, not the ever-shifting laws of the Funkyverse.

    Seriously though, this has reached the point where it’s just as bad as the original “LS” book writing and launch arcs were and believe me, if you missed them at the time trust me, you don’t wanna know. The insufferable simpering angst, the blubbering bearded “miss givings”, the deeply conflicted pouting, it’s all back and just as enraging as ever. Once again Les is carrying on like some unseen force is twisting his arm and forcing him to share his creepy cancer book with the world, even though that’s not what actually happened in the story at all. Just like when he wrote the book, just like when it got published and just like “Lust For Lisa”. It’s one “story” being told over and over and over and there’s never any resolution. The whining, blubbering and simpering IS the story, which makes it all the more revolting.

    • justifiable

      It’s not the world’s story, it’s Less’s twenty year odyssey of narcissistic, egocentric, emotionally overwrought necrophilia. And someone finally needs to stake it through the heart and give it a proper burial, because it’s way past putrid in here.

      • Epicus Doomus

        And it’s just amazing how he seemingly just can’t force himself to ever take it in a slightly different direction, even though he easily could. It’s this constant conflict over “commercializing” his masterpiece, which we all know is rooted in TomBan’s own frustrations over HIS masterpiece not being properly appreciated and/or recognized, even though it WAS at the time. It’s all so weird and twisted. And meanwhile a perfectly good band box arc just sits on the shelf, perpetually unfinished.

        And it’s interesting how today the characters have no problem with using phones, despite no one considering it in any other situation. I mean why not have Les just fly back home to talk to his wife, it’s how everyone else in the strip does it.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Batty whines about crass commercialization of his art, but boy he sure advertises those books of his every chance he gets.

    • Charles

      It’s his neediness, but he realizes that if he comes right out and says what he wants, it’s just going to reveal how pathetic, self-absorbed and narcissistic this whole story is.

      If he decides to write this story where everything goes well: the producer enthusiastically recognizes the “genius” of this project, they get an all-star cast, it wins awards and breaks box office records, it’d be too obvious what Batiuk’s doing here. So instead he mixes it up. The producers don’t appreciate the genius, but for stupid reasons, or they do appreciate the genius, but they reject it for stupid reasons anyway. (“It won’t play in China.” “Art belongs in a museum.”) No one can just have their opinion that it’s not good or that it won’t work. They have to be stupid about it. It allows for the conclusion that if the producers weren’t stupid about it, it really would be this great masterpiece that the world needs. If he injects doubt into that conclusion by bringing up a legitimate criticism, well, the whole thing falls apart. (Or maybe Batiuk’s so up his own ass about this that he can’t even conceive that there’s any legitimate criticism to be made about it. “A perfect book” indeed)

      But in order for this to “work”, he’s decided that he can’t have Les really want this to happen. If Les thinks this is all going to be great and bring glory on him and his story, he’s a grasping narcissist. If he makes a spirited defense in the face of all the facile criticism that his story’s getting, again, it’ll just betray the shallowness of the premise, that the producers’ stupidity is just too obvious. If Batiuk makes the producers’ criticism not stupid, well, then he’s injecting potentially legitimate criticism and the whole premise of this “perfect book” can very easily fail. So instead he puts Les in an untenable position that doesn’t make any sense: he doesn’t want this to happen but he’s still inexplicably unwilling to stop it. Hell, he can’t say anything. All he can do is run back to Mason’s house, call his wife and whine.

      It kind of reminds me of the ludicrous lengths Lynn Johnston went to at the end of For Better or For Worse to get people to like the detestable Anthony. She discovered that the audience hated his mustache so she had him shave it off, but she couldn’t leave it at that, so she claimed that Anthony’s evil ex-wife forced him to grow it, and his two year-old daughter convinced him to shave it. He couldn’t make any affirmative actions on his own, because that would be him taking a position that Johnston couldn’t defend. Les is the same way. If he wants this movie, he’s greedy and exploiting his wife’s death. If he doesn’t want it, it doesn’t happen. But it has to happen, so it never makes any sense.

  5. billytheskink

    This is the most terribly perfect Cayla strip in all of Funky Winkerbean. Not one bit of it is about her, it is entirely about Les, who says “Lisa” three times and “Cayla” not once.

    • Epicus Doomus

      Cayla pursued Les for YEARS before landing him. No woman has ever worked harder for such a poor payoff. Maybe she’s into some sort of perverse reverse undead cuckolding kink or something.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Cayla looks like she is putting on some weight too.

  6. Gerard Plourde

    It’s mind boggling that TomBa has such affection for Les, but it’s definitely certain that he does. Just remembering that whole arc following Lisa’s death was infuriating. All of that stupid melodrama was a classic study in bathos. And now we’re in for a replay.

    • justifiable

      Less is Todd’s author surrogate, which – no surprise to anyone – means he really is the main character. It’s a fairly common literary device among accomplished, veteran writers. But since Todd is neither, he can’t contain himself and resorts to a common flaw in amateur fan fiction by idealizing his surrogate to the point of perfection. This intuitive, talented paragon is known as a “Mary Sue/Marty Stu” – they’re always geniuses or savants that step in at the 11th hour to save the day. They pull the hottest and most powerful woman or man, and change the lives of everyone they meet for the better. This is gag-making, immature, wish-fulfillment as its absolute worst, so naturally they also come across as narcissistic and pompous as fuck – which the author, who lacks self-awareness, is utterly oblivious to.

      So “Lust for LisaLess” is basically nothing more that Todd’s reflection of his own unflagging self-love. And no one wants to see a 73 year old constantly jerking off in front of a mirror.

    • Epicus Doomus

      It wasn’t just one arc, it was a huge multi-layered arc with countless sub-arcs and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM was centered around Les not being over it. It went on for like six or seven years and that’s not even counting “Lust For Lisa”.

      • Charles

        I was thinking about an interview with Patton Oswalt that I listened to several months ago when contemplating this. Oswalt, if you didn’t know, found himself in a situation eeriely similar to Les’s when his wife died suddenly from a near-impossible-to-diagnose heart condition, leaving him a single father of a girl very close to Summer’s age when Lisa died.

        And he’s talked about how important it was that he not lose his shit in front of his daughter, no matter how much he felt like it, because he’s all she has, and he has to reassure her that he’s someone she can depend on, that she knows he can take care of her when she needs it. (Les’s situation is probably worse than this, since none of Summer’s four grandparents seems to play any role in her life whatsoever)

        Oswalt had also remarried and told the interviewer how great his new wife was with his daughter. The interviewer proceeded to ask him if he ever brought up his prior wife in these situations, sort of a “she would have liked this” or “she’d be proud of you”, etc, and Oswalt just asked him why he would do something like that to his daughter. She’s doing great with his new wife, so why would he want to make her sad by reminding her about how she lost her mother? Why would he want to deliberately bring sadness into the life of a little girl who’s suffered enough as it is?

        And it really made me realize what a terrible character Les is, and what a monstrous father Batiuk made him. Les lived for the shit that he shouldn’t have been doing around his daughter. His misery while Summer was growing up appeared to be so palpable that it’s as if it was Summer’s sibling, with a disability, at that. I mean, look at how fucked up he still was ten years later, hell how fucked up he still is now! Is this the kind of guy who would be able to, much less be willing to, hold his shit together for his child? Of course not. Hell, Batiuk seems to think this makes Les a better person!

        So it almost seems excessive to mention how terribly handled those Lisa videos were. I mean, here it is, every single time Summer has something to celebrate when she was growing up, out comes a video to remind her that her mom is dead. And it gets even worse and more unreal that Batiuk never understood that this wouldn’t be something that Summer would enjoy, or even look forward to. Every time she was happy about something, here comes her mom to inject sadness into it, facilitated by her useless dad who views it as the most important thing he can do for her.

        Seriously, look up interviews that Oswalt gave about his wife’s death and how he’s handled raising his daughter since then. You think Les can’t possibly become any more awful, but the guy contains multitudes of shittiness that you couldn’t even conceive.

        • justifiable

          It was never about Less being there for his daughter after Lisa’s death. He even forgot abut her when he went to Central Park to bury Lisa’s ashes – she was literally an afterthought. It was Summer’s job to be the “lifeline” that pulled Less, who was indulging in a clothes-sniffing, note-seeking, TV watching orgy of grief, “back to the world.” Then Tell-Not-Show Todd conveniently skipped over all the actual emotional involvement and work that goes into raising a child as a single parent – hey presto, she’s all grown up.

          Damn kid should’ve dropped the rope.

          • Charles

            Yeah, Batiuk would, I suspect, try to claim some wiggle room that because we didn’t see the ten years between Act 2 and Act 3, we didn’t see Les being a father to Summer in an exemplary fashion.

            But it’s simply impossible to believe that the guy who fell to his knees, threw his head back and shrieked about his grief in the rain, in public, almost rending his garments in the process, would be willing or able to hold his shit together for his daughter. As I said, Les’s grief was like a brother to Summer, and Les loved him more.

        • Epicus Doomus

          Summer was supposed to be the focus of Act III, but apparently writing for a teenage girl was hard so he simplified things by relying on the “ironic opposite” trope, where Summer was the “tomboy jock” unlike her wimpy dad. When that ran its course so did Summer.

      • Gerard Plourde

        Right. I think that what we’re also seeing is TomBa’s own Lisa fetish. She remains the only female character that he attempted to give any extensive story to. I think he initially intended to keep her present when set up the plot device of her recording hours of micromanaging tape giving omniscient advice that that Les and Summer were to dutifully watch and which ended up being converted to disk.

        Then came the weird ghost appearances. The phone call in the airplane incident pretty along with her appearance with Phil Holt at the auction and her subsequent cameo at a Lisa’s Legacy Run establish that TomBa is now treating her as existing in an afterlife. I wonder if we can expect to see the current plot line resolved by her deo ex machina appearance.

        • William Thompson

          I don’t think it’s a Lisa fetish; I think it’s a Les fetish. Look at how quickly Batiuk had Lisa give up her fight to live. It’s as though Batiuk said “Enough of her struggle and pain; let’s fast-forward to my, er, Les’s time on the cross!” And it remained all about Les, who couldn’t be arsed to investigate the hospital blunder that began Lisa’s death-spiral. It didn’t matter how she died, or that other people might die from the same preventable mistake. It was time to put his sufferings on display, and no distractions allowed.

        • Charles

          The Lisa Ghost appearance came before the video tapes, by about 18 months to two years. The first tape, if I’m remembering right, is the one for Summer’s sixteenth birthday.

          I think the tapes essentially took over the role Ghost Lisa had been playing prior to that, because it was either introduce the tapes or have multiple characters share in the mass delusion of Ghost Lisa following them around. With the tapes, Batiuk was able to have Darin, Fred and Fishstick all bask in Dead Lisa’s wisdom at once.

          I still can’t get over “Ghost Lisa calls in a bomb threat to an airline” story. She saved the lives of over a hundred fellow passengers simply because it was the only way she could save Les’s life.

          • Gerard Plourde

            Thanks. I thought I remembered an Act II arc where she began taping, but given TomBa’s love of retcons, I can believe that it actually came up as a flashback in Act III.

        • Charles

          Actually, you’re right. There was at least one strip in Act 2 showing Lisa making a video tape intended for Summer years later. It was, in fact, the sixteenth birthday tape that Summer watched in Act 3, but prior to Summer viewing the tape, Lisa’s videotapes weren’t a thing at all in Act 3. She only had one available for every conceivable event in Summer’s, Les’s, Darin’s and Cayla’s lives after that.

  7. Hitorque

    “It’s not the world’s story!” said the moron who published her story, then published a sequel, then published a prequel, and finally published a graphic novel adaptation…

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      …and signed a shopping agreement. Remember that? It gave Mason ownership of Lisa’s story for a year, so he could pitch the movie.

      Which is what’s really infuriating about Les’ endless Hamlet-ing about Dead Lisa. The signed shopping agreement should have moved the story forward, because the movie can’t proceed until Les signs over the IP. Yet, here we are, in Hollywood pitching a movie, and Les can’t decide if he wants to do the thing they need to pitch the movie. Even though the strip spent two weeks talking about it!

      • justifiable

        Not quite. A shopping agreement means Less agreed to let Mason, as the producer, pitch the project – that’s it. He doesn’t own it, nor has he optioned it. The idea is that Mason has the clout to bring the project to potential studios – if there’s interest, Mason and Less each each negotiate their own deal. Less retains ownership throughout, and neither of them can make a deal without the other. If Less is unreasonable (and when is he not?) he can tank the deal through his demands and Mason will be out all the time, effort and money he’s put into this shit-show.

        A shopping agreement can be a win-win for an experienced producer and a novice writer without connections, as the producer doesn’t have to pay to option material from an unknown who otherwise wouldn’t have a shot. The downside is that a producer who doesn’t risk any money optioning a project often carelessly packages and pitches it. In this case, Mason hasn’t produced shit and therefore has no track record. He doesn’t know how to pitch, nor does he realize that shopping this property all over town will tarnish it through overexposure. The more people pass on it due to lousy or scattershot “practice” presentations, the more toxic it gets.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          I look at the shopping agreement from a storytelling perspective. The story arc is, Les has misgivings about letting someone else create and tell his dead wife’s life story. Okay, fine. But at some point, Les has to make a decision to allow it or not. He can’t just Hamlet back and forth for years on end.

          Stories need events that more the plot forward. Characters have to make decisions. The shopping agreement is a perfect time in the plot for Les to face losing editorial control of Lisa’s story, and make his decision one way or the other. If he can’t say “no” to Mason now, he’ll never be able to once the project has attracted interest. It’s a point of no return in the story.

          The story even seemed to be setting this up. Mason told Les very early that he would not be the scriptwriter his time. He took some time explaining the shopping agreement and what it meant. Les reluctantly agreed to sign it, though we never saw this. (Speaking of which, why not? That’s the best moment in any story where a contract has to be a signed. Imagine any deal-with-the-devil story where the protagonist says “okay, I’ll sign the agreement” and then cuts to the next scene.)

          Worst of all: Les’ dilemma should pose an interesting question. Would YOU let a bunch of complete strangers tell YOUR life story, with no input, and not knowing what they want to do with it? In this Internet and media-heavy world, it’s a question worth thinking about. Many people have agreed to lend themselves to movies, or appear in TV shows, and not been happy with the results. Which can happen even if there’s no malicious intent. Others have simply said “no.” So it’s an interesting question to explore. But Batiuk gives us absolutely zero explanation or even any discussion of why Les is so reluctant about this. I guess it’s too precious for the audience.

          This is what makes Tom Batiuk’s storytelling so incompetent: cut away from the interesting parts, disregard plot points you spent weeks talking about, never force your protagonist to make a choice, and never move the plot forward.

          • William Thompson

            Anyone who looks at Les’s version of Lisa’s death is going to wonder why he didn’t look at the circumstances that led to her death. They’re going to look at his behavior with Lisa, and how he and Lisa dealt with Summer, and how he treats the other people in his life, and they aren’t going to like what they see. Les/Batiuk would like it even less when they present their own conclusions. That’s why he can’t move the story forward; adding to it risks revealing too much.

            (I don’t think comparing Les to Hamlet is valid. Hamlet delayed killing his murderous uncle for reasons that made sense to him–should you take the word of a ghost, without any supporting evidence? Your uncle seems to be praying, so if you kill him now he’ll die in a state of grace and go to heaven, escaping Hell on a technicality. His delaying causes harm to others, and when he finally slays his uncle, it’s too late to be a meaningful accomplishment. But Les is just delaying to protect his precious ego, and he’s never going to act.)

  8. Hitorque

    “Little Miss Givings”?!

    What weirdo alt universe does a grown ass man call another grown ass man that??

    Masone has always been a bit flaky, shallow and immature, but pounding Cindye’s mythical reverse-aging cooch every night has somehow given him the mentally of an 8th grader:

    “DUDE!! MAKE THIS BOOK INTO A MOVIE! YOU TOTALLY KNOW YOU WANT TO AND IT’LL BE SO RADICAL AND COOL AND SELL A ZILLION TICKETS! JUST REMEMBER TO ADD A LOVE SCENE SO I GET TO SEE MARIANNE’S AWESOME BOOBIES UP CLOSE!”

    • justifiable

      Will Marianne’s mommy let him?

      • William Thompson

        No. When they film the love scene she won’t let any men on the set. She’ll keep Masonry off the set, too.

        • Charles

          They’re going to use a body double for the steamy love scenes. (We have to see what’s being lost with Lisa’s *breast* cancer, after all) And it’ll be the same body double used for Ma Bell’s fight scenes in “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka”, mustache included.

  9. Doghouse Reilly (Philadelphia)

    The way Masonne took charge at both so-called pitch meetings so far and basically had to schlep Les the Lord of Language’s kicking and screaming carcass along the way, I would’ve thought he called him “Little Miss Carriage.”

  10. Paul Jones

    The problem is that it really isn’t Lisa’s story because Les has no real idea who Lisa was. I never got the idea that he really understood the woman or why she did what she did. What it is happens to be the story of Les’s morose befuddlement about his wife’s passing.

  11. Count of Tower Grove

    Other than Todd’s imaginary SoCal utterance of “Mega!”, what did “the actress who played ;Jupiter Moon'” ever do to Less?
    BTW, when when she said it, it would have been valley girl cool if she said “Mega?”

  12. Rusty Shackleford

    Wow, so if he wants to keep Lisa in the strip he could have done a sappy bit involving Mother’s Day.

    But no, Batty’s ego comes first.

  13. Count of Tower Grove

    Hotdamn! Every panel has Caucayla holding her phone in that Fungyverse way in which they hold pizza slices.

  14. bigd1992

    I’ve heard that the Pulitzer committee loves comic strips where a male lead, especially one who is a high school English teacher, dies in a California earthquake.

  15. Westview Radiology

    Batty-Yuck should be ashamed of himself. Besides drawing Cayla as almost Nordic in her features …. how could he believe that his readers don’t see a self serving second “husband” treat her as nothing more than a sounding board for the glorification of Dead Saint Lisa. I’ve read this strip for decades and as a man I find Caylas personality and heart to be eons above the character of Lisa that the author expects us to know, love and be all whimsical and nostalgia about.