In The Hot Seat.

Link to today’s strip whenever it appears

Comic Book Harriet reporting from the scene of the missing previews. Literally sweating bullets over trying to come up with something that hasn’t been said already by the hordes of commenters, or, as Batiuk likes to call us, ‘Beady-Eyed Nitpickers’.

Seeing a bunch of fresh names in the comments section lately brings a smile to my heart. Hate reading crappy comics is one of life’s greatest pleasures, like music, or fine wine, meant to be shared with like-minded connoisseurs. I don’t know if you people are coming back to watch the world burn, or have just found the place, but the you’re stoking the fire with some pretty hot fuel for thought.

Such as.

I hope everyone will give SpacemanSpiff85 a massive round of internet points for putting up with almost an entire shift of no previews. He was able to transmogrify something out of nothing, which is the exact opposite of what Tom usually accomplishes.


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

68 responses to “In The Hot Seat.

  1. Epicus Doomus

    I’ve been saying for years that BatSpam really needs to get out more and this arc is proof positive of that, uh, observation, let’s call it. That trip to California has already yielded WEEKS of material and all it appears he did out there was take some pictures of buildings and visit a cave. Just imagine if he ever took a REAL vacation somewhere, he’d have stories for YEARS.

    Yeah, it’s terrible and all but in all honesty this beats the holy hell out of “Funky struggles at the gym”…”Buck flirts with Linda”…”Dinkle discusses retirement with some guy”…”Becky and Harry discuss squirrels” and so on. Just take a gander at the Act III archives and gawk in amazement at some of the truly abysmal stories you’ve forgotten about, it’s absolutely amazing. Looking out the studio window and picking up some pizza may be all well and good but it doesn’t really give one any “life experiences” to draw from story-wise. Which is undoubtedly why he frequently tells the same ones over and over and over and over again.

    So I half-heartedly applaud this new direction. Let the m*therf*ckers burn, I say. A Starbuck Jones-themed group funeral would be a FANTASTIC Sunday strip. Yes, I know it’ll end on the most flaccid and stupid note imaginable but still, it’s fun to dream.

    • newagepalimpsest

      Oh, this is easily the best the strip has been for months! And as much as I love to moan and complain about them, Lisa storylines always manage to incorporate some completely batshit insane development.

      “Here whoever the hell Les married after me, watch this tape where I berate you and tell you that I love you. Actually watch it and don’t just pitch it into the garbage or I WILL KNOW.”

  2. erdmann

    I wonder how far the fire has spread since yesterday. Has it reached Denver, yet? Boise? I’m in eastern Illinois, should I prepare to evacuate?

  3. Epicus Doomus

    I can see a scenario where both “LS” AND the new SJ premiere are forced to relocated to Westview and/or that stinky old movie house over in Crankshaftlandia. It seems too ambitious for FW, however it’s possible that I may need to re-calibrate my expectations given the sprawling nature of this little story. Not likely, but possible.

    Coming next Monday: with the fire extinguished, “Lisa’s Story” wrapped, Jff rescued and the SJ premiere over, the gang heads home for some pizza and comic books.

    • Cabbage Jack

      Ugh. That sounds like exactly the sort of thing Batiuk will do.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I think it’s something more ambitious than that.

      Because Tom Batiuk has to kill this movie dead. If Lisa’s Story is ever completed, the strip wouldn’t be able to talk about Lisa anymore, or explore Les’ wangsty feelings. Funky Winkerbean would have little left to talk about. I think Batiuk realized this during the Hollywood arc, and introduced this sudden, random, massive fire to fix it.

      So here’s my new pet theory: Marianne dies.

      It’s a longshot, but it makes sense. She’s a disposable, tertiary character. She exemplifies Hollywood, which we know Batiuk hates, and would enjoy giving a “karmic” death to. Burning someone alive would be shocking enough to get himself some media attention. And it undoes all the progress that was made on Lisa’s Story, because they can’t just re-cast the title role. They’d have to go back to casting and repeat that whole process.

      • SeaCountry

        Well hell, it’s not like L*s has a daughter or a currently living second wife to occupy his attention! (I know I’ve already exhibited hostility towards this character, but he is an exemplar of the kind of whiny, entitled, pompous “nice guy” who becomes an emotional vampire if you feed his ego enough. Probably the only thing Batiuk ever wrote/draw that is an exemplar of anything.)

  4. SeaCountry

    Thank you, comicbookharriet! Quick intro: I’ve been hate-reading FW since before Act III and dimly remember when the strip contained actual jokes (I think I was in middle school). I learned to read with newspaper comic strips as a kid, so I love the genre. Wallace the Brave, Nancy, and Pearls Before Swine are current favorites. I get amazed at some of the zombie comics still published, but I don’t hate any of them as much as FW (and Lord, I hate L*s more than I do some classic literary villains). I just decided to come out of lurk mode here after a long time reading everyone’s thoughts. Like many people, I’ve been having a few months where fun was hard to come by. But y’all consistently crack me up, so I’m happy to chime in.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      I’m with you, FW is the worst of the worst—mostly due to Batty’s pompous attitude. I feel like the other zombie cartoonists would actually chuckle along with us, but Batty acts like FW is some rich tapestry or a finely aged wine. This wine turned to vinegar years ago.

    • comicbookharriet

      You are more than welcome here! Westview is the place to go when fun is hard to come by. It’s like Cheers for nitpicking misanthropes.

  5. Cabbage Jack

    So I guess this is Chekhov’s Town House? Introduced for the sole purpose of burning it down?

  6. Y. Knott

    I’m new here too. FW has never been carried by any of my local papers — and I’ve been reading them since the 70s. This can only mean that I live in an awesome newspaper town.

    I only stumbled across FW accidentally on-line. It’s not Apartment 3-G-in-its- death-throes awful … but Lord, it ain’t good. And it’s often a little sad … although never in the way intended. It’s clearly the work of someone who has minimal storytelling talent — and not only doesn’t know it, but thinks that every random thought inspired by his very limited world view is spellbinding.

    Can you imagine that there’s anyone who is both so dull of mind AND starved for entertainment choices, that they would unironically follow this strip and enjoy it?

    Maybe … but only maybe … if their ONLY other entertainment choice was the current run of 9 Chickweed Lane?

    Which leads to the joke: in a battle to the death between Brooke McEldowney and Tom Batuik, who would win?

    ˙ɔᴉlqnd ƃuᴉpɐǝɹ sɔᴉɯoɔ ǝɥ┴ :su∀

    • Epicus Doomus

      I was the same, only with Crankshaft. I had no idea it even existed until maybe ten years ago. And I was like “he has TWO comic strips?”. Then I remembered John Darling!

      • Y. Knott

        Crankshaft, FW, John Darling: Toronto newspapers apparently remained immune to all of Tom Batuik’s charms. A single reference to Funky Winkerbean in a 35-year-old Bloom County comic was, I’m pretty sure, the only time I had ever heard of any of these strips until relatively recently.

    • SeaCountry

      I didn’t see much of Apartment 3G (I moved around a lot in the past 20 years). I remember it being about 3 women roommates who looked stuck in the late 1950s/early 1960s, right?

      • Y. Knott

        That’s the one, Sea Country. Unfortunately, in its last few years, it became a painful day-to-day exhibition of a once top-notch 90-year-old artist’s declining faculties and growing dementia. That’s not snark or hyperbole, either. Towards the end, A3G was an incomprehensible, meanderingly plotless mess that took place in a shakily-drawn Eisenhower-era dreamscape where backgrounds and objects drifted around almost at random. After a rash of newspaper cancellations, the syndicate mercifully brought the strip to a close.

        • SeaCountry

          Wow, how sad. As opposed to Batiuk, who’s a senior, but just stubbornly tries to be “topical” without actually allowing himself to learn much about the modern world. Thanks.

        • comicbookharriet

          That is one of the most beautiful breakdowns of A3Gs breakdown I’ve ever read.

        • hitorque

          The sad part is you look back at the 60s, and A3G was a pretty bold and forward-thinking strip… Three confident young women who were independent and exuded sex appeal. Out of all the mothballed strips, a fresh, modern reboot of A3G would be quite popular, I think.

          • SeaCountry

            Get someone with vision like Olivia Jaimes, who managed to resuscitate Nancy, and it could work.

        • Doghouse Reilly (Minneapolis)

          To that I can only add Bleat! Bl

    • comicbookharriet

      To answer your question about McElonwey vs Batiuk: both guys have their weird fetishes. I would say 9CL has a stronger flavor with its unrelenting erotoelocution. But under that surface it lacks the depth and complexity, as is seen visually by the complete lack of backgrounds. With Batiuk the pleasure is in the details hidden away at the corners, and it means there is so much more to say.

      • Y. Knott

        They are both similar but still distinctly different flavours of awful, aren’t they?

        To me, the difference is that 9CL seems to be about an author obsessively trying to write about his specific, limited fetishes … but public demand for framing it all in some sort of vaguely comprehensible story keeps getting in his way. (Although he’s getting better and better at ignoring the public.) Whereas FW seems to be about an author who desperately would like to be able to spin stories — but his obsession with his specific, limited fetishes is the thing that keeps getting in *his* way.

    • Margaret

      I have never seen or heard of 9 Chickweed Lane before. (Sadly, my local paper has been running FW since the 70s. I vividly recall Les hanging from a rope in the gym throughout most of my high school years.) I just looked at it online, and my God! is it awful. Today’s strip is definitely right up there with the playground closed for repairs. Also it sure seems to be an attempt to imitate Bloom County in both art and wit. Which is as successful as most attempts to imitate Shakespeare or Michelangelo.

      • Charles

        If this is your first experience with 9 Chickweed Lane, it’s worse than what you see. The blonde woman, Edda, who essentially serves as the model for every sexy young woman in the strip, is based on McEldowney’s daughter. And her nebbishy husband Amos, who similarly is the model for the younger men, all the world appears to be a self-insert. So the strip is essentially nothing more than the writings of a stroke-addled artist revealing how much he wants his daughter to continually ravish him.

        His daughter is such an appalling Brooklyn hipster douche that Lena Dunham would probably tell her to dial it back a bit.

  7. Let me add my warmest welcome to our newer readers and commenters. Yep, hate-reading is what we do around here, yet this is one of the friendliest, funniest, sharpest online communities that I’ve ever had the pleasure of being part of.

  8. SeaCountry

    So L*s is in the studio with Mason and some other people, apparently they’re safe there (damn it), and Mason is panicking because he can’t reach Cindy.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Yes, even though the strip told us Lisa’s Story was on hiatus while Starbuck Jones 2 premieres, and Mason was in the editing room. Now they’re all back together on the set with no explanation, but Marianne’s still taking the day off to drink snd sunbathe at Cindy’s house. So who knows what’s going on anymore.

  9. billytheskink

    Looks like Mason gets his own Lisa and the Post Office bombing story… and make no mistake, the menfolk ARE going to be the focus of this story rather than the women who (presumably) survive the disastrous event, just like they were back in 1996. That’s how TB does it.

    • Epicus Doomus

      Damsels in distress…just like in those 1930s movies he loves so much. Cindy and Lisa 2.0 are tied to the railroad tracks and the fire is the mustachioed villain.

      • William Thompson

        This is more like one of those cheesy Seventies disaster movies, where a bunch of dull-ass people get in trouble because they ignore the hero’s warnings about a potential disaster. Except Les is no hero, and the only disaster he cared about was the Dead Lisa movie.

        At least the strip has the appropriate low-budget look and air of dim-witted hysteria. That’s quite an accomplishment for Batiuk.

    • erdmann

      Looking at Mason at the top of the page, I found myself thinking of the Susan Smith suicide attempt story, “I can get to her burning town house faster myself!”

    • newagepalimpsest

      Ohhhh I hate everything about that storyline.

      Except for “USA!!!!!” which completely caught me off-guard. I can only imagine what it must have been like (back in the days) to open the newspaper, turn to the Sunday funnies, take a nice, big sip of coffee…

  10. William Thompson

    Ooops! Make that “Cinders,” Mr. Slowpoke!

  11. Epicus Doomus

    Jeez, that dialog is downright oppressive. And I thought Mason was calling Cindy yesterday? Why even include the Sunday reality bubble if it isn’t part of the story? In fact, yesterday’s strip was totally useless, as this is just basically the same information.

    • Y. Knott

      Well, there is the information that Les was apparently able to drive *back* from West Hollywood to the studio…. Did he even notice THE! BIG! POINT! DUME! FIRE! as he drove through it? No! His self-absorption is too pure! Like cancer, fire can not harm Les! Only those around him!

  12. Boots Gandalf

    “But I’ll continue to bring you this breaking news for about 19 more seconds before this wall of flames consumes me.”

  13. Barnaby Scones

    Nice that they can all stand around watching the TEE-vee when there’s a major motion picture to be edited. No wonder Hollywood gets such a bad rap.

  14. Professor Harlan Grankle

    I wonder why Cayla isn’t frantically calling Les?
    (No I don’t.)

    • Epicus Doomus

      Cayla??? Oh yeah, right, Les’ current still-living wife! I remember her!

    • SeaCountry

      Too busy watching the news and cheering on the fire like it’s her favorite sports team about to win a championship.

      • newagepalimpsest

        You just know that Les canceled ESPN (yes, they also still have cable TV) the moment Summer and that other one left for college.

        “Ugh, you’re a sporto too, Cayla?! UGHHHHH”

        • SeaCountry

          I just watched to see if my NHL team has a chance at drafting talented little Alexis Lafreniere for next season (sadly, no) and discussed who they needed to trade, so I guess I’m a sporto. Oh well.

  15. Hitorque

    1. Another day, and another “news” reporter talking in a manner completely unrecognizable to those of us who have worked in the industry…

    2. It’s cliche as hell, but Batiuk should have made the disaster an earthquake instead if he wants us to think literally 10 million people can instantly be caught off guard by a wildfire.

    • erdmann

      Ah, but you can’t blame an earthquake on global warming…
      [Pauses and strokes his chin thoughtfully]
      …Or CAN you? Hmmmm.

    • comicbookharriet

      I am going to give him a tiny amount of credit. People can be caught off guard by the changing direction or sudden uptick of a wildfire. Case in point, the Camp Fire burning all of Paradise CA and killing over 80 people in 2018 because some didn’t get the warnings.

  16. Gerard Plourde

    So Les is now editing “Lisa’s Story” as well? I should have known that TomBa’s self-professed need for total control would be mirrored in his favorite avatar.

  17. Paul Jones

    Batiuk hasn’t changed in twenty-four years, has he? He still thinks of women as passive dummies to be rescued because funny books teach him that women are either hindrances, obstructions or victims.

  18. So, I guess yesterday he was calling Marianne just to say “Howdy, coming in to the studio today?”

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      It is concievable that they’re shooting scenes that don’t involve character… but she’s playing Lisa in Lisa’s Story, so there wouldn’t be many of those. Also, if they’re on set, why is Mason out of his Les makeup?

      This story can’t keep track of where its characters are from one minute to the next.

      • hitorque

        I thought Masone was “in editing”?

        And I thought you had to, you know, actually FINISH all the filming first and THEN you went to “editing”? So far all “Lisa’s Story” consists of is a short park bench scene and a short restaurant scene… Hell, we haven’t even seen or heard of any additional cast members yet…

        But then I’m just a layman…

        • hitorque

          And what the hell happened to all that “Starbuck Jones Part II” pre-release hype they were supposed to be doing? Because the interview circuit alone would take weeks….

          Of course in Batiuk’s Hollywood it was probably all wrapped up in an afternoon, because reasons.

      • SeaCountry

        One more nit that I spy with my beady eyes—at no point did we see Marianne shave her head or otherwise look sick. There are good prosthetics out there for hair/makeup artists, yes, but uglying up for a movie is a time-honored way for a beautiful actress looking to expand their range. Charlize Theron & Natalie Portman are examples. We know Batiuk doesn’t do realism, of course, or even remotely modern cultural references like Mad Max: Fury Road, Monster, or V for Vendetta. But wouldn’t you just kind of expect Marianne doing interviews for Starbuck with a buzz cut saying “It’s for a movie I’ve been working on about an inspiring woman who has breast cancer…”?

  19. Smirks 'R Us

    I fully expect Masonne to put the entire fire out using only a garden hose from his back yard.

    The real story is that he doesn’t even own a garden hose. He willed one into existence using only his awesomeness.

    • Don

      Of course not – it will end with the flames blocking the exit road, then getting closer and closer until it finally consumes the house and everything inside…missing by literal inches the helicopter Mason, er, “procured” from the studio to rescue the women, probably with a close-up of Les holding onto one of them with one hand as the other clutches a rope ladder.

    • Perfect Tommy

      Maybe he’ll borrow Cranky’s Supersoaker garden hose.

  20. louder

    Evidently the various fire and police departments in Los Angeles County are doing darn all about alerting people, but hey, TV is all you need to have the word go out. As someone who lives in Napa County, believe me, no one was casual about anything during the fire here. The sky was dark, ashes rained down, covering everything, and the fire department, police, and everyone else was desperately trying to get the word out to evacuate. But not those laid back SoCal idiots, doing their tans, chowing down on food, taking their siestas, serves them right if they burn up. Now Cancerville, there’s a town that know how to deal with death and destruction — it’s a daily occurrence, if fact, the town motto is: Welcome to Westview, a great place to die!

  21. robertodobbs

    That is one unbelievably clunky sentence. Can someone forward a copy of Strunk & White to Mr. Bat?

  22. spacemanspiff85

    I just had to throw this in here, from Batiuk’s blog: ” It’s not widely known, but the famous Hollywood sign in the hills actually started out as Hollywoodland.” Um, I knew this. I thought it was fairly common knowledge. I don’t understand why Batiuk feels the need to share minor trivia probably every tour guide in Hollywood shares like it’s some arcane secret of a cult.

  23. Professor Fate

    And for some reason now all i can hear is the song Wildfire running through my head.
    He’s trying for drama and suspense but what we get is of course bathos.

  24. newagepalimpsest

    Cheers to SpacemanSpiff85, and all of my fellow newbies!

    Well done Mason, for gaining about twenty pounds of muscle mass since ditching the Les wig!

  25. Chester the Dog

    I smell burning co-star…