Quo Tendimus?

August 24, 2020 at 12:56 am
You know, if you sit on the ground coughing while a massive wall of fire comes towards, and you have your back to a cave that you know is there and actually came to visit, and you just sit there and wait for the fire to take you rather than running away from it, like, maybe, into the cave, I think you deserve what happens.

I’m beginning to suspect that, in his solo travels thru the Cali desert, Jff might’ve accidentally ingested some peyote. ‘Cause he is just trippin’ balls. Pretty much the state yours truly must have been in when first viewing The Phantom Empire. The frail, Benday-cheeked elder Jff seems quite apprehensive about being swept up in robot arms, while Jff’s boyhood alter ego eagerly throws his arms around the robot, which must feel like hugging ductwork.

A programming note: The comic for next Wednesday (and for every Wednesday going forward) will not drop until after midnight Eastern, so look for a placeholder post. Kyping the daily Funky strips in advance recently became harder to do; more about that when we roll into  September.


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

72 responses to “Quo Tendimus?

  1. Epicus Doomus

    “And I decided to make a conscious move away from silly running gags and bad wordplay and take the strip in a more realistic and topical direction, where I could address contemporary issue like the ones you and I face every day.”

    “I know! Magic antique movie robots will emerge from the cave and save him!”

    Sure, Tom. There’s a 100% chance he won’t mention this debacle in his annual puff-piece interview in the “Lifestyles” section of the Sunday Medina Telegraph. “Why over the last year alone I addressed head injuries, suicide, breast cancer and magical antique cave-dwelling robots from the 1930s. So where the f*ck is MY Pulitzer, huh?”.

    I hope that when he sits down in January to crank out the 2022 strips he remembers to crack the window so the felt-tip fumes don’t make him loopy again like they clearly did before he dreamed up this piece of crap. Who is this even for? The most obscure comic strip character ever and the most obscure pop-culture reference imaginable, all in one story.

    • SeaCountry

      Plus confusion about why there’s a kid with hair like Kevin Harvick* that nobody seems to care about rescuing! Why wouldn’t anyone be charmed by that?

      * 40-something NASCAR driver

      • SeaCountry

        Thanks for making the link for me. Y’all see my point, right?

      • Mela

        I was thinking a little more Bobby Hill, but Kevin works too.

        • SeaCountry

          Harvick is a past champion & very likely to be this year’s champion too. However, Batiuk hates sports and anyone who is talented in them, so, we can probably just chalk this up to risible drawing.

      • billytheskink

        Harvick, that’s pretty good. Maybe no one cares about rescuing him because they are all Kyle Busch fans…

        I would also put forth Parnelli Jones as an auto racer hair reference.

        • Hitorque

          Not only is Jones a legend, he has one of the all-time greatest names in sports ever… Let us not anger the motorsports gods by even mentioning him in the same conversation as this batshit insanity…

          • SeaCountry

            Harvick, thankfully, is dominating right now. Bubba Wallace is my current favorite, but as a GenXer, I like seeing one of the old dudes get it done.

    • Professor Fate

      “And I decided to make a conscious move away from silly running gags and bad wordplay and take the strip in a more realistic and topical direction,”
      Seeing what is happening in todays strip – this quote may be the funniest thing he’s written in years. And let us not forget Zanzibar the talking Murder Chimp – now there was a topical and realistic story arc.

      • Maxine of Arc

        I will NEVER forget Zanzibar the Talking Drunken Murder Chimp, and we shouldn’t let TomBat forget it either.

  2. I lived for a time in Washington DC. On my way to work, I frequently witnessed old men…doing things, that they…shouldn’t be doing. In a public forum, at least. I looked away and tried to think of things that were more pleasant.

    I think I am seeing the same things now. At least they’re not in a public forum. One of the few occasions where I can say “Thank goodness for the shields that accompany the internet.”

  3. Y. Knott

    Y’know, it’s becoming increasingly apparent why the syndicate allowed Batiuk to have the rights to this utterly valueless property.

  4. SeaCountry

    Wow. Just wow. That is certainly some kind of storytelling.

  5. William Thompson

    I’ll confess that this strip has piqued my curiosity, and my mind is aflame with urgent questions: “What the fuck?” and “What the actual fucking fuck?” compete for the top of the list, followed by “Do they have a word for what’s wrong with Batiuk?”, “Are there sedatives and a strait jacket in his immediate future?” and “Would my old therapist have me committed if she caught me reading this drivel?”

  6. Gerard Plourde

    So the self-indulgent storyline continues. I’m making a leap here and positing that the “robots” will turn out to be firefighters misperceived by semiconscious Jff so that TomBa can run the imaginary bases for the clever metaphorical home run he believes he hit.

    • Mela

      Or Mason and Pete (because they play and draw comic book heroes) while Cindy and Mindy wait in the car.

      • J.J. O'Malley

        Can’t be Mason. I’ve seen episodes of “The Phantom Empire,” and the Muranian robots were better actors than Mr. Jarre on his best day.

    • Charles

      Not sure if you’re right there. I’m almost inclined to think that instead Jfff will be saved by these robots and there won’t be any explanation offered. Instead, it’s just a magical world!

      This is, after all, a strip where Lisa-in-the-Afterlife called Les on the white courtesy phone in an airport to tell him not to board the plane that was going to crash, and when that didn’t dissuade him, to call in a bomb threat.

      Presumably if Les had listened to her, she would have let all the other passengers on that plane die in a fiery death. Even when Batiuk tries to do a heartwarming supernatural strip at Christmastime, he screws it up.

      • SeaCountry

        This is also a strip where it didn’t occur to Lisa (or Batiuk) that the doctor who screwed up her charts might also do that to other women, and he needed to be stopped.

      • Margaret

        Yes, and this is also a strip where a talking chimpanzee commits murder with a gun, presented straightforwardly with no explanation, or even any of the supposedly sane characters saying “WHAT?!” So it is entirely possible that Jeff and little Jeff will visit Murania and there will never be any reveal that it was a dream or hallucination.

  7. Epicus Doomus

    And remember, this is still technically the Lisa’s Story…The Movie arc. Which now features a guy from Crankshaft, his imaginary younger self, a huge wildfire and cave-dwelling antique movie robots. No one saw THAT coming, yet at the same time it’s not really surprising at all.

    • spacemanspiff85

      It’s really amazing how Batiuk’s writing can be totally unpredictable and nonsensical but still super, super boring.

      • Epicus Doomus

        Like I said yesterday, it’s like something a lazy child would write. “And he went to the cave where they made the movie he liked and he imagined that he was with himself when he was a kid and he found the cave but there was a big fire and he got scared but the movie robots came out of the cave and carried him away”. If he really wanted to do an arc about movie robots of the 1930s (and you know it’s been a dream of his since forever) then he should have done one, not mindlessly cram it into this one. Have Jff go to Comic-Con or something and buy one of the robot suits or something, I dunno. He always picks the dumbest possible path and you can never see it coming because it’s just impossible to think like he does.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Actually my 10 year old niece can write a better story. Since the quarantine, she has been drawing her own comic. It’s called Suspicious Tina. Some of the characters are based on her friends. She makes fun of some of her friends, but there is no cancer and no axe to grind.

          Her pencil art needs some work but her paintings are very nice. Decent composition and a great use of color. I try to encourage her to practice her skills.

  8. spacemanspiff85

    The upcoming Sunday strip could be a recreation of the Pieta with Jeff’s charred corpse being held by a Muranian robot and I would not be shocked in the least. (Apart from Batiuk being familiar with the Pieta, at least).

    • comicbookharriet

      The Pieta? To highbrow. It would obviously be a recreation of Batman cradling Jason Todd Robin.

      • erdmann

        Jason Todd? Too new (1988) and not even the “real” Robin. Batiuk would more likely go with “Robin Dies at Dawn” from “Batman” Vol. 1, No. 156 (June 1963).

        • Epicus Doomus

          I think he’d avoid that whole Batman continuity kerfuffle altogether and go with something like “Splash Guy”, Batom Comics ill-conceived and short-lived Aquaman ripoff from 1959.

          • William Thompson

            Was that the faux-cover with “The Amazing Mr. Sponge” carrying “Absorbing Junior” across a dry sandy landscape? I am so ashamed of myself for remembering that one.

        • William Thompson

          What about the Columbia serials from the 1940s? Are they vintage enough for Batiuk? Or are they eternally damned because (according to the Wikipedia entry) their re-release in 1965 inspired the creation of the TV series?

  9. Oh my God, I just remembered we’ve got that “Rip Tide – Escape from the Maelstrom” cover to, uh, look forward to.

    He’s really vying to make his legacy completely worthless, isn’t he?

    • spacemanspiff85

      The Cartooning Museum display on Batiuk is going to pretty baffling when it says his strip lasted exactly fifty years to the day but they could only find one strip worth displaying.

    • Epicus Doomus

      Imagine any other pop-culture entertainment that’s been around for fifty years and still as obscure as FW is. “Purple Microdot, formed in 1972, just released their fortieth album and are embarking on their forty-seventh world tour”…”Gun Corral, TV’s longest running Western, just marked it’s 1500th episode”…”Von Brockel, who directed his first film in 1972, has just released his twenty-eighth film, “At Dawn They Live”. You’d be like “what? How come I’ve never heard of this before?”. It’s just not possible, right?

      • SeaCountry

        “In the 1980s, Purple Microdot went in a socially conscious direction and released a few songs that were acclaimed. Later, Purple Microdot would change its sound entirely from heavy metal to pop-hip-hop, refusing steadfastly to play the old hits. Many of the songs were about the lead singer’s struggle to publish his book and his wife’s bout with breast cancer. After she died in the late 1990s, Purple Microdot changed their sound again, this time to a combination of sea chanteys and Finnish death metal. While they attempt to address other social problems, they still record many songs about the lead singer’s late wife, though he has since remarried.”

        • comicbookharriet

          SeaCountry…that is just the most beautiful thing I’ve read since I don’t know when.

          • SeaCountry

            Coming from you, that means a lot! It just seemed like as good a concise explanation for Funk…I mean, Purple Microdot’s self-inflicted dive into obscurity as any.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Batty likes it that way. He reminds me of a jerk that lived in our dorm, always criticizing other people’s choices in music. He liked some way out, obscure bands until they became well known or you started liking them.

        Knowledge of obscure music was a way he could pretend that he was smarter and better than everyone else. You can see the similarities here.

        Ultimately it’s a self esteem issue.

  10. comicbookharriet

    I now unironically ship inner-child!Jff and Muranian robot. Look at that pose in panel one and tell me it doesn’t belong on the cover of an incredibly niche romance.

    Jff loves his wife, in his own way, but in the dark moments of the night he can’t stop thinking about how the furnace in his basement would look in a hat.

    • Y. Knott

      Hahaha! I laughed harder at this than any FW I’ve ever seen.

    • Epicus Doomus

      The symbolism involved with Jff and his child self being carried into a dark safe cave by two (sorry but they are) fruity robots is really kind of icky and more than a little obvious.

      • Charles

        Yes, apparently the robot employing a fireman’s carry wouldn’t be loving and nurturing enough.

        They’re obviously going to gently lay him down on a bed and turn on the Barry White. Jfff already has the appropriate facial expression.

    • William Thompson

      You have to admit, the furnace shows more warmth than Pmm and Jfff have ever shown one another.

    • Professor Fate

      Swept off his feet by a robot – if that idea doesn’t already have a series of self published books on Amazon on this topic i’d be very shocked.

      • J.J. O'Malley

        “Swept off his feet by a robot”…sounds like a kinky dream from “Lost in Space’s” Dr. Zachary Smith (“Oh, the pain! The Pain!”).

  11. billytheskink

    This is asinine and yet it somehow makes more sense than “Hurry! I’ll take you to my boat!”

    • Epicus Doomus

      Mason: (lighting a cigar) “Nah, he’ll be fine. There are benevolent antique robots up in those old caves, they’ll look out for him.”

      Cut to cave, where Jff and his younger self are sitting in the cave staring at the wall with childlike glee as an old-fashioned film projector glows in the background.

  12. Banana Jr. 6000

    And now we’re going to Murania, because we were never not going to Murania. It had all the inevitability of a Patriots Super Bowl victory. You don’t even hate it anymore; you just want to live in a universe where there’s a possibility something different might happen.

  13. DreadedCandiru2

    So…..he’s actually being rescued by first responders but hallucinating that he’s being rescued by characters from his favourite pile of old bollocks so he can keep his dignity? Smoke inhalation doesn’t make people hallucinate, Thomas. You fail. You %##%%%#. Retire.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Dying can make your brain do weird things. There is a famous Twilight Zone episode where the entire plot is someone coming to terms with their own death, which happened before the story began. Sam Kinison was a real-life case of this: the passenger in his car said he appeared to be having a conversation with someone about his own death.

      This story very much looks like Jeff is already dead. The imaginary child and his trip to Murania crap was his brain’s way of dealing with it. That the child isn’t drawn with any visual hints of being imaginary further supports this theory; we’re seeing it from his perspective.

      • Gerard Plourde

        You’re right about the unusual experiences of the dying and if that is TomBa’s intent it shows imagination and creativity that has been absent from this arc. We’ll just have to see if that is the case.

        I’m not holding out much hope for that.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          This is another great example of Batiuk not knowing what story he’s inadvertently telling. Anyone following this arc would think Jeff is going to die, or is already dead, because there’s no other explanation for these hallucinations in a realistic world. In fact, the child being drawn as real would be a clever hint that we’re seeing things from Jeff’s point of view. The child isn’t any less real to him. It would explain why the fire isn’t torching his ass, because he’s hallucinating the whole thing and it can be surreal

          On top of that… for fuck’s sake, it’s one of the most famous episodes in the history of television! It’s the second most famous Twilight Zone episode, after “Time Enough At Last”!

      • J.J. O'Malley

        Your TZ reference shows the difference between talent and no talent. Give that premise to a writer like Ambrose Bierce and you get “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” Give it to even a B-moviemaker like Herk Harvey and you get “Carnival of Souls.” Give it to Battyuk and you get ’30s serial robots rescuing a middle-aged man and his imaginary younger self from a forest fire.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Oh is that masked guy coming to ask for another dance? I could see Batty trotting him out again as killing Lisa was the crowning achievement of his life’s work.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          This story could be good, in a way that still checks off all the self-serving crap Batiuk wants to do.

          Jeff’s mother never let him read comic books because she’s bad and evil, he identified with this 1935 serial, wanted to see where it was filmed. A massive fire broke out, and that’s where he died. His last moments in life were a pleasant hallucination of going to the world of Murania with his child self… with the dark subtext that this is how his mind prepared him for a horrible death.

          I think that would be a strong story. It could talk about the friggin’ Phantom Empire all it wants, because it would actually be relevant to the story. And despite all the death and misery in Funky Winkerbean, a character dying this way would actually be a bit shocking. Instead, every death is built up for weeks like it’s a soap opera. Then Batiuk gets an interview and spoils it anyway, so it has no impact when it happens.

  14. Deanxietized

    What makes it worse for me is that I’m certain that’s not supposed to be a symbolic inner child but Jeff’s actual living grandson, not that anyone would be able to deduce that without also reading Crankshaft and being aware of the temporal nonsense between the two. (One of my favorite CC headers: CRISIS ON INFINITE OHIOS) Consider that we saw the pair the Sunday before last (plus ten years, augh) being cornered by the fire, only for the next three days to follow some bourgeois jerk on a boat with beautiful clear skies off the coast of Portland or maybe Seattle? Certainly way north up the coast from Southern California which was experiencing a literal holocaust last I thought. I think that’s referred to as “burying the lead.” I remember reading somewhere how surrealist Luis Bunuel claimed if he’d made a film of Crime and Punishment, he’d have adapted the book up until the protagonist entered the victim’s building and then followed some random passerby on the street from then on. Whatever you think of that, at least he was proposing it with awareness and purpose.

    As long as Batiuk was so determined to work Bronson Canyon into things, couldn’t he have at least mixed things up? He could have worked in Beulah the Venusian from It Conquered the World (or most of Roger Corman’s 50s output), the giant lobsters from Teenagers from Outer Space, Eegah, the original Star Trek crew, the Monkees, Ash from Army of Darkness, the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. Why not just Ro-Man from Robot Monster? If you’re going this far with the fantasy, why not have the characters rescued by a gorilla in a diving helmet with a Billion Bubble Machine? That would seem a lot more fun to draw.

    And Robot Monster offers the perfect out because (spoiler, if that’s possible) the whole story is a little boy’s dream! The boy wakes up, boom, everyone’s safe, the greatest catastrophe in the history of the West Coast is averted and he can even walk back Les’s halting, feigned personal growth/flirting with Marianne! I should send this in. Maybe I could be written in as one of the “idea men” who will derail Lisa’s Story for good.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      That is a much better idea! Being at the cave could trigger memories in Jeff of things he saw on TV, but didn’t realize were all filmed in the same place. That would be a great way to honor Bronson Cave for its place in science fiction history. And seeing other franchises represented might actually be interesting for the reader, instead of Batiuk chewing your ear off about his one favorite thing.

  15. ian'sdrunkenbeard

    Today’s strip reminds me of the final act of Don Giovanni.

  16. Professor Fate

    Sigh – well we all knew this was coming – sigh again. Still unless a reader read this blog or did some of their own research about the Phantom Empire they would not have a blessed clue about what the hell was going on right now. Just another example of the Author’s baffling storytelling.
    As a side note one sees again the infantilizing that happens so often to FW male characters as the robot carries Jff away like he was a small child. One supposes milk and cookies await in the land of whatever.
    Lord this arc is a trainwreck

    • SeaCountry

      It’s amazing how women in the Funkyverse are simultaneously always clueless and always expected to be the adults.

  17. Hitorque

    Oh, I’m sorry… Does this “Moronia” have its own independent source of recirculating oxygen? Because as I keep saying, the smoke will kill him just as easily in the cave and it’s not like robots have to worry about breathing…

    Unless of course Mr. Decoder Ring is already dead (since he’s been breathing in smoke for hours) and “Moronia” is some twisted allegory for the afterlife??

    • Hitorque

      And if Mr. Decoder Ring truly is dead, it makes me ask just WHY HE FUCKING STOOD AT THE ENTRANCE OF A SHORT, EMPTY CAVE FOR SEVERAL HOURS(!) Unless he was having some kind of “Alzheimer’s moment”… And if he was, then Pete+Mindy deserve to get their asses kicked for letting old dude go off alone, *especially* as a first-time visitor to Los Angeles when he’d spent his entire life in smalltown Ahia.

  18. William Thompson

    Jff and Jffy will be carried into the real, genuine, no-shit-really Murania. They’ll spend a week seeing the underground city before being taken to the secret, hidden exit and deposited in the open air (totally safe from the inferno raging about a hundred yards away). When Mason and Mopey arrive there will be no evidence of the hidden kingdom except, maybe, some robotic footprints that baffle Mopey Pete (who’s always baffled anyway). Only Jff will know that his experience was as real as Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole.

    • hitorque

      But Pete and Darrin have “crossed over” to the magical world of comics before, too… Who could forget their bromantic honeymoon to the Flash multiverse?

      Comics geekdom in Batiuk’s world is like “The Shining” in that a few specially gifted people can interact with the unseen and unheard in a way that us normals can’t…

      • Gerard Plourde

        Inexplicably, that 2017 trip to Central City was arranged by Jessica and appears to establish that it and The Flash exist in the Funkyverse. Pete and Darren even brought back the Cosmic Treadmill which, after taking up space in Pete’s apartment, is now ensconced at Atomik Comix.

        • Y. Knott

          Being fairly new to all this Funky lore, it intrigues me how moronic all this backstory is. I will never, ever, ever, go back and check up on any of this, and yet by it’s very specific kind of grandiose and dull stupidity, I know it must be true.

  19. Lord Flatulence

    Where are we going? Marijuana!