Quick comment on today’s strip. If this exchange didn’t end with hoodie boy getting a one way trip down to the Principal’s office, then Dinkle’s a pushover. The kid is grossly late to class AND tries to prank Dinkle anyway. With a weird, spur of the moment, nonsense prank. Everyone else seems to have had days to plan all their equipment swapping, but hoodie-boy wanders up late, sees a sub, and immediately drops his trombone right outside the door.
I, and TFH, and perhaps some of the rest of you, took some time this evening to watch The 2021 Ohioana Book Festival 15th Anniversary Poster Reveal via eventbrite zoom meeting, though I was about 20 minutes late getting in. The nice man hosting the thing seemed absolutely flabbergasted that someone was watching from New Jersey and mentioned it several times. And every time I gave a little grin and thought, “That’s our Hackett.”
I took some notes during the panel. So here are the juiciest tidbits. Please, anyone else who watched, give your reports as well!
Tom has had cataract surgery, and talked about being terrified of people slicing his eyes open.
He has some pandemic related strips coming next month, but admitted that doing everything a year out had handicapped his ability to write about Covid. He made it sound like he had realized that it was not a case of ‘better late than never.’ And it sounded like he wasn’t sure about starting a whole pandemicverse a year late.
To come up with the name for Funky Winkerbean, he had kids in his art class write down a bunch of silly names, and then he and his wife picked out the first and last name from the list. He seemed both bemused and rueful about it.
He admitted that Les is the character most like himself. Though he said he puts a bit of himself in every character, (IMO, this is the reason why they’re all so samey wamey.)
He said that before the pandemic he and Ayers would meet at Luigi’s every two weeks to work on the strip.
He claims that the time jumps were to keep his main characters closer in age to himself so he could draw on his own experiences for inspiration. (This is probably why everyone in this strip, from 35 to 95, all act the same age.) He also claims that he didn’t time jump Crankshaft because Cranky wouldn’t have ‘survived’ it. I guess forgetting that Cranky is still languishing in Bedside Manor in Funky.
He got the okay to write Lilian getting an Ohioana Book Festival award. So expect that some time in 2023.
And, most pertinent for our blog, Tom says that cartoonists don’t really retire, they collapse over their drawing boards. He said he feels like he is only now getting good, and doesn’t see himself quitting any time soon. Sorry to anyone holding out for a joint 50 year anniversary and retirement celebration.
Congratulations to Stephanie Banch who got the autographed book! Sounds like the host knew her, and said she was local, so I don’t think she’s a Stuckfunkian.
The poster Batiuk created was cute. Lillian reading to a group of achingly diverse children inside her walk-up bookstore. No complaints there. Tom was genial, and answered questions by giving interesting details without going on and on and on about himself. He never talked over the panel host, and actually refrained from correcting him several times. It was nice to watch and remember that, as much as we rib on him, he is fundamentally a decent guy. A little out of touch, a lot absorbed in his own world, kinda preachy and kinda myopic. But a decent guy who does care about other people. I’d rather be stuck on a lifeboat with him than, say, Quentin Tarantino. A great artist can be an insufferable man. And a good man can create absolutely insufferable ‘art’.
34 responses to “A Taste of Ohioana”
“A great artist can be an insufferable man. And a good man can create absolutely insufferable ‘art’.”
Nicely said, and something I will strive to remember whenever he writes something infuriating in the strip or his blog.
It’s like Lefty told the class, “I’ll be off for a few days, so your assignment is to continually prank the substitute teacher. Come up with the best generic pranks you can, and I’ll raise your semester grades one notch!”
Naturally one kid was a total slacker and did his homework while walking into the building that morning: “Yeah, I’ll drop my instrument case outside the classroom door, tell they teacher I forgot it, then not have to walk so far to get it back.”
Incidentally, what sort of instrument can be carried in a briefcase? A tambourine? A glockenspiel? Flamenco boots and castanets?
If only it was a three-sided briefcase, then we’d know for sure. After all, it was good enough for Ed Grimley.
Here’s the part I don’t get, not being possessed of any sort of musical ability; Aren’t these kids taking Becky’s class because they enjoy music and want to perform, either in the WHS band or on their own? Why are they so obsessed with messing with Dinkleberg, a character they should recognize from his constant presence and probably heard horror stories about? What on Earth has Lefty been doing to them to make them act out like this? Harry should look into having her impeached.
I remember fondly High School band, and how little of a f**k I, and many of my bandmates, gave about actually working at it. Some stayed in because of their teachers, some stayed in because of their friends, some stayed because they liked it just enough not to quit, but not enough to practice. Only a very very small number cared about being good on a personal level.
Well, to quote Claude Rains in “Casablanca,” “Serves me right for not being musical.”
To try to empathize with the students from my perspective when I was in a similar position; I think I’d see Dinkle as being a constant fixture in the class and something of an exasperated blowhard who never actually gets angry at the children. He never goes away, he chafes and rolls eyes at How Dumb The Dumb Kids are, but he’s ultimately toothless.
In contrast, the band directors who I had were generally bellicose if not outright hostile towards the students, and one in particular had a tremendously bad temper.
I wouldn’t be wanting to try to prank my band directors, because they had emotional swings which I didn’t want to deal with. DInkle is just some fossil who likes to hear himself talk and never goes away – that’s easy pickings for a bored high school student in the middle of the midwestern abyss.
For a case of that dimension, the first thing I’d think is a clarinet. That’s what I played in grade school, until someone stole it or threw it away. It was never recovered.
That’ll teach me for being a male and playing a girl’s instrument, I guess.
ALL of Tom Batiuk’s interviews have him come off like that–a decent, thoughtful guy who cares about the strip and wants to do the best job he can.
It’s just that this is never reflected in the work he produces.
I’ve said before–it’s like he’s actually twins. Tim Batiuk is the guy who writes the strip, and Tom is the guy who does the interviews.
I never want to go to his events just to insult him. He certainly has the right to earn a living. But I also have the right to be critical.
I really couldn’t agree more. Batiuk really does seem like a genuinely nice and sincere guy and in a way I actually admire how he turned some goofy doodles into a successful and incredibly lengthy career. I have no desire (and won’t tolerate) insulting him personally or bothering the guy in “real life” nor would I ever endorse any such thing.
The strip, though, is always fair game. To me the great FW quandary is: is this really his “best work” or is the whole thing just a huge lengthy elaborate scam? When he describes the strip in those lofty terms does he really believe it or is he just trying to convince the unaware that it’s way more substantive than it actually is?
I still can’t tell. He seems too nice to be that calculating and devious, but then again if I was going to be calculating and devious I’d probably be really sincere and nice too, so I don’t know. I do know, however, that for 51 and 2/3rds weeks out of the year it’s a gigantic shit-pile of unfathomable tedium and for the other third of a week it’s barely passable, at best. And I have tons of evidence to back that up. Yet ultimately it proves nothing.
I struggle to reconcile Batiuk’s personal niceness with how horribly mean-spirited his work is. And it’s not mean-spirited in a fun way, like Lisa Lampanelli. The world of Funky Winkerbean and Crankshaft is mean-spirited and cold.
Characters are rude and insulting to each other for no real reason. They suffer cruel, random misfortunes which are treated indifferently, while other characters drone on for weeks about the pettiest problems. Some are colossal egomaniacs who demand – and get – huge amounts of other people’s time. They do horrible things, face no repercussions for it, and get unearned awards. (I’m looking at you, Lillian.) This is all treated as perfectly normal, just a part of daily life. And the worst offenders are the characters Batiuk likes the best; who symbolize his work; and who get the most rewards in-universe.
Compare Stephen King. He writes stories where horrible things happen to people, but he’s not a horrible person himself either. The difference is that his books don’t seem like personal statements, but rather fictional stories he was inspired to tell. Everything in Batiuk’s work is deeply personal to him. It’s all Ohio, comic books, Luigi’s aka Montoni’s pizza, high school, band, writing, getting awards, things that happened to him, or soap box opinions he holds. Over and over and over and over and over again. To say nothing of Batiuk’s baser interests, like his lovingly-drawn injuries, and burning down Hollywood when it didn’t give him the movie he wanted. So it’s hard not to think there’s a Hyde behind this Jekyll.
I think Batiuk intends there to be a saccharine warmth behind the sardonicism in his characters that he doesn’t do a very good job of conveying. He’s going for family sitcom ala Everybody Loves Raymond but losing a lot in the translation to three panels a day.
This is why I backed out from attending. It’s ok to be critical here, but I did not want to spoil other people’s enjoyment of an event. I also was uninterested in winning the prizes and hearing him speak, so better to just not go.
I’m glad he gave an interesting talk. I agree that he seems like a nice guy, I just wish he put more into his strips. It is unfair of him to say his strip is a quarter inch from reality when it’s just a quarter inch from HIS reality.
Fantastic reporting there, CBH! I forgot all about it, which happens all the time in the Batiukiverse. They’re quite fortunate I forgot, too, as one person from NJ is fine but two or more is always trouble. New Jersey has been a FW snark hub ever since we moved the home office from Akron over to Ho-Ho-Kus. Stellar recap and way to throw yourself on the grenade for the team.
Do kids even cut classes anymore? When I was in high school and I discovered I had a sub that day I more often than not would simply not go to that class, but I guess that’s kind of archaic in this era of metal detectors and ankle monitors and such. Also it was back in the 1900s and people just didn’t care as much about children and their whereabouts back then.
It’s pretty funny how each new generation of WHS students is way dumber than the previous one. It doesn’t even make sense, as obviously Dinkle knows every square millimeter of that building by now and would immediately know if an instrument case was out of place. There are other reasons it doesn’t make any sense too, but it’s getting late.
What bothers me about the “band kids are so dumb” stories is that we never see them actually fail. Every Christmas there’s 5,000 captivated people in the park, with one-armed Becky triumphantly lifting her little stick to begin. Then there’s the vainglorious awards ceremony, then the “next band season starts at 4 a.m. tomorrow” joke, then it’s right back to “band kids are so dumb” again.
You know something, Becky and Dinkle? From what I can see, these kids do a good job when it counts. There haven’t been any bad concerts. They go to every unnecessary band event you sign them up for. They sell every stupid product you ask them to sell, and they’ve never visibly failed at that either. Their parents buy into your program. You could treat them with a little respect.
And they obediently wait “over there” for an entire week at the OMEA conference while their creator forgets all about them.
Great recap, CBH! If anyone wants to kill an hour, you can watch the event here: https://fb.watch/3Ik3VDmuxD/
Including the time the host cited The Family Circus as another strip where the author allowed the characters to age in real time: “…you saw his kids grow up, you know, the dog died, and all the other things…”
He obviously was talking about FOOB, but Tom kept his mouth shut.
Act III has been plodding along for fourteen glacially-paced years now and it’s easy to forget how different it was during Act II, back when FW and FBOFW were locked in a ferocious melodramatic battle to the death. It was like the Affirmed vs. Alydar of awful maudlin pathos-generating sappery, each and every day for years and years and years. Death! Amputations! Dead dogs! Suicide attempts! Pregnant teens! Frowns! Scowls! Wry eye-rolling! It really was something.
Batiuk won, though, as no one’s thought about Elly, Michael or that stupid baby for years. Meanwhile, FW still has tens of loyal readers, some of whom are rumored to actually like the strip. Hopefully one day we’ll officially confirm that.
I remember those days. So desperate were both both of them to prove that comics could be sad and depressing…we are artists don’t ya know, and our art is sacred. If we say misery is art, then it is and you will like it!
I hated it and those two drove me away from the comics page for many years.
FW didn’t defeat FOOB; it outlived it. And FOOB wrecked its own legacy with that atrocious Anthony ending.
Speaking of comic strip characters who went through major changes, there are two from legacy strips.
Beetle Bailey started out as a college strip–he “joined the army” when he ducked into a recruiting station to escape an angry professor and an angry girlfriend.
And…did you know Dagwood Bumstead started out as a millionaire? His parents disowned him when he hooked up with Blondie.
Walt Wallet of Gasoline Alley found a baby on his doorstep, adopted it, got married, had more kids, raised all his kids to adulthood, grew old, lost his wife, and now hangs around in the local retirement home. (He’s actually in pretty good shape for someone who is so impossibly old that the Social Security Administration suspected fraud.)
Fritzi Ritz was a ditzy, spendthrift flapper girl before she adopted her niece Nancy.
P.S. If anyone is curious about the pre-Nancy Fritzi Ritz strip, you can read a lot of examples here: https://www.hoganmag.com/blog/fritzi-ritz-before-bushmiller-shes-come-a-long-way-baby
E.C. Segar’s “Thimble Theatre” was a strip spoofing stage melodramas, with a regular cast that included Ham Gravy, his pal Castor Oyl, and Castor’s sister Olive, until a 1929 seafaring story brought the gang into an encounter with a visually-challenged sailor named Popeye and…well, you know the rest.
After reading the summary above, I feel a little guilty writing just how beyond stupid today’s strip is.
But…today’s strip is beyond stupid.
Regarding the Ohioana Book Festival poster, what story do you think Lillian is reading to her eager young charges? “So I intercepted the letter that my sister’s boyfriend meant for her, and I tucked it away and made sure that she never saw it, because if I couldn’t be happy, there was no way I was going to let her be happy! And that’s how I ruined her one chance at happiness and started her on a decades-long descent into madness!”
Curse you CBH for that last paragraph and putting a human spin on Batty!!
Seriously though, great recap and I may just have to catch the archive.
Living in the breadbasket of what Tom uses for inspiration, having been to a book signing of “Lisa’s Story” at Luigi’s, met the man and even got an answer to an email I sent him about a strip I was trying to chase down(he couldn’t recall it), I agree with your astute assessments.
But boy o’ boy does he leave himself open for snark. 🙂
Beckoningcham’s comment that it’s almost like he’s twins really resonates. Hearing Batiuk’s statement that the prospect of cataract surgery frightened him because a knife would be cutting his eye (a fear I can understand) shows why he wanted to address the issue. Directly addressing those fears in the strip could actually have made for an interesting storyline. Instead, for some reason the TomBa part of him had to turn it into a gag-a-day fest. I wonder if it’s the job of self-examination or the idea of too much self-revelation that gives him pause.
“I forgot my trumpet lol” is barely even an annoyance, let alone a prank. Maybe the ambitious pranksters are all still trying to hitchhike back to Westview.
I’m glad that everybody had a good time online. The poster is good and very appropriate for the setting, (in spite of Lillian’s presence.)
I’m just going to presume that the whole of Southern California and the American movie industry as we know it got wiped out by the wildfires and Masone is waiting for some Korean or Bollywood outfit to buy in and finish production?
Say what you will about Les, but I’ve *never* seen anyone slick enough to sell their story to Hollywood *TWICE* for a movie he never wanted filmed in the first place only to have divine intervention kill the production two times in a row…
So Les is a multimillionaire and a Hollywood player with clout and he still has yet to make an actual movie
Minor annoyance: the “OBH #15” kid. That’s OBJ, his jersey number is 13, and that looks more like a 1980s Bengals jersey than the Browns. Bonus points for his friend with Star Trek federation t-shirt with the logo turned 45 degrees counter-clockwise. Either do the reference or don’t! Sheesh.
Actually it was for Ohioana Book Festival, 15th anniversary. They explained during the poster reveal.
Well, I swung and missed there. Thanks for pointing that out.
Excellent story, excellent prank! Thank you for sharing, CBH! And a belated thank you for the report from the Book Festival poster reveal. I’m glad it was an enjoyable event for those who attended. And the poster is very well done-nicely captures what it is supposed to, I think.