Watching the Detective

He’s made appearances in just two strips since last December 4, but the appearance of Les on a Monday signals that our week has been ruined. Especially when we see him in a bookstore setting. At least we’ve been spared a punny name: this bookstore is simply called “BOOKSTORE.” Maybe someone reading this who’s familiar with publishing can tell me: do authors go around still signing a book that was published over ten years ago? And given the target demographic for Les’ dreary memoir, it’s a pretty safe bet that everyone in the room “got the reference ” to Dick Tracy.

51 Comments

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51 responses to “Watching the Detective

  1. William Thompson

    “I got the reference! You life is filled with hideous anti-social people who use laughable yet descriptive names!”

  2. Epicus Doomus

    Maybe what BatHam is trying to say here is that it’s perfectly OK for a “writer” to forever coast on the one memorable thing they wrote many years ago. It’s happened before, you know.

    I would think that the fact that Les learned everything he could about cancer after Lisa’s diagnosis would be somewhere in the book, as after all it is a story about his wife getting cancer (spoiler alert: she dies). But I guess at this point “Lisa’s Story” is so deeply embedded in Ohioian culture that it’s developed a fanatical cult following that forever thirsts for more arcane “LS” trivia wherever they can find it. And who talks about himself more than Les? God I just despise him so much.

  3. Banana Jr. 6000

    Les immediately turned into a dick, all right.

  4. Banana Jr. 6000

    Remember folks. Tom Batiuk is the best cartoonist because his characters mature.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yeah, love how everyone, save for Les, grows into their lumpy shapes while Les remains svelte with a full head of hair.

  5. J.J. O'Malley

    But did Hunky and Folly EVER get their utensils from the basement?

    Oh, well, at least the store isn’t called “Bookos!”

    And no, in the real world no author with several published books goes on a tour to promote one of his their earlier ones, unless (and oh, how I hate to give Battyuk the benefit of the doubt) this is some sort of breast cancer benefit or something. Oh, and of course Les has to detail what HE did when Lisa was first diagnosed with breast cancer! Never mind how SHE might have felt.

    Also, they may well be Westview High students the way they’re drawn, but this bookstore crowd looks to be in their 40s at the youngest. “Dick Tracy” has been continually published in newspapers in their lifetime and was the subject of a successful, Oscar-nominated 1991 movie with big-name stars. Is Tracy really THAT deep a pop culture reference? If Les had said he turned into “Fearless Fosdick” or “Hawkshaw the Detective” (or, more appropriately, “Caspar Milquetoast”), maybe playing it as an obscurity would have made sense.

    Here’s hoping tomorrow Les has an encounter with Neon Noodle (now THERE’S an obscure pop culture reference).

    • William Thompson

      NEON NOODLE! That’s the daffiest pop-culture reference ever!

    • Mr. A

      “And no, in the real world no author with several published books goes on a tour to promote one of his their earlier ones, unless…”

      Unless…the movie is finally coming out, and this is a tie-in event? Did Les’s publisher spend the weekend slapping “Now a major motion picture” stickers on all the unsold copies in the warehouse?

      • J.J. O'Malley

        I think there’s probably a warehouse somewhere near Akron filled with unsold books already stickered about a decade earlier. Said stickers read “The Book That Inspired the New Hit Movie ‘Lust for Lisa'”!

  6. Gerard Plourde

    So already out of the gate this week is going to be all about Les. Who cares what he did? What did Lisa do? Oh, right. When her cancer returned she passively accepted a medical error that gave the recurrence time to advance and inexplicably decided to quit therapy ensuring her death, but not before she made hours of videos to control her family from the grave.

    What a role model.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      I know I was happy to see her go..that is, until the video tapes were found. What crap.

      Batty really was desperate to hold on to that sliver of fame.

  7. Epicus Doomus

    “So I immediately dropped everything and began to learn everything there was to know about cancer, which was unfortunate for Lisa as she was stranded in the medical center parking garage for several hours. But she eventually got over it…the stranding, I mean. Not the other thing.”

    “Ha! I get that reference!”

  8. none

    Westview Radiology
    February 27, 2021 at 9:09 pm
    This strip has been so miserable so far in 2021 that I’m ready for an extended Les arc.

    I knew I should have called you out on that when you said it. Now look at what you’ve done.

    Two counts of bullshit on his statement, anyway. One, Dick Tracy is more known for derring-do in pursuit of wacky perps rather than investigation, and I don’t recall Les shooting or punching anyone while she helplessly succumb–, excuse me, “fought” her cancer sickness.
    Two, if one were to mark an official start and end of the arc, how many of those days could we say that we see Les doing this kind of investigative work, or at very least talking about it? 10% of the total? 2%? My knowledge of Act 2 is blessedly limited to its final moments and whatever comes up here, but I would be willing to bet that there is no more than a week of content which shows Les doing what he is claimed to have done here.

    He could have name dropped someone like Sam Spade or Johnny Dollar if he wanted to cite an old pop culture detective; but then again, he does have a gigantic fixation on both making cultural references as well as showing whether or not the audience understands them. Is “Phantom Empire” the only thing he’s ever cited that could be considered obscure?

  9. Beatrice Fairfax

    Lisa’s cancer was the greatest gift she could have given me, except for those moments when she gave in to my animal desires.

  10. Jimmy

    Doesn’t Dick Tracy apprehend and/or kill the bad guy all the time? Les, you are no Dick Tracy.

    • William Thompson

      There’s still time for Les to arrest himself. Or does his arrested development count?

  11. Hitorque

    1. “Famous Detective Metaphor” implies Cancer is some kind of mystery or case or courtroom dilemma to be “solved”… And since Les didn’t go to Medical School, anything uncovered by his “detective work” would have been superficial at best… Don’t know why he even took the conversation there…

    2. Why is he at a bookstore? Why isn’t he talking to Newsweek or Variety or E! or Good Morning America along with Masone and Marianne promoting the Lisa movie? Hell, why isn’t the crowd asking him about when the movie is coming out and what it’s like working alongside the two single biggest stars in Hollywood?

  12. The Dreamer

    If you will recall a year or two ago Darrin had talked Les into finishing a sequel to Lisa’s Story and even flew back from LA to work in the cover art. It looks like the new book is out (to coincide with a TomBat new compilation I assume)

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yeah, my first thought when reading this strip was “what kind of crap is he getting ready to peddle now?”

      Just check the BattyBlog. Any time now there will be a verbose post about the new book.

    • Charles

      That was three and a half years ago. Les was doing book signings for Lisa’s Story Omelettes* back in September, 2017. He hasn’t written a Lisa book since.

      *- NO ONE GOT THE REFERENCE.

  13. “Lisa’s Story” was always all about Les. Lisa was a supporting character, at best.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Les still needs to answer to this:

      Les gave his wife permission to die. LES GAVE LISA PERMISSION TO DIE. And look who’s consoling who about it. Lisa later declines to fight against a wrong diagnosis, stops getting treatments for no clear reason, and takes so long to die that her cancer must have been manageable. Les talked Lisa into her grave. And here he is congratulating himself with his endless SOB SOB LISA DIED I’M SUCH A HERO BUY MY BOOK act 13 years later. His treatment of her was basically negligent homicide. He should be in jail with Linda and her poorly hidden car keys and her phony police report. God, this comic strip is vile.

      Lisa’s death was immaterial. Her purpose in life was to mold Les into Tom Batiuk’s personal Mary Sue: the tortured literary hero that everyone inexplicably worships. He’s Les, all right: a smug, mediocre, self-promoting, one-topic bore.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Ugh, you had to remind me of this. Batty probably considers this to be some of his best work.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          He probably does. And it’s one of the most appalling things I’ve seen conveyed in ink and paper.

          I get what Batiuk was trying to say. He was trying to make a point about end-of-life decisions, and that “letting nature take its course” can and should be an option.

          The problem is that he told a story where foregoing treatment was not a defensible choice.

          Lisa was canonically in her early-mid 30s. She was otherwise healthy enough to fight the cancer. She had a young child to raise. She had an important career that was her family’s primary source of income. The slow nature of her death revealed that she had a manageable case, and could have lived many more years than she did, or at least died a lot less painfully. Lisa gave up way too early. There was no real reason for her to end treatment. None. Zip. Zero. She ended treatment because it’s what Les Moore’s martyr complex and Tom Batiuk’s whoring for awards needed to happen, so Les could become a famous writer. And this strip is the exact moment these motives became crystal. It is disgusting.

          Now, you could argue that I’m wrong, and it was Lisa’s conscious decision to end her own life. Fine, but that totally undermines her story. Why should Lisa be glowingly remembered for letting a common, manageable cancer kill her, when so many real people gave everything they had to fight worse illnesses? Or did something productive with the time they had left? I’m thinking of Brittany Maynard here, and a few other real people like her, who become real advocates whose lives ultimately helped other people. Lisa spent her last days wangsting with Les, inviting herself to lead someone else’s cancer protest, and micromanaging her family from beyond the grave.

  14. Jimmy

    I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with Les’ head in the first panel. Then it appeared to me he looks like some kind of marionette.

  15. Is Dick Tracy really known for his research skills and encyclopedic knowledge of topics?

  16. billytheskink

    Today on Retcon Or Truth: We discover that Les actually did do what he says he did in today’s strip.

    Though to be fair, the first thing he did after Lisa’s diagnosis was confirmed was be a shmuck to Lisa’s doctor.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Considering the decisions Les made on Lisa’s behalf later on, it’s clear he didn’t read them.

    • Westview Radiology

      And there’s more evidence of that evil Bull Bushka mistreating Les by bringing dinner up those steep stairs for him and St. Lisa.

  17. Maxine of Arc

    “When Lisa was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I immediately made it all about me.”

  18. William Thompson

    “And when I became Dick Tracy, I gave Lisa’s tumor a mobster name! How does Ma Sarco sound?”

    “Gee, mister, was that a reference to something?”

  19. Banana Jr. 6000

    On top of everything else, isn’t this strip a big middle finger to Dick Tracy? The joke here is at that people shouldn’t remember it exists, even though it’s a much larger piece of pop culture than Funky goddam Winkerbean. Batiuk sure does love taking cheap shots at creators and properties that are much better than his own.

    • It’s as big a middle finger as the time Batiuk had Tracy and Sam in his strip and they…delivered boxes of comic books.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        HOLY COW! I had totally forgotten that Les has actually MET Dick Tracey, who apparently is simultaneously a fictional character and a real person in this universe.

  20. Well, bring it on, I say. Maybe this time a tsunami will wipe out the Walk of Fame the day after Les buys a square to commemorate Lisa.

  21. Rusty Shackleford

    What is going on with today’s Crankshaft? Why are they in church on a Monday? Is that old bat finally going to give up the ghost? Maybe she is Centerville’s first covid case?

  22. Charles

    “GOT THE REFERENCE!”

    I would certainly fucking hope so, since if you didn’t, that pointless aside in Les’s statement would make no sense whatsoever.

    I like how this woman just shrieks out in the middle of this staid bookstore author talk, interrupting the whole proceeding and grinding it to a halt, and Les smiles about it. He’s happy she’s intruding in his discussion of his favorite topic. I’d say his reaction to her rudeness makes no sense, but actually, he probably views it as a compliment, that this woman got his deep literary allusion and thus he was able to demonstrate his deeply deep depth and his breadth of literary knowledge to his audience.

    I want this week to be nothing but Les using increasingly obvious and self-evident references and that woman celebrating how she recognized them.

    “And one of the last things Lisa said to me was ‘May the Force be with you, always.'”
    “I GOT THAT REFERENCE!”

    “It was definitely a shame that she was not going to live long and prosper.”
    “I GOT THAT REFERENCE!”

    “I then I said to her ‘Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.’.”
    “I GOT THAT REFERENCE!”

    “And all I could think was ‘Jesus wept’.”
    “I GOT THAT REFERENCE!”

    And then wind up the week with this:
    “To be or not to be, that is the question…”
    “HUH? WHAT IS HE TALKING ABOUT? DOES ANYONE KNOW? WHAT A WEIRD THING TO SAY. I’M NOT GONNA BUY THIS BOOK NOW.”

    • Charles

      And then the Sunday strip could be:

      “Hunger, revenge, to sleep are petty foes, But only death the jealous eyes can close.”
      “OH, WILLIAM WYCHERLEY, HUH? GET A LOAD OF THIS DIPSHIT. ‘I’M A PRETENTIOUS DOUCHE WHO ALWAYS HAS SOME OBSCURE LITERARY QUOTATION TO DESCRIBE MY LIFE’ SHAKESPEARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU, ASSHOLE?”

      Yes, following the one where she didn’t get the last reference in the previous example.

      • Charles

        Continuing on to the next week:

        “And then I said, “And you never will understand. But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”
        “Um….”

        “And so I said ‘That’s all he ever wanted out of life… was love. That’s the tragedy of Charles Foster Kane. You see, he just didn’t have any to give.'”
        “What the hell…”

        “And so he says ‘Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, consider this justice a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.'”
        “I thought this was about a woman who died of cancer….”

        “That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
        “I think there’s something wrong with him, you guys.”

        “And after that appointment, I felt obliged to say ‘Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.'”
        “I think someone needs to intervene. I’m frightened.”

        “And then I fell to my knees and shrieked ‘YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!'”
        “What…the…fu….”
        Woman barges in: “I GOT THAT REFERENCE!”

  23. Anonymoous Sparrow

    Do you think Tom Batiuk remembers that there was an actual crossover between *Dick Tracy* and *Funky Winkerbean*? Shouldn’t that mean that the audience would think of Tracy not as “a reference” like an 87th Precinct detective but as someone as real as, say, Joe Arpaio?

    It’s a terrible thing to look for the logic here!

  24. Anonymous Sparrow

    I see that beckoningchasm beat me to this observation. As we don’t say in real life, “I stand in line.”

  25. Anonymoous Sparrow

    Beckoningchasm noted the crossover before I did. As we don’t say in real life, “I stand in line.”