Well, the week’s comic book reminiscence is, of course, followed in today’s strip by the requisite comic book cover tribute, printed sideways in newspapers across the country to ease the task of deciding not to read it. If you are just now showing up to to read this story arc (for which I envy, but somehow also pity, you), let’s catch you up:
Sad-sack author avatar and comic strip creator Batton Thomas has based his entire post-12-year-old life around reading and re-reading The Flash #123. He has bought a reprint of the issue since his original is worn out, and he is re-reading it again. His 12 year old self has also materialized to re-read The Flash #123 reprint along with him… on the very same porch glider he read the original #123 when his 12 year old self was his only self.
If you, the hypothetical person just walking into this story arc today, is still thinking of going back and re-reading this week’s strips after that recap, save some time and read TB’s veneration of the issue on his blog (and also, previously, in Funky Winkerbean itself). Or save even more time and don’t do that. That’s your best bet, actually.
30 responses to “It’s just a Flash wound”
Oh, it’s a big heaping pile of sad-sackery all right. See, if Batton’s young grandson Nerdlinger Thomas stopped by and marveled at grandpa’s amazing Flash comics it’d be a “passing the torch” kind of thing with comic books spanning the “generation gap” and etc.
But instead it’s just another fringe character wallowing in nostalgia with his (it’s never a woman) younger self, yet again. He just did this with Jff in the fire cave with the magic robot queen. Man, this comic strip sure does get me to generate some weird-ass sentences sometimes.
Anyhow, what a lazy hack and so forth. On top of all that I know less about The Flash than when this sad-sack-sorry shit heap of an arc started. Which technically shouldn’t even be possible.
So, BattThom has moved one from dreaming he’s one of the orphans waiting to be entertained by the Flash to being an innocent bystander in danger of being crushed–not just once, but as a child and an old man–by a falling steel beam. Well, whatever floats your boat, I guess. At least the book’s creative staff get proper credit.
Also, it looks like Mr. Thomas still lives in his childhood home and still has the same porch rocker, but for some reason moved it to the opposite side of the porch?
Finally, a Sunday-only reader would have no idea who the boy and man are reading an old comic book together, and why they appear to be featured on the cover. It makes no sense, has no context, and carries the slightest hint of a predator trying to lay a trap for his next underage victim….in other words, a typical Battyuk Sideways Sunday.
I believe Westview has a town ordinance requiring all homes to have a folksy front porch complete with swinging/gliding furniture.
What a moving tribute. To give a “tip of the funky felt tip” to four men who’ve been dead since at least 2015. While republishing their work almost verbatim, and slapping “Copyright 2021 Batom Inc.” on it. What an earnest guy.
After this week and the prior Battyblog about it (and didn’t even know about Skunky namedropping it before all that – good lord), I decided to take the time out of my life to find Flash 123 online and read it.
I never had a point in my life where I was terribly into standard comic books, and I think that part of the reason for that is that, even as a child, I would find this kind of material to simply be insultingly bad. Merely imagining the content occurring in real life is laughably absurd.
The following things happen in Flash 123: The Hero vibrates so hard that he enters another dimension. The Hero diverts a falling I-Beam by swirling his arms around underneath it so fast that it creates a pocket vortex. A villain sets up a distraction by directing a guard dog to speak English at the Hero when he approaches. Another villain drives around in a wooden car that has the body of the violin. Everyone explains everything as they’re doing it.
But the purpose behind this post is that within all of this dreck, there might be the Rosetta Stone behind the author’s basis for pledging such undying love to this particular book, if not the character and comic books in general:
“I can’t tell you how excited I am going to be off on a case – with my boyhood hero!” says Hero 1 to Hero 2.
Now – think of the father-child relationships within this strip. I’ll cite a few examples:
Funky – Cory: The two basically never do anything together, and there’s no moments of affection or appreciation among the two which I can think of offhand.
Les – Summer: Les is a helicopter who does all of his worrying and bitching away from Summer, and Summer does not engage with Les on anything but the most superficial of terms. The only thing Summer ever had to say to Les within the context of all the Lisa movie garbage is to paraphrase Shakespeare to ask “3D or not 3D, that is the question”, and otherwise had no recorded reaction to anything concerning her own mother and Les’s relationship with Lisa.
Bull – Jinx: Jinx was completely absent from her own adopted father’s funeral. Enough said.
Perhaps someone with more knowledge of the strip than me can demonstrate otherwise, but as far as I can tell, this strip has a complete lack in properly writing how parents and children interact with each other in any way. There’s not even any unrealistically exaggerated love or hatred. There’s no real change as the children mature. In fact, there’s rarely anything which ties the persons together at all; it’s more like they’re roommates with wide age gaps than flesh and blood relatives.
Then there is The Flash. The Flash is strong, dashing, heroic, and here in this 27 page book of elementary-level drivel is one Flash living out his boyhood dream with another Flash. Given this context and how he portrays parent-child relationships otherwise, I think this sheds some insight into the author’s own basis and insecurities.
I wonder how strongly does Tom Batiuk feel that he was neglected and unloved by his own father.
Some folks prefer Silver Age Flash, some folks prefer Golden Age Flash… but on this comic book cover I’m rooting for the steel beam.
Same thought here. In a sick demented kind of way you can read this arc as being sort of a celebration of never changing, as it ends with Batton sitting in the same spot he was sitting sixty years ago, doing the same thing he was doing sixty years ago, after buying a comic book he bought sixty years ago. It’s really pretty depressing when you look at it that way.
What is terrifying is his assertion that he is going to sit there for hours, possibly days, rereading the same comic over and over again. Completely unable to move on with his life, stubbornly refusing to expand his horizons beyond the single paltry narrative in his hands.
It’s practically a portrayal of dementia.
I hadn’t thought about the possible dementia implication. There’s also the possibility of obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Stuck in a time loop? Nah, that would be way too interesting.
Admittedly the story is a classic and is worth rereading, but immediately after completing it? Why on earth would someone do that? Is he trying to memorize the dialogue verbatim? I could understand an aspiring cartoonist wanting to study each panel in depth in order to try to copy it as an exercise in drawing but that’s not what’s happening here. It just adds to the weirdness that played out all week.
How is it that he is allowed to defame the comics page with this crap. Is there nobody in charge? This is why he needs an editor.
Wait… Who the hell fantasizes about *being saved* by a superhero? When I was a kid I daydreamed about being a hero myself, or at the very least, a sidekick…
And is anyone else disturbed at the fact that there’s never any character age 6-14 in Westview to discover the magic of comics? This would have been a prime opportunity for some kid aimlessly browsing in the store to stumble across the issue reprint and ask John “what’s so special about this old-timey comic?”
It’s so fucked up that comics worship has played such a oversized role in the Funkyverse for decades, but it NEVER gets passed from parent to child, older siblings to younger siblings, best friend to best friend, etc… It just seems comics must only be ‘discovered’ by characters in their own individual vacuum…
“And is anyone else disturbed at the fact that there’s never any character age 6-14 in Westview to discover the magic of comics?”
This is a great point. Interestingly, the time a storyline like this could have been developed, i.e. immediately after Lisa’s death when children of the original cast would have been about five, TomBa age-jumped (time-jumped somehow doesn’t seem to be the appropriate term) everybody. It just adds to the weirdness.
I used to fantasize about Farrah Fawcett noticing me from across a crowded room while she was wearing that iconic one piece bathing suit from the poster. Our eyes would lock, and, well I am sure you can guess the rest. That’s right, we would read comic books together.
Shouldn’t Skyler be hitting that age soon? I can’t be bothered to remember how long ago he was born.
I made the mistake of following the links to Batty’s blog. Didn’t learn anything about the Flash, learned a little about obsessive compulsive disorder, but mostly learned that the Lord of Language doesn’t understand the difference between “reign” and “rein.”
I think the story he’s trying to tell is how Flash 123 opened up his imagination. But the story he’s telling has none of that. It’s just endlessly repeating the premise. Just saying “Once upon a time a prince found a rock that made him happy” over and over again is not a story.
I fantasize that Silver Age and Golden Age Flash are both trying to lose the race, because neither can live with the ignominy of saving both Batton Thomases.
This shiz is just too damn weird.
Batton Thomas and Jeff from Crankshaft both have inner children that manifest whenever they are reminded of things that they like.
Harry Dinkle is constantly being reminded of things that he likes (such as music, abusing other people, and band merch,) but he has never once been shown with an inner child.
HARRY DINKLE HAS NO SOUL! IT IS RIGHT THERE IN THE TEXT! Run, church ladies, run!
One of the TB blog entries discussion Flash 123 has the following phrase:
“Watching the two Flashes battle their evil counterparts”
No, that would be if they were battling villains with super-speed. Jeez, learn how the language works.
I increasingly think that Funky Winkerbean is a portrayal of autism. Here are the autism-related themes I’ve noticed in the strip:
1. Being hyperobsessive about something. This week, Batton Thomas with his Flash #123. Dinkle has his music. Les has his Lisa. Bull had his football. Most of the rest of the cast has comic books.
2. Completely missing the point of their obsession. Batton Thomas never mentions why Flash #123 is historically relevant. Dinkle never picks up an instrument, plays in a group, sings, composes, or does anything else that music enthusiasts do. Les has turned Lisa into a fetish object, and seems blind to the concept of mourning.
3. Watching the same thing repeatedly. Les and his Lisa tapes. Bull and his football tapes. Characters going to watch the Phantom Empire again, even though they’d already seen it somehow. Batton Thomas has been reading this same story for 60 years. In the same bench. In the same house. And until this week, with the same copy. Which brings me to #4:
4. Preservation of routine. Autistic people like what’s consistent and familiar. The characters work at the same high school they originally attended. They always eat at Montoni’s. Harry always orders the coffee. Montoni’s is also the site of all gatherings, whether happy or somber. Dinkle stores all his unsold merchandise in his garage, despite the number of past disasters this has caused.
This is also why the “younger version of their adult self” trope pops up so much. It’s to show the sameness in the character’s life. Even when it’s not really there, like Dinkle’s ill-fitting flashback to interviewing at Westview High School. He was interviewing for a completely different job. Which turned out not to be different at all, because:
5. The purpose of the writing in Funky Winkerbean is to make circumstances fit the autistic characters’ needs.
This is a huge one.
Batiuk said on his blog that a real band director gave him the idea of Dinkle becoming a church organist. We can all think of ways this should have been an easy, fun story. But we all saw what he did with it: a three-week arc that morphed “church organist” into the unrelated job of choir director, so Dinkle can do what he’s used to doing. And you’ll never guess what happens this week! Dinkle becomes the church’s lead fundraiser!
I’m not even kidding. That’s next week’s plot.
This is why Funky Winkerbean has so many long, pointless, expository arcs that abruptly stop. It’s because Batiuk is arranging the universe the way the autistic characters need it. And once that’s done, the conclusion of the story doesn’t really matter. The second “Lisa’s Story” arc was this. Les must be asked for permission. Les’ friends must goad him into giving it. Everyone must tell Les how talented and important he is. Les must sign the paperwork. Mason and Marianne must go to New York and Westview and see the Lisa-related things Les needs them to see. Les must be flown around the country and treated to expensive lunches, so Les can have the pointless conversations he needs to have. Les must be rejected by some transparently corrupt Hollywood people who don’t appreciate proper art. Les must give his input into every tiny aspect of making this movie. And what is his overall goal? “That Lisa’s story is told correctly.” Which Les never defines in any tangible way. And no one ever asks him to.
6. The other characters don’t bat an eye at any of this. Any reasonable questions are quickly brushed aside as irrelevant. Harriet asked Dinkle why he needed another music-related time commitment when he already had four. She immediately dropped this question because Harry is “the world’s greatest band director.” As if no further explanation was necessary. The retirement arc ended with the unnamed friend cheerfully agreeing to work himself to death, because Dinkle told him that’s what band directors do. Which brings me to:
7. A universal lack of empathy. Autistic people have a difficult time understanding other people’s feelings or points of view. No character in Funky Winkerbean demonstrates any concern for the feelings of anyone else, even people who are supposed to be their life partners. Lisa’s death was entirely about Les. Bull’s death was entirely about Linda. Wives silently defer to whatever stupid thing their husbands are up to, no matter how much it makes them suffer themselves.
8. Nobody acknowledges social norms. When somebody’s being a complete jackass, like Les at Bull’s funeral, nobody ever calls them out for it. They don’t react at all. People in Westview go to funerals like they’re going to the bus stop: with zero emotional involvement. And people who should be at funerals, like Bull’s children, don’t go at all.
The collectible value of the original Flash #123 is another example. Batton Thomas may not care about it, because its sentimental value is greater to him. But a comic book store owner sure would! He’d point it out, at least.
This is why Funky Winkerbean raises so many plot points are and then completely ignores them. The story has no idea what the audience will recognize as important. We all wanted to hear the real-life story of Flash #123, but we never got it.
There are definitely counterarguments, but I’ve said enough already about this sensitive subject. I’m sorry if I got long-winded here, but I really wanted to explore this.
It’s certainly an interesting hypothesis to chew over… Of course, I can’t imagine that Batiuk would be doing that on purpose, and I’m certain that the people who know Batiuk in real life would have noticed if he himself was autistic. But the parallels are fun to contemplate.
To be clear, I don’t think Tom Batiuk is autistic. His writing didn’t used to be like this, and autism isn’t something you acquire in old age. He’s also very personable, in ways that would be difficult for an autistic person.
Tom Batiuk seems to have whatever condition Tommy Wiseau has. Which is a kind of… blindness to the basic human experience. He just “doesn’t get” things all people instinctively understand. In The Room, Claudette says she has breast cancer, and it’s never brought up again. This wasn’t an error. When people tried to convince him to cut it from the movie or address it, he said it needed to be the way it was, and that was that. He didn’t understand why people found his sex scenes with the much younger Lisa off-putting. He didn’t understand any suggestions he got, which were all suggestions almost anyone would make. There are outtakes of scenes that are much better than what he put in the movie.
The other name I think of is Chris-Chan. Now, Chris unquestionably does have autism, and enough other problems to populate an entire Wiki. But there are similarities in their story telling style. A huge cast of characters that are all just clones of himself. Laughable straw antagonists with ridiculous, author-centered motivations. The persecution syndrome. Spending huge amounts of time on unimportant things, while blowing off relevant plot points. Using his art to indulge petty grudges, though Batiuk is hardly the only cartoonist who does that. The fetishistic worship of certain other media franchises, and the excessive use of elements from them.
And all three of these people have this in common: they all think they’re God’s gift to fiction.
I’m not a psychologist (I don’t even play one on tv), but I definitely see the same thing you do. I’ve remarked on this site that some of the plots feel like they would be at home in the Tommy Westphall/St. Elsewhere universe. There are related disorders that share some of the symptoms but do not inhibit achievement. No conclusions, just observations and questions.
I wrote a large post earlier yesterday but it vanished. I won’t rewrite it again, but the gist was this. Thanks to this week’s arc, I took it upon myself to actually find and read Flash 123. It’s 26 pages of dreck, in respect of any kind of writing standards. However, one block of text stood out to me, in which Flash 2 stated how elated he was to be working with his boyhood hero, Flash 1.
This got me to thinking about his fixation on The Flash in general as well as how he depicts parent-child relationships in the strip. I think the better way to state your original Point 7 is to say that he pairs up two specific people and only that pair are allowed to express concern or empathy for the other. Les charges into a bomb scene where Lisa is buried and nobody stops him, and nobody else visits her at the hospital. There are also no other victims in the bombing that are even mentioned. Les has all kinds of consternation about Lust For Lisa, and the only thing Summer says about it is a quip asking “3D or not 3D” with a smirk, and otherwise says nothing about how Les reacts to anything regarding Lisa, movie or otherwise. Adeela is arrested by Police ICE and her first call isn’t to anyone in her family or a lawyer, it is to Wally.
The Flash is a hero. Flash 123 gave official authorization to its readers to imagine being an equal to and working with The Flash in order to do The Flash things. Meanwhile, none of the parental persons in the strip exhibit any kind of bold vision or commitment to anything in respect of how they guide their own children. Les helicopters and hand-wrings but ultimately never has any kind of dramatic confrontation with Summer over anything. Honestly, it’s like the parents are children are little more than age-gapped roommates. Now think about how much the author waxes about his own life and childhood, and then compare that to how often he even mentions anyone else in his immediate family. What do we know about his father, other than that he existed? Anything? I have no idea.
Combine all of that with the persecution complex and the complete refusal to let childhood go, I think that all adds up to some serious psychological issues he has with his own parents and upbringing.
None of this holds a candle to Chris-Chan, though. I never would have expected to read that name here. Whatever opinion you hold of Batuik and the strip, he’s like DaVinci in comparison to that train wreck.
I hear you. Westview feels like a world someone built as a coping mechanism. Like in Synecdoche, New York or Marwencol. It runs on a very self-indulgent set of rules. All the other characters kowtow to whatever the avatar characters want. There is almost no conflict, except against straw villains, who receive a vicious comeuppance. Mark Hogenkamp’s imaginary world only depicted violence against the five neo-Nazis who beat him within an inch of his life. Tom Batiuk burned down a city with ten million people in it, for unexplained reasons. So yeah, there’s something very dark behind all this earnestness.
So at what point will we see Les crying out “Yoo ure tearing me APAAAHT, Lisa!”?