The Fewer the Better

Link to today’s strip.

“Wordy? Yeah, I do a rough sketch of what it should look like, including the word balloons, a year before it has to go live. Then I send it to the art guy to do the final drawing–making sure he draws the word balloons just the way I like ’em. I like to draw ’em big, because there’s important stuff to go in there. Heh, who’s he going to complain to?

“Then it goes into a drawer until about two weeks before it goes live, and then I have to remember what I was going to say in those word balloons. And here’s where it gets difficult, because I look, and a lot of times it’s a bunch of space I have to fill, and it’s hard to remember it all, especially when I can’t even remember a character’s last name. Heh, Pete Rigamarole. So there tends to be a lot more words than needed, just so it doesn’t have a lot of blank white space. I hate blank white space, it reminds me of clam chowder.

“I think using a lot of words makes me look smart, what do you think? And only answer that if you think I’ll like your answer.”


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

34 responses to “The Fewer the Better

  1. Banana Jr. 6000

    “I didn’t have time to write it with fewer words” should be Tom Batiuk’s epitaph.

  2. Epicus Doomus

    I HATE it when FW characters behave like children. Pete is practically a duller and stupider Beaver Cleaver here…”gee Wally, don’t keep me suspended!”. Ugh. He’s like forty-five years old and he’s been in the comic book business for a million years, I seriously doubt he’d defer to Flash to such a sycophantic degree. This one is even more repellent than last week’s mess, as at least that one had interesting cameos.

    • William Thompson

      You know, his dialog does work better in Jerry Mathers’s voice. Jeffy Keane’s voice would cut it, too.

      • Epicus Doomus

        Pete has been a “young kid just starting out” for at least twenty years now.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          A young kid starting out who’s the highest-paid person in his industry, and has already written a billion-dollar movie.

  3. William Thompson

    “And I figured if I used enough words, nobody would notice I hadn’t used any ideas!”

  4. Mr. A

    Well, that joke is only 360 years old. Note to Batiuk: changing the context from “writing a letter” to “writing a comic book script” does not qualify as a fresh take on the concept.

    Also, who says “Don’t keep me suspended”? Shouldn’t it be “Don’t keep me in suspense”, or “Don’t leave me hanging”? Is this another Ohio regionalism, like positive anymore, that I haven’t heard of? Is Pete trying to be funny by twisting the phrase? (I’ve been guilty of the same thing from time to time, and I can tell you, I rarely get the laughs I was hoping for.)

  5. billytheskink

    Is Flash gonna spend all week gabbing at Pete’s desk? He’s in danger of becoming Dinkle to Pete’s Becky.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Batiuk loves this dynamic, doesn’t he? So many Funky Winkerbean plots are about someone showing up at someone else’s job, and telling them how to do it correctly. Which is not only rude and patronizing, but modern workplace security wouldn’t even let these people past the receptionist desk.

  6. Gerard Plourde

    I’m struggling to understand how Pete’s explanation makes any sense in the visual and and dialogue world of comic books. Because comics are illustrated stories, extensive description should be non-existent, as what the scenes look like would be the choice of the illustrator. And given that this is an already established title, the appearance of the regular characters has been previously set. What is left would be dialogue and general directions about the action to be illustrated.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      I assume he means the dialogue is too wordy, or he puts in things that don’t need to be explained because they exist in the art. And the comic writer I talked about yesterday, the one who sold scripts to fans, he actually mentioned this as a personal problem of his.

      So I’m going to give Batiuk exactly one point for this. He may have stolen the joke like Mr. A said. But it is a funny truism of the writing process. If I was ever going to cut out a Funky Winkerbean strip unironically and post it on my wall, it would be this one.

      I just think it’s really funny that he doesn’t listen to his own advice. Nearly every strip he writes could be edited down. Even the silent strips of envelope stuffing.

      • Gerard Plourde

        Thanks. That makes sense. Given TomBa’s claim to work a year in advance, the thought that the published strips may actually represent pared down work is astonishing.

  7. Lord Flatulence

    “Don’t keep me suspended” looks like another good entry for the Batiuktionary.

    • J.J. O'Malley

      It’s the phrase Mopey yells when he’s hanging from the bedroom ceiling in his Grimbor the Chainsman outfit because a distracted Mindy, dressed as Dream Girl, had to go turn off the kitchen oven before their Tombstone pizza burns. Fun Fact: their safe words are “Split” and “Xam,” respectively.

  8. Sourbelly

    Why did you have to “knock it out fast”, Li’l Petey? Who the hell is lining up to buy this new apes-in-space comic?

    How old is Pete supposed to be, anyway? I ask because he looks and acts like a pre-pube 12 year old.

  9. J.J. O'Malley

    Oh, for the love of…I know it’s fun to mock Battyuk for his lack of understanding of everyday human behavior, emotions and so on and his woeful ignorance on many topics, but you would think writing a comic book script would be a subject that he could tackle!

    It doesn’t matter how effin’ wordy your pulse-poundin’ primate presentation is, Mopey! After Durwood gets through deciphering your instructions, determines how to best depict the proceedings and lays down empty word balloons, you can still add and subtract dialogue as you see fit! It’s then up to the letterer (Does Atomix even HAVE a letterer? Does Pete do that himself?) or computer lettering program to appropriately fill the word balloons and narration boxes.

    I assume he “had to knock it out fast” because he and Durwin are the only creators working on Atomik’s five or six monthly (?) books (not counting “Wayback Wendy” by Min-dull and R. Lith). Again, no modern comic book company would work this way; Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko could do this with a half-dozen or so Marvel titles back in the early ’60s, but they were geniuses (even “The Amazing Spider-Man” was bi-monthly at first, and Thor, Iron Man, and Ant-Man’s titles also ran sci-fi and supernatural back-up tales in nearly half the book). Battyuk MUST be aware of all this.

    Also, Unseen Panel Four dialogue with Mindy and Ruby off in the “Girls’ Corner”: “Believe me, Rube: Pete’s never at his best when he’s trying to ‘knock it out fast,’ if you know what I mean!”

    • Mr. A

      RE: “five or six monthly (?) books”: if none of the books have been canceled or were one-offs, then Pete is writing at least six books, possibly seven.
      1. The Inedible Pulp
      2. Rip Tide: Scuba Cop
      3. Atomic Ape
      4. Scorch
      5? The Scuba-Side Squad (not sure if this was a continuation/revamp of the Rip Tide book, or a spin-off)
      6. The Stardusters
      7. The Sunset Kid (that cowboy one with the big hangman’s noose on the cover)

      • J.J. O'Malley

        Ye Gods, what a roster! A paper Man-Thing, Super Scuba from “Super 6,” Grodd in Space, She-Torch, Sea Devils and Guardians of the Galaxy rip-offs, and…a Western? It makes those Silver Age also-ran companies like Charlton, Mighty (Archie), and Tower’s line-ups look positively stellar by comparison!

      • Maxine of Arc

        And no one is reading any of them.

  10. William Thompson

    If he had the time to make a bound copy, with a cover, he had the time to self-edit.

  11. Hitorque

    “Had to knock it out fast?” Like Atomikkk Komixxx ever had any established schedules or deadlines in the first place… If they did, they wouldn’t be sitting around scratching their ass and talking to industry fossils about the “good ol’ times” all day long…

    But it’s clear that this charade is leading to Flash joining the staff since evidently Atomikkk Komixxx has been publishing their boutique comics for 3+ years without any kind of editor, so let’s just skip to the end already… Then next time Batiuk can find a way to squeeze the always unappreciated “Batton Thomas” on the payroll and then his work will finally be complete….

  12. The Duck of Death

    “Yeah, I know it’s not well-written. But I had to write it in a hurry, so it’s okay that I did a shit job. Those other comics writers who actually write good, tight stories without a TED talk in every word balloon — they don’t know what it’s like to work under a deadline!

    And that’s just one of the many self-pitying excuses I have for my crappy work. Stick around, Flash, maybe you’ll hear another one tomorrow!”

  13. Rusty Shackleford

    Unlike this boring strip, the other strips I read are packed with action this week. Over in Mary Worth, Drew’s new girl swiped his Rolex and over in Crankshaft, Max and Hannah get their first stimmie. Will they blow it on comics related nonsense or some other nostalgia?

    • J.J. O'Malley

      So, Batty’s officially moved “Crankshaft” up to the present day for no apparent reason with this stimulus check nonsense (assuming this wasn’t the 2008 program). Fine. Who cares?

      It’s still the first time Hannah’s used the word “stimulus” around Max.

  14. Banana Jr. 6000

    Tell me something, Pete: what were you so busy doing that you didn’t have time to edit? All we ever see you doing is screwing around! Normally I would cut you a little slack for being engaged, but you’re not interested in that either. The “engagement tiger” was almost two years ago, and you kiss your hot 20-something blond fiancee like she’s your grandmother. I would say “come out of the closet already”, but I fear the arc Batiuk would write for it.

    Also, your role at Atomik Komix is called a “job.” When a company pays you to do something, you do it, not act like it’s an inconvenience to your oh-so-busy schedule of reading comic books, hanging out with Darren, and not planning your wedding. And why are you showing the company’s trade secrets to unauthorized people? Flash Freeman is not your editor. Who even let him in the front door? The rest of this week should be Chester giving you an ass-chewing.

  15. Maxine of Arc

    The gall of Batiuk,, creator of the word zeppelin, to write a strip where someone is criticized for using too many words is phenomenal.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      It reminds me of how the quote, ‘Brevity is the soul of wit.’ is from a character in Hamlet that rambled on and on and on. Except without the irony.

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        The character is Polonius, and a recommendation for him from Queen Gertrude is “more matter, with less art.” There’s probably a lesson in that, don’t you think? Alas, Tom Batiuk’s notion of a lesson is Calvinesque, and snow goons remain bad news.

        • ComicBookHarriet

          Look. All I’m saying, is that if we could cast the characters of Funky Winkerbean as Hamlet, it would be hard to pick who Les Moore would play. Claudius, a murderous letch with an inferiority complex. Hamlet, a mopey depressive that does nothing for five acts and then massively biffs the one thing he tries. Fortinbras, a guy who randomly shows up to reap unearned rewards from the misery of others. Polonius, a self important blowhard who annoys everyone around him. Gertrude, a myopic comfort seeker who is easily swayed by others. Ophelia, a mentally fragile waif who responds to trauma by becoming self-destructive, and helpless, and obnoxiously artistic.

          Les Moore. All of them.

          • Anonymous Sparrow

            Don’t forget Rosencrantz and Guildenstern! They hang about the middle parts of fortune and are content to be “her privates we.” Or Osric, with his palpable hit. But no one would confuse Les with the second gravedigger!

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      As always, Batiuk can’t see that he’s the worst example of everything he rails against.

  16. Charles

    “Then it goes into a drawer until about two weeks before it goes live, and then I have to remember what I was going to say in those word balloons.”

    Honestly, I think he outlines the stories he wants to do long before he actually hashes out the actual strips. And he leaves gaps in the outlines that he figures he’ll be able to fill in when he hashes them out, and isn’t able to work it out, or he just loses his enthusiasm for the story between the outline and the time he actually has to create the strips.

    Because there were a ton of sequences that could have conceivably been interesting, but Batiuk approached them in the most perfunctory, dull manner. (Bull’s suicide, for instance) And there were also a lot of sequences where there were elements in the story that just didn’t work, because they weren’t realistic, they weren’t effectively established and/or they just didn’t make any sense at all. That strikes me more as inadequate outlining in conception.