Patterns of Force

Link to today’s strip.

Pathetic. That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw this strip. I’ve just got to remain relevant, but this pandemic messed up all my plans! Well, I’m sure I can shoehorn in something, right at the end, and remain one of the cool kids, one of the strips that resonate with today’s youth! Because otherwise, how can I grab those sweet, sweet awards?

I know a lot of people were taking the comics page to task for not adapting to the pandemic. I wasn’t one of those people; the comics page is not reality and it is not required to do anything other than entertain. But today’s strip is really galling. Batiuk is trying to have it both ways, by acknowledging the pandemic, and yet not having it interfere with his year-long planning.

Because which of the stories last year could he possibly have pulled in order to address the situation? Well, how about all of them?

Without cheating by clicking on the “Act III” button in the banner, I can’t think of anything significant that happened in 2020. And I bet that’s because nothing did. I’m not talking about “events” because “events” happen all the time. I’m talking about things that make a difference in the strip. Actual changes, the things he touts over and over as his accomplishments.

Again, not cheating by clicking, I doubt anything of significance occurred. (You can beat me up in the comments.) Batiuk isn’t having it both ways, he’s throwing it away both ways.

This is the sort of strip that makes me think Tom Batiuk should have retired a long, long time ago. That Sunday strip where child Summer turned into teenage Summer, and inaugurated Act III, should have been the end. Because this, as mentioned above, is pathetic.

And…that’s it from me. Tune in tomorrow when your host will be the always erudite, always entertaining Epicus Doomus.

As long as I’m plugging some of my favorite animators, here’s Graham Annable, aka Grickle. This one always makes me laugh. It’s a little over a minute long.

This next one is a bit more ambitious, and I’d advise you not to watch it late at night. Three minutes long, and scarier than Stephen King.

See you in the funny papers!


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

48 responses to “Patterns of Force

  1. Epicus Doomus

    So his mother-in-law very thoughtfully made pizza-themed masks for everyone at Montoni’s. That isn’t a joke. He might have done something where Funky expressed surprise or was amused by the gesture, but it’s just “pizza-themed masks”. And that’s it. His sense of humor never fails to totally confound me.

  2. William Thompson

    Fabric with little pizzas printed (or embroidered) on it? Just for Montoni’s workers, uh, paycheck collectors? Okay, you can get it on eBay for $11.75 a yard (plus shipping). But why would these lifeless characters need to worry about breathing?

  3. Mr. A

    I see we’ve returned to “Funky tells stories at his AA meeting about things that happened several months ago, and have nothing to do with alcoholism”. Even if this flashback had nothing to do with the pandemic, it would still be weirdly off-key.

    On top of that, the “joke” is that Funky’s cloth mask had a pizza pattern on it. I guess we’re supposed to parse that as something really unusual and whimsical. It isn’t.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      This is what I call “trope as punchline.” Batiuk loves to write contrived stories where his oh-so-precious moments can be the answer. Oh no, Dinkle needs to raise money for his Pasadena trip! Whatever shall he do? And of course it ends with on Dinkle on somebody’s doorstop with a box of fucking band candy.

      Other comic strips don’t do this. Peanuts doesn’t have Charlie Brown go “oh, no, I have to practice my field goal kicking for the big game against Peppermint Patty’s team!” And then the last panel is Lucy holding the football with an soul-destroying smirk on her face. The story STARTS with Lucy offering Charlie Brown the football, and is about how he talks himself into kicking it again and how she tricks him again. “Funny thing about this contract, it was never notarized!”

  4. Charles

    Again, not cheating by clicking, I doubt anything of significance occurred. (You can beat me up in the comments.)

    We’ll have to see what happens when he comes back to Lisa’s Story: The ReMovieing, which he really ought to have resolved by now anyway. He burned down most of Los Angeles and after it was done no one seems to have realized it happened. I know they live in Ohio so it wouldn’t be direct, but the complete lack of any acknowledgement is absurd. Of course, this could all be wiped out when it’s revealed that Batiuk doesn’t know shit about Los Angeles and had no idea what he was portraying in those strips, and thus wouldn’t recognize the significance.

    We may also have had Buck move on from the strip, which would be a positive development.

    • Epicus Doomus

      Good point. I really can’t see Buck ever coming back after laying that egg. Man, what a GHASTLY arc that was.

      • Charles

        Thing is, I think even people that Batiuk envisions as fans would find Buck distasteful. After he’d be introduced for some time, he would do very little beyond make fun of the brain damaged and dying Bull and hang out with Linda talking about his supposed friend as if his friend wasn’t right there in front of him. And after Bull dies, he’s there at the funeral putting his hands all over Bull’s widow and hitting on her shortly thereafter. An actual earnest fan of the strip who cared about Bull would find Buck disquieting and repellent.

        • Epicus Doomus

          I’m a hate-reader and I found it equally disquieting and repellent. There was just no reason to take the Buck character in that direction unless the point was to write him out of the strip, which he could have easily done without the icky-ness, as no one would have noticed anyhow. He could have given those two characters a nice normal human moment centered around Bull, but he just doesn’t think that way.

          Or today’s strip. Funky might have expressed a newfound appreciation for his meddlesome old bag of a mother-in-law. He could have turned it into a nice little bonding moment, but based on the last panel it’s supposed to be another “that meddlesome old bag of a mother-in-law of mine strikes again”, which makes no sense whatsoever, as her thoughtful contribution was both timely and relevant. It’s like he actively resists sentimentality in favor of a certain wry cynicism (unless Lisa is involved). And it’s extremely strange in a way I’ve never seen anywhere else.

          • ComicBookHarriet

            For me, the worst thing about Buck was how his introduction meant that we never saw Bull interacting with Funky, Les, or anyone else literally 40 years of strips had shown him around, in the last three years of his life following his retirement. Every Bull arc was either Bull and Buck or Bull and Buck and Linda.

            The last thing I think Bull ever said to Les was the equivalent of ‘keep in touch.’ and then Les never spoke a word to him ever again.

          • Charles

            Well, presumably Batiuk doesn’t care if you or I don’t like Buck. But in order for that CTE prestige arc that he bragged about to work, a prospective reader would have to care about Bull, and that’s the type of reader he wants to cultivate. And even that type of reader would find Buck repellent.

            To respond to both yours and Harriet’s comments, I do wonder if Batiuk’s motivation in introducing Buck at least partly was because he knew it’d be distasteful if he showed Les or Funky or Crazy or some other established character making these jokes at Bull’s expense. So he created a guy from whole cloth to absorb all the disdain he’d earn from telling the only joke that Batiuk had about Bull and his condition – ie. The brain damaged and dying-from-it Bull is such an idiot (because he has brain damage).

            I only think that’s not the case because I don’t think Batiuk has that much self-awareness, and that he did occasionally still have his regular characters making fun of Bull’s stupidity as he coped with the brain damage that was killing him.

    • gleeb

      Yeah, but Batiuk clearly hated Bull, so it’s OK that he was brain-damaged and cuckolded. Who was it, really, that locked young Tom Batiuk in a closet until he soiled himself?

    • The Duck of Death

      Re: the Great Los Angeles Fire that apparently annihilated most of the city and must have left millions homeless: How lucky that Pasadena was spared and apparently shrugged the whole incident off! It’s like finding out that Queens burned from stem to stern but people in Brooklyn didn’t notice or care.

      I think the absolutely most amazing thing about Batiuk is his ability to gnaw on something like choir robes or the second-to-last Discman in the world for ages and ages — yet when he drops an absolute BOMB like “the chimp can aim a gun, plot a murder, and speak perfect English” or “Los Angeles burned to the ground,” he just leaves it there and moves on immediately, never to mention it again.

      • Charles

        I look back at that Butter Brinkel storyline and remain aghast and amazed that Batiuk apparently gave not a single thought to the victim who had been killed by the chimpanzee. His emotional core for that sequence was that we were supposed to worry about this guy getting imprisoned for murder when in fact it was his out-of-control chimp who killed the victim. We were supposed to think justice had been done when he and his pet chimp walked away scot-free at the end of it because it wasn’t Butter who actually pulled the trigger.

        And he has Cliff admit to being an accessory after the fact to criminally negligent homicide and we’re supposed to *like* him afterwards. A woman lies dead and everyone who could have done something about it did nothing. And Cindy and Jessica seem to have left that story worrying about how much it made Butter suffer.

        There’s a famous recent video showing a pet cat saving a child from a dog that was going to maul the child. I wonder if anyone watching that video asked “But what of the dog and its owner? I hope nothing bad happened to *them*!” If so, that’s everyone in Batiuk’s universe.

  5. Banana Jr. 6000

    “Wants it both ways” is exactly right. The strip wants to congratulate itself for all the sacrifices it didn’t make. Montoni’s was never shut down or inconvenienced in any way, but Funky’s first on the scene with a sob story about how much he suffered. And he hijacks an AA meeting to do it, which is just rude to the AA process.

  6. Based on the visage in our masthead, it looks like these unfortunate souls in the Arid AA Group are resigned to listening to Funky ramble on for yet another week. That’s an immense challenge to anyone’s sobriety.

  7. Sourbelly

    600,000 Covid deaths in the United States. Not funny. Pizza-themed Covid masks? Heelarious!!! Thanks for keeping America laughing, Tombat! You national treasure, you!

    • firedmyass

      Are you satirizing the gibbering morons who say stuff like this, or are you actually one of them?

      I need to know how to properly enjoy this.

      • Mr. A

        For future reference, the above was originally a reply to a troll whose comments got deleted, not a reply to Sourbelly directly. You’ll see more like this further down the page.

  8. Hitorque

    After watching “Grickle”, I only have this to say:

    Every day humanity strays further from God’s path…

    • Grickle’s works are really great. But yes, they are not optimistic, nor are they hopeful. I still find them really funny. A skeleton beating up a guy for mowing the lawn…that can be interpreted in a lot of ways. Still makes me laugh.

    • William Thompson

      God knows I try to stray!

    • ComicBookHarriet

      He plugs all this animation, without once linking to his own little channel of nightmare fuel and mindf*ckery.
      Like this animation of a solitary alien rearranging and destroying the same pile of stones for his own amusement. Self-reflexively trying to create art out of the same nearby objects, presumably over and over again, with no one around to see or comment.
      You can feel the Batiukian influence just oozing from the screen.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        To clarify, I didn’t mean to imply that BC’s fun and trippy animations shared ANY actual qualities with Funky Winkerbean or Batiuk as a artist. Just that prolonged exposure to Funky Winkerbean has a way of affecting an artist’s work, like working through the trauma of any war, tragedy, or natural disaster naturally would.

        • It’s still an interesting interpretation, and I appreciate the compliment.

          • ComicBookHarriet

            And I appreciate the twisted artistic sensibilities you bring to every turn you have at the captain’s chair. You had a brutal shift these two weeks, and I salute you.

  9. J.J. O'Malley

    What is the point of today’s strip? No, seriously…what purpose does Battyuk think it serves?

    Did he imagine people wanted a return appearance by the AA crew, none of whom ever get a chance to speak because Funky hogs the meeting with tales of the Pandemic upheaval that no one experienced in real time? Did he find the concept of facemasks with specific images on them inherently humorous when he noticed it last summer and decided it had to go in a strip? Did he not want to resort to a sideways Sunday panel of DInkle brushing up on his “embouchure” with Harriet? Did he just want to slap something together to fill one more Sunday?

    I’m guessing it was number four. And yes, beckoningchasm, I get the “Star Trek” reference.

  10. Rusty Shackleford

    Today’s Crankshaft is just as stupid. Look Tom, if you’re going to work a year in advance (so you have time to write all those prestige acts) then the trade off is that you cannot do topical things as you will be a year late.

    Or maybe you are just too lazy to slip in some newer strips. We could have done with a lot fewer comic book covers.

    • Perfect Tommy

      Yeah, Crankshaft was pretty surreal this week. And that’s saying something.

    • Mr. A

      I think today’s Crankshaft is a slipped-in newer strip, comparatively speaking. The Suez Canal was blocked on March 23rd, so we’re looking at a turnaround time under three months.

  11. Rusty Shackleford

    Comics should entertain?!?! Tom’s not going to like you putting another unwritten rule into writing.

  12. Gerard Plourde

    “This is the sort of strip that makes me think Tom Batiuk should have retired a long, long time ago. That Sunday strip where child Summer turned into teenage Summer, and inaugurated Act III, should have been the end. Because this, as mentioned above, is pathetic.”

    I completely agree with this. Sadly, I think that that was also a sign of his “burnout”. Rather than follow a rich vein of potential stories dealing with Summer growing up and Les coping with single parenthood, it seems that his original intention was to try to mine the already spent vein of Westview. Or, without a ten-year time jump, he could have indulged his imaginary “bullpen” of comic book creators by having Darin and Pete meet Phil Holt and Flash Freeman to create a framing story in which he could have put his fairly developed “Batom Comics history” to use. It would also have allowed for a more natural introduction of spin-offs to “Starbuck Jones” serial-themed stories to introduce a pre-Blacklist Cliff Anger and the Butter Brickel/Murder Chimp saga.

    Any of that would have been potentially more interesting than what Act III produced.

    • Professor Fate

      I would venture that Batiuk made the ten year time jump in order to NOT to tell to stories of Summer growing up or Les as a single father (if the hot dogs and peas strip is any indication he was horrible) and the whole messy aftermath of Lisa’s death. Grief is a very intense emotion and Batiuk does not handle intensity at all well – it’s hard to smirk about how your life partner or mother is gone. (look at the aftermath of Bull’s death – we suddenly found ourselves at the funeral with Les who talked about himself – if memory serves we didn’t see the widow again until Buck made a pass at her)
      More simply put, it was a act of creative cowardice, rather than rise to the challenge, he (or more exactly the strip) shrank.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        You’re right. Batiuk doesn’t want to tell a story about a family dealing with the loss of its mother. He wants to tell you about what a great person Les Moore is. He wants to tell you how exquisite his man pain is, that nobody appreciates his writing, that everybody just wants to sully his wife’s memory for no reason, and the world isn’t doing enough to make Les happy.

        But the story itself contradicts that. Les is not noble, talented, artistically pure, mentally healthy, a good father, a good friend, or any positive thing the other characters keep telling us he is. He’s certainly not a protector of Lisa, and didn’t really act in her best interest. We know all this because we can see his actions, and we can draw our own conclusions from them. As a result, Lisa’s Story has a severe disconnect to it.

        I’ve this many times, but Tom Batiuk simply does not understand that character actions and depictions inform the audience as much as words do. As a result, he’s not telling the story he thinks he is. And he’s so stubborn that he just keeps pushing his interpretation harder and harder.

        • Gerard Plourde

          Spot on analysis.

        • Charles

          Tom Batiuk simply does not understand that character actions and depictions inform the audience as much as words do.

          Part of it too though is that he wants specific things to happen, but he doesn’t want his characters wanting them to happen, so there’s a disconnect that doesn’t make any sense.

          Les can’t want to make a movie out of Lisa’s Story, because that’s him cashing in on his wife’s death, but Batiuk wants a movie version made of Lisa’s Story so he can keep talking about it and so he can award it all the prestigious awards he thinks it deserves. So he has Les dither and waffle about it but never say no, even though that would be easy and clearly what Les wants. Hell, he even presents a situation where Les gets every concession and decision he could possibly want out of a movie production of Lisa’s Story and he still complains and whines but never says no.

          You could say that Les writing Lisa’s Story and its subsequent volumes is him cashing in on his wife’s death, but it’s not the same. He’s actually having to produce something for that, and it could conceivably claim its about Les dealing with his own torment. But him selling the movie rights can be simply him sitting back and cashing the checks. There’s no angst there. There’s no emotional redemption from that.

  13. bayoustu

    I’m reminded of what standup comics allegedly say to each other when they think they might have a new premise: “Is this anything?” In this case, the answer is a resounding “No”.

  14. Perfect Tommy

    Fun fact: Projectile vomiting really messes up your embouchure.

  15. Paul Jones

    It gets worse. He’s got Crankshaft dreaming that he caused the bottleneck in the Suez Canal.

    • J.J. O'Malley

      I think Ed’s dream about the good ship Ever Given is a metaphor. The previous week’s dailies detailed Mary and him on a drive-in movie date, so today’s imagery of a long, hard vessel filled with seamen getting stuck in an aged canal is pretty obvious. Either that, or the whole thing just a subconscious symbol for Cranky’s nocturnal constipation.

  16. Hitorque

    1. Wow, is that a Cleveland Indians cap? It’s so rare to see Funkyverse citizens remember they actually have local sports teams.

    2. It’s funny because nobody has spoken up to remind Funkensteiger that a good portion of his audience lost friends, loved ones, and/or their livelihoods during the crisis, and most of them probably turned to alcoholism as a result while he continues to humblebrag about how he made out better during the pandemic than Jeff Bezos.

    3. A business-themed Covid mask isn’t funny and it isn’t even original… Hell, they were literally *everywhere* at one point. I got a mask with the logo of the university where I work… My mom got homemade masks from members of all three of her ladies clubs and her sorority. What WOULD have been funny is if Funkenstein was wearing a mask around town made of discarded bras or nylon pantyhose or clothes dryer static sheets or aluminum foil or Brillo pads or newspapers or comic book pages, or hairnets or pizza dough or squirrel pelts or anything that would have required 30 seconds of imagination.

    • Charles

      What WOULD have been funny is if Funkenstein was wearing a mask around town made of discarded bras or nylon pantyhose or clothes dryer static sheets or aluminum foil….

      One that wouldn’t have happened that I would have found hilarious would have been.

      “My mother-in-law made us all pizza-related masks! My wife Holly got one with little pizzas on it. Rachel got one with little pizza slices on it. Wally got one with a bunch of pizza slicers on it. Adeela got one with a crescent and star because her role is “Muslim” and there’s literally nothing else about her that matters. Just “Muslim”, My mother-in-law even made one for our habitual layabout Crazy that had cute little cheeses on it.

      “And she claimed that mine was sausage-themed, but I don’t believe her! They didn’t look very much like sausages and I know Joann Fabrics doesn’t sell this pattern! But the adult store downtown does!”

      And then the last panel features Funky in a mask with penises all over it.

      “I think she did it on purpose! She’s play-acting that senile old lady thing to humiliate me! And I had to wear it because it was the only mask I had when the mandate came down!”

  17. batgirl

    Oh, you’re that guy back again. The homophobe obsessed with writing real-person slashfic.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      I didn’t think Michael Bay had time for these kinds of shenanigans.

    • Jeff M

      This whole Ayers/Batiuk sex dialogue stuff is, subjective questions of taste and humor aside, objectively the Dinkle band candy of comments, in that it’s just purely repetitive. Same premise, same props, same dialogue, same everything. Every time. Dinkle band candy, pure and simple.

      • batgirl

        Saying “Yeah? Well, you’re a homo!” hasn’t been a crushing rejoinder since third grade. That’s third grade attended in the 1950s.
        Even if TB and whichever artist were in a gay relationship, so what? It doesn’t invalidate the work or life of either of them. It means nothing. No one cares.
        I’d just rather not read Whosit’s (I forget his old name) self-penned spank material. (I’m not suggesting Whosit is a closeted gay. Sometimes homophobes are just homophobes.)

  18. batgirl

    It’s perversely entertaining to notice that Funky’s probably-incredibly- bored audience is only hearing his words. The half-hearted gag is half-heartedly visual. So his mother-in-law made masks? Cool, man. Everybody with a sewing machine made masks. Yours were funny? How?
    Like the Discman story – pratfalls are visual. Telling someone (expressionlessly at that) that you fell misses the point.

  19. robertodobbs

    Funny that a mask appears….Just as I was noticing that their use is in sharp decline, at least where I live. Fully vaccinated are not re