Three O’Clock Sigh

Link To Today’s

Yup, sometimes not dying more or less works out for a person, I guess. In Westview it could go either way, of course, but sure, not dying was worth it for young Batton, I suppose, in a way, if you really think about it. His tens of loyal readers no doubt feel likewise, although if he had died upon learning of the future existence of comic book stores his comic strip would have never existed thus wouldn’t have had any fans, but whatever. It’s wry comic book-based banter, it’s not supposed to “be funny” or “make sense”.

The annoying thing about this one is how earnest John is. If he was wryly smirking it’d almost be a gag, but he appears to be serious, which means the gag (as it were) is actually that John is a mentally defective imbecile. This has already been firmly established, so it’s kind of overkill if you ask me.

48 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

48 responses to “Three O’Clock Sigh

  1. William Thompson

    If any of these characters died happy, I could live happy. Maybe we could gather them all in the Komix Korner, lock the doors and torch the place.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      All the characters would die of smoke inhalation, because they’d be too busy saving the comic books.

  2. Mr. A

    Batton should have added the phrase “as a kid” somewhere in that first word-balloon. In its absence, I got distracted trying to figure out when comic book stores became a thing, so I could picture what age Batton would have been at the time.

    (After a trip to Cousin Wikipedia: comic book stores took off in the 1970s. I’m envisioning a 22-year-old Batton in the summer of ’69, keeling over with a look of stunned delight on his face.)

    Aside from that, there’s not much to say about this strip. It’s a jumping-on point for readers who have no clue who Batton is. It’s here to tell us what Batton likes (comic books), and what his strip is called, and that’s about it.

    If we’re lucky, Batiuk will give us a bit of plot tomorrow. As a treat.

  3. erdmann

    Comic shops have been around for more than half a century. Where have you been? Living in Murania?

    • Epicus Doomus

      Yeah, that’s another thing. It’s not like comic book stores are a brand new innovation that’s sweeping the nation or something. Yet Batton is marveling over it like it’s some wondrous World’s Fair vision of a bold new future.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        If you’d told me that one day we’d be eating frozen sugared cream out of rolled WAFFLES…why I would have spit in my penny lick before handing it back to the costermonger.

  4. billytheskink

    Going back to the 50s and telling Tom Batiuk that there would one day be stores that sell nothing but comic books is going to be the new “kill baby Hitler” for people debating what to do with a time machine, right?

    • spacemanspiff85

      You forgot to add “tell him they won’t be selling anything he makes, so don’t bother writing comics”.

  5. Banana Jr. 6000

    Batton Thomas is surprised comic book stores exist? Westview probably has a comic book delivery service. They’ll even bring Ruby Lith to your house.

  6. J.J. O'Malley

    Okay, first of all, “If you had told me that….died happy right then and there!” Right WHEN and WHERE? You’re supposed to put a qualifying phrase in there about the time and place, like “If you had told me when I was a kid buying comics at the corner drug store” or “If you had told me when I was starting out as a cartoonist” or some such nonsense like that. And why would that news have made Mr. “Three O’Clock High” so happy he would’ve kicked the bucket? He wouldn’t have experienced the aromatic wonder that is a local comics store, so what’s he so ecstatic about?

    Second, how does Skunky know when Batton would have croaked? If he meant dying as a youngster, it wouldn’t have disappointed his strip’s fans because he never would have started it. And comic shops have been around for more than 45 years, so he can’t have meant recently.

    And third…”stores that sold nothing but comic books”? Look around you, Batton. You’re in a store that hasn’t had a PAYING customer in years.

    Day two of mindless self-backslapping with not a joke in sight.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      A paying customer? What are you talking about, they sold that eight thousand dollar. life size Ironman statue back in January. They’re set for the rest of the year. In fact, if they sell more than ten comics the rest of the year they might not be able to claim their normal 20 dollar net loss on their taxes.

      • J.J. O'Malley

        Oh, yeah, the life-size Iron Man statue story arc. Did that count as a sale, or did a customer trade his comic book collection (which his wife was complaining about, even though it fit in one box) for the statue (which came with divorce advice at no added charge)? It was never explained (imagine that!), but it looked like the same guy each day and implied it was an even-up switch. I refuse to believe that Skunky and Harry have had to open the cash register since well before COVID…whenever it took place.

    • Charles

      The word “would” doesn’t work. It implies that hearing that news would have killed him, and he would have been happy. It’s actually closer to the opposite of what he means.

      Instead, “could” might have worked, in the sense that “if I had known such a place would exist, if I had unfortunately died I still would have been happy knowing that such a thing is real.”

      I’m sure Batiuk would have found some way to screw that up in his typical cumbersome fashion too.

      He really does botch a ton of idioms and cliches, and is completely unaware of how it changes the meaning of what he writes.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Batiuk had better not introduce any wish-granting genies to the strip. They tend to be very specific about word choice.

      “If you tell me there will one day be stores that sell nothing but comic books, I could die right now!”
      “There will one day be stores that sell nothing but comic books.”
      “Really? Wow, that’s incred—” KOFF KOFF ACK GASP

      • Perfect Tommy

        Wow, that’s a really big disposable lighter you have there.
        Yeah, I got the genie out of the lamp but he misheard me.
        What am I supposed to do with a 12-inch Bic?

  7. Banana Jr. 6000

    I love how indecisive Batton Thomas is about this proposition. “If I knew comic stores would exist, I would have died then and there! My death at a young age would have devastated my family. And I never would have lived a long, comfortable life, been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, and made my own impact on the comics world. But I’d get to go to a specified location and pay money for comic books. Hmm. Tough call.”

    “Batton Thomas” is insane.

  8. none

    By saying “a lot of fans” rather than “all of your fans” or even just “the fans”, Skunky is making a subtle dig at the man by implying that there would be some fans who actually would have been delighted if he died. That’s the joke, right?

  9. spacemanspiff85

    I have a feeling that for a Tom Batiuk character, dying because of comic books is like dying while waging jihad. You just go straight to heaven, where you are given forty mint Flash comics.

  10. Here’s a fun thing to do with today’s episode. Substitute any other phrase for “comic books” and see if it’s funny. The first thing that occurred to me was “chewing gum” and I chuckled. Then I thought of “witch hazel” and I laughed. “Gym socks” also works.

    “Bat guano”…I’m still laughing over that one.

  11. Sourbelly

    “True, the world would have been robbed of my comic books creating genius.” So much for any self-deprecating humor. That’s not exactly Batiuk Thomas’ forte.
    And Skunk-Ass looks like a blithering fanboy idiot in panel 2.

  12. Hitorque

    I don’t get it… What’s so special about comics-only stores, which have been around since at least my childhood in the early 1980s?

    Why exactly would they have been such a quantum leap for American society? Were they not readily available at grocery stores, newsstands, and a lot of other places? Did Batton Thomas grow up in the Yukon with only a fur trapper and a trading post within a hundred mile radius? Did he grow up Amish or Mennonite? Did he grow up at some Air Force Base in Greenland or whatever? Or did he grow up in some rural ass-backwards town that banned all comic books the way that town in “Footloose” banned dancing?

    • Charles

      Also, comic book stores really aren’t like and expanded version of the comic book section of your local Five and Dime. They’re more of a collector’s store, where more than half the assembled product would have been out of young Batton’s financial reach. Hell, they probably wouldn’t have let him in.

      “That little shit came in and got his popsicle-stained hands all over the stuff in row E. Just sat down and started reading them as if he owned the place. Ruined over $500 worth of comics. Thank fucking God the really expensive stuff is behind the glass!”

      It’s also like claiming that your local sports memorabilia place is a store that sells nothing but baseball cards.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Did he grow up at some Air Force Base in Greenland or whatever?

      Sadly, that town only had a store for role-playing computer games, and it specialized in Richard Garriott.

      It was called Ultima Thule.

  13. The annoying thing about this one is how earnest John is.

    See, this is where “self-depreciating” grinds to a halt. As Epicus points out, John’s reaction is that he doesn’t want to live in a world where there is no “Three O’Clock High,” because the author is a pure genius. I realize it’s impossible for Batiuk to get over himself, but really, this is almost sad.

    • Charles

      Yeah, and if he was doing the standard Batiuk smirk, you could at least figure he was teasing Batton. But instead that face suggests that he actually imagined a world without Three O’Clock High, and it’s chilling to him.

      “I’m sorry. I’ve only read childish comic books my whole life. I don’t understand figurative language.”

  14. The Nelson Puppet

    You know…if you had told me that one day there would be stores that sold nothing but cancer, pizza, and comic books…

  15. Horace M. Spinnaker

    Picture boxes, horseless carriages, talky devices, aeroplanes, pssssshaw! I seen those coming a mile away.

    But a shoppe that sells cartoony books? Lorrrrrrrrrrd a mighty!

  16. Suicide Squirrel

    I’ve read somewhere, most likely here, that “Three O’clock High” was almost the title for “Funky Winkerbean”.

    Over the years the strip has gotten so bad it should be called “Low and Outside”.

  17. Gerard Plourde

    How long is this odd stretch of thinly-disguised self-praise going to last?

    This is different from Hitchcock’s or Stan Lee’s cameos which were amusing “Easter eggs” that audiences looked for.

    And it appears that Montoni’s was the only place in fictional Northeast Ahia that experienced the pandemic unless Batton Thomas’ appearance is intended to provide a convoluted introduction to DSH John discussing the devastating effect Komix Korner experienced when the youth of Westview couldn’t hang out there.

  18. Chyron HR

    If you had told me that “Three-O’-Clock High” was published in newspapers rather than Zap Comix I wouldn’t have believed it, either.

  19. The Duck of Death

    Was just speaking to a friend who grew up in Brooklyn and has always loved comics. He’s 60. He said there were at least two comic book stores in the borough that he visited in his childhood, including Brain Damage Comics in Park Slope. There was a comic book store in Manhattan, Supersnipe Comics, as early as 1971.

    Of course, Batiuk is a child of the 40s, so he would have been in his 20s when these places were around. But he doesn’t specify a time frame. He doesn’t say “If you had told me when I was a kid that one day….” So maybe he would have died happy in his 20s.

    Also, there isn’t a store on earth that sells “nothing but comic books.” Every one of them also sells related magazines, paperbacks, hardbacks, T-shirts, trading cards, and assorted related collectibles.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      You allude to another common problem in Funky Winkerbean: the characters all share a hive mind. They react to things that other people don’t actually say. Batton Thomas doesn’t say “when I was a child.” But John responded as if he did, by suggesting that the comic strip would never have been created. Batton’s hypothetical scenario doesn’t imply that.

      Yes, this a real-life phenomenon. Sometimes people misspeak in ways that you know what they meant, and you can react to that. Or, some people just have a connection where they know what’s on the others’ mind. But there’s no indication of that here. It’s just sloppy writing.

  20. be ware of Eve hill

    While looking at panel #2 I was somewhat taken aback by the sight of a wedding ring on Dead Skunkhead’s hand. I thought to myself, “What poor soul is married to that vile creature?”.

    Then I remembered. Dead Skunkhead is married to one of Batiuk’s favorite punching bags, Becky Blackburn-Winkerbean-Howard. You know, the woman who is so emotionally dead she takes the loss of a limb in-stride. She’s so incompetent she can’t direct a high school band without the aid of a deaf old man who’s clearly past his best.

    I have to wonder, which is worst. Losing an arm, putting up with the meddlesome Dinkle, or being married to Dead Skunkhead John?

    If I were Becky I’d fake my death and disappear in the middle of the night.

  21. robertodobbs

    As others here I regularly went to a comic book store in the early 70s. So almost 50 years ago. And it was a real comic book store, no figurines or Junk. New comics and old, including EC horror comics displayed on the wall.

    • The Duck of Death

      You’ve reminded me of something I find intriguing. I don’t think Batiuk has ever acknowledged the existence of EC. Most real comix fans will wax rhapsodic about the groundbreaking art and writing in Frontline Combat, Two-Fisted Tales, Shock SuspenStories, Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, Weird Science, and many others, not to mention the supremely influential PANIC and MAD. It’s interesting that he’s never mentioned any of them, nor their artists or writers, even when discussing the Frederic Wertham Senate hearings of 1954, because Bill Gaines, EC’s publisher, was arguably the key witness, and the infamous decapitation cover of Crime SuspenStories was arguably the key piece of evidence. Yet a whole arc devoted to demonizing Wertham ignored Gaines/EC entirely.

      Something tells me EC’s very intense and sometimes challenging books were threatening to young Tom.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        You make an astute observation. Tom Batiuk has a giant bug up his ass
        about the Comics Code. It makes sense that Funky Winkerbean would un-person anyone whose actions helped bring it about.

        • The Duck of Death

          You might be right. I assumed that he ignored EC because young Tom’s childish suburban sensibilities were offended by the dark, grown-up themes in EC’s comics. You’d think that, given how outraged Batiuk seems to have been at Wertham, he would have defended Gaines as a free speech hero/martyr.

          I just learned that, amazingly, the entire Senate hearing with Gaines and Wertham is available in audio. It’s gold. Frederic Wertham, with his German accent and prosecutorial tone, sounds every bit the Nazi mad scientist. I love this statement by Gaines: “It would be just as difficult to explain the harmless thrill of a horror story to a Dr. Wertham as it would be to explain the sublimity of love to a frigid old maid.”

          The whole story and the audio recordings are available here: https://www.wnyc.org/story/215975-senate-subcommittee-juvenile-delinquency-ii/

          • robertodobbs

            That’s a great link; thanks. I’ll take a listen this week. You should check out the book “The Ten Cent Plague” by a guy named David Hadju from 2009. Gives the whole EC controversy story and very well written.

  22. Bad wolf

    Wasn’t “Three o’clock High” his original name for the strip? How hard is he slapping himself on the back here?

  23. Okay, but what would this guy do NOW if someone were to tell him that Comixology exists, and that he could be buying and reading all kinds of comics without having to change out of his pajamas?

    And as for the ambiance… Every local comic book store is turning into a Funko-Pop showroom. And for some reason they haven’t even made “The Phantom Empire” Funkos yet!

  24. Professor Fate

    Dear lord what next? A paean to canned food?