“Remember When” Is The Lowest Form Of Conversation

Link To Today’s FW

I used to know a guy who claimed to have been on the outer fringes of the music business back in the day and he had a million and a half stories just like Batton’s.

“Yeah, Jerry and Bob sure threw some fun parties. They asked me if I wanted to join their new band, but I’d just gotten into the drill press operator’s union so I passed. So yeah, I coulda been in the Grateful Dead, but you know.”

He was pretty annoying but he was no Batton Thomas, that’s for sure. Then again, who is? Wait…do NOT answer that. Anyway, yeah, BatYam obviously saw a news story about that stupid comic book being auctioned and right after he settled down and took a brief nap he got right to work on this timely arc so he could mention it in that annoying “if only we’d known then what we know now” kind of way of his where he conveniently ignores the fact that if everyone had saved those old comic books they wouldn’t be rare or especially valuable, like with those poor souls with closets full of worthless Beanie Babies. It would have been a funnier story if Batton’s mom had thrown it out, but in BatWurst’s zeal to re-tell the story that thought must not have occurred to him. That’s why the editor’s role is (guffaw) so crucial. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

49 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

49 responses to ““Remember When” Is The Lowest Form Of Conversation

  1. Gee, Batton, you didn’t recognize the character? Did you perhaps see the word “Introducing” on that cover? That means he was brand new, in case you didn’t know the definition of “introducing.” I mean, were you born stupid, or did you study?

    In 1962, you know who knew Spider-Man would be a million dollar property? Absolutely no one. The publisher only put Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy 15 because the title was being cancelled.

    • Epicus Doomus

      It’s such a remarkably boring anecdote too AND it’s Batton’s BEST one, which says an awful lot about ol’ Batton, none of it good.

      “I was going to watch the first moon landing live, but I fell asleep.”

      “But that was a giant leap for mankind!!!!”

      “That’s why I’m a repetitive bore and not a storyteller.”

  2. J.J. O'Malley

    Well, Mr. Thomas, one of the reasons that Amazing Fantasy #15 sells for a million-plus in mint condition is because urchins like yourself were pawing over copies with their grimy finger while they sat on the others on display. And thanks, Skunky, for telling Batton what he obviously already knew about said comic’s being Spidey’s first appearance; here and we all thought the current price was due to the back-up stories “The Bell-Ringer,” “Man in the Mummy Case,” and “There Are Martians Among Us!”

    I assume after he put AF15 back, young Batton instead opted for a more familiar title out that month (June of 1962) like The Atom #2 (which showed the title hero getting flushed down a sink), Little Lotta #43 (where she skips rope using two elephant trunks), or splurged on the 25-cent Batman Annual #3 (whose cover features the Dynamic Duo battling–you guessed it–the Gorilla Boss of Gotham City).

    To sum up, this week arc spent two days establishing who Batton Thomas is, and so far three days of him telling John that he bought comics as a boy, and they were cheap. I guess this means one more moldy reminiscence tomorrow, and maybe a sideways comic cover on Sunday? I’d give $1,250,000 for that not to be the case!

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Notice Batiuk never includes the “mint condition” caveat when he’s talking about comic book value. The copy that sold for that amount was a 9.6 Near Mint+ grade, which means “you can tell that this comic has been stored properly and looks almost as new as the day it was printed.” And since proper comic book storage didn’t exist in 1962, this condition is obscenely rare. It’s still worth a good chunk of change in mediocre condition, but Batiuk always ignores that. The “comic books are extremely valuable” narrative must be shoved down the readers’ throats at all times.

      Batiuk also conveniently ignores that collecting comic books is antithetical to the way his characters consume them. They read them over and over, hand them back and forth to each other, don’t store them properly, and today they’re even sitting on them. Atomik Komix doesn’t possess a single item that would protect the books’ condition. But when it’s time for a collecting plot, everything everybody owns is magically “gem mint.” That means a perfect 10 rating, which is almost never given, not even to copies that were printed yesterday and plucked from the shelf today.

      I hate these collecting arcs because they’re completely unrealistic, and they inspire the worst behavior in the collecting world. Namely, people who think their lame, mass-produced, poorly preserved 1990s crap is worth obscene amount of money. I’m looking at you, Chester.

  3. William Thompson

    So a rare copy of this issue sold for a bazillion dollars? Big whoop. This is “plea for help” territory. Notice how Bathack avoids saying what made this issue important to Batton Thomas, which is what a real story would involve.

    But then, who cares enough about this boring character to wonder about his attachment to a comic book?

    • gleeb

      But he does say what made it important to Little Batton: nothing. He didn’t know the character already, so he dismissed it out of hand. Only the well-worn, same old things, even when he was a kid, thanks.

      • William Thompson

        “Nothing.” Which means that Batiuk wants his characters to be like the obnoxious, self-absorbed, ugly, unfunny assholes on Seinfeld. He’s actually doing quite well with that, and I hope the strip ends just like the show did.

        • Anonymous Sparrow

          And the Seinfeld Gang does turn up in a strip during the Darrin learns that Lisa is his mother. Funny that she’s never called “Bio-Mom” as Frankie is called “Bio-Dad,” isn’t it?

  4. robertodobbs

    All of those Kellogg’s and Post cereal boxes from my childhood breakfasts in the early 1960s would sell for hundreds of dollars today. That fact that I did not save all of them makes me a bad businessman?

    • The Duck of Death

      The very reason all this pop-culture ephemera is valuable is BECAUSE no one knew it would be valuable. If everyone had saved every box of Post Toasties, or every issue of “Amazing Fantasy,” they’d be cluttering the shelves at antique malls for 5 bucks apiece.

      You know what people saved? National Geographic magazines. You can’t even give the things away. You know what else people saved? Comics “special issues” from the last 25 years. Good luck getting rich on those.

      It’s the stuff people threw away, or wore out, that’s unusual and valuable.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        And because it’s rare. If gem mint comic books were as common as they are in Westview, they wouldn’t be worth anything either.

  5. billytheskink

    Now I’m businessman and not (despite my best efforts) a cartoonist and I made the opposite mistake in the 90s, buying several issues Archie Comics’ Sonic The Hedgehog series.

    Young Batton never had a neck, did he? I wonder when that grew in.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      My collection of 1980s baseball rookie cards says hi.

    • Suicide Squirrel

      The kid in that strip from April resembles Bull’s buddy/nemesis Buck Bedlow a hell of a lot more than he resembles Batton Thomas. I think it’s the rectangular cinderblock shape of his head.

  6. Gerard Plourde

    Once again sloppy work rears its head. Amazing Fantasy #15 was distributed in June of 1962. TomBa would have been 15. The kid in Panel 2 looks about 5.

    • erdmann

      Also, Flash #123 came out a full year before AF #15, but the kid in the April strip billytheskink posted looks older than the one in today’s strip.
      Actually, he doesn’t even look like the same kid.

  7. erdmann

    ” I actually held a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 in my hand,,, but I put it back because the store owner came stomping over and screamed ‘hey, ya damn kid! This ain’t no readin’ library!’ and kicked me out.”

  8. Mr. A

    “Like every other male my age who collected baseball cards as a boy, I now firmly believe that at one time I had the original rookie cards of Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Jim Thorpe, Daniel Boone, Goliath, etc., and that I’d be able to sell my collection for $163 million today except my mom threw it out.” —Dave Barry, “Our National Pastime”, 1996

    Similar core concept, so why does it work so much better?
    1. Humorous exaggeration
    2. A level of self-awareness that allows Barry to be skeptical of his own nostalgia (“Like every other male my age…I now firmly believe that…”)
    3. Doesn’t use an audience-surrogate character to model the “correct” reaction to his story (especially if that reaction is “stunned amazement”)

  9. Charles

    In 1980, because I was a dumb little kid then who loved Star Wars, my father bought me the comic adaptation of the Empire Strikes Back right when it came out in the theaters. It was graphic novel sized but was still essentially a big comic book that told the entire story of the Empire Strikes Back. It was bound like a comic book and flimsy like a comic book, not like a graphic novel.

    Anyway, one day, my big dumbass brother decided he wanted to read it on the couch. After a while he got bored with it so he threw it on the couch next to him. Then he laid down on the couch as he decided he wanted to watch some television. Then he fell asleep. And then he rolled his fat ass all over my Empire Strikes Back comic book, ruining it. The cover and the first and last several pages were all torn off, and the remaining pages all were distressed and tattered as a result of my brother’s ass rolling around on top of them. The staples in the binding were barely holding on. You really never could read the thing again.

    What I’m saying is seeing a kid in a store sitting his fat ass down on a bunch of comic books that he doesn’t even own reminds me of some bad childhood memories. Batiuk really doesn’t realize how thoughtless he shows his characters being. We’re supposed to like this stupid little shit!

    • Hitorque

      I saw ROTJ in theaters as a kid and my babysitter got me one of those commemorative behind-the-scenes programs… And I also had a ton of Star Wars toys, Transformers, GI Joe etc. Which if I’d kept would be worthless today BECAUSE AS A KID I ACTUALLY PLAYED WITH THE STUFF UNTIL IT DISINTEGRATED FROM OVERUSE…

      As for the program? Don’t ask — I scribbled on a bunch of pages, tore off the cover, cut out my favorite photos (which I also lost), you know the deal….

      • The Duck of Death

        You WHAT? You… played with your toys? HERETIC! They’re for keeping in their boxes in a hyperbaric chamber!

        That’s the saddest part of Batty trying to relive his childhood. None of us thought of the monetary value of our comics, trading cards, or toys. We just had fun with them in the moment. That “fun in the moment” feeling is the real value of comics for children. As much as he wants to recapture it, Batty’s sclerotic adult mind is locked out of that feeling forever.

        So he settles for a poor substitute: crowing about monetary value instead.

  10. Paul Jones

    This is the defining moment of his life. Let’s let that sink in. Something bland and forgettable he did as a small child is what he uses to define himself. This says a lot of sad things about him.

    • The Duck of Death

      And clearly even this childhood memory is now tinged with deep regret.

      I really hope he’s had a comic book-themed snowglobe made, so when he dies, he can drop it on the floor, murmuring, “Amazing Fantasy #15.”

  11. Cicada-Woman

    GEEEEEEEEEEEEKS

  12. Mr. A

    For comparison, here’s a spin on the same core concept that works better (in my opinion):

    “Like every other male my age who collected baseball cards as a boy, I now firmly believe that at one time I had the original rookie cards of Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Jim Thorpe, Daniel Boone, Goliath, etc., and that I’d be able to sell my collection for $163 million today except my mom threw it out.” —Dave Barry, “Our National Pastime”, 1996

    Why is this better?
    1. Humorous exaggeration.
    2. Barry has enough self-awareness to be skeptical of his own nostalgia. (“Like every other male my age…I now firmly believe…”)

  13. Hitorque

    I don’t get it — Who gives a shit what that comic would be worth today? It’s not like Batton is destitute living off the charity of others and not knowing where his next meal is coming from… I’m pretty sure he’s lived a life more financially comfortable than most people….

    • erdmann

      I have a lot of old comics. Some of them are worth money. Maybe a lot of money. But its just like my daddy always used to tell me, “a thing is only worth what other people are willing to pay you for it.”
      One of my most prized comics is Shazam #2. I won’t go into the details of how and why I bought it long, long ago, other than to say I was unfamiliar with the character on the cover but was drawn to it any way. Is it worth anything? Doubtful; I read the hell out of it. Do I care? Nope.

  14. The Duck of Death

    “I actually held a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 in my hand, but I put it back because I didn’t know the character on the cover. Even as a child, you see, I was incredibly incurious. At the age of 8, I was already frightened of anything unfamiliar, anything outside the extremely strict borders I’d drawn around my emotional and intellectual world. Other kids my age — the fools — may have been eager to experience new things and find out more about the vast world we live in, but I believe you’re never too young to be rigidly set in your ways.”

  15. The Duck of Death

    I’ve noticed that Comics-as-Currency is a frequently recurring trope in FW. When people have money, they spend it on comics; when people need money, they sell comics. They effectively serve as liquid assets. That’s interesting coming from an author who venerates them as both symbols of carefree childhood and examples of great art. Because when push comes to shove, he presents their true value as monetary. Their value is discussed again and again in the Funkyverse. There’s also a fetishism around condition, with frequent discussions of “mint, slabbed, bagged” issues.

    I have suspected for a long time that Batiuk lives in bitterness that if he had bought and saved all the comics he pawed through on that spinner rack, he would be very wealthy today. Sure. But millions of other kids pawed through those same issues in drugstores all over the country and could tell a similar story.

    In fact, everyone has plenty of these “fortune that got away” stories. I’m sure there are people out there saying, “In 2010, my techie friend told me to buy ‘Bitcoin.’ It was worth 25 cents at that time, but I told him, ‘why should I spend a quarter on some worthless theoretical currency?'” Similar tales could be told about any other collectibles — and about stock IPOs, real estate, etc. Batty thinks he’s the only one who missed a financial boat, and he’s STILL bitter about it. And we’re gonna hear about it till the day he puts down his pen and retires.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      You’re thinking realistically. in Tom Batiuk’s fantasy world, comic books don’t have to have one true value, because they can be everything! Batton Thomas can read Flash #123 every week for 60 years, and then sell it in gem mint condition for a zillion dollars. Those of us who have occasional contact with reality know that handling something will lower its condition, and therefore its collectible value. In Westview, you never have to choose between the two.

    • Charles

      I think Batiuk does that to counter non-believers in the value of comic books. He shows a bunch of grown men geeking out over children’s stuff, happily reading cheap picture books that are geared toward an 8-10 year old reader. (Remember, he’s not fond of the grittier, more challenging stuff, so it’s kids’ stuff for his guys)

      If comic books were only valued for their literary merit, these guys are all nostalgic dopes. Lots of people would find them contemptible losers with arrested development who seemingly wanted to be 8 years old forever.

      But oh, these things are valuable, so let’s see how much you guys laugh when you realize that those childish things could have earned you millions of dollars! Not so worthless now! These guys aren’t wasting their lives caring about these things now, are they? Chester can buy and sell your ass several times over just from the proceeds of comic books! Don’t you feel like an idiot working all your dumb life instead?

      • The Duck of Death

        The fact that comic books are fetching these prices is based on speculation, and the current popularity of comix-based movies and TV shows, not on intrinsic value or lack thereof. There are all kinds of modern artists, many of whom I’m sure Batiuk disdains, whose minor pieces would fetch over 1.25 million.

        It’s my personal opinion that when the boomers die off, the value of these comix will plummet. To Gen Xers and younger generations, they don’t have anywhere near the same fetish value. If you’ve ever settled an estate, you’ll know that one generation’s precious, priceless heirlooms to be cherished and handed down to grandchildren…. are another generation’s estate sale leftovers. Fads change, styles change, interests change, cultures change.

        I have a teenage son who has really no interest in print at all. He’s interested in playing online games like Grand Theft Auto with his friends. Most of his life is virtual. I’ll be interested to know, if I live long enough, what his generation’s wealthy middle-aged people choose to collect — if anything.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          I think comic books can better survive the passing of the Boomer generation than my beloved baseball cards can. Kids are still growing up with Batman and Iron Man and Spider-Man, just in movie and TV form instead of comic books. I think there will still be interest in the humble roots of these characters, though. Major League Baseball has been actively engineering its own destruction this entire millennium. Don’t get me started on that.

          • The Duck of Death

            I’m not a sports fan, but I think early baseball memorabilia will always carry a romance, and a value. Few people alive grew up watching Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio, but a signed game ball from one of those could buy you a nice house.

            Once there is no one alive who read the Golden Age comix as a kid, I think much of the romance will wear off.

            But who knows? Maybe we’re both right, or maybe neither of us. Which gets us back to: “You don’t have to be a good businessman to save the right ephemera, you schmuck — you just need to be real lucky.”

  16. You know, it bothers me that we see him actually reading the comic, but he still says he didn’t buy it because he didn’t know the character.

    I mean, AF15 is an origin story. Of course you wouldn’t know the character, this is his first appearance.

    I think others here have it right–Batiuk never read the issue, never saw the word “introducing,” and simply dismissed it as “not Batman.” Meaning his tastes and preferences were already set. But he has to set himself up as some kind of victim of circumstances, not of his own timidity.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I found it odd that Batiuk didn’t recreate the original Spider-Man cover in panel two. Normally he inserts real-world comic book art into Funky Winkerbean every chance he gets. During Flash #123 week, he redrew that cover 8 or 9 times, including the full Sunday sideways version. But he didn’t do it here, when he probably should have because it would have made panel 3 a lot less wordy.

      Is it possible that Batiuk’s contempt for Spiderman is so great that he refuses to depict him, even when it’s necessary to the narrative?

      • Check out this howler from today’s blog entry:

        I aimed low [proposing horror stories to Marvel] figuring that they would immediately move me to Spider-Man once they saw how well I could write

        • The Duck of Death

          I’m seldom at a total loss for words, but … I… I… *choke*… *chortle*…
          A-HAW HAW HAW HAAAWWW!

        • Gerard Plourde

          Words fail. Clueless? Self-absorbed? None seem to capture the disconnect from current reality that this statement embodies.

        • The Duck of Death

          Jinx,* Gerald Plourde! I see the insanity of Batiuk’s self-deception gave us both temporary aphasia.

          I can’t imagine Tom Batiuk trying to write a horror story. I’ve never seen anyone so averse to any form of dramatic tension at all. He almost never allows it, and when he does, it’s often resolved in the same strip or by the next day at the latest.

          *Now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time. A long time.

          • In Batiuk’s version of Dracula, Jonathan Harker goes to Transylvania to inspect a rare slabbed copy of Flash #123. He writes in his diary, “I could see from the distance that comics had a past, and that perhaps I had a future.”

            Later, in the castle, he is attacked one night by three vampire women who repeatedly tell him about The Amazing Mister Sponge.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          Wow, that explains a lot. We didn’t see Spider-Man today because Tom Batiuk is still bitter that didn’t get the Spider-Man writing job he felt was entitled to 40+ years ago. And we only see DC Comics in Funky Winkerbean because he’s still mad at Marvel for not hiring him. That blog post explains a lot indeed.

          Really, Batiuk just assumed Marvel would instantly promote him to an prestige position five seconds after they saw his writing. Which was never better than adequate, and is now aggressively bad. And he blames it all on the Comics Code. Which is complete bullshit, because the Comics Code doesn’t apply to unsolicited writing samples! If Marvel thought he was a talented writer, the content of his samples wouldn’t be an obstacle to getting hired. At worst, they’d ask him to edit his writing to better adhere to the standards.

          Today’s post reveals Batiuk to be incredibly self-entitled, deluded about his own talent level, and unable to accept his own failures. “Oh, I didn’t get hired at Marvel because my timing was off with regards to the Comics Code.” No, Tom, you didn’t get hired at Marvel because they didn’t think you were worth hiring. Maybe you could have gotten hired later, but holding a decades-long grudge against a company makes them not want to have you around.

  17. Sourbelly

    Hello, Something? Could you please happen in this strip at some point? No? OK. How about you, Anything? Not a chance, eh?

    Sigh.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      It’s been a year since something happened. And I’m not talking about burning down all of LA out of nostalgia for The Phantom Empire.

      I’m talking about Les allowing a stranger to witness THE LISA TAPES.

      • The Duck of Death

        Yes, and IIRC, we never found out the “scandalous” content which the living could only recount in whispers. Batiuk thinks this is a cute mystery; it is really a total failure of imagination and effort.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          Let’s say the Dead Lisa Tapes do include something that Les would rather not show to others. Here are some of the reasons this is a complete non-story:

          1. Biopic movies do not have to portray real people exactly as they were in every possible detail. Especially non-famous people. In fact, it’s increasingly common for directors to go against this, such as with Hamilton

          2. The portrayal of Lisa is only an issue because Les says it is. No director or actress would put up with Les’ ridiculous demands that Lisa be portrayed exactly the way he wants.

          3. If Marianne Winters wants to see video recordings of Lisa to aid her performance, she only needs a few. There’s only one recording of Adolf Hitler speaking normally, which was enough for the actor Bruno Ganz to nail his portrayal in Untergang. And win a ton of awards for it.

          4. Les has shown several of his precious Lisa tapes around Westview. It would be trivial for Les to choose a representative sample of Lisa recordings that would conceal whatever he doesn’t want Marianne Winters to see, but still give her enough to work from.

          5. What is Marianne even going to learn from these tapes?
          a. Les has already approved of Marianne’s visual portrayal of Lisa.
          b. Lisa only appears in the tapes from the chest up, sitting and talking to the camera. The tapes wouldn’t even show her walking, her mannerisms, or anything at all candid about her.
          c. Lisa is near death at this point. Her voice and appearance would be deteriorated. This wouldn’t help Marianne portray healthy Lisa.

          6. Other recordings of Lisa must exist. She testified before Congress, and something like a local TV news interview probably happened at some point.

          7. Les has complained about every tiny detail of this film, without ever suggesting what should be done instead. He would have no credibility at this point.

          8. Most importantly of all…. this is supposed to be a love story! Whatever moments are too precious for Les to show another human being is exactly what should be in the movie! Not banal, hackneyed dialog like “the playground is closed for repairs.” Lisa’s Story is supposed to be the most moving narrative in the history of literature, and Les thinks it’s his full-time job to hide every detail that would even be mildly interesting. Remember the Frankie arc, when Les refused to read Lisa’s diary? What the hell is even in this movie?!

          • The Duck of Death

            I’m still stuck on one fact: Over 600,000 women die of breast cancer worldwide every year. Batiuk/Les/Mason Jarre have never articulated one single reason why Lisa’s death is any more special than the other 599,999. What is it about her story that made it so compelling? She was young? So were hundreds of thousands of others. She had kids? So did hundreds of thousands of others. She left a grieving husband? So did… well, you get the point.

            Batty has never told us a single thing about what’s in Les’ book that makes Lisa’s story so special that Hollywood twice beat down his door, fistfuls of money in hand.

      • Charles

        You know, I posted recently about how the Lisa’s Story movie was in limbo after the fire burned down all of Los Angeles, but the fact that Les allowed Marianne to view the Lisa tapes after the fire probably means it’s still a go, despite literally nothing happening with it for ten months. We learn about it through deduction.

        Looking at Banana’s later post, I’m struck by how nobody pushed back on how Marianne was supposed to look as Lisa. The cast a supposedly hot actress and immediately frump her up and remove everything physically appealing about her. Even if you grant that Lisa herself was attractive, her look was totally utilitarian, and that wasn’t a central part of her character. So yeah, there should have been pushback that hey, let’s make her as physically attractive as we can, which will attract people to the film and really help drive home just how terrible cancer is when she loses her hair, falls severely underweight and her skin goes to hell.

        What was the utility in making Marianne look just like Lisa? I mean, if Batiuk’s married to the idea and demands that it should be that way, at least addressing why it has to be that way might be more interesting than just having Marianne show up one day, put on a wig and some frumpy clothes and… bam, she’s Lisa. Obviously Les didn’t realize what was going on until it happened.

        This isn’t Cate Blanchett playing Queen Elizabeth I, after all. If Elizabeth’s visage wasn’t so widespread and all we knew about her was that she had smallpox and that affected her hair somehow, I assure you there’s no way Blanchett shaves her forehead.