Understatement Of The Year

How do you make a “long story” longer? You do what TB does in today’s strip, talk about how long the story is while telling absolutely none of it. It could low-level fridge brilliance if it was in the service of a joke about how long everything in this story arc seems to be taking.

How do you make a short SOSF post shorter? Make it about today’s strip


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

52 responses to “Understatement Of The Year

  1. Mr. A

    I hope this is foreshadowing, and that their breakup was caused by the “mystery character” who’s also going to Comic-Con. Alternatively, I hope they broke up because Flash took all the credit for Starbuck Jones, and the “mystery character” is the same fanboy who accosted Flash at the Free Comic Book Day event in 2019.

    If my hopes are fulfilled, all the meat of the storyline will revolve around Flash, making Ruby an afterthought in this supposed-to-be-pro-feminist/girl-power arc. Which is not a great look. But hey, maybe Batiuk will save himself by making Flash’s story completely unrelated to anything that happens at the Con.

    I’m also surprised that Batiuk didn’t add “before he died” after “Phil Holt” in the first panel. Which, honestly, wouldn’t be the worst way to clue in new readers.

    • Mr. A

      P.S. I assume many of us here are “fans” of bad writing (given the material). So I thought y’all might like to know that submissions for the 2022 Lyttle Lytton contest are now open, for both the Original and Found divisions. Submissions are limited to 200 characters per person per year, so choose wisely. (Or use a bunch of different e-mail addresses and cheat, I don’t know, it’s your life.)

      P.P.S. If you’re thinking of submitting a line from FW: I sent in the “once the chemo starts, this playground will be closed for repairs” passage last year. It didn’t make the cut.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        This is one award I would like to see Batty win. But it looks like the contest is limited to novels. Maybe we can submit a line from Lisa’s Story?

        • Mr. A

          Lines in the Found category don’t have to come from a novel. They just need to sound like they could come from a novel. Past winners/runners-up have been lifted from all kinds of places: sports columns, commercials, news articles, fanfiction, political speeches, etc.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Do they have to be from the most recent year?

        • Mr. A

          No, I checked the page and there’s nothing in the rules section about that. (The rules section also has some useful tips about what kind of bad writing the judge is looking for, so definitely check that out.) And the 2019 “Found” winner was from a 2000 YA novel.

          Of course, the older your entry is, the higher the chance that someone has submitted it before. But probably not that much higher; there’s a lot of bad writing in the world.

  2. Gerard Plourde

    If TomBa’s Blog post from October 22,2016 provides any clue to the breakup, it’s because Phil Holt would do research before writing while Flash would “go home and write the whole story from my imagination.”, i.e. pull it out of his posterior. Any bets as to who is considered the ideal role model?


    • Jimmy

      Did people really want a fake history of a fake comic book company that Batiuk cooked up in his head? The prose in those entries is terrible.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Yes! I just read them for the first time and they are godawful. And the worst part is, this is the most effort Batiuk has put into anything since 2007. It’s his passion project. And it’s still full of the same basic storytelling failures, and narrow-minded self-indulgence we see in everything else he does. I want to fisk the whole thing.

        Which reveals a lot about Tom Batiuk. He’s not a bad writer because he’s half-assing a tired comic strip he’d rather not do anymore. He’s a bad writer because he’s a bad writer.

  3. I kind of like panel 2. It doesn’t show any of the horrible characters.

    • William Thompson

      It doesn’t show an impending mid-air collision, either, which means they’ll all make it to San Diego.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        No, if the plane was going to crash, Lisa would have told them to take another flight.

        • William Thompson

          I can still hope that the plane will collide with a word zeppelin. This week’s skies will be filled with them.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Panel 2 is giving me vibes from classic Mark Trail.

  4. bigd1992

    It reminds me of airplane https://youtu.be/CSALQn0u9z4

  5. Banana Jr. 6000

    By itself, today’s gag is allright. “It’s a long story” is a lazy excuse real people use all the time, and “it’s a four hour flight” is a clever way of calling it out. It’s an Act I type of joke. As always, the problem is the larger context.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Whenever my dad says, “It’s a long story.” it is dad-code for ‘I did something stupid and it frustrates me, and I’d rather not tell you.’

      I can only hope this is a similar situation.

  6. J.J. O'Malley

    Hey, is that a cameo by Ed Crankshaft in the bottom right of panel three? He has the telltale nasal blackheads that Battyuk thinks all seniors suffer from. This reminds me of that Three Stooges short just after Shemp rejoined the trio (“Hold That Lion”) when a post-stroke Curly made a special appearance as a train passenger…except that would up being funny and touching.

    • Mr. A

      I dunno, I don’t see any oxygen tubes up that guy’s nose. Perhaps it’s Crankshaft’s ten-years-younger twin brother, Muffler.

    • William Thompson

      Whoever it is, why is Chester giving him the eye?

  7. billytheskink

    I’m surprised Durwood is asking Flash about this now, rather than in the Atomic Komix offices. He’s losing his shirking touch.

  8. Epicus Doomus

    Imagine being stuck in the seat next to these two dullards.

    “It all starts in the summer of ’42. I was 4-F…flat feet, runs in the family…and fresh out of art school. Drawingburgh Academy, up in southern Maine. Very prestigious, Joseph Kubert was in my class. I’d won a scholarship for $100, which was four years tuition in those days, after I won my high school art championship. I drew two wrens fighting over a worm. Where was I? Oh yes, Phil Holt. Heavy drinker, that Phil. Heart of gold but always three sheets to the wind. Phil was 4-F too, lost an eye to an errant New Year’s Eve cork back in ’37. We met at my first job, writing over at Bazooka Joe’s. Back then I was making two cents a comic, which was good money back then. Phil was getting three cents, but he had to draw really small so his job was tougher than mine. So one day we were talking about how someday we’d like to write and draw normal sized comics. as I was already getting terrible migraines from the constant squinting. So I says to Phil, I say…”

    “OK already Flash. It’s a four hour flight.”

    “Is that all? Why in my day you couldn’t get any flights from Ohio to San Diego because of the war. When I went to Comic Con I back in ’44 I had to hitchhike to Cincinnati, take a steamship all the way down the river to Paducah, then a train to Tuscon and walk the rest of the way. But it was worth the thirty-five day trip as I got Ernie Bushmiller’s autograph. Phil knew Ernie pretty well, as they’d worked together on the Felix The Cat sequels, back before Phil’s first stint in state prison.”

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I just read the “Batom Comics History” posts on Batiuk’s blog. Your story is downright scintillating compared to those.

  9. Banana Jr. 6000

    It’s interesting where everyone is seated. Flash isn’t sitting next to Ruby, despite the speculation that Batiuk intends to marry them off. He could do it anyway, but it would flow even more poorly than it already does.

    And to make the time skips even more confusing, apparently 50-year-old Ed Crankshaft is on the flight with them.

    Chester is obviously interested in Flash’s story, so why isn’t he sitting next to Flash? He bought the tickets, so he could have arranged who sat where. It didn’t occur to him he could arrange himself four hours of face time with the mighty Flash Freeman?

    And whatever Flash has to say, why haven’t Chester and Durwood heard it already? They’re the kind of fanatics who would go through Flash Freeman’s garbage looking for things he might have breathed on. Creative team breakup stories are not rare, they are not taken to the grave, and they’re not even very interesting.

    And they certainly don’t take four hours to tell. VH1’s Behind The Music episodes were 60 or 90 minutes, and they could cover Fleetwood Mac’s entire career. There’s just nothing for Flash to talk about. But we’re going to spend all week talking about it! A week of comic strips devoted to an economy-class flight where a fourth-tier character tells a third-tier character about things a dead fifth-tier character did in 1954.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Sorry J.J. O’Malley, I didn’t see you had already made the Crankshaft joke.

      • J.J. O'Malley

        No worries, Jr. It’s weird that there seems to be only so many “old man” heads that can be drawn in this strip. And while the actual Ed, pre-COVID, should be back at Bedside Manor resting in decrepitude, who knows WHAT condition he’s in now that Battyuk has flushed his 10-year time gap like three squares of toilet paper?

  10. The Dreamer

    A four hour flight? From Cleveland to San Diego non stop? TomBat must not fly much That might take three hours at most Unless they were cheap and booked a two stop, changing planes in Atlanta and LA 🙂 And why arent they wearing masks on the plane?

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I have to give Batiuk credit here, because he actually put the writing ahead of getting a trivial detail right.

      You are correct that there are no direct flights from Cleveland to San Diego. And that four hours isn’t a realistic time for any leg of it, unless they changed planes in Atlanta or Charlotte. Darren could say “this leg is four hours” or “this trip is six hours”, but that would make the punchline more clunky. And we all know brevity is the soul of wit.

      A minor thing, you might think, but compare this to the “there was a man in the choir!” problem. This was a detail Batiuk felt he had to get absolutely right, even though the choir being all-female was only relevant to very minor things, and the man’s presence could have easily been explained away.

  11. Hitorque

    1. Pete is a millionaire with a godly level of industry clout, his boss is a multi-millionaire with a personal butler whose only job is to bring Chester a hot fudge sundae every hour on the hour (and I did not make that up) so of fucking course they’re flying economy class on Southwest Airlines like a bunch of penny ante amateurs… I’m almost surprised Ruby didn’t suggest Amtrak instead…


    3. So yesterday they’re all sitting with their laptops out rushing to meet deadline but today Darrin has four hours to kill because he didn’t bring some crossword puzzles or something to fucking read so now it’s up to Flash to be his in-flight entertainment…

    4. So are we going to get another sepia flashback to 1954 when Flash+Phil had great ideas blocked by that evil bald, fat, cigar chomping editor who only cared about how many issues he could sell?

    5. So I really hope we have that conversation about why Flash has lived in a celebrated and comfortable retirement while Phil was embittered, filled with rage and resentful about having to draw caricatures at five-year-old birthday parties just so he could afford his rent and prescriptions for another week… Along with the fact that Phil lived the last 20+ years of his life destitute and completely ignorant of the fact that his stash of old 50s memorabilia and art (which he eventually willed to Darrin despite only ever meeting him once, because reasons) was worth six figures and Batiuk then brought Phil back as a Force Ghost just so he could get that shit all waved up in his face and cry about his misfortune from beyond the grave… Did Flash’s Hall of Fame career come at the cost of betraying his best friend? We’ll find out!

    5a. So why didn’t Pete tell the Hall of Fame to induct Phil also? If anyone was forgotten by history it was that guy, right? Or does the Atomikkk crusade for “honoring the past and paying tribute to the earliest days” stop at two people?

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      5a: Yeah really. Why does the Hall of Fame even matter anymore if Pete can just call and get anyone elected? And this is a real Hall of Fame being appropriated for this stupid arc. If I was on the board of directors or election committee, I would have already asked legal to get involved.

    • hitorque

      6. I’m mildly amused that this is such a “happy” trip, since usually when Funkyverse characters get on a flight anywhere (Les, Funkenstein, The Big Dink) it’s just one step up from medieval torture…

  12. Charles

    At this point, with all this blather about Phil Holt, I wouldn’t be shocked to find out it’s him, with Batiuk forgetting that he killed him off or deciding he’s going to have faked his death or something stupid. Batiuk’s done things equally as appalling in the past, after all.

    Either that or it’s going to be Phil Holt’s son dril, who is also an artist, who suspiciously looks like a corn cob.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Yeah, I think that’s where this shitshow is going. Never mind all the problems Holt still being alive would cause with his estate having been left to Durwood, converted to cash, and gifted to the Lisa’s Legacy Foundation. Because that’s where all money in Westview ends up eventually.

      But Les getting sued would be a welcome direction for this story. Considering how he had a complete meltdown over that stolen cashbox, a court summons would probably kill him on the spot.

      • Gerard Plourde

        “deciding he’s going to have faked his death”

        Maybe it’ll be revealed that Phil Holt was only the front for the real illustrator, Zanzibar The Murder Chimp, who’s been in hiding for the last 70+ years.

        On second thought, that example of creativity is decidedly unlikely. If Phil Holt does turn up alive, it’s likely that the death arc will be completely ignored.

        • Mr. A

          If the strip does bring Phil Holt back, it will be even crazier than Zanzibar. Forget the inheritance. Batiuk and Ayers showed us Phil’s ghost.

          Personally, I don’t think Batiuk would go so far as to undo a character death. He’s never done anything like that before.

          • Mr. A

            Correction: Batiuk and Burchett showed us Phil’s ghost.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Wow, good find. That strip is just ridiculous. Since when did Fluffy Cloud Heaven exist in Funky Winkerbean? We were supposed to take Lisa’s death so seriously, and now she’s a dead grandparent from The Family Circus. And the embittered husk Phil Holt is now so emotionally fragile that he can’t abide the idea of someone not reading comic books, even as he’s watching two other adults are actively doing it?

            This illustrates the real problem: Batiuk will use any lame crutch to keep something around as long as he wants to. Being forced, obvious, trite, contradictory, off-tone, contrary to established lore, or completely stupid is no obstacle.

          • Charles

            Holy crap, I completely forgot about that sequence when I made that prediction. I only remembered the lawyer settling Holt’s estate.

            Now it’s got to happen! With it, Batiuk will take the undisputed Total Continuity/Reality Fuckup from the other strong contenders among his peers in the comic strip industry.

          • hitorque

            I always hated that bullshit.

            1. I thought Phil willed all that memorabilia to Darrin because there was some kind of kindred connection from one artist to another and Phil knew Darrin would be the type to fully appreciate it? He seems awfully chill at the fact that Darrin instantly auctioned them off for six figures…

            2. You two motherfuckers are DEAD… WHO GIVE A SHIT ABOUT WHO READ WHAT ONCE YOU GET TO THE AFTERLIFE? Maybe Batiuk needs to re-read Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”

            3. You’d *THINK* Saint Lisa would at least mention in passing the time she had a goddamned Batman and Robin cosplay wedding, or all the times she imagined her chemotherapy as some kind of comics-themed battle between good and evil, or any of the comics-related silliness in Westview that she’d witness just by looking out of her window on any given day… But nope, she insists on being a jerk to somebody even in the afterlife just because she can…

            4. Phil: “You said you’re an attorney? Well I’ve never had to go in a courtroom either, so ain’t we both content Little Miss Too-Good-To-Read-Comics?”

            5. If Phil is going to show up as a Force Ghost, you’d think he’d show up around some people he actually KNEW and LOVED in life instead a bunch of virtual strangers cashing in on his content…

            6. St. Lisa was what, in her early 30s when she died? Can I get an explanation why her thirtysomething Force Ghost looks TWICE AS OLD as 59-year-old Cindye-Sommerse-Winkerbeane-Jarre??

        • Maxine of Arc

          NEVER FORGET.

  13. Don

    “It’s a long story”
    “Well, we won’t be at LAX until Sunday…”

    And I was surprised to find that somebody (well, it’s just Spirit) is still flying nonstops from Columbus to Los Angeles – I made a reservation to fly from San Francisco nonstop to Columbus a few months ago, only to be told that all SFO-CMH nonstops have been canceled and I have to fly through O’Hare now.

  14. Perfect Tommy

    I’m going to return my seat to the upright position and strap in for the origin story behind The Artist Formerly Known As Phil Holt.

  15. Sourbelly

    I just can’t care about Phil or Flash. This is going to be awful, isn’t it?

    • Charles

      He introduces these codgers and actually expects you to immediately care about their petty problems from 65 years ago. If Flash complains about Phil, this will be like the third time he’s complained about something from the ’50s since he’s shown up. He’s actually made a story from that at least 3 times!

      It’s also amazing how much recent strip time’s been devoted to someone recounting something that happened, rather than, you know, having something happen. Even Mopey’s whole “Get them in the Hall of Fame” sequences was mostly about celebrating something Ruby and Flash did decades ago.

      • Epicus Doomus

        Just like with Cliff Anger, who apparently did absolutely nothing of note for over half a century. “Yeah, from age twenty-five to eighty I just sort of bummed around, killing time”…yes, very plausible.

        • Hitorque

          Remember when Cliffe dropped off the face of the Earth for decades because he was bitter about the HUAC blacklist and nobody could find him to hire him for his all important cameo appearance in the movie (which later morphed into a literal co-starring role because reasons) until Pete wondered if some random ebay account selling tons of vintage Starbucks Jonese gear was Cliffe (with absolutely no other fucking evidence to go on) so Masone shut down the on-location filming in Cleveland (again) so he, Cindye, Pete and Darren could hop in the Gulfstream and fly to New York and wander around some Brooklyn shithole neighborhood until they found his building? And then remember when THEY DECIDED TO LITERALLY BREAK INTO THE APARTMENT FROM THE FIRE ESCAPE IN BROAD DAYLIGHT WHEN NOBODY ANSWERED THE DOOR?!

          These are all very very awful godless people…