Return of the Phil

This doesn’t quite seem to be how normal people would react to someone randomly returning from the dead. (I know it’s a waste of time expecting people to act normal in this strip, but still). I absolutely believe that if someone in the Batiukverse did spontaneously, inexplicably return from the dead, the first thing they would do would be seek out the nearest comic convention and ruin an event honoring someone else.
Boy, is Les going to be pissed with Lisa shows up and ruins the Lisa’s Legacy Run this year.


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

53 responses to “Return of the Phil

  1. Epicus Doomus

    A character literally rises from the dead, so BatYam naturally thought it’d be a perfect opportunity to take another dig at those annoying comic book investors who ruined his childhood memories with their scumbaggery and greed. It’s just so wildly out of place and jarring. In the Funkyverse even something as monumental as rising from the dead becomes an opportunity for wry observations, dumb wisecracks and selfish whining. If Batiuk had written the Bible the world would be a vastly different place today, I’ll tell you what.

    “It’s been three days, let’s check that tomb again and…oh wow! Would ya look at that!”

    “Three days. My boss won’t even give me one sick day.”

    (Wry smirks)

    It’s so stupid it’s almost snark-proof. Perhaps he’s found a loophole here. Maybe his grand plan (or scheme, if you prefer) is to make the strip even dumber, to a point where everyone will just give up completely. I also have to point out that once again an elderly character has seemingly wasted a huge swath of his life on…well, I can’t even imagine what Phil might have been doing during those four years, as he was already living in total obscurity when he opted to give away the only things of value he owned and faked his own death to get back at the comic book writer he worked with seventy years ago. Yet another example of a FW plot being way, way more whacked-out than anything we’re capable of dreaming up.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      another dig at those annoying comic book investors who ruined his childhood memories with their scumbaggery and greed

      …who are doing the exact same thing his characters do all the time! A sad, lonely, penniless, dying man gave his comic book art to a complete stranger, just because he thought Darrin would appreciate their place in history. Darrin’s response was to immediately convert them to cash, and then give all the cash to the Dead Lisa Foundation. He didn’t even use it to take care of his family! And these are the “good guys” we’re supposed to be rooting for.

      Never mind all the other times selling comic books was the solution to a financial problem in Funky WInkerbean. Or all the times someone gawked at what a comic book is worth, completely ignoring the concept of condition. I don’t know where Batiuk gets off taking this kind of cheap shot, when his own characters are far more petty and greedy than this.

  2. William Thompson

    I like how the guy on the right end of the panel is thumbing his nose at this madness.

  3. Mr. A

    I have to admit, the guy freaking out over the sudden devaluation of his Phil Holt memorabilia is kind of funny. He’s just collateral damage in this bizarre decades-long pseudo-feud. (Though I suspect an artist’s prices might actually go up if they dramatically returned from the dead…)

    • billytheskink

      We should all hope Lisa comes back from the dead too, just to devalue Les’ entire career.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        “Les, I came back to Earth because I have to tell you something important. Les… I never really liked you. I married you; of course I married you. You came into my life when I was an underage pregnant rape victim with no family support. What choice did I have?”

        “It was fine for awhile. But after I found the confidence to go to law school, and succeed there – with no help from you, I might add – it became more and more obvious that I’d outgrown you. I stayed loyal to you, because I felt you deserved that, but I stopped loving you a long time ago. We met at Westview High School, and 30 years later, you’re still at Westview High School.”

        “And let me be clear about this: I don’t need you protecting me from things, Les. I’m a lawyer. I spent every working day of my life in a court room, having intense conflicts with very powerful people. So you can stop running back and forth to Hollywood because you don’t like the actress they chose to play me. Who is adorable, by the way. What exactly did you not like about Marianne Winters? Is she too pretty to be me, or something? Is she not real enough for you?”

        “Ugh, those damn books you wrote are the bane of my existence. ‘Lisa’s Story’? I don’t even recognize myself in it. And I sure as hell never said ‘the playground is closed for repairs.’ It’s not my story. It’s your story. It’s Les’ Story, about what a big hero Les is, what a sensitive literary genius Les is, and how much Les suffered when his wife slowly and painfully died from the Stage 4 cancer Les told her to stop fighting.”

        “I know I encouraged you to do the movies, because I thought it might help you get some closure and perspective. Clearly this is never going to happen, so I had to take drastic measures to preserve what little dignity I have left on Earth. Who do you think started that Malibu fire, Les? Why do you think I manifested myself to tell you not to board that plane? It’s because I didn’t want you following me around the afterlife with a pen and paper.”

        “Perhaps I shouldn’t have worried, because you’ve got a lot of work to do if you want to go ‘up here’ after you die. You can start by paying attention to your current wife, learning what your daughter is even up to, not making your friends do Lisa-related tasks, and by not being a smug, arrogant, condescending dick to every single person you meet. Goodbye, Les.”

  4. louder

    Dagnabbit you comic book cretans! Landscape!!

    Yeah, that’s all I got out of this.

  5. Banana Jr. 6000

    As if anyone in the crowd would believe a word of this.

    No, really, a long-dead comic book artist just showed up at Comic-Con in a Darth Vader helmet, made a series of incoherent heckles about what street a coffee shop in Cleveland was on 65 years ago, and then revealed himself to somehow be alive. The crowd would immediately think this is the dumbest, most tasteless cross-promotion in history, and would just be sitting there waiting to hear what it’s for.

  6. billytheskink

    I’d pay $500 for a signed copy of TB’s final book, provided that the book is the most recent one he released.

  7. be ware of eve hill

    I wish that Funky Winkerbean was dropped from Kings Features Syndicate, forever!

    …oh. The teal-haired guy in the black hat was talking to Flash. Damn.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Well if he is so concerned about women in the industry, perhaps he should retire early, find a promising young female artist and have her take his spot.

      • billytheskink

        Plus he has TWO strips! He could even pull a Mark Tatulli and pass on one strip to a young female artist while keeping the other.

  8. Banana Jr. 6000

    So Phil Holt can just walk up to the guest’s table with two objects in his hand? That’s a good way for Comic-Con to get its Hall of Fame inductees killed.

    This man’s behavior this whole time suggests that he’s seriously deranged. But no one is going to stop him, or even verify the extraordinary claim that he’s really a person who has been thought dead for years. And it should be easy for Comic-Con to discredit him, because we know got he in with an illegitimate badge.

    Again, this whole thing looks like a really bad 1990s wrestling stunt. Real Comic-Con attendees wouldn’t buy this for a second.

  9. J.J. O'Malley

    Say, aren’t two or three of the panel audience members from Funky’s A.A. group? No wonder they’d find even this sort of nonsense exciting.

    You also have to appreciate the way Ruby sits there with a goofy grin on her punim, as though this is just another wacky resurrection.

    By the by, if Phil Holt (you gotta say both names!) was a forgotten soul eking out a living doing caricatures at kids’ parties, when did he sign a comic book with his art in it? Why didn’t he become a habitue of SDCC and other cons and make extra money doing sketches and autographing memorabilia, like many other retired pros do?

    Oy, this is going to be a long week, isn’t it?

  10. be ware of eve hill

    If Phil wants his Batom covers back, he doesn’t have far to look. FW readers cursed with a good memory like mine will remember a sinister looking Chester claiming “I got ’em all” after the covers were auctioned off at the Lisa’s Larceny fundraiser.

    We saw Chester return some of Ruby’s art in his collection back to her after they first met. Maybe he’ll do the same for Phil. Between Ruby’s art, Phil’s art, the money pit that is Atomic Komix, it’s amazing Chester has any money left.

    But never mind. It’s all in Batty’s head where anything related to comic books is rainbows, unicorns, and cotton candy. YaY!!!

    • Hitorque

      Not to brag, but I called that like 3 weeks back

      • be ware of eve hill


        • beware of eve hill

          Dear Debbie and Donny Downvoter, I believe I read the comment Hitorque was referring to, written three weeks ago on 06/28/2021. Hitorque was wondering how a wealthy person like Chester Hagglemore could be such a lousy businessman. What a lousy business model Atomik Komix is.

          I liked the post, so I wrote “Nice!”. I’m not sure how that little one-word comment could have been construed negatively. Have a little faith, will ya? Sheesh!

    • saturnino

      “We saw Chester return some of Ruby’s art in his collection back to her after they first met. Maybe he’ll do the same for Phil. ”

      Maybe he gave him his soul back…………………….

  11. Lord Flatulence

    What is Phil holding in his right hand? It looks like a guitar pick.

  12. Charles

    MC’s remarkably blase about a guy he thought was dead just showing up and rushing the stage. “How special is this?!”

    What’s next? God comes down and gives the guy the thing he’s wished most of his life for: “Oh hey, thanks God.” Guy’s dead father shows up to tell him not to feel guilty about their nasty arguments: “Oh, I know Dad. I figured you didn’t take it personally.”

    In fact, everyone’s kind of blase about the whole thing. “This is fantastic!” might be what you’d say if Phil were still alive but just not invited to this thing, or missed it because he was too frail to travel. It’s a bit of an understatement when the guy pulls a Jesus Christ thing right in front of your eyes.

    I know it’s a common criticism that Batiuk’s characters don’t act in realistic manners, but this is well beyond anything he’s done before. Why doesn’t anyone have a serious “WTF” face on? Why aren’t people fainting? Why aren’t people spontaneously creating a religion around this?

    And I bet no one asks what happened. Phil Holt just joins the panel, pushing Ruby out of her chair, and smiles ruefully with a tear in his eye when some asshole in the audience tells him “You did what heroes do: you saved me.”

    Just not in *that* way.

    • spacemanspiff85

      Someone should be rushing towards Phil with a stake in one hand and holy water in the other, honestly.

    • louder

      Of course, we won’t ask how someone can still earn a living, or get a salary now-a-days, without someone checking at least their social security number, but I digress with facts. Do believe that “Phil Holt” might be getting a friendly visit from the IRS.

  13. Suicide Squirrel


  14. Hitorque

    1. Shouldn’t the event organizers verify this stranger’s identity before definitively proclaiming that this is the real Holt? I guess Holt could have worked out his surprise appearance with the organizers beforehand, but that makes even less sense…

    2. If Holt’s autographed work is selling for five bills, I got some serious fucking questions about why he was living in near-poverty and forced to sketch at birthday parties just to afford his groceries the last time we saw him.

    3. Well the two men haven’t come to blows yet… I’m starting to think Flash grossly overstated the level of animosity between him and Phil?

    4. I don’t give a flying fuck — We ARE going to have a conversation this week about the artwork (valued in the high five figures, IIRC) Phil gifted Darrin, because the his reasoning becomes more opaque by the day…

  15. bad wolf

    This is no way to tell a story. Leaving aside the (many) other issues here: the character’s death was reported second- or third-hand in an attorney’s letter. “Oh, that’s easy enough to explain away.” BUT the follow up ghost-talking-with-ghost-of-Lisa, who is a well established spectral thing in this strip, is what really gets me. “Oh, the storyteller’s a liar, none of this plays fair with the reader.”

  16. Rusty Shackleford

    Well he’s done it, he created a story so bad that I am speechless.

    Waiting for the self-congratulating blog post from Batty where he talks about this story and how he surprised everyone. Bleach!

  17. Hm. As for the artwork, how about this? Someone stole it from the artist Phil Holt, and left a sticky note saying “Ha ha! – Flash.”

    This person then mailed the artwork to Dullard with a note saying Phil was dead, here, have these. Dullard spread the news far and wide.

    –no, no, that still doesn’t do it.

  18. Gerard Plourde

    We have now fully entered the realm of fantasy. No one would react the way these characters do if a person randomly announced in a venue like this that he was a minor celebrity known to that community and who had been reliably reported to be dead for four years. It’s far more likely that security would have prevented the disruptive individual from rushing the stage, would have removed from the room and ejected him from the convention center, confiscating the exhibitor credentials he used for entry in the process (which would probably also trigger questions about how he obtained them). If he resisted in any way or if his answers warranted it, law enforcement would be called.

  19. Check out the t-shirt in the sidebar. Did Batiuk really design a shirt that says “I’d rather you were in the friend zone”?

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I wondered that too. It doesn’t match the tone of the Les-Lisa relationship, especially considering their early Act II appearance. It makes no sense at all. Which is probably why it’s 100% authentic.

  20. Banana Jr. 6000

    A new Bloom County strip is out. And it’s about 10,000 times better than this Phil Holt shit.

  21. The Duck of Death

    I said about a week ago that this whole strip is gonna be an orgy of childish wish-fulfillment from here on in. What’s the greatest wish of any human? That death would not be final, and dead people could come back. It’s interesting that the person Batiuk chose to resurrect was some ancient, apparently forgotten comic book artist, and not Dead St. Lisa, the wife and mother who died tragically young. It shows where his priorities lie: Comix: first, last, and always. Human beings and their relationships: A distant also-ran, somewhere behind pizza, bands, smirks, etc.

  22. Professor Fate

    To modify an oft told MST3K/Rifftrax Joke – “if you’re a fan of odd and inappropriate reactions to a major plot development, your ship has come in.”
    Nobody’s reaction makes a lick of sense. None, nada, zilch. While coming back from the dead is very much the norm in comic books, even then it’s seen as something very much out of the ordinary.
    I can’t wait to read the wall o’ text explanation as why Phil faked his death. It promises to be a new low – unless, which is just as likely, the Author completely ignores the whole thing and spends the week showing Phil insulting Flash.

  23. Perfect Tommy

    I like how everyone instantly recognizes Phil Holt. I know my fair share of comic book history, but if Jack Kirby force-ghosted his way to my front door, I would be clueless. But this is Tommyland, where comic creators are demigods.

  24. The $500 dollar guy’s reaction is interesting. You would think a fan of the artist Phil Holt, who is willing to pay $500 for his artwork, would be overjoyed that he’s still alive and thus able to create more artwork.

    But no, all he can think of is how his comics collection is devalued. I think that reaction is very telling.

    • The Duck of Death

      Batiuk is absolutely obsessed with the monetary value of comix, and has harped on it relentlessly in recent years. He obviously feels it vindicates his fixation on comic books. “Look! if grown men are paying six figures for comic books, it must mean I was right that they are wonderful and important!”

      I hope nobody tells him that grown men also pay six figures for Hitler’s paintings.

    • hitorque

      As an aside, where IS Chester the Molester? He has a pretty thick portfolio of suddenly devalued Phil Holt original artwork, right??

      Although to be fair, Chester Hagglemore almost certainly paid a fraction of the true value when he bought it from the Lisa’s Legacy Auction…

  25. newagepalimpsest

    On the bright side, “back from the dead” in the dialogue lets us know that Batiuk did this on purpose, and isn’t declining on the comics page. I was starting to get worried.

    On the not-so-bright side… He was a ghost! How are they going to walk that one back? Even Lisa believed that he was one of her fellow dead. Undead.

    Oh wait. This is the big summer storyline, isn’t it? “The Gang watches as Phil Holt holds SDCC@H captive using his necromancer powers.”

  26. Gerard Plourde

    “Oh wait. This is the big summer storyline, isn’t it? ‘The Gang watches as Phil Holt holds SDCC@H captive using his necromancer powers’ .”

    If it is it’s running a lot longer than “Darin shot attempting to pilfer his favorite pencils from a ship did.

  27. This has to be somebody’s dream (a la the Durwood/Pete break into the cargo ship to steal pens or the time pool). That’s the only way This arc can be adequately explained. Of course he’s done other impossible things in the strip (Funky’s car accident/time travel and Lisa phoning in a bomb threat from beyond the grave), so nothing’s off the table.

    • J.J. O'Malley

      Perhaps this coming Sunday we’ll see Flash and Phil strangling each other in a duel to the death on the panel stage, only to learn Flash has been asleep on the flight to San Diego the whole time, and the past two weeks were his “nightmare at 20,000 feet”? I wouldn’t put something like that past Battyuk, but he’d have to explain the “Meanwhile…” cutaways of not-dead Phil preparing to disrupt Comic-Con. No, Tommy’s painted himself into a creative corner once again, and I can’t wait to see how big the footprints will be that he’ll leave trying to get out of it.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Here’s what I want to see: Phil Holt reveals he is alive, comes to the stage, reconciles with Flash Freeman, receives a job offer to work at Atomik Komix, and then… immediately dies. Because he still is a 90+ year old man who smokes unhealthy cigars and lives with a lot of pent-up anger, so its not like he’s long for this world anyway. Maybe his head could fall onto the podium like St. Spires’ organ player. The bozo in the crowd with the $500 book can say “oh well, I guess its value is restored!” while everyone else smirks at each other.

      • Gerard Plourde

        The July 3rd installment where this “subplot” (if you can call it that) makes it really hard to fit into a dream sequence. It shows the HOF announcement and an unseen Phil commenting “Interesting – It looks like I’ll have to find a way to make it to Comic-Con this year.” Unless the Funky clone is demonic version of Clarence from “It’s a Wonderful Life” and he’s tormenting Dead Phil, but that would require the unthinkable(for TomBa) concept that any cartoonist goes to Hell.

      • Yeah, the “Meanwhile” panel and the other panels showing Phil Holt getting his pass and selecting a disguise kind of preclude this being a dream. Plus, there’s still no explanation for who Phil Holt’s Funky-esque sidekick is and what’s his role in this fiasco. The big question is, will there be any resolution to this quagmire of an arc this week, or will we just have five more days of bad sitcom level wise cracks.

    • Gerard Plourde

      “This has to be somebody’s dream”

      Possibly, but it starts with and contains independent and unrelated action by Holt.

    • Charles

      It could conceivably be Mindy’s dream, presuming that it started long before today’s strip.

      She asks Mopey for the favor and he says he’ll look into it, and the dream begins. Oh, she was initially looking for a simple recognition for these two fossils, but no! They were immediately inducted into the Hall of Fame! And then Mindy remembers something Darin said about Flash’s dead old partner where they left on bad terms, so he comes back to life and forgives everyone! And then they go eat ice cream and reminisce and everybody forgets their disagreements and loves one another again. Then Ruby and Flash are going to get married! And they have the wedding at ComicCon and it takes over the entire event, so they have several thousand guests to their wedding ceremony, but no one minds ComicCon being disrupted and everyone celebrates and there are fireworks and cake and Ruby had this great wedding dress with her scarf and she didn’t remove her hat and….

      And then Mindy wakes up to find out that Mopey did call in a favor. The guy Mopey talked to didn’t even know who Flash and Ruby were, and when reminded, made some phone calls and decided that they couldn’t have a “Look Back” panel or something because nobody would come to it, because, again, nobody gives a shit.

      And the old, evil, kick-my-characters-in-the-junk Batiuk returns to wreak havoc on their lives, replacing the new will-fulfillment Pollyanna Batiuk from the last several years. And we never would have guessed how much we missed him.

      • Gerard Plourde

        That storyline would be creative and show a level of commitment to the strip that hasn’t remotely been evidenced since Act 2 (and even exceeds those efforts).

  28. Sourbelly

    I agree with the teal-haired yokel. Wish for something else, like a coherent story with a point.

  29. hitorque


    Two years ago we were in California and got the story about the whisky-guzzling, Studebaker-driving, expert marksman chimp who was fully fluent in English(!)

    Last year we were in California and got the wildfire to end all wildfires, complete with Les heroically saving the life of a sexy A-List starlet, and Mindy’s senile father being saved from certain death by some mythical magical Smurfs or Fraggles or Ewoks from some ancient MST3K sci-fi movie living miles underground in a secret world or some shit…

    And this year we presumably get Phil Holt back from the dead? Is Batiuk high or something?