Okay, so today’s strip really does make me wonder about something. I’ve kind of wondered for a while if Batiuk had passed on the actual writing of this strip to someone else, and crap like today really, really makes me think he has. Because I don’t really see how someone can write “guy comes back from the dead and then his coworker tells him his pants aren’t zipped up in front of a crowd” and think that’s “called writing”, unless they’re either eight or a Kent State English major who isn’t getting paid enough by Batiuk (probably because he’s paying them in surplus copies of Lisa’s Story).
Because really, the quality of this strip has taken a huge nosedive over the past few years. With Act II and even well into Act III, it felt like Batiuk was trying and the strip was at least coherent. Compare today’s strip to one of Batiuk’s rambling essays about cheesy sixties Flash comics, and you can definitely tell where his heart and effort are.
51 responses to “XYZ, Phil”
Wasting time on sub-moronic, childish gags instead of using the time to actually advance the plot is an old Batuik trick he never cops to whenever he’s tooting his horn about changing the course of comic strips and etc. He does it all the time, too. It’s not a relevant gag or a clever gag, it’s just idiocy, pure filler with no other purpose than to fill up another day. A guy comes back from the dead and forty-five seconds later he’s a blithering buffoon…sounds about right.
He often comes up with an idea that could actually be interesting, entertaining, or funny. And then that’s it. He does nothing at all with it.
“My fly is unzipped? Good thing we’re all standing behind this table where nobody can even see it.”
I’m surprised no one said “Fly? You mean the Spider-Man villain or the one from Archie comics?”
I guess the joke is that Phil makes a big show of removing his Darth Vader helmet to reveal himself returned from the dead for the sole purpose of lobbing a couple of weak-assed insults at Flappyhead, and then triumphantly mounts the stage…with his fly undone.
Ahem. So the joke is that his fly is…undone. No, that can’t be right. Am I missing some subtleties?
At a guess, the idea was that Freekman could invalidate everything Dolt had to say by humiliating him. That doesn’t mean Batiuk will end this confrontation now.
What’s with the look on emcee guy’s face in panel one? He looks like he just sold someone a shitty used car or a fake gold coin or something. In fact I can’t think of a single “real life” scenario where anyone would be making that face…can you?
On a first-season episode of M*A*S*H, that joke worked thanks to a one-word change: “Henry, your fly is closed.” It still wasn’t much of a joke, but it outdid Batiuk.
I said yesterday I wanted to rip that vainglorious blog post, but… there’s just nothing to rip. It’s a long, boring list of the cliched, idealized qualities Tom Batiuk thinks Funky Winkerbean possesses. Last time I heard self-promotion this separated from reality, it was Guy Fieri saying his restaurant was going to rock me to Flavortown.
I’m surprised TB even remembered Ruby was up on stage.
The only reason I don’t ascribe to your hypothesis Spiff, is that no beleaguered Kent State ghost writer would write so much Silver Age, Golden Years, comics wish fulfilment. A ghost writer would probably bring us back to the strips roots and spend more time at the High School with Bernie and his Black Best Friends(TM).
That is the one flaw in my theory. I guess Batiuk could take over for certain parts, or require the ghost writer to have a certain amount of comics crap every so often. Really, every arc other than the Atomik Komix stories lately has seemed like the definition of filler, so if you told me those were the only parts that Batiuk wrote anymore, it would explain a lot.
And Tom Batiuk’s style is just… inimitable. Nobody can write the way he does, because nobody else’s brain works the way his does. It would be like trying to imitate Tommy Wiseau. His worldview is just so unique and bizarre that no one else could do it justice.
Ha, ha, it’s funny because elderly men are always having problems regarding their pants. This is something I’d expect from the gang at Dale Evans in that other Battyuk strip.
I would say this is an odd break in the tension, but then I remembered the story so far and said to myself, “what tension?”
Still, it seems like a departure in tone from the preceding strips. I suspect Batiuk once read that Emerson quote which says “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” and then forgot the “foolish” part.
For shame, Phillip. Having an “Exhibitor” pass doesn’t give you the right to parade around stage with your schlong hanging out.
At least we now know why Ruby was stifling laughter yesterday. Phil Holt must be hung like an eight year old.
So Batiuk literally brings one of his characters back from the dead and this is the best punchline he can come up with.
He always somehow misses the circumstances he puts his characters in to highlight the most inane, irrelevant details.
EG. Bull commits suicide and no one talks about it, but boy, we can devote a week to Les complaining about how Bull bullied him and about some stupid picture of him Bull had.
Every time Batiuk humiliates a character, I wonder if they’re based on someone he knew. Was there a “Cindy Summers” and “Bull Bushka” in his high school? Did he ever work with someone who played Phil Holt to his Flash Freeman? This whole business stinks of petty revenge.
Yeah, Bull’s suicide really bothered me. Lisa was beatified after her death, Bull was tossed out with the trash.
But Batty got his puff piece interview with the NYT so that’s all that matters. It’s not like the author of that piece ever read, or ever will read, FW. But hey, the comics taught us about CTE…groundbreaking…give that man a Pulitzer.
Did Bull even mean to commit suicide? If he was wearing that stupid football helmet, a car crash would be far less likely to kill him. That whole story was so self-contradictory you can’t even unpack it to analyze it. As Charles put it, the story was just inane, irrelevant details and no actual plot.
He meant to commit suicide. We saw him tampering with the car, we know he wore the helmet to protect his brain for science, we heard about how the patrolmen hushed it up because he was their old coach. Batiuk was oddly fixated on it.
We know more about the mechanics and weird details of the suicide than the emotional state that precipitated it, or the emotional fallout it caused in his wife and children. And THAT is the greatest crime and failing of that storyline. It was told with all the passion and emotion of a Wikipedia entry.
There’s still plenty wrong with the story. Head trauma is what usually kills people in car crashes. A helmet would have made him less likely to die, and if he did die, his brain would be useless for research. Real cases of CTE-related suicides used different methods, like Dave Duerson’s gunshot to the chest.
Bull’s aims were undermined even further by the police officers, who hid the true reason for his death even though the presence of the helmet made it obvious. Then they gave Linda the helmet! In addition to being sick in ways the Saw movies aim for, it made it incredibly easy for Linda to prove what happened and sue the hell out of the police department. But in Funky Winkerbean, every character knows what every other character is thinking, so the police knew this would help Linda commit insurance fraud to replace the money the NFL didn’t pay her. And Les was happy to help with all this, because he’s still mad that Bull pushed him off a swing when he was nine. And the police officers didn’t even attend his funeral, even though they respected him so much they risked their careers by tampering with an investigation. Round and round it goes.
As with Lisa’s death, the story was about everything in the world except what the dying person wanted. But Bull Bushka didn’t just die. Batiuk put him in a casket and lined up the whole town to take a piss on it.
Funny how those state troopers who decided to cover up a suicide so his widow could get an insurance payout ONLY because they just happened to be Bushka’s former players couldn’t be bothered to attend his funeral (actually, none of his former players showed)…
You know, despite the impeccable word of a couple of local yokel state troopers, I’d like to think that State Farm or whoever would send out an investigator just to verify the story for the hell of it, and that investigator would have some difficult questions about a man speeding away from home late at night for no particular reason while wearing a football helmet. Like my dad used to say, the big insurers didn’t get rich by paying out settlements all the time…
And don’t get me started about that whole “Important letters to/from the NFL” bullshit when Jerome Bushka’s NFL “career” lasted all of two weeks as an undrafted rookie in training camp before getting cut…
Yes, I must be kind of slow, because it wasn’t until the Bull suicide story that I finally realized that TB does not understand normal human emotions and psychology at all, and never has. It really is like a being from another world trying to fake it.
One of the many things wrong with the CTE arc was the way Bull kept getting pudgier. By the end he looked like a scaled-up infant. With his mind going like that, would he have been eating enough to keep his weight up? More likely he would have been refusing food, or throwing it at Linda in a tantrum.
“So self-contradictory you can’t even unpack it to analyze it” — that’s Batiuk’s mission statement. The best analogy I can think of is: Imagine that the “Yogi Bear” cartoon presented itself as a serious, scholarly filmed wildlife documentary on ursine behavior. Where would you even start critiquing?
That is a great analogy.
Not only that, Bull’s suicide and subsequent funeral was largely used to set the stage for Cindy and Masone to show up in Westview and tell Les that Masone was looking to get the Lisa’s Story movie off the ground again.
All fucking week long, I’ve been waiting for just one person on the stage or in the audience to say what any normal sentient being would say:
“HOLY SHIT IT’S PHIL HOLT?! I THOUGHT HE DIED YEARS AGO?! HEY MR. HOLT, WHY DID YOU LET THE WHOLE WORLD THINK YOU WERE DEAD LIKE 007 IN “YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE”? I MEAN, MEGA COMICS EVEN PUBLISHED A LIMITED COMMEMORATIVE SERIES CELEBRATING YOUR LIFE JUST LIKE DC COMICS DID FOR MCDUFFIE! AND WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN DOING ALL THIS TIME…..?!”
That’s all I want… I’m a simple man and don’t ask for much. And Batiuk is going to make me wait another 24 hours for an answer…
I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever get an explanation. TomBa’s main purpose appears to have been to recreate the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby partnership and he needed to resurrect Phil Holt to do that. I also would wager that Phil’s gift of cover art to Darin and the resultant auction strip will not even get a mention, although it is convenient that they are in Chester’s possession.
We never got an explanation of Zanzibar the talking chimp, so I don’t think we’ll get one here. We’ll probably go back to Funky droning on at the AA meeting and Phil will pop in to Atomik Comix to bitch and moan every couple of months.
GOD DAMN IT TO HELL FUCK SHIT PISS TITS BALLS… Jack Kirby and Stan Lee and whoever Ruby Lith is supposed to represent are fucking DEAD!! Yes they were celebrated titans of the genre and their shared legacies live on today, but their era is OVER!
As much as they were my childhood heroes, I’m not spending every waking moment wishing and hoping Joe Montana or Reggie Jackson or Dr. J or Emerson Fittipaldi or Carl Lewis or Sugar Ray Leonard make some triumphant return to competition and show all these young know-nothing neophytes how things were done in the fuckin’ good old days… Silly me, I’m too busy enjoying all the MODERN superstars at the top of their sports (except for Tom Brady, who can fuck himself with a rusty chainsaw)… I’m not trying to force Clint Eastwood back in front of a camera… I’m not trying to get (fill-in-the-name-of-band-or-musical-group) to reunite and go out on a world tour one more time… Eddie Murphy doesn’t need for me to secretly lobby behind the scenes for him to get yet another lifetime achievement award… I’m not weeping over my lost Hot Wheels and Star Wars toys and G.I. Joes and Transformers and video games from the 1980s that are now worth a small fortune because back then I had too much fun playing with the shit until it disintegrated… I’m not going to open an independent vintage movie theatre just to show Disney’s “The Black Hole” on a 24-hour loop until everybody in town appreciates it on the same level I do; and then have the nerve to be surprised when I go bankrupt… Memory lane can be a fun place to visit on occasion, but you can’t live there forever, you know?
I’m rambling, but am I making ANY sense here??
Read you loud and clear. I detest tired-ass baby boomer nostalgia, but Tom Batiuk makes it even worse. Pluggers spends way too much time on Memory Lane, but it doesn’t turn Memory Lane into a narrow, one-way street like Tom Batiuk does. And the appalling Dustin is somehow less hateful towards young people.
Batiuk talks about Phantom Empire and his inside-baseball comic book shit like it had the same global cultural impact as The Beatles, Elvis, and Woodstock. This is a man who sat in his college dorm fuming at a TV set because he didn’t like Adam West’s Batman show. Maybe he’s not the best choice to have a daily platform in the newspaper.
Wrong. You are all WRONG!!!!
I wrote this.
And I six, not 8
No matter what happens in this storyline, I want this to be the last time the Funkyverse goes to California, because too much surreal Twilight Zone bullshittery gets inserted in place of a story… Yeah I know Dinkle is going to the Rose Bowl, but Batiuk could easily yank that rug from under him by saying he had a typo on his application and it was invalidated or just invent some other minor mishap which leads to disaster and agony… That’s the Funkyverse Way…
I’m really hoping there’s a simple explanation for all this mishegas: The plane crashed, killing everyone. It’s not that Philholt is alive; it’s that they’re all dead, and this is the kind of petty grudge-settling that apparently happens when you die. We already know Lisa watches Les make out with Cayla and micromanages everyone from the grave with her pernicious VHS tapes. We already know that the late Philholt continued to be obsessed with his art after his death, since he watched Durwood sell it.
The Funkyverse afterlife is a vision of hell so awful that Hieronymus Bosch would never have dared to paint it.
I now have an image of Dante’s Inferno with a *Funky Winkerbean* strip replacing the famous warning of “All Hope Abandon, Ye Who Enter Here.”
Virgil and Beatrice, deliver us!
“In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself astray in a lame town
where the straightforward way had been lost…”
Oh the depths that TB’s Woody Allen fandom has plumbed…
And let’s not overlook the creepiness of St. Lisa supervising the date.
How the heck do you misspell “Radio Ranch” so badly?
I just noticed that yesterday’s insane blog post from Tommy Boy showed him posing next to a poster for a Woody Allen film. I am agog. Is he really an Allen fan? Does he just watch the movies because he is obsessed with NYC and the “sophistication” and “culture” he believes the city embodies? Does he understand anything he’s seeing? Allen not only knows how to put together a gag, he also knows how to portray realistic, complex relationships and plots that hold together and move convincingly to a conclusion. That doesn’t seem up Batiuk’s alley. He’s much more “Radio Ranch” than “Radio Days.” Maybe he doesn’t watch the movies at all, but just decorates his office with posters he believes will make him look worldly. Ah, the mysteries of Tom Batiuk. The stiflingly dull, mundane mysteries of Tom Batiuk.
It’s like he’s a hipster.
Woody Allen hasn’t been “hip” since about 1970. So… yeah.
Anyone who can read Batiuk’s blog post from yesterday in one sitting is my hero. I tried three times and failed. My mind kept wandering. What am I having for dinner tonight? Should I buy gas before the weekend? Does one of my work associates need help with her project?
The blog post is just one huge, monotonous paragraph, broken up only by the listing of an insipid commandment. Wretched stuff.
The only thing remarkable to me about the blog post was the photo he decided to include. I don’t know why, but I was somewhat surprised to see Batiuk with hair. For some reason, I’ve always imagined him as being bald. In my mind’s eye, I can see Batiuk’s second grade class photo, and he’s bald.
I think the only way to understand Tom Batiuk’s statements vs. his output is to think of it all as an elaborate joke. Like a Steve Martin routine where he says he’s going to do the world’s greatest magic trick, and he makes an egg disappear by blatantly sticking it in his coat pocket. He then says “ta-da!” and raises his hands to receive the applause.
Maybe Tom Batiuk was inspired by Andy Kaufman. Maybe he wants to be the Neil Breen of the comics page.
Tom Batiuk is definitely Tony Clifton.
He missed his chance to be Neil Breen with Bull.
As if any proof was really needed, strip shows that, once again, the story has gone off the rail and the Author has lost control of his material and is now playing for time before the dismal anti-climax this Saturday or Sunday.
And oh yes we still don’t know the reason for Flash and Phil’s falling out nor why Phil decided to fake his death.
As far as his blog posts – well the lest said the better other than pointing out that if he doesn’t stop this he’s going to go blind. And yes you did mention serious topics in your strip but what did you do with them? Merely saying cancer is bad and pizzia is good is not enough.
Prediction for tomorrow’s punchline:
Emcee: Looks like the wrong Comics Creator is named Flash!
You can tell TomBat still writes it because he gives most of his attentiion to his favorite fellow senior citizen characters like Harry Dinkle and this week the comic strip guys When was the last time younger characters like Cory Winkerbean or Summer Moore even had a storyline? FW has become the Golden Girls of comic strips You will know theres a new younger writer only when that changes