Let Mr. Sponge Be Your Guide

Yay. We’re now at the part of the arc where one fictional character is telling other fictional characters how great they are, without giving any hint of a reason for why they feel that way. I’m sure I’ve probably said this at least ten times, and I know many other people on here have said it, but it really does amaze me how Batiuk has shown basically nothing of these comics, despite Funky Winkerbean itself basically revolving around them at this point.
I really do not know what the point of this is. So two minor characters produced comics, decades ago, that one person apparently centered his entire life around? How? “When the Amazing Mr. Sponge used his super sucking powers to vanquish Mr. Tea, that inspired me to become a janitor?” I like comics more than probably 99% of the population, and at times have found inspirational material in them. But saying they’re your “north star guiding you through life” is just pathetic, especially when you realize these are cheesy Silver Age comics.
Oh, and notice the speaker is addressing “you two”. I wonder if Ruby is still standing off to the side, or if she’s wandered back to the airport by this point.

59 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

59 responses to “Let Mr. Sponge Be Your Guide

  1. Mr. A

    I know it’s not uncommon, at these kinds of events, for people to say things like “your work changed my life” and so on. But something about the way this guy phrased it makes it sound…extreme. Bordering on cultish.

    • J.J. O'Malley

      Apropos of nothing, I got to meet Stan Lee the one time I went to SDCC back in the early 2000s. After he signed my carefully preserved 1973 Foom poster and shook my hand, all I could think of saying was “Thank you for my childhood, Stan,” to which he laughed and said “You’re very welcome.” I did mean it, of course, but I think the key word was “childhood.” There were lots of pleasant memories (and an occasional message) in the Silver/Bronze Age Marvel and DC comics of my youth, but I can’t say I’ve lived my adult life by them. It seems that Perspective–and not just the artistic type–is yet another thing Battyuk just doesn’t understand.

    • Charles

      It’s too elaborate a metaphor for a guy to be coming up with on the spot. Guy showed up looking that unkempt because he couldn’t take the time to clean himself up, but he did find the time to formulate a question for Phil Holt and Flash just in case Phil came back from the dead.

  2. the manwich horror

    This is just sad. I like comic books a lot. I even have a soft spot for old silver age nonsense. But the idea of an adult human seriously describing them as the guiding light of their life is pathetic. It’s a goofy indulgence. Comics can be powerful, but this isn’t Maus or Persepolis or even The Spirit. This is the age of Flash being hit with a fat ray and Superman getting turned into a lion!

    • Charles

      I think he wants it both ways. Similar to how he decries the commodification of comic books yet points to that value as proof of their significance. He’ll decry comic books getting serious but he’ll be more than happy to accept the cover of the cultural cachet of something like Maus in order to claim that the dopey Silver Age comics he loves were of literary significance.

      • The Duck of Death

        Something tells me he has never read Maus, nor ever would. He keeps telling us in his blog that he was the first cartoonist to realize that comics could deal with serious topics, that he metaphorically tore up the “unwritten rules,” etc. Maus began being published in serial form in 1980, which would make it a huge blow to his ego if he ever read it.

        In fact, something tells me he seldom, if ever, reads any of the greats of cartooning of any era. I include both newspaper cartoons and comic books other than ones depicting superheroes in tights; he seems not to know that they exist and are part of comix history. Do you think he’s even read Watchmen? I imagine him reading the first three pages, feeling threatened and icky, and tossing it aside to go read something more reassuring.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          I wonder this myself. I think Watchmen is amazing, and I don’t even like comic books. It’s a complex story that I consider an example of top-notch writing. It has a lot of moral ambiguity, and I think Tom Baituk just can’t deal with that. He’s only interested in the simplistic, silver age “good guys punch the bad guys” approach. Which, ironically, came about in response to the Comics Code he hates so much.

        • Anonymous Sparrow

          Hurm, said Rorschach. That wouldn’t surprise me He’s not a good man like President Truman.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Batiuk also wants it both ways in that he portrays comic book fans as horrible, stupid dorks, but we’re supposed to be moved by the things they say. In real life, would this speech inspire anything other than pity?

        • Charles

          Another way that Batiuk’s trying to have it both ways is the fact that this doofus is wearing an Amazing Mr. Sponge shirt as he’s saying this.

          The Amazing Mr. Sponge (or whatever his name is) was an satirical take on the absurdity of superheroes and their powers. Batiuk decided to make a superhero based on a creature that has no actual brain and exists by receiving nutrients that water washes through its body. (Filter feeding is too complicated for sponges) It’s ridiculous by design. It’s making fun of the absurdity of superheroes and their powers.

          If we were to consider that in this context, Slobbo here is ridiculous. He’s the joke: that someone could take a sponge-based superhero seriously and claim that it had a significant unironic impact on his life. The guy gets up in front of a huge crowd and admits this. And he gives a tongue bath to the creators of this silly thing over how much they’ve positively contributed to the man he is today. It’s completely absurd.

          But no, Batiuk’s taking him seriously. We’re not supposed to mock this imbecile. We’re supposed to be genuinely moved as he warbles about how much a sponge-based superhero has affected his life.

          No wonder some of us compare it to a religious cult-like sentiment.

  3. robertodobbs

    So much was made of Ruby’s having been marginalized during her comic career that I’m actually shocked that she got the Vaudeville hook so quickly during her moment on the stage.

    • Charles

      It is amazing how obvious Batiuk is in showing how little he gives a shit about the things he claims he cares about.

      This was originally supposed to be about honoring Ruby, and Flash was just a throw-in for some dumb reason.

      • Epicus Doomus

        Good point, it’s another one of those bizarre Batiuk tangents, where a story begins at point A and winds up at point blue triangle. Like when the gay prom arc ended up being mostly about Becky’s mom or when Bull’s death became an opportunity for Les to express how little he cared for Bull. Before this arc Flash was barely even a character at all, now suddenly he’s the focus.

    • The Duck of Death

      Ruby who?

  4. William Thompson

    For Batiuk, “don’t show and don’t tell” is a way of life. He’s never told us anything about the contents of the Dead Fucking Lisa books (what makes her so special? How did Les feel about losing her because of a bureaucratic screw-up?. What it was like for Les to raise Summer on his own? Did he show Lefty adapting to the loss of her arm? Starsux Jones has dominated the strip for years, but the only thing we know about the series is that SJ is a hero because “It’s the nice thing to do.” Otherwise it’s a generic space opera.

    Sometimes I think he won’t describe his comic-book stories because he thinks the ideas are so great, he’ll be ripped off if he reveals his creations. Then I laugh as I remember he doesn’t show much of his characters’ inner lives, either.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      How did Les feel about losing her because of a bureaucratic screw-up?

      How did Les feel about BEING that bureaucratic screw-up?

  5. Epicus Doomus

    I’ve often pointed out how the denizens of the Funkyverse are frequently unmoved by seemingly remarkable events. But this one takes the prize. Phil Holt was presumed dead for four years, he suddenly resurfaced out of nowhere, yet now everyone’s talking about how much his old comic books meant to their childhoods, not the fact that Phil is not dead at all. In “real life” this would be the LAST thing anyone would be thinking about, yet in BatYam’s fantastical dream world it’s all anyone cares about. It’s yet another seriously disturbing look into one of the most deranged creative minds of our (or any other) time.

    • spacemanspiff85

      I feel like he wanted to do this part of the story-“some guy tells Flash and Phil how great their work is”. Then he remembered he killed Phil off, and undid that in the stupidest and laziest way possible.

      • Epicus Doomus

        Which of course begs the question: why did Phil die in the first place? Why couldn’t he have just GIVEN the comic book art to Boy Lisa? What possible reason could there have been to kill the character off? The answer…I have no idea, other than it was more depressing that way.

        This week has featured some terrific comments regarding Batiuk’s deranged motives and inspirations here, but Phil dying is still the wildcard element, the one part of the “story” (as it were) that can’t be explained. Phil could have still met Boy Lisa and his artwork could have been auctioned off for charity without him dying, but die he did.

        • Charles

          What possible reason could there have been to kill the character off?

          I think that we were supposed to admire Darin that he managed to convince an old man just before he died that his life’s work was worthwhile. It doesn’t have the same emotional impact if Phil doesn’t die shortly thereafter.

          Of course, any emotional impact is completely obliterated when Batiuk just decides that he can bring people back from the dead whenever it suits his stupid plots. Why not bring Lisa back to direct Mason the proper way to make a Lisa’s Story movie?

          • The Duck of Death

            He doesn’t need to bring Lisa back, because he’s thought of a cutesy way to have her bald, gaunt face in the comic whild she comments on every plot development from Durwood’s wedding to Les’ hemorrhoids: Those ridiculous tapes. She must have spent every waking second of her last months brainstorming possible future developments and recording tapes to cover them. How many tapes are there, anyway? 1000? 2500?

          • Epicus Doomus

            The truly baffling part is that we actually saw Ghost Phil, which is kind of impossible if he was merely faking it the whole time. You’d think he’d have some sort of continuity chart so he could avoid these stupid anomalies, but I assume it’d just be too much work.

    • hitorque

      I’ve made it a point to never, ever click on TomBa’s blog, but if he explains Zombie Phil coming back from the dead, I want to read that shit….

  6. billytheskink

    I guess its a good thing that Phil took The Subterranean with him when he left Batom, or else this guy would be living underground. Actually, he might be anyway…

    • Charles

      Too bad that his rights to The Subterranean were disposed of along with the rest of Phil’s estate when he faked his death.

      But that would just mean that Chester bought them somehow and he’s more than willing to give them back to Phil now that he’s no longer dead. If Phil hadn’t come back from the dead, however, Chester would have just let the rights rot in storage, never to be heard from again.

  7. beware of eve hill

    Oh, come on! This is just silly. Does Batiuk really believe the life of a twenty-something revolves around a silver age comic book? What’s his name? Batton Thomas III?

    Look at the crowd! It’s an epidemic! Everyone in Battyworld loves silver age comics! Everyone is suffering from Batiuk Syndrome! The other day there was a sparse crowd. Today it’s a packed house! YaY!

  8. William Thompson

    You just have to love the hangdog look on the guy who was so inspired by comic books. If he’d been giving this speech on a Sunday, he’d have killed himself by the time he hit the sixth panel.

    • erdmann

      “Look at me, Phil and Flash! It’s all for you!” He shouts before jumping from a balcony with a noose around his neck.

    • Charles

      When I first saw his dumb mug on the masthead, I thought for a moment that he was standing mouth agape wondering how the hell Phil managed to come back from the dead.

      Instead, it’s just this unkempt slob telling two 98 year old men about how their writing is the only thing that gives him a stiffy. It doesn’t really serve that role as well as it would my idea.

  9. Sourbelly

    The artwork is utter garbage in all three panels. None of the characters look remotely human. It’s like a talent-deprived 7 year old created it. I wonder if Ayers has simply lost interest in this nonsense and is testing how little effort he can put into this before being shitcanned.

    As for the text, it seems like this greasy-haired loser is offering a pre-written script, as if he somehow knew that Phil Holt would magically/stupidly come back to life and interact with Flash Fuckface. I truly hope we get no explanation for Phil’s exhumation. Because who the freaking hell cares? About any of this?

  10. beware of eve hill

    The shape of Flash Freeman’s head is getting pretty close to resembling one of ventriloquist, stand-up comedian Jeff Dunham’s puppets. José Jalapeño (on a Steek).

    • J.J. O'Malley

      Along with a Woozle whose name is Phil Holt? Maybe the reason Ms. Lith isn’t seen today is that she got tired of the on-stage sausage fest (did Phil ever zip up his pants?) and will come back to a bomb to blow it up, thus becoming Ruby the Dead Terrorist.

      • beware of eve hill

        Och, thanks a heap, O’Malley. Yer a real feckin’ eejit, ain’t ya? Every time I think of Peanut now, he’ll have Phil Holt’s face, glasses, and a cigar in his hand.

        On the other hand, I love Ruby the Dead Terrorist. A skull with gray wavy hair, glasses, and a Mao hat.
        RTDT: American capitalist male! I kill you!

      • beware of eve hill

        I wish we had the ability to delete or edit our posts. I hope you weren’t offended by the usage of “Feckin’ eejit”. Too much Father Ted, I suppose. Sorry about that.

        You’re absolutely right, this arc was supposed to be about Ruby receiving the attention previously denied her by a sexist industry. And then Batty goes on and forgets all about her! 🤣🤦‍♀️

        As usual, Batty loses focus and rambles off onto a tangent story arc. Yet again, it’s his fanatical love of comic books. The reunion of Flash Freeman and Phil Holt. He really does need help writing these stories.

        Cheers.

  11. I’m sure the people who made comics were professionals who wanted to do good work. But none of them, absolutely none of them, thought they were making immortal literature that would inspire millions.

    Here’s a fun bit of trivia: Stan Lee’s real name was Stanley Lieber. (Larry Lieber is his brother.) He wanted to write the great American novel, so he used “Stan Lee” for his comic book work, because he wanted to save “Stanley Martin Lieber” for his great literary work.

    (This is from Stan Lee’s “Origin of Marvel Comics” published some time in the 80’s, I think. I have a copy of it somewhere in storage, along with “Son of Origins” and “Bring on the Bad Guys!”)

    • Suicide Squirrel

      I have those Marvel Origins books! Not to make you feel old, but they were published in 1974, 1975, and 1976, in the order you listed them. My copies are in surprisingly good condition. The pages are yellowed somewhat around the edges. They’ve faired better than some of my other paperbacks from the same era where the binding glue has started to fail. Time to put that book-binding merit badge from the scouts into use. Where’s my Elmer’s glue?

      I remember taking “Bring on the Bad Guys!” to school to read during study hall. In eighth-grade chemistry class, a ne’er-do-well snatched the book out of my bag and started thumbing through it. I remember thinking I didn’t really want to get into a fight with this clown. Instead, he handed the book back, gave a nodding approval, and said, “Alright, (surname redacted)!” So maybe there is something to be said about Batyuk’s comic book worship. I suppose they can soothe the savage beast.

      Now to make me feel old. The guy died a dozen years ago, and the junior high school was torn down at about the same time.

  12. Clark Cant

    Just like Funky Winkerbean changed my life! Before I started reading this strip, I was 78.9% less cynical, and I rolled my eyes only twice a week instead of three times daily.

  13. Yeah, that’s what I’ve been thinking – that this is more wish fulfillment for TB. Except…no.
    “Mopey Pete made me appreciate the value of always seeing the glass half empty. Thank you, Mr. Batty.”
    “Less made me a better person by his relentless focus on the past to the detriment of people in his present. I can’t express enough gratitude, Tom.”
    “Wally made me see burqas, service dogs and pizza in a new way. Namaste, sir.”
    Bleah.

  14. The Duck of Death

    What happened to the sidekick who looked like Funky’s twin? Just another Batiuk’s Gun, I guess.

    (Batiuk’s Gun, n.: The opposite of Chekhov’s Gun; an element purposefully inserted into a story, seemingly to be used later, but never explained or seen again.)

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      “If there is a gun on the wall in the first act, the third act will be about comic books.”

  15. Banana Jr. 6000

    Today’s strip is actually not telling us three different things. Look at Flash and Phil happily smirking at each other. This vacuous, off awkward praise is going to be the impetus for them reconciling, without addressing their conflict at all. This loser saying “I really like comic books” is going to resolve 65 years of bitterness plus a fake death? Tom Batiuk thinks so!

    It’s also not telling us how comic books were was this guy’s “north star”. I can believe that people find inspiration in unexpected places, but we need to know more than this guy just saying it is so. But that what Funky Winkerbean does: it explains to you how you’re supposed to feel about everything.

    The third unaddressed item is of course “Phil, how the hell are you alive?”

    I guess you could throw in a fourth item, “where did Ruby and the MC go?” But the story is where Batiuk wants it to be now, so they’re irrelevant now. I can’t say I blame them. I would have walked out, too.

    • hitorque

      Like I said, I think Flash grossly overhyped the amount of animosity between him and Phil just to build up to this big “reunion”

  16. Hitorque

    Oh, for fuck’s sake… Why must every comic geek be the worst kind of sniveling no-lifer ass-kissing loser? And didn’t we hear enough of this shit during Batton Thomas’ most recent appearance?

    And remember Ruby? This story’s about Ruby… And Alice… And the restaurant…

  17. Professor Fate

    Ah no. Not a single plot thread has been resolved and we are left with the Author’s treacle soaked pean to the glories of sliver age comic books (and the guy speaking is way too young) with both parties smiling years of bitterness dissolved by the magic of comics or something. Dear lord in heaven Three’s Company shows were better plotted.
    However one is willing to bet cash money that nobody has ever said that to the author about his work so this ending comes across not only as dumb but creepy as hell to boot.

  18. Maxine of Arc

    OH MY GOD NO ONE CARES.

  19. I’m not trying to make this more painful than it needs to be, but honestly, I don’t think anyone would consider the comic strip “Funky Winkerbean” to be ‘…a north star guiding us through life.’ However, it does make a good guide as to “what not to do” in life.

  20. Gerard Plourde

    I’m confused. Is this guy saying that when he faces a moral dilemma or major life choice we’re to believe that he asks himself “What would Mr. Sponge do?” Or, when things are going wrong, does he say, “I’ll solve this. After all, Starbuck Jones got himself out of being marooned on that planet with the octo-sharks?”

    • hitorque

      I think he’s trying to say “The Amazing Mr. Sponge” is bigger than Jesus, and Phil+Flash are his messengers

      • Smirks 'R Us

        Anyone know when Phil Holt’s birthday is? I just want to get a jump on my BatHack Holtmas holiday planning.

        He is risen!

  21. hitorque

    So help me out here…

    Now that we’ve officially established that Phillip Holt has always been alive and the news about his demise were just urban legends spread around by the “twitter tots”, *WHY* didn’t he reconcile with Flash before now? Hell, why didn’t he just do it in private? I’d have thought a notoriously antisocial recluse with no people skills whatsoever wouldn’t be seen at SDCC unless there was a gun to his head; much less making a “big reveal” in front of a now-huge crowd and becoming THE #1 story of a convention attended by a quarter-million people with global news coverage… The upcoming Barry Allen/Wally West movie? Black Panther 2? Tarantino’s Star Trek movie? The Green Lantern movie? Guardians of the Galaxy 3? Barbara Gordon Batgirl’s movie? The live-action movie based on The Clone Wars?? The newest offerings from Electronic Arts and Bethesda? The exclusive exhibition hall where Margot Robbie and Gal Gadot body paint each other? Phil Holt just pushed them all to the back burner…

    And if Mr. Antisocial Loner just HAD to fucking to make a big fucking self-gratifying show of his first public appearance in years, WHY DIDN’T HE WORK WITH THE SDCC ORGANIZERS WITH IT? I don’t know much about comics but I’m pretty sure Phil isn’t the only big name to make a surprise appearance. The ComiCon organizers could have done a much better job of this while still keeping it a secret, instead of Phil’s dumbassed Vader mask idea and sneaking in on a guest pass…

    What would have really been funny (and keeping in line with Funkyverse misery) is if after all this time and planning, Phil was denied entry to the panel because he was late, or the room was at max capacity since that link I showed last week informed us that security makes absolutely zero exceptions once an event is full… It would have also been funny if Phil got thrown out by security before he could make his big reveal, but since Batiuk didn’t bother to tell us who Phil was during the buildup (nevermind the fact that we all knew he was dead), what would have been the point?

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      This reminds me of Lee and Kirby not being able to attend the wedding of Reed Richards and Susan Storm. (Nick Fury can be so insistent.)

      A problem with accepting Flash Freeman and Phil Holt as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (beyond thinking of them as producing “The Mightiest Punch of All Time” in the Silver Age rather than, say, “This Man…This Monster”) is that Lee was an editor as well as a writer. The dynamic was different.

      Kirby as an editor at DC couldn’t get a twelfth issue for *the New Gods* or *The Forever People* and the latter feature spent over a decade in limbo.

  22. hitorque

    And I just want to say as bad as this is, it’s still a *distant* third place to Cliffe Angere’s talking murder monkey and last summer’s Lisa’s Movie Project 2.0 getting cut short by greater Los Angeles becoming an apocalyptic disaster movie…

  23. Perfect Tommy

    Wonder and possibilities? So it’s possible for me to have superpowers and travel inter-dimensionally to alternate earths? Cool! Sign me up!

  24. Suicide Squirrel

    Horribly Portrayed Geeky Fan: “…and I just came in my pants… twice.”

    Ayers might as well have used the Elephant Man as a model. “I am not a monster! I am a comic book fan!”

    • beware of eve hill

      Or the cast of Tod Browning’s Freaks.

      I’d like to see them travel to Batty’s house chanting, “We accept him, we accept him. One of us, one of us. Gooble-gobble, gooble-gobble.”

      The next time we see Batty, he’s their comic book king, or preferably a human duck.

      • Suicide Squirrel

        Hey Sticks, I love your cameo appearance in panels two and three. Mighty nice of Ayers to include you. I never knew you were a fan of Flash and Ruby. 🤣