A clever Scorpions “Tainted Love” reference.

Link to today’s strip.

Pete, stop. The fish that clean other fish by eating algae out of gill slits are less pathetic and parasitical. By spouting out constant, enthusiastic, purposeless praise you’ve basically become the annoying junior sidekick that you said you despise.

So, the year was 2015. I was trying on used pants in the cluttered dressing room of a Goodwill, when my phone lit up. It was a friend of mine sending me a text.

Did u c the news?

Wat?

Harrison Ford crashed his plane.

My heart immediately froze then sank. I sat down on on the bench, pants around my ankles, and frantically typed back.

Srsly?

Yeah, sounds like he’s ok tho.

And then, I could breathe again.

Understand, I don’t think Harrison Ford is a especially admirable person. I mean, he seems decent enough. He’s a Hollywood movie star. I imagine he’s a little egotistical, an ounce more hedonistic and self-serving than I generally like to see, but just a normal guy otherwise. A man I have never met, and will likely never meet, and if I ever did meet him it would just be a cool story for me, and a completely forgettable moment for him.

When he dies, (given our ages, odds are that it’ll be before me,) it really won’t affect my life. He’s not my dad, my grandpa, my friend, or even that one crazy old guy who used to come into the gas station to buy Mr Pibb and lottery tickets and always had a sassy word.

But when he dies, I’ll still be sad. Not devastated, but sad.

Because somewhere in a box of old school things, there’s a fifth grade note book where I drew hearts around a sticker of Han Solo and wrote, “My favorite actor, Harrisen Ford.” And beneath it, in the same box, is the 1998 People magazine when he was ‘Sexiest Man Alive’. I took that thing to school to keep in my desk. A very weirded out Mr. Dunlap asked me if I knew that Harrison Ford was older than he was. I didn’t care.

Harrison Ford was my first crush that wasn’t 2-D cell shaded, and no matter how much my adult brain understands that he isn’t really a part of my life, the lovesick girl in my heart still remembers. You can think of that as good, bad, or neutral; it is still a fact. His existence impacted mine. It’s the reason we mourn famous people. I don’t think it was unhealthy when I had a moment’s pause and pang of sadness at the passing of Christopher Lee, Johnny Cash, Carrie Fisher, or Hank Aaron. It’s natural to be sad when someone who played a part in your own life experiences passes away. When the world loses a little piece of itself that helped to shape it, it’s okay for all of us to notice.

So say Alan Rickman springs up from the audience of Ellen one day, explaining he really just needed some time away from Potterheads lusting over Snape. Or Terry Pratchett shows up at Dragoncon to accost Neil Gaiman, shouting that he knew he would ruin the legacy of Good Omens and just had to see for himself how he would do it. Or Robin Williams heckles Jerry Seinfeld off the stage and does an impromptu set of impressions of how everyone reacted to his pseudocide.

I wouldn’t be overjoyed they’re still alive.

I would be enraged.

They’d be alive, sure. But they’d be dead to me. The person I hoped they were torn away to reveal a callous, selfish monster who was content, even happy, to cause grief in the millions of people who thought of them fondly. Someone so narcissistic as to be oblivious to everyone elses’ feelings, and to come sauntering back into the spotlight expecting to resume their career and fame.

And if I learned that I, somehow, was the instigator of this decision in the famous person; the catalyst sparking all that grief, and now anger.

Well, if I never did anything else in my life, that would probably be the worst thing I’d ever caused.

Apparently, as long as you aren’t lying to or defrauding the government, or intending to defraud others, or committing some other crime in the process thereof, faking your death to others isn’t illegal.

But that doesn’t mean it’s victimless.

(BTW: Thanks to everyone who enjoyed yesterday’s metaphysical musings. It made digging through all the Les/Lisa ghost porn worth it. )

53 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

53 responses to “A clever Scorpions “Tainted Love” reference.

  1. Epicus Doomus

    So here the “story” so far: after his chance meeting with Boy Lisa, grouchy and depressed old comic book codger Phil decided he wanted to once again inspire comic book fans with his comic book art. So he gave away everything of value he owned and pretended to be dead for four years. Then, after crashing the CCCBHOF induction ceremony and making a scene, he fell to pieces and forgave Flash after hearing some anonymous comic book dork jabbering about how much his old comic book meant to him as a child. His entire personality did a complete 180 and now he’s an affable comic book bloke cracking wise with his comic book pals.

    It’s like something a lazy and underachieving sixth grader wrote on the bus ride to school. How he isn’t mortified to release this stuff for public consumption has always been a mystery to me, as I’d be downright ashamed to be responsible for piffle like this. I mean I’m cringing just reading it and I’m an especially jaded FW reader.

    • LTPFTR

      And what if the CCCBHOF hadn’t inducted Flash–would Phil have continued to nurse his grudge in silence?

  2. William Thompson

    Darin, you have never done anything in your life. Being an absent father, alone outweighs any boasts you make about comics and Hollywood. I hope you die with that obnoxious look frozen on your face.

    • hitorque

      Yeah, I’d forgotten about the wifey and rugrat back in suburban Cleveland… (All these Funkyverse blondes look alike — Hell, aside from one redhead literally every non-elderly woman in the Funkyverse is a nondescript blonde or chili-bowl brunette anyway)…

      You’d think that Mrs. Darrin might fancy a free vacation for once in her life, given that her husband is hardly ever home… Hell, this is actually the SECOND time he’s ditched her ass to attend ComiCon with Pete…

  3. the manwich horror

    Comic Book Harriet, you’ve put more thought and human empathy into this single post than Batiuk has put into this entire storyline.

    • billytheskink

      Agreed, CBH has given us some wonderfully thought out and wonderfully written analysis these past two days. One might even dare to say, “it’s called ‘writing’.”

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yeah. (Raises glass of bourbon to CBH…thank you!). Ok, I’ve had several glasses tonight. But still…

    • Maxine of Arc

      I stand in line.

    • Gerard Plourde

      CBH’s work is truly a worthy addition to the rotation of main contributors to SOSF.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        Awww, more praise my midwestern upbringing doesn’t know how to accept. The self deprecating response genetically imprinted into my DNA wants to point out that anything logically consistent statement is going to look like a work of genius after reading this arc.

  4. Great analysis as always, CBH.

    As for the strip, it continues being not just stupid, but hyper-stupid, a level of stupidity so advanced that it can crush beer cans on its head without opening them.

    I mean, taking as obvious that Phil Holt is Jack Kirby, when Kirby left Marvel DC welcomed him with open arms and gave him absolute control. Phil Holt would have been the same; any comics publisher would be thrilled to hire him, and would probably give him character rights to the Sub-Moronic, provided he drew some of their established characters as well.

    But not Phil Holt, no. He had to go sulk in his room, like a 13-year old who didn’t get an Xbox for Christmas. He threw away his entire career just to pitch a snit, and went off to draw caricatures at kid’s birthday parties.

    What is it about Batiuk and characters who throw away their careers in a fit of pique? Cliff Anger was another one, who did nothing for seventy years because someone didn’t give him the respect he thought due him.

    Is this some kind of autobiographic confession?

    • Epicus Doomus

      And in both cases (Phil and Cliff) hearing about how much their old work meant to a complete stranger’s childhood was the impetus that dragged them out of their self-imposed exiles, like it was the only thing that gave their lives any meaning. And in both cases they became all friendly and jovial right after it happened, too. And Boy Lisa, one of the strips most useless characters, was integral to both stories.

      • Charles

        And in both cases (Phil and Cliff) hearing about how much their old work meant to a complete stranger’s childhood was the impetus that dragged them out of their self-imposed exiles

        Which is another thing that’s just wrong about this. If you produced media for public consumption that was widely circulated, you’d have to consciously avoid hearing about the public’s reaction, in a way that would be potentially damaging to your professional prospects if not entirely impossible. Phil should have been getting fan mail. He should have been hearing about his circulation numbers and how they were moving. He should have known about derivative products being made from his works. If none of that mattered to him, why the hell was he so interested in having ownership over his creations? He wouldn’t have gone through that trouble if he wasn’t intimately concerned about the public response to his work.

        Even if it’s to restrict the use of his creations, that still requires that he be aware of what fans were interested in. If he’s rejecting movie deals, cereal tie-ins and toy deals, that would have to mean that he knew someone with a lot of money decided the public was interested in movies, cereals and toys featuring his creations.

        So yeah, Phil would have known since the very beginning what effect his creations were having on his audience. He wouldn’t be blindsided sixty years later to learn that someone actually read them and liked them. That was the whole point of his career in comics in the first place.

        • Epicus Doomus

          What’s always astonished and amazed me about BatYam is his almost supernatural ability to write stories where literally every single detail makes as little sense as possible. Maybe it’s deliberate, maybe he’s just a savant, I can’t say for sure. But it’s uncanny how consistent he is about it. Every single aspect of this story, from the plot to the dialog and even the artwork, was seemingly engineered to be as unfathomably stupid as possible. None of it adds up, it contradicts itself at every turn and some of the events of the story are just plain impossible. It’s the Penrose steps of comic strips, you can just keep going around and around trying to find anything that make sense but you never get anywhere.

    • Hitorque

      To be fair, Cliffe Angere got blacklisted by the HUAC in 1954 or whatever and iirc even had a short jail stint for contempt (not contempt on reason of principle, but stupid Funkyverse reasons)… When Cliffe got out a couple months later, he took refuge in some shithole Brooklyn apartment, and shut himself away from the outside world for 60 years… And evidently he was so isolated from the world that nobody told him that the blacklist ended 55 years earlier

      • That’s the thing. If Cliff had read a newspaper, or seen any TV news, or just went for a walk, he would have seen that the victims of the blacklist were not only unbanned, but actually seen as courageous by Hollywood. He would have had tons of offers for that alone.

        Maybe if he actually feared George Reeves-style typecasting, that would have been one thing. But that’s just not heroic enough for Batiuk.

  5. billytheskink

    As Durwood’s excitement was to Phil, so this strip is to me. TB got paid for this, so surely there is some hope for my comics…

    • Epicus Doomus

      I always wonder who signs off on this year after year after year. Is being a comic strip creator like being pope, where it’s a lifetime appointment? Are there ever any performance reviews or ratings or anything? Because it appears that once you get a strip you can pretty much deliver anything no matter how abysmal it is and you get to just keep going and going, seemingly forever.

      • I think it’s worse than that. Tom Batiuk is working hard to prevent anything of interest appearing in the strip. Any time anything with any potential shows up, he immediately short-circuits it and drives into the blandest, dullest possible situation. It’s like it actually frightens him to have interesting content.

        Maybe when he didn’t win that Pulitzer, it just wrecked any ambition he might have had. “I put everything into Lisa’s Story, and I lost. Well, I’m just never going to try again.”

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          More like “I put everything into Lisa’s Story, and I lost. Well, I’m just going to keep putting everything into Lisa’s Story!”

      • The Nelson Puppet

        There is a serious lack of quality control with the comics syndicate. Remember how weird Apartment 3-G got near the end of its’ run?

        • Hitorque

          Yeah, those last few years were brutal… It was on the other website that someone posted some A3G strips from the 50s and 60s and the stuff was amazing… Three young girls, confident, assertive and unapologetic about their sexuality trying to break established societal norms and forge a professional path in the big city because they wanted more out of life than just being June Cleaver…

          If any comic could use a modern 21st century reboot with upgraded art, it’s A3G…

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          Newspaper readership skews very old, and old baby boomers don’t want quality; they want familiarity and nostalgia. So these zombie strips, and there are a lot them now, aren’t going anywhere. No new comic strips will ever catch on unless they further indulge this demographic, like Pluggers and Dustin do.

          • Cabbage Jack

            This: I think as long as you don’t offend people and risk getting your strip yanked from papers, the editors aren’t going to care. People read comics in the paper out of habit. A smoker might prefer Marlboro cigarettes, but they smoke a Pall Mall if that’s what’s available.

  6. Gerard Plourde

    “Apparently, as long as you aren’t lying to or defrauding the government, or intending to defraud others, or committing some other crime in the process thereof, faking your death to others isn’t illegal…But that doesn’t mean it’s victimless.”

    But just because a crime wasn’t committed doesn’t mean there are no consequences. If the covers that Darin auctioned or other Phil Holt associated merchandise loses value because he’s alive, he could potentially face tort liability from buyers for the diminished value caused by his ruse.

  7. Sourbelly

    “Why don’t you come over to my studio and I’ll show you?” Uh huh. Is there a chance in hell that we’re actually going to see any of the brilliant work this undead nobody has produced?

    Meanwhile, we see half of Ruby’s head in panel one. I forget: Why is she even there? Is not like she won some sort of award or anything.

  8. Banana Jr. 6000

    Aren’t these two idiots, by which I mean Darrin and Pete, supposed to be the two best, highest-paid creators in the comic book business? Sheesh, could they act like it, instead of a couple star-struck nine-year olds?

    “If I never do anything else in life…” don’t worry, Darrin, you won’t.

    “Road trip”? Look how stupidly giddy he is over this prospect. Did his parents never to take him in the car when he was a kid? I mean, I wouldn’t either, but he could act like a man for a change. This is such a 1980s fratboy movie cliche that it should in a Friedberg and Seltzer movie. But it’s perpetually 1989 in Tom Batiuk’s mind, so I guess he thinks this is edgy.

    “I faked my death so I could be left alone to work, but the man I met exactly at that time is what made me want to work again.” What?

    Mindy, or possibly Jessica, is still making eyes at Darrin.

    What an incoherent mess.

  9. William Thompson

    A road trip? Good idea! Hit the road, Jack-off!

  10. Coco Stryfe

    We know where this is going. Phil is gonna drop dead like for realz.

    • William Thompson

      Which will make Freeman remember why he hates him: “Once again he stiffed me for the bill!”

  11. Hitorque

    1. Yesterday Peter had a raging nerd boner, by tomorrow he’ll be jizzing in his pants. Melinda knows by now (and I’m pretty sure she’s always known) that Peter is ‘married’ to his comics geekdom and at best all she’ll ever be to him is a walking, talking official confirmation of his supposed heterosexuality…

    1a. “ROAD TRIP?!” Motherfucker you don’t even know where the studio is! And need I remind you Pete, Mr. Holt didn’t invite your sniveling ass, he invited Flash…

    2. So all it took was one random stranger kissing his ass to make Phil mellow out and forget about 60 years of bitterness and resentment? And it’s one thing for Phillip to be inspired by little kids into resuming his career, but some 35-going-on-11 year old manbaby like Darrin? That’s just awkward and uncomfortable to explain…

    3. Lemme guess — Despite being an industry legend, poor old Phillip has a secret studio full of new original titles and characters but no publisher!! But if only there was a pure, honest-to-god grassroots indie comics label with true reverence for the old school; untainted by financial greed and shameless corporate commercialism… He’d sign a contract with them on the spot!!

    4. This still doesn’t fucking explain how Phil (who didn’t have any freaking money when we last saw him) survived when he was legally dead and not getting any income… I mean, even “dead” guys gotta eat and buy their prescription meds and keep a roof over their head, right??

    5. So if Phil had buried the hatchet years ago, why this stupid-assed “revenge plot” buildup? And why even do it at ComiCon when he could have done it anytime and anyplace before now? And why would a notoriously private anti-social recluse make such a self-serving and attention-whoring spectacle at the world’s biggest comic event?

    5a. Do I have this straight? Phillip Holt has a shitload of unpublished new original content AND HE DIDN’T THINK TO TELL EVERYONE AT COMICON, WITH THE EYES OF THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY ON HIM… WHILE HE WAS ON A STAGE TALKING TO A PACKED HOUSE OF FANBOIS… RIGHT AFTER HE MADE A SELF-GRATIFYING CIRCUS BY HIJACKING FLASH AND RUBY TUESDAY’S PANEL!!? Seriously, fuck this asshole…

    5b. Yeah I already know the reason is because in the world according to TomBa, it would have been tasteless and improper for Phil to crash and commandeer a ComiCon panel just to pimp his new content, but that whole fake death thing is totally fine…

  12. hitorque

    Miss Comic Book Harriet, thanks for straightening me out on that RMMD storyline yesterday… It had been a few years and like I said I’d stopped reading about that time…

    But I *will* say the notion of a woman choosing to be a short-order waitress at a greasy spoon for 60 years with no ambitions of management or ownership or ever getting a better, higher-paying job is bullshit…

    • It’s the Sullen Teen “THEY’LL Be Sorry” Syndrome. You know, “I’m just going to sit here and sulk and they’ll feel terrible, and they’ll feel guilty, but I’m NOT going to forgive them for not letting me have my own Subway Franchise, or whatever it is I think I deserve.”

      It’s not an attractive characteristic in anyone, and it’s puzzling (though not really) why Batiuk would think we’re supposed to like Phil Holt because of it.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Tom Batiuk himself is the poster child for Sullen Teen Syndrome. “I knew once Marvel saw my writing, they would immediately promote me to Spider-Man.” At age 24. Which of course they didn’t. And to this day he conspicuously omits Spider-Man and Marvel from his ridiculous comic books universe out of spite. So of course he doesn’t know it’s an ugly quality in a person.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      I think, (it’s been years since I’ve read that arc as well), that the lady actually OWNED the restaurant. And her being a waitress the day they visited was a fluke thing. So, slightly better.

      But, being slightly better than Funky Winkebean is no great prize. RMMD is an infinitely stupid strip, with so much terrible nonsense to criticize and make fun of. They were literally GIFTED a child, the little girl keeps on being given insane career opportunities by wealthy benefactors, Rex is dumb as a box of rocks. If someone wanted to start a SOSF style blog about another soap strip, RMMD would be a good pick.

      The thing that keeps Funky Winkerbean slightly more interesting to me is the way that creator and creation grow into each other, meshing tighter and tighter as the laziness and corpulence of the writing grows. Like that horrifying story of that woman who had grown into her couch, so Tom and strip have become one.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Pluggers irritates me so much that I once toyed with blogging about it. But there’s not much to say. It has the same eight jokes: pluggers are old; pluggers are fat; pluggers are pathologically cheap; pluggers are set in their ways; pluggers are closed-minded; pluggers are blue-collar workers despite possessing no actual work skills; pluggers are addicted to boomer nostalgia; and of course, pluggers are morally superior to you.

      • hitorque

        Yeah, I had noted on several occasions at the other site that every RMMD storyline starts with a random stranger giving the Morgans something rare and valuable for free “Hey, I just found this Hope Diamond on the sidewalk outside your home! Do you want it??” or an expensive service at a 99.9998% discount “Hey Dr. Morgan! I’m so happy at the routine everyday medical treatment you gave me I’m gonna let you rent my luxury vacation home on the Amalfi Coast for the entire summer for just a hundred bucks! Or maybe your dumbassed non-genius daughter will accept free tuition to the most exclusive private school in North America! We’ll even let HER tell US which grade she wants to be in!!”

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          Is Funky Winkerbean really any different?

          “Oh, Les, your book about your dead wife is just so amazing! Can we make a movie about it? We’ll pay you piles of money, and even more money if you don’t like it and want to cancel it! Then we’ll let you sell it to us again because we’re just so dumb here in Hollywood! And in the meantime, have Darrin make a comic book of it and get nominated for an award!”

          “Oh, Flash, I didn’t really mean that 65-year grudge and the whole pretending to be dead thing. And hijacking your award ceremony, which you’re strangely not mad about. Let’s work on a new comic book together! Never mind that neither of us works for Atomik Komix and they already have an overpaid staff that does exactly what we do!”

          “Oh, Crazy, my life is just so rough having remodeling work done on my expensive two-story suburban house during a global pandemic! And the business is suffering. I had to move a whole jukebox for a short period of time! And my Walkman broke! Do you know how rare those things are?”

  13. erdmann

    Let’s hope by “studio” Phil really means “abattoir.” Turns out he’s not so forgiving after all.

  14. batgirl

    I was poking through the Curmudgeon archives, and found this Crankshaft from some years back:

    https://joshreads.com/2012/02/how-to-sex-cede-in-business-while-trying-moderately-hard/

    Apparently it is from an arc where Crankshaft was to be belatedly inducted into the local Sports Hall of Fame (his baseball career was ended by WWII) but that thread was dropped for two characters not previously known – one of them having mistakenly written the obituary for the other who (da-dum!) was Not Actually Dead.

    I wonder if these two nameless extras had an old feud as well?

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Oooh! Interesting find!
      It’s always fascinating the off-kilter ways Tom finds to self-plagarize.

      • batgirl

        Yeah, the repeat of the Belated Recognition Trope really hit me. There’s even a strip a week or so before that with some guys discussing Crankshaft’s overlooked baseball career, rather like Mindy nudging Pete about Ruby’s overlooked comics career.

        Wonder if TB is wanting someone to nudge some committee or other about _his_ overlooked career?

    • I wonder if the one guy is related to Becky.

      • Gerard Plourde

        The one-armed reporter is an odd detail. I wonder if TomBa had some actual person in mind.

        • noahabaddi

          Does Tom… does he have an amputee fetish? A complete left arm amputation in one character is odd. In two characters — with the same pinned-up sleeve — that’s starting to look like a “thing.”

          • J.J. O'Malley

            Two one-armed people in two separate strips is indeed strange, but when it comes to dismemberment obsessions Battyuk still takes a backseat to George Lucas.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Both of them having the pinned up sleeve is odd. Not all amputees do that.

            I want to give Funky Winkerbean the benefit of the doubt, that it’s trying to create a handicapped character who isn’t defined by their handicap. Except that every single time Becky appears, she’s shoving her stump into your face. It is very conspicuously drawn, and yet it’s never been relevant to the plot. It was barely addressed when it happened.

            I wouldn’t call it a fetish, but since everything in Funky Winkerbean is about Tom Batiuk’s very narrow set of hobbies, he clearly has some kind of hang-up about the subject.

        • batgirl

          From the previous strip on the Curmudgeon site, he seems to be one of the Hall of Fame committee.
          My guess is that he had a promising sports career cut short by losing his arm, like Becky’s performing career, and instead of taking up another sport (google “one-armed athletes”, Tom), he’s devoted himself to promoting / serving what he can no longer do himself.
          I am curious whether either of these guys get a name in-strip.

  15. Suicide Squirrel

    Is anybody keeping an eye on Ruby Red? Her big HOF moment was superseded by the “Comix Reunion of the Century.” Her entire career has been in the shadow of her male coworkers. Who knows what she’ll put in the coffee this time? ☠☠☠

  16. robertodobbs

    Today Ruby is literally marginalized; right to the edges!