A Picture is Worth a Dozen Words

Batiuk has long relied on the “photo album corners” visual cue when depicting flashbacks to past events. He uses that device once again in today’s strip to confusing effect. Are we seeing the photo that Holly is holding in her hands? Why is that photo talking? If Holly’s photos aren’t collected in a photo album, why does this one have photo album corners? There are other head-scratching details to unpack as well. There are apparently enough majorette pics to staple together and make a movie, yet there’s only one single photo of Holly as a baby…and she’s not even in it? I get the feeling too that Batty had an extra baton twirling joke, and decided to use it up in the middle panel. It really doesn’t have much to do with what’s being said in the panels surrounding it.

48 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

48 responses to “A Picture is Worth a Dozen Words

  1. William Thompson

    A baby holding a baton? Has Batiuk ever seen a human baby? If you walk up to him and shake his hand, will he say “Greetings, Earthling! This is how we reproduce on Mars!”

  2. Epicus Doomus

    There’s actually quite a bit going on here today. You have the extremely weird talking photo, you have the (previously unknown to me) revelation that Holly’s mother was a domineering baton twirling-obsessed monster who essentially ignored her infant daughter until she could hold a baton, you have the “only child” gag AND you have the infant holding a baton gag too. It’s like he had all these baton twirling-centric gags floating around in that sincere head of his and decided to dump them all at once, which is odd as few people have ideas for baton twirling gags at all, let alone a surplus of them. It’s one of the most Batiukian problems ever.

  3. Gerard Plourde

    From what we’ve seen in this week’s offerings, it’s safe to assume that the Office of Child Protective Services is nonexistent in Westview. The fact that TomBa appears to have no clue what a disturbing mother-daughter relationship these strips illustrate is nearly inconceivable.

  4. Banana Jr. 6000

    Wow. This strip confirms what many of us suspected: that this story is sick.

    After a week of jokes about how “majorette who frequently disfigured herself in the call of duty” being Holly’s only noteworthy trait at age 51, we now learn that this was forced on her by an abusive, overbearing stage mom.

    This touches on is another bizarre, unhealthy theme in Funky Winkerbean: that you continue to answer to your parents far into adulthood. Another example was Pam continuing to hide her involvement in the 1970 Kent State shootings from her father in 2000, even though she was also about 50 at the time and he was well into his 80s. Hey Holly: you don’t have to answer to mommy anymore! And you sure as shit don’t have to let her live in you and your husband’s house.

    • William Thompson

      The trouble is Holly has been abused since she was a baby. By this point it’s probably impossible for her to break free on her own. It’s also surprising that she hasn’t been in and out of psychiatric hospitals throughout her life.

  5. William Thompson

    There’s a lot to unpack in that photo. It clearly wasn’t taken by Holly’s mom. Someone–Holly’s father, I guess–must have knelt down to take it.* He made Mrs. Budd the sole subject of the photo. He couldn’t get up and snap a picture of his daughter while he was at it? Not even to show her holding the all-important baton? And, look at her physique. She regained her figure pretty quickly after giving birth. And, six decades later, she’s still wearing the same hair style? There’s a lot of egomania right there.

    * I know; some film cameras had timers to let you get in the picture. But even if Mrs. Budd could have lined up the camera properly, would she have had the time to get in the frame and get the baby to hold the baton?

    • none

      Even granting that enormous amount of charitable interpretation and plausibility behind it, that doesn’t answer anything else about the circumstance which would exist in reality.

      “I’m going to set up this camera on a timer this one single picture to be taken this one single time, and if it fucks up, oh well, whatever. Meanwhile, her first birthday, her first baby shoes, her first Halloween or Christmas or any other holiday, her being held by any of her relatives – to hell with that. Straight to hell with all of that. She’s my first born but who fucking cares.”

      Seriously – ok tomba. ok.

      • William Thompson

        Agreed; Batty’s work here is baffling. It seems to me like he’s trying to defend abusive parents; I’ll leave it to a psychiatrist to decide if he’s abusive himself or feels protective of abusive parents. Or if he’s just a lousy writer without enough human empathy to realize how bad this week’s atrocity looks. (Abusers do keep souvenirs; they’re props that let them show other people that they’re good parents, honest. It’s an example of gaslighting.)

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      Weren’t there terrible photos cutting out faces taken at Les’s marriage to Cayla? (Jessica Fairgood’s fault, I think.)

  6. none

    “A mother has one single picture of her first born child as an infant – one picture in which the child is not even visible.”

    ok tomba

  7. Sourbelly

    Hoo boy, leave it to our boy Tombat to take a lighthearted gag from the early days and turn it into a hellish nightmare of brutal child abuse, all for the sake of a good, wholesome laugh!

    “Oh, mother, that reminds me of those Groucho Marx glasses you gave me for Christmas sophomore year. It was my all time favorite, and only, gift you ever gave me.”

    “Well, daughter, how else could we hide the fact that you’d burned your nose and eyebrows off?” [smirk]

  8. Honestly, when Batiuk is doing his superhero comics crap, or his “Les is God” crap, or anything with Dinkle, or any of the other sort of stuff he’s motivated to shove out, I can see it as a talentless hack just trying to make his 50th meaningful…if to no one but himself.

    I don’t know why, but when he tries to tell “jokes” it just makes me angry. There are people who are so far better at this than you, Batiuk, that it’s insulting to the world when you pretend to be in their company.

    Stick with what you’re “best” at, which is self-promotion shouted into an uncaring void.

  9. Epicus Doomus

    Coming soon: we discover that Les’ mother forced him to wear that pocket protector against his will and that Crazy’s hippie father (Loony Larry) used to dose his son’s brown bag lunches with Orange Sunshine acid.

  10. billytheskink

    Take away the dialogue in panel 2 and it looks like Melinda is either imagining infant Holly is a baton or is taking care of a baton as if it was a baby. Either is an improvement.

  11. J.J. O'Malley

    Well, I’m afraid I have to play Batiuk’s Advocate here and propose that Panel Two does NOT actually represent the baby photo Fun…er, Holly is holding. It’s one of his typical flashback shots that just happens to come at the end of an arc regarding family photos and albums.

    Maybe if TB had opted to show a picture of Li’l Holly fumbling with a baton in her crib (teething on it?) and work a comment from her mom about how she couldn’t hold it properly into Panel Three, the dreary exercise in comic strip child abuse might–I say, MIGHT–have worked. But no, he needed Mama Budd’s criticism and her perplexing “firstborn” comment (Does Holly even have any siblings?) to jampack the goings-on with unfunny anecdotes.

    Cushlamachree, Carrie White had a healthier relationship with HER mother!

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      But at least they laughed at Carrie! Even Miss Desjardin, even if she didn’t do it for the same reason as, say, Chris and Billy!

  12. erdmann

    Has TB ever depicted a loving, healthy relationship between any of his charters and their mothers? Holly’s mom is an abusive stage mom, Becky’s is a meddlesome bigot and Jeff’s mom in Crankshaft was a monster. What’s up with that?

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Maybe his parents dumped on him for spending too much time with comic books and wanted him to do something real with his life.

      • gleeb

        And they were right in their motivation if not in their practice.

      • William Thompson

        Maybe you’ve called it. That sounds like the story of Jfff Fairgood’s childhood, and it could explain Batty’s drama-queen reaction to the Batman TV show.

  13. Janitorial Joplin

    What does this clown produce when he’s sober?

  14. Professor Fate

    Dear lord Eugene O’Neil would have said “nah that’s too much” at this .
    it’s an utter horror show – Holly’s only value to her mother was that she could twirl the baton, but as the joke was she didn’t do it well. always setting herself on fire, she can’t have pleased her mother too much (hence her talk/fantasy/delusion about having another child).
    This whole sequence has been disturbing as hell – and when you add to his other creepy trope – infantilized man children who sit on floor reading comic books while their mother figure wives bring the milk and cookies. It’s disturbing to say the least.

  15. Will

    Holly: I was an only child!
    Holly’s mom: No… there was another.

  16. RudimentaryLathe?

    I just had an awful thought – this week’s (non)story passes the Bechdel Test. And Batty is probably clueless enough to tout this as proof he’s good at writing women.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      No, but let’s see what he is clueless about on his blog today

      Without the element of time moving forward, omnipresent predictability is a constant in a comic strip.

      And he’s bringing this up for the 16,287th time. Tom, for the last time: other, better comic strips have had time progression; your inconsistently applied time skips render it pointless anyway; it doesn’t make your strip any better than it is; and it’s simply not a virtue.

      However, once time is introduced, everything suddenly opens up, and your options increase exponentially. The future of your characters goes from “there is no future” to a future of endless possibilities. The uncertainty can be daunting. As Yogi Berra noted, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

      This is the same sentence repeated four times.

      There are no physical limits to what you can do with time, so it was an ephemeral cosmic moment in the Funkyverse when all at once everything was possible. Suddenly I was able to be less linear and more digressive. I was no longer stuck in time but could begin to imagine things in anytime I wanted.

      Wait. What? Where did this come from? This is a complete 180 from what you were just saying. I didn’t paraphrase anything; it switches that abruptly.

      I could go back and do a director’s cut, as it were, and add material that I hadn’t previously used or write completely new material that would add new levels of depth to a narrative

      Is that what you were doing this week? You “added material” to a light-hearted Act I high school bit, turning it into a Dickensian tale of disfigurement, parental abuse, twisted educational priorities, and the root of someone’s cancer? You constantly announce on your blog that your stories are Very Very Serious and you hate gag writing, so what else are we supposed to make of this?

      which I did with the piece about Lisa’s pregnancy in high school on more than one occasion, each time revealing more closeted aspects of the story

      Yeah, and every time you piled more misery onto it. You changed it into a rape long after the fact. What’s the point of time progression if you can just go back in time and change anything you want? You’re not fleshing out past stories; you’re completely changing them. You’re changing them so much there’s no point to going through them the first time.

      I could retcon (a comic book term for going back and retooling a previous continuity

      Thank you, we all know what a retcon is. Also, it’s not a “comic book term”; some people consume media other than comic books.

      . . . like, Bucky was killed and now he’s better) to my heart’s content.

      Is that your explanation for Phil Holt? You were adhering to your strict rules that time progresses forward, but it was an ephemeral cosmic moment where you could imagine things in anytime you wanted, so Phil Holt can die and then be better to your heart’s content?

      Play God if you will (hey, if you’re going to identify, go big).

      I don’t even know what to say to that. You start out praising yourself for doing one thing and then justifying yourself doing the exact opposite. In one paragraph. I can’t even fathom this level of self-delusion and just plain not making any sense.

      • Sourbelly

        Boy, he sure does write fancy!

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Yeah after this long winded explanation, we still end up with a dull, uninteresting story that makes no sense no matter how many times he retcons it.

        He should have just stayed with gag a day instead of now where his readers gag every day! With act 1 he created several memorable characters, he was able to spin off another strip. This is admirable, but that really is the limit of his talents.

        Maybe he should have kept act 1 going and then started his own comics publishing company on the side. He talks so much about comic books and the process. Why not write that perfect comic book you are always blabbing about?

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          (Act I with gag a day strips) is admirable, but that really is the limit of his talents.

          And that’s the bottom line. Tom Batiuk had all this ambition to turn Funky Winkerbean into the new Winesburg, Ohio (I love that comparison), but he simply didn’t have the talent to deliver it. Even when the strip was still minimally competent, it was treacly, mis-dramatized, poorly plotted, full of empty, unlikeable characters and mismatched tone. It was the textbook definition of glurge, which I’ll repeat here:

          Glurge is the catch-all term for “inspirational” tales which purport to offer uplifting and timeless truths but for various reasons — they carry Unfortunate Implications, they don’t make sense once you’ve thought about them, or the medium is a poor fit for the message — are just a bit too hard to swallow. (The word “glurge” was initially coined by a reader of Snopes and derives from the sound of someone throwing up).

          These stories are presented as modern-day parables, meant to touch hearts and change minds. Unfortunately, they do so by simplifying their message to the point of complete uselessness to any reader who thinks about it seriously. All shades of nuance between good and evil are wholly overlooked in the rush to present a universe in which everything happens for a satisfying reason, meaning that valuable lessons about hard work, understanding, personal growth and sacrifice are left by the wayside.

          • Rusty Shackleford

            “Glurge”. I like that. It does capture the essence of Batty’s style.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            @Rusty Here’s the complete page. Of note is the list of sub-tropes often used in Glurge. Batiuk checks almost every single one of them off the list.

          • J.J. O'Malley

            “Glurge”! Now THAT’S an aquatic-sounding name! I think you’ve just given Flash and Zombie Phil the identity of the fourth member of The Elementals Force!

          • Anonymous Sparrow

            Shouldn’t that be “Whinesburg, Ohio?”

            Thoughts from Sherwood Anderson:

            “Everyone in this world is Christ and they are all crucified.”

            The shoulders of the stranger shook violently, and when he tried to roll a cigarette the paper fell from his trembling fingers. He grew angry and scolded. “They think it’s easy to be a woman, to be loved, but I know better,” he declared. Again he turned to the child. “I understand,” he cried. “Perhaps of all men I alone understand.”

            His glance again wandered away to the darkened street. “I know about her, although she has never crossed my path,” he said softly. “I know about her struggles and her defeats. It is because of her defeats that she is to me the lovely one. Out of her defeats has been born a new quality in woman. I have a name for it. I call it Tandy. I made up the name when I was a true dreamer and before my body became vile. It is the quality of being strong to be loved. It is something men need from women and that they do not get.”

            It should not be cookies, comic-books and milk.

      • William Thompson

        Has he invoked “Rashomon” yet? I can see that. “Kurosawa’s blunder was to present all the different alternate viewpoints in the timeframe of a single movie, for the trivial purpose of illuminating the different character flaws of the dramatis personae. I realized it would serve the discerning readership far better if I presented one viewpoint and gave them several years to contemplate it, then presented a different viewpoint which forced them to reconsider all their intellectual efforts, indeed, even to reflect upon the mutable nature of how we perceive reality itself. Nobel Prize, here I come!”

      • Gerard Plourde

        Thanks for wading through this hogwash. TomBa sure is full of himself in this blog post, isn’t he?

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          He really is! He writes like Hedley Lamarr with head trauma. He’s so busy congratulating himself he forgets to make any sense. And this drivelpuke was part of a published book! It wasn’t a sloppy essay he farted onto his blog just to have a new post. Somebody approved this. Someone who works for a university publisher approved this. What the hell does Kent State see in this guy?

      • none

        Thank you.

        To me, the biggest and simplest counter-point for his interminable auto eroticism with his progression of time in the strip is that it’s all irrelevant if the characters never mentally mature. They don’t. This week … hell, the entirety of the god damned strip to date is an example of it. They’re all drawn older (except for Cindy) but they all still fundamentally act the same way and have as much exposition behind them now as they ever did since the 1970s.

        A fifty year dry heave.

      • batgirl

        “adding new levels of depth” … Here’s a question for TB: so far this retconned arc has added unpleasant depth to Melinoma’s character. What disturbing insights does it give us into bandmaster Harry Dinkle, who looks on again and again as a young girl in his charge harms herself?

        • J.J. O'Malley

          Hey, at least it’s better than the time Dinkle looked on and did nothing as another young girl in his charge DE-‘armed herself!

          I’m sorry. I’ll go sit in the corner now.

  17. batgirl

    We talk about Les or Darin or Pete being TB’s avatar/self-insert, but you know what? Melinda(?) here is the true Author Avatar. She birthed Holly to have one function: (a joke about) fire baton twirling. She has no recognition of her child’s pain, only gratification from the proxy adulation. Despite Holly stating how this hurt her, her mother still sees this as the centrality of Holly’s life. And TB sees the joke as the centrality of Holly’s character.
    The narcissistic parent doesn’t see the child as separate. The child’s accomplishments accrue to the parent’s status. How many of TB’s characters exist to achieve what TB couldn’t, as Holly achieved what her mother couldn’t?

  18. Beavis

    Why isn’t that baton on fire?! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! Heh heh!

  19. Hitorque

    I think the real story here is that Holly was horribly abused as a child