Flaming Batom Schtick

Apologies for today’s short post, but this story arc has gone about as well as my week at work has… And today’s strip doesn’t do much to improve matters. It doesn’t do much period.

The insurance companies Dinkle may have put a stop to the flaming baton trick, but don’t you dare think he is losing his touch. He has happily proposed maiming senior citizens with fire in recent years.


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

29 responses to “Flaming Batom Schtick

  1. Epicus Doomus

    Well, this one is a cliffhanger of sorts, which means that this…thing, whatever it’s supposed to be, isn’t quite over yet. Maybe it’ll turn into a Very Special Prestige arc about burn victims or fire safety, with Les rescuing beautiful young cheerleaders from a burning concession stand, while Dinkle volunteers to “conduct” the search and rescue team as they scour the smoldering remains of WHS for survivors. Funky could bring pizza (“it’s still not as burnt as our crust is!”), Pete and Boy Lisa could get a new idea for a comic book, the whole town could get involved.

  2. Banana Jr. 6000

    Two goddam weeks of flaming baton jokes and now there’s no flaming baton at all. And Melinda is making a disappointed face. WTF, Tom?

  3. J.J. O'Malley

    One seemingly small thing in today’s strip struck me as symptomatic of the utter disregard for logic that this “storyline” has displayed over the last (Choke! Good Lord!) two weeks. Are we supposed to believe that in the last 35-plus years since Frau Winkerbean’s graduation from Westview High–a period during which I believe she lived in the area, married a local merchant, raised a “family,” and dispensed uncountable (and uneatable) slices of pizza–Holly hasn’t been to a single school football game, and never noticed that the majorettes who followed in her bootsteps weren’t tossing those firebombs on a stick? That seems highly unlikely.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      To rewrite Christopher Marlowe:

      “Why, this is High School, nor are we out of it. Thinkst thou that we who saw the flaming baton of Holly and tasted the eternal joys of burn wards are not tormented with ten thousand pizzas in being deprived of eternal bleats?”

      My current re-reading is Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” and if Marlow thought Africa was dark (and that the darkness is in us all), he should have journeyed to Westview and mounted what Anna Vaught calls
      “the tenebrous dark spiral staircase of the self.”

  4. William Thompson

    So why do both Holly and Melinda look so crestfallen? Is Holly afraid her mother will blame her for this disappointment? “You terrible child! You cost me a final chance to show everyone how well I trained you in that marvelous trick! I’ll never forgive you!” Or are they both upset to have missed all the excitement of possible incineration and trips to the hospital, with all the attention they would garner?

    Or maybe they’re just lunatics.

  5. Sourbelly

    I don’t know what scares me more: Holly’s forehead claw, or the fact that we’ve spent a fortnight on this flaming baton nonjoke.

    Also, Ayers continues to eschew backgrounds. Good for him. This dog poo doesn’t deserve them.

    • billytheskink

      Surely the only reason no one has attacked her with scissors and snipped that infuriating cowlick off is because it is actually part of her skull bone.

  6. erdmann

    Good grief! It’s hard to believe the woman in the 2017 strip and the one in today’s strip are the same person. Not only do they look nothing alike, the Holly in the older comic is vehemently opposed to the flaming baton trick, calling Dinkle “that band director” and warning Mort about the trick in the way a mother might warn her teen daughter about what to do if the band director invites her up to his hotel room after performing at the Rose Bowl Parade. Today’s Holly seems sad to learn it was discontinued long ago.
    And I agree, she should have already known about it. None of these characters ever truly left high school, so how is it Holly and her repugnant mother weren’t aware of this the moment the principal realized there was nothing in the school handbook that required them to keep performing the stupid stunt?

    • Epicus Doomus

      You can really see how the artwork has deteriorated over the course of Act III. I mean, we were all goofing on it years ago but it’s somehow gotten even worse as the years have trudged by. There’s a certain half-assedness to it now, just a kind of “who gives a shit?” look to everything. The characters themselves are almost indistinguishable now, which is why he wastes precious word balloon space on referring to everyone by name all the time, regardless of how clumsy it is.

      “Hello, Harry Dinkle, band director? This is Holly Winkerbean, formerly Budd, Funky Winkerbean’s wife. How are you?”

      “Oh hello, Holly, my former flaming baton twirler, how are you?”

      Otherwise unwitting readers might think Funky is parading around in drag and talking to Buck for some reason while Lillian from “Crankshaft” looks on in the background.

      • Yeah, resembling the final days of A3G more and more every day.

        • The Duck of Death

          Yes and no. Yes, because it looks like the lines themselves are becoming unraveled as the days pass, as if someday we’ll open the strip and just see what looks like a pile of black spaghetti strewn across the bottom of a white rectangle.

          But no, because I think Frank Bolle was still trying. I suspect he had some level of dementia and wasn’t able to realize that he really needed to quit, or perhaps he desperately needed the money. And Bolle had once been a more than capable comic artist. What happened there was simply sad. What’s happening here is not dementia or desperation — it’s “I don’t give a fuck about the audience and I don’t have a lick of pride in the work I sign. Here’s your shit. Pay me.” I don’t feel the pity I felt for Bolle. I feel only contempt, for both Batiuk and Ayers.

          • be ware of eve hill

            I can sense a certain lack of enthusiasm from Chuck Ayers. But think about it. Would you want to put forth your best effort on this crap?

            I can almost imagine Chuck’s feelings. He quit drawing the strip once because he wanted to work on other projects. He got pulled back in when Rick Burchett quit. Chuck and Batty have been friends since college and he most likely felt some sense of obligation to return.
            Chuck Ayers: Okay Tom, I’ll draw the strip until you find someone to replace Rick.

            Years later.
            Chuck Ayers: Hey Tom, how is the search for a new artist coming along?
            Tom Batiuk I… uh… can’t seem to find anyone. It’s a good thing I have a good friend like you I can depend on.
            Chuck Ayers: (muttering to himself) * sigh * I ain’t paid enough to draw this shit! If we weren’t old friends I’d bail in an instant.

            I wonder what it is like for Ayers to watch his friend devolve into writing this nauseating, self-serving trash.

            Does anybody know why Rick Burchett stopped penciling Funky Winkerbean? At the end of his stint, the quality of his work on this strip REALLY declined. I remember mocking his art for its slapdash appearance. Did Rick also have that “certain lack of enthusiasm”?

            I wonder why Batiuk quit drawing the strip himself.

          • The Duck of Death

            I spent my career in a creative field doing work for hire, and I can tell you that the best way to cure someone of giving a fuck is to micromanage them. Now, I don’t know this for sure, but Batty seems like the type who believes his way is the best way, always. If that is the case, it would explain why Burchett gave up trying and quit, and why Ayers slaps any old crap on the page and calls it a day.

            Look at other legacy strips, especially those no longer drawn by their creators. Say… Beetle Bailey. The Lockhorns. Family Circus. Shoe. They are capably drawn, and they stay on model always. The characters always look consistent. Now look at this piece of dreck, scribbled apparently in a drunken slump at 6 AM before a 7 AM deadline.

            What’s the difference? Batiuk is the difference. I think he’s doing something to destroy his artists’ give-a-fuck.

          • be ware of eve hill

            I discovered something interesting while I was searching for an article on Burchett’s departure from FW.

            In 2017 Burchett replaced Chuck Ayers as the penciller on the syndicated comic strip Funky Winkerbean, debuting with the May 25 installment.

            Penciller? I don’t know much about comic strip art, but doesn’t that mean someone else is “inking” the strip? Who’s the inker, Batiuk? Is he the common denominator? Does Batty add that particular craptitude to the strip? Does the writer/inker/letterer constantly run out of time? Clearly, Batty prefers to spend his time writing his blog and reading comic books.

            Your last post reminds of a strip during the Comic-Con story arc a few months ago. It was one of the strips where Flash and Darin were discussing Phil Holt on the plane. The artwork was incredibly obscured by the word balloons Hindenburgs Batty added later. I can easily imagine Chuck looking on aghast as Batty pulls out his big pink eraser and obliterates 80% of Chuck’s artwork.

          • be ware of eve hill

            Family Circus stays on model because Jeffy Keane recycles Big Bil’s artwork. He may replace a transistor radio with a cell phone or give Thel a modern hairstyle, but the panels are almost identical.

            Jeff Keane, you fool no one.

    • Mr. A

      To be absolutely fair, that 2017 strip is from Burchett’s tenure, so some of the change in Holly’s appearance is just the difference between his style and Ayers’s. As for the writing, I’ve got nothin’.

    • billytheskink

      It should be noted that the 2017 strip was drawn by Rick Burchett and not Ayers or Batiuk. Burchett often struggled to keep character designs consistent from panel-to-panel (lots of heads that make Peyton Manning’s look round), had a very strange way of drawing mouths, and seemed to tire of working on the strip almost immediately. Despite this sloppiness, though, he did bring a genuine cartoonist’s flair to drawing the strip, with exaggerated expressions (relatively speaking), odd perspectives, and actual attempts to convey action. Naturally, all of these strengths are the opposite of anything TB wants this strip to be and he stopped drawing the strip within a year of starting.

    • gleeb

      Rick Burchett is not dead, nor is Tom Batiuk. If Batiuk wanted continuity, he could have had it. Batiuk wanted adults-talkin-komix and more creepy Les. He made his choices.

  7. Gerard Plourde

    Is the statement that Dinkle did away with the flaming baton trick after Holly graduated supposed to be funny? We had a full week of exposition stating that Holly was burned every time it was performed and that her injuries were sufficiently serious that her school pictures had to be taken before the school year started to avoid showing them. It seems to me tht the advice Harriet gave to Harry is apropos for TomBa – Pick a lane. Your strip can’t have cartoon violence and be “an inch from reality” at the same time.

    I also see that the strip that refers to Bedside Manor Band doing pyrotechnics is from the Batiuk/Burchett period. Like Phil Holt’s death, I expect this to be retconned away.

    • Epicus Doomus

      The really interesting thing about that old strip is how Morton’s Alzheimer’s had already reversed itself by 2017, which means he’s been recovered from dementia longer than he had it, which is probably a medical first.

  8. So…Holly calls Dinkle and they have an alumni band just like that? No other calls to make, no one who’s too busy or doesn’t want to?

    Yeah, this is a master storyteller. To those who say “That would just make the story longer,” the story’s been too long since the first installment.

  9. Tyler Chitlins

    Well, at least we ain’t seein’ Les.

  10. Don

    “And now, for the first time in X years, we’re christening Westview’s new artificial turf football surface with…the Flaming Baton Trick!”
    “Next item on the school board meeting agenda: figuring out who decided to get an artificial turf surface that was highly flammable.”
    “Well, you wanted cheap, and how likely is it for someone to have something flammable on the field during a football game?”

  11. The Duck of Death

    I just have the queasy feeling that all this is going to be a 4-month lead-up to the Rose Bowl/Dinkle tie-in. (I’d be excited if I dared to hope that there would be a Holly cosplayer marching alongside him, twirling an LED-lit “flaming” baton. But nothing that fun could ever happen in the Dinkleverse.)

    Batiuk, as someone observed a couple weeks ago, can’t even revisit the fun years of Funky Winkerbean. He’s either not willing or not capable, or both. All he can do is remind us that there were once fun years, and there were once well-liked characters. “Hey, remember when this strip used to be good? Like 20 years ago? Remember, huh? That was great, right?”

    It’s not having the effect he thinks. It’s not making people fondly remember the old FW. It’s just drawing attention to how incredibly far he’s fallen from a strip that was only pretty good at its best.

    • Gerard Plourde

      “It’s not having the effect he thinks. It’s not making people fondly remember the old FW.“

      It’s actually creepier. By trying to fit the “cartoon violence” into the “reality” strip which he thinks he’s now writing, he’s glorifying abuse and bullying behavior. At least when he recalled Les’ hall monitor machine gun he unconvincingly made the joke that is was cardboard. The story he’s put together here with every responsible adult downplaying burns and lauding Holly’s recuperative skills would land Melinda and Dinkle in court for child abuse (not to mention the school faculty and administration as failing to comply with mandatory reporting statutes).

      It amazes me that he can’t see this.

  12. be ware of eve hill

    Aw, too bad. What a big letdown. Oh well, you tried.

    Can we at least have a sideways strip tomorrow of Holly combusting back in her high school days? FWOOOSH!!!

    New story arc on Monday! Where will the wheel of disappointment stop?!