When Arcs Become a Circle.

Link to Today’s Strip.

So after all of Les’ passive aggressive pouting yesterday, he’s actually happy the movie flopped. Peak Les. He’s happy at the failure of others, because it allows him to remain in his own comfort zone. Cassidy Kerr said the movie was going to change his life, and he worried if it was going to be changed for the worse or the better.

May 17, 2020

And ultimately he’s smugly satisfied to realize that his own life hasn’t changed at all. Millions of dollars of vainly wasted money; hours and hours of actors’ and crewpeoples’ lives; none of that is weighed against Les’ own desire to remain static.

Banana Jr. 6000 posted an awesome video in the comments of Tuesday’s post. It dissects what makes a character unlikable. I’m reposting it in case someone missed it, and I highly recommend it to anyone with writing aspirations.

The most damning criticism in the video, as it pertains to Les Moore, is the subject of repeated, fruitless, character arcs: where a portion of the story is dedicated to a character trying to overcome as struggle or flaw only to end up right back where they started from.

“The storytelling, in this case, puts our arc and character into the protagonist’s driver’s seat and makes a sort of promise that this is going somewhere. Instead, the wheel is turned all the way left and they’re going in circles. They’re left complaining about the same thing or acting in the same selfish way they have before. And it becomes harder for us to identify with a universal struggle that they’re going through, and instead we start to get frustrated with them personally.”

How many times have we seen Les pulled in circles? Like a dog lazily chasing its tail, half knowing it doesn’t want to catch it. Just killing time because it’s been chained to the same place for years, and it gives it a sense of a goal.

For my Funky/Cranky crossover continuity review a few days ago, I reread an obscene number of Crankshaft strips. And you know what? Crankshaft is so much better. I’m not saying it’s great, or even consistently good. The recent newspaper closing arc was Funky levels of unbearable. But the characters in that strip choose to do things. Cranky has decided he’s going to electrocute a tree using jumper cables and multiple cars, and he’s making it happen. Lillian decides she’s going to write a book, so she does. Then she writes ten more books and becomes famous in the same time it takes Les Moore to write a prequel about his dead wife in the strangest self-own I have ever seen.

While there are always exceptions: Crankshaft characters act, Funky Winkerbean characters react. In Funky Winkerbean there are a few ancillary characters, like Mason and Chester, who present the main characters with life changing propositions to react to. And in general the characters are happiest when they’re NOT moving. Everyone lives above Montoni’s, everyone works at the High School, or the restaurant. Darin, Pete, and Jess would rather take the nepotism hires close to home than capitalize on their Hollywood successes.

Les is happy the movie flopped. Inertia and entropy are the twin suns that warm his withered soul, and his only hope is to decay in place.

It’s all so tedious.

58 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

58 responses to “When Arcs Become a Circle.

  1. Epicus Doomus

    This one is kind of ominous. Based on how this week has unfolded, it appeared that the cancer movie arc was trudging to a pathetic close, which meant at least there was an upside. But now, for reasons unclear, Les felt compelled to remind the reader that Cassidy Kerr was the “LS” producer, something you’d figure that Cayla was well aware of by this point.

    If the cancer movie arc is dead and buried, why mention Cassidy at all? Sure, it might simply be terrible writing, but I have a very bad feeling that Cassidy will either be emailing or flying Les out to Hollywood to deliver some big LS news, like how it’s doing quite well in Malaysia or nursing homes or something like that. Hope I’m wrong here, but this might be too weirdly specific to be totally meaningless.

    It’s pretty funny how BanTom does these “too humble and grounded to care about fortune and fame” Les arcs over and over and over, which is something you’d figure that someone who didn’t give a shit wouldn’t do. We all know he’d chop up that porch swing and throw it in the fire pit in a second in exchange for seeing “LS” on the big screen, so no one is buying Les’ nonchalant too-real-to-care bullshit no matter how hard he insists on selling it. Nice try, though.

    • J.J. O'Malley

      Like you, Epicus, I wince at Battyuk’s unsubtle methods of reintroducing characters by having their full names, occupations, and occasionally shoe sizes relayed between people who already know said info, when a first name might suffice. But in today’s case, I was thinking…This is SoCal we’re talking about. Maybe at some point she actually changed her full name to “The Producer, Cassidy Kerr.” You know, like “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” or “The Amazing Kreskin.” Maybe it’s her way of standing out amid the other Hollywood predators and parasites.

      The important thing is that Les can now display his gray cornstalks in peace and quiet, with none of that bothersome attention, acclaim, and personal or financial reward that comes with success. Maybe now TB can make the strip about a high school English teacher, or perhaps the crew of lovably eccentric students who attend his classes and then follow how they interact with each other. Nah, that’ll never work.

      • Epicus Doomus

        If this was really the final “Lisa’s Story-The Movie” blow-off arc, why the need to mention Cassidy, who’d we never see again? It’s not like she was a significant character, so why the need to specifically remind us re: who she is? It could merely be an example of The Great Writer padding a skimpy word balloon, obviously that’s always a possibility. But I don’t know, it seems a little fishy to me.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          I think you’re on the right track. Batiuk is trying to show off how very, very humble Les is, before he rewards him yet again with another huge, unearned payoff. So he can act all disinterested yet again.

          This the worst kind of tell-don’t-show; the kind that tells us something we can clearly see isn’t true.

          • Gerard Plourde

            I agree that the “I’m so humble, I don’t care the movie bombed” setup has ominous overtones. It would also fit the “Easter Egg” TomBa dropped that the movie made a profit. If we’re correct, I wonder how sizable that undeserved reward will be.

          • Epicus Doomus

            I don’t think it’ll be huge, exactly. But I can envision some sort of breast cancer awareness-type thing involving Marianne and “her story”. Like a screening at WHS or something really lame like that. Something rewarding for Les, but not “ka-ching!” rewarding, as that would be exploiting Lisa’s death for financial gain, which would be wrong.

          • be ware of eve hill

            In an unexpected twist of fate, Lisa’s Story will be played in oncologist clinics around the world as a cautionary tale.

            Voice-over: Don’t be stupid like the characters in this movie. It is possible to beat cancer.

            Les’s role in Lisa’s death exposed for all to see.

      • be ware of eve hill

        We already have some characters with descriptions built into their names i.e. Mopey Pete Reynolds/Roberts, DeadSkunkhead John Howard.

        Perhaps we can expand and create some more. Recovering Alcoholic Funky Winkerbean, PTSD Stricken Former P.O.W. Wally Winkerbean, War Torn Refugee Adeela (whatever her last name is), One-Armed Becky Howard…

        On second thought, let’s not do that.

        • Mr. A

          Don’t forget My Father…er…Jessica’s Father, John Darling, Who Was Murdered.

        • Margaret

          Crazy Harry actually has his descriptor officially built in! I wish we’d see more stories with him trying to live up to his name. (Salad dressing as an anniversary gift didn’t really cut it.) FW has been so damn boring lately. I fear it may never get back to being so bad it’s good, MST3K-style.

          • be ware of eve hill

            Really! Crazy Harry is a woefully under utilized character. He lived in his school locker and played frozen pizzas on a turntable!

        • be ware of eve hill

          I was curious about Adeela’s last name, so I dug a little. A web search provided no information pertaining to her last name.

          A search of Batiuk’s blog had one result. A solitary entry titled “In the Pipeline – Adeela” consisting of one sketch. There’s a note on the sketch “ADEELA MAY 2017 APPEARS: OCT 2018”.

          The Funky Winkerbean Wikipedia page was last updated on 09/03/2021, but it has no mention of Adeela at all.

          Perhaps Adeela is a mononymous person like Adele, Sting, or Cher? Can she sing?

          • Margaret

            Her last name is Salim or Salam, or Sal something m. It was revealed in the arc where she was taken by ICE. They had her last name mixed up with another Adeela with an almost identical name.

          • Mr. A

            @Margaret: Yeah, it’s “Salih”. Here’s the strip.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            In real life, Arab people don’t exactly have “last” names as we know them in the western world. Their names have a lot of different components, which you can read about at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_name. Local or sectarian variations on these customs can exist. The Arabic language doesn’t easily transliterate to English either. So it’s all a bit arbitrary.

          • be ware of eve hill

            Wow, thanks for the research folks. 👍

            @Mr. A: Were you able to perform some kind of search for that particular strip, or did you sequentially read through the Adeela v. I.C.E. story arc until you found it? Either way, thanks!

            @Banana Jr. 6000: Sorry, poor choice of words. I should have said “family name”. I’m aware other cultures have different naming conventions, i.e. eastern Asians. Close to zero Arabic people in my neck of the woods.

          • Mr. A

            @be ware of eve hill: First I narrowed down the timeframe by using this website’s timeline, then I hopped over to https://v7.comicskingdom.net/ to find the strip. (For some reason, that site doesn’t hide the older strips behind a paywall like the main CK site.) I knew from the timeline that the arc started on September 14th, and I figured the name-drop was two weeks in at least, so I typed in https://v7.comicskingdom.net/comics/funky-winkerbean/2020-09-28/ and proceeded forward from there. And voilà!

    • Jeff M.

      Thing is, there’s a basically sweet sentiment buried here – “I’m happy with my life as it is, here with you.” But for that to happen in this Ohio hellhole it could only be expressed that directly if the character were hit by a pie truck in the next panel.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        But he’s not happy with his life as it is. Les cried when he had to fly home from the Hollywood he claims to hate so much. He shows zero interest in his wife. Les treats Cayla like she’s an office assistant at his corporation “Dead Lisa, Inc.” Les’ life is a constant string of complaints about every tiny little thing. Especially things that happened well over 35 years ago.

        Yeah, it’s a nice sentiment, but it runs contrary to every single thing this man does.

        • Mr. A

          Les cried when he had to fly home from the Hollywood he claims to hate so much.

          Personally, I was unsure how we were meant to interpret Les’s facial expression in that strip. Is it wistfulness for his big Hollywood adventure? Apprehension for how the movie will be received? Exhaustion with the whole business? All or none of the above?

          I know we complain about Batiuk’s “tell, don’t show” tendencies, but I feel that’s a case where we could have done with a little more telling.

          • William Thompson

            Les weeps because the Hollywood sign survived the Great Los Angeles Fire. Now it’s taunting him with his failure to be worshipped by Tinseltown.

  2. billytheskink

    Oh Cassidy Kerr and those Hollywood types, always making promises they can’t keep. I hear ya, Les, I hear ya.

    So when are you taking Cayla to Hong Kong again?

    • William Thompson

      After his next climb up Kilimanjaro, where he will symbolically free himself of the Dead Lisa Legend by leaving some sacred relics at the top. Again.

  3. William Thompson

    Is Batiuk trying to tell any kind of a story with his Dead Lisa movies? (Or Starsux Jones, or the endless “new AK comic-book” spews?) It’s more like he sees FW as a place to advertise his projects. “Look, this project will be a financial and artistic success, and it will only cost pocket money to make it happen! It just needs backers who won’t get in the way!”

  4. Banana Jr. 6000

    Les Moore, is the subject of repeated, fruitless, character arcs: where a portion of the story is dedicated to a character trying to overcome a struggle or flaw only to end up right back where they started from.

    But he doesn’t try! Les just gets everything thing he wants handed to him. And somehow he’s still not happy, in addition to not growing as a character either.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      I guess it’s less that he actively tries, and more that the framing and structure of the story itself seems to indicate that Les is supposed be having some kind of character arc. Like his climb up Kilimanjaro. It seemed like physical journey was supposed to be symbolic for a emotional or spiritual journey he was simultaneously on. But nope. Les climbs mountain, leaves picture of dead wife, and climbs down. He has changed the mountain more than the mountain changed him.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Since you like my video suggestions (thanks for the namedrop, BTW) your comment reminds me of this one:

        Key line: “It’s just repetition. It uses the rhythms of comedy, but with no punchline.” Les stories act like they’re a character growth arc, but they’re not. Not even in a sitcom “everything must return to normal at the end” kind of way. The story acts like Les is growing, even while he’s actively refusing to grow. Everything this man does goes back to Lisa.

  5. “a portion of the story is dedicated to a character trying to overcome as struggle or flaw only to end up right back where they started from.”

    In other words, how a gag-a-day cartoonist would try to write a story when they have a gag-a-day mindset.

  6. Jeff M.

    Well, “Inertia and entropy…” is just about one of the best sentences I’ve ever read, and I wish I had the brains to remember it when the occasion arises. Which is surprisingly often in my world, but that’s another story. An uninteresting story. Which is why I don’t put it in a comic strip.

  7. Paul Jones

    He thinks that he’s keeping his promise to his wife by not moving an inch. He’s a moron. He always was a moron.

  8. Max Bialystock

    Broadway musical. Trust me, it’s on the way.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      Its showstopping number will be ” From Frankie to Spanky,” as Lisa sings of how unhappy she was with Frankie and how happy she is with Les.

      An ensemble number will be “When Is a Bio-Dad a Bio-Hazard?”

      No reason to go back to Murania, or to the Bonjour Tristesse Brassiere Company…

    • billytheskink

      Hopefully with a reprise of Les’ solo number from Funky Winkerbean’s Homecoming, “Why Can’t I Be Popular?”

      • Margaret

        Is that article a joke, or did this performance really happen?

        • billytheskink

          It really happened. There used to be a video of another high school’s (1.5 hour) performance of Funky Winkerbean’s Homecoming floating around on Google’s old video service and late on Youtube. I watched the whole thing once, back when I had less of a life, and I even downloaded it and probably still have it on my old laptop somewhere.

          It’s… well, it’s a play befitting an awkward high-school drama department. True to the strip, Funky himself has a very minor role in the play, which very effectively tortures the audience with bookend musical performances by Dinkle and then Crankshaft. In the video that I’ve seen, the girl playing Crankshaft does his voice as a pretty solid Selma Diamond impression.

      • Gerard Plourde

        I found an impromptu rendition that may be appropriate.

      • The Duck of Death

        Intriguingly, that website, The Morning Call, features exactly the type of hyper-local reporting that the Centerville Sentinel appeared to have specialized in. They still exist, because they report on things people care about, like local high school sports, and also, they are on the Web. Don’t anybody tell Tom. We don’t want to blow his poor mind.

        • Gerard Plourde

          The Morning Call is actually a fairly big operation. It’s the newspaper based in Allentown, Pa, the county seat of Lehigh County and the third largest city in the state with a population of over 121,000. I covers the metropolitan area colloquially known as the Lehigh Valley, which has over 844,000 inhabitants.

  9. be ware of eve hill

    Maybe it’s the romantic in me. As much as I like to rag on Les for his multitude of unlikable character traits, it is nice to see him doing things with Cayla.

    It is a bit of a contrast to the previous story arc, where Funky wasn’t even present for Holly’s big alumni band moment. We never saw Funky while Holly was practicing. We never saw him provide any support. He wasn’t even at the event. Performing at the event was important to Holly, and she was reliving a significant part of her life. That’s what loving partners in a relationship do, support their spouse’s interests (or at least talk them out of it before they hurt themselves).

    Ugh. I paid Les a compliment. I feel dirty now.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Every time Les even speaks to Cayla, it’s about Lisa. When was the last time Les did anything with Cayla that wasn’t Lisa-related? The most recent one I can think of is when “Batton Thomas” visited the high school. But that was Cayla doing her job. And Les embarrassed her in front of him, by asking her a trivia question she didn’t know the answer to.

      • be ware of eve hill

        While Les and Cayla are discussing the Lisa movie in this week’s strips, I don’t believe that’s the primary activity they’re involved in. They’re discussing the movie while shopping for decorations.

        Unless Les demanded they decorate for fall because Lisa always did.
        Les: Lesser Wife, let us shop at the farmer’s market for fall decorations. Greater-wife Lisa would have wanted us to decorate the house the way she liked.

        Yikes.

        Les and Cayla together in Lisa-based activities are pretty much the norm nowadays, but it hasn’t always been that way.

        Cayla took Les shopping for new clothes. Les frustrated the heck out of Cayla because he didn’t meet her expectations as a shopper. Les paid full price for the first suit shown by the sales clerk. It was the infamous brown suit.

        Les announced to Cayla that Masone was staying at their home to prep for the Starbuck Jones movie by reading Holly and Cory’s Starbuck Jones comic book collection.

        There was a story arc where Les is berated for forgetting their wedding anniversary. A book is mentioned, but only in passing. This story arc was the first mention of the infamous Hong Kong trip.

        There have been Sunday one-offs where the couple is together, and Lisa’s name never comes up. Sunday strips where they’re walking in the autumn or enjoying a sunset. The couple is decorating a Christmas tree. Les is working late grading papers and is late coming to bed, etc.

        —————————-
        BTW, it was more like Les embarrassed Batton Thomas. Les overplayed Batton Thomas’ reputation. Cayla didn’t know who he was. Neither did the students in Les’s class. Remember the creepy strip featuring the students with spaced-out eyes? Gah!

  10. hitorque

    1. OKAY LES, WE GET IT — The movie sucked, you’re relieved that it sucked because you’ve already cashed their checks, you’ve already had your five minutes of big shot red carpet Hollywood player treatment, and like you proved the first time around with your infamous “kill fee”, you give less than a rat’s ass about the dent to their respective careers and reputations all your former Hollywood friends are suffering, and you won’t even take your usual pride in the fact that the hottest sexpot in Hollywood credits you with saving her life (twice)… Not to mention the fact that you haven’t given a SINGLE word of gratitude to any of the people high and low who literally bent themselves into pretzels kissing your ass just to spread your “Hagiography of St. Lisa the Closed Playground” to a wider audience. SO **WHY** ARE YOU STILL DRONING ON ABOUT IT?! **WHY** HAS CAYLA NOT TOLD HER HUSBAND TO SHUT THE FUCK UP ALREADY AND MOVE ON WITH LIFE?!

    2. If Les hates fame and artistic notoriety this fucking much, WHY DID HE EVEN PUBLISH THE GODDAMNED BOOK TO BEGIN WITH?? NOT TO MENTION THE SEQUEL, THE PREQUEL STORY, AND THE MOTHERFUCKING GRAPHIC NOVEL ADAPTATION?! I’d have thought turning your misery porn into a comic book would have been more cynical and crassly commercial than any potential Hollywood adaptation…

    3. Can I backtrack to that lunch meeting with Cassidy Kerr? Because this is a perfect example of showpiece theater – Because Les isn’t even needed, everything of importance has already been decided; Masone and Cassidy can no doubt work out the rest of the details themselves. This entire charade has been set up JUST to generate the illusion that Les is involved and they actually value his input on decision making, in case he gets cold feet again and starts mumbling to himself about a kill fee. This charade was repeated at least two more times, first with the casting of Lisa (which again was already decided, but was engineered to make Les believe casting Marianne Winters was *his* choice), and later on with the cameo appearance as a waiter, which was just tossing him a crumb because nobody likes being around that indifferent, unenthusiastic guy all the time in a work environment.

    3a. I’m not about to go digging in the archives, but I’m hard pressed to remember any time Les displayed any true excitement and enthusiasm that lasted more than a day since that day he was beating the hell out of Jerome Bushka in tennis.

    3b. Now, to the meeting itself: First of all, Les would have taken vacation time for his pseudo power meeting, instead of trying to teach his classes from his freaking smartphone… Secondly, I don’t know if this is a “thing” in Southern California or not, but as a lifelong East Coaster, Lester Freaking Moore would know damn well to either leave his smartphone in his hotel room, or put it in airplane mode when he’s attending the single biggest power meeting in his life… Thirdly, I know she’s just making inane conversation as part of the charade, but there’s no way Cassidy Kerr wouldn’t have known everything there is to know about Les (especially his freaking occupation) before agreeing to meet with him. Finally, as I have noted countless times before, the revenues from Lester’s book sales and selling the rights to Hollywood (twice) should have EASILY allowed him and Cayla to retire early, and that’s before we talk about their generous Ohio public schools system pensions…

  11. Years ago, I used to give all of the managers who worked for me a book by Spencer Johnson entitled, “Who Moved My Cheese?” It’s a book about dealing with and embracing change and recognizing that change, not atrophy and permanence, is the engine of life. Giving such a book to Les would be a waste of my money and his time. Les’ false humility is a cover for his fear of change, particularity if that change benefits someone other than himself. He is a sad little man and I don’t feel sorry for him, but I do pity those who have to put with him daily.

    • Suicide Squirrel

      I listened to the audiobook of “Who Moved My Cheese?” with my boss back in the early 2000s during lunch breaks. Tony Roberts narrated.

      The book introduced the phrase “hem and haw” into my vocabulary.

  12. Rusty Shackleford

    Regarding today’s Crankshaft, what is the backstory of his neighbors Morgan and Chase?

    Gotta be some slam on rich people.

    • billytheskink

      Morgan and Chase are a well-to-do, younger, childless couple that moved next door to Crankshaft in the early 00s (as I recall) seemingly to set up culture clash gags with Ed that TB couldn’t pull off with the McKenzie sisters. They’ve appeared a lot less often in the last 5-10 years than they did when they first showed up, oftentimes only appearing so they can accept whatever produce Ed is giving away from his garden rather than in the service of a joke or gag.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Thanks. Batty loves his old people.

      • The Duck of Death

        And their names… hee hee… their names — ah-ha-ha-ha… ‘scuse me, this kills me — their names are the names of big banks! Chase and Morgan, get it? Banks? And banks have lots of money! And so do Chase and Morgan! Because — get this — they are rich! Seriously, my sides! How many people are even capable of understanding Batiuk’s subtle wordplay? It’s like a beautifully wrapped gift that only the über-Winkerfans get to open! THAT’s writing, my friends!

    • Suicide Squirrel

      The Crankshaftcomic.com bio says:

      Morgan and Chase Lambert are a young couple who have just moved into the neighborhood. Despite their age differences, they have one thing in common … Ed Crankshaft drives them crazy.

      I believe the Lamberts live on one side of Crankshaft’s home and Lillian McKenzie on the other.