Click Here to See an Anatomically Incomprehensible Funky
I’m sorry Jimmy. A broken sarcasm meter is one of the most common injuries suffered by SOSF commenters. We’ve been trying to pioneer a new treatment that involves carefully grafting sarcasm from other sources to the site of the meter injury.
But Wally Winkerbean is a name I’ve seen mentioned again and again, both in our comments and in the comments on Comics Kingdom. So I spent way too long over the last few days pondering the character of Wally Winkerbean, an exercise nearly as psychologically damaging as the actual act of BEING Wally Winkerbean.
And the whole time, I was asking myself, is this man the Pizza Monster?
Suspect: Wally Winkerbean.
1.) Wally could fit the physical description. He is nearly always drawn equal to or just a shade shorter than Funky. He is physically fit.
2.) Wally has former military friends and connections. While he probably lacks the funds to hire a helicopter, maybe a pilot buddy owes him a favor.
3.) Wally is familiar with helicopters.
4.) Wally is a manager of Montoni’s, and lives above the store. He is very familiar with the building. This works against the Mason Jarre theory. Would Mason have known about the roof ladder? Would he have had a key to the side delivery door? Would he be able to plan his interior getaway through the upstairs apartment? Did this require a key? Wally would have all of these things.
And here is where things get hazy. What motive would Wally have to do this? Who is Wally?
I don’t even think he really knows. He’s like a dog that’s been kicked around one too many times. He’s so guarded. He lingers at the edges of panels, letting other people do the talking, smiling benignly. He’s always trying to be helpful, always aiming to please and not cause a fuss or make trouble. Like he’s apologizing for existing.
Because he is.
Wally used to be an underachieving, pseudo delinquent who spent his days goofing off at band practice and dragging a frozen turkey around on a string.
And then, right after high school graduation, when he was joyfully confessing his drunken love, he caused a horrible car accident that maimed his girlfriend and ruined her music scholarship. He didn’t speak to her for more than a year and joined the military. To atone? To escape? Both?
The car accident sets Wally off on a spiraling cycle of trauma and atonement. He is in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, presumed dead (for the FIRST time) but escapes captivity and returns to Westview to marry Becky.
But the trauma of Afghanistan weighs on him, and he returns to the country in an attempt to atone for that. Both he AND Becky are nearly exploded, and adopt an orphaned girl.
Wally is unexpectedly redeployed to Iraq. When he gets there he learns that his wife is pregnant and he misses the birth of his son. During the time skip wally is exploded by a roadside IED, and held captive for years. The only face he can remember during his long imprisonment is the face of his beloved Becky.
And when he’s finally reunited with her, she shows him her second husband, takes him to his own grave, hands him a trombone, tells him Dinkle said hi, and LETS HIM WALK TO FUNKY’S HOUSE.
And you know what? He takes it all. We barely see him complain. He just accepts it. He gets angry and loses it ONE TIME to a random guy at a traffic light. He has a panic attack at a basketball game. But he doesn’t want anyone to make a big fuss on his account. When he can’t minimize, he apologizes. When someone helps, him he thanks them. He resists help only when he sees it as fruitless or too much of a hassle.
Eventually, Wally get’s his wonder dog and his wonder wife, and things have mostly turned around. He’s happy now. But he still seems happiest when he’s pleasing others, or when he’s doing good. That’s what the Adeela thing turned out to be. She reminded him of his sins and trauma, so first he tried to run away. Then he tried to please her. He offered her a job, helped her get her license, worked to keep her from being deported, just another bit of atonement for the fact that poor Wally still doesn’t really think he’s worth the hassle.
Why would this sad sack of a man be the Pizza Monster? Why would he torment the one person who was there for him when even his own wife had abandoned him?
And so again: Motive:
1.) Similar to a Mason theory, Wally believes that this yearly prank is somehow good for Funky. Either as a distraction from grief, or a catalyst to shock Funky out of his usual ennui. He believes this helps Funky so much that he is willing to go through a dangerous stunt that would likely trigger his PTSD.
2.) When you peel back the layers and layers and layers of guilt and trauma, there is something inside Wally that craves the boy he used to be. A prankster. A fearless daredevil. And that buried side of himself has responded to his life’s trauma by craving first the anarchy of anonymous pizza theft, and then the danger of this year’s stunt. Even Wally seems to realize that he is repressing something.
At what moment in Wally’s life did he feel the most joy? When did the art show us he was completely free of the weight of all his guilt and inadequacies?
The adrenaline pounding in his veins, the rush of air in his lungs, the unbridled cry of triumph. Yes, I am alive! I have done the impossible! I have stood at the precipice of death. Yet everything I love awaits me in safety! I have broken the rules of this dark universe!
What would Wally do to recapture that moment when every thought in his tortured brain was blanked out by wordless, animal joy?
Would he become….the Pizza Monster?
43 responses to “It’s Always the Quiet Ones.”
Ah, Buddy, Whatever happened to that dog? And Rachel’s kid…whatever happened there? Remnants of a more ambitious time in Act III history, I suppose.
I think Rachel’s kid last appeared about a year ago, in the “Wheelchair Ramp Week” wrap-up.
Buddy went to the Valentine with Wally and Rachel last October. So he’s still kicking. It seems like Wally feels secure enough at Montoni’s to leave the pupper lounging around upstairs.
I guess they’re both romping happily at that farm upstate.
Check Cory between panels one and two. He flashes (lol) between the left side of the “screen” and the right side. He obviously is the Flash.
The one Tom Batiuk likes, I mean. So, because Cory drank the mongoose fluid when he was struck by lightning when a shelf of chemicals fell on him, (which is DUH the only way one can get super-speed powers) he was now the Wally West Flash, because “Wally” and “Westview.”
So, because he has superspeed powers and stuff, he can be the Box Monster, the helicopter pilot AND innocent dindu nuffin Cory, and everyone remains baffled until next year when Cory says, “You bore me” and kills the entire cast. In a microsecond, while some pop song cover plays.
To which I say, break out Johnny Quick’s Magic Formula, and sing:
Johnny’s sidekick, Tubby Watts, is seen eating pizza in an issue of *All-Star Squadron.* I don’t think it came from Montoni’s, though.
I always confuse Johnny Quick with the guy who controls a pink lightning demon.
Say, you shouldn’t confuse Johnny Thunder with Johnny Quick…
(Cei-U — pronounced “say you” — brings about Johnny Thunder’s “pink lightning demon,” who will obey his bidding for an hour. “3X2(9YZ)4A” gives Johnny Chambers super-speed as Johnny Quick. Unlike the Flash, Johnny can fly, but not as fast as he can run.)
This is pretty much off-topic, just spinning off from a previous comment about how TB has even less interest in the current high school characters than he had in Owen and Cody.
I understand that the writer of a comic strip has to give fairly detailed instruction to the artist (if they are different people, of course) on backgrounds, facial expressions, even clothing and gestures. Neil Gaiman said that writing a novel was easier than writing a comic because he could skimp on description and leave it to the readers’ imaginations, and I think it was Karen Moy who talked about learning what information to give the Mary Worth artist of the time.
So I’ve been wondering – when TB instructs Ayers or whomever on a high school strip, does he provide names of the characters, or does he say ‘that Black kid with the high forehead’, etc.?
“Block the stairs!!! I knew I forgot to do something that night! And now the world has the John Darling book AND the Lisa book. Ugh.”
– The 1997 Montoni’s Fire
Excellent analysis as usual, CBH.
I guess the Pizza Monster arc is extending into Sunday this year? Or a second week of dailies? That’s new.
Or, after today’s strip, it will never be mentioned again until next year.
At this point, I hope it’s Wally, or else Funky just chased a desperate lunatic (a person who likes Montoni’s pizza) into his nephew/cousin’s home.
Thanks for making the Pizza Monster story fun this year CBH, and everyone!
Talk about making something out of nothing CBH. Well done.
As for this annual arc, ten pounds of crap in a five pound bag.
Well, Harriet definitely solved one mystery this week. Thanks to those older strips, we can confirm that Becky is the cover of Volume 11:
1. Wait… Did Wally put on a flak suit just to stomp on a landmine? I need some context here…
2. I still need to know how the hell someone gets captured TWICE, because Wally must really suck as an infantryman. After the first stint as a POW, I’d have thought a soldier would fight to the death rather than face another capture. And are Islamic terrorist organizations in the habit of capturing a freaking dimwitted Corporal with no intelligence value or relevant information, and feeding/clothing/sheltering him for years without bothering to tell anyone they had him, or at least making him parade around in a propaganda video??
1.Wally returned to Afghanistan to help clear landmines. Being a Winkerbean, of course he stepped on one. It was a nasty jumping mine, but he swatted it away like a baseball.
2. Also, POWs gfrom back pay by the military. Despite this, Wally and Rachel live in the nasty greasy apartment about the lousy pizza joint. OK, short commute, but otherwise nasty. And why? Because Wally is still paying off his room and board to his captors.
1. Was Walter an EOD tech or Engineer? If not, why would he be on a demining detail?
2. Is he doing this as a *civilian*? Because he’s not wearing any Army issue gear… And where’s his metal detector and equipment?
3. Walter and Batiuk DO realize we have machines and vehicles for demining now, right?
4. GOD DAMNIT THE HELL FUCK SHIT PISS TITS BALLS LANDMINES DON’T WORK THAT WAY!! Even if he had the superhuman ninja reflexes to slap away the detonating charge (and he doesn’t), he still wouldn’t have slapped it far enough to save himself…
In answer to two of your questions.
2.) Wally was doing this as a civilian with an NGO.
3.) This was circa 2003? And he was part of a group that was merely marking where landmines were to be removed later. Not sure how that lines up with the development of demining vehicles.
The other thing that strikes me about these legacy Wally strips is how little anyone reacts to anything.
“Oh, sigh, I still have nightmares about that night where my drunk driving dismembered a talented musician, for which I should have been jailed and sued into oblivion.”
“There goes the man I was going to marry once, but I married another man because I thought he was dead. And I just learned his love for me was the only thing that kept him alive in captivity, after I showed him his own tombstone. Oh, life is such a bother sometimes.”
Now look at Funky in panel one, having a catatonic breakdown about this stupid non-event. The scene looks like he’s going upstairs to stop someone from jumping! Where is this passion and urgency when Batiuk’s doing one of his “serious” stories? Why are these gut-wrenching stories so sloppy, flippant and detached, when the goddam Pizza Box Monster is treated with such grim seriousness?
Yes, I know you can do a “Rape of the Lock” bit, where the joke is that everyone takes the trivial thing too seriously. I would even say that was a theme in Act I. But this doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be a joke! It feels like it’s trying to be a dramatic scene, but not in a way where the seriousness complements the humor. Neither works, because they’re completely at odds with each other.
“The other thing that strikes me about these legacy Wally strips is how little anyone reacts to anything.”
This highlights on the core problem with the strip. He treats his characters as one or two dimensional set pieces that he can manipulate to achieve the goal he has in mind. Like the Silver Age comics he grew up on, the Act 2 and Act 3 stories are plot-driven rather than character-driven. There’s nothing wrong with a plot-driven story per se and lots of good fiction is plot-driven, but it’s the wrong approach to take when telling stories like the accident that changed Becky’s life or the situation Wally and Becky faced when he was mistakenly declared dead and reappeared after ten years, or, most glaringly, how a single dad raises his pre-school age daughter in the wake of his wife’s death from cancer, a death hastened by malpractice. These are stories that demand character reactions and development. Instead, they are summarily dropped at he outset.
That’s a terrific observation, Tom Batiuk’s storytelling.is exactly like the goddam Silver Age comic books he never outgrew. Even though Silver Age comic books outgrew themselves. They started telling more complex, character-based, realistic stories. Exactly what Tom Batiuk refused to do, but constantly pats himself on the back for doing.
If Tom Batiuk had an editor in 2006, he would have said “No. You spent all this time killing Lisa, you’re going to make the rest of the characters deal with her death. Or you can end the strip.” (Firing Batiuk and hiring someone else to continue FW should also have been an option, but Batiuk’s litigousness probably forestalled that.)
Which in retrospect, would have been a fine ending for Funky Winkerbean. It could have had a positive legacy of two acts, a lighthearted one and a serious one. We’d all be wondering what happened next. Instead, we all know what happened after Lisa died: nothing.
Which Winkerbean was the one who stole money from the book author’s charitable fundraising running event?
Also, how is it established that Wally and Funky are cousins rather than nephew and uncle?
The incorrigible Cory was the Winkerbean who stole money from the “book author’s charitable fundraising running event”.
As for the nephew/conundrum, I can’t tell when or why the switch occurred. I guess sometime between infancy and high school.
Only Batiuk could write a blog mentioning the reader’s confusion over the relationship and then completely fail to answer the question. I think the readers caught Batiuk’s boo boo and he doesn’t have the humility to admit he goofed. The Master of Confusion himself, claims he’s going to get around to documenting the character family tree… someday. 🤷
The phrasing is a bit offbeat, but I think the intended understanding is that Wally is in fact Funky’s cousin. That’s the first thing Batiuk mentions, and he never uses the words “uncle” or “nephew” at any point.
I also went and pulled up the arc that Batiuk’s referring to; Wally calls Funky “Uncle” on Monday (strip, post), but on Tuesday he confirms that they are actually cousins, and says that he calls Funky “Uncle” to tease him about how old he is (strip, post).
It was hypocritical of me to blame Batiuk for not addressing the relationship confusion when I was guilty of the same in my previous post.
I hate to contradict you because you’ve been so nice to me, but I believe you have fallen for Batiuk’s cover-up. The Wally nephew v. cousin confusion started well before that 11/19/2018
Submitted for your approval:
(please search for the term “nephew” in the linked webpages, if you don’t believe my cut & pasted quotes):
Wally Winkerbean–Funky’s younger nephew, left for the military after graduation following a drunk driving accident which involved Becky; returned briefly following Funky’s intervention and is now missing in action in Afghanistan (post 9/11 storyline)
Cindy Summers, Ex-Wife
Holly Budd Winkerbean, Wife
Wally Winkerbean, Nephew
Don’t worry, folks: This month just has less abject depression than average, which for Funky Winkerbean still means it’s like mainlining a Morrissey album every Sunday after Garfield. This time, it focuses on Wally Winkerbean, Funky’s nephew, a former prisoner of war who was left traumatized with PTSD after his experiences in the Middle East.
Published: August 2, 2011
The major development from last month’s strips is that Wally and Rachel are getting married! You remember Wally and Rachel, right? If you don’t, he’s Funky’s nephew who was held prisoner in the Middle East and returned with PTSD so severe that he never spoke to anyone and couldn’t walk down the street without being paralyzed with fear that he was about to trigger an IED or be forced to shoot a child.
Published: September 4, 2013
The strip remained humorous, but also started to take on more serious topics–Wally Winkerbean, who I think is Funky’s nephew, crashed his car while drunk, injuring his girlfriend Becky and leading to her arm being amputated.
Here’s Funky, who should be happy that his cousin/nephew with the shattered psyche, who has been close to suicide and/or homelessness for years, has been able to find happiness and peace, but instead he’s merely thinking about himself and his own life’s mistakes.
a few years back the writers had funky and his gang grow up. they put les in as a teacher at the high school and gave funky a nephew that was a freshman, along with cindy’s little sister. there by keeping the high school thing going. i figure funky must have much older siblings to have a kid around funky’s age. when funky’s nephew was in his senior year (two years ago) he and his prom date (becky) got into a serious drunk driving accident. that storyline was the first time i EVER got physically ill over a comic strip
Actually the Wedding will be in the restaurant. (A double wedding with Funky and his new girlfriend and his nephew Wally and his fiance)
Posted by: Bunch at March 9, 2005 08:49 PM
Bull Drove his car over a cliff??’?
Was it the same cliff Funky’s nephew drove over some years back?
Wally’s not Funky’s son, he’s either his cousin or his nephew, Batiuk can’t make up his mind which.
There are too many times the issue has been raised over the years and too many confused readers for Wally to be solely mentioned as Funky’s cousin from the get-go.
I’d like to see a newspaper featuring the original strip from 1974, where Les and Funky are looking down at little Wally in the bassinet. I imagine the strip in the “Complete Funky Winkerbean” has been retroactively changed to “cousin”.
Thomas Martin Batiuk does not take criticism well, and never admits he made a mistake.
Conspiracy eve signing off.
Ma’am….I stand in line. That is a level of deep dive to supersede my deepest madness.
Wow, that’s a lot of sources! It’s certainly very much in character for Batiuk to forget how two characters are related, causing confusion in the readers, and then only come up with a “fix” many years later.
I did a little research myself. As it happens, the very first entry in the Funkyblog acknowledges widespread reader confusion over Wally’s relationship to Funky:
That was posted on November 27th, 2006. So it only took Batiuk 12 years to come up with an explanation and share it with the readers.
By the way, did you notice that Wally is not shown in the “meet the cast” pictures on the official FW website? Those pictures were last updated in 2013, which is four years after his “return from the dead”. And the FAQ question about him hasn’t been updated since the FAQ section was first created in 2008. But hey, if you want to learn what Natalie Mancuso does for a living, or how Eric “Mooch” Myers got his nickname, the site has you covered.
Sorry about that Reddit link. I don’t know why it expanded. A half-decent read, I suppose.
Thanks. It was just a web search using “Winkerbean nephew” and I selected the relevant results. I’ve had the cousin/nephew discussion before in another forum.
I think you are selling yourself short. Your research and writing have been stellar this week. You did a great job getting me involved in the discussion. It’s been fun!
There’s a website that maintains an archive of webpages?! Nice!
I’ve seen the cast webpage before but it disappeared a few years ago. There are profiles for the Westview High girls gym teacher and the Montoni’s chef (I don’t remember their names) but none for Wally Winkerbean? I guess the poor guy was forgotten in a P.O.W. camp.
Huh, I don’t remember an FAQ section at funkywinkerbean.com at all.
Thank you for your research!
@be ware of eve hill: Funnily enough, I read that same Reddit post a few weeks ago. I wanted to leave a comment clarifying that John Darling’s murderer was not identified (or even decided upon by Batiuk) at the time his strip ended, and it was a few years before Les discovered in FW that Pete Moss was the killer…but the post was more than six months old, so comments were disabled. Darn it.
Wait, Wally and Becky have a son? Who is he? Has he ever been in the strip? Does Skunkhead know?
Wally Jr., who must be around 20 by now. He’s rarely seen.
That is one of the oddest things about the strip, although God knows there’s plenty of things to choose from. But the way the parents in FW ignore their children is inexplicable. OK so Batiuk skipped over Les raising Summer as a single father, but we could assume that at least something happened. But so many couples in the strip have children they never talk about and who never appear, even when they’re little. I think we’ve seen Skyler maybe four times total. Both parents acted like he didn’t exist and they could do anything they wanted despite having a toddler. Bull’s kids did not even attend his funeral? For that matter they never showed up while he was sick. And Linda never mentioned them or asked them for help. Someone should remind Cayla that she has a daughter named Keisha. John became a stepfather to a boy who would’ve been around 10 at the time. Do you think that might’ve affected his life any? I’m sure there are other characters that I don’t even know are supposed to have children. It really is bizarre.
It seems like Batiuk wasn’t interested in the children, and didn’t want to include them in the story, but he thought it would just seem too weird if nobody had any. But he never realized that it would be even weirder if they did, but the kids were practically invisible and never made any difference in anyone’s life.
Batiuk said something to the effect of he didn’t want the stories to focus on the children. That’s fine, but he completely ignores their role in their parents’ lives. Darren and Jessica in particular will disappear for weeks at a time to pursue whatever tickles their fancy. And all the adults are too busy still living their own childhood to care about anyone else’s.
Unless I’m missing something, he was last seen February 28, 2011; and last spoken of as just entering elementary school band on August 15, 2012.
The way most kids are just shoved down the memory hole is one of the things I hate the most about Funky Winkerbean. I’m not saying I want the strip to be like Zits or Baby Blues, but damn, at least have the kids running around in the background while people blather about their existential crisis.
It stood out the most to me for Wally’s second wedding, where there was a single dark haired boy that was /probably/ supposed to be Robbie/Billy. And no Rana or Wally Jr.
It annoyed me the most in Bull’s illness and death arc, where neither of his kids played much part other than to show up in non speaking roles during the major functions of it. Damn man, their DAD just died, let them SAY something.
Then there’s Crazy’s kids, who just totally vanished without a trace. I think he has three or four of them. Maddie popped up briefly maybe ten years ago but since then, nada.
Don’t forget that she also did just about the coldest thing a widow could do to her miraculously resurrected dead husband: She gave him the flag that had been draped over his empty coffin. A flag, which instead of being proudly displayed in her home, was shoved in the back of a random drawer. Most likely hidden because DSH Johnny Boy didn’t like that it reminded him that Becky’s first husband was more of a man than he is.
Brilliant (and immensely entertaining) detective work, CH! Unfortunately, it makes too much sense. And it requires too much thinking on Batdick’s part. He couldn’t even be arsed to come up with an original monster.
The thing is, Wally’s defining characteristic is his PTSD, I can’t imagine him being encased from head to foot in pizza boxes and not having that trigger an episode.
Oh, I forgot, it’s Funky Winkerbean, where characters have traits until they don’t.
But… if it’s Wally, and he lives upstairs and can access the pizzeria from his apartment… why bother with the helicopter at all? Why not just put on the costume and walk downstairs? (Which would make it even more “mysterious” as to how he keeps getting in, if Funky has people watching all the entrances?)
And why does pointing out how little sense it makes for Wally to be the Pizza Monster make it even more likely that Wally is the Pizza Monster?
Excellent work & historical research everyone! I had forgotten about some of the Wally moments, so thanks for the review. For a very brief moment this week, I had the thought of “c’mon Funky has GOT to be in on this and he’s just messing with his co-workers.” But as others have said, what would be the point? And if he WERE in on the gag, he’s way overselling it at this point-plus one would think that any deliberate gimmick would be directed at customers for increasing sales.
Block the stairs? Well, at least Montonis is baby proofed now.