Do quit your day job

Et tu, Skyler? Crazy being baffled anyone would think he looks like Santa Claus while wearing a Santa Claus hat was bad enough… but today’s strip sees Skyler puzzled that Santa Claus spends time away from the North Pole? Has the kid never been to a mall? A store with a Salvation Army bell-ringer out front? A December Rotary Club fundraiser?

Actually, Given Westview’s general economic and retail landscape, that may be believable. The inquiry “North Pole?”, however…

As pretty much every single one of us beady-eyed nitpickers noted yesterday, Skyler was born in 2013, eight years ago (in fact, his birthday was November 22, just a few weeks ago), and has demonstrated his ability to speak in complete sentences on multiple occasions in the past. His regression to the verbal ability of a two year-old is a puzzling and insipid development, but no less so than a number of other things that have happened in this strip in Act III. Tomorrow may well find Kevin Garnett (no, not that Kevin Garnett, this guy after a visit to the Pete Reynolds New Last Name Store) correctly shouting “Anything is possible!” It’s true, we’re all living in Phil Holt’s world now.

55 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

55 responses to “Do quit your day job

  1. Epicus Doomus

    Mindy looks like she’s having a seizure in panel two. Like I jabbered about yesterday, there’s really no reason why this premise couldn’t work with Skyler being eight years old, other than the usual dysfunctional Batiukian ones. You know, laziness, sloth, indifference, things like that.

    And now that I think about it, why IS Crazy Harry wearing a Santa suit? He just showed up for work like that? Wouldn’t the hat have been more than enough?

  2. Sourbelly

    “A puzzling and insipid development” is a tag that could be applied to pretty much every strip in Act III.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      It’s the pull-quote on the book jacket for The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 14.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      Some sharp author should appropriate *Puzzling and Insipid Developments* for a series of YA novels. Oh, Lemony Snicket…

  3. William Thompson

    Mindy’s body language seems to say “Yo, Crazy! This is a little kid! You know, an idiot! He thinks your beard and the Christmas cap that you placed on your head mean you are Santa Claus, because he’s never in his life seen anyone else dressed as Santa! So pretend you’re Santa, if that isn’t too crazy for you!”

    Or, in simpler terms “Christ, you’re an asshole.”

    I can actually believe that Crazy would not realize he looks like a cut-rate Santa Claus.

  4. billytheskink

    I had a comment, but my wife looked over my shoulder and called the strip “Stupid F*ckybean”. I’m not going to try to top that.

  5. I think TB has a number of plastic containers, and he has little cards with character names on them that he pulls out when it’s time to write a year’s worth of strips. The containers are probably labelled by month, too, so when December rolls around, he pulls out “Skyler,” “Komix Korner.” and “Crazy has a beard so mistaken for Santa, because kids are stupid.”

    • J.J. O'Malley

      Or perhaps it’s an array of good old-fashioned Rolodexes, each labelled “Main Character,” “Minor Character I’ve Forgotten About,” “Setting,” and “Premise,” and he spins them simultaneously to come up with a storyline, like that “South Park” episode that posited a team of manatees using “idea balls” of Noun, Verb, and Pop Culture Reference to assemble “Family Guy” scripts.

      Seriously, though: if we hardy SoSF regulars can look at the tag for Little Skylark and see what he was like a couple of years ago, you would think Batiuk could do something similar in his personal archives so that he doesn’t, say, end up writing a grade-schooler like a toddler.

  6. Banana Jr. 6000

    I think today’s strip would be a good continuation of those Cartooning Commandments Tom Batiuk is always going on about on his blog.

    The Fifth Commandment: Overexplain the obvious. A man in his 60s, a white beard, a red jacket, a Santa hat, a kid calling him “Santa” and asking “North Pole?” isn’t nearly enough information to tell your audience “this child thinks this person is Santa Claus.” Your readers are very, very dumb. I mean, 99% of them don’t even have their own comic strips! Make it easier for them by having another character make a really obvious gesture in their direction. But don’t have them look directly at the reader, because you lose the investment and involvement of the audience when you do that. Stop injecting yourself into the story!

    The Sixth Commandment: Don’t justify anything, ever. If a gag requires someone wearing a crazy outfit to work, just have them show up in it. Don’t waste any time creating a plausible situation, like having a strip where John asks Harry “where’s your Christmas spirit?” and makes him put the Santa hat on. Or by building such a gag on a regular trait of the character. That would be a “callback”, and people hate callbacks! It’s no fun having your story reference past events that make the whole world seem more real. And gag writing is beneath you anyway.

    The Seventh Commandment: Continuity is for hacks. If an arc needs a child to be a barely-verbal three-year-old, just change a past character into one! Even if this character’s entire persona has been of a snarky eight-year-old. And if he was previously deaf, or dead, or had Alzheimer’s Disease, or if the integration of baseball didn’t actually start until after World War II, never mind any of that. Those beady-eyed nitpickers will point it out, but who cares about them? You’re moving from entertainment and escapism to something more confrontational and grown-up.

    The Eighth Commandment: No two parts of your story have to go together. Further to the seventh commandment: every Monday is a new story. What happened last week doesn’t matter, even if the characters are in the same location wearing the same clothes. You can take a child to a comic book store for personal growth one week, and turn him into a special needs case the next. And the week after that he can be a dessert topping! Oh, and I hope I don’t have to explain why comic strip arcs are always one week long, and can never be any other length.

    The Ninth Commandment: Everything in the universe is yours to borrow. If you can’t come up with a new character, it’s perfectly fine to use somebody else’s. If a gag would be enhanced by the presence of Iron Man or the Cleveland Browns logo, just stick it in there! You’re too relevant for anyone’s legal department to bother with. Only those awful Internet people would ever point out that your new kid character looks exactly like Rerun Van Pelt. And faces are hard to draw anyway.

  7. Gerard Plourde

    There are so many missteps in today’s strip that hard to pick a place to start picking nits, but I have to start with Crazy Harry. In what universe would any kid mistake a skinny guy with a gray beard for Santa who is universally depicted as corpulent with a white beard?

    • billytheskink

      The only Christmas movie allowed in Westview is The Polar Express. Les hates it because everyone says that Eddie Deezen’s character acts just like he did in high school.

      • The Polar Express…how I loved that book. And hated that movie.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          That movie is the textbook definition of “uncanny valley.”

        • spacemanspiff85

          My main issue with that movie was that they had a poor kid that Santa never visited, and then when he makes it to the North Pole and sees Santa, there’s no explanation of that at all. Unless I missed something (which I doubt), it kind of ruins the magic and wonder of meeting Santa.

          • I only saw it once, but I seem to remember that the Poor kid said something like “Christmas just never worked out for me” or something. IE, he wasn’t necessarily poor, just vaguely dissatisfied. But I could be wrong.

  8. Hannibal's Lectern

    Skyler I was fully verbal and did speak in complete sentences. He was last observed doing so, by a member of the public, at the Worstview bus station in June. The sentence he spoke was, “I want a one-way ticket to as far from this hell-hole of a town as the fifty bucks I found in MoPete’s wallet will take me.” Since “missing children” was not on the P. U. Litzer committee’s list of award-worthy topics for 2021 (and perhaps out of sympathy for the child), the police decided not to mount a costly multi-state search to return Skyler I to his guardians [sic], but instead just stopped by the Our Lady of Nonexistent Continuity orphanage and picked up a two-year-old who was quickly renamed Skyler II.

    Makes as much sense as anything else in this strip.

  9. The Duck of Death

    Any kid who’s able to understand and articulate the concept of Santa belonging at the North Pole is also able to speak in some form of complete sentence. Unless, perhaps, they are profoundly psychologically and/or neurologically damaged.

    Silly me! This is Westview! Of course every child is profoundly developmentally disabled!

  10. Hitorque

    Okay, clearly this kid has been retconned into a ‘special-needs’ child, so I’ll make no further jokes…

    • Hannibal’s Lectern

      The healthy brain cells that cured Dinkle’s deafness and Mort’s Alzheimers had to come from somewhere. Skylab’s doing his best with the leftovers.

  11. Charles

    Thing that’s amazing with Batiuk’s screwup with regards to Skyler’s age is that he HAS to know that he’s older than this. I could accept that he might not remember exactly how old Skyler is, but he’s certainly been around longer than 2-3 years. This is Batiuk not giving a shit.

    Also, any excuse that 1 comic year < 1 RL year doesn't work because Funky has somehow managed to age over 20 years in the strip over the last 14 real life years. The lack of consistency invalidates that explanation.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      And Batiuk has to know that if he needs a 3-year-old for something, he can just make one up! Oh look, Durwood and Jessica had a second kid they never bothered telling anybody about. That would honestly be less jarring than retconning Skyler into an oversized, slow three-year-old.

      Funky Winkerbean is the comic strip that lectures you about how realistic and serious it is, and routinely inflicts horrible, life-altering injuries on its characters. So what the hell are we supposed to think when a previously normal eight-year-old child apparently can’t form sentences anymore?

    • batgirl

      I think TB has forgotten Skypilot’s age entirely. Aside from his loss of verbal skill he is way too small for an 8 yr old. He’s closer to 3 to 4 year size. He should come up to Mindy’s shoulder, not her waist.
      I accept the Family Circus kids being dwarves no taller than their parents’ knees, but the Winkerverse art conventions are supposedly more realistic.
      And hey, wasn’t one of TB’s brags that he was (among) the first to age his strip characters? I guess he didn’t specify the direction of aging, though.

    • Hitorque

      Then again, Cindye Sommerse-Winkerbeane-Jarre graduated high school with Funkensteiger and she’s still in her 20s rockin’ string bikinis on the beach without a single wrinkle, sag or ounce of cellulite

  12. Banana Jr. 6000

    My headcanon is that Skyler was fine when he left the house this morning. But being exposed to Pete, Mindy, DSJ John, Komix Korner, and Montoni’s has left him profoundly brain damaged. They’d take him to the hospital, but one of them would have to notice first.

    • The Duck of Death

      No point taking him to the hospital. His verbal regression would make him incapable of making snotty, unfunny, passive-aggressive snipes at the doctors and staff — which is, after all, the whole point of getting medical attention.

  13. The Duck of Death

    “Ho ho ho! And what do you want for Christmas, little man? [Skylab mumbles incoherently.] What’s that you say, my boy? You want everyone’s favorite gift? The one everyone’s asking for this year? HO HO HO! A bottle of Montoni’s salad dressing it is! Merr-rrrr-rrrry Christmas!”

  14. You know what Batiuk would say. “This story is a flashback to six years ago. I just didn’t tell you that.”

    • The Duck of Death

      I doubt he’d bother to defend it. Why, when he can just say we’re beady-eyed nitpickers and ask where OUR syndicated strip is?

      And then, months later, attack us again in another strawman arc?

  15. Hitorque

    1. The punchline is gonna be when they finally go eat at Montoni’s later, I’ll bet Funkensteiger will be dressed in full Santa garb and this kid will have a seizure…

    2. Batiuk totally missed his opportunity to work in his traditional LIVE FREAKING REINDEER ON THE ROOF! gag…

    3. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with Mindy? All she had to say was “No you little ignorant brat — That’s just a dude with a beard and red stocking cap!” Instead she’s going to force Harry to put on an impromptu performance? And what the hell is this kid going to think the next time he comes to KK and sees Harry?

    4. If the kid is this Santa crazy, why the hell didn’t they take him to the mall or some other Christmas-themed place that’s aimed towards kids?

    • The Duck of Death

      1. Punchline….? Hain’t seen none o’ those round these parts many a year, stranger.

      2. Give it time. It ain’t over till Christmas morning.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      4. So, instead of going to the comic book store, Pete and Mindy should have… you do see the immediate problem here, right?

  16. batgirl

    It’s been noted more than once that TB’s presentation of comic fans is puzzling. As we’ve just seen, adult fans (there are no child readers of comic books in the Funkyverse – I feel like this is a topic on its own) are shown as angry, demanding, fixated on minor or obscure points, often slovenly, etc.
    It seems as if TB wants to distinguish his ‘admirable’ characters (or himself) from the mass of geeky fanboys. Sure, the fanboys love comic books, but they don’t love them the right way.
    So what is the Right Way? Jeff and Batton Thomas aren’t mocked. Neither are the characters who have said “you did what heroes do: you saved me”. Saved from what? Jeff is established as having an abused childhood, with his few happy memories being watching old serials and reading comics in the attic. Batton as a child had no dreams or hopes of a future until reading the Flash universe crossover.
    I think TB’s Ideal Comics Fan is not a child or teen or young man (and definitely not a girl), but a middle-aged or elderly man with a lonely, unhappy childhood, who found solace in comic books as a child, and whose understanding of and affection for comics remains very much at that level and for those specific comics or comics very much like them.
    Basically, the comics fan TB approves is himself. It’s the Fake Geek Girl attitude carried to an extreme.

    • batgirl

      Okay, an addendum to that wall of text. (sorry!)
      Not to get into the lack of child comics fans (probably related to the lack of child characters – hey, maybe all the lost children are in the attic reading comics and ignoring all the stupid adults?) but it struck me that I remember comics as being a fairly social and communal activity. I read and traded them with other kids, we talked about what we liked and engaged in the inevitable who-would-win-in-a-fight sort of arguments.
      For TB, comics reading must be solitary to be virtuous. Even Mason had to be alone (with hot chocolate provided by female servitor) to properly understand the breadth of the Starbuckverse. As soon as comics fans get together, they become the Wrong Kind of Fans.

      • It’s interesting when you mention child comics fans…I was thinking the other day that the Atomik Komix title that has seen the most covers here is Wayback Wendy.

        • batgirl

          And who would buy Harvey Comics expy Wayback Wendy? It’s clearly targetted to little girls, who barely exist in the Funkyverse except as terrified speechless passengers on the Crankshaft death bus.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      For all its yammering about comic books, Funky Winkerbean does seem very defensive about its fandom sometimes. Like when that rando at Comic Con told Phil Holt “I don’t come from a place of arrested development when I say this, but…” Nerd or geek culture is very accepted now. You don’t have to justify your interest in comic books, no matter who you are. Certainly not at San Diego Comic Con, which is more or less the global convention for geeky interests.

      So why did Batiuk write it? Because he’s still living in the late 1980s, when you weren’t “supposed” to like comic books when you reached a certain age. I grew up then, and I remember learning to keep my mouth shut about my “uncool” hobbies, for fear of wedgies on the school playground.

      It’s not just his comic books fandom that’s permanently trapped in amber; it’s his entire mentality. He wants to read comic books like it’s still 1987, and he wants to defend the honor of comic books like it’s still 1987. He’s raging against a machine that rusted to pieces decades ago.

      I’ll give you another example: the “gay prom” arc, where Principal Nate oh-so-bravely stood up for those two gay kids whose faces we never even saw. It wasn’t exactly a bold stance in 2012, but Batiuk sure acted like it was.

      • batgirl

        The only acknowledgement in-strip that comics-based superhero movies are extremely mainstream nowadays has been Les being all resentful that they took away the audience for his Lisa tearjerker movie.
        And come to think of it, that was blamed on the Chinese market, so it still wasn’t accepting that superhero comic books are no longer an outsider fandom in North America.

  17. My grand niece is turning 3 in January, and she is way ahead of this kid in the ability to engage with people and ask questions.
    Also, wouldn’t you think that Skylar has already met Harry at least once over the course of the 2 to 8 years he’s been around? Shouldn’t he just recognize him as Harry wearing a Santa hat, or are we not giving this kid enough credit, and he’s pulling Harry’s leg?

    • batgirl

      Maybe Skycaptain was pulled from school before the teachers had to report him to Child Protection for failure to thrive, and he’s being full-time “home-schooled” by his grandmother, ie locked in a closet while she tends to his paralyzed & speechless grandfather. I know Ann isn’t plunking him in front of the TV or he’d be more verbal and culturally aware, so closet it must be.

  18. Banana Jr. 6000

    You know where this premise would have worked? Futurama.

    Philip J. Fry always wore a red jacket. So all you have to do is cook up a scenario where’s got a white ball on his head. (snow, dandruff, discarded crack, stray blernsball, brain slug, etc.) Or just put him in a Santa hat, because it’s X-mas time and that holiday is celebrated in-universe. Blammo! Instant mistaken-for-Santa scenario. Consider also that Santa Claus himself is a mass-killing psychopath in Futurama, and robots are depicted as prone to errors in judgment. The story practically writes itself. Would make a good Anthology of Interest segment.

    • The Duck of Death

      Any premise would have worked with Futurama. When you have writers and voice actors that good, you can’t possibly be crappy.

      It’s the exact diametric opposite of this strip, where even indestructible chestnuts like knockoffs of A Christmas Carol somehow end up as depressing, inscrutable abortions.

      • batgirl

        Ooh! Is this arc TB’s hommage to Miracle on 34th Street? Can’t wait to see Crazy in court for claiming to be Santa. Lisa’s ghost can appear to defend him.

        • Anonymous Sparrow

          There’s a comedy bit in which the judge doesn’t accept the Postal Service argument and the judge sentences Kris Kringle to electroshock therapy and then to a full frontal lobotomy

          I imagine Lisa’s ghost lawyering (not to be confused with gaslighting) would leave Crazy Harry receiving the punishment planned for Taylor in “Planet of the Apes.”

          Too many triple-strength martinis are not good for you.