The 2021 Funky Awards Week! Day 5

Well look who’s referenced today, Lillian McKenzie. That’s a pretty obscure character to be pulling from there Tom, we only saw her 50 times last year in Funky Winkerbean, and 72 times in Crankshaft, for a total number of 122 Lillian strips for 2021, causing commenter ‘erdmann’ to wonder:

Loathsome Lillian appeared in 50 FW strips? That’s on top of her “Crankshaft” appearances? Lord, is it possible that wretched old bat could have appeared in more strips than any other Batiuk character last year?

(For those of you wondering, Crankshaft appeared in 266 of his eponymous strips, so he wins.)

A quick review of Crankshaft‘s year brought into focus once again how much better Crankshaft is. It has its terrible Batiukian moments, of course, but it also had several strips that gave me an out and out chuckle. Because Ed Crankshaft is a sort of horrible person it’s funny when dumb things happen to him. Which is why Funky can pun and complain as much as he wants, he can’t ever be anything more than a pale imitation.

Props to Davis for the facial expression in that last panel.

While I’m a little gentler on Batiuk’s humor than some here, it was still difficult to pick out strips that genuinely rose to the top. There were plenty of strips I found inoffensive, or mildly amusing, but those tended to mush together into indistinct blob of almost-humor. Still, with the help of a panel of my personal friends we were able to put together the following nominees for…

The Best Funky Winkerbean Strip 0f 2021

1.) Expensive Equipment

2.) Accessorizing

3.) The Joys of Reading Over 50

4.) Interdisciplinary Thinking

5.) Funkyverse in a Cookieshell

6.) I’ve Seen Things You People Wouldn’t Believe

And the winner for The Best Funky Winkerbean Strip of 2021 is….


Sorry if you didn’t want a nearly naked Rutger Hauer with Becky’s face burned into your brain.

Though it didn’t win, it was extremely gratifying for me to see ‘The Joys of Reading Over 50’ make such a strong showing. My panel of friends didn’t really get it, and I worried that I was just sentimental for the days I still lived at home. Remembering all the times coming in late from my gas station shift, seeing my dad passed out on the couch with a fat book splayed out across his chest; creeping over, taking his book, sliding in the edge of dust jacket to mark his place, slipping off his glasses to fold them on the side table, turning off the lamp and tucking him in.

When Batiuk isn’t stroking his ego with prestige arcs, or indulging his comic book fetishes, or pandering for attention from organizations, he still…very rarely…has the power to touch.

But if it was hard to find strips this year that were genuinely ‘the best’, it was even harder to narrow down all the potential nominees for our last catagory.

Join us tomorrow for the final award: The Worst Funky Winkerbean Strip of 2021.



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

57 responses to “The 2021 Funky Awards Week! Day 5

  1. The Duck of Death

    Great Googly-Moogly, how I loathe Batiuk’s cutesy phrasing every time he refers to a character in another strip. “As that old bus driver in Centerville used to say,” “from that lady in Centerville ” — really, can’t someone fix the glitchy code in the Batiuk AI?

    • Epicus Doomus

      Yeah, why does he always do that? It’s almost like he’s winkingly trying to pretend he isn’t cross-promoting when he obviously is. And he does it every time. It always leads to some really awkward dialog, too.

  2. The Duck of Death

    I voted for “The Joys of Reading Over 50” simply because comedy is only funny when it contains an element of truth, and that strip sure does. (Source: Am over 50.)

    I also like that it’s a rare instance of observational humor in FW that doesn’t result in someone being bitchy, whiny, or furious.

    • RudimentaryLathe?

      I voted for that one too. It’s a (very rare) moment in this strip that’s somewhat grounded in reality, and the joke isn’t mean-spirited or preachy. I rather like it.

      • That’s why I voted for it too. It’s got the irony of doing a fair bit of effort that all goes to waste. But it’s also showing people who you’d expect to like one another acting like it, in ways that make sense.

      • Mela

        Same here. No bad puns, no smirks or obnoxious retorts. Just a nice gesture and a joke that’s relatable and kind of sweet.

    • Sourbelly

      I’m also over 50 (WAY over 50), but I voted for #1. At least I think I did. My grasp of modern technology started to slip around the turn of the century. So I totally relate to the Funkster’s confusion and his hapless effort to feign understanding of the question posed. Been there and done that. “What are you even talking about” isn’t an option for us greabacks. We can’t let the younglings detect our weaknesses.

  3. billytheskink

    No, TB, no. You can’t do the whole “lady in Centerville” bit when you say her last name BEFOREHAND in THE SAME SENTENCE.

    To be technical, the McKenzie referred to in the “McKenzie collection” should be Lillian’s late sister Lucy, who was the one who assembled the collection of comic books and tossed it in the attic before winding up in an Alzheimer’s car facility. Lillian didn’t even discover it, it was Mindy who found the comic books and her then-boyfriend, Act II WHS regular Mooch Myers, who realized their value.

    DSH didn’t do the heavy lifting in acquiring the collection either, with Mooch and Mindy conspiring to direct the collection to Komix Korner without letting others buyers know about or bid on it and then convincing Lillian to sell it to DSH for less than she was offered from Crankshaft’s yuppie neighbors (who inadvertently found out about it and leveraged their apparent DINK wealth to offer a much larger amount of money than DSH could).

    • Hitorque

      FFS, they pulled that bullshit storyline years ago in Rex Morgan and I’ll say the same thing I said over at CC — Comics stored in some attic or basement for decades will eventually disintegrate…

      My grandfather kept dozens of LIFE magazines from before, during and after the Second World War in his closet… He also kept my dad’s huge stack of 1950s Dick Tracy, Lone Ranger, some other western themed comics and other title characters I’d never heard of and don’t remember AND WHEN I DISCOVERED THIS TROVE AS A KID IN THE LATE 80s THEY LITERALLY TURNED INTO CONFETTI AS I PICKED THEM UP!

      Just once I’d like to see that happen to someone in the Funkyverse…

      I would ask why the hell some old lady was sitting on boxes and boxes of vintage untouched mint condition comics, but I remind myself that it’s the Funkyverse and everybody buys thousands of comics only to wrap them in plastic without ever reading them, tosses them in some attic or tool shed or bank vault, and completely forget they ever existed in the hope that some future descendant would find them and strike it rich…

      • The Duck of Death

        Yes, it’s impossible to overstate how fragile and friable comics would be after being stored for 50-60 years in the attic of an old Ohio house, which likely reaches temperatures of about 120℉ in the summer and 10℉ in the winter. I cleared out an estate on Long Island a few years ago in an attic insulated with fiberglass, in a house built in 1980. There were plenty of cardboard boxes there, and every single one of them had disintegrated into a blob, as if they had melted. And none of these boxes had been there longer than about 20 years at the outside.

        Anything made of cheap wartime newsprint would likely have crumbled to dust, and if not, then, as you say, Hitorque, it would turn into confetti in your hands.

      • The Duck of Death

        I would ask why the hell some old lady was sitting on boxes and boxes of vintage untouched mint condition comics, but I remind myself that it’s the Funkyverse and everybody buys thousands of comics only to wrap them in plastic without ever reading them, tosses them in some attic or tool shed or bank vault, and completely forget they ever existed in the hope that some future descendant would find them and strike it rich…

        I just realized: Who put the boxes there? Who bought the comics in the first place? Not likely to have been Lillian’s father. No brother, as far as I’m aware. No husbands. Could those have been Eugene’s comics, stored for him when he went off to war?

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        That happened to me with a *Captain Marvel Adventures* issue in which the Big Red Cheese fought the Seven Deadly Sins. It was in a protective bag, but it crumbled when I tried to read it.

        So annoying!

    • ComicBookHarriet

      To be fair, DSH John did do some heavy lifting by literally painting Lillian’s entire house by hand.

      Lillian came away from that looking like much more of a selfish prick. Stringing along both parties that had made her offers because they kept doing nice things for her to butter her up.

      And a collection of Timely comics WOULD be pretty valuable. That’s mostly Golden Age comic books, huge numbers of those were pulped in WW2.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        So Lillian McKenzie hoarded materials that the war effort needed, and later made a huge profit from it. That checks out.

        • billytheskink

          Lillian’s always been a hoarder. She even kept Eugene’s proposal letter to Lucy after she jealously intercepted it. Susan Smith was smart enough to destroy the proposal audiocassette Les sent to Lisa when she intercepted it… but Lillian just had to keep that dang letter.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Lillian had to keep the letter, so she could use it as a fetish object in her performative grief ceremony. The Funkyverse loves that.

      • billytheskink

        Oh yeah, I forgot about the part where Lillian had DSH doing chores for her… like he’s capable of doing even a passable job of painting a house.

        And poor Lucy was withering away in the Alzheimer’s home while all of this silliness was going on, seeing no result of the collection’s sale while Lillian and co. smirked away until she was on her deathbed. TB used 2007 to show the fatal decline of two women with the initials L.M., something I would say is an unsettling version of the whole Superman and women with the initials L.L. thing if I wasn’t dead sure TB would take that as a compliment…

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I hate a lot of Funky Winkerbean tropes, but the one I hate the most of all may be the “came in his pants” reaction shot from a man who’s just seen comic books.

      • Mela

        Banana Jr. should there ever be a category for comment of the year, I nominate this one. And I’m married to a comic book nerd.

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        Much better to have this reaction when you see the ocean for the first time, as Adam Weber does in “Blast from the Past.”

    • I’m a little confused as to the timeline here. I was under the impression that Lillian’s upstairs bookstore was a relatively recent thing (within the past 5 years), but the discovery/selling of the Lucy comic collection looks like it happened much earlier. Did Lillian sit on the money for all that time, or is this just another example of TB playing games with the timeline? I can’t very well recall the origin story of the book store, but I don’t seem to remember comic book proceeds being involved.

      • The Duck of Death

        What year did this happen? CK, which I’m not proud to admit I pay for, has Crankshaft archives going back to Dec 2002.

        • ComicBookHarriet

          2007 was when the collection sold. The Village Booksmith opened in 2016. But who knows how much time was supposed to have passed in Crankshaft? The only real marker of time to see is the aging of Max, the great-grandson.

          I want to thank BTS, again, for being the resident Batiukstorian. I figured that this was something that had really happened, but had no idea even where to start hunting up the plotline.

    • be ware of eve hill

      Whatever happened to ‘Mooch’ Myers? He was almost inseparable from Darin and Mopey Pete when they were in high school.

      It’s almost like the trio were stranded at sea in a lifeboat. Mooch drew the short straw and was eaten.

  4. Epicus Doomus

    So does Batiuk believe that his regular FW readers also regularly read “Crankshaft”, or are these crossover strips just his subtle way of trying to encourage FW readers to check out the Crankiverse? I don’t care either way, of course, but it’s always struck me as being kind of obnoxious in a low-key Batiukian way. The fact that Bat Yam has two long-running daily comic strips never fails to astound me. If I didn’t know it was true, I’d never believe it.

    Trying to choose the “best” FW strip of any given year is like trying to choose the best cracker in a package of Saltines. I will say that his least-awful strips are usually one-off gags or individual strips in one of his “scenes from a marriage” or “day in the life of WHS”-type arcs, where there isn’t really a premise to speak of. Although those can be really terrible too. Batty is always at his worst when he’s trying to pretend to be a storyteller, as it’s obviously just not in his nature, no matter what he claims to the contrary.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      This is why I liked Act 1 the best. Simple, mostly funny, and totally non-pretentious.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        PS: I voted for the purse gag as I had that happen to me while holding my wife’s purse. My reply was: “yeah, but it doesn’t go with the rest of my outfit.”

    • The Duck of Death

      >Trying to choose the “best” FW strip of any given year is
      >like trying to choose the best cracker in a package
      >of Saltines.

      Truer words were never written. And almost all are visibly messed up in some way, so when you come across a couple that are completely intact and look like a Saltine should, they are automatic “best saltine” winners. As for which is the “best” of the “best,” I guess it depends on your preferred pattern of salt granules.


  5. erdmann

    I figured there was a good chance Crankshaft would carry the day with the most appearances. Still, between the two strips, Lillian managed to make more appearances than any character in the parent series, including the title character, and that’s way too much of her.
    I was unaware of the “McKenzie Collection” storyline. Did Lillian at least have the decency to wait until her sister died to sell off her property?

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Did Lillian at least have the decency to

      No. Whatever the rest of that sentence is, the answer is no.

  6. Wait wait wait I’m now parsing Comic Book Guy Who Probably Has a Name’s words. The money he paid to get this comic book collection that set his shop up was … the money Lillian needed to get her book shop set up?

    All right, I guess that does check out and yeah, it is a win-win situation. Comic Name could have used that money to buy stock piecemeal instead but this was faster and easier and similarly for Lillian selling off her collection to get money to set up her shop. But it feels weird to have “me setting up my shop really made it possible for Other Person to set up her shop” laid out like that.

    • The Duck of Death

      I just went to the CK archive and reread the arc, which ran April-May 2007. Of course, like almost anything in the Crankerbeaniverse, the closer you look, the less sense it makes.

      Upshot: There was a bidding war between DSH and another store, Rockbottom Comics, which was being aided by Evil Yuppie Neighbors. Each was currying favor with Lillian via foot rubs, painting her house, etc. Finally, Lillian called in Crankshaft to make the final decision because he would be unbiased. Crankshaft looked at the offers, and immediately saw that Rockbottom’s was twice DSH’s, and said the decision was obvious. But he relented for some reason and tried the ol’ Solomon gambit: He gave Rockbottom guy and DSH a vintage comic and said they should both pull till it tore, and whoever got the bigger piece would get the collection. Predictably, DSH refused to tear the priceless artifact, proving that he valued comics more (or his heart was more pure, or something), so he was awarded the collection.

      In reality, nobody is going to settle for an offer that’s 1/2 of the highest offer.

      In the real world, if you were so dead set on selling to someone who couldn’t raise the cash, you would sell the collection on consignment. It could be sold by individual comic, by lots, or as a single collection.

      For someone who is flat-out OBSESSED with the world of collectibles, it’s bizarre how unrealistic Batiuk’s view of it is.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Batty really skewered those Yuppies in that arc…he doesn’t care who he takes on! What a maverick!

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        The problem isn’t just TB’s complete ignorance of the collectible world. What happens in his stories is completely antithetical to comic books retaining any collectible value.

        Last time we saw Batton Thomas, he gushed about how many times he read Flash #123 as a kid. That induces wear, and it doesn’t take much to move something way down the grading scale. Komix Korner doesn’t own any proper comic display racks. Its books just hang out of wire magazine racks every which way, getting bent and tattered. As I said yesterday, Atomik Komix floods the market with low-quality junk that purports to be collectible but isn’t.

        I’d honestly respect TB more if he took a “comic books are to be enjoyed, not collected” attitude. But he wants it both ways. He wants to play with all his comic books like Andy played with Woody the Cowboy, and then sell them for $80,000,000 because they’re in gem mint condition.

        • The Duck of Death

          Interesting that you bring up Woody. Note that in the Toy Storyverse, the competitive collector who was obsessive about condition was the villain. He didn’t understand the true meaning and purpose of childhood toys. But you’re right; in Batiuk’s world, there is no conflict between grubbing, single-minded pursuit of slabbed, gem, mint, etc comics, and the innocent, hot cocoa-sipping enjoyment of same. This is why Pixar is Pixar, and Batiuk is… well, Batiuk.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Also, Pixar isn’t trying to lecture its fans about how to enjoy toys correctly. Which Tom Batiuk is constantly doing, even when he tries to play both sides of the street.

        • The Duck of Death

          I’ve brought this up before but the Batiukverse is like a primitive society that uses fur pelts or crude iron implements as barter-currency. In the Funkyverse, Comics are currency. No one ever mentions stocks, or real estate. It’s comics or nothing.

          An ex-cop friend of mine worked security at a pawn shop in Queens mostly frequented by Jamaicans. He told me that for many of the customers, the pawn shop was their bank. When they needed cash, they would pawn their gold jewelry. When they had cash, they would get their jewelry back, knowing that they would pawn it again when they needed cash again. It makes sense for this group of people, many of whom probably couldn’t open bank accounts and didn’t come from a background where people had bank accounts.

          Batiuk’s characters are exactly the same with comics. When you have money, what you do is buy comics. When you need money, what you do is sell comics. To him, it’s Utopia. To me, it’s like some post-collapse dystopia wherein the only currency is Holy Books that lose value every time someone touches them.

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        Uncle Duke did the Solomon Gambit in *Doonesbury* when he was Governor of Samoa.

        Larry Gonick gives a darker interpretation of the Gambit in his *Cartoon History of the Universe.*

        Crankshaft never, Solomon forever…

  7. sorialpromise

    This post illustrates two reasons why Comic Book Harriet is tops on the list. Don’t misunderstand, every poster for SOSF is excellent, professional, and can always find nuggets of gold in the worst of Funky Winkerbean. Yet Harriet stands out in the quality of her research. But she has a gift to bring in her family’s experiences, such as today’s example: working at a gas station and finding her Dad sleeping while reading. Those stories always grab me.
    So, I give you a gift, a haiku to you:
    1) Research is a joy
    Our Comic Book Harriet
    We feast from her posts
    2) Feeds and beds the cows
    Curling up with the spreadsheet
    Damned Snopocalyse!
    3) She studies the Funk
    She farms in cold Iowa

    • Rusty Shackleford

      She is awesome! She puts in the effort Batty should be putting in to his strips.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        Poor midwestern girl
        She can’t take a compliment,
        She’s just too Nordic.

        Quick! Deflect the praise!
        Everyone here is awesome!
        You all inspire me!

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Will you accept a single thank you? Your posts helped me get through a rough work week. I got a good laugh in with my morning coffee.

          • The Duck of Death

            Harriet, too Nordic? Then auf Deutsch:

            Danke schön, Harriet, danke schön….

            Not Nordic enough?

            Tack så mycket!

            Tusen takk!

  8. Banana Jr. 6000

    I voted for “Expensive Equipment” because it’s a rare case of a well-executed joke in FW. It’s based in a believable misconception, has a proper premise and punchline, and isn’t buried under FW’s usual crap. Nobody’s smirking, rolling their eyes, sighing about what a bother life is, demeaning anyone, or distracting from the joke with meaningless blather. And it doesn’t mention comic books or Lisa even once!

    • The Duck of Death

      I couldn’t vote for it because, in my view, Batiuk botched the punchline with tortured syntax (quelle surprise). You wouldn’t ask the price of something your friend owns by saying, “Is it a hundred dollars?” Or even by saying, “Was it a hundred dollars?” You’d say, “How much did that cost?” or “How much did it run you?” (using the past tense, not present tense).

      This could have worked, and this is how Batiuk would likely have set it up in Act I:

      P1: Amazing picture on your new TV! 4K?
      P2: I’m not sure…
      P3: Harriet, how much did the new TV cost?

      All of your points stand, though, BJr6K, and it just goes to show how low our bar has to be for “best strip.” No smirking, eye rolling, sighing, demeaning, meaningless blathering, Lisa or comix = automatic contender for best strip of the year.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Eh, I never said it was perfect, just reasonably well done. TB needs to take that comedy class Borat did in the first movie. He is NOT good at writing jokes.

  9. Jeff M.

    Yeah, “Joys of Reading Over 50” was the only possible choice for me – everyone above has enumerated the arguments against the others. “Joys of…” had a plausible setup rooted in actual human behavior, and a punchline based on same. My takeaway: stop writing dialogue, Batiuk. Turn this into a depressing middle-aged version of “Henry” and it’ll be comic strip gold. (Also, the one about the purse made me self conscious, because I carry a messenger bag and it’s *just* a little bigger than Funky’s purse. Too close for comfort. That said, seriously, men, get yourself a messenger bag; it’ll change your life.)

  10. The problem with the comic-oriented strips is that they are dull, inside-baseball stuff. Batiuk makes no effort at all to say why comics are special, they simply are and if you don’t agree, there’s something wrong with you.

    You would think that someone who treated comics as fetish items that he would try to make the case by explaining what it is he finds interesting about them.

  11. be ware of eve hill

    I’m not surprised the winner of The Best Funky Winkerbean Strip of 2021 was a Sunday strip. The artwork is so much better on Sundays (comic covers from other artists aside). I believe I read somewhere that Chuck Ayers colors the strips himself on Sundays. There is almost a watercolor appearance to the coloring. There seems to be an effort that isn’t there the rest of week.

    Damn! Once again, the runner-up was my choice. As others have mentioned, the strip had a ‘been there, done that’ relatable quality. In our case, it’s usually a movie we’ve been waiting to see.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yes he does color them on Sundays. I agree with you that many of them look very nice. The dialogue usually sucks, but I like the coloring.