A Writer’s Crutch.

Link to Today’s Banal Strip. This thing is almost less than nothing.

And now! Back to the Past!

The very first Funky Winkerbean strip is one of the worst introductions of all time. Four chicken-necked, chinless, bobble-heads. Standing in a white void. Staring out at the audience through the fourth wall with their terrifying, black, monodiclops eyes. Smugly telling us their names and attributes with the kind of cringy earnestness I expect from Harry Potter fanfic.

Hi my name is Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way and I have long ebony black hair (that’s how I got my name) with purple streaks and red tips that reaches my mid-back and icy blue eyes like limpid tears and a lot of people tell me I look like Amy Lee (AN: if u don’t know who she is get da hell out of here!). I’m not related to Gerard Way but I wish I was because he’s a major fucking hottie. I’m a vampire but my teeth are straight and white. I have pale white skin. I’m also a witch, and I go to a magic school called Hogwarts in England where I’m in the seventh year (I’m seventeen). I’m a goth (in case you couldn’t tell) and I wear mostly black.

Apparently the idea for starting the strip in this fashion came from an actual established professional in the biz.

At the Chicago Tribune–New York News Syndicate I ran into another gentleman, Henry Raduta, who spent the better part of the morning with me going over my submission in detail. He offered several suggestions, one of which dealt with a way of introducing my characters that eventually became the very first Funky strip. 

From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One

Who was Henry Raduta? As far as I can find he was a ‘general manager’ of the Tribune who when necessary took over writing for long running strips from the 20’s and 30’s like Little Orphan Annie and Winnie Winkle after their original authors passed. Was he intentionally giving the 24 year old Batiuk bad advice? If so, bravo good sir. (Link to an interesting retrospective on Winnie Winkle.)

Batiuk had planned to start the strip with these four ‘mains’, basing them on people he knew.

The main characters, T.D. (later Funky) and Les, were friends from my Kent State days, Thom Dickerson and Les Meyer. Roland, the hippy/revolutionary, was a guy who lived in an apartment across the street from mine, and Livinia was based on one of my art students with a name taken from a magazine… I used people I knew because the characters then came with established identities that I could immediately plug in and begin working with in the strip. It was a handy way to start things off, and it’s remained my work method ever since. 

From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One

It seems in the initial ‘sales pitch’ for this strip provided by the syndicate, this was also the cast presented, (with the additional mention of the black student, Derek).

Four characters were introduced on that first day. Two remain. And two have disappeared so thoroughly I didn’t even know they existed until I saw the first strip, when TFH posted it as an April Fool’s Joke back in 2016. I immediately asked about the fates of Roland and Livinia. And all TFH could tell me was that Roland was completely MIA and Livinia was confirmed dead.

Shoved to the side by a character not introduced till 1984!

Why? Who were Livina and Roland? Why did Batiuk lose interest with them? What other characters banished to the Phantom Zone populated those first few years?

Tune in tomorrow.



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

39 responses to “A Writer’s Crutch.

  1. Captain Gladys Stoatpamphlet

    “Online grocery shopping skills” is definitely a real thing. Yep.

  2. William Thompson

    What in hell is the “really early bird hour” at the supermarket? Is that an inept Batiukian way of saying “We went grocery shopping when the store opened at Six AM?” I’ve done that, and the only time I ever saw a crowd at a grocery store that early was at the start of the pandemic, on the first day that face masks were available. Every other time there have been more workers in the store than customers at six in the morning.

    • billytheskink

      During the early to mid era of pandemic restrictions some retailers, particularly grocers and big box discounters, reserved the first hour or two of their hours/opened early exclusively for senior citizens. I think that is what TB is going for here. But “I think” is not the sign of a comic strip that remotely works…

      • Mela

        Yep, that’s what he’s talking about-the early bird hours for seniors so that they could in theory shop with less exposure to the virus since older people were at higher risk. How this all relates to Funky wanting to drink or keeping him from drinking remains to be seen, I guess.

        • be ware of eve hill

          Cool, I guess I never understood the early bird hours for seniors were created to lessen their exposure to Covid.

          I do almost all of our grocery shopping on the way home from work in the evening. As I said yesterday, we live in a remote suburb in the desert. The closest grocery store to our home is about eight miles away.

          My husband tries his best at grocery shopping, but wants to be too perfect. When he shops, he calls me every five minutes with a question because he wants to be sure. If I’m in a meeting at work, I have to turn off my phone. If he can’t contact me, he’ll give up and buy only part of the grocery list (If in doubt, leave it out).

          • Mela

            It also had to do with being able to shop in peace before the hordes descended, as be ware of eve hill stated.

    • be ware of eve hill

      In my part of the country, early bird shopping hour(s) was a courtesy extended to senior citizens. It allegedly gave them a chance to buy things before the hordes descended upon the store like a pack of hungry wolves.

      To be 100% honest, the only shortages I experienced during the early days of the pandemic were toilet paper, bread, dry pasta (like Knorrs) and canned goods. And that was only for a month or two.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        The only shortages I experienced were yeast and flour. It meant a few weeks of me not able to make pizza dough and focaccia bread.

        We had senior hour, but if the store wasn’t crowded you could go in anyways.

  3. Sourbelly

    The syndicate sales pitch is a bitter reminder of the horrors of Justified Type.

  4. Epicus Doomus

    No one dives into total banality like BatYarn does. The big conflict this week is that Funky had to go to the supermarket, which begs the question of how, exactly, they were buying their groceries for the last four and a half decades. And, lest we forget, Funky OWNS AND OPERATES a restaurant, thus purchasing food should, in theory, be old hat for him by now.

    I do not remember Roland, Derek or Livinia at all. I probably started reading FW in maybe 1975, 1976 or thereabouts, and they were both presumably gone by then, or maybe I’m just forgetting them, I don’t know. Look at young Funky above, all full of hope and promise…man, what a precipitous fall from grace, eh?

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Speaking of total banality, you’ll never guess what’s happening in Crankshaft today. They’re going to Montoni’s!

      • J.J. O'Malley

        I think it was something about Ed and J*ff eating lunch at Motoni’s and having it “run through the pipeline,” although I might be conflating two sources of non-humor.

        Kinda reminds me of all the “news stories” on my local ABC affiliate’s nightly broadcast that just happen to involve the latest Disney release, Disney World, or some Disney-themed Broadway show. Logrolling in our time.

  5. Sourbelly

    AA Meeting Attendees: “Wow. You’d think getting too many pears would be torture enough for Funky. But no, in order to combat that unspeakable inconvenience, he then has to start getting up before 10 a.m. to go grocery shopping! So Funky, tell us how you got through all of this without drinking! The rest of us have never faced such adversity!”

  6. billytheskink

    Roland showed up in the big 2008 30 year reunion group photo.

    He’s next to Derek on the right, wearing the blue plaid shirt and the haircut my grandfather was given when he joined the Air Force (and kept for the rest of his life).

    • ComicBookHarriet

      If this implies that the pseudo-anarchist Roland went into the military, THAT is a story I would like to see.

      Also between this reunion and the 2015 Time Pool reunion Mary Sue Sweetwater (Blue Dress) gained about 150 lbs.

  7. be ware of eve hill

    Wow, Funky and Les’s high school class certainly is blessed. Judging by the size of the frame with Lisa’s and Livinia’s photos, only three or four students from their graduating class have died.

    As of my 40th reunion, approximately 25 of 300+ students were “Gone but Not Forgotten”.

    I’m guessing Batty doesn’t attend many of his high school reunions.

    Batty had a real-life friend at Kent State named Les? I wonder how Les feels about his namesake in Funky Winkerbean?

    • ComicBookHarriet

      I do not know. But…I was able to find the likely candidate of Thom Dickerson via Facebook by searching his name plus Kent State. His hairline is identical to Funky’s.

      • gleeb

        But is Dickerson a boring drunk, too?

      • be ware of eve hill

        I found the older Thom Dickerson you mentioned, and I found a much younger Thom Dickerson. The younger Thom Dickerson is from Grafton, Ohio (Batty lived there) and went to Midview High School (same as Batty).

        I’m not sure if the two Thom Dickersons are related. They have not “friended” one another.

    • erdmann

      I’ve not been to a reunion since my 10th and now I wonder if that was a mistake. I learned Friday my fourth grade crush has been dead four years. Later that day word came down that another girl from my class had passed. I looked up our senior yearbook online and realized no fewer than three other people on the same page as her were gone. Two I know never made it out of their early 20s.

      • be ware of eve hill

        Aw, sorry about your fourth-grade crush. 😢
        I had a fourth-grade crush too, but they moved away after the 5th grade

        I haven’t attended a high school reunion since I moved out of state. I’m not driving 1200 miles or paying $300 for a flight to a 4 or 5-hour event. A friend and I crashed the 5th reunion. I did live out of state for the 10th but attended because I wanted to introduce my husband to my high school friends.

        My graduating class has a group page on Facebook. Someone made a post inquiring which students had died. As you can expect, it was a long and incredibly depressing read. One after another, somebody added a comment that so-and-so had died. Someone volunteered to create a tribute for the reunion, kind of like the one featuring Lisa and Livinia. They posted a photo of it online. One of the classmates who died was a fraternal twin, and the person who created the tribute included a photo of the wrong twin. I didn’t say anything, but I wonder what the surviving twin thought when he saw it. Oops.

        One of the people who died was my senior prom date. The guy was a real jerk. He kicked me out of his car and drove off without me when I wouldn’t “put out” for him. He died during a military training exercise. It’s an awful thing to think, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he got fragged.

        • Mela

          I’ve actually done the “in memory” board for our class. We’ve lost 17 out of about 160 after 30 years-seems like way too many.

          • be ware of eve hill

            Curiosity led me to check my class’s group page on Facebook. I hadn’t viewed it since Christmas. We just lost another guy on March 2nd to cancer.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        I find high school reunions to be a “boomer” thing now. My class just had its 30th, and I had no interest in going, for the simple reason that social media exists. I was already in contact with anyone I wanted to be in contact with, and had been for years. I saw no point to the thing. We didn’t even have a 10th or 20th reunion.

        • be ware of eve hill

          My little brother is the same way. His 40th class reunion committee couldn’t find an address to send him an invitation. His class reunion page on Facebook had a post asking for help locating alumni they couldn’t contact. One of his friends noticed my brother’s name on the list. The friend called my brother and asked him if he should give his address to the committee. My little brother said no.

          My brother lives less than 4 miles away from the house where we grew up. 🤣

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            My high school class also has the problem that Westview has: it doesn’t need a reunion, because most of it never left high school in the first place. I’d find names I recognized on Facebook, and 30 years later they have their dad’s old job, live in the same suburb, and have the same social circles. A reunion is just another Friday night for them. If I went, I’d just stand around and be tolerated, like I’m at a club I’m not a member of. Which, to be fair, would be a good recreation of my high school experience.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Too many of my high school classmates are “Forgotten But Not Gone.”

  8. J.J. O'Malley

    So, Roland and Livinia are to “F.W.” what Shermy and Original Patty were to “Peanuts”…except no one misses them? (I would have compared Derek to Franklin, but the latter appeared in his strip up to the end).

    As for the State of Funky 2022: I wouldn’t have thought it possible to capture in the printed medium the sheer tedium that was early-bird supermarket shopping during the COVID era, but somehow Batiuk managed.

  9. Banana Jr. 6000

    What the hell is this strip? It’s like Batiuk remembered Holly was drawn with crutches yesterday, so he had to rewrite Panel 1 to explain why she doesn’t have them today. Just shockingly half-assed. And this shit has an 11-month lead time?

    “When she could walk without her crutches, she was a little wobbly….” BROKEN ANKLES DO NOT WORK THAT WAY. You can’t just randomly walk without your crutches sometimes! And if she’s not able to walk reliably, why was Funky making her go to the grocery store by herself? How come his inability to place an online order (which is a whole other level of facepalm) pushed him over the edge into finally helping his crippled wife shop? Apparently he was letting her limp around the store alone before the Too Many Pears Incident. And he’s still not even pushing the cart for her.

    Funky isn’t just hijacking an AA meeting to tell a pointless non-story, he’s writing a comprehensive record of what a shitty human being he is. He is a solid bronze medalist in the Complete Jackass Olympics, behind Les and Dinkle.

    Look at those faces in Panel 1. They look they’re being held hostage. It needs a wall clock that says it’s 3:15 AM. And the conceit of the comedy club-style spotlight is the “fuck you” cherry on top of this entire shit sundae. Oh, and I guess the photo corners are retired, to be to be replaced by the “puffy corner” sepia-toned shot to represent something in the past, even if it’s something that happened no earlier than 2020.

  10. erdmann

    Just a quick thanks to CBH for the “Winnie Winkle” link. Other than the name, I knew nothing about the strip before now. Interesting how its creators were able to successfully transition from comedy to drama in a way Batty could only dream about (and claim he invented).

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Mitchell and Webb’s “The Quiz Broadcast” series of skits is my favorite thing that transitioned from comedy to drama. It especially rings true after the pandemic, with all the exhortations to “remain indoors” and characters sadly lamenting the world that they lost. Very funny, and it gets very dark.

  11. Dood

    “Our online grocery shopping skills were problematic … ” OK, boomer.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      That makes it sound like their list was nothing but items with problematic mascots.
      “Yeah, got your order here, 20 boxes of Uncle Bens. 4 bottles of Aunt Jemima syrup. 2 bunches of Chiquita bananas. A box of Eskimo Pies. And…Look, I brought you your Brazil Nuts, because I know that’s what you meant, but you are banned from using our online shopping service ever again.”

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      That’s all Tom Batiuk has to say. He couldn’t even muster up a toilet paper shortage joke.

  12. When I started going back to Costco in person, they were open an hour early for customers 60 and over. I called it “geezer hour”, and as one would expect, there was a substantial line of geezers queued up when the doors opened (myself included).

    Anyway, I guess TB’s setting up a multi-day shopping saga that will end in a non-joke, same as he did with the discman. In the real world, Funky would have already been banned for life from this meeting.