White Bread Found and Lost

Link to a strip that is somehow more nonsensical than yesterday’s.

Before we dive into individual characters. I thought we would briefly take a look at 1972 as a whole, just to see the cast of characters at play, and how often they showed up. This list misses out on a few characters that showed up more than once, but didn’t have names, such as an older curly haired teacher, a cashier, and the school librarian. Also, the records on CK are somewhat incomplete, there were strips missing. This is just to give a rough overview.

Below, the trademark CBH nonsense spreadsheet! Funky Winkerbean characters of 1972 listed by number of appearances.

Corrected on 3/26/22

It seems that, from the very beginning, Les and Funky were the main focus. Poor Livinia Swenson never stood a chance.

The second strip she’s in, (which is almost 2 weeks after the launch,) it seems to me that she’s set up as a distaff counterpart to Funky, his equal in averageness. The way their hair is only differentiated by length, like they’re the Wonder Twins or something, only furthers this impression.

Easy, slugger! You’ve got 50 years of this to write. Don’t use up all your puns at once!

But, in the grand scheme, she doesn’t show up that often. Like everyone in the cast, she puts in time as the ‘Person-Who-Asks-Question’ and the ‘Person-Who-Watches-TV-And-Makes-Face.’ Roles anyone and everyone fills, almost always devoid of specific connection between line and speaker that would keep them from being swapped with someone else.

When her personality does manifest itself, she’s opinionated, strong-willed, and socially conscious with a focus on ecology and feminism.

He’s been talking about global warming from THE VERY BEGINNING, guys!

She’s also never afraid to step on someone’s toes or hurt some feelings. She’s got this kind of blunt honesty I really like.

She’s shown to be questioning gender norms, but unlike other political opinions only mined for yuks, hers can be sympathetically presented, where the joke isn’t her question, but the response.

When I put all of Livinia’s strips together, it seems obvious why Batiuk never could muster up much interest in her. She’s built to sit on this intersection between average and activist, and that severely limits her range. Batiuk doesn’t want too many of the jokes to come at her expense. He wants her to be a more or less positive representation of a ‘modern’ free-thinking teen girl. So the only gimmick he gave her can’t be exaggerated too much. And in order to survive Act I FW, if you’re not Funky himself, you have to have a solid gimmick to mine for humor. Despite what Les said above, Livinia was subtle, too subtle to last as a main character once Holly and Cindy were introduced.

Which is too bad. Because she was unrelentingly cruel to Les, and it was beautiful.

Currently on Comics Kingdom Vintage Funky Winkerbean is up to May of 1976, and Livinia hasn’t completely disappeared, showing up on April 21, taking a test.

Her appearances have become few and far between, however. I don’t know when the last time she shows up alive is, but I’m wondering if it’ll be soon. I couldn’t see any sign of her in the strips I found of the Act II class reunions of 1992 and 1998, though what I had to look at via scanned microfiche was pretty blurry. By the reunion of 2008, she was dead.

Any Act I guys with the last name Jessup? I am honestly curious.

Farewell Livinia. You were too good for this strip.

53 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

53 responses to “White Bread Found and Lost

  1. Epicus Doomus

    Of course the gaping logic hole here is the question of how Holly obtained groceries before the pandemic, as she wasn’t even aware of the existence of English muffins until now. Were they just surviving on pizza this whole time? That would explain a lot, actually.

    • Hannibal's Lectern

      Bread has only recently become available in Worstview. Before that time, you spread your morning butter and jam on Montoni’s pizza crusts.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        And there were no sandwiches in Westview, so people just ate copies of Lisa’s Story for lunch. Everyone says it tastes like baloney.

  2. Sourbelly

    Holly didn’t know the grocery store had English muffins, because…they’d been online grocery shopping (unskillfully) for literally months and she forgot? Because she never did the shopping? Because pre-Covid the store never stocked foreign foods?

    This isn’t a joke. And it’s so crushingly mundane that it doesn’t even count as trivia. We’re being trolled at this point. There is no other possible explanation, right?

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Such a contrast to those act 1 strips that CBH presented. I re-read act 1 a couple years ago and I largely enjoyed it, save for the author’s introduction.

      I’m honestly confused by today’s strip.

  3. Lord Flatulence

    English muffins? Really?

  4. William Thompson

    What? We can’t even have an antiquated joke about how “men should leave shopping to women” joke? “Look! I found those English muffins I used to love! And the label is written in American! How did they end up in the bread section and not in the foreign foods aisle?”

    I don’t know how Holly would answer that, but I’d trust Batiuk to write an equally stupid response.

  5. Jeff M.

    English muffins. English muffins? English muffins. “I didn’t know they had these here!”

    When I was growing up in a decaying steel mill town outside Pittsburgh in the 1970s, whatever conglomerate owned Thomas’s English Muffins was doing a huge TV advertising push. (A big deal was made of the need to split them with a fork – if you are an American over 50 you know this.) So we gave them a try. They were great, and replaced toast at our breakfast table from the on. Mind you – steelworker’s family – Beaver County, PA – 1970s. The Giant Eagle, in the Green Garden Plaza shopping center, in Aliquippa PA had…English fucking muffins. I really don’t know how to process this “discovery.”

    Also – if this is your regular supermarket, you totally fucking know what they carry.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yep, I remember those commercials. But I could never split them with a fork. This strip is just so dumb on so many levels.

    • Captain Gladys Stoatpamphlet

      Are they shopping at a gas station mini-mart?

    • be ware of eve hill

      I always buy Thomas’ English Muffins. Some store brands are ghastly. One store was sold out of Thomas’s but I was desperate to buy English muffins that day and purchased their store-brand. That grocery store had no idea what an English Muffin was. Their English muffins were underbaked and doughy. You could leave them in the toaster for 5 minutes and they were still pasty. If you tried to bake them in the oven, they fell apart. Nasty.

      I left the remainder on the back patio for the birds, but even they wouldn’t eat them.

  6. Y. Knott

    I’m not going to talk about English muffins, especially when there have been no comments so far congratulating Comic Book Harriet on a great post.

    Comic Book Harriet, this was a great post!

    • Epicus Doomus

      CBH’s spreadsheets alone are a treasure. Just endlessly fascinating.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yes! Thanks CBH for all you do! Your commentary and collection of strips gave me something interesting to read with my coffee this morning. I’ve mentioned before that I liked act 1, and these strips are good example of Tom’s early work.

      You would think Tom would do something special for the 50th anniversary, like have Funky walk down memory lane.

      I always thought Livinia was a play on name Livonia, a city in Michigan that Batty used to visit.

  7. sorialpromise

    Warning! TL; DR: As before, CBH, your skills as a researcher astound me. Edison defined genius as 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, (rough quote) This describes you. I read four comic strips on CK, plus Crankshaft here. CK is so user unfriendly, yet you subject yourself to research years of FW and pay CK for the privilege to do it. SOSF readers are truly rewarded.
    What separates Livinia from the other dreck characters? If these strips give a true indication, Batiuk put effort into her character and strips. Just look at the contrast in the one strip between Livinia and Holly. One is human and the other is caricature. Compare any strip that Batiuk has done recently–no effort registers at all.
    CBH, to honor you, I am going to order and read the last 2 years of Peanuts from Fantagraphics. That should be a nice comparison and contrast to FW. I want to see the amount of effort that Schultz put into his comic every day knowing that he was dying. Batiuk should reach so high.
    Please don’t stop being you!

    • sorialpromise

      I am so sorry. As you can see, this was posted at 1136pm. It did not appear until @0830 am. So, I rewrote my post early this morning because I felt the first post was lost in the ether. Second post is so much better.

      • Epicus Doomus

        Sorry about that, sorial, sometimes the spam filter does strange things.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        Either way, knowing you appreciated the archive deep dive makes suffering through Comics Kingdom worth it. Thanks Sorial!

  8. none

    Harriet, thank you for making the lead up to 50 infinitely more interesting than the author dares to make it. Without the history, what would this week have been? These strips are so dreadfully aimless and vague that they defy comment.

    Did the Rose Bowl and Oscar auto eroticism leave him winded right before the mark? He didn’t even try to make something dramatic in his typically profoundly dumb manner to tie in something related to Les and that movie crap to end this week and aggrandize the anniversary. Wasn’t he the one who passive aggressively bitched about how well Schultz could put a bow on twenty years of character buildup? This was your shot, bud. What happened?

  9. J.J. O'Malley

    I always assumed English muffins were what they used for pizza crust at Montoni’s.

    Say, does the Winkerbeans’ sudden fascination with British cuisine mean that in a few weeks we’ll see Batiuk initiate Act IV, in which Funky falls off the wagon and starts spending all his time down at the local pub playing snooker with his pal Chalky while Holly waits at home, rolling pin in hand, for Constable Les to bring him home?

    Finally, how telling is that 2008 reunion panel? Our protagonist is staring at a memorial to his closest friend’s “true love” and someone who apparently was the closest thing he had to a girlfriend in high school, and the first thing out of his mouth is “I don’t feel any different inside than I did then”? Gee, what a sympathetic, human reaction.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      The Montoni’s kid’s pizza is an English muffin with ketchup and a slice of generic white government cheese.

  10. Rob

    This post was so interesting and engaging that at first I completely overlooked the link to today’s strip, which reaches new depths in bland dullness.

    Thanks for all the effort, CBH! It’s far more than this awful comic deserves.

  11. The Duck of Death

    Brilliant as always, CBH. Livinia seemed well-rounded, almost like a real human being, so I guess it was inevitable that she’d be left by the wayside.

    • billytheskink

      She is definitely the most likable character to don what appears to be an early version of the famous Batiukverse traveling green shirt. Livinia also had a strong bellbottom game going on and wore a Sears poncho as well as anyone has.

      • be ware of eve hill

        How about the halter top Livinia is wearing in the strip where she’s watching TV? I haven’t seen one of those in years. The last halter top I wore was probably in the 1980s.

  12. The Duck of Death

    Has Funky never grocery shopped? I’m struggling to understand how this dour, paranoid whiner, who never stops complaining about how unfair life is to him, has suddenly discovered joie de vivre in this exciting new activity they call “grocery shopping.”

    And the English muffins thing… I just have no words. My small local grocery store has about a dozen varieties. Even the little bodegas usually carry them. Are they considered some kind of exotic European cuisine in Akron?

  13. Rusty Shackleford

    And today Crankshaft is speaking Yiddish…. I associate Ed more with Haman.

  14. Banana Jr. 6000

    So how did we get from “the pandemic played havoc with relationships, but I learned there was a flip side to that” to “yay, English muffins exist!” This week is going to end on the 50th anniversary of the comic strip, and this is the effort we’re getting. Hell. he should have saved Les getting the Oscar for this week.

  15. The Duck of Death

    I also can’t help but notice that not only is Funky fuckin’ gobsmacked by the existence of these “English” “muffins,” but he has to make a note of where they are for future reference so that they may someday find them again.

    They’re in the bread aisle, Funky. Next to the other breads. Since they are a form of bread. Bread aisle. Make a note of it, Funky. Tattoo it on your chest like that guy from Memento. Bread aisle, with the other bread.

  16. Maxine of Arc

    These ’72 strips are funny! Tom was enjoying himself and it shows. He was new to the game, the characters were inspired by kids in his class, he was having fun with the gag-a-day format. I’ve said before that I find FW so disappointing because I can tell Batiuk can do better. It’s too bad he decided comics had to be Important and not just entertaining.

  17. erdmann

    Livinia is unceremoniously dumped and then conveniently dies off panel without explanation? What aren’t you telling us, Batty? What’re you hiding?
    @justiceforlivinia

  18. Gerard Plourde

    Once again, CBH does a masterful exploration of the roots of Funky Winkerbean. Livinia was an interesting character and I wonder if something in the article about the Winnie Winkle strip that CBH linked to yesterday might provide a clue regarding her disappearance.

    The Winnie Winkle strip had a new writer in 1973 who started a story line about Winnie’s son Billy in 1977 that would culminate in his coming out as gay. As the article tells it, “It was later revealed that the syndicate that owned Winnie Winkle nixed the writer’s plans for Billy to come out and the coming out panels were rewritten.”

    I wonder if Livinia’s feminism and attitude were considered to be too controversial and TB was told to tone her down. That kind of interference would also explain his later insistence on total ownership and control of his work. After all, he did kill off John Darling rather than surrender control of the strip. Also, it makes me wonder if Lisa was created as a replacement, which also might explain why Livinia was given an honored place next to the sainted Lisa at the reunion.

    • Maxine of Arc

      My guess is that Livinia was intended as more of a satire of feminism than a real mouthpiece (“what women’s lib doesn’t know won’t hurt ’em!”) and that Batiuk maybe just wasn’t really able to sustain that. I did note that Livinia, RIP, was definitely married and took her spouse’s name.

      • Gerard Plourde

        True.

        One other note, though – Knowing how opaque TB’s writing style can be, I wonder if Funky’s comment that he “doesn’t feel any different inside than I did then” is his clumsy way of saying he still feels sad. I’d like to think so.

        All of this does remind me how much I really enjoyed reading FW back in Act 1.

      • The Duck of Death

        …Yes, Livinia was clearly married and took her spouse’s name… which is interesting for such a loud, proud feminist activist.

        If Batiuk really cared about drama and issues and blah blah blah, what an interesting journey that would have been to watch. Over the years, Livinia, who was so against “marriage in the traditional sense,” slowly changes her views and not only gets married, but takes her husband’s last name. This would echo the path of many 70s students, who started out as self-proclaimed radicals and ended up in traditional marriages, corporate jobs, suburban houses, etc. But as we know, characterization always takes a back seat to punch lines.

        And now here we are, 50 years later, without characterizations OR punch lines. Nice job there, Tommy.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Right, this could have been a great story. Livinia grows older, wiser, and modifies her views. You know, real growth instead of forcing Lisa on us all the time.

          Maybe she found someone really special that forced her to reconsider her views on marriage.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        (“I’m the only girl in the strip, but what women’s lib doesn’t know won’t hurt ’em!”)

        I never did understand that line. Why would Livinia, who is pro-Women’s Lib, take the attitude that her status as a token female is something that is best kept secret from them? That’s exactly what it was fighting against! Shouldn’t Livinia be outspoken about the unfairness of her situation, like the women’s lib characters in Bloom County were?

        It’s basically the “I’ve got Me Too on speed dial” joke again. Batiuk doesn’t know the slogan represented a political ideology, not a formal organization. And it’s woman’s stuff, so he doesn’t care.

  19. Posting my very first Son of Stuck Funky comment to ask the all-important question:

    Who in the name of Colney Hatch is “Roland Mathews”????????????

    • billytheskink

      Roland was the strip’s “anti-establishment” character, printing his own alternative school paper and regularly disagreeing with his father (a bald presumably blue-collar man usually depicted watching TV in a recliner with a beer in his hand). He was, at times, quite misogynistic in spite of his otherwise hippie-ish worldview, and was also a regular nemesis of hard line “women’s libber” ‘Wicked’ Wanda. His role in the strip was ultimately and fairly quickly usurped by Crazy Harry, whose opinions were tamer than Roland’s even while his behavior was zanier.

      Roland later went off to fight as a mercenary in the Congo War, they reattached his head for the 30 year class reunion photo.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Tune in tomorrow to find out!

  20. Perfect Tommy

    Why does TB always portray Funky as a hapless schlub? As others have noted, he owns and runs a restaurant. He should be at least fairly proficient in food procurement and current technology. But no. Oh well, life continues apace.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      The entire Funkyverse depends on people being hapless schlubs. This world is about taking whatever shit life gives you, no matter how unfair it is, how much it’s your own fault, or how easily you could stop it. Then you look at the camera with that hapless Ray Romano “why does this happen to me”? face, as if this were funny and not pathetic.

  21. “I like to be with you” may be the single most poorly written line of dialogue in the history of language.

  22. Mela

    Excellent work CBH! I’m enjoying your history lessons on the strip and truly admire your efforts. I started reading FW in probably the early 80s, so I don’t remember Livinia, but she’s well worth a revisit. Your post was far more entertaining than today’s joy of English muffins saga. Well done!

  23. Thank you for the incredible FW history lesson, CBH! Livinia has instantly jumped to the front of the line of my all time favorite FW characters. I’ve seen her mentioned on this site before, but not with the detail of today’s post.

    This is the kind of stuff that should be on the Battyblog the week before his 50th anniversary.

    Seriously, ENGLISH FUCKING MUFFINS??

  24. be ware of eve hill

    Thank you for your trips down memory lane, ComicBookHarriet.

    I somewhat remembered Livinia in 2008 when I read that reunion comic and was a little upset to witness an original character being reduced to filler for a “Gone but Not Forgotten” tribute.

    I discovered tears welling up when I read your last line. Too good for this strip, indeed. Oh Livina, whatever happened to you, pretty girl.

    Sorry, I’ve been a little melancholy since my decision to comment about classmates who have died in the discussion yesterday. After work, I found myself trying to discover as much information about those classmates as possible. Some were good friends, and others I knew only well enough to put a face to a name. I spent the evening looking through old high school yearbooks and the class directory my parents gifted me. I went online to find information such as obituaries, where they lived, and social media profiles. Now I have an insight into what thoughts and feelings a person creating one of those reunion tributes might go through.

    I look forward to your blog on Roland tomorrow.