Odd Man In

Link to another boring nonsensical strip that I still kind of understood because I’m always asking my housemate and best friend if she wants to go to the store with me but man was this week awful with maybe one almost joke and five days of pointless observation and yes this was supposed to be one long run-on sentence for comedic effect.

Full disclosure: Until I read through the Vintage Funky Winkerbean, I assumed Roland was black. I realized my mistake when Derek popped up, asking Les about why ‘brothers and sisters’ weren’t being covered by the school paper, looking like the lost sixth Jackson brother from the Jackson Five cartoon.

Ooh, ooh, Derek, (don’t want you back)

So Roland’s poofy hair was just an Art Garfunkel style jewfro, and Derek is the strip’s first black character. Which other characters seem to only notice and comment on occasionally.

In all of his appearances, there’s only a handful of strips where Derek’s overtly concerned about racism. And it always comes across cringy af. Now-a-days this is the sort of material that gets you twitter cancelled.

A modern activist would call this gaslighting.
I think the joke here is that the computer scheduling has more power than the school board and admin.

Other than these cases, Derek is written as ‘one of the guys’. Sometimes he spouts off Roland-esqe general activist talking points for a laugh.

His main character trait is this sort of weary detachment. In the four years of strips released, I think I’ve seen him smile twice. It’s like, somehow he knows. He knows that he’s stuck in Funky Winkerbean. And the best he can hope for is to feel slightly less than dead inside.

Like Livinia, unspoken identity politics hamstring his range. Because Batiuk wants Derek to be a positive portrayal of a black student, he’s never shown getting into trouble with the principal or being ignorant. He never asks the dumb question. He is the one Funky Winkerbean character that is never the wacky one spouting off inanity. He is all grimace and side-eye.

When Derek delivers the punchlines, they’re clever observations that reveal intelligence, not obliviousness like Batiuk will use for Les or even Funky.

Derek is still showing up in Vintage Funky Winkerbean through 1976. Most recently watching TV with Crazy Harry on 4-10-76.

I doubt he’s going to completely disappear for a while, since he fulfils an important diversity position. He’ll keep showing up until a more gimmicky black boy is introduced, or until Batiuk forgets to remind his audience he’s not racist. In September of 1975 a black female student was introduced, Junebug Jones. She and Derek are dating, and she becomes a cheerleader. Her ‘unorthodox’ cheering strategy is another running gag.

I’m of two conflicting minds on Junebug. On the one hand I wonder if she plays into the lazy stereotype of black girls as loud, aggressive, and tactless. On the other hand, I love seeing a lady with some backbone.

Derek and Junebug, one of the first couples in Funky Winkerbean. She might not have liked the odds, but she should have placed her bets. By the 1998 class reunion arc, they are confirmed to be married.

Crazy/Holly: the ship not taken.

And by the 2008 reunion they have grandkids!

Don’t worry Funky, I’m sure Corey and Rocky will give you some grandkids eventually. Maybe. If they get around to it.

Junebug shows up again in 2015, as part of The Upcoming Reunion planning committee.

Note: Except for poor Barry Balderman here, none of these other people are actually seen at The Time Pool reunion. I like to think they bailed when they realized what a shitshow it was going to be.

So, really, despite all his grumbling, it seems like Derek and Junebug had it pretty good for Funky Winkerbean characters. They escaped the plot before the Act II drama hit, and every subsequent cameo appearance has only reinforced their happy ending.

He who laughs last…


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

32 responses to “Odd Man In

  1. William Thompson

    Well, this strip explains Funky’s weird speeches at those meetings: he likes to talk to vegetables.

    • Hannibal’s Lectern

      That’s because every day he’s getting closer to being one himself. At least that’s my best guess at what’s going on with these endless rambles at the AA meeting: BatYam’s starting a new “prestige” arc in which Funky develops severe dementia.

      • be ware of eve hill

        Funky will be okay. Winkerbean males can be cured of severe dementia by taking up smoking, taking little purple pills and becoming a sexual predator.

  2. Epicus Doomus

    Wow, mind blown, I actually remember Derek and Junebug. The 70s were a weird, weird time, man. Like that “Happy Days” episode where Richie gets Sticks to play drums in his band and everyone freaks out because he’s black. You look back on it now and we might as well have been living in huts and cowering over lunar eclipses.

    This is something you very rarely say about Batiuk, but he really did get better at drawing his “ethnic” characters over the years (note how I didn’t say they were good, exactly), as those blackness-denoting lines he used to use were, uh, not good. But I guess the alternative would have been to use every first panel to remind readers that Derek was black, which would have really slowed the strip down. Har.

    As far as today’s strip goes, this one would have been an all-too-typical dud anytime, but the fact that this one is kind of his 50th anniversary strip (technically Sunday) is kind of amazing in a really dumb way. Could it BE any more anti-climactic? I say no, it could not.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Do you think he will do something on Sunday to acknowledge his 50th?

      I’m predicting some stupid comic book cover.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        That’s my best guess. I also wonder how many other comic strips will acknowledge FW’s big 5-0, since it’s pretty standard for comic strips to give each other shoutouts. If Gasoline Alley can get as many loving tributes as it has, so can FW. At a minimum I expect a Happy Birthday from Dick Tracy, since those strips collaborated on a dumbass comic book crossover story once.

  3. billytheskink

    Funky logic: When COVID was coming in huge waves Funky and Holly both went to the grocery store. When it subsided, they went back to going one at a time.

    I rather liked Derek because he always made Les look like the yutz he is.

  4. Phillip Craig

    Based on what you’ve posted, CBH, I really like Livinia and Derek. Roland? Didn’t work for me. But as someone who didn’t start reading FW until the ’80s, it was fun to see some pretty competent work from Batdick.

    As opposed to dreck like this week’s strips. “Say hi to the vegetables” isn’t a joke. It’s not a wry observation of the current human condition. It doesn’t even rise to the level of dreary anecdote. And it sure as hell doesn’t resemble anything worth saying at an AA meeting.

    • Epicus Doomus

      You know, I totally forgot that this was an AA meeting. Good storytelling there, BatYam.

      • batgirl

        How much of the “story” are the AA hostages getting? Are they only hearing what Funky is actually shown as saying to them, and the Holly-Funky dialogue/action is visible only to us readers? Or are we to understand that Funky is also describing the visual interactions and relaying the dialogue?
        Funky’s function has become narration box. I look forward to his future quips of “Meanwhile…” “Two days later”, and “A concerned Ian confronts Toby”.

    • Sourbelly

      Dammit, WordPress screwed up my login again:
      Based on what you’ve posted, CBH, I really like Livinia and Derek. Roland? Didn’t work for me. But as someone who didn’t start reading FW until the ’80s, it was fun to see some pretty competent work from Batdick.

      As opposed to dreck like this week’s strips. “Say hi to the vegetables” isn’t a joke. It’s not a wry observation of the current human condition. It doesn’t even rise to the level of dreary anecdote. And it sure as hell doesn’t resemble anything worth saying at an AA meeting.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Tom Batiuk is the master of no soap radio. This has the format of a joke, but it’s not a joke. Specifically, it has no premise. There is no initial state of affairs to which “say hi to all the vegetables” enhances or changes the meaning, references something, or makes any sense at all.

        And a key element of “no soap radio” is: act like it’s a joke, even though it’s not one. Look how hard the strip is trying to sell this. Funky is so excited to tell this non-joke that he’s doing jazz hands. Then in the flashback, Funky looks like his dog died, while Holly is smirking so hard her face is about to crack in half.

      • sorialpromise

        WordPress has also been screwing this week with my posts. (That is a kindness to the other readers!) my main point, if it posts this one is:
        I would never keep reading FW except for SOSF.
        Life is too short. But thanks to TF Hackett and his superb partners, (I’m looking at you today, CBH) I keep reading, hoping for effort and quality from Batiuk. Obviously, I am a hopeless optimist. I also think this will post!

  5. be ware of eve hill

    Geeeez! Never ask me for gambling advice. Wrong on every prediction.

    Okay, Harriet, you left no clues. Who will you profile tomorrow?
    ACT I Funky? Bzzzzt! Wrong!
    ACT I Les? Bzzzzt! Wrong again, dishpan breath!!
    Mr. Fred Fairgood? Bzzzzt! Admit defeat!

    In my defense, I used the ‘Appearances from 1972’ spreadsheet from the other day to guess who was the next character to be profiled. Derek apparently never appeared in 1972.

    I predict Funky and Holly will be annoying an overworked cashier tomorrow. Bzzzzt! Wrong! Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

    It was a logical assumption considering Funky’s and Holly’s characters, but alas, incorrect. I just can’t handicap Batiuk.

    0 for 4. I’m being pulled for a pinch hitter.

    • ComicBookHarriet


      I went back and checked and realized that I TOTALLY FORGOT TO PUT DEREK ON THE SPREADSHEET.

      I have failed all of you.

      Derek had 21 appearances in 1972

      • ComicBookHarriet

        I have gone back and corrected the spreadsheet so this crime against Derek would no longer stand.

        mea culpa mea culpa mea maxima culpa

      • be ware of eve hill

        Hey, ComicBookHarriet! I don’t need your help to look clueless. 😄

        Even if Derek was on the spreadsheet, I failed to recognize the pattern. Duh, you’ve been profiling characters who disappeared from the strip after Act I.

        Last night, I wrote Derek apparently never appeared in 1972.
        🤦‍♀️ Wrong again. Give it up and go to bed, woman.

        Derek was obviously featured in 1972 as shown in your blog Monday. A cursory glance of the FW Vintage archive would have shown that Derek made his first appearance in the ninth strip.

        Don’t feel bad. Batty forgot to include Derek in the first strip. I completely forgot about the poor guy until today.

  6. be ware of eve hill

    I remember Junebug, but totally forgot about Derek.

    As @Epicus Doomus noted, the use of vertical/diagonal lines to hint at Derek’s darker flesh tone was a peculiar choice. Batty seems to have been limited to just pen and ink. Zipatone was around back then, but I guess Batty was working on a budget.

    The lines on Derek’s face remind me of this song.

    Peter Frampton / Lines On My Face

    Frampton Comes Alive. I played the hell out of that album when I was in high school. He was so dreamy. *sigh*

    • Bad wolf

      Manually filling lines instead of zipatone is pretty weird for an art teacher. Very outsider art i guess. Didn’t he learn about ‘lanything used in industry? The choice goes with his style but only because both are so amateurish

      • Rusty Shackleford

        It’s as if he learned nothing at Kent State. But he sure talks a good game.

      • be ware of eve hill

        The current Funky Winkerbean strip uses an odd coloring process that makes Cayla look like she has the measles.

        I’ve decided to give young Batiuk a pass. He was just starting out and most likely couldn’t afford much on a school teacher’s salary.

        Modern-day Batty has no excuse for poor quality. He’s had fifty years to improve his craft.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Ha, my sister had a Peter Frampton album cover poster hanging in her room. His music sure takes me back.

      • be ware of eve hill

        That album was a bit unique. One disc had sides one and three, and the other had sides two and four. That was so you could stack two sides in a row on a stackable automatic record changer. Remember those?

  7. J.J. O'Malley

    One can only hope that the other AA attendees visited “Vegetable Corner” before the meeting and have tomatoes, cabbage, and other produce to throw at Funky once he finishes narrating this saga.

    Actually, I always thought “Vegetable Corner” was the nursing home where Funky’s dad lived.

  8. batgirl

    Wow, I remember reading that “white moves first” strip, back in my teens. I even bought some FW paperbacks back then, along with Broom-Hilda. Aside from the weird eyes, the art strikes me as quite decent, and I’m loving the 70s fashion memories. Current Luann could take a hint from ‘70s Funky.
    A number of comic strips do weird eyes. The Miss Peach characters (our newspaper didn’t carry Momma) always had both dot eyes on the same side of their face, like flatfish. I’m not sure why eyes are so difficult – Roland’s dad has realistic eyes, or at least the one we can see looks like a human’s eye. Maybe he has 2 dots on the other side.

  9. J.J. O'Malley

    I just noticed that the last thing Derek is shown saying in today’s enlighteningly entertaining deep dive is “So how come nobody’s laughing?”. Is there a more fitting phrase to lead into the great FW 50th Anniversary festivities?

  10. Jim in Wisc.

    I’m actually beginning to think Batiuk is going to do nothing tomorrow to mark the strip’s 50th anniversary. There was no run-up to the anniversary in this week’s strips. There’s been no mention of it on his blog. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he’s competely forgotten it.

    • Y. Knott

      I think the “Suddenly I’m feeling very old” header might be giving us a sneak peek into the anniversary strip….

    • Sourbelly

      Lately, Batiuk seems to be obsessed with the anticlimactic. Every big moment in this strip is treated with apathy by the characters who should care.