The Lost Girl

HOLY GUACAMOLE! LOOK WHO IS BACK!!!!

Unless Rachel Winkerbean has taken to wearing a hat and hanging around with Crazy and Donna…Maddie Klingorn has finally returned from The Phantom Zone! She hasn’t been seen since 2012, when she graduated in the same class as Summer, Keisha, and Jinx Bushka. Her last appearance is hard to confirm. The Sunday colorist having a longstanding religious refusal to color any characters as soulless gingers, and invariably blondwashing. But panel juxtaposition implies this is Maddie hugging Jinx on 6/3/12.

Yes! You made it! None of you have additional younger children you’ve been completely forgetting for the last four years!

Unfortunately, it looks like Maddie’s return heralds a week of ‘Did U Kno Dona Wuz Eliminater Bak n da Day?’ A storyline I expressed my thoughts on a couple years ago during the Salad Dressing Arc of 2020.

As the SOSF writer’s room’s current Smurfette, I always find myself wrestling with Batiuk’s contradictory portrayal of women. I don’t want to claim he’s a malicious sexist, because I don’t believe that’s true for a moment. He is able to give women positions of authority, give them careers, give them interests and concerns that go beyond pleasing a man. He is capable of writing them well, (even if he often doesn’t.) And it’s obvious that he builds several characters with Positive-Strong-Woman in mind.

I don’t want to get to the point where we can’t have an individual woman character being weak in a story. Where we can’t have men who comfort, who rescue, and who care for. As long as we’re not setting up a world were women are objects that NEED to be comforted, rescued, and cared for by men due to their chromosomes.

I also don’t want to be a stick in the mud and complain that gendered humor is ‘harmful’. Or that a man shouldn’t be able to make gendered jokes because ‘he’s punching down’. No. Nobody punches down on me. I’m just an individual, and I don’t speak for all women, of course, because all women are individuals. But this individual woman enjoys a joke about women-be-shopping and men-be-stubborn-and-holding-on-to-broken-farm-machinery-for-way-too-long-dad-really-let-it-go!

I’m really rather moderate, and always wary of those seeking to violently or rapidly tear down ‘the establishment’ without understanding it first. If someone asks me to be offended, my first question is always, “What do you stand to gain by my anger?”

And yet. I can’t tell you how many times Batiuk has written something, and I’ve gone, “Hey now, mister! This Nerdy Girl is offended!”

I don’t think of myself as a progressive. Batiuk does. And I think that’s his problem.

As the grandson of union men and living in a home where as a child the Weavers could be heard on the record player, I came by my progressive leanings honestly. 

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Five

Batiuk has always thought of himself as ‘one of the good ones.’ He’s written Livinia, so it’s okay to write ‘Wicked’ Wanda in all her permutations.

Wanda was the women’s lib activist that liked to smash people with her sign. And really, that was the least problematic of her portrayals.

I think it’s fair to show a character so wrapped up in her social cause that she’s become a bully, a distaff counterpart to Roland. Livinia exists in strip to provide a #notallwomen’slibbers.

After the early sign gag seemed to have run it course, Wanda disappears for a while. When she comes back, it’s without her sign. Consistent with Batiuk stepping away from edgy activism and into teen-age tropes, she’s now just a big strong girl in overalls.

And she immediately falls in love with Les Moore in an awful storyline.

I get that part of the joke is that Wanda is treating Les in the same way that he has been shown treating girls throughout the strip, being creepy and insistent despite their obvious feelings. I’ve seen this plot done before, in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) Seriously.

In that version of the show Donatello has a hopeless crush on April, and it leads to him acting like a clingy jealous jerk on occasion. In a season 3 plot, a female sasquatch falls in love with HIM.

This show was pretty great. At least through season 3.

Donatello complains to Raphael, “Bigfoot follows me around everywhere like a love struck puppy.”

To which Raph replies, “Now you know how April feels.”

THEN, Donnie realizes he’s been a big jerk, apologizes to Bigfoot, apologizes to April, and becomes a BETTER PERSON. Les’ plot with Wanda lacks both the sympathy for Wanda and any self-realization on Les’ part. Les might be despicable at times, purposefully flawed, but he is also a complete character with range and a voice. Wanda is only allowed ONE WORD.

But at least Les lets her down easy, and Wanda doesn’t seem too hurt by the end.

Believe it or not, the last arc with Wanda is, by far, the worst. In it, Wanda decides she wants to be a majorette, and all the humor comes from her ‘unfeminine’ body. Unlike the sign gag, or even the Les arc, this is making fun of her for something out of her control.

Her last appearance so far has been a single panel on 1/14/76.

Is this the last time I’ll see her in Vintage Funky Winkerbean? I don’t know. But if she does show up again I’m sure she’ll be the punchline.

To his credit, Batiuk seemed to realize in retrospect that he went too far here. In the 1998 reunion he brings Wanda up.

Of course, Batiuk being Batiuk, and Act II being Act II, it’s God’s Perfect Man Les Moore who calls them all out on their treatment of Wanda, and pretends like he was just too scared to stick up for her. Then he goes on a self-righteous speech. As if he weren’t one of the worst offenders.

Terrible, blurry, microfiche LIES.

Wanda finally shows up at the 2008 Reunion.

Of course, she is now thin and glamourous and looks like a Roman nosed Marianne Winters. As if a later life attractiveness somehow proves that she has grown beyond the ‘bullying’ she received as a child. As if coming to her reunion as plump and aged as anyone else would have lessened her ‘victory’ over her past. And is the white haired lady with her supposed to be her spouse? Maybe not, maybe just another classmate. But if so, double reductive on you Batiuk, deciding that the strong football-playing tomboy in high school must have been a lesbian all along, in spite of her longest arc spent mooning after boys.

Batiuk, so progressive he can’t properly look back. Failing his female characters once again. Wanda deserved better.

NOTE: I am currently on a vacation to visit family and was on the road all day. But thanks all of you for enjoying the 50th Anniversary strips. For those wondering, I did it in a combo of old and new paint, and the dialogue was done with a combo of preexisting speech bubbles, complete lines/paragraphs/phrases cut from a few strips, and a few things spelled out.

I’m probably proudest of the last strip, where I edited out an entire person from both panels used.

39 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

39 responses to “The Lost Girl

  1. William Thompson

    When describing these characters, the word “cool” should only be used by a mortician.

  2. billytheskink

    Nope nope nope… I’ve been to enough movies in recent years to quote the (now former) Cinemark Coca-Cola pre-show ad by heart. Maria Menounos tells me to download the Noovie app in my nightmares. I expect Nicole Kidman to win an Oscar for telling us how magical the movies are at AMC. I’ve heard JK Simmons voice the yellow M&M in pre-movie ads a hundred times more than I’ve seen him in an actual movie.

    Nobody… NOBODY plays the 1 minute long augmented reality video game before the movie. I have never once seen anyone do this. Not a single time. I refuse to believe that anyone else has seen one person, much less four people, doing this before a movie.

    • Epicus Doomus

      I honestly had no idea what was going on here until I read your comment. I also find it extremely difficult to believe that the now twenty-eight year old Maddie never heard Crazy and Donna’s video game stories before. I mean, these people NEVER stop blathering about high school, so it seems highly unlikely that Maddie knows nothing of “The Eliminator”. But that’s never stopped Mr. Fifty Years before.

      It’s always so weird when a long-lost character returns out of nowhere. And few FW characters were as long-lost as Maddie was. I wonder how many newer readers have no idea who this is supposed to be?

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Yeah, I didn’t know what they were doing either. Movies have interactive video games in the previews now? Seems like it’d be a pain to get an app installed on your phone that spontaneously, or even go to a URL.

        • billytheskink

          I’m sure it is, though I have never tried it. There is always a “get ready to play” message before the game begins, it lasts maybe 5-10 seconds. The game itself lasts 1 minute. I don’t see the appeal on any level, and, as I said, I have never once seen anyone participating despite going to many many movies in the last 5-6 years since they began doing this.

          I wonder if TB’s research on this involved any actual experience or if he just directed Ayers to copy the screenshot from the Noovie website

    • Charles

      We had a pre-internet/social media version of this one, which always baffled the hell out of me. What the F was with that train?

      • billytheskink

        I’m no anti-CGI guy, but man did it take a toll on movie theater policy trailers. I think every big theater chain had a “virtual reality” train/roller coaster at some point in the late 90s and early 2000s. It was especially sad at Cinemark, where they abandoned the wonderful hand-drawn Front Row Joe cartoons.

        • be ware of eve hill

          Do I have a problem if I’m somewhat offended by the sight of anthropomorphic cats that have bigger boobs than I do? Shouldn’t they have six instead of two? 🤔

          • Maxine of Arc

            When designing the feline Charr race for the MMO Guild Wars 2, a (female) character designer reportedly insisted that female Charr would have six visible breasts or none, which is why we don’t have anthro cleavage in our game.

          • be ware of eve hill

            @Maxine of Arc.

            Wow, that character developer certainly was a stickler for accuracy. My comment was just for laughs.

            I wonder what she thinks about furrys?

  3. billytheskink

    Holly comes across fairly well in the Wanda-majorette story arc, nothing about Wanda in a leotard seems to bother her at all.

    I’m surprised TB didn’t send a cease-and-desist to the creators of Child’s Play for taking Wanda’s second wardrobe…

  4. sorialpromise

    FW act 1 was funny. Batiuk took chances. Often crude lowest denominator chances. Yet people had conflicts. There were punchlines. I do remember the salad dressing week. Sad, in that it was a highlight of his writing as I look back. That says plenty. I also had no idea who Wanda was in the reunion story. I had to count the arms to make sure she was not Becky. Also, Batiuk’s artwork really suffers at the reunion where he castigated his classmates. I remember your description last week of Les’s eyes. I remember it, but can’t spell it! But when did Lisa become a cyclops? Was this what forced him to hire Ayers?
    CBH, I hope your visit with family went well and that Dad parts with his unused farm equipment.

  5. Hitorque

    1. Holy fucking shit the real life Oscar night was even more ridiculous than the Funkyverse Oscar night!

    1a. And just like the previous 4-5 years the Oscar winners make zero fucking sense to me whatsoever…

    2. Wait… Are they playing video games in a movie theater using tablets as controllers?! I don’t get it.

    2a. And I’m surprised at the utter ignorance and blatant ageism from that redhead girlie… There’s tons of hardcore video gamers among the 50+ set and she should damn well know that…

    • none

      re: 2a. I’m not, because this is FW from TB.

      I’m over 40, my wife is older than me, and she recently completed Ghost of Tsushima and is working on Horizon Forbidden West right now. She regularly plays Final Fantasy 14. Her mother regularly plays that and Terraria and Stardew Valley. Nothing about this is rare today. But just watch how this week will play out, given this lead.

  6. erdmann

    I’m calling shenanigans on those 2008 strips featuring “Wanda.” No way on God’s green Earth that’s the same person as in those older strips. I suspect Les hired an actress to play Wanda as part of some twisted attempt to draw attention to himself.
    “That’s right, everyone. Wanda finally came to a reunion because of something I said, because of MY words. And you all apologized to her because of MY words. And you know what else? “Lisa’s Story” is 376 pages of MY words and it’s available in hardback at a table in the hall right now. Normally, $29.95, if you act now you can take advantage of my special high school reunion offer and save 75 cents. That’s right, “Lisa’s Story” — MY words — for only $29.20 tonight only! Obey MY words and get “Lisa’s Story” now!

  7. none

    Thanks again and as ever, Harriet. My takeaway from today’s character study is that it’s a wonder why people put any emotional stock into the strip at all. Ever. Act 1 Wanda is an extremely poor reflection on the author. Act 2 Les contradicts Act 1 Les and the Act 2 strips is just another entry of Les being disgustingly preachy. Act 3 Wanda cannot be the same person as Act 1 Wanda in terms of facial structure. It’s just multiple shades of terrible across several decades.

    Meanwhile, for today’s strip, I guess I have this week to look forward to being even more angered than normal by the author’s complete ignorance only being surpassed by his unwillingness to educate himself on anything that he talks about.

    I’m over 40, I’m still an avid player of a handful of video games, and I visit an arcade every week to this day (Round1). At least 45% of people who play video games in the US are female (https://techjury.net/blog/video-game-demographics/) . I’m betting that this week is going to be the FW equivalent of a 2022 sitcom overdubbing Atari 2600 sound effects to denote wildly gesticulating male nerds playing video games, and that a g-g-g-girl might play them sometimes too.

    • Charles

      Act 2 Les was disgusting, and in an attempt to redeem him, Batiuk instead makes him worse. He doesn’t take responsibility for what he did. He instead mischaracterizes what he did, in the middle of trying to scold and shame everyone who behaved the same way he actually did. What a weak, disgusting, sniveling display. In real life whatever message Les was trying to convey would have been lost due to his former classmates calling him out on his bullshit. People don’t like being called out by a dishonest hypocrite.

      If Batiuk had Les be honest about his own past bad behavior, he could have made the point he was trying to make; had the effect he was trying to evoke. And all he was trying to protect Les from was acknowledging that he was an asshole sometimes when he was a teenager. He has Les make a preachy statement when he could have shown him as having grown up from when he was a teenager, as having changed and become a better person for it. And it would have been an honest assessment of himself as a bonus.

      But Les growing as a person would suggest that he wasn’t always the most wonderful, perfect man who ever existed, and that was a bridge too far for Batiuk.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        In real life whatever message Les was trying to convey would have been lost due to his former classmates calling him out on his bullshit.

        This is the central problem of Act III. Les, Dinkle, and Funky act in the most obnoxious, demanding, rude ways, and nobody ever says a word about it. Adults wouldn’t put up with the way they act. The endless passivity and suffering in silence is bad enough, but when it’s so Les can drone on about Lisa for the 15th consecutive year after she died, It loses all contact with reality. And with storytelling, because stories need conflict.

        • Charles

          This reminded me of how I missed something appalling in the strip in question.

          Les was going to give Wanda a hug due to all the mistreatment she suffered decades ago, some of which he did himself. Les clearly didn’t think for a moment that Wanda might not have wanted one of her tormentors to come up and hug her without warning, looking for her to forgive him for what he did. In this one sentence, he shows that it’s not about her feelings, it’s about his.

          And of course, with this stupid self-serving statement, he’s managed to shame his friends, who less than a minute before were having fun recounting how badly they treated her, and gotten his wife to snuggle with him as if he’s just done something heroic. In what world do none of them start miming the wanking gesture and tell Les to go fuck himself with that bullshit?

          (This whole thing reminded me of something, so if you’ll indulge my ! Remember When…)

          There was a seventh grade kid, who, when I was in eighth grade at our PK-12 private school, was savagely bullied so badly that he left the school after less than five months into his first year. Since I wasn’t in his grade, I didn’t really do much, but I certainly didn’t help him either. Not to try to exonerate myself, but really, he was an obnoxious prick, and he really did himself no favors in how he responded to the bullying. He responded so poorly to it that one of the teachers, a guy who was about 25 at the time and primarily coached middle school sports, didn’t defend him when given the opportunity.

          But there was one incident that I look back at with some regret. I don’t remember all the details but I think it concerned the final game of the 7th/8th grade soccer team’s season. There were a lot of parents helping out at the game, and afterwards we were all going to go to a pizzeria to celebrate the season. My mother was one of the parents who was helping out.

          To demonstrate just how bad it was for this kid, because he didn’t have any friends who he’d hang out with during the 8th grade game, he hung out with my mother. And my mother, because she was a nice lovely lady with no malice in her heart whatsoever who loved helping out at school events, was more than willing to chat with him and not exclude him.

          This led to her telling him that if he wanted, he could ride with us to the pizza place for the party, instead of taking the bus with the other kids whose parents weren’t there. He of course accepted.

          So after the 8th grade game, the kid came over to me and (because, again, he was a prick despite all the savage bullying he faced) told me that he was riding with me and my mom, and demanded to know where our car was. His tone of voice made what he said sound like “sucks to be you, asshole, you have to be nice to me now”. And, well, I wasn’t.

          I lied and said we had to do something before going to the pizza place, or I lied and told him that we weren’t going to the party, or something. I do remember being repulsed at the idea of riding with him, and also thinking, similar to what Les said here, that holy shit, how bad is it going to look for me to roll up with this asshole in the car with me in front of all the guys on the soccer team? Again, this kid was so bad that teachers would join in bullying him.

          So he didn’t go with us. I don’t remember anything after that. I felt guilty about it at the time, primarily because my mother treated him decently and I shit all over her gesture. (This woman could make me feel guilt about anything without doing any affirmative acts whatsoever) About a month later he left the school and the middle school principal brought the entire middle school into the auditorium to rage at us about how horrible we all were and how cruel we were to each other, especially the new students. (The kid wasn’t the only victim, he was just treated the worst) I can still today, decades later, remember parts of the speech.

          Of course, part of the reason why I remember parts of that speech was because, since so many of my schoolmates were such savage assholes, they enjoyed mocking the hell out of the principal for it.

          Point being, today, decades later, if I were to go to a reunion and do a “Remember when” about this kid who was at our school for a few months when we were in eighth grade, cynically exculpating myself while condemning everyone else who had been so terrible to him, even though what I did genuinely paled in comparison to what other kids did to him, my former classmates and friends would tell me to go fuck myself (and probably say it while miming a wanking gesture). And they’d be right to do so.

          So go fuck yourself, Les. Take responsibility for yourself for once in your damn life.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Wanda outgrew high school. Les (Batty) never did.

  8. Hitorque

    Sorry, it’s impossible for me to see “Wicked Wanda” and not think of Penthouse Magazine

  9. J.J. O'Malley

    So Maddie graduated high school either 10 or 3 to 4 years ago (time jumps notwithstanding), and here she is still apparently the same age, still wearing her dad’s fakakta Confederate hat, and she just happens to go out with her folks to the movies? This is going to be a long week, isn’t it?

  10. J.J. O'Malley

    Apropos of nothing, can I just point out what a true wet fart of a story last week’s “Funky Bores His Fellow Alcoholics in the Post-COVID Era, Part III” arc turned out to be? FW starts out telling the group about how Pandemic life adversely affected relationships, but he and Holly “found that there was a flip side to that,” followed by anecdotes of them finding that their local supermarket carried various food items…and that was it. No big relationship-defining moment (unless yesterday heart attack attempt counts), no resolution, not even a “We’re bored!” reaction from the AA members. Instead we simply move on to today’s video game drudgery. Did a half-century of trying to tell stories not demonstrate to Batiuk that the best stories tend to have conclusions?

  11. Charles

    Just to be a nit-picking bastard, I believe there was one strip somewhere since the 2012 graduation where Maddie was delivering pizzas for Montoni’s.

    It’s really one of the pitiful ironies of FW that Batiuk brings back a young character who we haven’t seen in years for no other reason than to give himself a hook to tell one of his “Remember When” stories, which he’s probably told twice since the character in question was last seen.

  12. The Dreamer

    TomBat redrew Wanda just like he re-drew Lisa in Act Ii Lisa got a complete makeover between Act I and Act Ii Her hair color changed, she was suddenly skinny She didn’t even remotely look like Lisa anymore

    • batgirl

      Lisa’s hair went from frizzy curls to a straight styled ‘do. Cayla went from natural to straight. We know – because of the horrible Crankshaft sofa – that curls are not harder for TB and his artists to draw (I’ve read that dark hair was common in Golden Age comics because it’s easier to draw & ink).
      Les seems to prefer his women to have straight hair – too bad that wasn’t enough in Wanda’s case. (Or not, because Wanda was spared from a toxic relationship).
      Oh, and absolutely stellar work from CBH this week!

  13. Rusty Shackleford

    Right on CBH! If you decide to run for office, you have my vote. We need more moderate thinking across the board.

  14. Y. Knott

    The crew here at SOSF generally gets strong entertainment value out of a strip that has devolved into a cavalcade of ill-conceived, poorly-researched, hamfistedly-written, self-congratulatory slop. You folks routinely spin gold from straw!

    But I must say that these deep dives into FW’s early years — when it was generally an okay-although-not-amazing comic strip — are EXTREMELY well-done! It’s fascinating to see a time when Batiuk actually tried to be — and sometimes succeeded at being — both amusing and relevant.

    Of course, Wicked Wanda was neither amusing nor relevant. But at least Batiuk quickly seemed to realize that, and didn’t showcase her appearances at the OMEA conference every year unto eternity,

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Notice it all went downhill the moment he decided he had to tell serious stories. When he doesn’t get the response he desires, he hides behind the whole “ it’s called writing”, or “comics can tell real stories” BS.

      Back then he had some funny bits and some real conflict, now, he just butt kisses things and ideas that he likes.

  15. be ware of eve hill

    Maddie Klingorn’s appearance isn’t any different from when she was in high school. Where has she been? College? Beauty school? Working at a gas station? In some sort of suspended animation? Cryogenically frozen in a corner of Montoni’s walk-in freezer?

    I absolutely refuse to believe Maddie is still wearing that stupid hat after all these years. Not with a gorgeous head of hair like that.
    ======================================

    I can’t get past Wicked Wanda’s appearance in the Act I strips. Is she supposed to be part ogre? Troll? Was her father the Subterranean? Jabba the Hut?

    If those were color strips, would her skin be green? Wanda smash!

    The other day I stated Wicked Wanda looked like H.R. Pufnstuf. Upon further review, I think she looks more like a Muppet. Perhaps a Sesame Street character to promote acceptance of Jovians?

    Wicked Wanda: Greetings earthlings. I come in peace. Show me your earth males. Cute!
    ========================================

    I could swear I read somewhere that Chuck Ayers handles the coloring of the Sunday strips. If so, Chuck is the guilty party responsible for coloring the characters as blondes. Please, Chuck, there are already too many interchangeable young blondes in the Batiukverse. Sometimes we can’t even tell them apart. Variety is the spice of life.

    I wonder what Chuck has against redheads. I know several. They’re delightful folks.
    ==============================

    I’m far from qualified to make a diagnosis on Batty (a single psychology class to satisfy general education requirement for my bachelor’s degree) but I wonder if his portrayal of women is some sort of over-compensation. Is Batty intimidated by strong-willed, decisive women?

    Batty: I like my women demure and unassuming. Be a good girl, and fetch my cocoa, dear.

    Just wondering, does Batty have any sisters?

  16. Banana Jr. 6000

    Wanda just seems like a lame Peppermint Patty clone, without any of the emotional depth that made Peppermint Patty a great character.

    She was a tomboy, and was fine with that most of the time, but was very insecure about her lack of femininity. We learned later that she had no mother for some reason, and that her falling asleep in school (which was usually played for laughs) was because she was afraid of being home alone all the time. Her awkward attempts to be more girly drove some great stories. Like this one:

    • erdmann

      I was reminded of Peppermint Patty, too — with a touch of the BC character Jane (the character formerly known as “The Fat Broad”) thrown in for good measure.

  17. be ware of eve hill

    @Maxine of Arc.

    Wow, that character developer certainly was a stickler for accuracy. My comment was just for laughs.

    I wonder what she thinks about furrys?

    • be ware of eve hill

      Dammit. I hate it when my wifi has a glitch and my reply gets moved down to the bottom of the page. 🤬