It’s been said before, but wow, Old Harry is abysmally bad at the whole not screwing up the timeline thing.
SOON, IN THE NEAR FUTURE/DISTANT PAST:
Crazy Harry: Hey, you’re the Eliminator! My future self told me to be nice to you, right after he told me about comic book stores and that I would some day marry a woman and have physical relations with her! Hey, where are you going? (Donna begs her parents to move out of Westview and is never seen again, and never comes near video games, comics, or anything remotely nerdy again).
I like that Old Harry has to tell Young Harry to be nice to someone. Was he just a raging jerk to everyone he met?
34 responses to “Ancient Her-history”
As usual, once again a FW character totally squanders an incredible opportunity with a bunch of stupid wisecracks and weak wry banter. He SHOULD have told him “put everything you can on Genuine Risk in the Derby and bet heavily on the Phillies and the Radiers”, but that might have made the story interesting or something, so no dice. “Crazy goes back in time and gives himself four quarters for a dollar”…sigh.
Four quarters with dates decades in the future for a dollar, too.
“Hey, what are these coins with pictures of states on one side? These aren’t quarters, you crook!”
Alfred Bester did a story like that; can’t remember the title, but it had a time traveler spend some paper money from a couple of decades in the future. When a cashier who suspected it was counterfeit, she showed it to the viewpoint character, He looked at the signature of the Secretary of the Treasury and saw his own name in his handwriting.
While it’s possible that someone here in 2022 might have four pre-1980 quarters in their pocket, the actual odds would be mighty slim for sure. The odds on Crazy having a pre-1980 dollar bill on his person, though, would be way slimmer, as dollar bills very rarely last that long in circulation. And I have to admit, Crazy Harry walking around town with only four quarters in his pocket seems about right, given where he works and all.
This one is another great example of how with BatYarn, the premise is the entire story. “Crazy goes back in time to 1980” is almost the entire sum total of the story. Giving Young Crazy change for a buck is literally the only thing that actually happened, unless you count the droll banter, which I do not. Old Crazy offered no real advice, nor did he say anything especially funny, nor did Young Crazy. They were just kind of there, in the past, and that’s it.
It’s amazing how bad Batiuk is at narrative. This week didn’t build to anything. Nothing that these two idiots said earlier in the week affected what they said later in the week. They couldn’t even maintain a conversation, instead flitting from one topic to the next without transition, progression or logic.
And if for some reason he didn’t want these guys to have something resembling an actual conversation, he still doesn’t see the potential humor he could mine in that situation. Old Crazy’s trying to explain something important to Young Crazy but Young Crazy is only concerned about whether he’s going to get laid at some point. And that’s when Old Crazy feels some existential horror because he realizes just how much of an idiot he is.
Instead, Batiuk just engages in something akin to Crazy jacking himself off this week. Hey, you know what might have been more interesting and more logical? Have Maddie go back in time and meet her idiot dad when he was 16. Just that idea is more interesting than everything Batiuk’s going to do with this dumb month-long story.
But then, it IS Batiuk writing it. So I’m sure he’d find some way to bumble it and manage to find the least interesting way to proceed with that.
Phoebe, in a much better strip, did go back in time and meet her dad at summer camp, And it was funny and charming. Phoebe’s dad is a gamer, and he and Phoebe play together (and rag on each other) regularly.
It can be done. But TB doesn’t want to do it.
It’s Cargo Cult Writing. Batiuk imitates narrative without understanding it. He’s seen stories like Bambi and Old Yeller and what happened to Gwen Stacy, and thinks “character dies + other character is sad = I get all the Pulitzers.” He has no clue what made those stories work. So when Lisa suffering and Les being sad doesn’t win him any awards, he just does it again. And again. And again. And again.
Fun Fact: The average lifespan of a dollar bill is 6.6 years.
With Batiuk it would turn out that one of the quarters was a rare mistrike, worth millions, perhaps even dozens, of dollars. Harry, excited by his discovery, would celebrate his newfound wealth by using the quarter to play another round of Defenders.
That is spot-on. Batiuk loves his “the ordinary stuff from our childhoods is worth zillions of dollars with no regard to condition” stories. And the cheap irony of his characters missing out on these opportunities.
This could be the same trope Isaac Asimov used in his Fifties short story “The Red Queen’s Race,” in which a time-traveler gives the ancient Greeks a certain amount of scientific and engineering know-how to guarantee that they will know the things that they needed to know in order for the modern world to arise. Young Harry now knows that the Eliminator is not only a girl, but the only girl in existence who will take an interest in him, thereby guaranteeing that Harry will get laid. I could mention the inevitable offspring, but perhaps the side-effects of time travel caused them to vanish.
It’s a good thing Harry didn’t mention gifting salad dressing to The Eliminator, else everything about his future marriage would vanish…
lf Batiuk ever wanted to sell prints, that’s a surefire way to do it.
Now there’s a strip I’d like to have on a coffee mug!
Oooo! Zazzle can sell a vinyl wrapped flask with that image.
For those times when you may need a little liquid courage before confronting a Funky Winkerbean
If he did a Sunday “homage” cover with Funky breaking Les’s back over his knee, I promise you it would outsell every other strip he’s done, combined.
Oh, a “Les Moore dies” arc…that’s truly the dream. I’d settle for a dream sequence, like when Boy Lisa was gunned down on the deck of a ship while trying to steal pens.
Why stop there? I know a whole bunch of Funkyverse characters who need to get one right between the eyes…
Panel 1: Harry stands and does the finger up-point thing to signify that he is going to say something important.
Panel 2: Harry, for some reason, sits back down to deliver part of his important message.
Panel 3: Harry is walking out the door doing that “shark bite” hand gesture that Steve Martin did on Saturday Night Live (in 1980?) as he makes his big point. Unfortunately, his younger self is sitting in a position where he can’t see the gesture, rendering it pointless. And pointless sums up this entire filler arc that we’ll all forget ever happened within a week.
December 1979: Steve Martin tells Johnny Carson, “Did I say Terre Haute was the most nowhere place in the country? I meant to say Westview. God, that place makes Terre Haute look like Vegas! Terre Haute even has its own comic book shop. They’ve never even heard of those in Westview.”
Harry’s Columbo impression needs work. A lot of work. All of the work.
Hey, SoSF Gang, how’s everybody doing? I’m still on vacation from this nonsense and dropped by just to say “Hi.” With any luck I’ll be back before May Day, but if anyone wants me, I’m hanging out in “Rex Morgan, M.D.,” where a Green Hornet knock-off called the Street Sweeper is hitting bad guys with a broom, and “Gearhead Gertie,” where the title character is upset because her husband breathed during a televised NASCAR race. In the meantime, a Happy Easter, Sameach Pesach, and Ramadan Kareem to all.
Hey, J.J., thanks for stopping by. Even by Funky Winkerbean standards, this story arc has been a complete bore. What could have been an interesting premise has been given the typical hamfisted Batiuk treatment. A totally unremarkable story arc with no memorable moments at all. The average number of daily comments has been in the low thirties all week.
I get it. I’ve been there. Sometimes you need a sabbatical away from Funky Winkerbean. It’s frustrating to realize someone gets paid a lot of money to produce this crap without getting sued for gross negligence or comic strip malpractice.
Enjoy the rest of your Winkerbean-free vacation. Hope to see you back soon. Meanwhile, see you in the funny pages.
Huh. Here I was thinking “All You Zombies” was the best time travel story ever written.
Also one of the best, and most forgotten, 1980s rock songs.
And, true to form, the arc runs out of steam and appears to end. Will TomBa even bother to show a conclusion to resolve whether this is real or that Donna created a working virtual reality helmet decades ago?
The thing that bothers me about these time travel arcs is how they appear our of nowhere and then disappear back into nowhere, with no explanation. Westview is a normal place that adheres to all the physical laws until one day, a helmet that Donna wore to play video games as a teen suddenly becomes a time machine, and the next day it will be thrown back in the attic and forgotten. And don’t get me started on the “time pool” or the “Funky goes back in time after getting hit by a minivan” arcs.
It’s like time travel is just another contrivance that Batuik uses to revisit the glory days of the strip, since he ran out of new material years ago.
And when he revisits, he can’t think of anything to do or say.
I’m surprised he didn’t give us a thorough look at all of those Lisa tapes, but that would take work, so it’s not going to happen.
Normally I operate under the rule of “never credit to evil genius what can be explained by simple incompetence,” but this arc is stretching that rule to the breaking point. I find it hard to believe that anybody, even Tom, can be this clueless about narrative and story construction. I’m beginning to think this whole business of pitching a premise and then doing nothing with it is, in his mind, some kind of high art form, a commentary on our expectation that stories are supposed to go somewhere. He likes to say his strip is “a quarter-inch from reality,” and in the real world, most of the time nothing of an consequence happens. This strip is like that plaque hanging over the bar, the one that says “ON THIS SPOT, ON SEPTEMBER 23 OF THE YEAR 1885, NOTHING OF ANY SIGNIFICANCE HAPPENED,” repeated day after day, arc after arc. Maybe he thinks he’s the “Seinfeld” of the comics page. No, wait… “Seinfeld” was at least occasionally funny.
He isn’t an evil genius — he is in fact neither evil NOR a genius. He has proven over and over again that he quite simply genuinely believes that pitching character names in combination with a drawing is EXACTLY the same thing as telling a story. In Tom Batiuk’s mind, when paired with a drawing, the words “The Oceanaire” are a story. Same is true of “The Elementals Force”. Or “Charlie and Chuck”. Or “Crazy Harry, Time Traveler.”
Batiuk’s lazy, sure, so believing this saves him a lot of work. But he also simply lacks the brain capacity to understand the concept of story at any other level.
Is he stupid? I don’t know about that. There maybe other areas of his life wherein he can grasp multi-layered concepts. But he IS naive and unsophisticated — there was the whole embarrassing issue of plugging Harry’s Rose Bowl parade appearance, only to have the “appearance” be on tiny, unreadable banners that were light years away from any float (or TV camera). He got completely rooked on that one, and doesn’t seem to know it. Also, he honestly believes that if he hears about something, he’s therefore ‘researched’ it. And his blog demonstrates on an almost daily basis that he’s self-absorbed, without being the least bit self-aware.
But EVIL? Doubtful. And genius? Absolutely not.
I would forgive this strip a lot if Harry went back to find that something had actually changed. Especially if it was something catastrophic.
But TB’s philosophy, as expressed in the abandoned-house arc, is that nothing anybody does matters or makes a difference. So even time travel can alter nothing.