That’s right, BatYam, it’s the readers who are wrong. This attitude sure explains an awful lot. “Crappy serialized stories that plod along for weeks on end and never go anywhere are what comic strip authors choose to publish!”…yep, they sure do. It’s one of American popular culture’s most enduring and vexing conundrums.
40 responses to “No Country For Old Comic Book Men”
Story? Batiuk, you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
“Comic book stories are what comic book publishers choose to publish!” And comic book publishers refused to hire Tom Batiuk as a writer, so what are we to make of that?
I’ll say this about panel 2: The artwork and monologue are both infinitely insufferable and infuriating. Great synergy between writer and artist!
This should be rock-bottom for this strip. But we all know it’s just going to get worse. It always does.
Oh, it’ll get worse. This strip has gone to some mighty strange places thus far in 2022 and I fully expect that trend to continue.
“Exactly,” said Batton Thomas. “There are no bad ideas! Do you hear me? None! EVERYTHING THAT’S PUBLISHED IS BRILLIANT AND AWARD-WORTHY. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be published! Published by a publisher! Because a publisher clearly knows what should be published! Meaning anyone who is published is therefore worthy! And you can trust me on this, for I myself have been published! By a publisher! That’s how you know I’m not just “Rapping Around” — I’m telling you the truth! Speaking of which, is this enough words yet? Have we filled ALL the word balloons? Because once we have, that’s all we need to have publishable material! Material worthy of being published! By a publisher!”
It’s another manifestation of Batiuk’s deep-seated need to earn the approval of the comic book industry. And his view of formal publishers, especially, comic book makers as the world’s arbiters of taste. Small, independent, or self-published media don’t exist to him, even in his fantasy world. Even though Atomix Komix very much resembles an independent publisher.
It’s such a bizarre tonal shift. On Monday this story was about Batton Thomas using the “flash” treadmill at Atomik Komix headquarters, but today we have Chester taking what appears to be some sort of demented stand regarding what comic book publishers prefer to publish. I guess he’s saying that he cares so much about climate damage that he’s going to force his agenda down their throats whether they like it or not, which is weirdly arrogant by FW standards, although I don’t think BatYam intended it to come across that way. Then again, maybe he did, but he was just typically unclear about it. Either way, it’s a long way from where we started, yet nothing actually happened. With FW, the total lack of action actually drives the stories.
Trust me, there will be even more readers who complain about the latest issue of Archie’s Sonic The Hedgehog comic book… which was published 6 years ago.
Thank you, Chester the Molester, for eloquently summing up in 11 simple words the reason that American comic books–especially the Big Two Panties-and-Capes Companies–have been hemorrhaging readers for several years and are being consistently being outsold by Japanese manga titles.
Those two big companies you mentioned may be losing circulation, but they’ve been laughing all the way to the movie box office, TV syndication and GameStop for a couple of decades… They just know where their bread is buttered…
Is comic book collecting entering the junk era, like sports cards did in the 90s? Someone mentioned excessive variant covers, which would certainly be a sign of that.
Much like his comic strip, Batty’s mythical comic book company prints whatever the hell they want. There’s no regard at all for what the public may want to read.
It’s all rainbows, unicorns, and cotton candy for Batty’s comic book company.
Who cares about sales and revenue. We’re running a comic book company the way we want. We’re publishing stories for a fringe audience. Ourselves!
Chester: Who cares about generating revenue. The only important things are smug, self-satisfied employees, and warm fuzzy feelings! YaY!
How the hell is Chester still rich? He gives his employees dream contracts and gives away his intellectual properties. There’s no editorial oversight whatsoever. Atomic Komix has to be a financial black hole.
Atomik Komix is a joke. Who does the printing? Who handles the distribution? Who markets the titles? Who handles the accounting and financing? No investors? No shareholders? Does Chester finance everything?
Batty’s silly little comic book company would be out of business in a matter of weeks. Is Atomik Komix a huge charitable tax write-off? A front for the mob?
As a businesswoman, I find this story arc painfully childish and naive.
No legal department to handle the numerous cases of plagiarism?
Chester: Not a problem. Nobody sues in Make-believe land.
In Westview, lawsuits only occur if they involve balls of dirt.
Balls of dirt? What lawsuit was this?
I don’t really remember many legal issues in Funky Winkerbean aside from Lisa’s failed legal career and the Roberta Blackburn pornography case against Skunkhead.
Can you tell us more about the case against Skunkhead?
@ Dood, the whole “Roberta Blackburn sues DSH and Komix Korner for selling obscenity” story arc had the exact same goal as this week’s, to let TB grandstand about how comics can be all important and not kiddie and stuff.
Roberta wound up in Komix Korner to buy a comic book for a kid’s birthday or something and wandered past the “adult comics”, something she scoffed at before she picked one up (a Japanese manga) and found it to be obscene. So she went all “think of the children” and had DSH arrested for selling such smut in a “children’s store”. DSH getting arrested is probably my favorite FW strip of all time:
DSH employed Lisa to defend him at the trial… though Lisa was upstaged by star witness John Byrne:
Who word zepplined this fantastically verbose and tremendously obtuse defense of “adult” themes in Japanese comics:
Instead of, to borrow from Tom Lehrer again, correctly noting that “dirty books are fun”.
Balls of dirt? What lawsuit was this?
Learn more about it in the Batiuktionary!
Thank you for explaining the “Roberta Blackburn sues DSH and Komix Korner for selling obscenity” story arc. You did a far better job than I ever could have. I forgot that the surprise expert witness was Batty’s buddy, John Byrne. Small wonder why you are referred to as the site’s Funky Winkerbean historian.
That story arc was back in the days when Funky Winkerbean was an enjoyable read.
Oh, little Kevin Brown, where are you now?
Thanks for the reference strip, @TFHackett. I had to take a refresher and reread those strips.
Ugh, not only was Skunkhead not ‘sued into a ball of dirt’ for exposing the plot of the Starbuck Jones movie, the studio hired him to be a part-time research assistant. Then Skunkhead, the world’s worst businessman, got tricked into doing it for only a free trip to Comic-Con (of course).
More nauseating Act III wish-fulfillment and good fortune. It’s a small wonder why it was deleted from my memory.
Jesus Christ, that… I don’t even want to know what to call it about Gross John and the pornographic comics. It’s clear Batiuk has absolutely no idea how the legal system works and didn’t feel any need to investigate for even a second how it all works.
I’ve promised myself I wouldn’t get into all the screwups of that sequence, so here’s just a FEW of the issues.
1. Is it a civil or a criminal case? Gross John getting arrested suggests that it’s criminal, but Roberta sitting at the counsel’s table and the rest of her behavior suggest it’s civil.
2. But it can’t be civil because there’s literally nothing that Roberta can bring against Gross John. So if I don’t like the idea that the supermarket sells aspirin, Batiuk thinks I can sue the supermarket and get the manager arrested?
3. But if it’s criminal the only question is whether Gross John broke the law. Is there a law on the Ohio books that governs selling pornography in this context? If there is, then all the crap Batiuk brings in is superfluous. If there isn’t, Gross John doesn’t get charged and this whole thing doesn’t happen. Prosecutors can’t just make shit up to charge you with.
4. That’s nice, Mr. Byrne, but the fact that tentacle pornography has a long and august history in Japanese culture isn’t an argument that would overrule a criminal law. This shit wouldn’t come up at the trial. It’d come up on appeal after Gross John gets convicted under the law and Lisa tries to get it overturned based on First Amendment grounds.
5. What the hell law did Gross John get charged with violating? Selling pornography? Selling pornography to kids? Failing to separate pornography from the age-appropriate material in his store? Batiuk never actually explains this and instead leaves it up to his audience to fill in his essential details. It’s his trademark lazy writing.
Instead, it just seems that Batiuk’s decided that he’s going to rail against a nonexistent law that comic book stores must sell only comic books appropriate for young children. Does he really think this is how the world works? Or does he think that this massive departure from reality somehow sheds light on some real issue? He just wanted to indicate that comics aren’t just for children and decided that a ludicrous and unbelievable legal fight, when clearly he has no idea how the legal system functions, was the only means he had to make this point?
Anyway, I’m just going to retcon it that Gross John was selling hardcore porn comic books to young children. It makes more sense than anything Batiuk presented in that sequence. If Batiuk can retcon his past sequences, so can I.
Even though the original Atomik Komix got sued out of existence for this very reason.
I’d speculated a long time ago that AK was just Chester’s little vanity project… A hyper-wealthy manchild geek’s plaything which doesn’t have to turn a profit because he’s still making mountains of money in his other ventures (after all, it’s not like Chester somehow forgot how to wheel and deal real estate or trade derivatives on Dow Jones.)
Usually bored rich dudes buy an NBA franchise or a pro soccer team or get into Formula 1… Chester’s thing is publishing his very own niche comic books. Remember he started out by making Pete+Darrin LITERALLY THE HIGHEST PAID IDIOTS IN THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY just to hire them out of Hollywood… Then he purchased and completely renovated A NINE STORY BUILDING IN CLEVELAND’S PRICEY, GENTRIFIED WAREHOUSE DISTRICT JUST TO HOUSE HIS TWO-EMPLOYEE OPERATION(!)
And no, I’m not making any of this stuff up
An excellent theory. If AK was just Chester’s personal little vanity project, it would explain why nobody in the crowd gave a damn when the AK crew showed up at Comic-Con last year for the Phil Holt resurrection. Also, explains why AK never bothered to set up a display booth there.
Comic-Con Fan #1: Say, isn’t that comic book writer Pete Roberts who used to work for DC or Marvel?
Comic-Con Fan #2: He came from Westview. Didn’t he die from cancer or something?
The printing of a comic could be handled by the office color printer. Possibly a desktop printer in Chester’s office.
I knew Chester was rich but never really thought of him as mega-rich. We saw Chester’s home, which was big, but it didn’t appear to be a megamansion. On the other hand, Ayers has a tendency to draw objects smaller than they should be.
A couple of years ago, I referred to Westview as the garbage capital of the world because of all of the garbage story arcs. Perhaps Chester made his fortune from real estate. Selling land in Westview for landfills.
Westview, the Garbage Capital of the World. Has a nice ring to it, huh?
Last time I saw Chester’s home, I’m pretty sure I recall a swimming pool, tennis courts and a butler bringing him a banana split, which implies he also has a chef and maid at the minimum… Yeah, he’s stupid rich and is clearly fine with running AK at a loss because he’s such a wizard at playing the stock market new money is constantly flowing in
Atomik Komix could be a tax write-off, or part of some corporate shell game. An IRS audit would probably reveal that Chester’s finances are far more creative than the rest of Batiuk’s work.
That’s right! You show that strawman who’s the boss! You knock that strawman straight to hell!
Conflict: Resolved! And now, back to Absolutely Fucking Nothing, already in progress.
The lesson is: Batty just publishes what he wants, the readers be damned.
It’s sentiments such as this that justify all the criticism Batty receives. It’s all about him, his interests, his likes.
Not just what he likes, but the very narrow way he likes it. It’s revealing that Funky Winkerbean doesn’t have a following of comic book fans, like it does band directors. A lot of us here are comic book fans, and we find this crap as boring and tedious as anyone else.
“You show that strawman who’s the boss!”
This 100%. A publisher does make a choice of what material it wants to publish but those choices have consequences. As be ware of eve hill points out above, running a publishing company (or any business) is a complicated undertaking. For the fantasy world Atomik Comix inhabits, none of that exists. Wish fulfillment is not storytelling.
Reminds me of something…
Pardon me, Miss. You have something hanging out of your nose.
Can somebody please explain nose rings to me?
Tattoos, nose studs, and many assorted body piercings don’t bother me. Nose rings through both nostrils make me think of Warner Brothers cartoon bulls.
Let the “okay boomer” replies commence.
I’m not a boomer but agree 100%. The nose ring signifies that you are easily led by the nose.
I remember a young gal from a previous workplace. She was blonde but always had a single color highlight. The color highlight could be pink, purple, blue, or green. She had tattoos all over, several earrings, eyebrow piercings, and a tongue stud. She usually wore a loud dress and several bracelets that always clattered. Her dresses often had a boob window that framed her cleavage.
What department did she work for? Marketing.
Not so surprising if you think bout it.
Who the hell is that?
Reminds me of the team president for the Cincinnati Reds and his “message” for the fans…
After Dirk posted the video, I spent some time hunting for her identity. She is Kelly Sue DeConnick. She has worked for both DC on Aquaman, and on Captain Marvel at Marvel. She also worked on the Captain Marvel film. There are a few years in between quotes telling fans to not buy her work, and then several years later realizing fans took her up on her idea.
This goes a long way toward explaining Mary Worth.
Sure, Tommy. That’s a really big problem with American superhero comics now. They refuse to publish any progressive/politically-correct points of view. That’s probably why their readership is falling. Thank heavens Chester’s here, to FINALLY bring some publicity to the under-exposed topic of climate change!
This makes absolutely zero sense…
1. Yes, Chester’s stance on artistic integrity is fine along with his stated policy of allowing his writers to have 100% editorial control, but it’s also a given when you’re a little boutique publisher with limited runs and no plans to go mainstream or even turn a profit…
2. What fucking year is Batton Thomas living in? Does he really think that overt societal or political messaging in comics is new, bold, avant garde concept??
1, Like everything else in Funky Winkerbean, what Atomik Komix is changes week to week as the story needs. They certainly resemble a boutique publisher, but when Batiuk wants to give someone an award, they’re relevant enough for their employees to earn Hall of Fame recognition. When they go to Comic-Con, they’re big enough to have fans wearing t-shirts of their characters. They’re wealthy enough to pay obscene salaries, but too broke to play the light bill.
2. Yes, he really does think that. Batiuk thinks he invented serious stories in the comics and aging his characters, even though other strips were doing these things better long before.
Happy Free Comic Book Day, everybody!