Whooo boy, today is a parade of crazy, rage eyes. You’d think someone had put a greasy slice of Montoni’s finest atop a priceless Starbuck Jones issue.
Cayla says we all know what is going on… but do we? Why is the cashier still grabbing after Logan’s bag if the sweater is accounted for? Why doesn’t Logan just let her look inside and then skewer the suspicious sourpuss with righteous innocence? Why are all of them risking an assault charge over this? This reedy, prim, Maris Rogers faced clerk doesn’t look like the kind to physically attack or restrain potential shoplifters. It isn’t like they’re being accused of pocketing oxytetracycline from the Farm and Supply and 6-foot Davis from the stock room is gonna tackle and hog-tie them.
Cayla says they can escalate things, but that is such a lie. None of these characters are capable of escalating things. Not only are they Batiuk creations in the Funkyverse, but they are, at best, tertiary characters. This is the most negative emotion we’ve seen any of them ever convey. And now it’s done. Off to fume and muse and pout.
Batiuk burnt himself out on melodrama decades ago and now the precious few strong negative emotional moments he can muster are reserved for his A-tier. If Linda Bushka didn’t get to break down sobbing at her husband’s degenerative disease and suicide, if Adeela stoically faced deportation with nothing more than a concerned look, if Marianne blithely listened to Les blather about his dead wife while Hollywood burned in the background…then you don’t get to escalate this.
59 responses to “Down the Escalator.”
I say escalate! Nuke them from orbit! Nuke them from where you stand! It’s the only way to be sure!
“We have to strike now, sir! Annihilate! Kill! Kill! Kill!”
Let ’em go! We need some excitement around here!
Wow, this is so brave. Why hasn’t the NY Times already written a puff piece on it? Don’t they consider it newsworthy that finally, at long last, a comic strip is willing to come out against virulent, violent racism?
That’s our Tommy! Always in the forefront. Willing to “go there” when other cartoonists are content to write dumb gags.
While everyone was distracted with the fight over the sweater, the real thief stole the logo off Malcolm’s shirt.
FW always does indignation really, really badly. This one is no exception. Cayla threatening to “escalate” the situation is pretty weird, but urging Malcolm and Logan to walk away is perfectly in character. She’s really kind of all over the place here. Pretty wild stuff by Cayla standards, though.
As CBH points out above, the sequence of events here makes no sense whatsoever. Here’s what we know so far: after allegedly being followed and racially profiled (which we didn’t actually see, thanks to the five days of pointless jabbering that preceded it), Malcolm moved a sweater from one table to another, prompting the Evil Racist Cashier to confront them and search Logan’s bag for some nefarious reason. Cayla then entered the store and proceeded to literally throw herself into the fray, a fray I was unaware was occurring until today.
So once again, BatYam has taken a simple, practically foolproof premise (African-American WHS couple is racially profiled) and gunked it all up with his typical incoherence and ineptitude, along with his steadfast desire to avoid doing anything that might even peripherally offend someone. Everything is all vague and cryptic, and it’s only Monday. What a debacle.
I DON’T know what’s going on here.
Regardless, this is an action scene, I guess, but I just don’t care about what happens to any of these non-characters. And yes, that includes Cayla, who is the wife of Less.
Mr. Batiuk leaves the best part out. Look back on the final panels of Sunday’s strip. How do do get from there to Monday’s tug of war? Unfathomable!
Note how BatYarn studiously avoided depicting the actual racial profiling. On Saturday, we saw the Racist Cashier glaring at Logan and Malcolm. Yesterday we had Malcolm complaining about being followed (which we didn’t actually see), then muddying up the waters with some nonsense about moving sweaters as a form of civil disobedience. Now today, it’s already a full-fledged brawl. Once again, he’s “addressing the issue” without actually addressing it…OR EVEN SHOWING IT…at all. He is absolutely brilliant at this, but I can never tell if it’s deliberate or it just happens that way.
Seriously. This conflict got resolved yesterday; how and why are they all in brawl mode now??
Wouldn’t it be cool if vanished Act I characters Roland, the social-justice kid, and Derek, the “cool” black kid, had founded an activist law firm in Cleveland that takes on cases just like these? And if we caught up with them and found out what they’ve been doing since high school, and they offered to handle the case pro bono because, hey, the WHS connection, and it became a major news story and…
HAHAHAHA!!! Just kidding. It’s time to call in a favor from President Obama! Pretty sure he’d do anything for a slice of Montoni’s!
And then we meet Funky’s long-lost African-American half-brother, Jazzy Winkerbean.
Haha, this Zara cashier we’ve known for all of three days is officially more interesting than any of these other characters we’ve known for years.
What ludicrous tenacity! Does she think physically confronting potential shoplifters is her ticket to the employee of the month bulletin board and a 35 cent/hour raise? She’d better get both, or else she’ll walk across the concourse to H&M… where they APPRECIATE employees who are willing to cut people who dare try to steal a $17 blouse.
I’m surprised it escalated into a full-blown melee this quickly. Cayla looks like an absolute mad woman today, I haven’t seen her this angry since she thought Cindy banged Les back in high school.
I can tell you this, though. If Malcolm ends up throwing a garbage can through the store window, I’m shutting the comments down, locking the SoSF HQ door and heading to Bermuda for a few weeks. I might do that if Les shows up, too.
If Les shows up in this arc? Or if Les shows up, like, ever?
Actually, I can understand your response either way.
I’m split on why Les isn’t a part of this arc. Part of me thinks that Batiuk possesses enough self-awareness that if he has a white man benevolently intervene in a racist incident to protect two innocent black children against a racist, that would be so patronizing that it itself would be racist. The story then is less about the incident in question and more about Batiuk’s White Savior.
But since he’s unlikely to have any self-awareness, my other feeling is that he just thought about the two black kids in a racial incident, needed an adult there and decided Cayla, cause, you know, she’s black. That’s also problematic, but not as egregious as Les being there would be.
Which only leads me to the ultimate conclusion that Batiuk just can’t write worth a damn. Why does Cayla have to be here? Why can’t the high school graduates handle this themselves? As today shows, it’s not as if the situation changed any by Cayla being there. Before she showed up, the kids were being accosted by the racist salesclerk. After she showed up, they’ve gone from being accosted to an actual physical altercation. Either Cayla contributed nothing to this scene or she escalated the confrontation, which is certainly not what Batiuk intended.
If it escalates any further, someone’s going to get beat down, which makes me kind of wish Les did show up to be the recipient. And a racist incident where the white guy in the group (an older man at that!) is the one to get savagely beaten by security would give this desultory story some distinction. I’ve just talked myself into it.
Why is this still going on? Instead of a time jump did we skip over to a parallel Earth where the situation wasn’t resolved yesterday?
Really, if this had to continue (which it didn’t), all that would be needed would be to show of Karen the Krabby Klerk hemming and hawing, impotently trying to justify her actions. Kayla could say “I think the words you’re looking for are ‘I’m sorry,'” before turning to the kids and adding, “Let’s get out of here and go to a store that actually wants its customers’ business.” Then we could all move on to see what’s been going on with Wally’s service dog, Buddy.
Related question: how is nobody else involved in this? This confrontation is happening in the mall hallway now, and the store employee is way out of line no matter what preceded it.
Buddy, the world’s most useless support animal.
Aw, who am I kidding. Who can resist the way he uses his widdle paws to cover his head during moments of crisis? He’s soooo cute! Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy? You are! Oh, yes, you are! Who wants a treat? Buddy wants a treat? Here’s a treat. Good boy!
“So, we all know what was going on here! Somebody is mad that they never won a Pulitzer Prize for their comic strips like Garry Trudeau and Berkeley Breathed did, and they thought latching onto the ‘hot’ topic of racial profiling and ‘Shopping While Black’ was a way to do it! Logan, just go into your bag and pull out the Editorial Writing citation you got at the Westview High Seniors Awards presentation so we can give it to You-Know-Who and make this madness go away!”
Boy, it’s a shame this storyline isn’t happening in a Hot Topic, isn’t it?
Burn down down, burn down Hot Topic
Preferably with all copies of “Lisa’s Story inside
Burn down down, burn down, burn down Hot Topic
Burn it down…. And “Lisa’s Story,” too!
This situation is now so implausible that it has no connection to anything in the real world. Real incidents of racial profiling don’t play out like this. Racists don’t act like this. Targets of profiling don’t act like this. Store employees don’t act like this. Bystanders don’t act like this. White people don’t act like this. Black people don’t act like this. The physical properties of a purse don’t even act like they’re being depicted here. Nothing needs to be said about this arc, beyond how horribly botched it is.
The Funkyverse seems to run on Blue Blue and Orange Morality. This is defined as “a moral framework so utterly alien and foreign to human experience that we can’t peg it as good or evil.” Normally this is employed in stories about weird space aliens, otherworldly cultures, or maybe just cats (seriously, that’s an example they give). Tom Batiuk thinks he’s writing “a reality-based comic strip that depicts contemporary issues in a thought-provoking and sensitive manner,” but he’s really employing Blue and Orange Morality.
Batiuk constantly expects his readers to empathize with things that aren’t necessarily wrong, but just don’t make any sense. Malcolm moving the sweater was a perfect example. What the hell was that supposed to accomplish? Why did it give him the moral high ground in a racial confrontation? How did he know exactly what the store clerk was planning, just from them glaring at each other? Why has no one else seen this confrontation, or gotten involved? Why is it still going on after he’s shown her where the “missing” sweater is? Yes, I realize that people can be irrational when they’re angry. But again, this is not how these incidents play out.
And it’s everywhere in the Funkyverse. Les Moore is a walking ball of Blue and Orange Morality. He cares about things nobody on earth would understand, but everyone ignores his rudeness to indulge him in it. The absurd level of importance given to comic books is another example. As is Batiuk’s aimless hatred of the Internet. And his nonsensical pattern of when real product names get used and when they don’t. Crankshaft isn’t free of this either. That dreadful story about Lillian taking her sister’s love letter back to the long-demolished dance hall was supposed to be her atonement arc, but it hardly makes up for her ruining two people’s lives out of petty jealousy. And she’s not even in the medal ceremony for the Awful Old People Olympics. Ed Crankshaft, Harry Dinkle, and Mort Winkerbean are all toxic, malicious people who inexplicably get the “wacky old guy” characterization. We’re supposed to like them! Not just empathize with them as flawed protagonists, but like them!
And Tom Batiuk plays this all 100% straight. He never breaks kayfabe. He is not even slightly kidding. Batiuk’s aversion to aside glances is revealing. Aside glances are how the character tells the audience “yes, I realize I’m in a weird situation.” This is necessary sometimes, because you need to remind the audience this is a realistic world. Aside glances don’t work in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, because that universe runs on weird events, and the story revolves around the characters taking it all seriously. So Batiuk is right not to use aside glances, but for the wrong reason. If one character ever acknowledged how strange this world is, the whole house of cards falls down. It raises the question of why we’re supposed to take any of this seriously.
So here we are. In the middle of a racial confrontation that defies commentary, because it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Tom Batiuk isn’t the only creator to employ the Blue and Orange Morality trope, but he might be the only one who doesn’t know he’s doing it. His own brain seems to work this way. A lot of his blog posts reveal the same kind of bizarre, unexplained logic. Why was Sadie Summers his worst character? How are aside glances “injecting himself into the story” if his endless comic book wanking isn’t? Why is he so desperate for awards and baffled why he doesn’t get them? There are more examples, but I’ve rambled enough.
Malcolm moving the sweater was a perfect example. What the hell was that supposed to accomplish? Why did it give him the moral high ground in a racial confrontation? How did he know exactly what the store clerk was planning, just from them glaring at each other? Why has no one else seen this confrontation, or gotten involved?
It’s pretty clear Malcolm’s pulling a Jussie Smollett here. It’s the only thing that makes a lick of sense. It would explain the clerk’s otherwise inexplicable behavior too: She’s a paid confederate.
Motive? Maybe he thinks when his story is splashed all over the news, someone will offer to pay his college tuition. Maybe he figures he can wring some money out of a GoFundMe so he doesn’t have to cadge popcorn money off his dates. Maybe he’s just a narcissist with a savior complex.
The only thing that remains to be seen is: Will Cayla use her cut of the grift to take herself on that long-awaited trip to China?
That would make sense, but Batiuk would never take the story that way. He’ll never make one of his “good” characters the villain, or even suggest they’re partially responsible (though they clearly are here). And he wouldn’t dare take a position more complex than “racism is bad.” As CBH pointed out last week, this incident isn’t even happening at the Westview Mall. And now we know why: because a Bad Person works there! That’s how extreme Batiuk’s conflict aversion is.
Oh man , that blog post is more of his rambling nonsense. He did make one good point though when he mentions that his presence is no longer needed. Indeed, I’m sure anyone else could do a better job with this strip.
From the blog post cited above: You can use time to more fully resonate with your readers on a real and believable level while you begin to discard the gimmicks that threaten that bond.
What th’?! — it’s called “writing,” sure, but in what language?
As you all know, I’m no stranger to long and sometimes convoluted sentences. But I try hard not to use 37 words of padding when 2 words would do.
I think what he was trying to say is something along the lines of “You can bond better with readers if you discard gimmicks.” What does “using time” have to do with it? And what does “bonding with readers” even mean? And why do “gimmicks” prevent it? Why are you “beginning to discard” them instead of just discarding them?
If you define a “gimmick” as a coy wink at the reader, TB’s beloved Silver Age comic books are like a gimmick factory. Cutesy/ironic narration boxes, anyone? Notes from the editor inserted into the story?
If you want to be bearable, Tom, pick ONE: Bloviating, vague prose OR incoherent premise. If you choose BOTH, you lose. We all lose.
Also: the aside glance isn’t a gimmick! It has perfectly valid uses. Act I Funky Winkerbean used them correctly. It’s just another of Batiuk’s dumb “rules of cartooning” that make no sense, don’t make his work any better, and often miss the point.
Moving the sweater to another shelf is really dumb, because it also gives that racist cashier a loophole to say “BUT THEY **WERE** ABOUT TO STEAL IT UNTIL THEY SAW ME APPROACH SO THEY HAD TO QUICKLY DITCH IT ON THE NEAREST TABLE!”
Look, I don’t know if Malcolm was just doing some stupid teenager shit, or if he was trying to bait or troll the cashier to prove a point, or if there was already some past history between them (Note to Batiuk: This is why crafting a layered narrative and backstory is so important instead of just throwing a couple of disposable no-name characters who were only known for playing Magic the Gathering with Bernie Bernbaum in medias res…)
Yes, as a younger man I’ve been stopped by police and had my car searched, I’ve been followed around stores, I’ve been accused of theft (but not like how we’re seeing in the Funkyverse), I’ve been accosted by total strangers with that you-don’t-belong-in-this-neighborhood/establishment attitude so I know the indignity… I just wish Batiuk could have handled the subject matter better…
Right. As I mentioned yesterday, there are many sides and perspectives around this issue, and there are no easy answers.
Batty is not equipped to deal with this issue at all and he is way out of his league here. But in his mind, he can puff his chest and tell all his friends that he is one of the good guys because he confronted racism head on in his strip.
This is a wonderful summary of what this strip has become, inhuman on a shocking and sometimes fascinating level. I was going to cite some examples in addition to the ones that you cited… but then it occurred to me that there are almost too many to count!
I started snarking on FW way back in the original Stuck Funky days because TB was (and is) so aggravatingly self-important, and self-importance is one of the few things in this life that I believe deserves snarky or mean-spirited response. While this reason for SOSF’s existence remains true as ever… these last five years or so I’ve come to realize that we’re also chronicling something outstandingly awful. Just putrid and incomprehensible and exhausting to follow, but also so utterly bizarre that it is actually interesting. FW is just not run-of-the-mill bad (oh if only it could rise to that level), it is, to borrow from Hitchhiker’s Guide, the poetry of Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Essex. It is truly notably bad. This thing is happening, it’s being printed in millions of newspapers every day, and no one with the power to do so is interested in either making it better or ending it. It’s up to us to leave a record of why either of those things should happen, and what inanity resulted when neither did.
That Tim Negoda sketch rings truer with every passing year, every inexplicable story. My admiration for the late Dan Ronan just continues to grow, the way he captured TB’s self-aggrandizing nature, complete inhabitation of blue-and-orange morality, and just general inhuman writing was truly brilliant.
Yeah, this why I hope the cancel crowd comes for Batty’s head.
Based on what’s been shown so far, though, there’s nothing to really cancel. It’s so vague and disjointed that there’s nothing to go on.
All the implications are there that this incident is based on a racist mentality animus but nothing has made that explicitly clear. Cayla’s interference, the deliberate sweater misplacement, and today’s strip all combine for a sequence of events that has no concrete basis in reality.
All he’s done so far is shown a few moments in time and we have all filled in the numerous and cavernous gaps. I dearly wish he’d face some negative repercussions for his shoddy work for once in his life, but it isn’t going to come from this, because this is just nothing. It’s nothing. He’s saying nothing.
ps: Another support for the comic edit. At least something came out of this.
Even in the midst of a violent racially-charged confrontation among four crazed characters, it’s nice to know that Cayla remembered the fundamentals: The first dialogue in a strip should start with So.
Have you noticed this trend where people are asked a question and they always answer with “so”?
Is this more Kardashian speak that has crept into everyday speech?
Darn those Kardashians. I knew they were trouble from the very first episode of “Star Trek: DS9.”
If you want drama, check out Mary Worth. The latest arc is great.
Although, they have been running essentially the same strip for 4 days now.
I’m waiting to learn that the dude fun-seeking Dawn is disco dancing with is the same guy who beat the patient that Jared is selflessly ministering to. Wouldn’t that be a larf and a half?
I keep thinking about some comments I read here pointing out that they probably would be recording this on their phones.
Apparently, they missed the opportunity to record their side of the story, but I guarantee a crowd has gathered and will be plastering this fight all over FaceSpace, Twootster, and MikMok. “Teenage thug gets caught shoplifting and attacks store clerk!”
I just dated myself and I didn’t even get to first.
Only one question remains: will Tom Batiuk talk up this “prestige arc” on his blog? He only talks about current FW strips when he’s fishing for an award or trying to sell his books.
I would pay real American money to see Cayla confront Lester like this just once…
And a word to the wise for Malcolm — Even for an awkward teenage friend zone first date, following your girl around the women’s section while she rummages through brightly colored sweaters in June just isn’t something that men do… Be advised you can get your Man Card revoked in the future for repeated offenses.
And as others have been saying, it’s clear by now nothing has been stolen… The puck has been frozen and the play whistled dead, so what’s with all this cross-checking and roughing and chirping?
Scowly McNametag is still fighting — somehow, with her stick arms and legs and 3 strong adults against her — because she’s such an unregenerate racist that no amount of evidence can persuade her that all black people aren’t thieves and criminals. You know how white folks are!
Tune in tomorrow, when Ms Mcnametag will grow a Snidely Whiplash moustache. Wednesday: She twirls it.
I really would like to know what happened between yesterday and today’s strip to make Cayla feel like she needed to jump in between two adults and try to shove them apart.
My guess is that Cayla needs to get injured so she can go to the ER. Loggy and Thatsnot will go along, as always happens on ambulance trips to the ER, and will see her being treated by loudly anti-racist folk. Then Karen LeKlerk arrives, badly injured from a cash register explosion, and only Cayla can provide the rare blood type she needs to survive. But Cayla has lost so much blood that only Montoni’s pizza can stimulate her marrow to churn out extra corpuscular cells! Les is inspired to write a non-Lisa book about it all and everyone dies of disgust.
No, I am not crazy. In fact a team of seven psychiatrists once voted unanimously that I was ready to be released from a psych ward. I wonder if Batiuk could say the same thing.
Upvoted just for “Karen LeKlerk.”
LOL. I love your doctored comic strip, CBH. It’s stunning how you folks can completely change a character’s expression by changing a line or two.
The other day you mentioned you have experience working in retail. Did you ever witness a shoplifter? If so, what did you do?
Oops. I meant to cut and paste be ware of eve hill’s name into the body of the reply, but I mixed up my clipboard entries and posted it in the name field by accident. Sorry, be ware of eve hill, you’re not going crazy.
Hey SS, I’m not really following what happened. But if you want my name, I’m sure we can negotiate a fair price.😁
Four score and seven years ago, when I was a sales clerk, there was a loss prevention department. The store had several security cameras and
a couple plain-clothes loss prevention men working the floor. We contacted them if we saw anything suspicious. The departments where I usually worked, the young girl’s department or the baby department, didn’t have much shoplifting.
It was hard to tell if someone was shoplifting anyway. If someone entered the fitting room with a clothing item and exited empty-handed, the clothing was usually left in the fitting room. The worst part of the job was going back into the fitting rooms and restocking all the merchandise left behind. In addition, customers would leave drink cups, food wrappers and worst of all, soiled diapers.
There was one incident where I saw a girl slipping a headband into her coat. I yelled, “Hey! Put that back!” Startled, she dropped it and ran out of the store. That was the closest thing to a confrontation with a shoplifter I ever had.
Your parody comics are excellent, CBH. The anniversary party strips were so good I kept them open and re-read them every day for a week.
From one Parody Artist to another! I tip my hat to you too good sir!
Les Moore makes me Miserable: to CBH our own Cosette
I am agog!
I am aghast!
Is Logan in love with Malcom?
We’ve never heard his name before.
He talks of money to be spent,
He brought no money to his date.
It is better than an opera!
White! The glaring of her comma eyes.
Black! The hiding of the sweater.
White! Her pulling at the purse.
Black! Cau-Cayla watches on.
Red! the blood of angry shoppers!
Black! Cau-Cayla now is jumping in!
White! We know what choice she’ll make!
Black! Their fate rests in Cau-Cayla’s hands!
Black! We know what’s going on here.
White! We can escalate things.
Black! Why listen to Cayla?
White! Still won’t let go of her bag.
Doomed! Abandon all hope here!
Mush! Les will soon be there!
Fool! Did you expect a plot?
Batiuk! The color of despair!
“Doomed! Abandon all hope here!
Mush! Les will soon be there!
Fool! Did you expect a plot?
Batiuk! The color of despair!”
This could the the tagline for the entire site. Just *chef’s kiss*
Realistically here, if Cayla really thinks something serious is happening, the best thing would be to record it with her phone. The way she’s acting would only make sense if someone was about to be seriously physically injured, which there’s no indication of at all and makes zero sense.
“Where’s the sweater?! The sweater’s in her purse!”
“The sweater is right there, on that table.”
“I need to look in her purse!”
*Cayla jumps in between and is apparently using every ounce of her strength to separate ThatsNot and the clerk*
This is not called writing. It’s called definitive proof that the publisher of this strip doesn’t read it.
Where is Don Brodka when you need him?
Wow, $11/hr racist retail worker is really going all in on protecting the merchandise. She’s taking on three separate people in a physical confrontation, over what? Did it not even occur to her that if Logan and Lumpy really were trying to shoplift, they might turn violent when confronted and grabbed? Is a sweater that the store cared so little about that they didn’t attach an anti-theft device to it worth getting your ass beat down over?
I do like the inclusion of Cayla, because as we’ve been amply shown over the years, none of the child characters can do anything without an adult present. I also like how she, a grown woman, couldn’t figure out how to resolve this situation without throwing herself into the middle of the fray and quite possibly getting her ass beat and arrested as well.
“So what happened today, Cayla?”
“I got beat up, tased and arrested at the mall because a salesclerk thought one of the kids had stolen something.”
“Well, as Lisa…”
“Shut the fuck up.”
Cayla: So, we all know what’s going on here!
Cayla, I’m glad you know what’s going on here because I sure don’t.