Worming Out of the Bait Shop

Link to Today’s Strip.

Whooo boy! Y’all are getting spicy in the comments! Not at each other, which is just a beautiful thing to see. But at Batiuk’s gutless little morality play. Which puts me in a weird spot, because while I think this all is bad and stupid and cheap and self-serving. I don’t find it uniquely infuriating.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the 90’s, when this sort of cheap pandering to social issues was omnipresent? But I’m guessing that stretches back into the 80’s and earlier. There has never been a time in my life where I haven’t been blandly preached at by media makers looking to mould my young mind and make a few bucks off of the process.

Save the Planet! Buy our Merch!

Many of you in the comments are baffled as to why Batiuk had Malcolm move the sweater. This muddles the issue by giving Kashier Klerk Karen a kernel of something to base her suspicion on. Why is Batiuk giving her this out? Epicus thinks this was to keep the K.K. Karen from doing or saying anything overtly racist and thus invite controversy. And he might be right.

I have a different take. When I was poking around doing my ‘shopping while black’ research, I stumbled across a YouTube video. It had been put together by a young black man filming himself in stores to catch cashiers following him around. He walks around the store with his phone held out in front of him loudly talking about the cashiers and where they are. Then he calls out and laughs at the cashiers who are surreptitiously keeping an eye on him.

Most of the comments were people apologizing, commiserating, and laughing. But a few pointed out that, by having his phone out, he was probably raising the suspicions of clerks. Some even pointed out several tiktok memes that had involved filming yourself doing stuff in stores, and wondered if the clerks were on the look out for that.

We saw that Karen deKlerk, (Kudos to William Thompson for that,) was giving these two the stink-eye the second they walked in. Malcolm, angry at being treated like whatever the “…” trail off was supposed to signify, decides to bait her. For the very first time since he’s been introduced he acts like a stupid teenager.

Batiuk is actually saying something much more likely to get him in trouble than just having the Karen the Krazy Kleptospotter be overtly loudly racist. He’s saying that provoking a confrontation is wrong. That Malcolm’s anger is justified, but his actions are not. He is opening himself up to a whole army of people calling him out on ‘tone policing’ from his privileged position; people who think that the color of your skin, or your gender, or your place of origin bars you from commentary.

Kommadant Karen is not going to change in this story, she’s just a bitter force of nature ala Roberta Blackburn. Malcolm is going to change through the interventions of wise old Cayla. And Cayla is the mouthpiece of Batiuk.

If people other than us were actually paying attention, Batiuk could get in trouble for daring to preach at young blacks.

Some would say that he shouldn’t do this because he’s white.

I would say he shouldn’t do this because he’s really really bad at it.

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55 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

55 responses to “Worming Out of the Bait Shop

  1. Captain Gladys Stoatpamphlet

    You rarely see people eating ice cream out of an envelope.

  2. J.J. O'Malley

    I hate to contradict you, Panel Two Logan and Cayla, but you’re both wrong; It wasn’t funny in the least, and it’s already something worse.

  3. Epicus Doomus

    So essentially, Logan is saying she thought it was funny to bait the store clerk into believing that they’d stolen a sweater, which kind of seriously undermines the whole “racial profiling” premise. Now the whole sequence of events is even MORE ambiguous, vague and nebulous than it already was, and bear in mind it was already incomprehensible as recently as yesterday.

    And he couldn’t even bring himself to have Malcolm say it. “She was following us like we were…”, what, exactly? Like two teenagers who appeared to be stealing a sweater? It’s another shamelessly gutless display by the most shamelessly gutless writer the world has ever known.

    • Bad wolf

      Cayla had no idea what she was dealing with in Malcolm, for he was no mere baiter; he was a Master baiter.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I love the punctuation mark. “Like we were….!” What does an ellipsis followed immediately by an exclamation point signify? He’s saying nothing, but he’s saying it very emphatically! This punctuation mark should be called the batiuk.

  4. billytheskink

    But Cayla, what could be worse than being party to Tom Batiuk trying to use his comic strip to carry “the weight of substantial ideas”?

    • billytheskink

      OK, it just hit me. Being married to Les. That’s worse. Cayla would know.

      Carry on, Cayla.

  5. RudimentaryLathe?

    Yeah, this is going to weird place. Thatsnaught baiting Kashier Karen with the sweater shift *was* a stupid thing to do; but seeing as KK actually assaulted Logan over it Cayla’s little speech comes off as pretty victim-blamey. “Just ignore them isn’t sage advice when someone’s being a bigot.
    And Mal doesn’t act like he actually cares about Logan’s feelings either, sitting there stewing in his righteous fury. This is such a tone-deaf mess all the way around that I’m genuinely surprised it’s not Les being the Wise Adult™ here.

    • Epicus Doomus

      A sales clerk follows Logan and Malcolm around the store. She accuses them of stealing a sweater. L & M freak out. The clerk demands that Logan opens her bag. She does, no sweater. It’s right over there. Clerk is humiliated, says “I made a big mistake”. Cayla arrives, says “you sure did”.

      It writes itself, but only if you have the sales clerk actually racial profile them. It’s the whole basis of the story. But in BatHam’s version, we never actually SEE the racial profiling. And on top of that, he contrives a way to make it all ambiguous, like maybe the clerk wasn’t actually racially profiling them at all. And on top of that, the whole thing may have been an ill-conceived prank gone awry. He couldn’t bring himself to just do the story. He wildly overthought it in a weird attempt to avoid ruffling any feathers, despite it being a totally foolproof, slam-dunk topic. It’s kind of remarkable when you look at it that way. He’s the most non-committal non-politician you’ll ever find. How he’s never been elected to public office is beyond me.

  6. sorialpromise

    Why am I always the last to know? I just found out today that Mr. Batiuk is one of the special guests at the 2022 Comic Con in San Diego. Gosh! Whatever does he have to say? Is there anything going on currently in the Strip? Does he have any special episodes that he will want to talk about? I know what it is. He will talk about Crazy Harry finding an Amazing Fantasy #15 being on the spin rack for 18 years. Yeah! That’s the ticket.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      You’re not the last to know! Because I didn’t know until I saw your comment. Wow. Wonder if this is why Batty kept mum on his actual 50th? Because he’s planning a Comic Con 50th bash?

      Hope his panels get put up on YouTube. It’s always so eerie to watch him talk.

    • Epicus Doomus

      “Yes, Mr. Batiuk, I have a few questions. One, Darin’s weird half-sister…will we be seeing her again anytime soon? Two, Art Teacher, I’m a big fan but I haven’t seen him lately. Is there anything in store for him this year? And, finally, that outside staircase leading to the apartment above Montoni’s…is that the only entrance or can you access the apartment from inside Montoni’s?”

      “Ummmm, uh (motions for security) any questions regarding the Lisa’s Legacy Fun Run? Gotta go!”

      • ComicBookHarriet

        You forgot the most important question, “Where is Wally Jr!?!”

        (Actually, I was thinking about this, and I’m almost wondering if Wally Jr. will return next year as a Westview freshman.)

    • J.J. O'Malley

      No doubt this is where he’ll announce a deal with Paramount Pictures, who lost out after being the studio behind the first few MCU titles, to make a series of big-budget summer blockbusters based on Atomik Comix characters! Just think: Edward Norton as the Inedible Pulp; Sylvester Stallone as Atomic Ape; and Kirsten Dunst, Johnny Depp, Bill Goldberg, and Emma Stone as Oceanaire, Doctor Atmos, Subterranean, and Scorch, respectively (with a cameo by Lynda Carter as Miss American)!

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        Joe Pesci for Charger Chimp?

        And who will play Wayback Wendy?

      • ComicBookHarriet

        I would unironically pay real American inflation era dollars to see a movie where Sylverster Stallone is an Atomic Ape and Bill Goldberg is a Thing-like rock monster.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          The comic book characters in the Funkyverse are what Itchy and Scratchy are to The Simpsons. You think it’d be fun to see a larger story about them, but oh boy, it’s not.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Ah, ok. Now we know why he posts those stupid comic book covers with his dumb commentary.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Mr. Batiuk is one of the special guests at the 2022 Comic Con in San Diego

      For the love of God, why?

      • Rusty Shackleford

        You don’t read his insightful commentary on BattyBlog? He posts ComicsCommentary every week! 🤣

  7. Sourbelly

    “So, KKKaren is bad, because she’s acting like a racist. But, wait, Malcolm was also kind of bad for egging her on by moving a sweater. So I’ve managed to offend everyone and no one at the same time. So I guess my message is, can I get some attention for this? So, maybe some kind of prize? Like a Pulitzer kind of thing?”

    • Epicus Doomus

      It all comes back to the sweater. It’s a totally unnecessary plot point that exists for only one reason…to cloak that sales clerk’s motives in ambiguity to avoid the possibility of somehow offending someone. There’s no reason why the clerk couldn’t have just followed them and demanded to see Logan’s bag, but he intentionally added the sweater thing just to make sure it was as abstract and non-committal as possible. Perhaps there was racial profiling going on, maybe not, but in any event, let’s behave and avoid such confrontations whenever possible, because it could get ugly. It’s the most f*cked up and bizarre path this premise could have taken, it’s on a level that no one else would have even conceived of.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        You’re assuming Batiuk needs a reason for an unnecessary plot point. This year’s OMEA arc started by bringing the schoolchildren to the convention, who were then never mentioned or seen again. Harry went to all the trouble of finding the precious comic book in the past, only to leave it behind. If Batiuk has a reason for things he does, it’s usually padding the story out to one week, or doing something Batiuk thinks “works” as a single-day strip. The sweater could be no more than that.

        • billytheskink

          I agree. I don’t think TB has twisted this story into a pretzel with the sweater in an attempt to soften the impact of the point, I just think he’s got such a habit of muddying story arcs that he simply can’t help himself.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            If this all is a ham-handed attempt to soften the impact, someone needs to tell Batiuk it’s unnecessary. This is another symptom of TB having no supervision or accountability. He doesn’t just need an editor tell him no; he needs an editor to tell him yes sometimes. “Yes, Tom, you may depict this character as unambiguously racist.” There are ways to depict racism without simultaneously indulging in it. We know he has worked with editors on past arcs like the suicide one; TB practically gloats about it. But now he’s living on his own head, abiding by all these silly rules that have no value, and which no one on earth expects him to follow.

  8. Lord Flatulence

    Malcolm: GRRRRRRRR!!!

  9. William Thompson

    What’s the dumbest way for this to end? Thatsnot organizes a demonstration outside the shop, with all his old classmates holding signs that say “Racism Is Naughty?” Cayla goes back and lectures Karen deKlerk on her mean-spirited ways? Really, just be merciful here, Batiuk. Have her win a free Montoni’s pizza and eat it. Then she can either sing “We Shall Overcome” or die of food poisoning, and you’ll have failed to make a point.

    • Epicus Doomus

      The absolute dumbest way? Two words…”at Montoni’s”. But they’re already eating ice cream, so I don’t see it. Besides, the gals have to watch their figures, what with COVID 10 and all.

  10. Jimmy

    The Captain Planet image made me think of a spoof Don Cheadle did during that writers’ strike a while back. I think it was a six-part series of shorts where he plays Captain Planet.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Which of course makes me think of this little gem from the early years of YouTube.

      • Jimmy

        I’ve never seen that. Thanks for sharing.

        • ComicBookHarriet

          It’s horrifying…isn’t it? I love YouTube animators. FilmCow, MeatCanyon, Flashgitz, Harry Partridge, Greasy Tales….genius.

  11. ….

    … I suspect that there will be no awards again this year.

  12. spacemanspiff85

    If the clerk was following them so closely that it upset Malcolm so much, how did she not notice him move a sweater from one table to another? She noticed it missing, but she didn’t notice it in his hands or see it on the other table? It really shouldn’t be this hard to write such a simple store as “a shop clerk is biased”. It Batiuk was actively trying to write a bad comic, I don’t think it would look any different.

    • Epicus Doomus

      I sincerely believe that if he sat down and deliberately tried to write the worst comic strip possible, it’d turn out exactly the same. It just seems unbelievable that in this day and age anyone would take offense to depicting an example of actual racial profiling, but apparently he felt it was just too big a risk to take.

      • spacemanspiff85

        Basically all of his storylines now make so little sense the I cannot believe he reviews them. He has to just submit his very first drafts for publication. Honestly I don’t even know how he doesn’t catch the contradictions as he writes them, they’re so obvious. “So then Bull kills himself, and then the police cover it up, and then Les complains about Bull bullying him at Bull’s funeral, and then Buck hits on Linda, and then Linda gives away the helmet bull died in . . .”

        • Epicus Doomus

          And most of his stories begin with perfectly reasonable premises, which he then totally deconstructs until they’re unrecognizable. The tangents go off on other tangents and before you know it, they’re all eating ice cream.

        • Gerard Plourde

          “I don’t even know how he doesn’t catch the contradictions as he writes them, they’re so obvious.”

          This is what is truly unfathomable about his writing and it leads to a question: Are the contradictions intentional? Does he think creating this ambiguity constitutes good writing?

        • none

          The observation about this here that made me laugh is likening it to a five year old ramble on about some story that’s completely made up. This was illustrated with an altered panel of Pmm listening to Jff recall the story about his visit to Murania in the middle of the entirety of Los Angeles burning down.

          How would little 5 year old TB explain this arc? “So, so, so then they all graduated, and then he finally told her that he sorta liked her, and then they went to see a movie, and then he couldn’t afford the tickets so she paid for them. Yeah, and then, and then they decided to do more stuff after the movie even though he has no money, and then they went to a store and a lady was mean to them, and then the guy did something to trick the mean lady into thinking they did something bad, and then the secretary from the school that they went to got in the middle of it, and then they all went to get ice cream, and then…”

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Have you ever read his Flash comic book reviews? They sound exactly like that.

            So in the first two pages, Barry Allen’s boss Captain Frye is kidnapped, Barry finds a note in his locker from Captain Frye saying that he’s been fired, and Barry gets a call saying that his mother has come out of the coma that she’s been in for the last three issues with no discernible after affects. That’s a busy two pages, but the pace doesn’t slow down. First, Barry’s father Dr. Allen is seen talking on a pay phone (remember those?) to an unidentified paramour, then Barry meets a mysterious blind man in the elevator as he rushes off from a visit to his mom to change to the Flash and track down Captain Frye’s kidnappers. He goes to Frye’s house to check out the scene and…

          • Gerard Plourde

            None and Banana Jr. 6000,

            You’re right. And I somehow never noticed that the Flash Fridays posts do read exactly like that.

  13. Banana Jr. 6000

    If Batiuk wanted to make the story ambiguous about whether any racial profiling occurred not, he could have done that. Instead, he just completely avoids the question, and tells the story he wants to tell, with no regard to what he’s depicted. That’s why no other character can observe this incident, film it, get involved in it, or hear about it. Batiuk must control the narrative completely, and prevent any viewpoints other than his from existing. Even though he wrote the story! Why is he so incapable of setting up the story he wants to tell?

    This incident is begging for third-party perspective. Someone to shed some light on what really happened here. Or to point out that Malcolm assumed what that person’s motivations here, escalated the conflict, and gave the store clerk valid reason to suspect him. This is what Cayla should be saying, but instead she’s joined Team Victim. Because only Team Cruel World and Team Victim can exist in Funky Winkerbean. There is no place for any nuance or ambiguity in the Funkyverse. Or even any clarity. Tom Batiuk must rage at faceless villains, even when we’ve seen the villain’s face and know where to confront them.

  14. Bad wolf

    From yesterday’s intro by CBH (great work!) and this I’m getting more generous in that Batiuk must have noticed how easy it is to dig yourself a ditch now. You don’t have X characters? You must hate Xs. You have X characters? How could you, you can’t write authentic X voices. He let himself water his strip down to bland inoffensive meaninglessness, but i could say that for a lot of media in the last decade or two.

    I’m going to pin a lot of it down to his dismissing any of the (potentially) interesting characters he’s thrown in over the years—like that couple from Hong Kong he was so proud of—so that they aren’t around when he does want to use them for some social message. If he had built up Westview into a little Springfield of different quirky characters he could bounce back to whenever he wanted I’d be a bit more generous in how i looked at the strips.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Batiuk’s ego is at war with his good sense. If he wants to win awards and be interviewed by major newspapers and be the hard-hitting issues guy, he’s going to have to take a stand on something. But he’s so conflict-averse he can’t even depict anything hostile. He can’t even make a believable straw villain.

  15. The Duck of Death

    Later that evening on an internet forum popular with angry, paranoid conspiracy nuts…

    URouttaGETME: U wouldn’t believe what happened today, just goes to show they’re all after me

    TrustNo1: OMG, me too. Crazy sh!t going on out there. Those of us who know the TRUTH must stick together ALWAYS

    URouttaGETME: IKR! I was shopping and this crazy bitch was following me. She must know about the microscopic transponder the CIA planted under the skin of my left buttock cheek, was probably trying to subdue me to dig it out

    TrustNo1: No way! Some really inept undercover agent who thinks black teenagers dress like 1950s Archie comics was cruising my store, trying to kidnap me and force me to reveal what I know about Area 51

    URouttaGETME: See, I TOLD you the world is a REALLY DANGEROUS PLACE when you know too much. The whole damn mall saw, so now they all know about the transponder. SMDH

    TrustNo1: Wait, what mall was this?

    URouttaGETME: West Westview

    TrustNo1: OMG, are you the guy with the sweater?

    URouttaGETME: Wait, are you the lady with the nametag?

    TrustNo1: OMG, fate… URouttaGETME, I think we were meant to be together

    URouttaGETME: Imma ditch the normie NPC you saw me with. Meet me in the parking lot, behind the pillar marked 7B. Till then — till I can kiss your beautiful, angry, twisted, paranoid face, my love, know that fate brought us together for a reason…

    • ComicBookHarriet

      #abetterlovestorythanTwilight

      • none

        That bar is so low it’s glowing by its proximity to the Earth’s core.

        The United States Tax code is a better love story than Twilight.

  16. Banana Jr. 6000

    Watching Tom Batiuk tackle racial issues is like hearing a three-year-old use an ethnic slur. You know you should correct him, but you know it’s not coming from any actual malice. He has no idea what he’s saying. He’s just badly mimicking something he overheard and doesn’t understand.

  17. Hitorque

    “…But a few pointed out that, by having his phone out, he was probably raising the suspicions of clerks…”

    That’s called “blaming the victim”…

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Especially in 2022. People have their phones out all the time for countless reasons. Hell, it’s how we pay for things we buy.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      It wasn’t that he had his phone out. It’s that he had his phone out at arms length, was obviously filming himself, and was talking loudly about how all these people were expecting him to steal.

      That’s kind of weird behavior. I’d keep an eye on any young person doing that in my store.

      • Gerard Plourde

        I folllow what you’re saying. I’ve seen videos where teens film themselves opening food containers in stores and contaminating the contents either by consuming some or putting something in.