Malcolm is now pouting like a child, which I guess fits one of the two ages he claims to be.
It’s okay Mal, you won’t have to feel seventy and seven for much longer. Because you’ll soon be completely forgotten. As a Westview student who isn’t a child of a main cast member, you were always cursed to be swallowed by the memory hole. I’m just sorry you had to go through this awful plotline first.
It could be worse. At least you weren’t initially created with sermonizing in mind, and then forced to linger in the background long after you were no longer wanted.
Commenter Bad Wolf had this to say yesterday:
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.
I talked a couple days ago about culture as opposed to race, pointing out that any of the recurring non-white characters in the Funkyverse are culturally indistinguishable from anyone else. That doesn’t mean Batiuk hasn’t tried to introduce culturally distinct characters. He is just completely unable to sustain them. We’re seeing it happen in real time with Adeela the Iraqi immigrant. She was introduced for a big prestige arc in 2018 and was given the typical Montoni’s nepotism position.
After that she had nothing more than sporadic appearances for months. Appearances where she was a non-character, interchangeable with anyone else. She got another prestige arc in 2020 so Batiuk could preach at us about ICE. Then she showed up ONCE and said NOTHING in all of 2021, and is yet to appear in 2022.
Introduced as a prop in service of a ‘message’, then pointlessly kept around in case he wants to use her again. She’s walking the same path Kahn the Afghani immigrant walked before her. The same path Zhang Li and his wife Liu Lin trailblazed years before.
I don’t have access to the actual 1997 prejudice arc that Batiuk talks about in his blog. The incompetent misers over at Comics Kingdom only have Funky Winkerbean going back to October 1998. Maybe Billy The Skink can fill us in on the details. But what is clear from looking at 1998 and 1999 is that for a while Batiuk intended for Zhang Li and Liu Lin, along with their grandmother La Choi San, to be integrated into the crew.
And what’s more, the integration of the Chinese family was supposed to allow for a different culture to be presented, and positive cultural exchange to take place. (I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this presentation is offensive or not.)
But after the arc where La Choi San offers her herbal remedies, and the arc where La Choi San coaches the Montoni’s Little League team to a championship, the Chinese family falls into the background. Literally. They do nothing more than show up in the background of various parties and social functions for the next six years.
Lin gets one maybe almost arc in 2004, when she watches men move a desk for a week and then walks all over Crazy Harry.
And then, early in 2006.
Within a week of Li and Lin leaving, Montoni and Funky hear of someone interesting in moving into the Jade Dragon’s space.
Why does Batiuk keep doing this?
Because, as a writer, in order to sustain interest in a character of a different culture beyond the initial introduction you have to make them deeper than their surface level identity. You have to give them goals, interests, and problems that aren’t related to them being black, or asian, or middle-eastern. And you have to be able to understand both the parts of the character that are different from you, and the parts that are the same. Star Trek TNG and DS9 were great at this. Worf was Klingon. Quark was Ferengi. Riker was a slut. But all of them had more going on than just their species.
But in the Funkyverse only a very select few are allowed to have unique personalities different from Tom’s. And most of those are muted hold-overs from Act I, like Cindy’s vanity or Dinkle’s ego. I don’t think when Batiuk sits down to write the next pointless Westview student body he’ll be saying, ‘This one will be fiery and intelligent but too brash, and interested in sports and action. This one will be level headed, but often hesitant and aloof, and interested in music and poetry. And this one will be Captain Kirk.’
He just decides which cheap flash clone of his own brain will be the nerdiest nerd.
In other news, I guess Westview did still have a mall in Act II. At least through 2002. Because Lisa and Lin go shopping there on Super Bowl Sunday.
41 responses to “Khan Do No Wong”
Terrific stuff, CBH. I don’t remember this stuff at all. And I’d rather read the old stuff than endure another day of BatYam’s boring, ambiguous platitudes and Cayla’s weird facial expressions.
“I’m sick and tired enough to be a seventy-year-old” sounds like someone who is seriously ill.
A teenager saying he has the body of a 70-year-old and the mind of a 7-year-old, impotently fuming at a problem he could easily fight back against.
This may be the definitive Act III strip.
Has Thatsnot ever shown any sort of artistic or writing
talent skillinterests? Because I can see him channeling his anger and bile into comic books. He could join Atomik Komix as Diversity Man, creating characters who broaden the house’s appeal to non-Caucasians.
I mean, it couldn’t be any worse than what Kibblesmith tried with The New Warriors a few years ago.
He was on The Bleat staff, which implies that he knows something about writing and news reporting. And again – I keep bringing this up because it should be relevant to the story – his companion sold a business blog to ABC News before she entered high school. It would be well within Malcolm and Logan’s skill set to turn this incident into an embarrassing news story. It would be effective, too! Chain stores really, really don’t want this kind of publicity. But it just never occurs to anyone. Least of Cayla, the “adult” who knows them from being her husband’s students.
“I’m sick and tired enough to be a seventy-year-old…and scared enough to be a seven-year-old.” Well, Malcolm, that averages out to about 38 1/2 years old, which is how you’re drawn, so at least that fits. Now, please tell us what you thought of THE LATEST MARVEL MOVIE!
I guess TomBa thought that the line he made up for Malcolm sounded like Fannie Lou Hamer’s comment that she was sick and tired of being sick and tired at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. But then he undercuts it completely with the very next phrase.
Once again we’re left wondering what point TomBa wants to put across.
Ah, let us hope he will reach a state where his feet are tired and his soul is rested, as did the Montgomery Bus Boycotter, who, pre-Boycott, had rested feet and a tired soul.
Go to the mountaintop and see the Promised Land, Malcolm.
Thanks CBH for a great chronicle! I’m still pretty much in the dark about what really happened in the mall and the infamous sweater. A while back I had a friend who worked at a Midwest mall department store and part of her job was to deal with the increasing shoplifting, which was (I learned) called “shrinkage.” She said that many shoplifters at that particular store were teenage girls; she didn’t mention race. She kept an eye on teenage girls; was that profiling? I’m sure that if anyone deliberately moved inventory (like a sweater) around just to mess with her she would have been very distressed. And it would have been very uncool; her job didn’t pay much and she didn’t need unnecessary aggravation.
Cayla’s whole presence in this arc seems to be adding up to, “Yeah kids, but whaddaya gonna do, right?”
Yeah, Funky Winkerbean. But whaddaya gonna do, right?
Yeah, what are they gonna do? Besides file a police report, file a civil rights complaint, hire a lawyer, report the incident to store management, report the incident to the corporate office, report the incident to mall security, seek out any possible witnesses, seek out any possible security camera footage, call the local newspaper hotline, call the local TV news channel’s hotline, call the local award-winning author who you know personally, call the local former news anchor who you know personally, call either of the Hollywood celebrities who you know personally, report the story themselves using The Bleat, report the story themselves on their ABC-affiliated “business blog”, inform the NAACP the store discriminates against black people, inform the school system the store discriminates against their students, inform the mall owners their tenants are harassing the public, and warn the local black community not to shop there.
What are they gonna do? It’s the Funkyverse. All they can do is go to Montoni’s or the Komix Korner, before they leave for their decade as college students. (I have a vague fear that Thatsnot will work at Atomik Komix, creating endless first-in-the-series covers for new non-WASP superheroes, but even that seems too much of a stretch for Bathack.)
It’s cute that Cayla believes she’s experienced things. Must have been off-panel.
Most likely when Les was recovering from the baseball in the face.
This entire arc is like it’s come from a child who asks for an extra credit essay project and then hands in a paper that only says “IDK” on it.
What a fucking waste of everything. Why bother.
By the way, thanks for another trip through old strips. Good lord is 1999 FW art terrible. Unibrows and cyclops glasses everywhere. And I honestly think that’s the first time I’ve seen Lisa with that dark hair. Woof.
Yeah the Act II art style morphs really fast in the early aughts. You can see it go from horrifying to human in about 2002.
Batuk worked with a number of uncredited artists at different times. (Uncredited in the strip itself. He mentions it in his blog/books) I wonder if that had any play in it.
I haven’t read comic books in about 40 years, but those later strips from late 2004 – 2006 strongly resemble the work of comic book artist John Bryne. Byrne is friends with Batiuk, but I can only find documentation that he replaced Batiuk for ten weeks in 2007. TB was on the DL due to foot surgery.
What do you comic book/Funky Winkerbean experts think?
Lisa’s dark hair in the late 90s was a wig, since she lost her hair during her cancer treatment. Out of context it looks really weird. In context… yeah, not much better.
I’ve got a baby’s brain and an old man’s heart
Took six years just to get a name
Batty don’t always know what he’s talkin’ about
Feels like I’m livin’ in the middle of a bad comic strip
I get confused every day
I just don’t know what to say
I gotta get written out
Got no class…got no principles…can’t even think of a word that rhymes!…
When you’re eighteen and you don’t what you want, you might as well rejoice in the fact that school’s out for the summer, even if it hasn’t been blown to pieces.
Great post as usual. I honestly really miss Act II.
As for Cayla, the most we’ve seen her go through is her struggle to live in Lisa’s shadow as The Other Woman. That’s her whole character! This is more fitting for a Crankshaft arc, likely. Aren’t the Rough Riders still around?
You think Dinkle’s ego differs as a personality trait from his creator’s?
LOL! Good call!
Maybe I should say, I think Dinkle’s open and boisterous expression of his own self-love differs from Batiuk.
Batton Thomas is the covert-narcissist expression of that self-love. “Look at me, so humble and long-suffering as my great and numerous achievements are ignored!”
Or Les. “Oh, I’m so above all this. I’m the only person on earth with any artistic integrity. These people can’t tell Lisa’s story correctly. They’re all so phony.” (cries out airplane window).
“You certainly outkicked the coverage when you got Lisa to marry you!” That brain damage kicking in early, Bull? Lisa was a mousy, voiceless, butt-ugly, unstable, perpetually terrified little naif. Implausible as it is seems now, Les was much better adjusted at the time, at least as far as you know. And not to be shallow, but the whole “having cancer” thing takes a toll on one’s attractiveness. And yet, the idea of Lisa being a catch is still more believable than the idea of her being a lawyer. If that was any more tacked on it would have a tack hole in it.
By the way, the sports metaphor you’re looking for is “punches above his weight.” “Outkicked the coverage” doesn’t even make sense here. That would mean “you did something too well, and it became worthless or counterproductive.” Which would be one hell of a stealth insult to Les, but I’m sure that’s not what you mean.
Wait, are you implying that Batiuk made up a phrase that makes no sense, instead of using an existing and well-known phrase to express the same thing? Why I’ve never heard of such a thing!
Summing up this arc: Undone (The Sweater Song).
Once again, look who’s the most upset and whose feelings need to be tended to: Malcolm. Not the girl who went through an attempted mugging. Not the woman who used her own body to block the assailant, and would have gotten the worst of it. The boy who actively made the problem worse, and has been told he isn’t anybody’s boyfriend. Are we 100% sure this isn’t Les?
I am not referring to the coloring, but I found the art @2001 to be a reasonable shift from the 1970’s. I cannot connect the recent art to the 1970’s at all. It has been less than 20 years, and there is no connection in resemblance for these people.
As for CBH:
I love your research. You should do your own book on FW/Batiuk with forwards by TF Hackett and Epicus Doomus, and an epilogue by Be Ware of Eve Hill. (I did not forget all of you wonderful others: Please insert your endorsement on back cover: *insert name here!*) I would buy it.
Now to the quote: “Worf was Klingon. Quark was Ferengi. Riker was a slut.”
I could actually see you blush when you wrote that about Riker. In my mind, I picture you CBH, as a 25 year old, petite, and dainty. (I see you feeding cattle with your pinky extended as you read Sophocles in-between bales.) Perhaps I need to get out more!
You are loved.
I always wanted TNG to do an episode where Riker seduced an alien woman, only to discover too late that, with her species, it was the male that got pregnant. But why do something that imaginative when there was another holodeck misadventure to film?
Sorry, William. It’s been done.
On ‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,’ Mick Rory, a.k.a. Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell), met a Necrian with whom he had sex. Mick later found out that he was impregnated by the alien. Mick had her eggs in his head and gave birth through his nose.
The alien’s name? Kayla.
That was actually an early Enterprise episode. It was pretty great.
“Batiuk’s Story: An In-depth Look At 50 Years of Funky Winkerbean” is an absolute must-read for anyone who has any idea as to what a Funky Winkerbean might actually be.” – Y. Knott.
I know we’ve pretty much given up on following, explaining, or criticizing the FW timeline, but we do see in CBH’s excellent walk down memory lane that Funky was celebrating his 30th birthday in 2002, which does put him graduating from High School in 1990. It also means that he’s just turning 50 this year (60 if we factor in the “time jump”, which TB has largely ignored).
I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I really don’t have anything to say about this week’s arc otherwise. It’s not worth the energy.
Thanks CBH! I feel seen.
I have some East Asian influence in my family situation and I do like Li and Lin as presented here (although the origin of it as you transcribed the other day was a little off), and those strips are indeed the kind of interaction I would enjoy. They get a few jokes in passing every year or two and bam, they’re still there when you want to say something about an ‘Asian backlash.’
(Should i complain that he apparently named the grandmother after a subdivision of ConAgra foods? La Choy makes Chinese food swing American, as they say.)
That it later becomes a revolving door of ethnicity-of-the-week and these characters are dumped in succession as hard and fast as Bull eventually would be is where the system breaks down and becomes both trite and alienating. I never read FW during Act II but i gotta say that was a good time for it, art and storywise.
Act II FW still had it’s issues. I would say early Act II was probably the worst, because it went from one preachy storyline to another REALLY fast and with all kinds of press releases, teen suicide! racism! domestic violence! alcoholism!
But you’re right, late Act II, say Funky’s divorce up through Lisa’s second cancer diagnosis, is probably as good as FW got as far as effectively being what it wanted to be.
Yeah, at least Act II arcs advanced the story somewhat. What’s really happened this year other than Logan/Malcolm/Bernie/Maris graduated from High School, Les received an unearned Oscar, and a lot of talk about comic books?