Not So Different

Link to Today’s Strip.

So Cayla states, AND I QUOTE, “He told me that one thing that gave him some solace…was reminding himself that he wasn’t like them.”

And so, I am willing to rest my case, and conclude that in an arc about racial profiling Batiuk and his team got two black characters confused because they looked too much alike.

There remains the outside chance that I am wrong, that the ‘wisdom’ Cayla spouts is also something her father, Smokey Williams, will be shown saying in his original arc. I will let you know my findings in the comments section when my copy of Strike Four! arrives. And I will add a retraction statement to this post if I was wrong.

But for now, lets look a little closer at the Jefferson Jacks arc. In truth, it was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw last Saturday’s strip, because it was the most significant arc I could think of that tackled racism. The storyline ran in Crankshaft from September 15 to October 12 in 2008. The following are some highlight strips, to give you all an abridged rundown.

First things first. I tried digging through the Toledo Mud Hens rosters to see if they ever integrated before the team moved to West Virginia in ’52. I couldn’t find any black players, though many didn’t have easily googleable pictures. But the Mud Hens integrating in ’47 is a bit of fictional license.

Second. While I couldn’t in my quick and dirty internet search blitz find instances of players confronting disgruntled potentially violent townsfolk, or a black player having to walk to a game, much of what is depicted in the arc is similar to what early integration-era ballplayers went through. I could find instances of heckling from the stands, eating and sleeping on buses, being boarded with local families, and having some white teammates be cold and others be friendly. Crankshaft being ‘one of the good ones’ is, of course, heavy-handed and self-serving. But I really didn’t hate this little story. And the art was especially nice.

This feels so oddly well researched for Batiuk work, doesn’t it?


Finally, in a bit of Crankshaft news, the Crankshaft story dealing with the black baseball player Jefferson Jacks has been nominated for a Glyph Award in the Best Comic Strip category by the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention which takes place on May 16th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Philadelphia. Just a bit of backstory here… a good friend, Tony Isabella, had suggested I write a story about a black minor league ballplayer who would have played with Ed Crankshaft on the Toledo Mud Hens. I was out of pocket on the Lisa’s Story book tour around that time, so I suggested to Tony, a fine comics writer in his own “write”, that he do it… and he did. Later, when Tony’s scripts came in, I wrote the Sunday strips to wrap around the story and they were then beautifully illustrated by Chuck Ayers. If I say so myself, it’s a fine story and I’m very pleased that it was nominated by the judges.

Finally, part two… the current Jefferson Jacks story was written by me as I recuperated after my accident last year, but Tony and I had such a good time with J.J., that we’re working on some new stuff for down the road. 

Tom Batiuk, blog post dated April, 15, 2009

He had a ghost writer for the story! Tony Isabella is a fellow Ohio native who’s written for Marvel and DC. He’s best known as the creator of Black Lighting.

The ‘current Jefferson Jacks story’ referenced in the blog post was, of course when Jacks played ball in pre-revolution Cuba. Since it was penned by Batiuk, I’m sure was just as well researched and substantiated as the arc Isabella wrote.

Note, the above was a vertical slice of the story. The full arc ran from April 13 to May 2, 2009.

Tomorrow is the last day of my shift. I can continue the saga of Jefferson Jacks for you all, if you’d like. Show you the conclusion to another Funkyverse story of prejudice.

Or, it’s not to late to learn all the exciting facts about Styrofoam and linoleum.



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

53 responses to “Not So Different

  1. Epicus Doomus

    Not to flog a dead horse (again), but the clerk WAS led to believe that Malcolm was stealing the sweater, and we never actually SAW her do or say anything overtly racist. So Cayla’s story lacks the impact it might have had if only BatYarn wasn’t so freaking gutless. So tell me, when this story first began did anyone guess it’d end up being about Cayla’s father? Once again it’s a FW tangent no one could have possibly imagined. He’s really, really good at that.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Yes. I think this racism story would have been more effective if any racism had actually occurred in it.

  2. billytheskink

    This kind of makes it sound like it helped Cayla’s professional athlete father to remind himself he was better than a minimum wage retail worker. That’s how muddled and strained this story is.

    • Epicus Doomus

      Exactly. What does Cayla mean, that her father strove to ignore and/or tolerate customers who pretended to steal from his business? Because that’s what actually happened. He left the actual racism in his readers’ imaginations, unlike during the Crankshaft arc CBH posted above.

  3. Sourbelly

    I’ll just re-repeat my comment from the last two threads: “Cayla’s whole presence in this arc seems to be adding up to, ‘Yeah kids, but whaddaya gonna do, right?’” (This time with better punctuation.)

    Yes, CBH, please continue the Jefferson Jacks story. I find it fascinating, for various reasons.

  4. sorialpromise

    Just one more day of civil rights heroes like Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall, and Tom Batiuk. (And a ghost writer to be named later!)
    If you haven’t already, after tomorrow watch “Obi Wan Kenobi” on Disney+. You will find yourself in squealing mode during episode 3.
    By the way, didn’t you promise us a poster of you as Princess Leia in a Star Wars poster? If it is Princess Leia as the prisoner of Jabba the Hutt, I may not be old enough to see it.
    Again, you are loved❣️

    • ComicBookHarriet

      LOL. I tried to find a copy of that senior picture, but wasn’t able to get one that would scan right. Sorry for anyone who wanted CBH face dox.

      I promise you, it wasn’t anywhere as impressive as you’re imagining.

  5. William Thompson

    So . . . assuming that Batiuk meant this story to by a clear tale of how Malcom was wronged by a Karen, and not a muddled thing about him pranking her . . . how would being better than her have kept him out of jail, the ER or the morgue, if things had gone a bit differently? Virtue isn’t much of a shield against violence.

    And is Batiuk going to wrap up this arc now, or save the grand finale for Juneteenth?

    • Epicus Doomus

      Prediction: by next week we’ll all be looking back on this arc fondly.

      • gleeb

        Dinkle, huh?

        • William Thompson

          Dinkle asks Les to write a blurb for his latest biography about He-Whose-Songs-Must-Not-Be-Played. “Write a sentence for the front cover that says this is the greatest biography you ever read, Les! You can do it! Lisa would have liked that!”

      • Sourbelly

        You’re going out on a very sturdy limb, there.

  6. be ware of eve hill

    Or, it’s not too late to learn all the exciting facts about Styrofoam and linoleum.

    CBH, considering the half-hearted story arc you’ve had to work with, I think you’ve done a magnificent job. I have no doubt you could write a blog about styrofoam and linoleum and make it interesting.

  7. be ware of eve hill

    Tom Batiuk, please consider using more guest/ghost writers. More Tony Isabella, please.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Amazing how much better the strip is when Batty is not involved!

      • Bad wolf

        My theory has been we could crowdsource the strip to ourselves after he retires by just recycling art and rewriting the dialogue. Honestly how could we do any worse

        Or heck, maybe we could hire Ayres too, how much could Batiuk be paying him

    • none

      No. No no no.

      Tom Batiuk needs to be prohibited from having his name and work enriched by other, and often more industrious and creative, people.

      This strip would have had the death it has deserved for decades now if he wasn’t allowed to pawn it off to other people.

      Tom Batiuk needs to stop essentially taking credit for other people’s work, and he needs to shut the fuck up and go away forever, and Funky Winkerbean needs to be removed from the comics pages. Period.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        I disagree. Not because I think Batiuk doesn’t deserve what you’re saying, but because I have way too much fun here.

  8. The Dreamer

    So I take it that the racist Beanball Bushka was Bull’s dad?

  9. Y. Knott

    Could someone explain the following sentence?

    I was out of pocket on the Lisa’s Story book tour around that time, so I suggested to Tony, a fine comics writer in his own “write”, that he do it… and he did.

    I’m reading this as, “I was losing money on the book tour because I was paying for it myself … so when Tony suggested an idea for a series of strips, I suggested he write them, and he did.”

    Am I missing something? Batiuk wanted to pay Tony for his work and fall even further into debt? Or maybe Tony generously volunteered to work for free — so that with someone else doing his work for him, Batiuk would have the time to really focus hard on losing money through the book tour?

    • Captain Gladys Stoatpamphlet

      I’m not sure how to define it, but there’s a line in the original Mission: Impossible movie – “He’s out of pocket on the main stairway.”
      i guess he means too busy, but it would make more sense if he meant on tour or otherwise in communicado.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Just for fun, I ran the phrase through Google Translate into a random foreign language and then back to English.

      I had no money on Lisa’s story tour at the time, so I advised Tony, a nice comic book writer, to do it – and he did.

      Um…. there’s your answer? I was trying to make a joke, but this worked surprisingly well.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Rumor has it that there are stacks of Lisa’s story piled up near the restrooms at Luigi’s. A hastily taped sign reads: Help Yourself

    • Y. Knott

      It still makes no sense to me.

      A: I had no money, because the thing I was doing was draining me of money.

      B: There is work I could do that actually makes me money, but I suggested that my friend do this work for me instead.

      I can’t figure out the relationship between parts A and B — though Batiuk presents B as a natural consequence of A.

      Or maybe “out of pocket” means something in Batiukspeak that no Google translator can parse?

      • Bad wolf

        I thought it meant he had to pay upfront for his expenses even though he was going to get reimbursed later, or write it off on his taxes, or something. But maybe he was just hard to reach running around?

  10. Captain Gladys Stoatpamphlet

    … Why was Possum catching while Castro was pitching?

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Ooo! You caught that!

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Why was Fidel and Che playing baseball?

      • Jimmy

        The murdering wall was being repaired that day.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        I don’t know about Che, but Fidel Castro really was an amateur baseball pitcher, good enough to be scouted by MLB teams. One of his scouting reports said “suggest he go into another line of business.” Well, he did do that…

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Thanks! I did not know that.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Baseball is a very big deal in Cuba. Castro’s regime embraced sports as a way to demonstrate their superiority and national pride. And baseball was their crown jewel. Kinda like the Soviets and ice hockey, if their premier actually put on skates.

          • Rusty Shackleford

            Yeah I knew that baseball was big there, I just didn’t know Fidel played.

  11. ComicTrek

    I remember really enjoying the Jefferson Jacks saga! Man, what has happened to TB’s quality of work in such a short time??? He used to be quite good at illustrating and portraying life, especially the yesteryears.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      The Jefferson Jacks story is actually a pretty good depiction of how the integration of baseball went after World War II. The problem is that “World War II ended my baseball career” thing. It makes no sense for Ed Crankshaft to be involved in an integration story in 1940. And even less sense for him to take a stand on it. Keep in mind he couldn’t even read.

  12. Hannibal's Lectern

    So, to summarize Cayla’s advice:
    1) Don’t stand up, protest, call attention to, or demand that society fix the injustices you experience; just quietly take it and…
    2) Feel smugly superior to the bad guy (or gal).

    Yep, that’s BatHack through and through.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Yeah, just remind yourself that you’re the better person while you’re being mugged, assaulted, and humiliated. Great advice, Cayla.

  13. Dood

    Ah, a lookback at those halcyon days when Ed Crankshaft was illiterate.

  14. newagepalimpsest

    Maybe this story should have been binned when the author realized that he had forgotten to give one of its main characters a NAME.

    Or when he refused to use even the words “racist” or “racism” to describe anything that happened. Or when he didn’t show even a mild comeuppance for the cashier (“Karen, you have to refold all of the sweaters!!!”)

    I didn’t expect Cayla to be particularly helpful, but I did expect her to do or say something other than “Kids, we just don’t know how to combat… uhhh that bad thing that happened.” But at least she left HIM at home.

  15. Charles

    I’m pretty sure the line “It just reminds me that I’m not like him” was used before, probably in other contexts like Les not being greedy like Wall Street bankers or something.

    Which would just reinforce the point that Batiuk has nothing interesting or original to say about this story. Coming up with new dialogue and new observations to address the situation at hand is more effort than he’s willing to put in. How’s it feel, kids, to be the carbon paper on its fourth go-around?

  16. RudimentaryLathe?

    “Prejudice can’t be stopped in any capacity, just bask in the knowledge that you’re more virtuous.”
    That is honestly demeaning to all races.
    And of course Batty is the type of “progressive” to pretend Castro and Guevara were down-to-earth nice guys 😡

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      And look how this world usually deals with prejudice. The gay prom arc, the “Wit” arc, the Adeela ICE arc, and the various other anti-minority arcs showed the whole town going to bat for someone who was wronged. Ruby Lith, “The Eliminator”, and Act I black characters fought the good fight. Cayla, Malcolm, and Logan are told their only choice is to give up, when there are glaringly obvious options right in front of them. What are we to infer from that?

  17. batgirl

    Is TB seriously suggesting that absolutely nothing has changed since the what, the 1940s in American attitudes to race? Using Cayla, the Black woman legally married to a White man as his puppet?
    Also using Cayla to deny decades of Black action to change segregation, to march, protest, and riot against racism and oppression? What does TB think the Black Panthers were doing? Or Malcolm’s possible namesake? Or BLM? Hell, what about Rosa Parks?
    I mean, sure, racism hasn’t gone away, and White supremacy is getting bolder, but come on, Tom, you’re apparently a baseball fan, have you not noticed that integration in sports really has advanced?

    • Charles

      I think he just looks at a person’s beliefs as immutable. When the Gay Prom story happened, I noticed that he had Nate not talk about “Intolerance” but “The Intolerant”, which suggested that it wasn’t a matter of people’s beliefs, but a matter of the people themselves. They’re just that way and there’s nothing you can do about it, and apparently the only thing you can do is just yell at them until they’re too scared to exhibit their bigotry in public anymore. Don’t try to change Roberta’s attitudes, because that’s just who she is. Instead, just yell at her to sit down and shut up.

      Part of the reason why I remember that is that I noticed it again when Nate was confronted with bullying in school and he responded in a similarly impotent fashion. The Wedgemans were just bullies and all you could do is wait it out until the last Wedgeman kid graduated. (Or you could do what Bull did and just bully the child back, but Bull’s dead now) Trying to get him to not bully the other students was decided to be a futile task.

      And for further evidence, Batiuk doesn’t seem to limit it to negative attributes, as the only kids who seemed to be any good in school were kids who came in already knowledgeable and capable. There didn’t seem to be an indication that anyone learned anything in any of the Westview High classes. The smart kids already knew the answers and the dumb kids wouldn’t get it anyway. That probably explains Les’s lesson plans on the rare occasions when we’d see him teaching.

      So yeah, my impression is that Batiuk thinks that people are just racist, and there’s no point in confronting them or trying to get them to change, because nobody’s capable of changing. You’re either good or bad and that’s that.

      • RudimentaryLathe?

        Yeah the message that people never change is SO counterproductive.
        I had a very conservative/fundamentalist upbringing, and I admit I had prejudices until I went to college and met
        & befriended different types of people.
        This arc just goes “people suck, be a martyr” and it didn’t even explicitly show the racism. What was the point?

  18. Bad wolf

    Tony Isabella, that’s hilarious. Yes, the creator of Black Lightning, Black Goliath, and possibly even Black Widow. Alright, i made up the last one. The comics writer with the most “soul.” He used to be super-possessive about Black Lightning and would complain copiously if DC let anyone but him write it. Last we saw of him wasn’t he having a heart attack during the Starbuck Jones search arc with Holly?

    Tom and Tony are pretty amazing, gifting us with these stories about how bad whites were (and still are)—- but not them! Did you know unlike Akron or Cleveland (where they were born respectively), their current location Medina’s demographics are 93% white? What does it mean when people write these paens to racial harmony then avoid it so strenuously?