Why, back when I first started here at SoSF it was really tough to defend my turf, I’ll tell you what. That was back before the internet, when SoSF was still hand-drawn on notebook paper and passed around via the comic strip underground scene. I knew what levers to pull, though, as right after I gave TF Hackett that $20 Wawa gift card, I was in. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Yeah, yeah, Dinkle rigged the school computer to “fix” the students’ schedule to his benefit and so forth. He really was quite a character fifty years ago. Unfortunately, though, everyone hates Act III Dinkle, and everyone grew tired of his ancient marching band gags by 1983 or thereabouts. So where does that leave us? Sigh…right here.
27 responses to “Just Holtron To What We’ve Got”
If there was ever a time for a computer to sing “A Bicycle Built For Two,” this is it.
So I guess TB is hoping that nobody has ever heard of a registrar?
Are Dinkle and that other band director going get any food? Or did they just come to Montoni’s for iced tea? I wonder if Funky is still happy to see them.
Given how often Crazy squats at Montoni’s, Funky has got to be used to it.
I don’t know if it is a good thing or not, but Mr. Batiuk has the ability to make you miss any of the previous arcs while reading the current story.
The Batiuk past and the Batiuk future is always better than the Batiuk present.
You are spot on!
I wonder how Baituk felt when he was all excited to buy a Flash comic and found out the story inside was a reprint of one from decades ago that he’d already read. Because most people don’t really enjoy when a writer just repeats and retreads his greatest hits over and over and over.
Adventures In Hypocrisy #83:
Citing this post again: https://funkywinkerbean.com/wpblog/match-to-flame-25/ and to excise the relevant text –
“When I was just beginning with Funky, I read a Peanuts strip that completely frustrated me. The strip in question had come after a week during which Linus had had his blanket taken away, and he was lying on the ground shaking as he went through withdrawal. In the second panel, Snoopy walks up wearing his WWI flying helmet and scarf. He pauses to look down at Linus shaking on the ground and then walks off saying, “Poor blighter, his kind shouldn’t be sent to the front.” It was an elegant strip that Schulz had taken twenty years to set up. Twenty years in which he had developed the theme of Linus and his blanket, developed the character of Snoopy and Snoopy’s fantasy world as a fighter pilot in WWI—all so he could create the opportunity to eventually dovetail them into that one perfect strip. Twenty years that I didn’t have behind me in those first few weeks of Funky.”
Recently in the twitter sidebar someone reposted some A1 strips that featured the computer. One of which had Holtron appear as if it was in line for a screening of some Star Trek feature in the cinema. No dialogue. Just that single panel image.
Now, unless someone was well versed in the strip’s history and religiously read it daily, how would that A1 strip be interpreted by anyone? Is that computer part of the background? Is it a promotional prop of some kind? It’s a computer. Great. So what?
No, but in his mind, he already had built Holtron up to be such a recognizable character in the strip that anyone looking at it would find it humorous! Hah! How did Holtron get away from the school and come to be positioned there? How does it move ever closer to the box office window as it stands in line? Hah! It wants to spectate that futuristic science fiction movie because it involves futuristic technology! Hah! Of course it can watch the movie using its camera, that’s uh, .. hm… Hah! Whatever! Wacky Holtron!
40+ years later and here we are yet again! Of course everyone recognizes Holtron! Everyone! Dinkle isn’t just silently staring at some random point on the ground and smiling like an idiot for no reason – no! He’s there because Holtron is there! Oh, Wacky Holtron!
By his own words, Schulz needed twenty years to set up that cited strip, but he needed a fraction of that time for Holtron and Holtron’s mannerisms to have the same kind of universal understanding, and that universal understanding apparently has run from then all the way until right now.
Also, by his own words, that perfect Peanuts strip “completely frustrated” him. Yeah, good job on giving us the grounds to relive your frustration. Asshole.
Today’s exercise in Batiuk-ness is analogous to if Schulz had done a late ’90s strip where he suddenly reintroduced, say, Shermy or the original Patty or 5 with no explanation. The difference, of course, is that “Peanuts” had actual long-time fans who cared about minor or incidental characters and would treat it as a nostalgic flashback. Here it’s just “Oh, a computer. Huh.”
Sincere thanks, none, for explaining why I didn’t get today’s reference. Now that I get it, I still don’t get it. Batdick has been on quite a run lately.
Schulz didn’t spend 20 years setting up that strip. He spent 20 years using his considerable talents crafting a series of strips that were intelligent, entertaining, touching, insightful and, last but certainly not least, funny. He spent 20 years creating characters people could relate to and care about.
Had Batty written the strip, even with 1,000 years to set it up, it would’ve been an underdeveloped, month-long story arc crammed full of word Zeppelins stuffed to overflowing with weak ideas, poor reasoning, mangled clichés and bad, inappropriate word play. He would’ve then spent 20 years bragging about how the powerful story tackled weighty topics that no one in the history of popular media ever had the cajones to touch upon before. “Sure, the sheeple didn’t get it; they think comics are only supposed to be funny. And the newspaper editors tried to silence my truth by not running the story, but King Features shut them down by threatening to sue them into the very fires of hell. NOW, GIVE ME MY DAMN AWARD!”
Bingo! TB actually seems to get what makes that Peanuts strip work (I’m half-shocked), but he demonstrates no understanding what Schulz had to do to get to that point.
I’m reminded of a video Phineas and Ferb co-creator Dan Povenmire posted a while back, where he cites his favorite joke in the entire TV series: a bit late in “The Summer Belongs To You” special episode where Phineas yells “Get on the trike!” at Candace. Povenmire says, “That’s not a cheap laugh… that’s an expensive laugh.” The same could be said for the Schulz strip in question. These jokes require their properties to have quite a bit of history, yes, but they much much more so require significant prior investment from readers/viewers. That investment is earned, it doesn’t simply come with voluminous output.
And yet, Batiuk reveals how shallow that understanding is. To him, the security blanket was just A Thing Linus Did. The World War II flying ace fantasy was just A Thing Snoopy Did. He doesn’t understand those traits were central to their personalities. They’d each had many stories about those things. That’s why that exchange is so strong. Both characters are being true to themselves.
Tom Batiuk’s characters can never have that moment, because they’re constantly being reinvented to fit today’s forced joke. They never developed any traits that can be drawn on later. Except bad traits, of which Dinkle is Exhibit A. Oh, that wacky Dinkle! He’s so pushy and egotistical and demanding and treats everyone like garbage! Ho ho!
And to the extent his characters did build some positive personality, Batiuk ditched it as fast as he could, because he thought writing gags was beneath him. The strip is in its 51st year now, and it’s got nothing.
That passage is evidence he desperately needs an editor.
Here’s the other thing: the World War I flying ace appeared in the strip consistently over the course of those two decades, so audiences were familiar with it. I would have no idea what this computer thing meant without an explanation on this site.
As an aside, when I was a kid of about 7 or 8, I learned about the Red Baron and Sopwith Camels through Peanuts and follow-up research.
Same for me… The day I found out that “You mean to tell me that person Snoopy kept losing to was a real person from history?!” I was a Peanuts fan for life
Batiuk sure has been using Holtron a lot lately. It’s bizarre both because he seems to think it’s some beloved classic character audiences will be thrilled to see again, and because it really clashes with stories like Bull killing himself and Marianne trying to kill herself.
Huh. We’ve had discussions about some FW strips that are (very mildly) okay as stand-alones … it’s only when you know the context of the characters and their backstories in fairly specific detail that the particular strip in question becomes incompetent and/or hateful.
But here, Batiuk proves he can pull off a different mode of sucking. Here’s an FW strip that makes absolutely no sense on its own, but gains something if you have some familiarity with an occasional gag the strip did 30 (40? 50?) years ago.
Not that if you are armed with this knowledge it somehow renders today’s strip well-executed, or funny, or interesting. But at least it becomes comprehensible. So thanks to the SoSF crew for that!
Not only does it make no sense, it completely contradicts the strip’s ethos. Funky Winkerbean spent the last three weeks whining about domain names and Instagram and hashtags and other modern technological gewgaws. Now the joke is that “computers controlled everything” 50 years ago, when they ran on reel-to-reel tape? Because I don’t remember that being the joke. To the best of my memory, Holtron’s job was to sit there and make Star Trek references.
I had completely forgotten about Holtron! Maybe we’ll get to find out where it is now Where do those giant old data processing machines go when they become obsolete In Holtron’s case maybe it now resides in Holtron’s basement next to the old band turkeys…
Beloved Act I FW character Holtron, after making a cameo in the first “Starsux Jones” feature film, is now gathering dust in the Komix Korner “graphic novel emporium” above Montoni’s. It appears in the background about every third day or so during a KK storyline, often when Batton Thomas, Creator of the Comic Strip “Three O’ Clock High,” shows up to tell Skunkhead John how nothing has been right with the medium since Carmine Infantino stopped drawing the Flash.
Although I also seem to remember that Holtron was gifted to Atomik Comix after doing a cameo in the Masone Jarre/Starbuck Jones series of films.
Showing that continuity is not a necessary component of the Funkyverse.
Apparently Holton ran on both punch cards and punchable faces.
Either you’re deliberately out of tune and sabotaging my band, or you don’t know you’re out of tune, and that’s even worse.
I realize that there are no “new” readers of Funky Winkerbean. But even if one had come to the strip somewhere in Act 2 or 3, and didn’t have the Act 1 Holtron reference…. who would look at that contraption in the third panel and think it was supposed to be a computer? Even when I was in junior high school in the mid-80s they had PCs, for heaven’s sake.
That’s an incredibly young-looking Harry Dinkle in panel #3. Fresh out of college? He looks like Cory Winkerbean playing dress-up.
Again, I ask, why does Dinkle care if a student is in the band or not?
Dinkle: If you want to be in band, fix your class schedule. If you don’t, we don’t need you. We want band members who want to be in the band.
I’m still wincing for the inevitable moment of the comic book tie-in.