Well if today’s panel 3 ain’t just the purest distillation of Tom Batiuk’s raison d’être over the last couple decades of Funky Winkerbean…Which is why I used that quote in the header of this page. Anyway, “that place” that Batty is trying to get back to doesn’t exist, and it really never did.
Nostalgia is a perfectly normal human sentiment, particularly for the carefree days of one’s youth. But it’s, well, not healthy to obsess about the “good old days.” I guess, though, if you are someone who can channel that nostalgia into a legacy comic strip, and can continue to meet a deadline, it’s worth it.
47 responses to “Flash ♥ Phil”
I liked this one strip, but for entirely personal reasons.
Ever since high school my closest friend group has always been the creative types; constantly gushing to each other about our nerdy artistic endeavors. I’ve got several best friends where the spark of that friendship was, “OMG you write fanfiction TOOO!?!” And to this day, we get together for art nights where we hash out our stupid stories and get crit on our comic art projects together.
That doesn’t forgive the weird way that Batiuk has suddenly decided that Flash and Phil aren’t Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, or even Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, (guys who worked together after meeting on the job) but instead Simon and Schuster, (guys who met in highschool.) Or the lazy way this entire story is being told.
If Batiuk is going to give Flash and Phil the same backstory as Darin and Pete, then this conversation should be between all of them. The older creative duo and the younger celebrating the idea of creative partnerships.
Back in junior high (middle school to some of you), my friends and I would spend every free moment – i.e., “study hall” – drawing comics together. None of us ever read real comic books, so our comics were mostly just drenched in blood, gore, and what we thought might be sex. The comics were of course utterly stupid, but we had an absolute blast creating them and laughing about them. So yeah, I get the idea of those being great times.
We were stupid boys doing stupid things. Great memories. But that’s all.
Get a tomb, you two! (I know I said it before. I’m just harkening back to a happier time.)
Didn’t these two spend like 50 years refusing to speak to each other?
And they only reconnected because Phail wanted to emasculate Flush at a Comicon event honoring the latter (and Ruby Lith who was instantly forgotten)?
And his plan to emasculate him involved faking his own death, for several years, no less. These characters just flush away huge, enormous swaths of their lives, just like that. Cliff was an angry recluse for sixty years before his big comeback, and his wife Vera apparently waited sixty years for his return, too. Boy Lisa and Jessica spent a decade in The Big City, where they presumably got married and everything, and they never even mention any of it. And now Phil and Flash, who didn’t speak for five decades, are old pals again, like it never even happened. Huge chunks of these characters’ lives, just rendered totally meaningless.
And this was his big comeback? Moving to exurban Cleveland and making a third-tier “The Thing” ripoff? What a wasted life. He might as well have actually died.
Enough Montoni’s pizza and these three won’t have any openings around their hearts anymore.
“You spend the rest of your life trying to get back to that place you never left.”
Westview is home to the most stunted people you’ll ever meet. Both these men are 85 years old. They’ve spent the last 70 years doing nothing but comic books. Neither of them has a wife, family, or any other friends. We’ve never seen them do anything else or express interest in anything else. Les, Dinkle, Funky, Harry, Crazy, Bull, Holly, Cindy, Pete, Darrin, Jessica, and probably others. Every goddam one of them spent their whole life clinging to what they were decades ago and couldn’t let go of.
And this is the fourth week in a row Funky Winkerbean has sat around and remembered things the characters did 50 years ago. This is toxic nostalgia.
There’s your tagline! Funky Winkerbean: this is toxic nostalgia.
And that’s another thing. It’s not like there’s anywhere to “go back” to, as they never left in the first place. Their entire lives have ALWAYS revolved around comic books. Phil Holt actually faked his own death over comic books. It’s ALL comic books. And they’re discussing this all over pizza, too. It’s all just too much.
Wait, this is the fourth week of Nostalgia Watch? I … uh …
OK, I remember last week was Prince Valiant Tryouts week, and the week before that was setting up Prince Valiant Tryouts. I’m trying to remember what was going on the week before without looking it up. Uhm. Was it Dinkle talking about band director stuff? Put me down for ‘Dinkle on band director stuff’. Am I close?
Ding-ding-ding-ding! Yes! We would have also accepted “Pointless, uninvolving wankery.”
Uh yeah Flash, but you can’t go back, because you’re ninety years old and you’ll die soon. So there. How many more times can BatYam wallow in this comic book nostalgia? I mean we get it, you loved comic books as a child. Yeesh.
I’m confused by the dialogue in today’s strip. I understand the joy that a person feels when they find an activity they enjoy and can share that with someone (or a like-minded group of people like CBH does with her friends). What puzzles me is that Flash’s statement implies that this is a past event that needs to be returned to. Is he saying that being a creator of comics had become a chore without Phil’s presence and encouragement and that the return of his friend and collaborator has renewed him? That would be very Westviewian – being miserable in a job that has become tedious and doing nothing about it until being passively rescued by a deus ex machina.
During a recent hike through a state park I came upon a bunch of kids arriving for church camp at the same camp I attended in my youth. For a moment — but only a moment — the years dropped away and I was back in 1978. Then, I walked back to the present… and my Apple Watch totally shorted me on exercise minutes.
And that’s the thing, Tom. We ALL have fond memories of people, places and things that are gone. That’s normal. And from time to time, we think back on them, maybe with a tinge of regret, maybe with a smile. That’s normal, too. What isn’t normal is not being able to ever walk the trail beyond those things, to find NEW fond memories.
I think the Second Doctor summed it up nicely:
“I have to really want to, to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time they — they sleep in my mind, and I forget. And so will you. Oh yes, you will. You’ll find there’s so much else to think about, to remember.”
“You spend the rest of your life trying to get back to that place” was a theme in several of Rod Serling’s best TV scripts, from “A Stop at Willoughby” and “Walking Distance” on The Twilight Zone to the Night Gallery entry “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar.” And each of the protagonists in those stories were individuals with unique personalities, remembrances, and resolutions, not the “nerds in comic book fantasyland” that seem to permeate every non-Dinkle arc of Act III Funky. Anyone who wants to see how a truly talented author deals with the topic of nostalgia and lost youth should put this four-color folderol down and check out the above-referenced episodes.
Those episodes were about the dangers of nostalgia. “Getting back to that place” consumed these characters, and made them lose sight of what was important in their lives.
Les, Dinkle, and the endless parade of comic book people in Funky Winkerbean have all had their lives destroyed by their monomania for the past. They’re all sad, empty, tedious people.
Batiuk’s idea of “heartwarming” is to remove every obstacle so his characters can indulge themselves in nostalgia some more. He’s cured deafness and dementia, brought people back from the dead, and hand-delivered an Oscar just so his characters can wallow in their idealized pasts. It’s really pretty sick.
I’ve posted this video before, but it’s so good it bears repeating. It’s the climactic scene from “Walking Distance.” The entire Funkyverse would do well to heed it.
I’ve always suspected the whole “Funky gets in a wreck and wakes up in his own past” arc was inspired by this episode. The difference is, Martin Sloan spends a day in the past and gains the insight needed to live successfully in the present. Funky Winkerbean spends a day in the past and learns to invest in comic books.
It wouldn’t be the first time Funky Winkerbean ripped off The Twilight Zone. And completely missed the point of it.
The creatures who live in Nostalgia are fragile, and seldom survive the journey to other lands.
In 2022 I think it’s closer to “the creatures who live in Nostalgia are fragile, and other lands seldom survive their journey.”
“Similar to the blobfish requiring the crushing depths of the ocean to maintain its shape after eons of evolution have deprived it of a bony skeleton…so too does Funky Winkerbean require the crushing weight of Nostalgia to maintain any semblance of structure. Attempting to remove Funky Winkerbean from its mooring place in Nostalgia causes what little cohesion remains to completely disintegrate.”
“Though either form is horrifying and distasteful.”
Never knew that about the blobfish. They’re actually sorta cute at their accustomed depth (top picture).
This sounds like a bastardized quote from Jim Bouton’s great book, “Ball Four”. It’s about his life as a baseball pitcher, and why he kept at it even after he’d lost his fastball, and was just barely hanging on as a knuckleball pitcher with an expansion team:
“You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out it was the other way around all the time.”
I didn’t like Ball Four. Yes, it was very revealing and honest, but Bouton comes off as a selfish dick throughout. He assigns way too much importance to his own role as the mop-up man for a joke of a team that only lasted one year. Which he was both demoted and traded from. His constant clashes with people seemed largely his own fault.
He reminds me a lot of Batiuk: a past-his-prime mediocrity with a gigantic ego.
Jim Bouton probably was a selfish dick, but he and his book were one hell of a lot funnier than Tom Batiuk, who seems like a nice guy.
I never said Bouton was a worse writer than Batiuk. Though I’ll take The Bronx Zoo over either of them.
Actually, one of the things I like about it was that Bouton either was unable to see (or possibly didn’t care) that he was just as selfish as some of the other players he castigated for being selfish. The book was perhaps more revealing and honest than he intended, as Bouton comes off as a flawed, somewhat unsympathetic character who was probably difficult to work with. It’s still, for me, a great book. But of course, YMMV.
Oh, I agree. It’s a compelling read, but not a fun one. I was pretty young (and a lot more idealistic) when I first dove into it. I wonder if it would strike me differently in middle age.
There’s a new post on the Funky Winkerbean blog. Batiuk just returned from presenting a panel at Comic-Con, and previously said he was asked not to add things to his website while it was being rebuilt. So was so important it needed a new post?
“There’s really nothing that makes my heart flutter like a classic Silver Age Adam Strange cover.”
You’re an addict, Tom. Get help. I’m serious.
Nothing? NOTHING? Really? Doesn’t he have grandchildren?
I’m looking forward to the long overdue redesign of the official FW site. I hope they preserve the blog posts and interviews page, but the user experience on both mobile and desktop is horrible and dated.
You sure it’s the Adam Strange making your heart flutter, Tom? And not the idea of being sucked into A WORLD OF TENTACLES!?!?
I’ve always been curious about the level of friendship in the Batiuk-Ayers relationship. They both attended Kent State at about the same time, and Chuck replaced Tom as the cartoonist of the Daily Kent Stater. Were they friends back then, or did they happen to have a few classes together? They allegedly meet twice a month at Luigi’s. Are they friends now or just co-workers?
When Rich Burchett left FW, Chuck became the illustrator again. Was Chuck just helping out his friend Tom, or did he miss the daily grind of comic strip work?
The other day TFHackett inquired about the curious misspelling of Chuck Ayers’s surname on the strip as ‘Ayres.’ Whose handwriting is it? The signatures appear slightly different to me, but they are close enough to have come from the same hand.
Is the signature Chuck’s? Could it have been a passive-aggressive way of Chuck distancing himself from Funky Winkerbean and/or this story arc? Is Chuck feeling underappreciated? It can’t be much of a pleasure drawing and signing his name to this dreadful stuff.
If the handwriting was Tom Batiuk’s, why misspell Ayers’s name? Was it a brain fart, or is he being vindictive for some perceived slight on Chuck’s part?
Batty, please give Chuck a raise. Better yet, how about giving him a story arc he might actually enjoy illustrating.
How much longer before these strips are being signed with the name “Alan Smithee”?
I don’t believe Batiuk’s ego could allow a strip to go out without his name on it. His goddamn signature is on everything he creates. I bet his son has a “by Tom Batiuk” tattoo on his left butt cheek.
Or did you mean Chuck should go by “Alan Smithee”? “Batiuk & Smithee”, I like it. Stick that in your crack pipe and smoke it, Todd!
There a Twitter post by someone who made a custom letter computing font for Tom Batiuk. Maybe “Ayres” was typed in Photoshop and nobody caught the typo?
Here’s that Tweet from designer Nick Piekos (@blambot), with font examples including the one he designed for Crankshaft. I would love to get my hands on the actual FW font. You don’t know what a bitch is it cutting and pasting individual letters in Photoshop!
That could be the case.
As frequently as the combined signatures appear, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re saved into a small photo element. The signature photo element is pasted into the final comic every day.
Case in point, there is not much hardcopy paperwork in my workplace anymore. Almost all documentation is now electronic, and many people have electronic signature files.
But if that’s the case, why was Ayers’s signature different the other day? Perhaps Team Batiuk hasn’t joined the 21st century yet?
Ayers drew Batiuk a very nice piece of 50th anniversary art, and they’ve worked together longer than I’ve been alive. I’m going to assume their working relationship is good unless I hear any real evidence otherwise.
Ayers seems like a very down to earth, nuts and bolts kinda guy. I found an interview with him from 2013.
“I tell people it beats working for a living. I come in here, I sit in this beautiful room… in the morning, if the sun is just right, I have rainbows all over my drawing board. It’s a beautiful space. I sit here and draw cartoons all day. But there are days it’s more of a job than other days. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I’m often here.”
Ayers is apparently the only person who acknowledged Batiuk’s 50th anniversary. No other comic strips or artists did that I know of. And on his blog he only mentioned that drawing, and getting what looks like a grocery-store cookie basket.
Oh, and us, of course.
I’ve seen a video of a Chuck Ayers interview covering his photos taken during the May 4th shootings. He came off as warm and personable. You could tell he had a passion for the subject, and I had no trouble listening to him at all. I’d share a drink with Chuck Ayers any day.
On the other hand, I’ve seen numerous interviews with TB. Batty doesn’t give me the same warm fuzzies as Chuck. Batty’s voice is somewhat grating. It’s the higher-pitched, whiny, nasal twang of the person who always seems to sit in the booth behind you in a restaurant and never shuts up during the entire meal. Batty is always armed with his annoying little boy grin, and his darting, fishy eyes. It could be shyness, but he always appears like he’d prefer to be elsewhere.
My favorite video of Batiuk was on one of the local Cleveland newscasts. He was plugging one of his Complete Funky Winkerbean books. As they were wrapping up the interview, the anchor shuffled through the pages in front of her. I think she forgot his name and quickly had to review her notes. Typical transient newscaster, desperately trying to fit in with the local viewers by doing a local celebrity puff piece. They’re just not-too-bright good-looking people who can read a teleprompter. TB appeared to be irritated by her inattention as he was talking.
I can’t find the video anymore. Did an angry TB remove all traces? Was that newscaster unfavorably portrayed in a subsequent FW strip by a vengeful TB? 😂
What’s the #1 indicator that you’ve reached the “old and useless” phase of your life..?
When you’d much rather spend all your waking hours talking about what you used to do instead of what you’re currently doing…
But seriously, why haven’t these two mooks collaborated on a joint autobiography since every random Funkyverse stranger is hanging on every word of their stories? Say what you will about The Big Dink, but at least as a matter of principle he only bores his fellow musicians to death…
But it is what they’re currently doing! They made comic books then, they make comic books now, they made comic books at every stop in between, they talked about comic books every minute they weren’t working on comic books. And now they’re reminiscing about comic books. Not for one minute was there never anything else in their lives. Sad, pathetic, boring, shallow people.
For a team whose lifelong work supposedly “doesn’t come from a place of arrested development”, they sure do personify it.
He doesn’t want to live in the present day because he doesn’t have much of a future.
Or all that much of a present, really.