Advanced Studies in Tom Batiuk’s Funkology 5.0


ComicBookHarriet here, reporting for duty! Ready to tackle whatever twisted bit of nonsense the bloated Diane Keaton look alike in the header presages.

First of all, many kudos to Billy the Skink, for seeing us through some peak Funkyverse navel-gazing. He was able slice these two terrible weeks to their awful core, and do it with twice the jokes and one third the words of my average post.

Please accept this AI generated award in my appreciation for your hard work.


Everyone has gradually noticed a problem with this year; a bland malaise only broken by Les winning an Oscar, a long awaited wedding, and random racism. I couldn’t put my finger on it, since no one week was THAT off the mark from things we’ve seen before. But I think I finally figured it out.

When the 50th anniversary of Funky Winkerbean hit this March we were all stunned that Batiuk let it pass uncommented on in strip. He leads into the day with a week of flashback pandemic grocery shopping and then celebrated the day itself with a nondescript bit of sub-Lockhorns level marital hijinks.

But a few weeks ago I realized this entire year has been, off and on, one big, unspoken, 50th anniversary ‘celebration’. We’ve gotten two times that “Summer Hears About Dead St. Lisa”, the entire Eliminator time travel arc, Batiuk digging out his ancient ecology strips to show off how he’s always been preaching from his soapbox, Dinkle reminiscing about the school computer, Crazy remembering his pizza spinning days, Mary Sue Sweetwater’s funeral, staring at the dry, empty, wreck of the old pool as a huge metaphor for what this strip has become.

Act I reminiscing is as old as Act II. That’s why a single week of this didn’t really stand out.

1998: Lisa’s groundbreaking tragic past prestige arc being replayed for an encore of backpats? We’ll never see this again.

But this year we are INUNDATED with it.

And, so far, none of it has had any deeper meaning or purpose other than member.

Member Dinkle? And Band Turkey?

Batiuk broke his arms patting himself on the back over how he let his characters age, and broke the UNWRITTEN RULE OF COMICS that time is not allowed to pass.

The Second Cartooning Commandment: Thou shalt return to “Go” at the start of each new strip, and your characters shall never grow up.

I refer to this as the “Peter Pan Principal,” and it’s one of the reasons that the newspaper comics have been relegated to the stagnant backwaters of the entertainment industry. Okay, before I continue, I should acknowledge that I’m speaking in the broadest of generalities here and that there have been, and still are, obvious and wonderful exceptions to what I’m about to say. I get that, I accept that, and I don’t care about that. I’m trying to make a point here, and I don’t want the waters muddied with contradictory facts and stuff. Simply put, I had moved my characters into their adult lives and was on a roll with the work collected in this volume as I attempted to plot their futures. Meanwhile, their companions on the comics page were on a roller coaster that returned to the same starting point every day. Every. Day.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 9

This has been posted before, maybe even by me, but every time it makes me roll my eyes. Because yeah, maybe Mary Worth, or Dicky Tracey, or Spiderman or Gil Thorpe are always some ambiguous age within an established decade of life that they’re not allowed to progress beyond, but comic book time passes for them. A character from a previous storyline shows up years and years later, and what happened in that previous story is relevant to the plot.

Tommy the Tweaker 2004!
Tommy the Grocery Store Delivery Boy, 2020.

And with that….I have to close. We have cows out over at the Van Fleet Place and I gotta run dad some flashlights.

See yalll tomorrow!



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

64 responses to “Advanced Studies in Tom Batiuk’s Funkology 5.0

  1. Epicus Doomus

    Fiftieth reunion my ass. They did not graduate from high school in 1972, nor did they graduate in 1982. Funky and Holly are not 67-68 years old. None of this is even debatable or open to speculation. BatYam is simply ignoring time here, for no apparent reason, not to mention continuity. “Ignoring” doesn’t even really describe it, it’s more like he’s brazenly flouting how little he cares.

    The only reason he specifically tagged it as their fiftieth reunion was to use that dreadful, abysmal gag, a gag that isn’t even worded properly, as the dialog implies that Holly fell one pound short of her goal, which wasn’t what he intended at all. He completely ignored the entire history of the strip to do a terrible, terrible Spanx joke. And he wonders why we goof on him.

    • Charles

      I think Batiuk also wants his main characters to be closer to his own age, so he doesn’t have to think about whether the things he goes through and thus wants to write about would be appropriate for someone in their early 60s.

      He’s really screwed up bad with everyone’s age, but that’s nothing new. If the main cast is all supposed to be 68 years old, how old are Dinkle and Fred supposed to be? There’s absolutely no way a school district would allow Dinkle’s megalomania if he were in his 20s. And Fred being younger than 40 when the gang was in high school would be unusual, considering his position and how old he looked in those old comics. So both those guys would have to be pushing 90 at least. And how old are Mort and Melinda supposed to be? If they both had Funky and Holly respectively at the age of 22, they’d be 90 this year. Never mind that Mort, Dinkle and Harriet all have bodies of people who would have been ravaged by heart disease a decade earlier.

      But I suppose that doesn’t matter, because Batiuk has shown he has no idea what 90 year old+ people are like, as he has three of them in their late 90s working full time at Atomik Komix and has the 100 year old Cliff Anger starting his own management company. And that’s assuming they were very young when they did the earliest things he claimed they did. Hell, Flash and Phil could both easily be 115 based on the history Batiuk has provided for them.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        FW is basically Gasoline Alley at this point. The characters age realistically, and then never die. So you get supercentenarians all over the place, who function like ordinary middle aged adults.

        You didn’t even mention Ed Crankshaft, who canonically pitched in an MLB exhibition game in 1940, and is therefore at least 102. And he still drives a bus daily.

        • Tom from Finland

          I think we are witnessing so called ”Batiukian time dilatation”, where Batiuk’s ego has grown so big that it curves the space-time and pulls everybody close enough to his age all the time closer.
          On the other hand everybody too far from his age is slingshotted even farther and into the obscurity.

      • Mela

        And that also puts Summer close to 40 and Darin over 50.

  2. Epicus Doomus

    And I totally missed “50th 15”, as NO ONE TALKS THAT WAY, so the joke is even worse than I previously assumed.

    • LTPFTR

      He keeps trying to make “15” happen. Tom, stop trying to make “15” happen–it’s NOT going to happen!

  3. William Thompson

    Thanks to that Crimeagainsthumanity Sans font, I read Holly’s whine as “50th is.” It took a moment to realize she was talking about weight loss: fifteen pounds for her fiftieth high school reunion. Losing a specific amount of weight for a unique event?
    Is that a thing outside the Funkyverse? Or is Batiuk flinging poo at the wall to see if anything sticks?

    • Epicus Doomus

      Same here, I thought it said “is” as well. Her “50th 15″…it’s just unbelievably clumsy. And why make this their 50th reunion, despite it being totally impossible? Why, so he could use that “50th 15” gag, that’s why. He needs help.

  4. none

    Holly was trying to lose 750 pounds?

    re: Epicus and this not being the 50th: Let’s recall that it was just a few weeks ago where the SDCC piece said the main cast was in their 50s right now.

  5. billytheskink

    Don’t fall for it, Holly. I’m pretty sure every other female member of the Act I gang that TB still remembers is either dead or the perpetually 26 year old Cindy.

    Funky sure is using a lot of shaving cream for a guy who has never been shown to ever have had more than a 5 o’clock shadow.

  6. Ray

    A – Why SO MUCH shaving cream?

    B – That old school razor…anyone under the age of 70 use one of those?

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Re B: I think they do, because I get ads for these “shaving clubs” that keep you in blades and accessories for an old-fashioned razor like that. I’d be amenable to such a product, if they didn’t have that obnoxious ‘let us charge your credit card every month’ business model.

      I find modern, cheap, disposable twin blade shavers to be useless. They get clogged so fast they’re good for about one pass over my face before the blade may as well disappear. I accidentally bought some el cheapo single-blade shavers once, and I was shocked how effective they were.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Same here. I have one of those old fashioned razors. I bought a big box of assorted blades from Amazon last year as I also don’t like the monthly subscription.

    • robertodobbs

      I noticed the old-school double-edged razor as well. I use one every day; it’s a retro thing like having a winding watch. (BTW it’s a closer shave and the blades cost close next to nothing.) In Funky’s case it’s most likely that he cluelessly missed three decades of cartridge razors rather than consciously making a hipster throwback move.

    • Maxine of Arc

      My barber uses the old school razor for lineups and precision work. Dunno if they use them for shaves but I would presume they do.

  7. For some reason, I can’t help but read Holly’s dialog in the voice of George Costanza’s mother.

    Are we about to spend weeks on “The coming 50th reunion”? Maybe our beloved CBH is on to something with this whole year being a super-shitty 50th anniversary celebration.

    • J.J. O'Malley

      What a coincidence…I’ve always imagined the late, great Estelle Harris as the voice of Funky. Now picture Holly speaking like Jerry Stiller and see if it makes today’s “Hi and Lois”-level escapades any funnier.

  8. sorialpromise

    Your title: I got that reference! Thank you!
    First of all, I love all the bloggers and their 2 week assignment to comics hell. I have nothing but respect for this awesome chore. But I must admit, ComicBookHarriet does a little something to me. I did not come back to FW until 2021 or late 2020. I do not own a subscription to Comics Kingdom.(They frustrate me!) So anything I know about FW history in the last 25 years, comes from CBH and your responses to her.
    CBH stimulates me creatively. When she takes over, I write poems to her. I parody songs for her. Generally, she answers back in a similar manner. I wrote her a Haiku, and she replied in a Haiku. (Hers was better.) But no songs or poems this time.
    This week for 7 days, I am going out on a creative limb that I have never done before. (Notice, I did not say it would be very good.) CBH inspires me. ComicBookHarriet has the power to creatively stimulate a 68 year old, retired, married man for 47 years. You’ve still got it, CBH!
    So what did she do? And by this time, you all are saying SHUT UP!!!! I am going to write the prose for a Funky and Les Golfing story. Today through Saturday will be 3 panels per day. Sunday is a 5 panel day. I am not saying this is any good, but look at my competition. Sorry, I can’t draw. Unless you count the FW burning down LA, there seems to be few golfing FW stories. My daily strips are gag a day. If you can illustrate them, go for it. I get all the blame, you get all the credit. Without further ado:

    Funky Day 1:
    Panel 1: Les and Funky standing at the Tee gazing down hole one. Woods on both sides.
    Panel 2: Funky says to Les in close up, Nothing like being back to nature.
    Panel 3: Les smirks. Looks down at Funky, and says to Funky, Looks like you’ve been back for seconds.

    (No actual creative jokes were injured in this experiment!)

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Okay. We’re chopping silage this week. So don’t expect these EVERY DAY. 😉

      But my inspiration from your inspiration.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        This actually looks like a real FW strip. My compliments to the artistes.

      • sorialpromise

        I do not deserve the honor you bestow on me! Thank you

        1) Did you get all the cattle back?
        2) I helped my in-laws do silage one year. Learned you never slide down the wooden bed of a farm dump truck.
        You are loved.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yes, CBH is a gem. I made some comments about how we need an annual awards survey for worst strips a la The Worthies over on MaryWorthAndMe and she answered my prayers.

      I am thankful for all of the bloggers and they give this busy engineer a lot of laughs each day.

    • Hannibal's Lectern

      I struggled with the punch line of this strip for a while. Seemed to me that it would be a better joke if it were in the future tense (“Looks like you’re going back for seconds,” implying Funky sliced his shot into the woods and will be getting very intimately “back to nature” when he goes to find his ball*). Placing it in the past tense made me search for visual cues that Funky had been in the rough or something (or was it another “fat Funky/skinny Less” joke, as if Funky were grazing the the Worstville Mutant Pizza Garden?).

      Then I realized this “smack in the Uncanny Valley” wording is exactly how Batiuk would do it. Congratulations, sir!

      *his GOLF ball. The other ones are in a jar in Holly’s fridge.

  9. KMD

    Remember all those kids who played arcade games in 1972? No? So either Crazy Harry is Creepy Harry or TB just messed up his and Donna’s backstories. This one doesn’t pass the smell test. Funky and the gang are not mid boomers born in Ike”s first term.

  10. Y. Knott

    Time has no meaning in Batiukland. High school can last for 20 years. Children can age backwards. 50th anniversaries can happen 30 years after the event that’s being celebrated. People can die, become ghosts, and then come back to life. Time in Westview can run parallel to events happening to Ed Crankshaft, or can be happening much later. Or earlier. Or both. Or neither.

    Tom Batiuk has freed himself from worrying about temporal continuity. He is now free! Free from the restraints of your locked-in concepts of time! Or character continuity! Or story continuity! Try it! Things can ebb and flow in a delightful vacuum of meaninglessness, where whatever idea occurs to you is always the best idea!

    So join Tom in his magical wonderland, where there are no limits to where imagination can take you … unless, of course, you were expecting it to take you somewhere interesting.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      The only limit is Tom’s Imagination!

      • Hannibal's Lectern

        Unfortunately, compared the the limit of Tom’s imagination, Einstein’s discovery that the speed of light is the universal limit that can never be violated seems positively flexible.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      When the 50th anniversary of Funky Winkerbean hit this March we were all stunned that Batiuk let it pass uncommented on in strip.

      What’s more stunning to me is that nobody else commented on it. I thought for sure there would be a round of tributes from other comic strips. I don’t think there was a single one. Not even from Dick Tracy, who had a couple crossovers with FW in the past. Batiuk clamors for recognition, and FW’s debut date is well-known, so I’m a little surprised it was ignored.

      • Rube E. Tewesday

        I don’t know if Batiuk is really popular with other cartoonists, despite the Dick Tracy crossover a few years ago. He’s never won a Reuben award, AFAIK. Also, I am Facebook friends with the writer for Sally Forth and Judge Parker, and I know that he finds the Les/Cayla relationship extremely distasteful.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          It’s easy to imagine that Batiuk rubs people the wrong way. His blog is full of comments like the one in Harriet’s OP. He has a judgmental attitude, a condescending tone, is a stickler for a set of rules that nobody else on earth acknowledges, and is massively hypocritical about worse flaws in his own work. He’s also an obnoxious clout-chaser: always promoting himself for awards he doesn’t deserve, overhyping his trivial associations with more talented people, and looking down his nose at things.

          Other than all that, I’m sure he’s a terrific guy.

        • Y. Knott

          “Also, I am Facebook friends with the writer for Sally Forth and Judge Parker, and I know that he finds the Les/Cayla relationship extremely distasteful.”

          Can you clarify? It’s not the interracial aspect that he finds distasteful, is it?

          • Rube E. Tewesday

            Not at all. Both those strips have ongoing interracial relationships. What he dislikes is a relationship between a white man and a black woman where the woman’s whole purpose is to enable and cater to the man. You know, the same thing everybody here finds distasteful.

          • Y. Knott

            That tracks. Thanks for the clarification!

      • be ware of eve hill

        Did you know August 1, 2022, was the 40th Anniversary of Marvin? Tom Armstrong included a panel in the 7/31/2022 Sunday comic stating:

        MARVIN and I would like to thank all of our loyal readers for yucking it up with us for 40 years!
        – Tom Armstrong

        The Daily Cartoonist had a tribute for Marvin.

        I’m not that big a fan of Marvin, but it is in my daily list of Comics Kingdom “favorites”.

        For contrast, back in March Tom Batiuk did not include a panel thanking whatever non-ironic readers he has left for 50 years of loyal readership. Are any of us surprised by this omission?

        The Daily Cartoonist did not have a salute for 50 years of Funky Winkerbean. The most recent entry for “Funky Winkerbean” in The Daily Cartoonist was back in 2013. An interview where Batiuk was hawking volume #2 of his Complete FW collection. Wot a surprise!

        Perhaps The Daily Cartoonist doesn’t think Funky Winkerbean is still going strong. It’s on its hands and knees, gasping and wheezing, crawling a wavering line towards the finish line.

        Marvin is a comic strip where a number of the strips are about Marvin crapping his diaper. Funky Winkerbean is a strip that IS crap.


    • be ware of eve hill

      Batiuk: Talent. A sense of humor. Continuity. An understanding of time. Ha! A comic creator craves not these things.

      Apologies for pulling you into the Batiukverse, Master Yoda.

  11. Banana Jr. 6000

    This 50th anniversary detail raises another question. How was this joke supposed to work?

    If Funky was over 65, then so were Les and Cindy, and anyone else who knew Dead Lisa in high school. How did Funky finish third in the age group without other members of his age group noticing? Or is everyone in Westview so sick of Lisa tributes that only three people from her age group enter the race? Is that the joke?

    Though that arc made a point of saying Cindy wasn’t running in the race. It’s amazing how Cindy never ages or gets fat, despite doing far less physical activity than Funky, Les, or Holly.

    • be ware of eve hill

      Unlike Funky and Holly, I don’t think Les has aged a day since the last time jump.

      How many times have we read a strip where Funky complains about his many ailments while an unsympathetic Les looks on? Les always looks as fresh as a daisy.

  12. ian'sdrunkenbeard

    Those darn cows! Round ’em up, Harriiet!

  13. Banana Jr. 6000

    Holly was just in that stupid majorette show, in her stupid majorette costume. She had no problem wearing that skimpy thing in front of the whole town, but now she’s self-conscious about weight gain?

    And are 68-year-olds really this vain? I get wanting to get in shape for your 10th or 25th class reunion. But 50th? Is life still a health-and-looks competition at that point? God, I hope not.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      I don’t know about 68-year-olds, but my mother is just less than a decade younger and she tried her best to drop about 20 lbs for my sister’s wedding a few years ago. I can tell that she compares herself to her friends who aged a little more ‘gracefully’ from a purely health-and-looks standpoint.

      Not gonna lie. This strip felt relatable as hell to me. I could see my parents have this same conversation, complete with the spanx joke. It would go in that tiny ‘genuinely good’ pile.

      If this strip didn’t state that they’re inexplicably going to their 50th! (which I was planning on bringing up before the cows got out)

      • bad wolf

        “My mother is a decade younger”
        “my mother”
        “a decade”

        dammit CBH why aren’t you old like i presume the rest of us are

    • The Duck of Death

      I’m not convinced there was anyone at that majorette performance her mother forced her to put on. The bleachers were dark and apparently empty. Not one reaction from the “audience” when she broke her footankleleg. Not one of her friends came to comfort or help as she was loaded into the ambulance. The whole thing had the feel of a David Lynch film.

  14. The Duck of Death

    Holly is missing her hair-horn, her fweep, today. It’s obviously because she hasn’t styled her hair yet. Finally, evidence that she intentionally creates the fweep every morning with handfuls of X-Tra Hold hair gel. She is clearly insane.

  15. Dood

    What did Cindy ever see in Funky?

    • Hannibal's Lectern

      Same thing we all see in Funky Winkerbean: the fascination of watching a train wreck in slow motion. It’s horrible, but you can’t take your eyes off it.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      He seemed alright until Batty turned him into a fat drunk so that Les looks better by comparison.

      He was pretty righteous until Act 2

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Tom Batiuk seems to be methodically destroying all his once-likeable characters, and is targeting Crazy Harry now. Harry’s become much more of a smug, egotistical, anti-fun jackass this year. Because lord knows FW needed more of that kind of character.

  16. Maxine of Arc

    Oh hell, you’re right.

  17. spacemanspiff85

    I’m fairly certain that every supposedly written in stone comic rule that Batiuk says he broke was broken multiple times before he ever did, and probably isn’t actually close to a rule at all.

    • Y. Knott

      “The rules say you can’t wear white after Memorial Day!”

      “That’s Labour Day, Tom, and I don’t think anyone really pays attention to that anym –“

      “But I’m a REBEL. You can’t see it, but my undershirt is white.”

      “Yeah, Tom, I really don’t think –“

      “The rules say you can’t smother your steak in chocolate sauce and mint jelly!”

      “Uh, I’m not sure that’s so much a rule as it is just, y’know, good taste?”

      “Look at this t-bone, covered in Hershey’s chocolate syrup and a big helping of emerald green mint jelly! I ordered two — eat up!”

      “I’m gonna pass, Tom…”

      “The rules say you should tip 10%!”

      “Ugh. Actually, it’s generally accepted that 15% is the minimum.”

      “But look at me! Breaking the rules! I tip 2.73%!”

      “That doesn’t even — that’s just being a jerk, Tom.”

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        See “Serial Mom” and watch Beverly Sutphin enforce gloriously the “don’t wear white after Labor Day” rule.

  18. Green Luthor

    So in Batiuk’s mind, other comics return to the same starting point every day, whereas he… creates entirely new starting points every storyline, I guess? (Like… Billy from the Family Circus may be perpetually 7 years old, but at least he’s not 7 one month, then 5 the next, then 12, then 4, then 87…)

    I totally get (and even appreciate!) the idea that a comic strip doesn’t have to be unchanging, but if you ARE going to change things, you still have to be CONSISTENT. You can’t reference COVID, have a character visit his high school self in 1980, and then also say the characters graduated 50 years ago. It’s mathematically impossible.

    Or is “your comic must make some degree of sense” one of those “unwritten rules” Batiuk is rebelliously breaking? (Along with “jokes should have a discernable and funny punchline”…)

  19. I’m guessing that he chose the 50th reunion as an allegory for the 50th anniversary of the strip, and this is all leading up to a big single panel Sunday strip where all the FW characters appear in a group shot in Montoni’s.

    Like CBH, I had also noticed that the arcs we’ve seen since the official anniversary have for the most part been a reminiscence of Funky Winkerbean’s Greatest (s)Hits.

    I recall a lot of talk in the earlier years of SoSF about TGF (The Grand Finale) and what it would look like. It would be nice to see a real finale to the Funky Winkerbean universe, similar to what has been done with some of the iconic television series, or even FBOFW. Instead, I’m afraid that the strip is just going to continue to get progressively more unreadable until it eventually dissolves into nothingness, like what happened with A3G.

  20. Majicou

    The Act I-II art style of “extremely close-set dot eyes” looks extra terrible at thumbnail size, but it’s not much better when enlarged. I’m not sure even Bill Watterson would say this strip needs to be printed bigger.

  21. be ware of eve hill

    The new website sucks beef jerkies. I hate it. It’s hard on the eyes and seems to be purposely annoying. Why do I need to click on everything to read it? I guess we know where the web designers for the Comics Kingdom went after screwing up that website.

    Tom posted some photos from his recent visit to the SDCC. There is a noticeable improvement in his photography. Tom seems to have learned to ask people permission to take their pictures and even asked some of them to pose. A far cry from a couple of years ago when an attractive young lady on her phone in a parking lot was seemingly unaware some creepy stalker was taking her picture. Tom seemed to enjoy photographing peoples’ derrières as they leaned over a table looking at an exhibit. It may have been innocent, but there was a definite pervy vibe to his photography.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      One good thing about outdated websites like they’re uncluttered and it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. The new has a lot of comic book influences in its layout (natch), and it looks slicker technically, but the organization falls apart. I don’t know where I’d find old blog posts when I want to reference them.

      • be ware of eve hill

        I had a group of browser tabs open to the blogs listing Batty’s comic commandments. ComicBookHarriet was nice enough to give me those links last week, but I didn’t get a chance to read them yet. Today all those tabs say “Page not found.” 🤬