WAT?

Wat.

No really. I’m sorry.

But WAT?

wat
WAT
WAT?!?!?!

I guess August 2022 is the month that Funky Winkerbean decided to try to out dick Les ‘Dickface McSmuggy’ Moore in a dickishness contest.

Because there is NO WAY that high school was more daunting, stressful, confusing, scary, exciting or heart breaking than beating cancer, overcoming alcoholism, surviving a car accident, weathering a divorce, losing a friend to cancer, raising a troubled son, and having a son in the military.

(Notice how only ONE of those things was a positive? For Pete’s Sake, Tom. Lighten up!)

Do we enshrine our high school years? Some of us, yeah. Not all of us, because like Holly said, they’re just FOUR YEARS. For some people they were pretty low key.

I had a pretty good time in high school. I wouldn’t say I ‘enshrine’ it, but I look back on it fondly. I had a group of great friends. I liked 75% of my teachers. I packed my days with extracurriculars. That’s what I miss the most about it. The thing wistfully wish I could get back is being called on to perform and having all of those creative outlets and the buffet of interests to pursue: band, choir, art, drama, sports, FFA.

The people that ‘enshrine’ high school don’t do it because it was the superlative apex of emotional experience. If someone had high school as the most exciting or heart-breaking time in their life, then they died soon after graduation, either literally or figuratively. People recognize high school as a distinct, notable time because it is a liminal period. The border between childhood and adulthood.

For many it’s the last time they’ll put on uniforms, play instruments, have their names on score boards, sing in a choir, and be asked to draw a picture. At the same time, they’re getting a little taste of growing up, dating, driving, spit-balling possible futures at a half-interested guidance counselor.

But after that, they have the rest of their lives.

I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I live in the same town I grew up in. I willingly put hours into writing a Funky Winkerbean snark blog every few months. If anyone is going to pretend High School was the MOSTEST TIME EVAR GUIZE, it’s going to be someone like me. But no. Life since then has been just as much, and often more daunting, stressful, confusing, scary, heart breaking AND exciting. I’ve gone on adventures. I’ve made forever friends. I got a tattoo on my ass. I met Mark Hamill. I kissed my baby nephew’s tiny fingernails and felt him fall asleep on my chest.

Batiuk wrote all kinds of these experiences for Funky and Holly over the last 30 years. The quality of the stories is debatable. But was is objectively true is that MAJOR STUFF HAPPENED.

In one strip, Batiuk is tossing away everything he’s written since 1993, more than half of his entire comics run.

Why did he decide to let the Act I cast graduate?

By allowing my characters to have a time-driven existence, I get to explore everything that flows from that . . . goodness and evil, happiness and sadness, weakness and strength, failure and success, love and grief, youth and age, and the quest for meaning. And the vehicle for all of this is story.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 9

But, I guess none of that matters. Since Funky is telling us today that everything explored since then is LESS meaningful, impactful, and exciting than the time these characters spent in high school.

WAT.

82 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

82 responses to “WAT?

  1. J.J. O'Malley

    And how, exactly, was the Funky Winkerbean that graduated high school in 1972/1978/1982/1988/2525/whenever fundamentally different from the one introduced in Batiuk’s first strip 50 years ago? What angsty, life-shaping experiences did he undergo?

    Give it up, Tom. You’re reaching for a dramatic teenage catharsis with a protagonist that never had one.

  2. billytheskink

    Given what these two and most all of their friends have been through in Acts II and III, it is actually really understandable that they would venerate their high school days… but, OK, that’s not what we’re going with here, huh?

    If this was Gil Thorp, Funky would have a crack in panel 3 about how those 4 years felt like 20… but self-awareness is not one of TB’s strong suits. I kinda wonder if he’d be even more insufferable if he was self-aware. Surely not, right?

  3. Epicus Doomus

    I’ve “enshrined” exactly one day of my old “high school life”…the last one. Right after our graduation ceremony, they herded us down one of the hallways and an impromptu riot broke out, with lots of vandalism and mindless property damage. It was fun, and a day I remember quite fondly.

    Otherwise, I think about high school life maybe once every three or four years, usually upon finding out that yet another classmate has died. All of the daunting, stressful, confusing, scary, exciting and heart-breaking shit happened after high school, and continues to this day. Sure, faking an illness so I could stay home, watch “The Gong Show”, drink cough medicine and listen to Pink Floyd seemed daunting at the time, I guess, and quickly writing a half-assed essay on the morning school bus because I didn’t feel like doing it the evening before could be stressful, I suppose. But honestly, I mostly remember it as being really dumb and, when compared to what came after, really easy, too.

    Who is Holly so anxious about seeing? They live and work like a block from that school, and they still see their classmates all the freaking time. So what’s the big deal? I seriously doubt that Les will be surprised to see that Holly and Funky have put on weight.

  4. Banana Jr. 6000

    Oh goody, Batiuk’s gotten himself another puff piece: https://www.washingtonpost.com/comics/2022/08/22/funky-winkerbean-tom-batiuk/

    Best line: “Shortly after Lisa’s death, Batiuk decided to reboot “Funky” again because he didn’t want to dwell on Les’s mourning.”

    • Epicus Doomus

      Good Lord. That was the puffiest puff piece that’s ever been pufffed. If that story was any puffier, a light breeze would send it sailing into outer space. If that story was a magic dragon, its name would be Puff. We should start calling him Tom “Puffy” Batiuk. I’ve seen less puffing at a Phish concert.

      “Didn’t want to dwell on Les’ mourning”. LOL. Is “endlessly obsessing and rehashing it” the same as “dwelling on it?”. Or is it just a technicality?

    • billytheskink

      That’s a good candidate for the best line… but that piece is full of winners!

      “Tom Batiuk was 25 when he cracked the comics page and was billed as a voice for his generation.”

      “Batiuk believes his longtime readers have gained life wisdom just as his characters have – ”

      “Batiuk proudly owns this creative space, balancing cheekiness and the bleakness.”

      “He smiles at “Funky’s” serious themes being satirized on the humor site the Comics Curmudgeon,”
      We were so close to making the Washington Post, you all!

      “That includes treating themes of import with optimism, including LGTBQ acceptance at a prom.”
      Not that I thought the author actually read the strip, but this proves it.

      ” ‘I’m on this railroad that circles the other comic strips – ‘ ”

      ” ‘One of the things Tom does beautifully is, he’s really able to tell serialized stories that are real and serious stories, and balance that really well with humor,’ says Tea Fougner, editorial director for comics at King.”

      “He realized: ‘I could stop writing about cartoon characters and I could start writing about human beings.’ ”

      My vote for the best line, though, is this gem:
      “(The Washington Post doesn’t carry the strip.)”

      • Epicus Doomus

        It’s that fanciful, imaginary version of FW, the one that only exists in these interviews, book signings and comic con panels. THAT version of FW has been a funny page staple for fifty years, one that’s courageously addressed “real life” situations, like the ones you and I face every day. That version set aside childish jokes, dumb puns and wry wordplay in favor of realistic, gritty, serialized drama, and broke brave new ground while doing so.

        Then there’s the actual strip, the one that exists here, on Earth. That’s the boring plod-fest that’s hovered in a weird sea of total obscurity for fifty years, where it takes weeks for a character to open a piece of mail and where dead characters come back to life all the time. The disconnect between the two is just staggering, almost to a point where you sometimes wonder if it all isn’t just some elaborate piece of performance art.

      • be ware of eve hill

        Yeah, we’ve read the comments of Tea Fougner a.k.a. “Tea Berry-Blue” before. She’s comes across as a blatant company woman here. As the editorial director of comics at King Features, it’s her job to build up the reputation of all KFS titles. Her words carry no weight in this article.

      • Maxine of Arc

        Maybe if he “went back to writing about cartoon characters” this strip would be palatable. When old strips get posted they’re often actually amusing. He had something once.

      • hitorque

        While we’re on the subject of CC, motherfuck Josh for banning me…

        Just had to say it.

    • Y. Knott

      The puff piece is behind a paywall, so alas, I shall never see it. Nor will the billions of others who don’t subscribe to the Washington Post.

      Which is probably for the best, don’t you think?

      • Hannibal’s Lectern

        Generally, when somebody shares a WaPo article with me, I find it’s inaccessible without either paying or turning off my ad blocker (which is just another form of paying). Not this time; the article just popped up. With no ads. Which makes me think that it’s a paid promotional piece, or paper’s advertisers all issued strict instructions that their ads NOT appear in the “Funky Winkerbean” puff piece.

    • be ware of eve hill

      Unreal. How does Batiuk keep getting theses puff pieces? Is he paying for them?

      And no modern mainstream comic strip this side of “Doonesbury” has so often dealt with the challenges of mental and physical health, and so sensitively handled the death of a beloved cast member.
      😂🤣😂
      The death of which beloved cast member? Bull Bushka? That story was an insult to everyone with a family member suffering from dementia. Are you kidding me? That story arc was an injustice to the memory of a long-running character. Bull was killed off to attract readers.

      Batiuk also notes that in talks with King Features, he negotiated for editorial control over “Funky,” which his syndicate says is distributed to about 400 newspapers. (The Washington Post doesn’t carry the strip.)
      Negotiated editorial control? Is that another way of saying King Features doesn’t give a damn about editorial control because no one on their staff wants to read the strip?
      Kudos to The Washington Post for not carrying FW, but I have one question. If the Washington Post doesn’t carry Funky Winkerbean, why are they publishing a story about it? 🤔

      “One of the things Tom does beautifully is, he’s really able to tell serialized stories that are real and serious stories, and balance that really well with humor,” says Tea Fougner, editorial director for comics at King.

      She thinks that both “Funky Winkerbean” and “Crankshaft” — the spinoff strip that Batiuk creates with Chuck Ayers — “feel like sitcoms that are dealing with real issues that matter to people.” 🤦‍♀️
      WRONG! Crankshaft is produced by Batiuk and DAN DAVIS! Chuck Ayers hasn’t worked on Crankshaft since 2017. Are you kidding me? Yet another article on Batiuk riddled with blatant errors.

      And there it is. Yet another article mentioning Bill Watterson and Tom Batiuk in the same paragraph. They just happen to live in the same state. Every time Batiuk gets a puff piece in a major newspaper, that tidbit is trotted out like it is somehow relevant. It’s like comparing Millard Fillmore’s presidency to Abraham Lincoln’s.

      “When I made the first time-jump, it was amazing — it was a Road to Damascus moment” in the strip’s evolution, says Batiuk, noting that he went from “doing entertainment and escapism to doing something more grown-up and confrontational.” His strip more sharply reflected reality. He realized: “I could stop writing about cartoon characters and I could start writing about human beings.”
      Yeah, Tom. You’re a real comic strip pioneer. You changed comic strips forever. All by yourself. /s 🙄

      You’re right, Banana Jr. 6000, this is the most ridiculous quote in the entire article.
      Shortly after Lisa’s death, Batiuk decided to reboot “Funky” again because he didn’t want to dwell on Les’s mourning.
      😂🤣😂
      Are you kidding me?! When hasn’t Batiuk dwelled on Les’s mourning? Do you think Lisa’s death will be mentioned at the reunion? I guarantee it.

      I could go on, but it’s obvious Batiuk was spoon-feeding this “author” what he wanted in the article. Tom Batiuk’s name should be in the by-line.

      Unbelievable. How does Batiuk keep getting away with this crap?

      • be ware of eve hill

        “theses”? I make typing boo-boos when I’m pissed.

      • spacemanspiff85

        I’ve always kind of wondered if Batiuk writes up these “interviews” and sends them to papers with a note that says “Hey, want to print this article? I’ll pay you, and you can even sign your name to it!”.

        • be ware of eve hill

          😂
          Can we expect to see a Michael Cavna cameo in Funky Winkerbean soon?

        • Y. Knott

          Nah. Nobody wants to publish the article: “Long-running cartoon you’ve never heard of is really a godawful piece of crap no-one reads or cares about.”

          This means that if you’re a writer, and you want to get PAID for your article, you write an upbeat feel-good piece on a feisty little underdog cartoon that’s dealing with issues in a realistic, interesting manner. That’s a piece that has a shot at getting published.

          NB: As long as you make sure to publish it in a forum where readers and editors can’t actually SEE the cartoon in question. Because, quite obviously, in this case, anyone reading your article and then looking at the cartoon would immediately see that you’re a phony.

          Which … well, hey, you’ve already cashed the cheque, so it’s not THAT big a deal. But you might want to write another article again someday, and it could help to have commissioning editors think that what you write has SOME relationship with the truth.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          Batiuk definitely writes the articles; I don’t know how he gets them in the paper.

          What strikes me is how credulous they are. All the author ever wants to talk about is Batiuk’s own tired, false talking points about how brilliant he is. There’s never an example, there’s never a follow-up question, there’s never an unapproved opinion, there’s never a question that reveals actual knowledge of the strip.

          There’s a lot of room for fair questions that challenge Batiuk’s absurd assertions. Why did Dinkle lose his hearing and slowly get it back with no explanation, or anyone in the strip even commenting on it? Why did Mort Winkerbean’s dementia similarly disappear? Why is the late Bull Bushka treated with so little regard when he was the town sports hero? What are Flash and Pete’s last names, and why did they change? What is the time relationship between FW and Crankshaft? Why did 85 characters appear in the strip last year? Why are there over a dozen of them published authors/creators in Westview? Why were the gay prom kids’ faces and names never revealed? Why can’t Les move past his wife’s death, which was in 2007?

          These questions are all central to Tom Batiuk’s declarations about the strip, so it’s fair to ask him to defend his assertions.

          • Y. Knott

            Batiuk’s not writing the articles, and he’s not paying for them.

            The syndicate publicists are paid to get press for all their strips. With this one, there’s an easy angle to publicize — a 50th anniversary. And Tom is a willing interview participant who can expound at length on his creative process, and actually give a quotable quote or two. It’s an easy 800 words for a writer who is on deadline, and looking to fill some column inches.

            And for ANY story they want to get coverage for, publicists will try to wrap everything up in a ribbon. A quick client-friendly history that can be incorporated into the article? Sure. Some quotes you can mine? Absolutely. A couple of pre-arranged interviews that can be lined up, so you can get ‘exclusive’ verbiage from people connected with the story? All part of the package! The idea is to give the writer everything BUT the finished copy. And with so many quotes, sources, and background info provided that there’s no need to do any further research…it’s all been done for you!

            Because look — everyone … the writer, the newspaper editor, the publicist, and even Batiuk … everyone KNOWS it will be turned into be a friendly publicity puff piece. The article isn’t meant to be a critical review. C’mon, nobody wants that! Who’ll read it? Fans of the strip will complain, and people who don’t know what Funky Winkerbean is won’t care. But FW fans WILL read the puff piece, and people who don’t know what FW is MIGHT — if it seems like an upbeat, feel-good story.

            This is no different for any profile of any author, or film director, or actor, or musician, in any newspaper in the US.

      • billytheskink

        The bit comparing TB to Bill Watterson is especially ludicrous. TB may as well be compared to Neil Armstrong or Robert Taft or LeBron James… I mean, they are all from Ohio.

        I’m reminded of the old dad joke:
        How many great men have been born in Ohio?

        None, only babies have been born in Ohio.

        • be ware of eve hill

          Like me, Jack Nicklaus graduated from Ohio State and lived in Columbus. I play golf. Therefore, my golf game should be mentioned in the same breath as the Golden Bear. 🙄

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        A few years ago I read the galleys of a book called *The Road to Damascus* about Saul of Tarsus’s experience which made him the Apostle Paul.

        It’s a fine novel, but what it kept bringing to mind was Ralph Ellison’s *Invisible Man.* There, our unnamed narrator recalls his grandfather’s wisdom, some of which involved Saul becoming Paul. The grandfather said that even when you became Paul you still “Saul(s) around on the side.”

        In another reunion sequence, Cindy Summers (not yet Mrs. Jarre) said that she was now “Cynthia,” because it was important to be taken seriously. (“Cindy” is one of “The Brady Bunch”; “Cynthia” has Greek mythology overtones, being associated with the Goddess Artemis.)

        That didn’t stick.

        Bull Bushka never said “call me ‘Jerome,’ please.”

        And how seriously can we take the “gay prom” storyline when the boys who wanted to go had no names such as Mark and Chase…or Mark and Andy (after Mr. Lippincott, whose death in *Doonesbury* was so poignant)?

        It isn’t good to enable legends in their own minds, *Washington Post.* Good journalism comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.

        • be ware of eve hill

          Batiuk compares a change in his writing style to a religious pilgrimage. It’s just offensive.

    • Dood

      Second best line: The Washington Post doesn’t carry the strip.

    • Hannibal’s Lectern

      I also notice this:

      She [Tea Fougner, editorial director for comics at King] thinks that both “Funky Winkerbean” and “Crankshaft” — the spinoff strip that Batiuk creates with Chuck Ayers — “feel like sitcoms that are dealing with real issues that matter to people.”

      Ahem. Last time I checked, Dan Davis drew “Crankshat.” Chuck Ayers draws “Flunky.” Apparently the Washington Post does about as much research as Tom Batiuk.

      • Hannibal’s Lectern

        Update: I emailed Michael Cavna (the reporter), got the following response:

        Thank you for your email. I will contact the syndicate representative who provided this information and proceed accordingly.

        “The syndicate representative,” eh? Which syndicate? King Features or the Corleone family?

        Gotta be KF. A real syndicate wouldn’t make such mistakes; it would be like the hit man killing the wrong target. These folks take pride in their work.

        Now I have to look up the old “Beany & Cecil” cartoon, where B&C were desperately trying to sell their work to The Syndicate. When they finally got a contract, they found out that they had agreed to pay! As the guy said, “We’re the Syndicate! What did you expect?”

    • billytheskink

      You know, I kind of wonder how other comic strip artists feel about TB, given that he slags the entire medium to puff his work up every single time someone gives him a platform. He comes across as Paul Rudd’s John Lennon from Walk Hard (NSFW) in every interview.

    • When I read that line, I had the overwhelming urge to soak my head in a bucket of ice water.

  5. erdmann

    Well, at least we now know why Puff Batty suddenly decided Funky graduated in 1972 even though he didn’t, It was all to score another lame feature in a major newspaper.
    I used to get calls all the time from a King Features sales rep. He was an old school, badger ’em ’til they break down and buy sort of salesman. He would push “Blondie” and “Beetle Bailey” as if they were holy writ. Hell, he even pushed “Dustin.”
    He never tried to sell us on “Funky Winkerbean.” Not even once. I like to think it was because even he had enough basic human decency that he couldn’t bring bring himself to promote it.
    Have you no sense of decency, Michael Cavna?

  6. sorialpromise

    The first six comments before I write mine are classic essays. That’s the beauty of this website. Good writing, insight, and the ability to recognize TB’s BS. In my tiny experiment this week, i get a little snapshot of Mr. Batiuk’s work. Crankshaft is a much more difficult strip to write than FW. He has to try to be somewhat funny each day. I don’t know how long he has been writing Crankshaft, but that is remarkable effort. But FW? Serialized writing without humor or effort is just lazy. That’s my take on 2 years of reading FW. His best effort in the last 2 years: my vote would be Holly and her mother performing a routine that ends up with Holly breaking an ankle, foot, leg, or something below the hip. TB was never very specific. The worst: Hold your nose and take your pick.
    I loved my last 2 years of high school. Great friends. Great experiences. But i have only really kept up with 2 people. We are actually going to have a 50 year reunion in September, but I haven’t registered yet. I have never been to a reunion. This is probably my last chance. I probably won’t go. My life has been too full to spend $60 for a pass.
    I am still wondering about CBH’s cattle and her Dad. I picture them wandering on I-80. She is wonderful, isn’t she? I enjoy her anecdotes and her spirit. Her love for the posters is genuine and felt by all.

    Now for Funky day 2 of a 7 day golfing story.
    Panel 1: From the fairway, Funky hits a 5 iron that lands just inches from the flag.
    Panel 2: Funky misses an easy 4 inch putt.
    Panel 3: Funky looks on in disbelief. Les smirks, “Are all your kids adopted?”

  7. erdmann

    What do you know? I completely forgot about today’s strip. Surprisingly easy to do, really.
    I had good times in high school. And bad ones. A lot of stuff happened that I don’t really care about one way or another. And a lot more stuff happened that I don’t remember. Probably. I don’t really know for sure because, like I said, I don’t remember.
    But seriously. The most daunting, stressful, confusing, scary, exciting or heart breaking four years of my life? Heh.
    They don’t even scratch the Top 40.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yeah, nobody enshrines their high school years. I know I didn’t, I actually had a pretty good time.

      Between today’s strip and the Washington Post puff piece, I had to check my calendar to see if it was April 1.

  8. anneki

    Here’s the Washington Post piece for those who can’t access it.

    COMICS
    How ‘Funky Winkerbean’ became the darkest strip on the comics pages
    Over its 50 years, the sensitive comic has evolved from such subjects as high school gym class to suicide, abuse and cancer
    Image without a caption
    By Michael Cavna
    August 22, 2022 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

    Tom Batiuk was 25 when he cracked the comics page and was billed as a voice for his generation. Today, at 75, the Ohio-based cartoonist is still staying true to that mission.

    “I started out writing about kids in high school who worry about trying to get a date and climbing the rope in gym class,” says the “Funky Winkerbean” creator this month by Zoom from Medina, Ohio. “Now, I’m writing about going to financial seminars and getting colonoscopies and playing pickleball.”

    He grins with understatement: “It’s a whole different world.”

    Batiuk believes his longtime readers have gained life wisdom just as his characters have — through the long arc of experience and perspective. And starting Monday, “Funky Winkerbean” will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a storyline in which a gray-haired reunion of the title character and his peers at Westview High leads to senior discoveries.

    “I’m looking at the flip side of reunions,” Batiuk says of exploring the honesty beneath such a gathering’s initial artifice, as former classmates realize they all felt “clueless” while in high school.

    The reunion arc spotlights aging characters who have weathered so much in “Funky’s” half-century, from enduring love to profound loss — a golden milestone not often achieved by a single syndicated creator. And no modern mainstream comic strip this side of “Doonesbury” has so often dealt with the challenges of mental and physical health, and so sensitively handled the death of a beloved cast member.

    Suicide. Abuse. PTSD. CTE. And most poignantly, cancer. Given such subject matter, pain and mortality often lurk in “Funky Winkerbean.”

    Batiuk proudly owns this creative space, balancing cheekiness and the bleakness. He smiles at “Funky’s” serious themes being satirized on the humor site the Comics Curmudgeon, and laughs when recalling that one reader emailed to accuse him: “You’re ruining comics for everyone.”

    “I was never writing a strip not to get any complaints,” Batiuk says. “I’m on this railroad that circles the other comic strips — I’m out there by myself. Nobody bothers me, and I can do what I want.” That includes treating themes of import with optimism, including LGTBQ acceptance at a prom. Now, “Nobody bats an eye.”

    Batiuk also notes that in talks with King Features, he negotiated for editorial control over “Funky,” which his syndicate says is distributed to about 400 newspapers. (The Washington Post doesn’t carry the strip.)

    “One of the things Tom does beautifully is, he’s really able to tell serialized stories that are real and serious stories, and balance that really well with humor,” says Tea Fougner, editorial director for comics at King.

    She thinks that both “Funky Winkerbean” and “Crankshaft” — the spinoff strip that Batiuk creates with Chuck Ayers — “feel like sitcoms that are dealing with real issues that matter to people.”

    That’s a long way from where “Funky” began.

    Batiuk was born in Akron and grew up in Ohio, that famed cradle of cartoonists, from the pioneering 19th-century “Yellow Kid” writer-artist Richard Outcault to such modern greats as Bill Watterson of “Calvin and Hobbes.” The “Funky” creator graduated from Kent State — the year before the Vietnam War-era shootings on campus there — and by the early 1970s was teaching middle school graphic arts and pursuing an art career himself.

    After drawing newspaper panel cartoons aimed at a teenage audience for his hometown Elyria Chronicle Telegram, Batiuk headed to New York to visit the syndicates. Editors had an appetite for fresh features depicting youth culture — a far cry, he recalls, from the malt shops and letterman sweaters in older comics.

    During Batiuk’s first stop, an editor handed him a book of his syndicate’s recently launched “Doonesbury” to peruse. A subsequent stop, Publishers-Hall Syndicate, was “looking for something ‘Doonesbury’-like.” Batiuk got signed.

    “As soon as I got hold of my strip, I was off and running,” he says. “It was never like ‘Doonesbury’ — it sort of walked some of the same territory, but I soon went different places.”

    As ‘Doonesbury’ turns 50, Garry Trudeau picks his 10 defining strips

    Batiuk built his original characters around people he knew: a roommate here, a teacher there, as well as students in classes he taught. “I changed the names just to keep from getting sued,” he says with a laugh. And centering his strip on high school life, including band geeks — he was a trombonist himself — allowed him “to deal with something that I really understood.”

    “Funky” was a gag-a-day strip for the better part of two decades. Yet Batiuk yearned to go deeper.

    Batiuk stopped teaching for a time when he launched “Funky.” A former high school art teacher of his, though, invited the cartoonist to sit in on his class occasionally — to stay in touch with how true students spoke and behaved. That environment has long sparked ideas.

    At one point, Batiuk sketched a pregnant student. Weeks later, he found inspiration in that drawing. In 1986, he decided a recently introduced student character, Lisa, would carry a child — the first time a mainstream comic strip addressed teen pregnancy, according to the syndicate, which received tens of thousands of requests for reprints of that series.

    “I didn’t realize at the time what that was going to do, because it changed my characters,” Batiuk says. “That little story arc allowed them to grow just enough that I wasn’t going to be able to take them back again to do the silly stuff.”

    As Batiuk deepened his characters, he eventually chose to reboot his strip. In 1992, “Funky” unveiled its first time-jump: A cast graduating from high school was suddenly sprung ahead into young adult life — an aging of the characters that’s relatively uncommon in newspaper comics, and most enduringly executed by “Gasoline Alley,” a strip Batiuk read as a child.

    “When I made the first time-jump, it was amazing — it was a Road to Damascus moment” in the strip’s evolution, says Batiuk, noting that he went from “doing entertainment and escapism to doing something more grown-up and confrontational.” His strip more sharply reflected reality. He realized: “I could stop writing about cartoon characters and I could start writing about human beings.”

    Batiuk steered toward longer arcs. In 1995, he tackled the subject of teen suicide. Later in the decade, Lisa and boyfriend Les got married, as did the title character and his girlfriend, Cindy. Then in 1999, Lisa received a breast cancer diagnosis; Batiuk depicted her journey, including chemotherapy and a mastectomy.

    Lisa had a daughter and pursued a law career before her cancer returned in 2006. Her death a year later shook many fans. Batiuk was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2008 for his portrayal of Lisa’s battle, and the collected cancer strips were published as “Lisa’s Story: The Other Shoe.”

    “The cancer story almost chose me,” Batiuk says. Between the first and second parts of Lisa’s medical narrative, Batiuk himself learned he had prostate and thyroid cancer (today he is cancer-free). His own diagnosis, he says, “made me realize the difference between empathizing and personally experiencing.” He drew upon such emotions as fear. “I think that’s what deepened the work when I got to the last part of the story.”

    He also heard from cancer patients while doing signings in coordination with hospitals. One woman told him she had gotten checked — her breast cancer was detected very early — because of “Lisa’s Story,” he says.

    Shortly after Lisa’s death, Batiuk decided to reboot “Funky” again because he didn’t want to dwell on Les’s mourning. The strip jumped ahead a decade. “As I’ve aged these characters, my readers have been graciously aging along with us — with me and my characters,” he says. “They’re the people still reading newspapers, and that’s been a very good thing.”

    Batiuk considers himself fortunate to have chronicled his comic world for this long: “I’m just following that work I established 50 years ago, where I’m sitting in that high school and sketching and seeing things happen and translating it to stories.”

    And now that he is 75, is retirement on the horizon?

    “Willie Nelson had the perfect answer to that. Someone asked him if he was going to retire. He goes: ‘Retire from what?’ This is what I wanted to be my whole life. This is my dream job.”

  9. Mela

    So many thoughts here:

    -I think Funky just gave the strip’s mission statement.

    -This strip immediately made me think of Brad Paisley’s song Letter to Me, which about a guy who writes a letter to his teenage self and assures himself after a heartbreak: “These are in no way the best years of your life.” Unless you’re from Westview, apparently. .

    -Imagine panel 3 is spoken by an Act 1 Funky in 1972. It’s almost amusing that way-it would be a great marketing line for the strip when it started. The title character saying it 50 years after presumably living a decent life later is a bit sad.

    -My high school days were decent enough but I have no desire to relive them. I have one dear high school friend that I still run around with, but our lives have gone beyond those 4 years. We talk about our mates, her dogs, my kid, music/live shows, our jobs, our health, our aging parents, all those things that normal adults discuss. I miss our high school hijinks, but you can keep the peer b.s. , the living under the parents’ rules, the stress of trigonometry, freezing my fingers off on the football field during October midwestern band practices, and the general awkwardness of being a pimply awkward insecure, teenage girl. And yet all of those things were nothing compared to life beyond those four years.

  10. Gerard Plourde

    But if TomBa wants us to accept that Funky & co graduated in 1972, how old does that make Darren, Jessica, Pete, Wally and Becky? Remember Lisa had Darren when she was in high school (1968-72). The youngest they could be is 50. Summer was about 5 when Lisa died, so she would probably be around 40.

    Having Pmm and Jfff as witnesses to teen-aged Lisa being attacked by Frankie creates an internal problem for the Pete/Mindy match-up. Mindy would have to be about the same age as Funky & co.

    It’s just more proof that TomBa wants to put as little effort into this strip as possible.

  11. The Dreamer

    Naturally the reunion will include the shrine to St Lisa. Bull Bushka and the other now deceased graduates. Les will bring his”Best Actress’ Oscar statue for the Lisa’s Story movie.

  12. sorialpromise

    @TFHACKETT
    I need help. I posted over an hour ago. Please check the filter and let my posting go.
    Thank you.

    • be ware of eve hill

      Oh, you poor man. What the heck is going on here?

      I know what a pain it is to have to retype a comment. I was well into my rant above when I accidentally hit the home button on my browser. The “Leave a Reply” window was empty when I returned.
      🤬😭

      • sorialpromise

        Eve,
        Your sympathy was rewarded.
        TF recovered my post.
        Thank you!

        • be ware of eve hill

          YaY! 👍 You’re welcome!

          Here’s a tale from the Twilight Zone.

          Last night, I originally tried writing a post on my phone. I had the issue mentioned above where I accidentally hit the tiny little home button. My post had completely disappeared. I logged on to my desktop computer to finish that post (and create others).

          At lunchtime today, I turned on my phone and the supposedly deleted post was back in the “Leave a Reply” window. I think my phone is mocking me. (📱😂)➡ 🙍‍♀️

  13. spacemanspiff85

    What’s extra hilarious here is that Cindy and Funky weren’t a couple in high school (as far as I know).

  14. sorialpromise

    Today’s posts are proof that SOSF writers make required reading.
    There is a real chance the filter ate my assignment, so here is a stripped-down version that includes Day 2 of my 7-day FW attempt to honor CBH.

    Funky day 2:
    Panel 1: From the fairway, Funky hits a 5 iron just inches from the flag.
    Panel 2: Funky misses a short 4-inch putt.
    Panel 3: Funky looks on in disbelief. Les smirks, “Are all your kids adopted?”

  15. How many new dead characters do you all think we’re going to read about? I suspect it’ll be at least two.

  16. Hitorque

    The only people who “enshrine” their high school years are those whose lives peaked in high school…

    When I think about “enshrined high school years,” I think about dudes like Al Bundy, Hank Hill, Uncle Rico and that drunken father from “Friday Night Lights” who kept flashing his state football championship ring in his son’s face…

  17. bad wolf

    I’m sure most of you are familiar with the concept but to restate it for posterity:
    “Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

    In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”
    – Michael Crichton (1942-2008)

    No, i can’t imagine why anyone would have stopped listening to WaPo (et al) long ago, why do you ask?

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I also stopped paying attention to news media. It just doesn’t tell you anything newsworthy, even if we ignore how truthful or correct or objective it is. Watch cable news for 30 minutes, and then consider how little you actually learned about relevant events. You’ll get a lot of opinions and appeals to emotion and context-free incidents, but that’s it. It borders on self-parody.

      What’s the status of the Ukraine war? What’s the status of the January 6 investigation? You don’t know, do you? Even if you follow the news every day, you don’t know anything useful about events.

  18. robertodobbs

    I look back at High School with some nostalgia but much of that is remembering the ambiance of that time period, in my case the 1970s. My most intense life experiences all took place after High School: marriage, births, deaths, travel, career, world events. Not making Varsity basketball doesn’t come close to those things.

  19. Banana Jr. 6000

    It’s not so much that they enshrined high school, it’s that they never left it. Same town, same interests, same social circle, same mentality. Even for people who should have more in their adult lives, like restaurant owner Funky, and all the published authors there are. And if anyone should have left high school behind like it was radioactive waste, it’s Les. But he’s more dependent than any of them.

    • Professor Fate

      This – they never left it. It is like well despite facing real adult problems they never ever grew up.
      Never cared for high school, hated it actually to be honest. It was a bad time family wise folks struggling with mental illness substance abuse the whole nine yards. I had my own problems as well i’d been picked on and bullied in grade school and as we were in the same town the same folks who bullied me were still there , I also not to my surprise now, problems with my classes in part due to factors already mention along with a undiagnosed dyslexia. In short a night mare. Didn’t even go to the prom – which made my parents freak out; I was browbeaten into asking one girl and thank god she already had a date.
      Things go better for me and family but it took a while to be honest It wasn’t until i was in my 30’s that things starting going okay.
      So no high school holds no memories I care to linger over unlike this strip
      As for the Washington Post article i must echo everybody body else, did the reporter even read the strip?
      Just a small point that irritated me, he was congratulating himself over his LGBTQ high school story line and yet he never named either of the gay characters nor is there a single gay character in the strip and lord it’s not like it would be hard to do. Just another example of how the strip as it exists in his head is not the stirp we read every day

      • The Duck of Death

        My own headcanon is that Summer and Keisha are both gay, and likely experimented a little with each other, but eventually became squicked out by being step-sisters and moved on.

        The one sticking point in this story is that I’ve never known a lesbian who clings to her family and her high school past. In my experience, gay women tend to be very independent. But then again, in my experience, writers who write books that become Oscar-winning movies tend to think about stuff other than high school. And restaurant owners have other stuff on their mind, too.

        Come to think about it, I don’t know anyone who mentions high school at all. Maybe in passing, once or twice. If anyone I knew said, “It’s funny how we enshrine our high school years,” I’d be just mortified. Especially if they were sixty-frickin’-eight years old.

        • The Duck of Death

          I want to add here: One of the biggest triggers for extramarital affairs is getting in touch with an old high school flame. The internet makes that easier, and more hide-able, than ever. Somehow I guess it makes people feel young again to be able to date that cheerleader, even if that cheerleader now looks like Holly. I don’t get it, but whatever.

          I hold a very dim view of cheaters. I feel they’re people who combine an overweening entitlement with a weak will — people who can’t think things through to the end, people who tell themselves “I deserve this,” circumstances be damned.

          Hmm. Sound like anyone we know?

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            There’s also a positive angle to technology. Things like Facebook make it easy to keep in touch with old friends if you want to. I’ve had a few reach out to me, and I’m fine with them being in my circle of “friends.” I’m not “enshrining” anything; school is a major source of connections in life, and arguably one of the most important. It just doesn’t have the mythical importance Batiuk it thinks it does.

      • Rube E. Tewesday

        “…he was congratulating himself over his LGBTQ high school story line and yet he never named either of the gay characters nor is there a single gay character in the strip and lord it’s not like it would be hard to do.”

        Yeah, sheesh, LUANN has been better on gay representation than Funky Winkerbean has.

  20. Maxine of Arc

    I barely remember high school. I dimly remember I had a locker next to a kid named Campo, because we were alphabetical, who had a picture of George W. Bush in there, and that the quarterback actually probably would have been pretty cool to talk to, and that I wrecked my car a week before homecoming, which pretty much ruined my date with a different football player. That’s about it. I did not retain any contacts from that time and elected not to attend any reunions.

    If those are the MOST daunting, stressful, confusing, scary, exciting and heartbreaking years of one’s life… well, that’s a little sad.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I haven’t attended reunions because they’re all run by the same dozen people who were the main high school clique. They all took over their parents’ jobs and houses, married each other, and bred another generation of clones without setting a foot out of town. A reunion was just another Friday night to them.

      My town had a reputation for this, even when a lot of us went to our Enormous State University in the 1990s. 50,000 students, and all the people I knew wanted to do was re-create high school. When I met new people, they were surprised to hear where I was from. “Wow, and you’re actually talking to me?” And let me tell you, when *I’m* the social butterfly of the group, that group has severe problems.

      • Mela

        My daughter was done with high school the minute she graduated. She liked being in the band and had a few friends, but she encountered a lot of the same snobbery and cliques that we’ve all seen before. Right before she graduated she told me, “Mom, I am tired of these people, and I’m just ready to move on to something different.”

  21. Perfect Tommy

    Whoa Whoa Whoa!! Let’s back this up a bit. (Beep Beep Beep).
    CBH met Mark Hamill?

  22. billytheskink

    High school, and school in general, was an especially big part of my childhood because my mother worked there. I spent A LOT of time at my high school, much of it not actually attending.

    But, you know, I generally liked high school despite often being stuck there after classes ended waiting for my mom to finish her work. I liked most everyone in my (quite small) graduating class. I liked most of my classes that weren’t chemistry and biology, and I liked most of my teachers. I grew out of being the pugnacious little brat I was in elementary school and made good friends and was consistently nice to people for the first time… and hey, they were nice right back. Heck, they were so nice that they voted me king of the senior prom for reasons that remain unknown to me!

    You know what all of this means to pretty much everyone I’ve met since high school? You know what it has to do with how I interact with my family, my job, my current circle of friends?

    NOT A DAMN THING

    High school was a great time in my life, to be honest, and I am not above reminiscing about it from time to time… but most of the time I’m busy working to make my life now a great time in my life. That, to at least some extent, is how it works. I had a great high school experience not because of my age or because of the building I was in, it was because I tried to make it happen.

    • Maxine of Arc

      But you were PROM KING. If you were a Funky character, and may the heavens help you if you were, this would come up in conversation at least a couple of times a year. PROM KING! You’d still have your crown and a big photo of the occasion in your living room. PROM KING. I’m going to guess that, being an actual human, you just thought of it for the first time in a while.

      • billytheskink

        You are 100% correct.

        Really, about the only time I think about it at all is when I run across someone placing outsized importance on high school. Being prom king didn’t have a single thing to do with me getting into college, getting a job, finding a significant other… I have to pay the same price for my lunch as everyone else.

        High school isn’t meaningless, of course, but there is SO MUCH MORE that comes afterwards. Yeah, I didn’t really realize that when I was in high school, it was all I knew, but it didn’t take long afterward to figure it out… whether you go to college or join the workforce out of high school, you’ll quickly notice that NO ONE wears class rings and lettermans jackets. For those that haven’t figured that out (TB or at least certainly every last one of his characters), I sincerely hope that they do one day.

  23. sgtsaunders

    I can see Batguy has never been through engineering school.

  24. The Merry Pookster

    HELP:
    I thought during the last “reunion” strips… there was a Banner with “Class of 198?”
    Now he’s making it class of 1972?
    The “gang” is all around age 68 +/-

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      You’re right, and this is one interpretation of the time skip. FW and CS are in the same year now, but the second skip moved FW’s history 10 years further back. The class graduated high school in 1978, not 1988.

      Which still makes the year wrong for a 50th anniversary. But it shows the timeline problems were workable before Batiuk made a dog’s dinner out of it all.

  25. anneki

    I wondered whether the WaPo puff piece appeared in the print edition of the paper, or online only. Even now, as you might guess, a story has more weight if it appears in the print edition. In my limited experience, there is a lot more latitude given to online stories in terms of the (lack of) fact checking and (lack of) required experience of the free lance writer.
    I don’t have access to the WaPo on paper, so I asked a librarian at DC PL if the story was in print or online. Their answer was that it was online only. Not surprising.

    • anneki

      On the other hand… maybe I’m reading too much into the online/print choice here. Michael Cavna is a regular writer for the Washington Post on the topic of comics and graphics novels, so he brings some expertise to the table.

  26. The Dreamer

    One thing that annoys me is that TomBat never explored Les’s secomd marriage Les’s marriage to Cayla was as far as I kmow, the first interracial marriage in comics history. There should have been storylines about Les and Cayla dealing with the issues any interracial couple had deal with back in the day.

    Instead when they got married, TomBat straightened Cayla’s curly hair and lightened her skin. Cayla could have become a major character in the strip Instead Cayla has since become a background character with no storylines or issues of her own She and her daughter are rarely seen

    • J.J. O'Malley

      There may have been other comic strip examples, but Mike Doonesbury tied the knot with Vietnamese orphan-turned-Seattle computer whiz Kim Rosenthal in his eponymous strip back in 1997, which predates Les and Cayla by about 15 years.

  27. be ware of eve hill

    ComicBookHarriet,

    Since we’re discussing high school memories today, your recent usage of “Wat?” reminds me of a high school teammate.

    She was the captain of the basketball team and a senior when I was a sophomore. When she was giving instructions at practice, and someone said “What?” too often, she’d snap her fingers in their face and say, “What? What? What (watt) are you? A light bulb? Brighten up!”

    She was a great player and team captain, but what a cow.

  28. Banana Jr. 6000

    By the way, Batiuk is getting burne in the comments section of the WaPo article:

    “Funky” is a huge “look at me” bit of self-indulgence on Batiuk’s part., and the article didn’t even mention his obsession with comic books.

    Thank you for not carrying this terrible comic strip. Funky exemplifies self-indulgence and even worse, is boring.

    Do you like weeks about 90-year-old komix writers and artists praising each others’ imaginary work? Do you like ridiculous praise given over and over to a character who is the author’s obvious stand-in, all for one story written 15 years ago? Do you like every year having a time-travel story that ends with “and it was all just a dream”? Then you’d like Funky Winkerbean.

    It is not humorous, nor is it poignant; it is merely infuriating.

    the endless Lisa’s Story strips are horrendously written, gag inducing, and laughable without actually being funny…or anything else really other than self-indulgent tripe.

    The phrase “misery pr0n” was created for this strip.

    Basically, Funky Winkerbean has been transformed into Lisa’s Story. Batiuk’s claiming that “he didn’t want to dwell on Les’s mourning” is utterly ridiculous. Just wait until the cast appears at the 50th anniversary party – with all the inevitable “In Memorium” tributes, it’s bound to be essentially yet another one of Lisa’s wakes.

  29. ComicTrek

    Many of these comments have expressed what I did not have the words to even THINK of, being so stunned by the atrocity. Thanks, everyone!