Crank Calls

I was not so intrigued by Susan Smith’s reappearance yesterday, neither by today’s cameo by a…younger? Ed Crankshaft. Nope, what set these beady eyes to nitpicking was Ed’s peculiar POV in panel one. That angle and that distance just seem impossible on that narrow bridge. My curiosity compelled me to construct the scene from the opposite perspective:

Weird camera angles aside: so it looks like Batiuk’s gonna play the suicide card again, and for the second time on the same female character, and over the same leading man. Unbelievable. At least he knows better than to have Les come hastening after her to talk her down. Unless he’s about to leap out of Crankshaft’s bus. Speaking of old Ed, if indeed this strip is happening eleven years ago, he really went downhill between June 2011 and this cameo in June 2012!




Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

63 responses to “Crank Calls

  1. William Thompson

    Crankshaft jumps out of his bus and shouts “What are you doing?”

    Susan Smith, as she climbs onto the railing: “I’m going to kill myself!”

    Crankshaft shuts back: “Don’t jump! Set yourself on fire! I’ve got some lighter fluid right here!”

  2. billytheskink

    Crankshaft is so good at hitting Keesterman’s mailboxes… I’m surprised he missed Susan.

  3. Epicus Doomus

    I usually kind of enjoy trying to suss out whatever BatYam is up to, even though I’m wrong a solid 90% of the time. But with this one, beats me. Susan Smith, Crankshaft, 2011…it’s all just too weird and random.

    And yeah, that perspective is, uh, something, all right. For a second I though Ed was operating a large crane or something.

    • Charles

      One thing doesn’t change though: it’s going to be Thursday before Batiuk is done introducing this one-week arc. Then he’ll spend two days actually addressing whatever it is that compelled him to bring Susan back. And then she’ll be gone another 11 years.

      She’ll still be in love with Les, though. That much we can count on.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        That whole story took my hatred of Les to a new level.

        That was until I saw him orgasm over Marianne telling him she had breast cancer. Look at that smirk in panel 3.

        • Epicus Doomus

          That period of Act III was Les at his rock-bottom worst. The book launch tour (remember Radio Ron?), the movie option, constantly scurrying off to the park bench to see what Lisa thought, his (ugh) New Year’s Eve make out session with himself, Cayla (ewww) forcing herself upon him, Susan losing all self control, Funky having to slavishly beg for Les’ forgiveness…it was all Les, all the time. And not just regular Les, but self-pitying, smug, “artistic” Les, the very worst Les there can be.

  4. spacemanspiff85

    This strip would’ve been much funnier (and way truer to Ed’s character) if the second panel just showed Ed driving with a loud THUMP sound effect and the third panel was him smirking and wondering aloud about why someone would put a mailbox on a bridge.

  5. Oh God, Batiuk has no shame, does he?

    “Please, please read my other comic strip! Here, I’ve shoveled him into my main one!

    “Please, please, tell me that ‘climate damage’ is your new go-to term instead of ‘climate change’! It’s so much more dynamic and should cement me as a deep thinker!

    “Please, please, give me awards!


    • spacemanspiff85

      The way Batiuk keeps pushing Crankshaft and John Darling in this strip, you’d think he had all kinds of merchandise for those strips he was trying to get people to buy.

      • billytheskink

        Well, Comics Kingdom was promoting the NEW Crankshaft shop just a few weeks ago. Officially-licensed red-and-white trucker caps that say “don’t just do something, stand there” for a mere $36 (plus taxes and shipping), a real bargain!

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          You know it’s quality clothing when the models refuse to make eye contact with the camera.

        • It’s hard to think of a better slogan for Batiuk’s work.

        • Y. Knott

          And if $36 (plus shipping) for a hat is just out of your financial reach, why not pay a mere $18 (plus shipping) for a Crankshaft glass? Wotta deal! Why the insanely low price? Well, it seems they use some sort of cut rate digital printing process to get Ed’s image on to the actual fluid containment vessel, and “This means that faint horizontal lines might be visible on the final product.” But if a slightly blurry, possibly partially obscured Crankshaft is your kinda Crankshaft — and, hey, why wouldn’t it be — have we got something for you!

    • ComicBookHarriet

      I’m pretty sure Crankshaft is actually more popular and carried in more papers. So it’s more like, “Please Please Please read Funky Winkerbean! Look! Crankshaft is over here too!”

      • Y. Knott

        Contestant 1: I’ll take “Improbable Sentences” for $200, Ken.

        Ken Jennings: Okay. The answer is: This is somehow even less popular than Crankshaft.

        Contestant 1:

        Contestant 2:

        Contestant 3:

        A BUZZER

        Contestant 1: Uh, what is … cancer?

        Ken Jennings: No. Anyone else? Anyone?

        ‘TIME’S UP’ BELL.

        Ken Jennings: You were on the right track. We were looking for ‘What Is Funky Winkerbean’.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      It’s like he doesn’t even know what to try anymore. “The Susan Smith suicide arc! You liked that, right? Crossovers! You like those, right? Gun control? Climate damage? I’ll do whatever you want!” But he doesn’t have a clue what the public wants, and never has.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      But haven’t we long since established that Tom Batiuk cannot tell Amontillado from sherry?

      Sing li, tekeli-li, tekeli-li…

  6. Y. Knott

    Gather ’round, everyone … it’s the worst episode of “The Magic School Bus” ever!

    • RudimentaryLathe?

      I’d pay good money (well, 9 bucks) to see Ms Frizzle give Ed a good hard blackhead-loosening bitch slap.

    • billytheskink

      Arnold- Please let this be a normal field trip!

      Wanda- With the ‘Shaft?!

      All- No way!

      Wanda- Well, actually, yeah, he’s a jerk but otherwise the trip will probably be pretty normal.

      Dorothy Ann- According to my research, Mr. Crankshaft should be in a nursing home in this timeline, not driving a school bus.

      Ralphie- Is it just me, or did ‘Shafty almost hit that woman standing on the side of the bridge? What’s she doing?

      Tim- *looks up briefly… then goes back to drawing*

      Keesha- Let’s get the facts. This is the tallest bridge in the county and most of what is below it is trees and rocks, not gently-flowing water.

      Phoebe- At my old school, we never stopped the bus to watch someone jump off a bridge.

      Carlos- I guess that was a bridge too far for your old school, Phebes!

      All- *groan* CARRRRRRRLOOOOOOOS!

      Carlos- Don’t blame me, Batiuk wrote it.

      Arnold- I knew I should have stayed home today!

  7. I’m too confused to comment…other than to say that I’m too confused to comment.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Sigh, didn’t you read Batty’s recent “match to flame” entry? This is the one where he blames his readers for being inflexible whenever he tries to elevate the strip (meaning he is chasing awards and recognition) to new levels.

      We just don’t appreciate art.

      • billytheskink

        ” It brings to mind the words of Picasso: “To make oneself hated is more difficult than to make oneself loved” (of course, Picasso hadn’t met the internet). ”

        Tom Batiuk is the world’s lamest pro wrestling heel.

  8. Lord Flatulence

    I don’t think the time line where Ed’s on life support exists anymore. Tom’s erased the time shift and merged the two comics into one.

    • Y. Knott

      “Erased”? Or “Couldn’t be bothered maintaining”? Or possibly “Slowly forgot about”?

      • Lord Flatulence

        Take your pick.

      • spacemanspiff85

        I think it’s more that he realized he was putting too much effort into maintaining continuity and different characters for two different strips, and realized he didn’t need to try anymore. Which explains why Mason had a long arc in Crankshaft and why Crankshaft and even Lillian keep appearing in this strip.

        • ComicBookHarriet

          I emailed Tom about it in February, and also about a minor anomaly where Les seemed like he had never met Lillian before when they had actually met.

          “As for the second time anomaly, that one was intentional. I want to slowly bring everyone into the same time sphere and fuse the timelines back into one. I’m making use of the rubric know as “house rules”.

          Although if I’d known you were paying such close attention, I’d have tried to be more careful about the former and elegant about the latter. However, I do appreciate your taking the time to keep me on my toes.”

          This is one case where, as stupid as it would have been, Batiuk should have pulled a comic book stunt. Had one of his fake time travel arcs, and then at the end have a character wonder, “It was all a dream, or WAS IT? I wonder if anything CHANGED?” And Crankshaft shows up walking by, younger. Doesn’t even have to say anything. It would have been so easy to stick this in the end of say, the Crazy Harry time helmet arc.

          Because as dumb and stupid as that would have been, it would at least have clarified to his audience what is going on and that is was intentional. I’ve seen so many baffled comments, all this year, here, on CK, of Curmudgeon, on Twitter, of people utterly confused by the time stream collapse.

          • Gerard Plourde

            “ This is one case where, as stupid as it would have been, Batiuk should have pulled a comic book stunt.”

            Absolutely, CBH! That solution would have been creative and brilliant. It would also have been a nod to the wacky humor that made Act 1 enjoyable. Instead we have this mess in which Funky, Les and their contemporaries are now nearly the same age as Crankshaft, Lillian, and Dinkle.

          • gleeb

            Nah, Batiuk’s time adventures always (and there have now been enough to justify “always”) end in It Was All Just A Dream. He evidently thinks it’s clever.

            Besides, there’s the anomaly of the annoying twins*, Emily and Amelia. In ‘shaft, they’re still about 10. In ‘bean, they’re in high school. And we all know that high school in ‘bean takes about 8 years, so they’re anywhere between 14 to 22.

            *Anomaly of the Annoying Twins was my favorite Nancy Drew tale.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Also, Batiuk doesn’t want to clarify anything to his audience. He thinks vague and obtuse is good writing.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      It’s just another unacknowledged miracle in Westview. Dinkle’s hearing, Mort’s dementia, Phil Holt’s death, and now Crankshaft’s vegetative state all vanished when they became inconveniences to Batiuk’s latest idiotic story. Terminally ill people should be going to Westview like it’s Lourdes.

      Unpublished authors should be making pilgrimages there too. Anybody in that town who can fart on a keyboard gets a massive publishing contract and multiple awards.

  9. Andrew

    2 days in and this week’s in for a banger. Susan’s back with what may be a plotline rerun, and ol’ Ed’s here for offering the sage advice of a grumpy old fart who runs over mailboxes and blows up grills for hobbies.

    Also at this rate it’s not worth worrying about Crankshaft’s age when we already saw a few weeks back in his strip that he’s exactly the same here as he is now when he met Mason Jarr immediately after the reunion (and Lois of Hi & Lois at that). The time skip is officially retconned.

    • ComicBookHarriet


      Also Tom, (In his strip): Crankshaft is no longer bound to linear time. Crankshaft is ageless! Crankshaft looks and dresses exactly the same now, tens years in the past, and will never get older ever again! He’s even wearing the same hat!

      DID YOU KNOW: That, similar to Garfield, early Crankshaft was drawn OLDER, and less spry, and meaner looking, than his current form.

  10. RudimentaryLathe?

    When I saw yesterday’s strip my immediate thought was “oh Ghost Lisa’s gonna show up and persuade Susie Q not to jump because ‘if you die how will that make LES feel?'” That was the most revolting and therefore most seemingly obvious route I could think of.
    Batiuk somehow came up with something even worse. I’m almost impressed.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Ghost Lisa will giver her a thumbs up and encourage her to jump. Lisa is mad from beyond the grave that Susan was hitting on Les.

  11. Gerard Plourde

    TomBa’s retconned and merged timeline has to be the most insane decision he’s made yet (please correct me if there are others I’m forgetting). It was established that Crankshaft was old when he was driving the Westview Band around in Act 1 when Funky and Les were in high school. Even if we move this back in time and allow that Funky & Co graduated in 1972, there’s problem. Let’s allow that they would hav graduated from college in 1976. Let’s further allow that Les married Lisa in 1980 and that Summer was born in 1982. Summer was about 4 when Lisa died therefore 1986 We pick up the story with everyone ten years older, 1996. I think Cayla became the school secretary in Summer’s junior year – 1999. By even by that calculation Crankshaft would have been pushing 90 at that point.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      When I discovered Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series, I quickly realized that she dealt with the problem of Kinsey aging in real time by keeping the novels and short stories in the 1980s. (Her plan was to end with our heroine turning forty in the twenty-sixth book. Alas, it was not to be.)

      This feels more like the nautical novels of Patrick O’Brian, in which the War of 1812 seems to last three times longer than it actually did (not unlike the Korean War on “M*A*S*H”). The only thing is that O’Brian actually acknowledged what was happening, and here our creator seems to think (or hope) that no one will notice.

      Jack Benny will never be older than thirty-nine,

  12. Green Luthor

    Hm, yep, I totally buy that a sensitive soul like Ed Crankshaft could talk someone out of suicide. Perfectly plausible plot turn there, Tom. Good a call.

    • William Thompson

      “Wait! Don’t jump! There’s someone you need to meet!” Crankshaft looks to the back of the bus. “Billy Joe McAllister, go hold hands with that girl!”

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        Mr. Thompson, I hereby declare you an honorary citizen of Choctaw Ridge, with all rights and privileges, beginning with blackeyed peas and apple pie!

        And continuing with a 20% discount on all purchases at brother’s store in Tupelo (remember me to the former Becky Thompson, please).

    • ComicBookHarriet

      While this storyline in baffling and dumb, Crankshaft being a human sour patch kid, ready to jump in and rescue a person who is in dire straits, while mocking the misfortunes of the merely inconvenienced, has been set up numerous times, and is the most remarkably consistent character trait of any Funkyverse creation.

      Many people hate it, and I understand that. But for me it’s what makes Crankshaft a better strip.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        Also! Great Classic Country reference there William!

      • Rusty Shackleford

        I totally agree that Crankshaft is a better strip. Take today’s strip for example, it’s pretty good and something a lot of people could relate to.

        I’m not surprised CS is more popular, although now Batty is in the process of ruining it as well.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Crankshaft is a very poor use of the Pet The Dog trope. Batiuk wants to give Crankshaft a softer side, but it’s just so random. Also, Crankshaft is just a one-note selfish jerk; he’s not Hitler. His character doesn’t need this much nuance.

  13. The Dreamer

    This is obviously a flashback to right after Susan quits Westview. She’s about to commit suicide and Crankshaft saves her by nearly running into her with the office. He takes her home and granddaughter Mindy nurses her back to health. Back to the present, Mindy is with Pete, and now fifty something cougar Susan comes back to town and has her sights set on Pete’s best friend Boy Lisa. Since Susan could never have Les, now she wants to steal his stepson from Jessica!

  14. I have bigger issues with this plot but hasn’t Crankshaft parked his bus so close to the bus railing there’s no way out except the emergency exits?

    • ComicBookHarriet

      After the decades of abuse and poor maintenance, the bus asked Crankshaft to drive it over to the bridge, put the bus in neutral, and let it slip peacefully over the edge and out of its misery.

  15. ComicBookHarriet

    Amazing panel edits TFH! If both strips became the story of Magic Ageless Crankshaft and His Amazing Flying Bus, I wouldn’t argue. Some people might still hate the strips, but they would be more interesting…

  16. Paul Jones

    I just hope that Batiuk actually uses Ed’s name this time. For some reason, he thinks not actually calling Crankshaft by his name will make people curious about his strip.

    Also, she’s not so much in love with Les as she’s in love with the idea of being in love with him.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yeah, she is obviously a nutter, so I hope she continues to pester Les. And by pester Lester, I mean go all Lorena Bobbitt on him.

  17. Perfect Tommy

    I just want this After School Funky Special to wrap up quickly so we can get to the Pizza Box Monster Spooktacular.
    Priorities people.

  18. William Epps

    Susan or whoever it is, looks pretty relaxed in Panel 1. Not at all like somebody who is contemplating suicide. Her legs are crossed and she’s leaning on the rail as if she’s enjoying the scenery.

    • William Thompson

      Unfortunately there’s no real “look” for when you’re about to commit suicide. To me she looks like she’s thinking “Here’s a lovely place to get away from all the pain.”

  19. Y. Knott

    The latest BattyBlog:

    “No need to thank me,” sez Tom.

    “No need to worry about that, Tom” we reply.

  20. ComicTrek

    What’s even the point of Crankshaft being there? I get it, cranky-old-man-with-a-soft-heart and all that, but seriously: Northeast Ohio is not that dang small that there’s only ever ONE bus driver around! It isn’t!