Were you looking forward to a light-hearted week with the Pizza Box Monster? Well, you’re not getting it. It’s time for Summer’s Story! We might as well start calling it that, because Tom Batiuk couldn’t telegraph his intentions any harder.
I realize that Batiuk uses Funky Winkerbean to indulge his frustration that he hasn’t won the praise he thinks he deserves, by lavishing it on his many self-insertion characters. But how many times does he need to do this? We’ve already seen Les and Lillian McKenzie get the deluxe treatment. The Atomik Komix team gets a ton of it as well. Several other characters, like Dinkle and Holly, have written books. Why do we need another story where someone becomes an author? Why does he need another story where someone becomes an author?
And it’ll be the same story we’ve seen before. Summer meets the Lord of the Late, Summer writes a book, Summer gets an agent, Summer gets a book deal, Summer gets interviewed, Summer does a book tour, Summer signs autographs, Summer is annoyed by her fans, Summer gets a movie deal, Summer doesn’t like the movie, Summer doesn’t like Hollywood, Summer wins awards. Rinse and repeat. All while Les and VHS Lisa beam smugly from the sidelines. Ugh.
Today’s strip gives us another clear sign that Summer is going to be the new Les: it’s not OK to make fun of her anymore. “Summer changed her major again” jokes have been a staple of Act III. But Les passes on an easy one here, even after Summer set him up for it. Nope, she’s a writer now, and writers are not to be questioned or criticized in the Funkyverse.
But there’s a lot to question here. Summer has never even shown any interest in writing. Did she acquire it in college? No, the only thing we’ve ever seen her do is change her major. Did she get the writing bug from recording her feelings after her mother died? No, Funky Winkerbean skipped that whole decade. In early Act III, Summer’s defining trait was being different from Les: she was a jock, which he decidedly was not. Now she’s going to become his Mini-Me.
It’s also fair to point out Summer’s poor academic history. Her inability to stick to a major is the only thing we know about her. Is she even capable of completing a year-long task? Is it wise to delay graduation another year when she’s already pushing 30? How’s she going to support herself? (Oh, who am I kidding? Les will get her a six-figure advance before March.)
I do like the way Summer is drawn in today’s strip. She very much looks like the offspring of Les and Lisa. I can imagine Batiuk gave Ayers a note to emphasize Summer’s similarity to her saintly parents.
In Panel 1, Summer has the gigantic, self-satisfied smirk that Les has when he’s way too proud of himself. In Panel 2, Summer’s got her mother’s phony sincerity and lacquered 1980s hair. In the last panel, Summer has just eaten a power pellet and is pursuing Blinky into a corner. Okay, two of the three drawings are good.
If anything, they’re too good. These drawings capture Les’ and Lisa’s most obnoxious traits a little too well. Sometimes, I wonder if Chuck Ayers hates Funky Winkerbean as much as we do, and gets in little digs when he can. If so, this is a good one.
55 responses to “Summer Is The New Les”
What’s really weird about it is that Summer used to be the Anti-Les. Popular, good at sports, extremely gritty. And now she’s morphing into Les, which means all those interminable basketball arcs were just a huge waste of time.
I hate when I realize things like this, but all of a sudden that bizarre Ann Apple Sunday strip a while back maybe makes a bit of sense. He’s been pulling a lot of shit out of the woodwork of late, which leads me to believe he’s up to something here. Something boring and dumb, but something.
Yep, one week it’s Susan Smith (RIP?) and next it’s the long forgotten Summer. Something is up. And it’s a smelly smell that smells smelly.
When I think of Summer, I think of the “Ligament Tear Heard Round the World” and “Christmas Elf at a Cheap Mall Kiosk.” Little else. Certainly not, “Aspiring Literary Genius.” But I guess we’re all about to be unpleasantly surprised. This could be insufferable beyond our wildest nightmares.
From the perspective of someone who wasn’t around for these minor characters during their first appearances, the past few months of FW have seemed to be the work of someone who vaguely knows his regular characters suck, so he keeps trying to introduce new characters — who also suck.
I mean, this strip seems to be populated with hundreds of stupid, boring, unlikable, poorly-developed characters. Batiuk seems to be working on the theory that quantity is what we’re demanding. Don’t give us twenty years of a good strip, give us fifty+ years of multiple strips, quality be damned! And don’t develop a small stable of interesting characters; we want an army of dull, pointless, tedious marionettes!
Has anyone else — in any field of endeavour — been this bad for this long at what’s supposed to be their job …. and still somehow held on to it?
Summer was a HUGE character in early Act III, pretty much Les’ co-star. The whole gist of early Act III was how different Summer was from her father, and Les’ amusing struggle to relate to her. And Lisa, of course, who was still around in ghost form all the time.
There are dozens of long-forgotten or ignored FW characters. Like, for example, Owen and Cody, who were regulars for years and appeared all the time. Then the graduated and poof, they were never heard from again.
King George III of England?
I got the Mr. Krabs ref and it gave me a good morning laugh!
I’m legit feeling a little nostalgic for Summer’s WHS basketball years, particularly the time she broke her ankle during practice or something and her entire damn team forfeited that night’s game to be at her bedside at the hospital. IIRC they stubbornly ignored the hospital’s visitor limits to be there, and the opposing team was moved enough to refuse the forfeit and reschedule the game.
It was perhaps the most sappy, eye-rolling, soul-chicken-soup “1/8th inch from reality” moment I have ever seen come out of this comic, perhaps only matched by the “Les gets an Oscar” nonsense. Think I still have a strip from that story clipped out and filed way somewhere.
Then, if you’ll recall, Bull Bushka offered to help Summer rehab her exploded knee, which he did. Then Ann Fairgood saved the day and led WHS to the Big Championship Game, at which point Boy Lisa gave Summer the flu. But she gritted her way through it and took home the title. The gay prom arc happened right after that, with Summer playing a key role in that mess. Then came Kilimanjaro. There was also an arc in there where Cody and Owen were swooning over her for a week. Summer, Summer, Summer, all the freaking time.
Wait a second, are we sure Les didn’t step into a time pool? Because he is clearly going for a run with a young Cleveland mayor Dennis Kucinich.
Love the serious side-eye coming from George Forbes, the president of the Cleveland City Council. He and Kucinich were always seemingly at odds, despite both being democrats.
The late 1970s. Fat ties were in.
Ah yes, Dennis Kucinich, the “Boy Mayor” under whose leadership the city of Cleveland went into default.
To be fair, much of the financial mismanagement was the fault of Kucinich’s predecessor, Ralph Perk, whose primary claim to fame is the photograph when he caught his hair on fire with a blow torch.
Tom, why don’t YOU take a gap year, and using everything you’ve learned from Funky, Crankshaft and, uh, looking at comic book covers, write a book? I’m sure it will be filled with i̶n̶s̶i̶g̶h̶t̶,̶ ̶h̶u̶m̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶w̶e̶l̶l̶-̶r̶e̶a̶s̶e̶a̶r̶c̶h̶e̶d̶,̶ ̶t̶h̶o̶u̶g̶h̶t̶-̶p̶r̶o̶v̶o̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶s̶e̶ words on pages that are thoughtfully assembled in numerical order.
Seriously, Tom! Take the year. You know you want to….
Off the top of my head and if I’m remembering it right, sabbaticals were something that Watterson vehemently fought for, and obtained, and his battle had ripple effects throughout the entire industry. The other Ohioan died so that you may take a breath, TB.
I forget who said it here most recently and I’m sure it’s been said many other times before – why doesn’t Puffy just write a damned book himself? Just write a book! KSU will publish it without question, dude. Just do it. Go. You know it so well, you call yourself a “story writer” so much, just fucking do it. Nobody will tell you “no”. Go.
He THINKS he’s already written a book, but it isn’t a book at all, but a collection of previously published comic strips in book form. I’ve been using that line for years and it never gets old, because it’s still true.
I brought this up awhile back. Batty has the means to self-publish, so just go ahead and do it already. He does not need the money so just offer it as a free download.
When Watterson retired, he wanted to get back to painting. He ended up donating paintings to a local children’s hospital here in Cleveland.
So put up or shut up already Batty.
Oh, wow, I never knew that about Watterson and I’ve always loved C&H. But, does Watterson use 100 words when ten would suffice to say how much his readers suck? Anyway, yeah, why doesn’t TB just self-publish and let the market show how good people think his writing is… Bwah ha ha.
Batiuk doesn’t self-publish because that’s not really what he wants. He doesn’t want to write books, or even comic books. He wants to BE a writer or comic book creator, and get all the awards and money and ego-stroking he thinks go with that. He wants validation.
That’s because Watterson let’s his art speak for him.
Watterson wrote a couple long essays for his “anniversary” collections. They were well-written, well-organized and thought-provoking. He was a guy who, when he wrote about the history of comic strips and his own battles with the syndicate over licensing, sabbaticals and Sunday-strip page format restrictions. He also had notes attached to some strips in the collections, about what was going through his head when he wrote a particular series (remember the one where Calvin loses the ability to see color or shade of gray, and the whole world is black and white? I believe he said this was a comment about his frustration with’s intransigence during the product-licensing dispute).
Thing about Watterson’s essays was that they left me wanting to learn more. I never get that feeling from Batty’s blog…
Batiuk’s blog sometimes leaves me wanting more, but for the wrong reason. Like in “Match to Flame 183” he’s going on and on about John Byrne’s art style, and abruptly ends with “In short, I liked it. In short, Funky’s readers hated it.” I wanted to hear more about that! You don’t introduce a twist like that and then just stop!
And his Winnipeg Blue Bombers crap. He never tells you why he’s so enamored with a random CFL team, just that he is.
He implies they sent him a customized Ed Crankshaft jersey out of the blue, with jersey number 16 instead of Crank’s traditional 13. Did he buy it from the team store? If not, why would they give him one? Why would Batiuk have a relationship with the team? The Toledo Mud Hens I get, but Winnipeg? Apparently they stroked his ego, because he’s drawing their logo into the strip now. The rest we have to guess.
The man is allergic to anything interesting. Even his photos are terrible. He never points the camera at anything you’d want to see. Or even anything that would be useful as an artist’s guide.
Everybody has the means to self-publish. Before I accepted the fact that I seemed to have been destined to write exactly one novel (no more, no Les), I did the “National Novel Writing Month” thing a couple times. Produced nothing of value, but learned a lot from the other participants, mostly about the fact that anybody can get a book into print these days. Companies like Amazon, Apple, etc., will cheerfully upload your formatted text (you are responsible for editing and layout, of course) and print/bind/ship copies at the request of your readers.
Of course, this publish-on-demand system has a downside as well–the traditional “vanity” publishing system had a minimum press-run size, so an aspiring author could claim that at least fifty or a hundred copies were printed. Publish-on-demand is ruthlessly honest: if nobody wants your book, no copies will be printed. You can’t give away your unsold books (to friends and relatives who will place them, unread, on the shelf) and call it “promotion.”
I wonder if this possibility–that he will make his Masterpiece avoidable to the general public (as Peter Schickele used to describe what he did with the music of P.D.Q. Bach), and the general public will respond with the sound of crickets chirping–is what keeps Batty from doing such a thing.
Plenty of crickets have already chirped at the Funky Winkerbean and Crankshaft collections, and that hasn’t stopped him. The Amazon sales rankings for those things are atrocious.
Batiuk is one of those guys who never takes a day off work, because he’s afraid people will notice the office functions perfectly well without him.
She’s taken all these courses in how to write, but what does she have to write about? The unknown years of her childhood? Growing up with the Dead Lisa tapes? Why her college education dragged out so long? If anything noteworthy happened, Les is going to look like an even bigger dick for not having known about it.
But I do like the way all those leaves fall just as Les and Spawn of Les walk past them. It’s like the horror-story trope of flowers wilting in the presence of evildoers.
Well she could write a lot about her dysfunctional family. “ My dad made me sit in front of the tv watching tapes my mother made. It was so creepy, and she never gave good advice.” “ Then there is the time I caught my dad pleasuring himself to a mailer from the Cleveland Clinic oncology department.”
It writes itself.
That’s the irony of it all. You *could* write an interesting book the dysfunction of this town and its residents are, and what it would be like having to live with severely ill people like Les and Dinkle. But Batiuk thinks all this crap is normal and wholesome. It’s twisted.
My question is write about what? Being the daughter of the the most self impressed smug prick in the world? And how much writing has she done? And you need to be dedicated to the craft which seems unlike Summer. This whole “I’m going to write a book” like it’s done kind of spring break is just weird.
“Dedication to the craft” isn’t something these people have. None of the bajillion writers in Westview read, edit, do research, take workshops, or do anything you’d expect a professional writer to do. They’re more like reality show contestants. They’re only interested in being famous, and think it’s owed to them. Everything else is just a means to an end.
With apologies to Jenette McCurdy.
That’s a masterpiece, Mr. The Skink. You even added the publisher’s name!
Epicus Doomus hits the nail on the head: Summer used to be the Anti-Les and any parent- or writers who are parents- should know, it’s pretty cool when your kid has honest pursuits different from their own. Her story could have taken any one of many paths (e.g., a legit but failed shot at the WNBA, but a career in sports nonetheless, such as becoming an inspirational high school coach. Or anything else.) But, noooo, as you all have pointed out, in the Funkiverse, all good and righteous people become writers. Boring.
That’s how I always expected this to play out. I figured she would eventually get Bull’s job, or she becomes his assistant coach.
But no, as BJ points out, we need to figure out what Batty wants from this story. That is the key to this mess.
Great, so not only do we not get a Pizza Monster story, which would have at least been entertaining in its inherent insanity, but instead we get a Les and Summer story, which will undoubtedly be self-indulgent, boring, and utterly devoid of entertainment value.
As a character in a much better comic strip once said, “I DEMAND RESTITUTION!”
One thing I’d like to state here, since it seems that “writing” and “writing instruction” are the themes of the day and likely the week:
If anyone reading this hasn’t done so, give a look at “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. You can find it at archive .org among other places. In particular, look to his chapter for “Humor”, and notice that it mentions Trudeau and Chic Young of Blondie (and even quotes the latter in an instance), and how many of his suggestions that are made in this chapter and the book at large are ignored if not outright violated by Puffy.
Yes, it is very important for the strip to establish that Summer has taken instruction on writing in her time at college, so that we can only assume how little of it she has absorbed, much less will utilize.
Summer is going to write another book.about St. Lisa where she relives Lisa getting sick and dying from an eight year old’s perspective and fantasizes about what if Lisa survived and got better
Lisa”s Story: The Daughter’s Tale
Looking forward to both this book and the subsequent film adaptation, which will feature Marianne Winters in the dual role of Dead St. Lisa and Summer. Ms. Moore will win a Pulitzer Prize for her tome and Ms. Winters her second Academy Award, and both kudos will be dutifully brought to Westview and presented to Les.
I’m waiting for the musical. Like *Fun Home,* derived from Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, with its Small Alison, Medium Alison and Alison, we will have three Summers: July (who saw her mother die), August (who time-jumped) and Labor Day (whom we have now).
For what it’s worth, one of my favorite songs in *Fun Home* is “Changing My Major.”
How does *Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer* sound as a title?
Or would *I Have No Les and I Must Moore* be better?
This is all the symptom of the same disease: Batiuk stupidly painting himself into a corner and having no way out. If he’d stuck to what he was good at and not been Mister Serious Author, he wouldn’t be in this fix.
BJ6K is up this week? And it’s a Les week?
OH I AM HERE! I AM HERE AND I HAVE POPCORN.
Have you ever heard of the EMO robot? It’s like a real life Banana Jr. 6000. You can even buy it a yellow hoodie. I want one.
Sounds like it has way more personality than the average FW character.
I know a couple of people who have written books, and they don’t start out by thinking or saying “I’m going to write a book,” the book writes itself out of an idea that has been turning in their heads for quite a while. And a book isn’t cobbling together some disparate courses you happened to take in college. Oh well!
The one book that I started and actually saw through to completion (shopping it around, collecting rejections, eventually finding a publisher who paid for editing, cover art, etc., and even collecting some modest royalty checks) pretty much wrote itself. It started about three in the morning, when a scene started going through my head and would not let me sleep until I wrote it down. Then all sorts of other ideas started sticking to it and to each other. For a large part of the writing process, I kept at it because I wanted to see where the thing was going. I’m kind of reluctant to even call myself the author of the book; it’s more like the story wanted to be written and chose me to write it down. Once it was written down, I kept at it because I wanted to see if I could go through the whole process and get the thing into print. And in the end, it met the fate of 99% of new books, selling maybe 100 copies. The royalty checks bought some beer, I think.
I also, on two separate occasions, attempted to write a book deliberately. I had a Point, a Plan, an Outline, and while I filled pages and files with words, nothing that I would send to a publisher emerged at the end. I keep the files on my computer on the off chance that one of the characters will wake me up in the middle of the night demanding that I finish their story, but it’s been years…
Bummer. No Pizza (box) Monster story arc this year. Batiuk must have caught on that some readers started to enjoy those tales. To be honest, I don’t know how he would have topped last year’s
I was hoping, almost praying, that yesterday’s Sunday strip featuring Summer was a one-off. No such luck. For those who lamented Summer’s absence from the strip. I can only say you should be careful what you ask for. Enjoy.
Even though it is only day two, this has put me off my appetite. It looks like just black coffee for breakfast.
The silver-lining is that this story arc should be considerable snark fodder. I look forward to this forum eviscerating Batiuk’s latest foray into… “award polishing.”
Maybe the PBM story will come next week, since Oct. 31st is Halloween, though I hope that doesn’t happen.
Or the week after. Sometimes The Simpsons Tree House of Horror episodes don’t get aired until November.
1. Eve, there is hope that Pizza Box Monster could appear this Sunday? I hope so. Yet it must be the kiss of death if the readers enjoy PBM. I do.
2. I consider myself a world class vanity author. I have read every one of my works. I enjoyed Hannibal’s Lectern’s post.
So why write? Some of my stories have been in my head in some form since way back in 6th grade. I think it was Madeleine L’Engle who said inspiration comes while writing, not before. That has proven true for me.
3. This next part is long and boring, feel free to skip past and read a post more interesting.
I have written 3 biblical fantasy stories that include Plato’s Athens and Atlantis, bad dude angels known as Nephilim. The stories revolve around 3 main characters. But none of the 3 books were written first. I wrote book 4 first. Yet it was not book 4 at the time. It was scheduled to be book 3. And that third book wasn’t even supposed to be a book. It was just the opening paragraph in the first book I wrote. So it is what it is. I wrote book 4, and my son challenged me to do more. I did. Book 4 should be out in January or February.
4. So again why write? It’s fun. It gives my retirement form, purpose, and discipline. But I can’t even imagine sweating at the computer staring at a blank screen waiting for inspiration. I do not want to sound crazy (all right, crazier!) but stories write themselves. The characters and situations tell me what is going on. I tend to follow them.
5. Man, if you got here, congratulations!
Sorry for the slow response. I have felt physically off all day. I blame it on today’s FW.
1. It might be nice, but I can’t imagine a one-off stand-alone Pizza Monster arc. Batiuk has the uncanny ability to know what his audience doesn’t want.
2. I wasn’t knocking the fact that Summer wants to write a book. It’s just that we all know what subject she’ll be writing about. You could almost hear the collective groan this morning.
I am envious of folks who have the dedication to put their thoughts and feelings into words. Sometimes I struggle to write a report for work, let alone a book.
3. An entire series of books? Wow! Were these stories something you created after retirement, or have you been developing them in your mind for years? It’s great that your son encourages you.
4. Sometimes it’s strange what folks want to write about. In a bit of a midlife crisis, my little brother took months off work to write a book. It was a book about abandoned amusement parks in Northeast Ohio. Despite getting arrested once for trespassing a site where an amusement park once stood, he was determined to finish that book. I’m not sure how many copies he sold. I have one.
5. Made it! 🤟
3. Yep, a whole series. Then a final fifth book. But I have also wrote 3 kids books. My daughter’s dachshund is a major character. She is the foremost authority on red and green tree climbing lobsters. Plus she investigates the natural habitat of the Rocky Mountain Oysters. She found them scientifically delicious.
I will start on the next kids book soon.
The ideas come from my childhood. Some from our kids. Both kids are main characters.
Three books are spiritual. An Easy to Read New Testament. I am re-editing that this week. (Editing never ends. I am the only one that does it, so it is frustrating to find another error in my editing the Bible. I have another book where you read the Proverbs and Psalms all in 30 days. Then before New Years, I will publish An Easy to Read 5 Books of Moses and Joshua. That has been rewarding.
5. How do I buy a copy of your brother’s book? You had me at hello!
From the instant that Summer uttered the words “Write a book” in yesterday’s strip, we all knew where this is going. After all, in the Moore household, there is only one subject worthy of writing a book about. Time to dust off the old “For Summer to watch when she decides to write a book about me” VHS tape.
It’s so obvious, isn’t it? I wondered how Batiuk was going to keep Les and Lisa involved in the strip after Lisa’s Story finally concluded. Not even a year later, he’s started Lisa’s Story again, just with Summer this time. What a thrill that will be.
Out of the movie “Zero Hour” came “Airplane!,” for there’s a thin line between melodrama and mirth.
Maybe the Lisa Tapes are, at their core, as glorious camp as the 1966 “Batman” TV series.
Riddle me this, Batman…what Buckeye State cartoonist would find such a notion appalling? Answer at once, lest my karma run over your dogma!
I can just read Daughter of Dead St. Lisa’s book: “My parents abused me when I was little. They spent all their spare time making stupid videos instead of spending time with me. After my mother died, my father spent all of his spare time writing stupid books instead of spending time with me.
“My father put me in a foster home when I was 7. The bastard said I couldn’t be around him any more, because I ‘reminded him too much of Lisa.’ I was 7! Ten years later he finally picks me up, and the first words out of his mouth were ‘Lisa would be proud of the young woman you’ve become.’ I should have just screamed and ran for my life.” — Summer Moore, Lisa’s True Story: My Life In The Cancer Cult
“…sociology, mass com and creative writing.” yikes, it was even worse than i expected.