Ruby the Grate

In case you missed it, we are in the final weeks of Funky Winkerbean. Tom Batiuk appears to be reluctantly retiring the strip much in the same way he’s written Ruby as reluctantly retiring from Atomik Komix this week and in today’s strip. The timing of this thin gruel of a story arc and TB’s fairly muted announcement is certainly no coincidence. Most all of us here at SOSF, despite speculating for over a decade on when and how this thing would end, are probably still processing the suddenness of the announcement, how soon it will become reality, and what that means for this wonderful community going forward.

But enough wallowing about, let’s leave that to the strip and try to get back to business as usual. I guess today’s strip is aiming for bittersweet, but it largely is coming across as just bitter. You can’t mask your true feelings in a wall of smirks, TB… And even if the strip wasn’t ending at the close of this year, I’m guessing we were never going to see Chester meet with the building manager by looking in a mirror anyways. I’d say “a pity”, but, you know, it’s not. It’s really not.



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

139 responses to “Ruby the Grate

  1. Epicus Doomus

    The gag about AK’s open door policy isn’t half-bad if he did it intentionally, but I doubt he did. Another useless character no one cared about, gone forever. Just think about the time he wasted on all those totally needless Act III characters, like Ruby, Buck, Cliff, Adeela, Phil, Bernie, and so on. It really does boggle the mind. Just years and years of filler material, week after week, month after month, year after year, all of it meaningless and instantly forgotten. Just browse through TFH’s greatly underappreciated Act III arc recap archive and check out the countless FW arcs you’ve completely forgotten about.

    I certainly won’t miss these Atomik Komix arcs, I can tell you that. His dumb obsession with comic books ruined Act III as much as his general disinterest did. He went out of his way to create a vast, deeply intertwined fantasy comic book universe that somehow managed to be even duller than the regular Funkyverse is. Even his imagination’s imagination is a bore.

    • sorialpromise

      It’s very difficult not to compare TB to Schulz, Breathed, Capp, and Kelly. They had long careers. THEY HAD PLOTS!!! They finished strong. Crap! Damn! Schulz was dying, and his final stories were deeper, richer, and funnier.
      Mr. Batiuk hates that word, funny. He talks about it on He implies, it is almost an insult to him to call FW a comic. Fair enough. I get it. But if your story is not a punchline, the drama has to be REAL and INTERESTING. Consider his best storyline this year: Funky and Les at age 68, play teenagers in tackle football. It was fun. It was interesting, but it was not real. Batiuk scored 2 out of 3 at least. The most amazing feature of TB’s career, is not his longevity or his writing. It is the fact he could go so long without showing any effort. In my mind, I see Ayers fighting TB daily over the quality of the strip, but I think I am just breathing too much helmet gas. He is just as much at fault as TB.

      • Y. Knott

        Well, Capp didn’t exactly finish strong. His own (rather gigantic) personal failings aside, Capp publicly apologized for the last few years of Lil’ Abner. (His quote: “For three or four years Abner was wrong. Oh hell, it’s like a fighter retiring. I stayed on longer than I should have.”)

        But yes, Batiuk certainly aspired to be in a league with some of the greats. And he missed by a very, very, very wide margin. The inexplicable first-run longevity of FW does not at all put him in the same category as Capp, Kelly, et al.

        • Cheesy-ku

          I didn’t know that about Capp. It couldn’t have been easy to publicly state that you did bad work for a few years. It displays self-awareness, a trait TB sure seems to lack. I’m not going to dig around his blog but does anyone know -w/out using time you’ll never get back to look either- if Batiuk has ever confessed to producing something below his own standards?

          Thanks for sharing that, Y.Knott.

          • ComicBookHarriet

            Yes. Batiuk regrets creating Sadie Summers and hates her. She was memory holed during the Act II to III time jump.


          • billytheskink

            TB going off on Sadie Summers remains ridiculous to me, largely because after regarding her as this great embarrassing mistake he went on to create the same kind of Cindy expy in every single subsequent generation of Westview students (Jessica, Rana, Mallory Brooks, Maris… he even purposefully featured most of this lineage in a Sunday strip). But it is also ridiculous because Sadie was potentially far more interesting than any of her generational doppelgängers, Cindy included.

            Sadie had a background that informed her stuck-up popular kid behavior, she was Cindy’s sister and she lived in Cindy’s outsized shadow. She initially dealt with that by being a straight copy of Cindy, which despite TB’s protest over his own decision to write this (no such discussion on building Susan, Wally, or Monroe off the templates of Lisa, Funky, and Derek respectively, though) is an understandable behavior for an adolescent in that situation. Imitating a well-liked older sibling due to pressure to live up to their reputation or admiration of their behavior and status is not really uncommon in real life. And what TB did with Sadie later in Act II before he sent her to the corn field made some sense too. She basically gave up trying to be her sister and forged her own path, cutting her hair short and taking a job at Montoni’s, where she joined Rache, Lefty, and Lisa as the strip’s turn-of-the-century Greek chorus. She’s no hidden gem of a writing accomplishment, ultimately, but the structure of an interesting character was there.

            It is telling that a lightly-remembered character who left pretty much no mark on the strip and was, at worst, mildly derivative, is the thing that TB regards as his greatest professional folly.

          • Green Luthor

            “Flash Fairfield, the editor who way back when had tried to school me on character development”

            Ah, I guess that would be where Flash Freeman’s name came from. (Also where his “new” name came from, although it doesn’t explain why the sudden change. I mean, he may have just slipped up and instinctively wrote the wrong name, although it doesn’t explain why no one’s been proofreading the strip for some time now.)

          • Andrew

            In reaction to CBH’s link:

            Oh hell no. Bautik had the gall to call Snoopy’s brothers stupid, something worth being “banished to the Dumb Character Phantom Zone”?! Screw that noise, I got more enjoyment out of Schultz’s lamest Spike strips than with pretty much anything Bautik wrote, and I rank the Christmas storyline where Rerun tried adopting the old dog very high up with the drawn/animated Peanuts catalog! That’s seriously one of the most infuriating things I’ve seen him write.

            Also as far as Moon Maid is concerned, Dick Tracy’s current writers proved there’s still merit and a cool story to that character and era’s legacy. Wonder if they knew his sentiments when they did that lukewarm crossover all those years ago.

        • Cheesy-kun

          Thank you for doing the background, CBH.

          On the one hand, fair enough and kudos for the admission. On the other, it raises the question on if he regrets entire arcs or periods of time. Does he really think Act III is mistake-free.

          But, I think I’m being unfair. We generally don’t demand artists fess up to what we consider their mistakes.

          • Rusty Shackleford

            I think he does, but I count 3 mistakes and using his words from his essay they are: character confusion, redundancy, overpopulation.

      • spacemanspiff85

        That’s the most hilarious thing about Batiuk whining about “comics don’t have to be funny”. Okay, sure, but then they need to be compelling, or at the very least interesting.

        • Cheesy-kun

          Comics don’t have to be funny…says the guy who demeans a character’s sayonara arc with jokes about “retire-mints.” Maybe in that patented Batiukian method for going from A to B via the most convoluted route he’s really saying, “Comics don’t have to be funny. See, look at this awful excuse of a joke. That’s not funny at all, but I put it in there!!

        • The Duck of Death

          “I can’t stand it!”
          — Charlie Brown

          Of all the stupid, stupid tropes Puff Batty flogs, “ACKtually, comics don’t have to be funny, despite the name” is my least favorite. When I was a kid, I had a paperback that collected the early Depression-era Little Orphan Annie strips. They weren’t attempting to be funny. Nor were they “adventure” strips like the later ones featuring Punjab & co and assorted international intrigue.

          The early years (the strip debuted in 1924) were just about an orphan ragamuffin trying to make her way in the world, the challenges she faces, and the characters she encounters.

          Is he so ignorant he’s never studied his betters? I seriously think it’s possible he’s never read Pogo, or Little Orphan Annie, or any of the great narrative strips that weren’t gag-a-day. Remember, to him comic books are the alpha and omega. It’s abundantly clear that he thinks newspaper strips are far less worthy than men-in-tights monthlies. (Nobody tell him that the first comic books were bound compendiums of daily strips. Especially don’t tell him that these first comic books were made by Max Gaines, father of Bill Gaines, because he seems to pointedly avoid ever referencing EC comics or MAD. Even when he’s ranting about Frederic Wertham. There’s a topic for a post-FW dissertation… what’s he got against EC?)

          • ComicBookHarriet

            Batiuk is very aware of the history of comic strips and the origin of the name. He had DSH John go off on one and spend an entire week explaining it to Chullo Head back in 2012. He doesn’t even get this preachy and indignant about climate damage.

          • The Duck of Death

            I’ll be damned. I stand in line, CBH. In fact, I stan in line.

            I think I actually read that arc at the time but, you know, everything is so deeply forgettable, especially info dumps with crashing-Hindenburg word zeppelins bearing down on the characters.

            So he does know the history of comics. And yet, he still insists he was breaking new ground when he allowed characters to age (Gasoline Alley, debuting 1918, has been doing this since before he was born), or phased into drama mixed with comedy (too many strips to name, going back at least to the 1910s).

            So is he lying on purpose for self-glorification? What can explain these extremely non-factual, easily debunked assertions and straw men?

          • Andrew

            Here’s a blast from the past regarding that storyline: If you search up “Funky Winkerbean” on Youtube, you’ll find that the top result (if not “The” top one, depending on algorithm), coming above the Simpons clip with the Funky balloon and an old news stories about the gay prom arc being “controversial” is this decade old video from a comics reviewer of the Nostalgia Critic giving the storyline a piece of his mind as only 2012 content can:

            I used to watch him back in the day, was good for what he did. He happens to be a Cleveland, Oh local as well; makes sense with the extremes of both Watterson and Bautik coming from the state. Ended up on the local news once during a Christmas fluff piece, was cute.

          • The Duck of Death

            … and in further rereading those strips, CBH, “people who insist on going by the dictionary definition alone” will find that “comic” (in the sense of comic strip or comic book) is defined as:

            a group of cartoons in narrative sequence

            by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

            Not one damn word about humor. Another case of what could charitably be termed misinformation, and uncharitably be termed a lie.

          • Y. Knott

            Thanks for posting that godawful dreck, CBH. Absolutely atrocious. I knew Batiuk was a bad writer, a narcissist, and a comics obsessive who cannot tolerate any viewpoint on the subject except his own. But this takes it to another level. What a piece of trash!

          • Green Luthor

            The thing about Batiuk’s screed against “comics must be funny” is that, throughout all his strips giving the history lesson… most of the strips STILL HAD OSTENSIBLE PUNCHLINES. I mean, they weren’t funny or anything, but it’s clear he was trying to make jokes. While telling us how comics don’t need to be funny. (Granted, by putting such lousy “jokes” in, he definitely proved that comics don’t have to be funny, but the mere fact that he made the attempt would indicate that he’s not buying what he’s selling…)

      • Green Luthor

        It’s really depressing to consider that, due to his health issues, Schulz ended Peanuts about eight months shy of hitting 50 years. In other words, Funky Winkerbean had a longer run than Peanuts. That’s a bleaker fact than anything Batiuk could write.

        • Epicus Doomus

          Consider this: on the list of longest running comic strips, fifty years doesn’t even come close to the top ten. That’s some business, all right.

          • The Duck of Death

            I think it may be in the top 10, or close to it, in terms of strips still helmed by their creators. A quick Google search shows that there are at least two that have had longer runs by a single artist — Bristow (UK) and Potts (Aus), but I don’t have enough time or interest to conduct a thorough search for longest running creator-helmed strips. I leave that exercise for someone who really cares (in other words, likely no one).

            I suspect that if he were in the top 5 or something, this info would be included in all the writeups. On the other hand, he refuses to research anything, and the papers are basically running his press releases, so who knows?

        • Cheesy-kun

          Oh, my Montoni’s. I did not know Schulz had been that close to 50. That is bleak news, indeed.
          At least the Bond franchise has last longer than Batiuk and continues to make big bucks (even without the backing of Kent State Press).

        • erdmann

          Schulz would’ve been 100 next Saturday.

        • be ware of eve hill

          The saddest thing about Peanuts is the last-ever new strip ran in newspapers the day after Charles Schulz died. It wasn’t planned that way. It was a sad coincidence.

          Good luck topping that TB.

          • The Duck of Death

            Class all the way. Thanking everyone and showing gratitude. And you know what? The strips still hold up. They’re really not dated at all.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        “But if your story is not a punchline, the drama has to be REAL and INTERESTING. ”

        Very well said SP. If Batiuk was aware this was going to be his last year, it baffles me that he spent AN ENTIRE MONTH on JESS AND DARIN MELT A GUN.

        A year of Montoni’s the restaurant slowly winding down while at the same time the family is gearing up for a wedding, focusing on the relationships of the people closest to Funky himself as he moves into retirement. THAT is a story appropriate to the history.

        • Cheesy-kun

          Yeah, if he knew this was the final year, you’d think he’d want to make it one long variation on reunions of family and old friends. You know, Tom, the characters people used to care about (before you made them into insufferable creeps and two-legged Eeyores.)

        • billytheskink

          TB’s full on dive into Atomik Komix this year at the general expense of longtime lynchpin settings like Westview High, Montoni’s, and even to some extent Les and Lisa has been wild. Yeah, we know he’s comics obsessed… but he’s spending what little time he has left to wrap up the stories of the characters the built his career off with a bunch of newer characters with no history, no fanbase, and nothing interesting to say. The amount of time spent this last year talking about making climage damate comic books instead of telling us how everyone is moving on is just baffling. Summer’s stupid book as a wrap up device is similarly baffling.

          I expect it is going to be an insane final few weeks in this strip. Insane in the most boring way possible…

          • And why does Batdick think we all need to say goodbye to Ruby Lith, of all people? All we really know about her is that she’s really old (not a distinguishing characteristic in this strip) and she got harassed earlier in her career. Normally, I’d have a hard time thinking of any characters I care less about than Ruby, but there are at least four of them in panel 2 today.

          • Andrew

            Alternatively Bautik might be hiding the fact he watched the Dinosaurs sitcom and took notes on how the puppet dino comedy show ended with everyone dying from Ice Age as a big environmental message. Which could mean all the Climate Damage talk is foreshadowing, who knows.

    • William Thompson

      I hope that before FW ends, we discover that Chester is going bankrupt and Atomik Komix is being taken over by an investment group run by Owen the Idiot, Cody, Goth Girl and Bernie Silverfish. They fire everybody and replace them with freelancers they recruited over the internet. “Nothing personal, guys, but we need employees who produce what people will buy. It’s called business. “

      • spacemanspiff85

        I hope it’s revealed that Chester created the whole company to make intentionally crappy comics purely for his own financial benefit, somehow.

        • William Thompson

          Chester reveals all as the FBI leads him away: “I wanted to corner the pulp-paper and cardboard-carton markets! And I would have done it, if it hadn’t been for those darned old folks! People saw the scam when they realized nobody would pay $3.99 a pop for our products, and they figured out I was buying all of them myself!”

        • Green Luthor

          I figure it’s a huge tax fraud scheme. He reports spending more money on Atomik Komix than he actually is, so he can claim it all as a loss when they don’t make any sales. Like The Producers, if it was about tax fraud instead of defrauding investors. (And if they didn’t accidentally make a success. And if it was written by someone without a good comedic sense. And if it sucked.)

      • The Duck of Death

        I love the idea of a hostile takeover of Atomik, but I want it to be by Mordor Financial, nemesis of one-armed annoying superannuated hippie Skip.

        • William Thompson

          Mordor Financial? Aren’t they the ones who hold the mortgage on the Taj Moore-hall? I want to see them foreclose on Les. I’m sure he would bask in the attention.

    • RudimentaryLathe?

      It *is* a little strange how reluctant he now seems to retire given how little he seemed to care about anything in this strip besides comic book wankery and fellating Les’ ego. I wonder just how much bleeding over into Crankshaft we’re going to see.

      Like everyone else here, I am concerned what this means for our little community 🥺 Maybe we can start hating on Frazz; Mallet apparently thinks he’s the next Bill Watterson (he isn’t) and his “heroes” are about as punchable as Les.

  2. The final Funky Winkerbean panel should be a portrait of Tom Batiuk saying “I screwed up” while an off-screen voice says “Yes you did.”

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Got the reference!

    • Epicus Doomus

      I’ve always maintained that he shouldn’t have deviated from Act III’s original premise…a smug, snide, bearded man pals around with and gets life advice from his dead wife’s ghost, who has mild superpowers. It was simple, focused, to the point. But, BatYam being BatWad and all, he got all distracted with his high school hi jinx, band turkey gags and interracial marriage arcs, and he lost the thread. The next thing you know, the whole f*cking strip revolves around two ninety year old comic book jerks, one of whom used to be dead. How we got here from there is a long, sad, and really dull story.

      • Cheesy-kun

        Epicus Doomus! At first glance that sounds like a snide but hilarious quip but after a second to sink in I see that you are right. As loopy as the premise sounds, rebuilding FW around Les and Ghost Wife, would have been infinitely better than the the past 20 years. The premise allows for comical and dramatic stories. Act III has needed a therapist and an adderall prescription.

        In the end, TB has shown that he lacks what Breathed and Watterson had in spades: The ability to portray humanity in all its glory and shame and without being judgmental, maudlin, or trite.

        • Bad wolf

          I still look at the Act III cast list model sheet and think “you could really create a decent strip with this cast of characters.” He made a big mistake going real-time the first few years and burned them all out, then slowed down for 3rd string retreads that meant nothing. Summer’s entire generation lost, and his interest level too low to replace them.

          • Cheesy-kun

            That’s exactly right. I never would have predicted he’d all but disappear the daughter of Dead St Lisa. Batiuk’s a parent, right? I’m a parent of two – there’s nearly unlimited material
            there as a basis to depict fictional parents and their kids.

            And a lot of us were actually interested in Summer way back when.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Batiuk systematically destroyed everything that could have been interesting about Summer. He turned her into a clone of Les, when her whole personality was radically different than his. And now she’s mimicking his career path: write a shitty, maudlin book nobody on earth would care about, and then sit back and wait for the awards to roll in.

          • The only thing that all of Batiuk’s characters lack, and what keeps their stories from being involving, is very simple: none of them are likeable at all. A character has to be likeable for you to be involved in whether or not he overcomes some sad event.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            You can make unlikable protagonists work. Some of the best TV shows did that. The characters in Funky Winkerbean are unlikable in the wrong way. You don’t want to see them get their comeuppance: you want them to shut up and go away.

            They’re not relatable to anyone, because they’re all obsessed with things nobody on earth actually cares about. They get undeserved success left and right. They never grow or learn anything. They never appear vulnerable, especially not Les. No one is allowed to disagree with them, even when they’re clearly in the wrong. And all the main characters are like this.

            This comic strip is a master class in how to make characters the audience will hate.

          • The Duck of Death

            Unlikeable protagonists are often the ones I’m most interested in. The key is that they need to have recognizable human foibles that the audience can empathize with. Example: George Costanza on Seinfeld. He’s lazy and always tries to take the coward’s way out. He hates to do an actual day’s work and craves pleasure and leisure. He’s always trying to get over on someone, somehow. Can’t we all empathize with those traits? George is a walking id. We all have those feelings, but don’t dare act them out, usually because we fear the social or financial consequences. And like most of us, George is very very slow to learn his lessons, if he ever learns them at all.

            George is funny because he’s an exaggeration of the real foibles of his creator, Larry David. David is poking fun at his own worst tendencies.

            Woody Allen, great alleged favorite of Batiuk, does the same. A movie where Allen’s persona is a selfless, brave, heroic martyr would be unfunny and unbearable.

            If TB had used his own excessive tendencies as a source of humor — say, by gentle mockery of a character whose whole life revolves around Silver Age comics and sipping hot cocoa, or someone who can’t make a move without consulting his dead wife’s video instructions — the strip could have been quite good, an entertaining collection of kinda lovable eccentrics. But he valorizes those traits, and it totally flops.

          • But one key difference is that in Seinfeld, we’re not supposed to empathize with George and want to see him succeed. We’re watching waiting for everything to collapse on him, because that’s what’s funny. George may embody the worst traits in us, but the show doesn’t celebrate those traits. In FW, by contrast, we’re supposed to cheer when Les sabotages the movie adaptation, and we’re supposed to feel he’s earned Marianne’s Oscar statue. Unlikeable protagonists can absolutely be fascinating characters, but you cannot have an entire cast filled with them.

          • The Duck of Death

            Exactly. Life punishes George again and again, but he can’t help himself — he always comes back for more, eternally hoping that this time he’ll get away with it.

            We laugh when George is punished.

            Les, like George, is an annoying, solipsistic baby, but life just keeps showering him with undeserved rewards. Which he oh-so-tragically can’t enjoy because he’s the Grieving Martyr.

            We cry when Les is rewarded.

        • Anonymous Sparrow

          It could have been the daily newspaper version of “Truly, Madly, Deeply” with just a smidgen of “My Partner the Ghost.”

          I have to keep my promise to myself to re-explore that show. For some reason, I’ve been watching the 1966-67 “Green Hornet.” Blame it on Quentin Tarantino.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      I am old, Father William:

      A few days ago, I mentioned Steve Gerber’s *Defenders.* He stopped writing *Daredevil* to do that, and his run on the Sightless Swashbuckler (yep, he was called that) began with a slew of wretched stories, so wretched, in fact, that the book became a bi-monthly title for a while, following from Gerry Conway’s run with Indestructible Men and Blue Talons.

      With the storyline in #108, he began to get a better feel for things, and by the time he left, his Hornhead (he’s still called that, I hope) was very good. But as the readers were beginning to praise his work, he took a part of the letters column to make a confession.

      He had loved Gerry Conway’s run.

      He had been excited to succeed him.

      He plunged in enthusiastically.

      And, as he put it,

      “I blew it.”

      He gave reasons for it — it takes time to recognize that a strip is yours, for instance — but he took full responsibility for what he hadn’t done well.

      You don’t see that much nowadays in comics. When a new direction (didn’t work for EC, either) fails and a publisher discontinues a title, it seems to want a pat on the back for trying something different. Never mind that it didn’t work or might not have been very good to begin with…just be glad that we tried something different, instead of…

      Waiting for what goes around to come around again?

      Because if they didn’t, Snowball might come back to Animal Farm and make it the Manor Farm again?

      Can’t have that, can we, any more than we can have an animal sleep in a bed with sheets?

      The Kinks’s Animal Farm is nicer than George Orwell’s, because it saves little shops, china cups and virginity rather than insisting that while all animals are equal, some are more equal than others.

      • I am all for creative people taking risks and trying new things. But the trying is the part to be encouraged, not the part to be praised. The achieving is the part to be praised.

        I am also all for creative people being able to step back and say, “I screwed up.” The audience who responds “Yes you did” is not the audience you want. That audience wants the same thing over and over and over again.

        The audience you want is the one that responds “Well, you tried, and you did your best, and no one can really ask more than that. And we’re interested to see what you do next.”

        • Anonymous Sparrow

          Well, I don’t remember anybody responding to Gerber’s “I blew it” with LOCs (letters of comment) saying “yes, you did.” (Unless it was someone from Westview, Ohio, with the initials “JH” or “HK.”) They appreciated his honesty and commended him for wrapping up the Mandrill storyline and bringing in the Deathstalker, who seemed better suited to Daredevil’s milieu. When he left after an Owl two-parter, people were sorry to see him go.

          I’ve read *Middlemarch* twice and both times I experienced the same reaction. George Eliot followed a group of individuals engagingly and then turned to another group. I resented this, feeling that she’d left behind something fascinating for something I didn’t care about.

          But she made me care about the second group, so much so that when she returned to the first, whom I hadn’t wanted to leave, I resented that. Gradually, I realized that I had to trust the author. (Should I mark *Middlemarch’s* sesquicentennial with a third reading — I’ll be attending a celebration of this milestone in January — it’ll be interesting to see whether history re-repeats, or whether I’ve learned my lesson.)

          I can appreciate change in comics when I feel that it doesn’t come out of the blue and isn’t simply a desperate grab at sustaining a failing series which leaves you shaking your head and thinking “just because Alan Moore turned Swamp Thing into an Earth Elemental and made it work doesn’t mean that you can be as fortunate.”

          Amethyst, the Princess of Gemworld, made a terrible Lord of Order.

  3. William Thompson

    Somebody give that red knob on Ruby’s cap a hard twist to the left. Maybe it’s a volume-control knob and we can stop this noise. At this point I’m ready to try anything.

  4. Y. Knott

    Have any of you seen Crumb?

    A scene in the movie deals with Robert Crumb’s brother Charles, who is odd (but in a sympathetic, if sad, way) and who clearly has some difficulties in dealing with life in general. Charles is just as crazy about comics as R. Crumb, and he draws them just as obsessively. But as we go through Charles’ notebooks, we see his obsessive tendencies start to focus more and more on the verbiage in the word balloons. He has to stop drawing scenery to get them in, but it’s not enough. His drawings of the people who are actually saying the things in the word balloons get smaller and less detailed, nearly to the point of being stick figures. The word balloons soon utterly dominate, and then finally completely take over panels … the drawings are simply forgotten about, and there are just literally pages and pages of text no-one will ever read. Forever and into infinity.

    Today’s strip reminded me of this.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I have seen it but I don’t remember that bit. Crumb’s brother was a sad character though. What struck me about the movie was how little difference there was between the two.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Reminds me of some of the later pages of Hunter x Hunter an extremely long running Manga. Over time the artist’s health hasn’t been great, and he has always been wordy in the dialogue. causing some pages to be like:

      • Cheesy-kun

        I’ve never seen that before. That sample page looks like the writer has decided at this late juncture that novels are the higher art form.

      • Margaret

        It also reminds me of Dave Sims’ Cerebus the Aardvark. That comic started out with real promise and talent, but after Dave’s mental health took a deep dive it devolved into some truly creepy and horrible ravings, and had whole pages of words with one or two characters at the bottom.

      • Terence O'Brien

        I’m no manga expert, honest question here, but this definitely was the artist’s choice? Maybe the translators added dialogue panels to accommodate the English text?

        • ComicBookHarriet

          I tried to find the original untranslated page, but could not. I do know that English tends to take up more space than Japanese. But I doubt they would cover up or obscure art. Those white panels with black text may not have looked as crammed, but they def only had words in them.

    • Y., thanks for reminding me about that excellent Crumb documentary. This YouTube clip mentions Charles Crumb’s obsessive tendencies. It also contains brief cartoon nudity and mature language, but it’s fascinating.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        I’ve never seen that documentary, but that little clip just hit me like a ton of bricks.

        My two brothers both deal with mental health issues that have had them hospitalized, in group housing, and on medication. So watching the more ‘with-it’ sibling trying to treasure and praise the work of the sicker…ooof.

    • sorialpromise

      I come to Robert Crumb from another angle: that as a practicing Christian. I have just finished my latest book. I edited An Easy to Read Old Testament the 5 Books of Moses plus Joshua. I enjoyed R. Crumb’s Genesis illustrated book. it is respectful and faithful, well researched, and powerfully drawn. It has humor, and is sordid in all the right places. Best of all, it is a good read. I highly recommend it.

      • Cheesy-kun

        Thank you, sorialpromise. I’ve added that to my amazon Japan wishlist. Have you ever read anything by Shusaku Endo?

        He wrote Silence, which Scorcese adapted to film. Silence is excellent, but my favorite Endo is The Samurai. It’s also based on a true story. Endo’s portrayals of Japanese Christians persecuted by authorities are unparalleled. This year I picked up Kiku’s Prayer, and Sachiko, which are based on persecutions in the 19th Century and the 1930s.

        Endo himself was a devout Catholic from Nagasaki.

    • That was a fascinating documentary. I stumbled across it on IFC a few years ago. I need to watch it again. He is by far my favorite comic artist.

      • The Duck of Death

        It’s absolutely gut-wrenching. One of the most honest, and best, documentaries you’ll ever see, for anyone who hasn’t seen it. And it shows how fine the line between Robert Crumb’s genius and Charles Crumb’s madness really is.

  5. William Thompson

    Is that blonde chick Pete’s fiance or Dullard’s wife? She’s got Mopey Pete’s displaced smile, but she’s giving Darrin the eye. Just like Pete is eyeing Flash. Maybe now, at the end, Batiuk has decided to introduce marital infidelity and gay romance into the strip. It would be just like him to chicken out that way.

    • Green Luthor

      That’s Generic Blonde Woman, not Generic Blonde Woman. You can tell, because she’s a woman with blonde hair and no other discernable traits. (Of course, neither should be confused with Generic Blonde Woman, Generic Blonde 68-Year-Old Woman, Generic Blonde Twins, Generic Blonde Redhead, or Generic Blonde Redhead With A Hat. But, really, I don’t see why anyone should have trouble telling them apart.)

  6. A little housekeeping announcment: I’ve turned on WordPress’ “header image randomizer.” which makes the page display one of the over 600 banner images I’ve created over the years. However, I’m pretty sure that this causes the banner to disappear completely when viewed on mobile devices. I don’t have the stats on how many of you are using which platform, but let me know if you’re diggin’ it.

  7. Cheesy-kun

    ” his imagination’s imagination is a bore.” –> Another one to put on stuff in the SoSF gift shop.

    sorialpromise, your comment today has more of an edge to it than usual. That’s telling: When TB has pushed the always congenial sp to sounding a bit peeved, he should know he’s crossed a line!

    CBH-sensei, yesterday I put up a link to a blog that I thought might interest you. If not, apologies for wasting your time.

    Everyone here- THANK YOU! The snark here is never mean and so you all give great insights into the human condition that were expressed through it. Plus wonderful literary references.

    • ComicBookHarriet


      There were A HUNDRED AND FIFTY comments yesterday. So that one must have slipped past me Cheesy-chan. Many apologies!

      I took a look at the blog you linked and that is an absolute treasure trove of a reading list! I can’t wait to click through it to find my next winter read. I’ve never read any of Kirino’s work, but maybe that is where I’ll start. You’ve intrigued me with a retelling of mythology…

      A recc for you, if you have time to watch a 24 episode anime, is Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju. It is my favorite anime ever. It follows the lives and relationships of a family of rakugo performers from the 30’s to the 90’s. It is beautiful, heartbreaking, funny, and absolutely enthralling.

      And I usually prefer ‘screaming brightly colored teen fights tentacles’.

      • Cheesy-kun

        CBH-Number One Super Sensei- Why am I thrilled yet not at all surprised that you have heard of rakugo and watched a 24-episode story about it during the Showa Era! I will definitely check it out.

        I am so sorry for not including the lit link with my note today. What a stupid oversight by me and what a headache for you to have had to scroll through yesterday’s comments. I apologize.

        If you can find an abridged, English version of the Kojiki to read first, that *might* help you understand the full context of The Goddess Chronicle BUT Kirino wrote it as her contribution to The Myth Series by Canongate Press:

        The Goddess Chronicle includes a battle between a shark (sea diety) and crocodile (land diety) that also features prominently in myths from Southeast Asia. I’ve had the great fortune to travel to Indonesia from Japan several times for work and each trip included three days in the city of Surabaya, which means “shark and crocodile” and has my favorite monument of any city in the world. (Below the next paragraph.)

        And, if you want to read something novels based on Indonesian myths, I recommend Beauty is a Wound, and Man Tiger, both by Eka Kurniawan.

  8. sorialpromise

    Thank you, Cheesy-kun, Most of my comments rarely allude to the actual strip, but usually they are bouncing off of the other posters. I have only followed SOSF since late 2019. In fact, SOSF and LinkedIn are my only presence on the internet. When I arrived on SOSF, I was always hopeful for a strong arc from TB, with an even stronger climax. Heck! I could sure dream, couldn’t I?
    Well, those hopes are over. Perhaps, TB will yet surprise me.
    Gentlemen, place your bets!

  9. billytheskink

    Somehow, I whiffed on titling today’s post “Ruby slipper”. I apologize.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      As long a you end the week with a loving homage of Kenny Rogers ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Art to Town.’

      • Perfect Tommy

        I’ve been trying all week to come up with a bit for that.
        The best I could think of was “Ruuuuuuby…don’t fake your love for Tom”. Yeah I know. I got nothin’.

        • The Duck of Death

          The title would be perfect just as this line from the song:

          “If I could I’d take my gun and put her in the ground.”

  10. erdmann

    Retirement has been on my mind a lot of late, even before this week’s strips and Batty’s announcement.
    I recently realized that I’ve been at my place of employment almost 33 years and have worked in my chosen profession 45 years. In five years, I’ll hit that magical 50-year mark and will turn 65.
    I spent much of last week sitting poolside reading a book, a pastime of which I could grow quite fond. And, I must confess, my body doesn’t handle my excesses as well as it did when I was in my 20s. Sometimes, slowing down sounds very appealing.
    Still, I’m in no hurry to call it quits. In fact, I think I’m quite ready for another adventure.
    Or as the immortal Benny Hill put it:
    You give damned short rides on this fairground of yours, Lord,
    Oh, please let me go ’round again.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      I’m five years behind you and have already started putting plans in place to get me ready for retirement.

      Batty admits he had no succession plans in place. This is unbelievably foolish and proves to me that he was forced into retirement. This also proves the syndicate is running on cruise control and nobody does anything but cash checks.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        It makes sense that Batiuk had no succession plan, because he didn’t want a successor. TB has long said he didn’t want anyone else continuing the strip. He also had that legal spat with the syndicate over ownership of the strip, and we don’t know how that was settled. (Or if it ever was. Batiuk is great at never telling you the important part of the story.)

        But I agree that this ending doesn’t seem very planned, and Batiuk is not exactly a reliable narrator.

    • I’m planning to retire officially on Jan 5th, 2024, after 38 years working for the same company and 44 years in the IT industry. I originally intended to retire in April of last year, but my employer offered me a generous bonus if I agreed to stay on for 3 more years, working three days a week remotely, which is working out well, since I didn’t really have a good retirement plan for last year, but now I’m still getting income while I have some time to think about what I’m going to after that final day of work.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        You’ve spent all that time working with computers? And your screen name includes Bob?

        I am going to imagine you as hero guardian Bob from the cartoon Reboot from now on. You can’t stop me. You’ve spent 44 years battling the User to save the binomes, before you got lost in The Web. Canon.

  11. Paul Jones

    We get that he doesn’t like the change that was forced on him because his anger slips through the wisecracks. All we can do now is wonder which new person is there to have the rug yanked out from under him. It’s Thanksgiving so we’re due for whining that they cut the funding for the marching band.

  12. Gerard Plourde

    Now that I’ve digested the unexpected yet not completely unanticipated news that FW is ending and while coming to terms with the likelihood that this site and the community it has developed will most likely part, I want to get some of my thoughts out to the group.

    First, I want to say how much I have enjoyed being part of this group and hope that we can find another “bonfire” to gather around (FW unintentionally provided so many rich conversation starters). The work of our guides, who managed to find something to write about even when given thin gruel like this week’s strips, deserves an award. The comments flowing from that start have run the gamut: instructive, humorous, insightful, personal, snarky. We have built a real community here, diverse and respectful of each other. In an outside environment that has been tumultuous for some time, this site has shown that the humanity we share is much more important than the things that might divide us and has provided a haven to come to. Thank you to all of you for that.

    I do want to try to read the tea leaves we’ve been presented to try to figure out the reasons and timeline for the end of the strip’s run. Like many of you, I doubt that this was part of TomBa’s plan, an inference the continuation of Crankshaft seems to support.

    On reflection, I’m doubtful that this was triggered by the syndicate. I do think that Chuck Ayers’ decision to carry on was the prime mover.

    A few years ago, Ayers retired and a replacement artist was named. For reasons unknown, that partnership ended abruptly and Ayers returned. Because of that, I think that the ending was caused by TomBa’s inability to find a replacement for Ayers. This may also explain the randomness of the strip’s arcs over the last few months. TomBa prides himself on working a year in advance, but things have been pretty chaotic since Cory and Rocky’s wedding. Also, I seem to recall that TomBa made a comment about the Eliminator’s time traveling helmet that appears not to have been followed though on.

    Just my speculation – I’d be curious to hear others’ take on this.

    • William Thompson

      Batiuk says he works a year in advance–but does that include Ayers? How much time passed between Batiuk doing the work on a particular strip and Ayers doing the artwork?

      • Gerard Plourde

        That’s a good question. My guess is no, which could account for the weird directions this has taken. I think the recent stuff (since Cory’s wedding) has been thrown together to deal with Ayers’ impending retirement.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      I agree that it was probably Ayers decision to retire that precipitated this. I wonder if Batiuk held off on his announcement for so long while still subtly wrapping a few things up because he was hoping to find another artist.

      Rick Burchett did draw the strip for about a year. The guy is very skilled, as his resume and other work shows, but he seems to have struggled with Batiuk’s ‘house style.’ We’ve never gotten the hot goss, but he stopped drawing Funky in October 2018. He has since done a couple comic covers I think, so the break-up couldn’t have been too acrimonious. Maybe he was pulled away to another project?

      2017 is also when Dan Davis took over Crankshaft from Ayers.

      Why? Because Ayers tried to retire five years ago…

      • The thing is, there was always another artist available, one who worked on the strip since very early on. His name was Tom Batiuk. If he really wanted the strip to go on, he could get back into the drawing chair and just have someone else do the inking and coloring.

        • Gerard Plourde

          Batiuk was involved in an automobile accident several years ago. I wonder if there was some effect on his fine motor skills that might make drawing difficult for him.

        • The Duck of Death

          YES. Exactly this. And he doesn’t even handwave it away, with something like, “… and I chose not to get back behind the drawing board, because writing two strips and drawing one is too much workload at this age” or some other excuse.

          We know there are other artists who could work on this. If there is money, there is talent. We know he can do it himself quite capably, as he did for many years.

          I wonder: Did Mint-Berry Crunch get reassigned, and someone at the syndicate FINALLY take a look at this trainwreck, clutch their chest, and fire off an email to their boss begging to put it out of its misery?

          • Gerard Plourde

            I think TomBa is difficult to work with. Burchett isn’t the first collaborator he’s broken up with. Tom Armstrong left John Darling.

          • The Duck of Death

            I can very easily imagine Tom as difficult, or a micromanaging nudge. On the other hand, it’s possible Burchett and Armstrong left because they had other options that paid better.

          • be ware of eve hill

            I chuckle every time you call Tea Berry-Blue Mint-Berry Crunch. As a viewer of South Park, I get the reference.

            Your nickname for she/they (her listed gender-specific pronouns) is considerably cleaner than the first term that comes to mind for me. Her real name, Tea Fougner, makes me think of “Tea Bagger.”

      • Gerard Plourde

        “I wonder if Batiuk held off on his announcement for so long while still subtly wrapping a few things up because he was hoping to find another artist.”


        I agree. I think that was his hope. I wonder if the merging of the timelines may have been a way to have Davis share duties with Ayers and eventually take over the FW art and that Davis wasn’t interested in doing two strips.

      • Bad wolf

        My only thought is Burchett himself is now 70, so maybe he just wanted to retire at a decent point since it wasn’t his strip to drag over the finish line? (Having met him at a convention or two i can only say he was super friendly and wish him the best)

        All the creators into their 70s, the audience in their *cough cough*, the strip barely qualifies as ‘long-running’ at 50 years… what a crazy industry

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      It doesn’t feel like TB is telling the whole story, or even a very honest one. Ayers wanting to retire can’t have just happened, because TB has that 11-month lead time he’s so proud of. Either he’s been burning through his backlog for months without saying a word, or the syndicate pulled the plug on the strip and he’s trying to hide it by blaming it on Ayers’ “retirement”. After he already badgered Ayers out of retirement once.

      The last few months have spent so much time on dumb shit, even by this strip’s standards, that I’m not buying that this was a planned ending.

      • Gerard Plourde

        I agree that the ending wasn’t planned. Ayers tried to retire five years ago (he was about 70 at the time), but came back when Burchett left as CBH mentions upthread. We’ve been remarking about how Ayers’ style has deteriorated for some time now. I think he finally and precipitously (to TomBa, that is) said enough was enough.

        The “dumb shit” is the result of TomBa having been thrown a curveball and having to abandon his detailed (such as it is) plan and having to deal with Ayers’ leaving. I’d wager that Ayers has finished all the strips to carry through to December 31 and TomBa was forced to make the announcement now because it’s inevitable.

  13. Mela

    I’m know I’m echoing what others have already said, but why was Montoni’s closing treated as a mere blip of a plot? As a major setting in the strip, its closure should a much bigger deal than it has been portrayed and he could have ended with it. The 50th reunion would have been an appropriate (and obvious) choice as well, had he not chosen to show everyone frowning about high school as opposed to celebrating their lives beyond it.

    Still, 50 years is long time to be doing anything, so in that respect I am sorry that the strip is ending and kudos to TB for sticking with it that long. I enjoyed it as a teen and liked the characters back then. FW was a fun read in Act I. I just wish he would have let the characters age emotionally as much as he did physically by drawing all the women (except Cindy) as middle-aged frumps.
    He made most of the characters insufferable in Act 3, with Les definitely leading the charge, and that’s a shame because I really wanted to like these folks more as they aged. Poor Bull, who was one of the few who exhibited any growth, was offed in a storyline that was a complete insult to his legacy as a character. And other times I’ve thought “I think I know what TB was trying to say, but he sure chose an odd way to do it.” The sadness far outweighed any joy in Act 3. Sure, getting old stinks, but it’s not ALL terrible.
    For a so-called reality based strip, it would have been nice to see some counterpoint to all the misery.

    Enough of my ramblings! I do want to express my appreciation for all of you. I really hope that this group continues in some form. Any place where I can find references to the Kinks & the Marx Brothers as well as learn about authors and topics I never knew existed is a place I want to stay. I don’t recall how I stumbled into SOSF (probably through Comics Curmudgeon), but I read it for a long time before actually posting. And then in late 2019 I lost my long time job, COVID hit the world and I had an awfully lot of time on my hands. So I started posting here and there, which helped me safely vent some of my anger & frustration that I was feeling then-which also means that Les Moore ended up serving some sort of strange purpose after all. This forum gave me something to look forward to and a place to laugh, so I thank you all for that. I love the intellect exhibited in this forum, the well-researched history that backs up the snark, and most importantly, I love that even in our snark everyone is respectful to one another here. And heaven help us, we ARE united by TB and FB so I’m thankful he’s provided something for us to enjoy/snark on together.

    OK, NOW enough of my ramblings! Thankful for all of you and hope we can stay in touch!

    • sorialpromise

      From Mela:
      “Sure, getting old stinks, but it’s not ALL
      It can’t be too bad. So people are trying it!😜

  14. be ware of eve hill


    First, Batiuk announces Funky Winkerbean will end this December. Now GoComics has been down all day. The comic strip dominoes are falling!

    Seriously though, I’m never surprised when the Comics Kingdom is down, but I can’t remember the last time GoComics was down. I’m already one day behind reading their comics because of yesterday. 🤬

    Thanks a heap, Batty.

    • Bad wolf

      Now that folks are getting back on twitter maybe i should apply to reinstate my gocomics commenter account. I need to tell off those jerks at Luann just one more time…

      • Ugh. Luann the strip is okay, Luann the fan base is…well, actually, I bet Batiuk wishes his fans were similar. “Everything in this strip is sheet genius!!!!’

      • be ware of eve hill

        Banned? I’ve had comments removed from GoComics, but my account has never been suspended. Not even for a day.

        What the heck did you post? Death threats?

        My Twitter account appears to be unaffected by the Elon Musk acquisition. Not that I use it much.

        • bad wolf

          They used to be able to post image links and put up little FB memes or zoom-ins on the day’s strips. They had a colorist that came by sometimes so a real big shot insider, ya know. Another poster had a real gift for making clean but hilarious riffs on the day’s strips (not unlike ian’sdrunkenbeard’s postings from yesterday), and wasn’t terribly obsequious about Gunther, Greg or his recently-arrived nepotism hire daughter. Anyway i got bit by the bug and started posting remixed strips as as well. After the other commenters started screaming at or about him for a while, they banned us both. Maybe others? Dunno.

          If you’re still out there, ReallyBad2, keep driving them up the walls.

    • William Thompson

      “The requested service is unavailable. It is either overloaded or under maintenance. Please try later.”

      There’s been some speculation that GoComics might start charging for some services, the way CK does for archives.

      • be ware of eve hill

        Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted. Realistically, for me, it would be money well spent. I’ve spent $20 on a bottle of wine, and it sure as hell didn’t last me a whole year.

        Apparently, the GoComics issue is serious and has been going on all day. An acquaintance of mine is a GoComics subscriber. They usually receive an email from GoComics with their favorite comics at about 3:00 AM. No email from GoComics this morning. He says he took a GoComics survey earlier this week, and the questions had to do with the GoComics website. There were no questions concerning subscriptions.

    • The Duck of Death

      Buh — but my Pluggers!

      Seriously, Pluggers! is another one the Comics Curmudgeon got me into. With every bit of doom, gloom, and despair Batty can wring out of Le Chat Bleu, I don’t think he could ever top the deathless “Rhino-Man Hocks His TV” Pluggers! panel.

      To this day, despite an unfortunate change of artists, it remains, like FW, a source of snarkability with a frisson of memento mori. I still catch up with it a couple times a week.

      • be ware of eve hill

        D’oh! Pluggers used to be a Comics Kingdom title, but made the move to GoComics a couple of years ago.

        Likewise, Baby Blues and Sherman’s Lagoon made the move to GC last year.

        Those are three pretty big titles to lose. I wonder what’s up with that?

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        I want to snark on Pluggers too, but it’s basically the same 5 or 6 jokes every day: Pluggers are old, Pluggers are fat, Pluggers are cheap, Pluggers are blue-collar, Pluggers are condescending, insufferable baby boomers who think what they did in 1946 is the only correct way to do anything.

  15. be ware of eve hill

    Not a news article or tweet from Tea Fougner (a.k.a. Tea Berry-Blue) concerning the termination of Funky Winkerbean.

    You’d think the “Editorial Director, Comics” at Kings would have something to say about it. No congratulations on 50 years, blah blah blah.

  16. The Duck of Death

    Okay, folks, lay your bets!

    How is he gonna get a sideways comic panel out of this tomorrow?

    Maybe Ruby will send her characters out with a “Death of Superman”-style bang? Perhaps a pietà, with Miss America holding the limp corpse of Wayback Wendy?

    The Day TIME Caught Up With Wayback Wendy!


    The Day Wayback Wendy Went Way Too Far!

    • William Thompson

      A giant Rubysaurus Wreck stomps the Atomik Komix building! The staff flees in smirking boredom! Down in the congratulatory corner, Alex Raymond and Flash Gordon high-five one another. “Take that, hacks who perpetrated Starsux Jones!”

    • I bet it’s an image that will form a single thought in our minds” this is stupid.

  17. Hitorque

    Cliffe Angere and others…

    ALL are old and decrepit one-note characters with absolutely zero spouses, children, friends or non-comic geeky interests to speak of. All of them talk endlessly about the fuckin’ good old days and constantly try to recapture the special feeling from THAT ONE DAY as a child when they first discovered comics and/or sci-fi movies. Even the “younger” generations become total antisocial manchild recluse losers like Mitch Knox or if they’re lucky like Darrin, Peter or Cory typically they’ll find an impossibly hot and sexy comics geek to marry and eventually she’ll spawn another comics geek nerd…

    TL;DR VERSION: Why are we even supposed to care that Ruby is retiring? Why are we supposed to feel anything for these cardboard Funkyverse people? Who’s going to actually miss them when it all ends?

    As an aside if I can make one simple request to Batiuk, it would be to finally reveal Dr. Funkenstoner’s christian name…

  18. The Dreamer

    I think this is no retirement The syndicate must have canceled Funky because it’s been bad for sometime and now focuses only on the old characters They dont want a senior citizen comic strip

    So what becomes of this site? SonofStuckCrankshaft?