We Harley Knew Ye

For all his inconsistency and carelessness with continuity and canon: when Batiuk introduces a character from FW‘s distant past, it turns out that they were in fact part of the Act I cast. Though I read Funky Winkerbean back in the day (I was in marching band, how could I have not?), I was sure that Harley “the janitor” Davidson was a recent addition. So a big tip o’ the SoSF cap to ComicBookHarriet for pointing out that he’s been around since at least ’79. Four decades later, Lego-headed Summer has arrived at the custodian’s office. Sounds like she’s discovered yet another sordid detail from Teen Lisa’s journal…

Interesting times when it comes to comics on the web! Yes, Crankshaft will continue into the new year, but Batiuk is jumping ship from Comics Kingdom/King Features Syndicate to GoComics/Andrews McMeel Syndication. Maybe that’s why Batiuk’s “editor” @teaberryblue hasn’t bothered to comment on Batty’s semiretirement (plus she/they are expecting a baby in December). Speaking of GoComics, looks like they’ve sorted the problems that knocked the site offline for the last couple of days. In other news, Comics Kingdom is “moving its commenting platform to OpenWeb” from Disqus; in the process discarding years’ worth of reader comments and hailing this as an upgrade.



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

73 responses to “We Harley Knew Ye

  1. Epicus Doomus

    Ah, the parody strips. Man, I’m really gonna miss those. We’ve had so, so many awesome parody strips and parody strip creators through the years. I won my official “Stay Funky” coffee mug in a parody strip contest. Cayla was reaching for a bag of something in the kitchen cabinet, and I photoshopped “Lisa’s Ashes” on the bag. And that was awfully tough to top. And that mug is still baffling my friends to this very day.

    That was actually the second SoSF contest I won. The first one wasn’t long after I first started posting at SoSF. That was a tough, tough crowd. They assumed that any new poster was some sort of disruptive troll trying to horn in on their fun, and I was decidedly not warmly received at first. It took a while to win them over, especially that Sgt. Saunders, who’s one tough nut to crack, I tell you what. Anyhow, I declined my prize (a “Stay Funky” mug, ironically enough), as I didn’t want to step on any veteran posters’ toes. And then I DID step on a veteran poster’s toes…an actual veteran…an experience that taught me a valuable lesson about “the line” and not stomping all over that line. I hope O.B. Dan forgives me, wherever he is today.

    Anyhow, about this final-ever FW arc…sigh. What the f*ck is he DOING here? Does everything have to be a shitty comic book gimmick? So far, this is totally incoherent. I think he’s trying to be all trippy and “meta” here, but it’s just a weird confusing mess so far. And I always assumed Lisa would play a major role in The Grand Finale, but now that it’s happening, it’s even worse than I thought it’d be. I mean, these diaries, man. If you’re dying to bring her back, then just bring her back already. It doesn’t matter anymore anyway. I mean seriously, if he brought Lisa back tomorrow, who would even notice or care? Sure, we’d go nuts, but it really wouldn’t even be that stupid by FW standards, as FW characters have already returned from the dead and no one seems to think it’s a real big deal.

    • Hannibal's Lectern

      The parody strips made me dig out a folder of close to 100 of them I did back in the Cliff Anger days. Most were fairly lame, but I have a soft spot for “Zen Brick Funnies” and the one where the Phantom punches out Owen, and I was pleased to find I did the “no, THIS is the dream; you’re actually dying” gag back when Mopey Pete was shot while boarding a ship to get his “special pens.”

      Good times. Good memories…

    • Charles

      I won my official “Stay Funky” coffee mug in a parody strip contest.

      I think I’m almost obligated to feel shame for going so low in that contest, but I don’t.

      By the way, how much would you bet that “the pattern” that Summer refers to will never be explained?

      Also, “you made my mother so uncomfortable with your cloddish watching of her that she wrote about it in a diary” is not the sort of thing you say to someone to put them at ease for an interview. Batiuk portrays this as friendly, but Summer’s statement would come off as much more confrontational.

      So another bad writer characteristic of Batiuk’s, which is similar to the one I mentioned yesterday: Since he already knows where this is going, he doesn’t try to make getting there plausible.

    • I think the first parody strip I did was the one that occasionally graces the masthead here to this day.

  2. William Thompson

    Yeah, of all the things Summer could have uncovered, it’s a perv. If that’s supposed to tell us something important about the history of Westview, then it’s, what? “Nuke it from orbit?”

    Or is the grand revelation here that Westview High School was constructed as flimsily as possible? Seriously, if an interior wall is nothing more than a single panel of sheet rock, or maybe a sheet of 3/4″ plywood, then it’s really below any reasonable construction standards. And, uh, if you use a brace-and-bit to drill a hole through wood or plaster, then it’s going to do a lot of damage where it emerges.

    And, come on, are all the Westview girls so dumb as to not notice a hole that big drilled through a wall at eye level?

    • William Thompson

      Okay, this is a parody, right? With the way this strip has been running, it’s hard to be sure any more.

      • Epicus Doomus

        A damn fine parody strip. Long live the SoSF parody strip!

        • William Thompson

          And it can’t help than be better than what Batdick will serve up. Harley Davidson was watching over Summer because he was so moved by “Lisa’s Story” that he wanted to be her guardian angel?

          • Epicus Doomus

            Our SoSF parody strips were ALWAYS way better than the originals. I really should have collected them all.

          • ComicBookHarriet

            It’s not too late. You an at least ask ian’sdrunken and Hannibal’s lectern for their collections! I know those guys have FOLDERS.

            (If you get them, please email to me!)

          • Gerard Plourde

            ED and CBH,

            I’ll add my vote to collect the parody strips. If there’s any way to preserve them please do it.

          • Hannibal's Lectern

            (Actually replying to CBH, but WordPress seems to limit how many levels of nested replies a post can have)

            Damn right I have a folder! The main reason I stopped posting parody strips a few years ago is that Google shut down its “sites” service, where I parked the image files. They forcibly moved everything to their new “drive” service, which forbids embedded image linking. This, they said, was in the interests of “security,” which I take to mean “they want to make sure people who view your image do so through a Google product that collects marketable information about them.” Welcome to the Brave New World of Surveillance Capitalism!

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            All mine are in an imgur user, if anybody wants to peruse them. Some are broken, some I never finished, some jokes didn’t work, some are missing context, and some of them were examples of how to make the strip better rather than mock it.

            But here are the best ones:

            “Racist Strawman” comic book cover

            “Generic Man” comic book cover

            Scene from Blazing Saddles

            Scene from Ghostbusters

            Scene from Being John Malkovich (probably the second-best one, based on reader reaction).

            The unquestioned #1 is Harry Dinkle and the Mystery Organ, a.k.a. the porn parody

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Here’s my folder: https://imgur.com/user/garysjne/posts

            A lot are incomplete or not very good, but all the good ones are there. Including the Dinkle porn parody and the “Tom Batiuk as John Malkovich” strip.

          • Andrew

            Oh wow, never knew Bautik went in for 9/11 itself for some “pathos” writing. I’m sure he felt equipped for it with Reporter Cindy and his handful of plots related to stuff in New York. How quick did he manage to get those out given the lead time he would need to start writing those and the strip-making process?

            Plus from my own casual intrigues into facts & stories around 9/11 I know there’s tales about trees and other things surviving and being salvaged from the wreckage with miraculous quality, but they sound much more interesting than I think this strip could ever properly convey.

        • Kent State should publish a volume of them. At last, something worth buying!

          • Y. Knott

            Son of Stuck Funky Press presents:

            The Last L̶e̶a̶f̶ Laugh: The More-Than-Complete Funky Winkerbean! Funky Remixed, Reimagined, and Ridiculous!


            Yup, that’s an FW book I could get behind!

  3. RudimentaryLathe?

    I realize everyone has made the same observation, but the direction Batiuk is taking this strip’s final weeks is truly baffling.
    The “history of Westview” book angle isn’t really a terrible idea for a wrap-up, but the way he’s going about it is just ludicrous. Summer has never been depicted as a writer before now, and so far she’s announced her intent to a couple main characters, rifled through her long-dead mother’s diary and is now spending the week with a D-tier (if that) character to reminisce on 50 years of FW.

  4. Banana Jr. 6000

    Oh, look, it’s all about Lisa. What a shocker. Summer is supposed to be writing a book about the whole town, but somehow needed to do more research on her own mother, who is already the most over-documented person in human history.

    And somehow turned up something new. Which the story kind of justified: Les was too fragile to read Lisa’s diary, so he baited their own daughter into doing it. Which gave her the insight to find the greatest treasure in Westview: more information about Lisa.

    My word, someone in this town should have thrown all three of them into a volcano by now.

  5. Batdick consistently zags when we expect him to zig.

    Zig: Summer interviews a few current characters to sum up the whole Westview life thing.

    Zag: Re-introduce an obscure character from decades ago and reveal a whole new icky scandal.

    At least it’s unpredictable. And it isn’t ending with some kind of awkward, half-assed wedding (FBoFW, anyone?).

  6. The Dreamer

    Actually a perfect ending for Funky would be for Westview High to burn to the ground Maybe Harley the Janitor starts the fire. The last Sunday panel can be the entire Funky gang standing around watching Westview High go up in flames. Singing ‘This is the end…beautiful world…the end’

  7. ian'sdrunkenbeard

    Funny you should mention parody strips.
    “The Best of Buck!”

  8. billytheskink

    This is what TB imagines New York Jets legends Joe Namath and Weeb Ewbank would talk about? Weird. Ayers gets kudos for the likenesses, though.

    • Epicus Doomus

      “It’s called a reverse mortgage, Weeb! You can cash in on your home equity now, while you’re still here to enjoy it! And it’s easy! All you have to do is call this toll-free number…”

  9. billytheskink

    Crankshaft moving syndicates explains a lot… It absolutely explains the reason King Features has done absolutely no press for the end of Funky, but one can also reasonably infer that King decided they were completely done with TB and Andrews McMeel was unwilling to buy Funky along with ‘Shaft (especially if they were going to have to go find a new artist).

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      The BattyBlog says Batiuk has some personal background with *the* McMeel for whom the syndicate is named. Wonder how much of a factor that was.

      • Hannibal's Lectern

        So… is Batty saying Andrews McMeel picked up “Crankshat” because of this “personal background”… or in spite of it?

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          They were old comments, about his visits to New York to get syndicated. He got on well with John McMeel of Universal Press (“match to flame” 20), later moved Crankshaft there, citing his relationship with John McMeel (“match to flame” 117), and they later published three Crankshaft books (“behind the books 12, 14, 16)

    • Epicus Doomus

      Hard not to feel a little bad for ol’ Pulitzer (nominee) Boy, but it bears pointing out that he had many opportunities to end FW on his terms, but he opted to keep going. And now, FW is ensnared in some sort of shadowy syndication kerfuffle, where it’s being left alone to slowly die. It’s like a FW arc, but real. And you know it’s only going to serve to make him that much more bitter, too.

    • Cabbage Jack

      Batty has to be seriously seething that his “gag a day” strip is the one that, ultimately, people wanted to keep going and his “serious prestige strip” is getting unceremoniously trash-canned with no one to mourn it except the people who hated it the most.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        If Batiuk didn’t want to write gag a day, he should have stopped trying to write gags at some point. As much as he claims to be above it, it’s what he’s done a good chunk of the last 30 years. “Oh, it’s so sad, Ruby’s retiring into an uncertain future. Here, have some retire-mints!” Yuk yuk. People don’t dislike Funky Winkerbean because it wasn’t jokey enough. People dislike it because it’s terrible at both jokes and drama. And doesn’t know when or how to mix them anyway.

  10. erdmann

    Batty seems to be suggesting long-time non-entity Harley is a sexual predator. That would be a shocking 11th hour twist, so almost certainly NOT the way the story is going. Rather, it’s more likely he’s a unsung good Samaritan who watched OUT for Lisa and other students who were having trouble dealing with high school life and helped them through it. Not the most original idea to be sure, but one that in the right hands could still make for a good story.
    Here, however, I suspect the tale will just be more “Lisa’s Story” claptrap that Less somehow managed to miss the 15,997 previous times Lisa’s life was rehashed. It will prove what many of us have believed all along: Summer’s Westview “history” is really just “Lust for Lisa 17: The Absolutely, Positively Last Leaf, For Really Reals This Time, Swear to God.”
    Or, Harley really is a monster who has secretly preyed on Westview’s teens for decades. He knew this day was coming and is prepared. He will vanish into the wilds of Canada long before Summer’s dismembered remains are found and identified.

  11. The Dreamer

    Could Harley be Lisa’s biological father? Wasn’t Lisa adopted?

    • The Duck of Death

      The more I think about it, the more your theory makes total sense.

      Which means, of course, that the odds against it actually happening are astronomical. Batiuk doesn’t really do “makes total sense.”

      However, if Harley is Lisa’s father, who’s her mother?

      Who is a female character in her 80s or so? How old is Apple Annie, aka Les’ agent? Maybe Lillian (Lord in Your mercy, please no)?

      • The Duck of Death

        Wait — it’s staring us all in the face, try though we might to avert our eyes.


        The year was 1953. The “Red Scare” was in full swing. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg had just gotten the chair and Fidel Castro was fanning the flames of the Cuban Revolution. Against this backdrop, a young janitor named Harley Davidson joined some of Westview’s other discontented young Communists at a secret meeting where they plotted a strike at the school. And it was at that fateful gathering where he met a lovely Fellow Traveler named Ruby Lith. The red star of her Mao hat seemed a beacon of lust to the young organizer. After the meeting, she asked, in a voice both gravelly and somehow sensual, if she could see some action from his Fifth Column.

        It happened in the janitor’s closet, in the very spot Summer now occupies. Nine months later, Harley (an incorrigible snoop) heard that the Fairgoods were looking to adopt. What a coincidence! He happened to know a girl who was “in trouble.”

        And now you know…. the rest of the story.

        Hey. HEY! Hey, wake up! I was talkin’ to ya! Why do you always nod off when I start talking about Lisa? Lisa, the alpha and omega! Lisa, the most interesting woman — I SAID WAKE UP, DAMMIT!

        • William Thompson

          Harley and Ruby the Dread Menace abandoned Lisa because she proved to be an old-line Stalinist. But in the end she did them proud, causing endless story lines to stall.

  12. ComicBookHarriet

    TFH, that is a GORGEOUS parody. Seriously, where did you get the drill? How did you do the light? Flawless.

    What program are you using?

    This is ART.

  13. Paul Jones

    If he’s not a perv, he’s a failed good Samaritan. Either way, he’s not what I came here to see. I wanted to watch Dinkle and Becky whine because they voted down funding for the band.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      That would actually be a good ending plot for FW. Westview High gets closed down and merged with a bigger regional high school, making all the teachers change jobs, and removing the town’s social and employment core. Happens to a lot of dying midwestern small towns.

      But the strip hasn’t cared about high school for a decade, so we’re getting an ending from what it does care about: comic book publishing, book publishing, and Lisa.

  14. Scott Lovrine

    I’ve used the “curse me for a novice” phrase over the years. I picked it up from silver-age Dr. Strange comics. So, I guess Harley is also a comics fan (and why wouldn’t he?)

    • Naturally, comics fan Batiuk has to screw up the quote by adding a word.

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        To which Doiby Dickles would say: “Goitrude awaits you with soivice that don’t make youse noivice.”

        While Jeremiah was a bullfrog, Goitrude was a taxicab.

        Alan Scott’s full name is Alan Ladd Wellington Scott.

  15. The Duck of Death

    This slow-as-molasses Harley digression is such an odd way to tick away the final days of the strip.

    I have A Theory. (Run for the hills! Hide the womenfolk! Duck’s got A Theory!)

    King Features was already looking to shake things up, divesting themselves of some strips and changing up their site. For whatever reasons, Batiuk’s properties were among the ones they decided to cut. This announcement perhaps precipitated Ayers’ final retirement.

    Now Batiuk, with a certain number of strips already in the can (since he famously works months in advance) and no artist to draw new ones, is stuck with whatever Chuck finished before he hung up his pen.

    That would explain the meandering, plodding, seemingly aimless strips we’re seeing now. It would make more sense if these were never intended to be a wrap-up, but just another long and pointless arc.

  16. I’m really really hoping for a True Detective (season 1) ending with this janitor. Less would, of course, play the part of Rustin Cohle in the near-final scene.

  17. Hannibal’s Lectern

    6:49 CST: “The Comics Curmudgeon” drops, leads with today’s “Funky” strip, and Josh finds a far more interesting story than Tom would ever write!

  18. Hannibal's Lectern

    Silly TFH! A peephole in the wall is so last-millennium! Even I, a pushing-70 Plugger-In-Training who still watches reruns of “CSI:” knows that for at least the last 20 years a proper Peeping Tom would use a tiny video camera. Not only does a camera require a much smaller hole, it also lets him archive the juicy bits for future re-viewing.

    Which could have led to an interesting story, as Worstview High’s IT department starts to wonder why the janitor asks for another two-terabyte external drive every six months, and for that matter why the janitor needs his own computer in the first place.

  19. Anne

    GOOD LORD. I looked at your parody strip at 10:32 pm last night and thought it was the real strip. (I missed the link to the real strip. Also, I know you are not supposed to post the actual strip on your site, but I thought you might have felt a little rebellious now that everything is tanking.)

    I have been seething overnight about the tone-deaf, yank-the-leash, set-the-poop-on-fire plot development that TB came up with to usher out his characters.

    Now that I realize that he probably has something sentimentally boring in mind, life makes sense again. But really — Harvey drilling a hole in the locker room wall is not THAT much more weird than turning your father’s murder weapon into a toy.

  20. The Dreamer

    I’ve got it! Harley is the Montoni’s Pizza Monster!

  21. sorialpromise

    Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I appreciate all of you. TF Hackett for perseverance. Epicus Doomus what a terrific right hand man. ComicBookHarriet for compassion and research. (You have all the skills of a terrific paralegal.) SpacemanSpiff, Banana Jr. 6000, billytheskink: it seemed you 3 always got the worst arcs, but you made them readable. Ian’sdrunkenbeard, I loved the story about the origin of your name. Anonymous Sparrow, if someone demanded a quote from me on any topic, and only gave me 10 seconds, I would call you and still have time left over. Cheesy-kun, your excitement is contagious. BeckoningChasm, I check your website frequently. You have the gift. RudimentaryLathe, a perfect vacation is going on an international trip with you. Be Ware of Eve Hill, you asked if I take notes. It is easy to remember things about a person and her family that I respect so much.
    I cannot list everyone. I apologize for not listing you, the most important.
    It is Thanksgiving. I am grateful for you all!

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Thanks SP! I am very thankful for you too! And the way you are always enthusiastic to learn something new!

  22. Hitorque

    I told y’all from the start that this bullshit “oral history of Westview County, Ohio” book idea would be nothing more than a half-assed “Lisa’s Story ver. 1.2″… Or in this case, “Lisa’s Story From the Perspective of Those Who Never Knew Her But Secretly Watched Her From Afar”

    Because if you thought Summer wasn’t getting on this gravy train you don’t know Thomas Batiuk at all… Now Summer can get her own exclusive publishing deals and negotiate her own movie rights… Hell, perhaps Marianne Winters can ugly herself down and play Summer in the next movie!!

  23. Jeff M.

    I feel like such a latecomer, since I didn’t realize until today that the janitor is named Harley Davidson. That is the all time worst. Reminds me of a hazy undergraduate evening discussing drag queen names made up entirely from 1960s cars. I liked “Impala Bel Air.” “Catalina Bonneville” and “Polara LeSabre” had a nice ring to them. One can go on and on..

  24. Rusty Shackleford

    Why does the janitor have a file cabinet in the utility room? Why do they heat the school with a residential furnace?

    Why am I asking why when I should know better?