Custodious Interruptus


THIS is why he did this arc in the first place. It only exists so he could do that “custodian” gag! This explains everything, and it explains nothing. But I know how this guy thinks, and when he got this “custodian” idea, bells started ringing in his head and he started victory lapping around that studio of his. The whole thing was built around that one stupid joke. Sigh.

Great Moments in FW Arc Recap History

May 2-7, 2011
Les finally bangs Cayla.

May 8-21, 2011
Ann Apple calls Les to tell him that “Hollywood” wants to option Lisa’s Story. This sends Les into a panic as he imagines how “Hollywood” will desecrate his work. After a park bench consult with the ghost of his late wife, Les reluctantly agrees. Ann dismisses Les’ fears by telling him there’s virtually no chance the movie will ever get made.

May 22-29, 2011
Les and Cayla on the porch swing. Cayla interrupts Les’ “long thoughts” by uttering the words “I love you”. Les is unable to respond in kind, and after a long, awkward pause the two decide to “take a break”.

May 30-June 4, 2011
Cayla tells Linda that she and Les are through; Linda tells Bull, and Bull lets slip to Susan, who marches directly to Les’ classroom and blurts out the dreaded “I love you”. When Les (again) fails to respond in kind, Susan flees the scene.

June 5-12, 2011
Les confides in Funky and Crazy Harry about his love life. The friends react with disbelief that Les, whose inability to get a girl in high school is retold in a series of flashback vignettes, now has two women vying for his affection. Les takes umbrage at their teasing and storms out of Montoni’s. Funky shows up at Les’ porch to seek forgiveness.

June 13-July 2, 2011
Les calls Cayla to try to mend their relationship, but she is already on his sidewalk when he calls. She apologizes to Les (!). No sooner do the two exchange “I love you’s” than Keisha “crazies things up” by sending a pic of Susan kissing Les to her mom’s cell phone. Cayla buys Les’ explanation that it was not his fault. Back at Westview HS, the “kiss” photo has gone viral among the students. Principal Nate calls Les and Susan into his office, where Susan immediately takes the blame and voluntarily resigns. As she cleans out her belongings, Les halfheartedly attempts to talk Susan out of resigning, but she tells him she’s decided to make a “clean break from Westview”

Oh, if you weren’t around for this era of FW, consider yourself blessed, because the above represents TWO STRAIGHT MONTHS of solid Les. All Les, all the time, week after week after week. And there were four more weekly Les arcs in the two months that followed, with way more to come. The vitriol was pretty intense, I can tell you that. Les Moore, already the single most detestable character in the history of fiction at that point, forever cemented his legacy after this run. It was just unbearable. In my opinion, it may have marked Act III’s nadir, the point where it really bottomed out.

And, interestingly enough, the arc immediately before Les took over for TWO MONTHS was Boy Lisa’s less-than-triumphant return to Westview, after “this economy” forced him to flee his Big City MBA lifestyle and move in to his bio-step dad’s spare bedroom. The idea of moving back in with his actual parents, who were both still alive and well and living in Westview, was never mentioned. Of course, Les got Boy Lisa a job at Montoni’s, where he designed pizza apps and created the “breakfast pizza” craze that swept Westview for several panels. And Jessica, who was now his wife, was there too, kind of. Way more stuff used to happen back then, but at the time it seemed like nothing was happening, like how it is now. Maybe it was all just an illusion or something.



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

94 responses to “Custodious Interruptus

  1. William Thompson

    Of course by injecting himself into the past Hardy Hog has changed it (what happened to the twentieth-century guy who would have been the janitor? His life and timeline has been changed, and if you’ve read Asimov’s short story Spell My Name With an S or Bradbury’s The Sound of Thunder then you know how easily small changes can have huge results.)

    So, *yawn*, I guess the Custodians have enemies who want to change the past. Because something important is going to happen in Westview? What could that be but . . . okay, if Hardly There is supposed to make sure Les Moore dies on schedule, I’m all for it.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Isn’t it obvious? Lisa is now an “important nexus event in the timeline.” I guess being the most famous cancer sufferer in the world is no longer a big enough stage for someone with her level of… Lisa-ness.

      • OK but think how wonderful it would be if he were just there to make sure Crankshaft kept running over Keesterman’s mailbox because somehow that act holds all of time and space together? Like that time in the strip when Crankshaft did stop running over it and not needing to replace the mailbox all the time caused the economy to collapse?

        To those who argue wait, Crankshaft drives the bus in a completely different school district I say “beady-eyed nitpicking”.

      • Mela

        Part of me still thinks he’s going toward “Lisa had to die to save Summer/Westview/the universe” and another part of me thinks we’re headed toward “Lisa is supposed to be alive, but I lost my helmet and couldn’t stop whatever evil thing was trying to kill her” which will result in him resetting the “correct” timeline with her alive and well on December 31st. The rest of me has no idea…

  2. Please explain this “custodian” gag. I’m sure it’s really, really funny.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Epicus Doomus

      He saw the word “custodian” used in a comic book, sci-fi context. And that’s it. The idea was conceived right then and there, fully formed. The custodian would be a custodian, you see? A time custodian, tidying up the FW timeline. I know how he thinks, to him this was the funniest thing ever, and he probably didn’t talk about anything else for months.

    • Green Luthor

      “Custodian” in the case of the group he’s describing would mean something akin to “caretaker”; i.e., they’re responsible to keeping anything from happening to the timeline.

      But “custodian” can also refer to someone who performs janitorial duties (itself a form of caretaker). Which is the job he’s doing at Westview High.

      So the high school custodian is ALSO a custodian of the timeline! Hilarious!

      (Yeah, totally worth it, Tom. Good job. Your reputation as the Lord of Language is secure there. The Pulitzer people will be in touch soon for this one.)

      • ComicBookHarriet

        Meh, what’s in a name. Elongated Man has the world’s dumbest name, but good stuff has been done with that character.

        Names are like paintjobs, they matter a little, but the engine and wheels are what makes the car go vroom.

        Custodian would be a fine enough name for a time cop posing as a janitor.

        You know. If this story was good.

        • Anonymous Sparrow

          Ralph Dibny (for so long the only super-hero to reveal his true identity to the world!) appreciates your kind words and will check for jewel thieves any time you like.

          Incidentally, in the spirit of Bull Bushka’s real name being “Jerome,” Ralph Dibny’s true name is “Randolph.”

      • Epicus Doomus

        That’s exactly what I’m saying here. He engineered this entire story, and the last arc of the strip itself, around that clever bit of wordplay. He started with “custodian”, he remembered the old janitor character, and a story was born. I have absolutely no doubt that I’m right about this. It’s just all too clear now.

        • The Duck of Death

          I’m pretty sure you’re on the money here.

          The sad thing is: I’ve noticed over the years that no matter how deranged, how totally cockamamie the plot twists are, the posters here will always come up with interesting places they can go from there.

          And we’re virtually never right.

          Yes, even this gobsmackingly dumb “Cosmic Custodians” idea could theoretically work. Every one of us here could come up with something that would redeem it and make it interesting.

          Puff Batty can’t, and won’t. He will once again undershoot our lowest expectations.

    • William Thompson

      The Custodians are time-tripping mental health experts who locate high concentrations of lunacy throughout the space-time continuum and place those open-air snake pits under protective custody. Their duty is to prevent the spread of the madness. If Harley Hawg had been any good at his job he would have kept Les from writing the Dead Lisa books.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        I would. Honest to goodness. Read a comic book about that. A time cop forced into a period of absolute madness to keep it from spreading.

        • Epicus Doomus

          I saw “time cop” and for a second I thought it said “tide cop” and I flashed on “Rip Tide: Scuba Cop”. Then when I realized I was wrong, I also realized that I’ll probably never think about “Rip Tide: Scuba Cop” again after this. Man, that was a title with SO MUCH potential, all of it squandered.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Oh, I totally agree. The small coastal retirement/resort town where my mom lives actually has Jet-Ski cops. I wonder what their typical workday is like. I’d pay real money to see a C.O.P.S.-like TV show about them. That has “surprise cable hit” written all over it.

          • Kind of like a Baywatch/Reno 911 mashup

        • Cheesy-kun

          I would, too. That’s what I had in mind yesterday with my quip about Mork & Mindy. Act III built around the Custodian would have been interesting if for no other reason then there would have been structure. Instead Act III has been different but unconnected variations on suffering and Les-&-Lisa.

          And I agree with you all who predict this is going to end where A3 began- Lisa.

          • William Thompson

            Just let her stay dead this time!

          • Anonymous Sparrow

            At Hidden Island Lake, watch out for Mordru on a Jet Ski!

            It’s why super-heroes are legends, when they’re not taking that aspect from Thor’s remark to the Midgard Serpent:

            You said it yourself, Jormungand! The trouble with godhood is that it robs you of your finer judgment! And that is why we will never be the same. You are a mighty fighter, but in the end, you are only a selfish creature while heroes…heroes have an infinite capacity for stupidity! Thus are legends born!

      • Cheesy-kun

        time-tripping mental health experts who locate high concentrations of lunacy throughout the space-time continuum and place those open-air snake pits under protective custody. —> So much goodness packed into one sentence! I salute you, W.T.

        • ComicBookHarriet

          W.T. always has incredibly clever comments. I’ve lost count of the number of turns of phrase I’ve stolen from him.

          • Cheesy-kun

            I propose that the Green Chorus titles its first album, “Time-Tripping Mental Health Experts.” Our debut single could be “The Custodian.”

  3. RudimentaryLathe?

    There’s a goofy Nic Cage movie, “Drive Angry”, in which Cage’s character fights a Satanic cult, and the Grim Reaper himself gets involved in the conflict. The reaper (played by the marvellous William Fichtner) goes by the name The Accountant, because he’s keeping humanity’s “books”.
    That was more clever than today’s strip. 😑

  4. billytheskink

    The worst thing is that Harley’s answer is 100% wrong. The correct answer to Summer’s question is “Who the heck cares?!”.

    Oh man, that 2011 run of Les strips was brutal! It really did cement his infamy. The silver lining, though, was that it certainly strengthened the resolve of this site’s regular contributors and is probably a big factor in why SOSF has endured to the very end of the strip.

    • Epicus Doomus

      True. If that didn’t run you off, nothing would. Women throwing themselves at him, studios falling all over themselves with offers, while a pensive, anxious Les fretted over what this might do to his relationship with his dead wife…it was prime Les, like pre-1990 Mike Tyson, Secretariat in the Triple Crown-type stuff. He was plenty annoying before and Lord knows he’s been plenty annoying since, but that TWO MONTH run was just dripping with that weird author/avatar wish-fulfillment energy. Look how mad I’m getting just thinking about it.

      • Charles

        If there’s any moment that best illustrates that whole debacle, it’s Cayla deciding to have some self respect, breaking up with Les, and then coming back to apologize to him without him having done a thing to deserve it. “I’m sorry that for one foolish moment I felt as though I deserved something out of this relationship.”

        And then there’s the testament to Batiuk’s terrible writing ability as he has Funky go to apologize to Les (again!) about mocking him, and then they proceed to discuss the wrong issue.

        “You know, Les, you’re a little too hung up on Lisa and you need to know that’s a little off-putting” was like a third rail for Batiuk.

        • Maxine of Arc

          And Susan, quitting her job with no notice and fleeing town after having done literally nothing wrong. (Unhinged, in that “smooching on Les Moore” is the act of a deranged individual, but not wrong.)

  5. Banana Jr. 6000

    “Since the entire universe was created for Les Moore, the Custodian told Summer, in effect, that her father was, in fact, the single most important person in the universe. This allowed Les to survive the experience, and also did not surprise him in the least. Les then proceeded to eat the fairy cake.”

  6. Andrew

    Someone seems to have discovered the “Almighty Janitor” TV Tropes page and thought that was too clever a term not to reference. Or their kid watched Ben 10 on Cartoon Network where they called their undercover Men in Black characters “the Plumbers”, and thought that sort of terminology logic was too good pass up.

    Also no prize for what “major” “”event”” this guy is supposedly here to keep an eye out for. Yes, I’m sure you can draw a chart of how Lisa’s misfortunes are part of an intricate chain of events in the strip’s timeline, since introducing her is what Bautik says encouraged his serious storytelling and the Act shifts and newfound status quos as a whole, but if we’re going into the point where forces beyond our understanding acknowledge it is when you really justify the snark of Dead Saint Lisa.

    Also on the subject of Susan, while much can be said of how squicky her part of the love triangle is and how dumb an excuse for her exit that was, starting to look like that week-long flashback to her suici-sike and Crankshaft encounter is amounting to a whole lot of nothing as far as the final weeks. Is that all that’s happening now, or is there going to be blog followups or an arc in Crankshaft (assuming I didn’t miss one)

    • Gg83

      Oh no…

      What if the nexus event only indirectly requires Lisa’s death?

      What if the most important things in space and time are THOSE FREAKING LISA TAPES?

      Hari Seldon, stand aside! The science of psychohistory is no match for The Wisdom of Lisa.

      • Cheesy-kun

        Hari Seldon & Lisa? LOL! That’s brilliant and hilarious. Gg83.

        Filed under: Things I wish I’d thought of (and would have if not for you meddling kids and your custodian friend.)

        • Gg83

          Much appreciated, Cheesy-kun, but I’m afraid I can’t take the credit for the idea, as others have made that comparison before me (including, I believe, the strip itself).

      • The Duck of Death

        He had to travel back in time to prevent a loss to humanity far greater than the burning of the Library of Alexandria.

        In an alternate timeline, Les overcooked the hot dogs and peas he was planning to serve to Summer with some hot chocolate. He ran to the Lisa Tape Warehouse to consult the Oracle’s words.

        While dithering around on the forklift, trying to decide whether to search in P for “Peas, Overcooked, intended for Summer” or C for “Cacao and Chocolate, Hot, Accompaniments for, Overcooking of (§3.4, Summer-related),” Les lost focus for a moment, and History’s Greatest Tragedy occurred.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        The science of psychohistory is no match for The Wisdom of Lisa.

        Psychohistory meets psycho history.

    • Cheesy-kun

      Andrew, hope this is not day late (a little help here, Custodian?) and a dollar short but I loved your description last week of Harley as “Space Janitor Jesus.”

      A tip of the Funky stopwatch to you, sir!

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Well at least we got to see Crankshaft’s flying school bus. I still get a laugh out of that bit.

    • Green Luthor

      “The Plumbers” was also a name used to refer to G. Gordon Liddy’s team that perpetrated the Watergate break-in.

      (Wait, that’s it! G. Gordon Liddy was the Pizza Monster! It all makes sense now!)

  7. erdmann

    The top story on on Dec. 10, 2039, was, of course, the presentation of the Nobel for Physiology or Medicine to the team that had finally discovered the cure for cancer. Much of the spotlight was on team leader Dr. Jerry Sizemore, and rightly so; everyone agreed it was his brilliance and dogged determination that made team’s success possible.
    On top of that, everyone loved Jerry. He was witty and down to Earth, as much at home fly fishing or singing Karaoke (badly) as in a lab. And could he tell a story. There was never a dry eye in the room when he discussed the inspiration for his cancer research, his father, the late Kenneth Wayne Sizemore. Ken Sizemore fought a 12-year battle with cancer, never giving up, never giving in. “He was the bravest man I ever knew,” Jerry told Newstime, a hit of moisture in his own eyes. “He’s been gone 27 years now and I still miss him every day.”
    The article mentioned that Jerry had donated money to convert the gym of the former Westview High School into the Ken Sizemore Community Center. The school had been the only place his father could find work after returning from Vietnam. He started as a custodian, but worked his way up, eventually becoming maintenance supervisor for the entire Westview School District. It was also at the school he meet assistant cook Darla Morgan, whom he married in 1974. She gave birth to Jerry in December 1975.
    “I’m just glad dad was able to get on the school,” Jerry said. “If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t b

    The piece in the Oct. 13, 1983, Centerville Sentinel was brief and to the point. Kenny Wayne Sizemore, 32, long-time janitor at Terry’s Airport Lounge, Centerville, had been found dead in his apartment above the bar. The coroner ruled the cause of death to be natural causes.
    The handful of Terry’s regulars knew the truth, though: the former U.S. Army corporal had finally managed to drink himself to death, a goal he had steadfastly pursued since returning from ‘Nam in 1972. Unable to find work anywhere else, Kenny Wayne took to cleaning the bar in return for lodging and alcohol. In his later years he frequently drank more than he was worth, but Terry, a Korean vet with a soft spot for fellow former GIs, kept him on. He had no family, so the regulars ponied up just enough cash to bury Kenny Wayne in an unmarked grave in Centerville Calvary Cemetery. Then they moved on.

    The Janitor, known in the 31st Century as Acolyte First Class Harley Davidson of the Temporal Custodians of the Greater Indiohio Presbytery of the Holy Church of the Blessed Dead St. Lisa, stifled the urge to tell Summer everything. Yes, she was the Blessed One’s daughter, but he knew she wouldn’t — couldn’t — understand the bigger issues here. History had to be tended to — finessed if you will — to guarantee nothing disrupt the Divine Time Line. That was why he took the job as a lowly school janitor, preventing the birth of the man who would cure cancer. That was why he irradiated St. Lisa and later arranged for the bungling of her test results, making sure she would die in accordance with Holy Writ. Cancer would continue and the Holy Church would continue to use it to bring in new converts. The Sacred Institution would thrive and grow until it touched every star in the firmament.
    Harley would never live to see it, but he was satisfied with the certainty his efforts would make it possible. When his time came, he would be assumed into the Bosom of St. Lisa and great would be his reward.
    “Why are you smiling?” Summer asked, her anxiety level rising.
    “No reason,” Harley said soothingly. “No reason at all.”

  8. Paul Jones

    If he wanted to prevent something horrible, he should have invested his them convincing a comic strip artist from the Greater Akron Area that turning his strip into an Afterschool Special From HELL!!!!!! was the dumbest idea in the history of ever.

  9. Cheesy-kun

    Oh, if you weren’t around for this era of FW, consider yourself blessed—> I wasn’t and I do, E.D. I’ve seen some of those strips linked here and they were dreadful enough in limited doses.

    Two months of women throwing themselves at Les, and one of them apologizing for saying she loved him!? 🤢 🤮 I hope Cayla at least had the decency to buy Les the biggest engagement ring from the jeweler at the mall.

    Can’t wait to see how, or, rather IF, Cayla features into this final “story.” Maybe she’s also s custodian whose sole purpose was to keep Les at an emotional equilibrium until the big reunion with St. Lisa.

    Ever see the show “The Good Place”? Lisa’s waiting to there for Les and they’re going to spend eternity writing books about each other.

    ED, and all of you who have been hosts, you deserve your own Good Place after the 31st.

    Thanks, as always and forever.

    • Green Luthor

      Well… Cayla was going to buy Les the biggest engagement ring, but the clerk kept giving her the stinkeye (possibly because she knew Cayla was dating Les, and, let’s face it, you’d give her the stinkeye too for that), so Cayla started taking various rings and putting them in different places around the store so the clerk would accuse her of stealing, and it all went downhill from there.

  10. Cheesy-kun

    Oops. Two revisions to my previous post.

    1. Of course Cayla is not a Custodian. That’s a man’s job. Her mind was touched -by a man- to…
    2. Support Les in getting Lisa’s Story out to all of humanity, not keep his psyche stable.

    I am sorry for my mistake and for these messy two posts.

    Cheesy-kun: I screwed up.

    SoSF Green Chorus: YES, YOU DID!

    Cheesy-kun exits stage left and can be heard flogging himself with day-old Montoni’s breadsticks.

    Seriously, sorry for the extra verbiage.

    • Cheesy-kun

      * Greek chorus, not Green.

      (Flogging myself with breadsticks again.)

      • Y. Knott

        Announcing tryouts for the SoSF “Green Chorus”! Under the direction of choirmaster H. Dinkle, we meet every Sunday at St. Spires church to rehearse songs about climate damage and other ‘green’ topics. (And if the church had other plans to use the church on a Sunday, tough — churches are for choir practice!)

        Note: You must be at least 85 years of age to apply.

        • ComicBookHarriet

          Our flag is a green plastic pitcher against a field of creepy fleshtones.

          • Cheesy-kun

            Touche, ComicBookHarriet. Touche! Well played. (Insert image of a smirking Cheesy-kun here.)

            If I am remembered only as the snarker whose bad typing created the name of the world’s greatest snarker chorus, then I’ll consider my life well lived!

  11. Cheesy-kun

    I see Lisa’s Story being the debut film
    at the Jarre Theater in Centerville. Les will donate *his* Oscar to the historical display in the lobby and everyone will admire it before watching the movie.

    In one of the few instances of TB showing modern tech in a positive light, people will take selfies in front of the Oscar (while Les broods over the indignity of his Oscar being posted to whatever dumb name TB gives to Twitter and Instagram.)

    • The Duck of Death

      I love that idea, and it even makes sense, but shouldn’t that be the Lisa Mem-Moorial Theatre? It’s right off Dead St Lisa Square. You can’t miss it. Turn right at Dead St Lisa St, onto Avenue of Dead St Lisa. Then drive through the Dead St Lisa District for about 10 blocks. When you hit the Shrine of Our Lady Dead St Lisa, hang a left, and you’re there.

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        And after the movie, you can have a bite to eat at Monty’s, the restaurant which has replaced Montoni’s. Here’s the menu:

        Egg and bacon
        Egg, sausage and bacon
        Egg and spam
        Egg, bacon and spam
        Egg, bacon, sausage and spam
        Spam, bacon, sausage and spam
        Spam, egg, spam, spam, bacon and spam
        Spam, spam, spam, egg and spam
        Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam, spam, spam and spam
        Lobster thermidor aux crevettes with a mornay sauce garnished with truffle paté, brandy and a fried egg on top and spam

        “Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam… Lovely Spam! Wonderful Spam!”

      • Cheesy-kun

        Duck of Death delivers a deadly funny dissing of our docent of depression’s downfall.

        Indeed, you have properly named the theater (grand re-opening on January 1st?) and the general area around Centered-on-Lisaville.

        I bow to your Moore creative mind (and will give you my Pulitzer for humor writing if I ever receive one!)

  12. Charles

    “Still playing along…”

    It’s cute how Batiuk pretends that Summer still isn’t buying this shit. If she was skeptical of this whole pile of nonsense, she would have left a while ago, concluding that the janitor was some sort of benign lunatic.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Batty loves that phrase and uses it often in his book introductions. He uses it when it isn’t suitable for what he is trying to communicate.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      The whole story defeats itself. The only evidence Harley has of any of his nonsense is the helmet. The people who had it and told Summer about it never mentioned its time-traveling abilities. Not even the “off-gassing of the plastics” handwave. Summer has no reason to believe any of this.

      TB is really checking off all the boxes on this last story arc.

    • Green Luthor

      I dunno, I could very well imagine someone hearing this nonsense and continuing to listen to see just how bizarre and off the rails the story ends up becoming.

      I mean, isn’t that why WE’RE still reading it?

  13. The Duck of Death

    Remember Watchmen? The acclaim, the impact, the movie, the TV series, the prequel? The praise from critics?

    I don’t think Puff Batty’s ever mentioned it, but I’m sure he noticed it.

    Latin for “Who watches the watchmen” is Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    Voilà! The Custodian. And a cutesy Lord of Language reference.

    That’s my theory anyway. Er, one of my theories. Oh, who am I kidding, it’s impossible to analyze this dreck.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I bet Batiuk secretly hates Watchmen. It did a lot to end the Silver Age he loves so much, and brought comic books into a modern era he openly detests.

      • The Duck of Death

        Oh, there’s no doubt. I remembered that Watchmen has been showered with accolades, and went to Wikipedia to refresh my memory:

        A critical and commercial success, Watchmen is highly regarded in the comics industry and is frequently considered by several critics and reviewers as comics’ greatest series and graphic novel. In addition to being one of the first major works to help popularize the graphic novel publishing format….Watchmen has also become one of the best-selling graphic novels ever published. Watchmen was the only graphic novel to appear on Time’s 2005 “All-Time 100 Greatest Novels” list…. It later appeared on Time’s 2009 “Top 10 Graphic Novels” list, where Grossman further praised Watchmen, proclaiming “It’s way beyond cliché at this point to call Watchmen the greatest superhero comic ever written-slash-drawn. But it’s true.” In 2008, Entertainment Weekly placed Watchmen at number 13 on its list of the best 50 novels printed in the last 25 years, describing it as “The greatest superhero story ever told and proof that comics are capable of smart, emotionally resonant narratives worthy of the label ‘literature’.”

        …In Art of the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History, Robert Harvey wrote that, with Watchmen, Moore and Gibbons “had demonstrated as never before the capacity of the [comic book] medium to tell a sophisticated story that could be engineered only in comics”.

        Imagine the white-knuckled clutching of the hot chocolate mug, the trembling that sloshed mini-marshmallows over the side, as Batiuk heard about each of these accolades, all of which should have rightfully accrued to HIM. After all, he was the FIRST to tell serious stories in a graphic medium, he just happened to do it five years after Watchmen copied his concept.

        (I suspect he never read it, or if he tried, never got through the first few pages. Superheroes don’t have a dark side! They don’t do bad things! Mommy, this book is a mean doodyhead! But if he had read it, he would have seen that, among other things, it used the “comic within a comic book world” concept so, so much better than he could ever have conceived, let alone executed.)

        • Hitorque

          The movie sucked, though…

          And Watchmen’s treatment of the women characters was really really bad which means Batiuk might actually love it…

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          Duck, you’re on fire today.

          • The Duck of Death

            Duck flambé! And you are on fire pretty much every day.

            It helps that we’re all standing so close to this raging dumpster fire.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      Dylan redux!

      The first chapter of *Watchmen* is “At Midnight, All the Agents…” which comes from “Desolation Row,” while the tenth chapter is “Two Riders Were Approaching…,” which comes from “All Along the Watchtower.”

      The Bible also gets two chapter titles: “The Judge of All the Earth” and “A Brother to Dragons.”

      Sorry, Elvis Costello, Albert Einstein, William Blake, Friedrich Nietzsche, Eleanor Farjeon, Carl Jung, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Cale…you only get one!

      (And you didn’t get any, Van, I’m so sorry…)

  14. The Duck of Death

    We asked for it and now we’ve got it: A peek at what the inside of one of his comic books would be like. Incredibly verbose, with virtually no action, and not even the slightest effort at continuity or internal cohesion or sense, even from page to page.

    What’s scary is that this is the best effort of someone who has been a comix super-stan for 70 years, and an avid Asimov fan for, what, maybe 40 or 50 years?

    And with all that sci-fi reading, with all that poring over the greatest superhero comics of all time… this is what he comes up with.

    Can you even imagine how utterly terrible his comix work was 50+ years ago, when he marched into Marvel, confident that he would soon be the head writer on Spider-Man?

    • Paul Jones

      This is why he grumbles about how boring and awful it is to have characters deal with real problems: he was told to his face by someone writing a pot-boiler until he came up with The Great American Novel that his dialogue was too wordy, his characters did nothing but mope and that you actually have to have a plausible reason for why the man in the red zentai suit wants to run at “Is Physics Just Kidding?” Speed so he can beat up the Australian dude throwing murder boomerangs at people.

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        I love your descriptions of the Flash. If he can be the Monarch of Motion, you should be the Prince of Phraseology.

    • Green Luthor

      “Incredibly verbose, with virtually no action.” Hmm…

      (No idea if those are going to show up properly or not, but we’ll see…)

      • The Duck of Death

        LOL! That’s wonderful. I see that the Custodian — er, the Watcher, cannot even watch, so great is his boredom! This one time, and only this one time, he must intervene to cut the bloviation short, for the sake of every living creature!

        Seriously, even when they’re parodying boring pseuds, note how incredibly dynamic the layouts and individual panels are, with wildly varied angles and scenes. It’s visually entertaining, even as the words are intentionally boring.

        Because comics — (hang onto your hats, folks, hard-hitting truth coming in hot) — are a visual medium. Someone tell Batty, please. Maybe it’s not too late to add a scintilla of action to this flatlining flounder before it wraps up!

  15. The Duck of Death

    It’s been clear for a long time that Lisa is a sort of Christ figure, come to redeem mankind through her sacrifice, via her apostle Les. It’s kind of insane, but it has been obvious. I expect Puffy to lean into this as we continue, but then, I’ve learned to expect the incoherent and unexpected.

  16. Gerard Plourde

    Duck of Death,

    You may be on to something. Suppose Lisa was identified as having the necessary qualities to become a Custodian (like Wesley Crusher became a Traveler in the Star Trek universe). Harley’s loss of the helmet prevented him from saving her from cancer, preventing her from achieving that destiny. This whole arc is designed to correct that deviation from the time line.

    I’ve often thought that TomBa regrets having killed off Lisa. He is as much in love with his creation as Pygmalion was to Galatea. He found it necessary to do so in his cancer story, yet he constantly needed excuses to insert her into his strips – the Lisa Tapes, Les talking to Ghost Lisa, Lisa calling in to the airport from the Beyond to prevent Les from getting on a doomed airplane, the recent flashbacks. I think the purpose of this arc is to restore her, even if it negates all od Act 3.

    • The Duck of Death

      Carrying on the Christ analogy, though: In Christian doctrine, the death of Christ was the fulfillment of prophesy, and it was necessary to redeem sinful mankind. Thus, a Christian going back in time to the Crucifixion would not want to save Jesus, no matter how awful his fate was — without his sacrifice, mankind would have no hope of redemption.

      Think of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia.” It’s one long Christ metaphor. Only, you know, Lewis knew how to write interesting plots, compelling characters, and beautiful prose.

      • Gerard Plourde

        You make good points. It’s possible that he thinks Lisa giving up her chemotherapy is a sacrificial act.

        • William Thompson

          This could foretell how this arc ends (badly, of course). Les gets his hands on the time helmet. He talks about how he’s going to save Dead Fucking Lisa. Harley turns up just in time to stop him. By talking. By talking about what a great writer Les is. “Lisa’s life is a story that has been told, and told brilliantly by you. Your books about her inspired millions of people to take up arms against the scourge of cancer. Diplomats quoted your books as nations united to fight World War Cancer. In the end the war was won by your second child, Two Moore, the kindergarten medical prodigy who found the secret of the cure encoded in Lisa’s mysterious last words, ‘Get off the cross, Les, you can save money by using the wood to make my coffin.’

          “But if she lives you don’t tell her tale! No Dead Saint Lisa books, no inspiration, no cure for cancer! There will be enough death and misery from cancer to fill a suburb of Westview! Do you want that on your conscience?”

          Les answers with his shortest speech on record: “My what?”

          Harley rolls his eyes and craps out: “Les, in the future will be revered for writing the Dead Saint Lisa books. Copies of them can be found in hotel rooms on every planet in this sector of the Galaxy. Writers compete to win the Les Moore Prize. Crusades have been fought over how to transliterate your name into nonhuman languages. How can you be so selfish as to deny people the privilege of your omnipotent, life-affirming books?”

          “Well,” Les says, “When you put it that way . . .”

          Les gives the time helmet to Gnarly, who puts it on and returns to his own time. Les smirks at a picture of Lisa. “Sorry, babe, the world isn’t big enough for both of our egos!”

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Batiuk painted the whole strip into a corner when he gave Lisa cancer. He couldn’t kill her, but he couldn’t let her live either. So we get what we got: a bunch of hokey mechanisms for keeping her active in the strip, which completely undermined the emotional weight of her death.

      • The Duck of Death

        I can even excuse the hokey ghosts and visitations and consultations and whatnot. When you lose someone close to you, there can be moments when it feels like they’re still there. Some people have mental conversations with dead loved ones, or think they catch a glimpse of them here and there.

        What I cannot excuse is eliding the entire process of learning to live without your spouse, the love of your life. The challenge of raising your daughter without a mother. The sadness as you realize she barely remembers her mother, and forgets more every year, until her mother is nothing but a collection of anecdotes and some photos (and videos starring a gaunt, grey apparition). The mixed frustration and sadness as you try to return to normal life and people give you that certain look of sympathy, and try to tiptoe round the elephant in the room.

        And the first Christmas without her, the first birthday, the first wedding anniversary. Going to the same places you used to go and sitting alone, feeling completely at loose ends, knowing everyone’s feeling sorry for you.

        I could go on and on. Even focusing on one of these would have given the strip its greatest moment of depth.

        We got none of it. Just “Hail Les, the Great Suffering Martyr.”

        Same absence when Dinkle lost his hearing, Becky lost her arm, etc. Absolute refusal to deal with the emotional fallout of these events on any level, even on comic-strip level. Even FBoFW did FAR better with heavy stuff.

        Garbage. A flaming dumpster full of garbage.

        • William Thompson

          Batiuk was never up to the challenge of writing characters who changed and grew. Maybe it scared him–what would Les be like if he’d got over his grief and started a new life with Cayla? What would Summer become, once she was no longer just a prop for Les’s grief-fest? That was unfamiliar territory. He handled it like a Sixties sitcom–skip over the hard part and keep the characters locked into a well-defined and narrow form.

          • The Duck of Death

            … and of course, nobody cares if comics stay comics. Nobody wants the Lockhorns to divorce, or Mary Worth to marry Dr Jeff and give up meddling.

            But given how obviously and blatantly he skipped over the hard parts, it’s rich to beat his breast over what a brave pioneer he is.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Batiuk never changed or grew himself, so he could never relate to a character doing so. He can’t put down his comic books, can’t get over his high school hurt feelings, and can’t move past his other disappointments in life. So none of his characters can either.

            Funky Winkerbean has been a 50-year exercise in arrested development.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            @Duck of Death Exactly. Batiuk wants awards for tackling all these tough issues, when he doesn’t actually touch them with a ten-foot pole. Amazingly, Lisa’s death was probably his best work on a “serious” topic, and even that was way too long and glurge-y. And he blew off any emotional impact of that event by skipping ten years, and by bringing Dead Lisa back in video/ghost/time travel/hallucination form every chance he got.

          • A commentor here said it best, and unfortunately I don’t remember who it was. “Batiuk wants to write long-form stories, but he’s stuck in a gag-a-day mindset.”

  17. Jimmy

    I was going to make fun of the strip, but then I gave it some thought. As a middle-aged man with teenagers, I can get behind a comic for “The Custodians.” It seems as mundane as my life.

    I can’t wait until the Sunday comic cover. Stevie Sawdust Molly Mopbucket are on the Case of the Chili Surprise. The Custodians No. 1, now available from Atomic Komix!

  18. erdmann

    “Funky Winkerbean has been a 50-year exercise in arrested development.” — Banana Jr. 6000
    Ladies and gentlemen, we have the cover blurb for the final volume of “The Complete Funky Winkerbean.”

  19. Y. Knott

    I take it none of our merry little band was able to make it to the FWv12 book signing/meet and greet earlier today at Kent State? ‘Twas the social event of the season, I imagine!

    Between missing this, and the Akron and San Diego Comic Con appearances? Tom may be wondering why his biggest fan base isn’t in evidence when he’s making personal appearances….

    “Where are my Winkerheads at?!”