I can’t believe he actually tried to explain it in panel one. Then, for no reason at all, he dredges up Susan’s suicide attempt, and sort of plays it off as being a mere cog in a far greater scheme of things. Also interesting is how he seems to remember that arc as one worth re-visiting. I guess Harley’s “nudging” skills didn’t work on the medical profession, as, well, you know. Although he’ll (sigh) surely be “explaining” that detail soon enough. This really is one ugly, ugly arc, man.
Great Moments In FW Arc Recap History
January 14-February 2, 2013
Darin makes it known that he is happy; the universe punishes his happiness by causing his adoptive father to suffer a stroke. Fred is rushed to the hospital. In the waiting room, Fred’s wife Ann shares with Darin and Jessica that rather than falling in love, she and Fred “just fell into place”, and rather bitterly suggests that her marriage to Fred meant sacrificing her own dream of being a sportswriter. Later, Darin ruminates on his adoptive parents’ “doubts and unfulfilled ambitions”. Fred, confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak intelligibly, is released from the hospital and moved into Darin’s old room. Ann will be his speech therapist.
February 3-10, 2013
No sooner is Fred settled in back at home than his heretofore unknown estranged daughter Kerry shows up at the door. We learn that she is the product of Fred’s first marriage, and that Kerry’s mother, for reasons we are not told, prevented Fred and Kerry from having any contact. After a short visit with Fred, Kerry and Darin talk over coffee. On Sunday we are treated to a depressing scene of Fred in his chair, looking out the window at a snowy day.
One of the stranger Act III arcs for sure. The Fairgoods, Boy Lisa’s adoptive parents, were always kind of nice, affable, and not particularly objectionable in any way, unlike so, so many others. Then, out of nowhere, for no discernible reason at all, Batiuk decided to give Fred a stroke (on the toilet, no less), at which point Ann revealed that she was trapped in a loveless, joyless marriage with Fred, who was also a philanderer with a secret love child, the mysterious (and never seen again) Kerry. It was almost as if BatHam was punishing the Fairgoods for having the temerity to raise St. Lisa’s love child as their own.
Next week is SOSF GUEST AUTHOR’S WEEK and they’ll all be on hand, doling out the farewell snark. Our stable of hilarious and gritty guest authors were the pillars on which SoSF stood. It simply couldn’t have existed without their efforts. Every single one of them was excellent and you could set your watch by their consistently awesome output. Billytheskink, Spacemanspiff85, ComicBookHarriet, Banana Jr. 6000, BeckoningChasm, Oddnoc, David O, Charles, Stuck Funky, and HeyIt’sDave…the names will forever ring out in comic strip snarkdom. Hope I didn’t forget anyone there. My mind is slowly reclaiming space as soon-to-be obsolete FW information is purged. Seriously though, my team of guest authors were, in my opinion, an infallible bunch of terrific, funny people, and I’ll genuinely miss you all.
134 responses to “The Ol’ Westviewian Mind-Meld”
Susan Smith had a guilty conscience? Over what? I can imagine her feeling self-disgust for craving Creepy Les, or a crushing sense of despair, or even loathing herself at the thought of helping him reproduce, but guilt? Man, Les is such a special prize that he isn’t allowed to repel people for normal, healthy reasons!
Notice who’s not the problem? Les. No, he can just invite himself to the hospital, and congratulate himself to a girl he drove to suicide through his own indecisiveness. His mind doesn’t need any “nudging”, nosireebob. Harley just smiles warmly and dumbly at this empty, self-serving gesture. If this is a “custodian”, I’d rather he left the Earth a mess.
I just noticed something else–Susan isn’t in the ICU. That’s where you go after the ER and doctors get you stabilized after a suicide attempt. Then it’s off to the psych ward for seventy-two hours of voluntary observation (and if you say “no” to that, you really are crazy). But whether it’s the ICU or the psych ward, you are under observation by health care professionals. Visitors get screened, and while it isn’t a perfect screening it’s meant to protect you from someone who might make your mental state worse.
What is he trying to convey here? That in the long run, Susan’s suicide attempt was worth it because it brought Les and Lisa together, thus enabling Summer to write her book? That’s totally warped. Why didn’t Harley do any nudging BEFORE Susan tried to off herself? I mean, geez.
The entire Susan Smith saga was just so awful, dumb and implausible. You look back on it now and you see how high he was on his self-importance fumes back then. The idea was just ghastly, and the execution was even worse.
That does like look what he’s setting up. But it makes the whole thing seem like The Boys From Brazil. Really, this is the life story of the writer of the defining book of the 22nd century? A 12th-year Kent State undergrad with self-absorbed twits for parents? And Harley had to make sure their lives went exactly to plan? One wonders what he had to “nudge” them into doing.
I think any writer of any skill or integrity at all would’ve had Summer ask “So why didn’t you ‘nudge’ Susan into not trying to kill herself?”, but then they also wouldn’t be writing such an awful awful arc.
Susan Smith had a guilty conscience because she had destroyed Les Moore’s proposal tape so that Lisa wouldn’t get it.
This blog has a really great overview of the entire arc.
As Epicus points out below, we all get hung up on Lisa’s Death as the ‘start of darkness’ but that’s not true at all. Early Act II was just an endless parade of cringy virtue signaling.
The reason Lisa’s Death stands out as his APEX, is because it actually bucked some of his earlier Saturday Morning Special hackneyed tone deafness to stop preaching for a second and touch on something more real. Not consistently, but enough to matter.
Thanks; I hadn’t seen that arc. So Susan was unstable and destroyed the tape on purpose (although the look on her face whimpers “Accident! Horrible accident!”) Speaking of accidents, let’s ask Batiuk where Hardly was when this happened, and before Lisa went to Paris. You’d think he would have some futuristic gizmoes that would let him observe Les and the people in his life.
It’s also weird that Susan would be returned to Les’s class the next school year. It’s beyond weird that he would reach out and hug her.
“Speaking of accidents, let’s ask Batiuk where Hardly was when this happened, and before Lisa went to Paris.”
My thought: he was in the can. Judging by the way he’s drawn, he probably spends a lot of time there. I suspect it’s hard to nudge a mind when your mind is tied up trying to nudge out that last drop.
Good point CBH, and I am guilty of this too. You are right, act 2 was abysmal as well, so much cheap and unrealistic drama.
I wish Hardly would have nudged the syndicate to cancel this strip back then.
I mean, it probably deserved it.
But I selfishly wouldn’t shorten the run of FW by a single strip. Because for ten years it’s brought me so much ironic joy.
It would be like saying, Neil Breen’s ‘Pass Thru’ was so offensive and awful, ‘Twisted Pair’ should have never been crowdfunded.
Hey forgot to follow up when you mentioned fanzines. We had a gossip rag when I was in high school marching band. It featured Dinkle with a megaphone. It was called “ The Orange Spiel” since our colors were orange and white. I can still smell the mimeograph fluid. Good times.
Thank you for the link that 90’s blog. Although it served up a fairly intense dose of awfulness, it is a good reminder as we approach the twilight of this strip of just how rotten to the core the narrative is.
Also, thanks to every member of this community. I will miss my daily (or more frequently to catch up on comments) visits here much as I miss the Ladies of 3-G when that one went away.
One strip in particular from that post is actually interesting, in that, IF we could believe Batiuk always intended to end the strip this way, it could actually have served as foreshadowing. (Not that I think for a second that this wasn’t just thrown together last-minute.)
In the hands of a competent writer, we could look back at that last panel and see it as a hint. But, of course, we’re not dealing with one of those types of writers…
Suicides failed and completed, cancer, alcoholism, PTSD, lost limbs: All sad but necessary for the development of the Moorian Collective Conscious. To be put into words by his progeny, the prophet Girl Les.
As usual, Act III is both nonsensical and a little bit disgusting.
Am I reading this right? Harley’s “nudge” to Susan was for her to attempt suicide? If so, that’s really repugnant. He’s really trying to compete with Dr. Manhattan moving Alan Scott’s lantern isn’t he?
That’s what it looks like. So Hardly There is a product of an advanced future society? And he couldn’t think of a less-vicious way to keep Susan away from Creepy Les? Batiuk just ruined his own argument that Summer’s book leads to a better world where everyone cares about everyone else.
It kinda reminds me more of that 1980 “Avengers” arc when the original Ms. Marvel was abducted by a time-displaced being named Marcus who (“with a subtle boost” from some mind-control machines) seduced and impregnated her and later became her own son, whom Ms. M. happily went off to limbo with–that is, until Chris Claremont retconned the whole sad story as best he could a year later. The “touching minds” and “gentle pushing” as is suggested here is, I think, Batiuk’s ham-fisted salute to that storyline…either that, or he’s mimicking God hardening Pharaoh’s heart in the book of Exodus.
You know, I’m really going to miss a site where I can compare Marvel Comics stories and the Old Testament in the same comment.
Seduced…own son. See, this right here is why I don’t read the Bible.
That’s not the Bible silly! That’s Marvel Comics!
Not to mention a cross over to Oedipus Rex. In the Old Testament, Samson is married AND fooling around. It is not condoned. In the NT, Paul rebukes a Corinthian have sex with his Father’s wife.
*all part of the normal daily service of the SOSF Literary Society.*
I’m pretty sure the “nudge” was for Susan to tell Les that she had destroyed the audiotape he tried to send to Lisa with his marriage proposal on it. Otherwise Les would have assumed that Lisa had rejected him and they wouldn’t have gotten married. Lisa would have assumed that Les wasn’t really that interested in her. Yes, Batiuk couldn’t actually have Les talk to the woman he wanted to marry.
Batiuk felt the “don’t actually propose in person” idea was so great that he did it a second time.
It makes sense that Harley would have made her confess things to Les, if he’d shown up at the hospital (and the day after her suicide attempt). But it would have been easier, and less abusive, if he’d given Les the idea that Lisa must not have received the tape. This isn’t exactly the smoothest retcon in fiction.
Explaining the simple solution to TomBat isn’t being helpful. It’s ‘bullying’ him because he’s too stupid to have thought of it himself.
OK-that makes a little more sense and is a bit less creepy. I had forgotten about the videotape bit and it really isn’t clear what exactly he was “nudging”. But this is also the same guy who melted a murder weapon into a toy for a family member of a murder victim, so we’re just never sure what degree of “ick” we’re going to get.
Didn’t Batiuk use the exact same thing in Crankshaft? “Oh, you never replied to my mailed proposal, so I’ll disappear.”
Yep. Apparently Les and Lucy’s lost love can’t be bothered to show up in person for a marriage proposal, but it’s the envious women who are portrayed as attempting to destroy the relationships.
I do like “the Prophet Girl Les.”
The title panel gives our first, and possibly the only panel for Summer’s monumental masterpiece of a book. Bleh. Her face in the reaction panel is another good one, just showing the bewilderment at the writing she’s been dealt with.
I definitely wouldn’t have started this sort of lookback recap here. Surely some Act 1 events related to Les and Lisa first meeting/dataing/baby-talking or whatever would be more fitting as a Sunday showcase or starting point for Harley’s influence as the quiet janitor? Here we’re just left questioning his master-of-disguise skills for slipping into the hospital as a nurse, as well as everything else that was wack with Susan’s obsession with Les that could’ve also been worth observing as potential timeline disruptions, I guess.
Everything with the Fairgoods is just ridiculous as well, like it was a failed attempt at a new soap opera-tier plotline that was just abandoned, but leaving the carnage of a couple’s destroyed lives in its wake. Went through that again recently myself, and it’s amusing that right at that time was when the SoSF blog rediscovered the Act 2 Post Office Bombing, something that was a funny-for-the-wrong-reasons contrast to what the newest strips of the day were trying. Comedy wins again, Bautik! USA! USA!
Why would the Muleheaded One need to disguise himself? He could do what Asimov’s Mule did when he needed to go unobserved: just tweak people’s minds so they either didn’t notice him or forgot they saw him. Or he could just have walked into the hospital as just another visitor. It’s not like anybody was going to notice when he put the telepathic whammy on Susan.
Given all this hype from Harley th’ Time Travelin’ Janitor, Lisa’s book better be a real humdinger! Of course, at best, we’ll get some cheezy Atomix Komix rendition of her book cover. Followed by a couple of Batdick’s obscenely masturbatory farewell strips to end the year.
At least by making the Fairgoods’ marriage miserable, the “Wedding Chapel of Love” managed a perfect record; not a single one of the couples married there had a good and lasting marriage. Cindy and Funky divorced, Wally and Becky’s marriage ended when he went MIA and was declared dead, and, of course Dead Saint Lisa died, leaving Les a widower. So the Fairgoods are the only couple there still married, but they’re completely miserable, and that’s just as good.
(Really, that Batiuk felt it necessary during the Montoni’s closing story to highlight the weddings that took place there without considering how ANY of them ended up… it’s that special inattention to detail that only Tom Batiuk can deliver.)
And I guess Harley was “nudging” everyone to not notice that the high school janitor was hanging around the hospital in scrubs? Or did he get a side job so he could better stalk Les?
27 more to go…
The Fairgood arc I referenced above was just so amazingly mean-spirited and unnecessary. It wasn’t enough to have Fred suffer a stroke on the toilet and become disabled, he had to really twist the knife by making him a cad, too, for no reason whatsoever. It’s served no purpose at all story-wise, it was just BatYam being weirdly vindictive. It was pretty brutal stuff, even by FW standards, to a point where you had to wonder what Batty had against Fred in the first place.
That arc did, however, introduce us to the most obscure Act III character ever, the mysterious Kerry. They don’t get more obscure than that. Even Frankie’s sidekick Lenny got more strip time than Kerry did.
Cindy and Funky were married in the Gazebo.
The double wedding was Becky/Wally and Funky/HOLLY.
I know it’s confusing keeping all the Batiuk Blondes apart. It didn’t help that, after running into Cindy at a high school graduation, Holly decides she needs a new hairstyle.
A completely unique hairstyle that of course won’t make her resemble anyone else at all.
Also, Wally and Rachel were technically married in both the gazebo AND in Montoni’s, as the ceremony started in the park and lightning forced them inside for the final, ‘I do.’
The news helicopter? Oh brother…
Oops, my mistake.
Then I guess when Funky was proudly calling Montoni’s the “Wedding Chapel of Love” (thank you Lord of Language), he was bragging that at least HIS turned out okay, and screw the rest of y’all?
Good for you, magic janitor guy! Now, we’re all looking forward to this strip being given a ‘gentle push’ off the side of a cliff….
So far, in this cringe-inducing finale, Harley seems a bit more prone to “nudge” the minds of young women instead of men.
TB with passive women and superheroic men? No! Can’t be.
Seriously. TB’s fascination for controlling the minds of young women to do what the janitor wants is pretty creepy.
I didn’t think anyone could do more damage to their legacy in their final weeks than Lynn Johnston but TB is doing his best to eclipse her.
Sudden thought: with regard to ending a story, do you think Batiuk misheard the phrase and thinks he should stink the landing?
Possibly–and he certainly should stick it.
Huh, a comic strip that involves mind-controlling women? Hard to believe that John Byrne once did a guest stint on this…
(For the non-comics fans, Byrne has gone to that well a few times, including with Sue Storm, Scarlet Witch (at least twice) and Big Barda from the New Gods (in a story where both she and Superman were mind-controlled into making a porno. Really. That’s a thing that happened. In a CCA-approved book).
(Fun fact: after Byrne left X-Men in 1981, he and Chris Claremont reunited in 2004 for a Justice League story. One of the characters was a girl with mind control powers named… Nudge! Because, y’know, she can mentally “nudge” people into doing what she wants. That’s completely irrelevant to this Funky Winkerbean story, though, so I don’t know why I brought it up.)
Comics Alliance has a great breakdown of that…uh…iconic storyline.
It’s almost like superhero komix are really ham-fisted stupid garbage. Every time I read anything bout them, this idea is reinforced.
Superhero Komix are a lot like sitcoms, since they’re produced mostly en masse and on the cheap. There’s a lot of dumb garbage that gets published just because, why not? It’s already finished, it’ll fill a gap on a shelf.
There’s some stuff that’s good as just a guilty pleasure. There’s some stuff that’s good but not great. And there’s some genuinely great stuff.
My go-to for the greatness of superhero comics is Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. If you want something that isn’t an Elseworlds AU, Batman: Hush and The Court of Owls were also excellent.
If you prefer your superheroes funny, you can’t do better than ‘Formerly Known as the Justice League.’ Though it becomes awkward in hindsight when horrible things would happen to about half of the main characters in other storylines in a few years.
God damnit… This and that Carol Danvers bullshit mentioned upthread is why 99% of my comics consumption is strictly from the Cartoon Network!!
TFH and ED were the glue that kept this place going, when any sane person would have said ‘There’s nothing here! Nothing! Only the ravings of a madman!”
We who insisted that the search continued, and brought along shovels and torches…we were but the followers of that ever brighter light.
TFH and ED were the true heroes here. If Batiuk had any sense beyond his own bloated ego, he might agree.
I always hoped he’d do an arc about comic strip snark blogs, featuring “T.F. Hack” and “Epic Doofus”, where we’d be “satirized” as basement-dwelling Twitter tots incapable of anything more than beady-eyed nitpicking. And the joke would have been on him, as I don’t even use Twitter.
To do that, though, he’d have to admit that there were other voices out there, and that some of those voices didn’t agree with him. And he seems bound and determined to believe that NO OPPOSITE VOICES are possible at all, to the point where they cannot exist.
Also, the names “T.F. Hack” and “Epic Doofus” are waaaay too clever to have been conceived by Batty.
I would’ve loved to see that just to see how he would have drawn you guys. I suspect Mitchell Knox and Atomik Komix Hater would have looked like Mr. Universe in comparison.
I once posited that he would have portrayed TFH badly and had him get run over by a cement mixer, which none of his characters would react to, but I now realize that would have been too much work. TFH would have more likely starved in his basement as his stairs collapsed and no one would bother to help him.
… Still too much work. TFH would have simply vanished after someone called him a jerk who offered nothing positive to the world whatsoever. That withering comeback would have winked him out of existence.
Living on mice and gruel and regretting that he’d been cruel, no doubt.
+10 fot the CALVIN AND HOBBES reference!
Brilliant idea! I’d have bought whatever collection included that arc.
Of course, the snarkers would be portrayed in the worst possible and hackneyed way. The literature and historical references many of you display show more erudition than his ramblings about Silver Age comics, but would be absent.
His blog suggests he’s not a deep guy.
Beckoning, thank you for your kind words and for your many contributions to this blog!
Hear hear! The line of standing to honor our grand captain and his trusty first mate starts here!
Yesterday, some mentioned Cyril M Kornbluth. Great writer. He wrote “Friend to Man.” It is a short Sci-Fi story, easily found on Google.
It has the greatest twist I have ever read in a story. It would be a perfect ending to this
Harley-Summer Arc. The theme is an alien’s benevolence to a trapped earthling. Highly recommend.
“Call him, if anything, Batuik. He had answered to that and to other names in the past. Cartoonist, Writer. His work, it is true, had months before slowed to a walk and then to a crawl, but still he wrote.
Nobody was following Batiuk, he sometimes realized, and then he would fume for a while, but not long. After a minute or an hour the cast in his mind would reform and spur behind him; reason would cry no and still he would heave himself to his writing board and begin again to inch across the panels.
The cast, imaginary and terrible, faded from front to rear. Perhaps in the very last rank of pursuers was a dim shadow of a female schoolmate, forgotten to time. Smith had never been one to write fair. More solid were the images of his first commercial success, the pregnancy job. A mousy girl with her chest puffed out grotesquely pursued; by her side a faceless jock. The ranks of the posse grew crowded then, for Batiuk had been a sort of educator after that, but never an organizer too proud to debase his cast. An immemorially old-fashioned football helmet hung inches from the nape of Bushka’s neck, for Buskha had nearly escaped Westview.”
This is perfection!
You know what? I don’t think that’s Summer. I think Les has used his Lovecraftian powers to pull a Lurker At the Threshold switch and taken over Summer’s body. Every gesture & expression looks like Classic Les. Summer’s own brain is either trapped inside a flabby goateed old man’s skull, or carried off by night-ghasts.
Earlier I had posited that Les had used arcane E.A. Poe powers to make Black Cayla over into Lightly-Tanned Lisa Mark 2. (can’t remember which Poe story that was.) But that was only a practice run for ensuring his own immortality in body after body. My guess is Skyler will be next on the sacrificial altar, once Les is no longer able to tolerate being treated like a Westview woman.
1. I repeat: What makes this numbnuts so sure he hasn’t fucked up the timeline with his meddling? Or is some collateral damage a perfectly acceptable trade-off to make sure the one book that’s going to save future civilization actually gets published?
1a. Exactly how does he manipulate minds? Is it through telepathy or does he have another magic gizmo? And who gives him the authority or guidance to exercise such powers? Is some person or authority in the future pulling the puppet strings in McFly’s mind? Because how is anybody to know whether or not McFly is getting a God complex and overstepping his protocol? Wait, maybe I should ask this question instead: HOW DOES ANY HUMAN GET GRANTED SUCH POWERS AND **NOT** DEVELOP A GOD COMPLEX?? Is that not like the secondary plot of like half the Superman stories written since the 80s?
1b. AM I REALLY SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE HARDY MCFLY COULDN’T MANIPULATE DONNA’S MIND ONCE INTO RETURNING THAT DUMBASSED HELMET FOR FORTY PLUS YEARS?!
2. If the book is THAT fuckin’ important for the creation of some Roddenberry Utopia that doesn’t have borders or countries and all of humanity is united and aligned toward the same goals, why didn’t McFly just bring a copy of the book back in time with him, re-type it word for word, and just publish it under a pen name?! Why does Summer Freaking Moore have to be credited? All that matters is the content, right??
What puzzles me about this whole sequence is why Harley was necessary in the first place.
If he’s from the future, then the past has already happened the way it was “supposed to” and there would be no point in going back to maintain it. Hell, simply going back on his own would risk disrupting it more than simply leaving it alone.
So that implies that someone or something was trying to alter the past and that Harley needed to stop them. Who/What was that and why does Batiuk seem completely unaware of this implication?
Is Susan another Time Lord? Going back in time because she wanted to have Les for herself, appearing as a tween girl who wrote bathetic poetry to best accomplish this?
We already know this story is going to be abominable, but Batiuk could have made it epically so.
And that’s always the problem with godlike characters — It becomes harder and harder for a writer to explain away the inevitable list of events they are unwilling or unable to change…
We’re waiting to discover you, Mornial Mathaway.
As an aside, am I the only one who wonders if Batiuk himself has commented at SOSF under some screen name?
I don’t think here, but there were a number of commentors at CK (Red Ronin, FunkyFan) who were clearly either Tom Batiuk, relatives, or people with no taste or common sense. (I imagine the Venn Diagram circles overlap almost 100%).
I’ll just point our from my own tangential person experience:
Never underestimate the passion some random weirdo on the internet can have for something completely inconsequential, and how willing they’d be to defend it.
That’s why I never believed that Batiuk ever sock-puppeted in support of himself on CK or anywhere else.
There’s a comment I made here years ago during the “Marianne contemplates suicide because someone said something mean on the internet”, where Mason claims he bore some scars from previous battles on the internet. I suggested that one of them could have been that he got savaged by The John Agar Appreciation Society when he badly reprised Agar’s role from “The Brain From Planet Arous”. Trust me, the idea behind that comment came from a very real place.
Yeah there are plenty of randos who show up just to kick the bee’s nest and stir up trouble.
I’m inclined to believe that Batty never showed up to comment here or elsewhere.
This question has been pondered before, and the consensus is: I don’t think so. One thing that’s genuinely amazed me over the years is how few pro-FW or “you guys are so mean and you suck” comments we’ve gotten over that span. Given how this is the only regularly updated FW resource on Earth, I honestly thought we’d have gotten more. It just never comes up. There’s never been any censorship or anything like that, we’d allow dissent, but there doesn’t really seem to be any. We did have a regular commenter who pretended to like the strip, but that was just shtick, and it grew tiresome pretty quickly. And it definitely wasn’t Tom, as (at first) it was just too clever to have been him.
One thing about the pro-FK posters who showed up on CK/Disqus: they never explained why they liked it. They generally went away when asked. Maybe they all had a road to Damascus moment.
To give them some defense, I don’t think that’s necessarily how they would look at it. The notion of “why” they like something isn’t really something they’ve investigated, and trying to analyze their reaction, which might be a novel endeavor, is not something they’re willing to do for someone who might not respect their point of view anyway. It’s just not that important.
Not to criticize them, but a lot of these things have inane origins: “I like Garfield and Heathcliff because they have a cat in them.” “I like Buckles because it has a dog in it.” And you never devote any more effort in interrogating that preference. You just look at it for 8 seconds and if it’s entertaining, it’s justified itself, but if it’s not, you’ve forgotten it by the time you’ve read the next comic, or closed your newspaper/browser window.
Reminds me of a conversation that I had with my extremely intelligent but not terribly intellectually curious brother. I’m constantly wondering what provokes my response to something. If I see a bad movie or read a bad book or something of that nature, it interests me in defining what exactly makes it bad, which can further lead to me analyzing what presumptions I bring when I consume media; which I find interesting. My brother’s not like that at all. He sees a movie he thinks sucks and he doesn’t give a further shit. He just moves on and doesn’t think about it any more.
I get that not everyone wants to analyze something they like, but I guess I don’t get why, if that’s the case, you’d defend it. If your liking is on that much of a surface level, why not just breeze on by instead of hanging around to read snark? Every time a commenter on CK would come in with a “You guys are stupidhead meanies and this strip is great,” I would ask very politely what it was that they liked about the strip, and I’d promise to be respectful in any discussion. I was sincere. I truly do wonder what there is to like about the current strip and I would’ve loved to have a friendly discussion about the topic. Naturally, that never happened, as the Dreary Magic Helmet would *blip* them away as soon as I asked.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the unironic fans are just creatures of habit who are totally uncritical. They thought Dinkle was funny, so they kept reading the strip. The end. There’s no more to it than that.
That’s not how my mind works, but (unlike TB) I do recognize that not everyone thinks like me or experiences the world like me.
I have to add that I believe this is Puffy’s exact mentality, and this is the direct cause of his decline.
I mean, read his blog entries about his favorite comic books. There’s just a recounting of plot points. There’s zero analysis of what makes the comic great, what makes it tick, what’s different about it, why the artist and writer may have made some of their choices, etc. Same for the covers. Basically, he shows a cover and says, “Look at this neat cover,” and that’s it.
Because he’s not in the least bit curious about what makes his favorite comics great, or why Asimov’s world-building is compelling, he never learns from these examples. He never gleans principles that he could use in his own work. He simply doesn’t care what makes great comics, or great sci-fi, great.
The question is: If you’re not interested in what makes great work great, why do you even want to go into the field? What drives you?
There was one odd comment we got on the 50th Anniversary post that came from someone who seemed to be a genuine fan, and the weird way it was written had the conspiracy nut part of my brain wondering if it was Batty.
The fact that many regulars commenters here have said things to defend portions, eras, or even single strips of FW would make this an unlikely place for a defender puffed up with righteous indignation to grind their axe.
I’d like to think even our most vitriolic posters, (winking at you BJ6K,) would be more interested in respectfully engaging with such an odd creature than resort to stupid name calling.
Personal attacks are strictly verboten, and we’ve always had a zero tolerance policy re: “oh yeah? Sez you!” type comment wars. Plenty of SoSF commenters have defended individual strips and even entire story arcs, I’ve even done it here and there. But genuine pro-FW fans, those are few and far between. And I’ve always found it curious, and I’ve often wondered how many actual, serious, daily FW readers there are out there.
My estimate, all things considered, is MAYBE a few hundred. And there are probably a few hundred more who read it here and there, like band directors who only read the Dinkle strips (shudder). I realize this number seems insanely low, but after all these years, I just haven’t seen any evidence to suggest otherwise.
For example, if I was out and about and I crossed paths with someone wearing a denim jacket with a “Lisa’s Story” back patch, my head would explode. If I was at work and a chuckling co-worker said “hey, you read today’s Funky Winkerbean? Heh heh, that Morty, always so rapey”, I would be totally flabbergasted. I’ve been reading FW since the 70s, and its cultural impact is microscopic at best. There’s just no proof that any sort of significant FW fan base exists, which is just so bizarre to me.
The proof is in the shockingly abysmal Amazon sales rankings for the collections. Almost literally no one is buying any of them.
(Which begs the question: Why do they keep getting published? Is KSU a vanity press? Legitimate question; I know nothing about KSU.)
Batty is a big donor to KSU and so they have to indulge him. He also has done some artwork for various campus buildings. But I have not been there in a long time so perhaps it’s been painted over.
He’d have to be a pretty damn huge donor to get as much ass-kissing from the school as he gets. According to Kent State’s 2018 generosity report, they receieved about $44 million in donations, the largest single donation being $10 million.
And you just get your name on a building for that. You don’t get to have your books printed by the university press, or get to sit in the bookstore and pester students for book sales, or get chosen to draw murals on campus. He bought the full Kent State Ego Trip And To Hell With Our Dignity package.
I think we’re forgetting Toby, who showed up during the Gay Prom Without Any Gay People sequence.
That I even remember this brings great shame on my family.
That’s the one thing I liked about this page from the start: it was all legit criticism and no ad hominem attacks.
My journey here started with me being baffled by the strips and wondering if it was just me. I searched grandpa Google with “I do not understand Funky Winkerbean” and eventually ended up here.
I’m glad I did. You all have taught me a lot. I’m an engineer by trade and am not as well informed on writing, comics, tropes, etc, but wow I’m close to earning my B.S. in snark.
There have been a handful of commentors here who say they liked Funky Winkerbean. The responses are always polite and respectful, adding the question, “What do you like about it?” Every single answer was “I remember it from when I read it as a kid.”
There’s a sequence in *FoxTrot* where Andy Fox is asked to vet the newspaper’s comic strips and determine which ones should go. She puts an x through *Captain Goofball,* which Roger, her husband.
Because when Roger was thirteen, *Captain Goofball* was a riot.
But as Andy points out, he’s no longer thirteen.
And Roger, after reviewing a lengthy run of recent strips, has to admit that the strip is no longer funny.
So, with a heavy heart, he accepts his wife’s wisdom, and the Captain receives a discharge (or fades away, as old soldiers do in the mind of Douglas MacArthur).
Son Jason likes what replaces it.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
THE ONLY correction I will make on your excellent post is that since Kerry is a product of a first marriage, he doesn’t necessarily have to have been a scheezy philanderer. Though it would explain that really awkward period of time in Act II where he had a pony-tail.
Kerry did show back up in November of the same year to meet baby Skyler and attend Thanksgiving.
Excellent work CBH, I had completely forgotten about Kerry’s second appearance. And I’ve forgotten it again already!
The really unnecessarily cruel part was Ann telling her son that her marriage was a loveless, joyless slog, a life-ruining masquerade, perpetuated mostly for Boy Lisa’s benefit. This was immediately after Fred suffered a stroke on the toilet. It was just so vicious, in an almost Wally-like way. It couldn’t be JUST a stroke or JUST a loveless sham, it had to be both…AND the toilet, too. I don’t know what Fred ever did to draw Batiuk’s vindictive ire, but he was really out for blood there.
Kerry did show back up in November of the same year to meet baby Skyler and attend Thanksgiving.
And the following Easter! With the same Easter basket that everyone else had! Which led to Darin crabbing about his kid’s gifts in the most pathetic display of envy I think I’ve ever seen.
Who says Batiuk never achieved anything?
Remember how Darin being envious of Skyler over the pettiest shit was a whole thing?
Wow, you guys are good at this stuff. So Kerry WAS more significant than Lenny! You look back on something like the Fred Fairgood saga now and you can’t do much more than shake your head disapprovingly re: Batiuk’s ceaseless, wanton cruelty. He couldn’t give Boy Lisa’s parents a happy story, where maybe they interact normally with their son or buy a boat or something, it had to be dreary, sad, downbeat, and mean instead. Fred staring forlornly from his bedroom window, as his unhappy wife reflects on what might have been…just, why?
Fred staring forlornly from his bedroom window, as his unhappy wife reflects on what might have been…just, why?
Batiuk pretty clearly believes that suffering is much more dramatic and weighty than “happily ever after”. By having his characters suffer, he’s a more serious artist than a comic writer who rewards his characters.
Agreed, but I think there’s another motive as well. I think he just enjoys tormenting his characters, full stop. Because he’s a sadist? Because he enjoys the power of being a creator/god? Because he can’t think of any other way to inject “drama” other than tragedy?
I’m not sure why (though I lean toward sadism), but I honestly believe that on some level he gets satisfaction from torturing his characters.
Yep, it is Batty’s passive- aggressiveness on display as he gives the middle finger to everyone who does not recognize him as a master of his trade.
“Remember how Darin being envious of Skyler over the pettiest shit was a whole thing?”
At least that envy never manifested itself by, say, giving the kid a toy made out of the gun that murdered his grandfather. (I’m sure that would have no ramifications on the kid’s mental state when he finds out.) That would just be deranged.
“As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods/they kill us for our sport.”
That’s Shakespeare’s *King Lear,* and it inspired a very good Robert Silverberg short story. (I read it in *Dangerous Visions,* but I suppose it’s also in a Silverberg collection.)
Another rule about (it’s called) writing is that you must kill your darlings. It doesn’t say that you should enjoy their death-throes.
For what it’s worth, I’m re-reading Chekhov’s *Seagull* and keeping my eyes peeled for the gun.
I know this won’t happen, but I would love it if, after Summer goes trotting off, her formerly vacant skull now filled with glorious dreams of being the New Messiah, Harley looks directly at the reader and says, “She bought it! Incredible! One of the worst performances of my career and she never doubted it for a second.”
I’d even break out the Sigue Sigue Sputnik.
In the end, it appears BatHack invented Harley to be an excuse for his horrific storytelling. Strangely not the worst idea he has ever had.
So, we have a stupid woman whose response to being outed as a destructive nitwit who’s in love with being in love is to want to kill herself and people want to stop her. Nudge her into joining a damn convent so she’s not a problem, Almighty Janitor.
Fortunately, she limited her destructive impulses on Les. It’s just a shame she was so easily dissuaded.
A huge thank you in advance to the upcoming hosts! Thanks for taking time out of your lives to give ours a bit of fun and friendship.
Clearly, you have touched my mind and nudged me to comment here sometimes, even if only in bite-size snarks. If my short and rather shallow remarks contribute to your time-crossing project of building a humanity of snarkers, then whatever fate awaits me after Dec 31st will be easier to face.
Seriously, thank you.
The problem with today’s implausible and patronizing load of ordure is that it’s bound to be eclipsed by something even stupider and more inclined to treat women as passive objects of history.
“And Frankie almost didn’t date-rape Lisa. Fortunately it was easy to nudge him into a state of bestial rage and hatred toward that neurotic wallflower. I’m not saying she deserved it, but the experience transformed her into the ideal wife and mother, so she should thank me.”
Talk about creepy. When teen aged Susan Smith attempted suicide she was LES’ STUDENT.
I wasn’t paying much attention to FW at the time, so I don’t know the details of how she managed to locate and destroy Les’ piece of media mail.
This also makes her subsequent return to teach at Westview implausible. Most of the people who knew of her crush on Les and her resulting suicide attempt were still on staff. That would normally be a huge disincentive for applying for a job there.
This also puts a really creepy spin on Dinkle’s post-retirement presence at Westview and his relationship to Becky.
DSH and Becky were married for many years after Wally was mistakenly listed as KIA. How is it that no children resulted?
Regarding the Fairgood marriage – If it was as loveless as TomBa retconned it, none of what was recounted would be news to Darin.
When presented in this “Greatest Hits” compilation, it highlights how awful and inappropriate much of FW is.
Interestingly, I think Harley is the most revealing author avatar TomBa has created.
Of all the boring characters who get more boring each time we see them, why Susan Freakin’ Smith? Even the dozen or so unironic fans he has left aren’t clamoring for a Susan redux.
I know every one of us has a character we’d like to see brought back for the Grand Finale. Mine is Zanzibar.
Harley, the Janitor who Touches People, could explain a lot. “I touched Zanzibar’s mind and made him able to smoke cigars and drink Scotch and be an excellent marksman and speak English! Then I touched Cliff Anger’s mind and made him think this was perfectly normal!”
All hail the talking murder chimp!
It’s hard to top Zanzibar The Talking Murder Chimp. About the only character I can think of that would be even close is Strawman Guy At Comics Shop Who Hates Atomik Komix, but I think Batiuk intended for us to think he was wrong or something, so I doubt he’ll be back.
Zanzibar! Zanzibar! Zanzibar!
Last night I opened the new SoSF update just before I went to bed. I recognized Susan and Les but had NO idea what Susan was feeling guilty for — or was it Les who was feeling guilty? The whole strip felt like a half-remembered TV show you saw as a child when you were home with a high fever. You’re sure you saw it, but when you try to piece it together in your mind it makes no sense. Could you have dreamed it?
“It’ll make more sense in the morning,” thought I, and I went to bed. This morning, after coffee, it makes even less sense.
Finally, CBH posted the explanation, which referred to a 90s arc.
Look, I don’t pretend to be a keeper of Funky lore. But every one of us here is more knowledgeable about this strip than 99.9% of Sunday Funky readers. Is there ANYONE who’s not on this site who would look at this Sunday strip and have the slightest clue who the woman in the hospital bed is, and who’s supposed to be guilty of what here?
I felt the same about the “Susan didn’t jump because Angel Second Class Crankshaft flew in from the clouds in his magic school bus to rescue her” arc. Did ANY casual readers remember the antecedent strip from years ago? I would bet 800 quatloos the answer is no.
If this arc reads like gibberish to us, steeped as we are in this dreck, imagine how it reads to your casual Sunday browser.
I don’t know why he chose this moment. There are dozens he could have picked from that wouldn’t have had the hypothetical FW reader groundlings baffled. Something about their trip to Paris or nudging Les to check up on teen!pregnant Lisa back in the day. Where an uneducated audience could fill in the background with the likely tropes it’s drawn from.
You’re right, in that I don’t know if any place on earth knows more collective dumb FW trivia than this place, and even then look how many of us were confused.
I think he seriously expects that his readers have an encyclopedic knowledge of his strip that stretches over all of act 2 and 3, and they can recall all of that instantly. Much like TB can instantly recall everything about the Flash.
The irony is that TB seems to have no knowledge at all of what has happened in his strip. I think CBH explained it best when she said he was getting ideas when he had to put together the “Complete” volumes. “Oh, I can use this again!”
SoSF EXCLUSIVE! A sneak peek into the creative process of Tom Batiuk as he carefully ties up all the loose ends for a satisfying end to 50 years of Funky Winkerbean!
Thanks everyone for this Funky Snark Advent Calendar. It’s been great rehashing those older strips and being reminded that Batty learned nothing over the years.
Now back to Mary Worth, that story is heating up!
Other than the pacing, which slows from glacial to tectonic-plate when arcs wrap up, I’m loving Moy’s tenure. Demented fanservice all the way, baby! You want Wilbur spectacularly humiliated? You got it! You want demented Oedipal undertones to Iris and Zak’s relationship? Can do, baby!
I honestly believe she trolls the comments for ideas. Think how much better FW would have been if TB had listened to his snarkers. If he’d had a lick of affection for his readers, instead of viewing them as lesser mortals. If he’d learned to embrace the give-and-take afforded by the internet, instead of shutting himself away and hanging an “IT’S CALLED WRITING, YOU TWITTER TOTS” sign on the locked door.
Scott Adams was the first cartoonist to publish his email address inside his strip. He did this because he recognized that email is a useful feedback mechanism which lets him easily generate new ideas to improve the strip.
But not Batty, it’s all about him, his likes, his interests, all the time. And well you can see the results.
I guess that’s a good thing, seeing how much of an insufferable alt-right douchebag Adams has morphed into…
Oh man, is he is full of himself. That said, his strip continues to be funny and clever.
He should have just stuck to cartooning.
Yeah, I said it…
But then it wouldn’t be the Funky Winkerbean we all know and love. It is Tom Batiuk’s bizarre worldview, his belief of its rightness, and his complete refusal to listen to any other human being that makes the strip what it is. There is no give-and-take in his world; there is only taking the things he thinks the world owes him: book deals, a movie deal, awards, adulation, respect.
(Checks notes) Yep, dogs are still great!
WHAAAAAT? Dogs are great?! Why the hell didn’t Karen Moy tell us?
Iris needs to leave the restaurant before Nan starts spoon feeding Zak and flying the utensil like an airplane.
For the record, I rarely read Mary Worth until I got into this group, so I guess I have y’all to thank/blame for the fact that it’s on my daily reading list now!
I highly recommend the Mary Worth and Me blog if you’re not already familiar. The comments aren’t as voluminous but it’s still a good time.
Remember the verdict on the Bourbons from Talleyrand:
“They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”
I don’t even know who the hell Kerry is…
The best thing about the introduction and occasional cameos by Kerry is this strip, her first appearance, where TB recreates an actual strip from Act I where Fred makes a throw-away reference to the football coach kidnapping his daughter (The “just kidding” didn’t appear in the original strip) in order to keep failing Bull eligible to play. Pretty sure Kerry exists because TB re-read that strip when putting together one of his Complete FW collections (the first one, which is where the original strip would have appeared, was published about a year before Kerry showed up) and decided, for some reason, to run with it.
*Sniff* HeyIt’sDave….the one that got away.
Wherever you are…thanks for the parody strips.
And my all time fave….
(Cleaning off iPad screen after spitting coffee on it…)
These are classics!
The parody strips are brilliant-I will miss them! My photoshop skills are minimal at best, and these have all been done so well. My daughter will even look up from her own laptop and wonder why I’m chuckling so hard…
In fact I remember being the person who originally requested that!
Ah, HeyItsDave. He appeared out of nowhere, snarking entirely in parody strips, then vanished as quickly as he arrived. A mysterious character for sure, but a parody strip prodigy. I’ve been hoping for years that he’d return.
We’re never leaving this janitor’s closet again, are we…
Since most of the characters are full of misery anyway, I’d love to see Summer completely go off on Harley and have Mr. Preserve-the-Timeline bear the brunt of Summer being second fiddle to her father’s grief for 30 years and perhaps not adequately dealing with her own: “Listen here, Mr. NUDGE, since you were so busy interfering with women’s minds, why didn’t you nudge my MOTHER to a better cancer doctor so Dad and I might have had her around a little longer? Why didn’t you nudge the administrators to not to mix up her records? Why didn’t you nudge her away from that Frankie creep? Why didn’t you nudge Linda to hide Bull’s keys that night so my former coach couldn’t have driven off the road? ” If I’ve got someone claiming to be a time traveler and pulling strings that directly affect my life, you’re going to be damn sure I’d call him out on a few events.
Scott Adams, politics and Twitter aside, has one thing in common with Puff Batty: He fell for his own hype.
He made one bold prediction, and it came true. Then he started huffing his own farts about what a great prognosticator he is, and how it all comes down to his knowledge of hypnotism, or some such, and he dined out on that one prediction for years. Then some of his predictions didn’t come true, and his health started to go south, and his trophy(?) wife apparently left him, and I think the blows to his ego have really stung him.
That one prediction (about a topic that is rightfully forbidden here) was the worst thing to happen to him, just as the Pulitzer nomination was the worst thing to happen to Tom. Before that, both of them were just a cartoonists who’d put in the time and become successful.
But their brief moments of popular acclaim ruined them. Adams started chasing the high of being the brilliant contrarian who uses his big brain to see what others can’t, just as Puffy started chasing the high of being the cartoonist who takes the craft beyond anywhere it’s ever gone.
Hubris is a hell of a drug.
Drat — that was supposed to be a reply to Rusty Shackleford’s post about Scott Adams, above.
Don’t worry, I saw it and I know what you are talking about.
But at least Adams kept the politics out of his strip and for that I am grateful…unlike Batty who drops in his views for all to see. Of course Batty’s opinions are just the predigested opinions of others that he then just parrots, but he does so in such vague stupid manner that he ends up barely saying anything at all.
Bloom County had some political themes, but they were always humorous and so even if I didn’t share the same viewpoint, I always got a good laugh.
Again, I’m not defending Adams’ views, but Dilbert became a much better strip over the years while FW just fell apart.
test test test
Here is the first strip of the story arc for anyone who would like to read the entire Monty COMIX parody.