Nudge, Nudge, Say No More… Please

Hey folks, billytheskink here… I’m back for at least one more post so I can tag the ever-loving dickens out of today’s strip.

Lest we think Harley only takes agency and free will away from women, we learn today that he did the same to DSH and to the various members of the Westview High School class of ’92-’88-’78-’72 reunion committee. Since TB is looking back, let’s step into our own WABAC machine and see what exactly happened in the these two events that Harley interfered in.

First off…

Great Moments In FW Arc Recap History

November 19-December 20, 2012
An extended Crazy Harry arc begins. Harry explains to Donna his love of old comic books. The next day he walks into Montoni’s to inform Funky that USPS is shutting down the Westview Post Office and he’s out of a job. Harry decides he must sell off his beloved library, spending a week sorting and packing his books and his comics before schlepping them off to John, who offers Crazy Harry a job at the Komix Korner.

Granted, I cannot say what she was thinking, but back during this story arc, Donna never talked about leaving town. She didn’t do much of anything, really, except try to come on to Crazy while he moped about and spout off about how his political beliefs had changed with age. Also, is Harley admitting here that he “nudged” long-time Komix Korner employee Kevin out of existence to clear the way for DSH to hire Crazy? There are consequences to this time-meddling, Batiuk!

Now for the star flashback of the day…

We’re looking at August 21, 1993, when Les and Lisa reconnected at one of the incessant high school class reunions.

In the original strip, Les hung the moon for Lisa… in today’s flashback, he hung the “Westview Reunion” banner next to the moon.

Should we assume the committee back in 1993 (holding what was then a canonically a 5-year reunion) was the same cabal Les was drafted into replacing Cindy on in 2015: Cindy, Mary Sue Sweetwater, Junebug, who I think is Cindy’s frizzy-haired minion Carrie, and abdicated valedictorian Barry Balderman? Eh, why not? Barry wasn’t at this reunion, though, he had a cool job.

I’ll give Harley/TB this, his intervention into giving that crew Lisa’s Seattle address makes some level of sense as Lisa wasn’t close with ANY of those committee members (even nerdy Barry) and Les didn’t have her address until after he broke his hand punching Bull at the reunion for reasons that still defy explanation. In a rare moment of common sense, Lisa actually chided a deserving Les for still being stuck in high school. This moment passed quickly, though. Lisa was practically apologizing to Les for being upset even before dawn and the next week Bull was practically apologizing to Les for getting punched. What a time to be alive that was…



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

83 responses to “Nudge, Nudge, Say No More… Please

  1. Green Luthor

    I know it’s been said before, and it may likely be said while I’m typing this, but… WHY THE HELL DIDN’T YOU JUST NUDGE DONNA INTO GIVING THE HELMET BACK, YOU UNBELIEVABLE MORON? Good dear god, this is annoying.

    • Andrew

      Feels like a major misstep that this strip spent over a week talking about the damn helmet being a secret stolen time machine all along with the flimsiest reason for why it remained unclaimed until last spring. Just gives us all the motive to call this guy a moron on top of being a weirdo and representative of a wacko cult that’s taken over the future over its obsession over a local history memoir.

      Congrats, Bautik, ruined yet another perfectly fine background character.

    • Y. Knott

      This passed annoying some time ago.

      As is Batiuk’s gift, this story contains the germ of a potentially interesting idea, made tediously stupid through a combination of laziness, ineptitude and the innate story sense of a dull six-year-old. It is impossible to imagine anyone with functioning brain cells actually non-ironically enjoying this comic strip’s … uh, stagger to the finish? Bloody crawl to the finish? Being-dragged-by-whatever-body-parts-are-left-after-a-complete-and-total-spontaneous-organ-dump to the finish?

      It’s bad, is what I’m saying.

    • I fear that Batiuk is following one of the rules of writing crappy comics – if you want something to happen, just make up a half-assed reason for it and have all the characters pretend it makes perfect sense.

      In fairness, sometimes it can work. But it requires some willing suspension of disbelief from the reader, which in turn tends to come from the story being compelling enough to make you not want to question it. Obsessive nitpickers aside, most readers are willing to accept that things in a story can happen just because it’d be funny, or poignant, or dramatic for them to happen, not because they make sense. But that means they do in fact have to be funny, poignant and/or dramatic.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        This can also work if you use it for comedic effect. But Batty is too much of an artist to ever resort to comedy.

  2. Epicus Doomus

    So he “nudged” John into hiring Crazy, and he “nudged” the reunion committee into having up-to-date contact information? As far as superpowers go, Harley’s kind of suck.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      All of these nudgings are so stupid because they’re taking agency away from characters to make decisions it’s perfectly in character for them to make anyway.

      Like BTS said, the address for the reunion might just be the best smelling shit on the pile. Because it involves giving someone something REAL that changes the future. Not mind controlling characters that didn’t need it.

      Batiuk couldn’t think of anything more like the address? Any more physical objects or concrete bits of information Harley could have put in people’s way? Rather than imply that Susan wouldn’t have come clean, and John wouldn’t have offered Harry a job without being nudged?

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Yeah really. It’s like he’s undermining the few moments of genuine kindness that have ever happened in this strip.

        John giving Harry a job when he was despondent over being fired by the post office? Nudge. Susan admitting she selfishly interfered with Les’ long distance marriage proposal, just like Lillian McKenzie did? Nudge.

        This man has tampered with Westview so extensively that a book about the place wouldn’t be of any value for finding patterns in human behavior. It’d be like a book about sports strategy, based on the Montreal Screwjob.

  3. William Thompson

    If Hardly Thinking really wanted the damned helmet back, he could have nudged Donna into holding a garage sale before she moved.

    I’ll admit one thing: Hardly really does seem like the product of a society based on Westview values. But it’s sad to think that the future of the human race is to devolve into a bunch of dull-witted and abusive bores.

  4. billytheskink

    That second panel, man… Harley’s disembodied head looks so proud of the fact that he mind-controlled the WHS reunion committee into having Lisa’s Seattle address.

    “Yep, the old Seattle Lisa address nudge. That was my pee-ace day re-sis-stance, I tell ya.”

  5. billytheskink

    Next we’re gonna learn that Harley nudged Funky into a job at Montoni’s… otherwise he would have gone to grad school and written this stupid book 30 years ago.

  6. Andrew

    2 days in and Harley’s just jumping all over the damn timeline for his recollections/retcons. From Susan’s suicide attempt in mid-Act 2 to Harry losing his job in early-mid Act 3 to early Act 2 with the Les/Lisa reunion. As ever, even with flashbacks nothing is straightforward and clear.

    I wouldn’t put it past Bautik just plain forgetting he didn’t mention Donna wanting to move, though maybe there’s some strip or other we’re overlooking? Either way, I find it notable how Kevin basically got shafted out of the strip. I haven’t seen many comics with him but he seems like an interesting fella, looks like he could’ve been a send up to at least one local celebrity in NE Ohio’s local TV (John Rinaldi, known as Lil’ John), but was just left in the dust like a lot of Act 2 supporting cast, from the looks of it. If his departure was directly influence by our janitor fella, does beg the question of how many other people’s lives get interfered with for this man to do his “duty” (see also “erdmann’s” short fanfic on the 11/30/22 strip comments)

    You could argue too that Harley is being given credit for what was likely just due diligence a reunion committee in the 90s needed to keep in touch with fellow former students, or that Lisa did want to keep some tabs on her Westview contemporaries. But instead we needed a “sage” guidance so that Saint Lisa’s Wise Daughter could write her damn book.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Tom Batiuk doesn’t care about any character except Les and Lisa. The other 80 characters can all get fired, get cancer, have their minds “nudged”, and die. Even the closing of Montoni’s, which should have been a personal catastrophe for Funky and several other major characters, was treated with no importance.

  7. What other times did you have to nudge or influence someone?

    When it looked like you were about to be crushed to death by a ridiculously large word zeppelin before you had a chance to finish your book you know the one about the history of Westview I had to act fast so that you would indeed be able to complete that book you know the one about the history of your mom and the time thingy wouldn’t be altered and everything would end up the way it was supposed to oh sh*t is it December 5th already…Summer? You ok?

  8. Green Luthor

    In panel one it looks like Girl Les is reading Timemop’s word zeppelin, doesn’t it?

    • William Thompson

      I think she’s just awestruck to be caught in the middle of an unpredicted eclipse of the sun. Meanwhile, the word zeppelins in the second panel are so big that Batiuk and Ayers had their names squeezed down to “B&A.”

  9. Banana Jr. 6000

    It’s starting to feel like Harley “nudged” so much of these people’s lives that they might as well have never had free will. Which is a hell of a thing to do to your two main characters at the end of a 50-year comic strip.

    Lisa moved to Seattle and Paris to get away from Les, or at least with other plans in her life. But ol’ Harley just kept “nudging” her back, didn’t he? I didn’t think it was possible, but Batiuk found a way to make their relationship even more disgusting.

    • Epicus Doomus

      The entire strip, and all the events within, apparently existed solely so Summer could take a year off and write a book about the history of Westview, a book which, somehow, will completely alter the course of human civilization. Makes sense.

      I can’t wait to find out why Harley didn’t “nudge” Lisa’s doctors into, you know, giving her the correct information re: her cancer, which he surely knew about at the time…I guess. I assume his “nudging” is probably subject to all sorts of weird terms and conditions or something. Makes sense.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        I’m still waiting for the Boys In Brazil angle, where they not only cloned Hitler, but tried to re-create the exact circumstances of his upbringing. But ol’ Summer didn’t have to do anything except be the spawn of Les and Lisa. That was all she needed, apparently. She never had to acquire any skill or interest in writing, or “pattern recognition”, or even be competent and focused enough to graduate from a Grade D university. Makes you wonder why she’s even relevant to the process.

        • Y. Knott

          “Kick back, relax, and let the saga unfold tomorrow, and tomorrow and the tomorrow after that. But not the tomorrow after that, because ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶s̶y̶n̶d̶i̶c̶a̶t̶e̶ ̶p̶u̶l̶l̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶p̶l̶u̶g̶ Ayers decided to retire. It’s called writing!”

      • Hitorque

        Don’t you get it? St. Lisa HAD to die for Westview’s sins which would eventually allow this holy scripture to be writ!!

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          A thinly-veiled Christ analogy might have actually helped this story at one point.

        • Mela

          Either that or Lisa’s death was a fixed point in time and could not be altered, kinda like the good Doctor being shot by the an astronaut who turned out to be River Song.

      • Green Luthor

        But Dead Saint Lisa hadn’t died, Les wouldn’t have become a best-selling author, and then Girl Les might not have been inspired to become a writer herself. Ergo, no saving Lisa. (If anything, he probably “nudged” the doctors into screwing up her results, and then “nudged” her into forgoing treatment.)

        Really, Batiuk’s characters have never made any ridiculously stupid decisions, they were all being “nudged” to make sure the Prophet Girl Les’ destiny is fulfilled. This has obviously been the plan all along, we just couldn’t see the genius of Batiuk’s it’s called writing.

  10. sorialpromise

    I want to nudge you and continue to whet your interest in “the Last Protector” by our own Hannibal’s Lectern.
    Sometimes even a Sci-Fi author can be nudged by unforeseen influences:
    **He held two fingers about an inch apart. “About this big hunt wing muscle. Let’s see what makes this thing so strong.”**
    Have we ever seen 2 fingers an inch apart before? (Maybe a quarter an inch from reality.)

    Seriously, exciting book. I am a slow reader. But I am reading it every day.

    • sorialpromise

      Today’s Comic’s Curmudgeon (Dec 5) has one of the creepiest FW flashbacks of all time, if not the absolute creepiest. It might surprise you, it involves Lisa.

      • hitorque

        If someone who frequents CC could ask Josh to un-ban me, I’d appreciate it…

        • none

          I never read the CC comment section.

          It’s half acronym soup and half everyone thinking that they can out-Josh Josh. Few to anyone directly responds specifically to the content of the strips featured on the day or his writing.

          As if I’m going to have CK/Gocomics loaded on the side so that I can understand whatever the hell they’re all talking about. Shit. Make your own blog if you think you’re that clever, people.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      If I ever manage to straighten out my new living space by sorting through all my action figures AND all my grandma’s hoarded mayonnaise jars… The Last Protector is first on my reading list!

  11. I just can’t find it within myself to care about any of this stuff.

    Unbeknownst to us, some long forgotten janitor “nudged” characters to behave the way they did. Why? Why did he do that? So that Summer could write a retrospective of the history he manipulated? WHO CARES? AND ONCE AGAIN, WHAT ARE THE STAKES HERE? IF HE DOESN’T GET THE MAGIC HELMET BACK, THEN….WHAT?

    • Rusty Shackleford

      My mind is blown that Batty would let Harry be a member of the tea party and a comics collector all at the same time.

      I never thought he would let his precious books be sullied by politics.

  12. William Thompson

    Maybe Summer didn’t write the book. Maybe it’s a twonky. Or like the knife in P. Shuyler Miller’s “As Never Was.” Or like the short collection of scientific hints that a scientist sent back to the classical Greeks in Asimov’s “The Red Queen’s Race.” What I’m saying is, maybe the book’s existence has nothing to do with anything or anyone in this story, which would make it just another day in Westview.

  13. Hitorque

    1. Like I said earlier, Summer’s *REAL* X-Men superpower is her superhuman ability to keep a conversation/interview with time-traveler going this long without asking ONE SOLITARY relevant or interesting question… Tomorrow she’ll be asking some bullshit about whether Lebron James ever comes back to the Cavaliers…

    1a. So is Summer planning to put all this time travel and nudging bullshit in her “LIKE, TOTALLY REAL HISTORY OF WESTVIEW OHIO”? Because I’m sorry but I’m not seeing an audience or a publisher exactly chomping at the bit here… Has Summer forgotten that this is Westview? LITERALLY NOBODY in town cared enough to see the star-studded big budget critically acclaimed Hollywood movie about her own mother Blessed St. Lisa’s life, and that includes the locals who actually knew her the best! You remember the book and movie right, Summer? They’re the reason why you were able to stay at university for an entire decade and they’re the reason why you don’t have to work for a living now that you’re out…

    2. Summer please stop asking your “nudging” questions unless you want to hear how McFly staged the night of your conception like how some wildlife expert at the Pittsburgh Zoo gets pandas to mate on that one day every two years they might feel like doing it.

    2a. AND MCFLY STOP USING THE WORD “NUDGING”! It’s not only patronizing and insulting our intelligence, it also grossly understates what you’re doing… “Nudging” is one of those benign but loaded euphemisms that idiots with a God complex would use…

    2b. And yes, McFly’s stupid smirk is a dead giveaway of how much he lurrrrves fuckin’ around with the lives of complete strangers… You’d think if Summer wasn’t such a fucking idiot she’d get around to asking exactly who gave McFly the right to play God…

    • erdmann

      “Summer please stop asking your ‘nudging’ questions unless you want to hear how McFly staged the night of your conception like how some wildlife expert at the Pittsburgh Zoo gets pandas to mate on that one day every two years they might feel like doing it.”

      This reminded me of the extremely disturbing flashback in “Avengers” #200, long considered one of the worst comics of all time. In the scene, Marcus, the son of Immortus the Lord of Limbo, tells how his father picked up a woman from the past (apparently from the Titanic), seduced her with the aid of “the subtle manipulations of my father’s ingenious machines” and impregnated her. Once the child was born, mom was whisked back into the time stream to die. Then, when Marcus was grown, he plucked Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers, the current Captain Marvel) from the time stream and spent weeks romancing her before resorting to “a subtle boost from Immortus’ machines” to get her into bed so he could impregnate her with himself (don’t ask).
      The point is, it might be best for writers to steer clear of mixing time travel with “mental nudging.” We have ironclad proof nothing good can come of it.

      Oh, and just one more thing… I just realized Marcus and his dad both have beards like Les the Lord of Language. Ewww.

      • hitorque

        God damnit that’s sick…

      • hitorque

        It didn’t escape my notice that McFly calling his interventions in the timeline “gentle nudging” is not too far removed from a serial rapist calling his crimes “gentle caresses”…

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          Hear, hear. None of this “nudging” seems harmless or incidental. It seems like he nudged Summer into existence, by constantly sending Lisa back into Les’ skeevy arms, after she had taken significant steps in another direction. Not that Little Miss Pattern Recognition will ever piece this together.

  14. J.J. O'Malley

    You know, that’s a right nice class reunion banner apparently hovering in mid-air in Panel Two.

  15. Professor Fate

    Dear lord this is dull. Just dull blather on and on and on – I’ve read more exciting contract language.
    And to us a comic book reference the author is making the Hawkman continuity seem well thought out.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yeah, I’m not sure I’m going to make it till the end. This just keeps getting worse.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        Stay, Rusty, stay for us… to the bitter end.

        *reaches hand out like Buzz reaching for Woody’s hand in Toy Story III when they’re all in the incinerator*

        • Y. Knott

          You kid, but there is absolutely no way in hell I would be reading this utter crapfest of a strip if it weren’t for the people on this site.

          Can you imagine watching “Manos: The Hands Of Fate” day after day after day without it being MST3K’d? Nope. Similarly, I read FW only so I can get the context for this site’s consistently funny commentary on it. And SoSF has never let me down!

  16. KMD

    A small part of me wonders if this is going to end with the janitor calling Summer “Ms. Anderson'” only to realize he isn’t talking to Sherwood Anderson and he got Winseburg, Ohio confused with Westview., making this season finale even more pointless than it already is.

  17. Paul Jones

    Watch this: he made sure the lab screwed up Lisa’s test results so she could conceive Summer.

  18. robertodobbs

    So I guess FW has solved the age old philosophical debate between free will and determinism. Kind of.

    • The Duck of Death

      Ha-HA! But what if a Super-Custodian had to “nudge” Harley into nudging Susan et al? And what if a Mega-Custodian had to nudge the Super-Custodian into nudging Harley?

      And what of the Giga-Custodian who nudged the Mega-Custodian? Who nudged him?

      In short, who nudges the nudgers?

  19. The Duck of Death

    Post title today is magnifique. Oh, how I’m gonna miss these.

  20. I’ll give Batiuk this: he has the ability to make his stories more and more terrible and imbecilic, so that “It can’t get any worse than this” becomes irrelevant.

  21. The Duck of Death

    You know what would’ve worked really well with this theme AND been seasonally appropriate? An “It’s a Wonderful Life” riff, with Funky bemoaning his age and the closure of Montoni’s, and wondering what it’s all amounted to in the end. Cue “clip show” of all the events Funky’s life impacted (ie, every major event in Westview).

    Dec. 31, last strip: Entire core gang gathers together, sings “Auld Lang Syne.”

    That would’ve shown some respect for his own work and for his fans.

    Is it that Batty can’t think of these simple types of narrative structures, or is he purposefully making this a ghastly train wreck? I sincerely don’t know at this point.

  22. ComicTrek

    *Rant.* Before this thing ends, I need to know: if Les was the “nerdy nice guy” of the strip, WHY are extra steps always taken to make him the most egotistical, conceited, whiny, horrible prig of a person as POSSIBLE? This Act III version of him is supposed to be the one we love most – because he’s “filled with great melancholy” or whatever. But the “flashback” redraws almost always give him a VERY repellent attitude that he never showed during the original! And we’re supposed to like him better for it???

    I appreciate that the two strips are shown for comparison. In the first one, Les is just talking. Normal facial expression. A bit of hesitation in his words, as if he isn’t too confident talking to Lisa. Fine. In the new one, we have … THAT. Does this make Les look any better of a guy now compared to back then? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

    Show one thing while meaning another; that’s the strip in a nutshell!

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Les is a professional Nice Guy. He goes around doing extravagant, unwanted favors for women, and expects to be repaid in romance and sex. It doesn’t matter how much of a jerk he really is; he’s a Nice Guy!

      Tom Batiuk never got the memo that this approach never worked, and that people now recognize it for the cynical, hostile tactic it is. So it still works in Funky Winkerbean, but nowhere else. This is the center of Les’ “nice”-ness, and Batiuk thinks it’s all he needs. Ditto for other “nice” characters like Pete.

    • The Duck of Death

      It’s really odd how different people can interpret different characters. I agree 100% that every time we see Les, whether it’s been in the regular narrative or in flashbacks, he’s incrementally more loathesome.

      But I recall a conversation with a friend about the American version of “The Office.” I said it was an interesting choice to have Jim, the key protagonist since he was essentially the closest thing to an audience stand-in, slowly morph into a “bad guy” — an driven, ambitious corporate type who cares more about work than any other part of his life. It’s as if “the office” somehow took over his soul.

      My friend was literally aghast. She asked if I was kidding. She said Jim was, and always remained, a good guy, and she had no idea what I was talking about. I don’t think she was “wrong” either; I think both interpretations are reasonable, but I felt so strongly about mine that it took me aback to see another attentive, analytical fan have exactly the opposite opinion.

      I don’t want to derail this into a discussion of “The Office” and who is “good” or “bad.” That show played a lot with moral ambiguity, while this strip is incapable of any such nuance.

      But I do wonder whether it’s just that see Les as the ultimate backpfeifengesicht. Do “normal” readers see him as a heroic everyman? Since those readers refuse to engage here, we’ll never know.

      • The Duck of Death

        ^ … just *us* that see Les…

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Batiuk doesn’t tolerate ambiguity. He will tell you exactly which characters you’re supposed to like, and the correct way to feel about them. And if you don’t see it that way, then you’re wrong, just like the 1960s Batman TV show was wrong.

      • Y. Knott

        Do “normal” readers see him as a heroic everyman?

        There are no such creatures. No-one with an IQ above room temperature reads this strip in its current incarnation and ‘likes’ it unironically.

        Funky Winkerbean is an exercise in cataloguing one very damaged man’s obsessions. The actual narrative is of interest to that one man, and to positively no-one else — not even the man he pays to draw it. But while the strip is a godawful mess over the long term, it’s merely devoid of interest or entertainment value of any kind when taken in short daily bursts. Which means “normal” readers who somehow stumble on Funky Winkerbean might look at it once or twice, shrug, and move on.

        The only people who follow the strip do so to:
        A) marvel at how consistently bad it is, in a multiplicity of ways, and
        B) see if they can do a long-distance diagnosis of just what the hell is mentally and psychologically wrong with the guy who draws it. (BJr6K’s autism theory keeps getting stronger, though I still believe that some form of early dementia is also in play.)

        This is all also true of Brooke McEldowney’s work. Except, of course, that Brooke draws all of his material himself.

        • Y. Knott

          What’s mentally wrong with the guy who writes it, not draws it.

          Although Chuck Ayers probably has some PTSD issues associated with having to deal with Tom B. for years and years.

      • Andrew

        Arguably I can see how Les can still be seen as a more amicable everyman, or at least as far as how Bautik intended him to be written. Guy meets a girl who is a lottery winner of bad luck, while also having a lot of misfortune himself, taking ages to finally get himself and his crush around the idea that they’re in love and want to marry (with the whole cross-Europe adventure to confirm a proposal standing out as very much something a romantic comedy would come up with), and just as he manages it, cancer comes in and robs them of a happy life together. From there he manages to raise their daughter on his own, finds new love, eventually gets closure as he writes down his story, and slowly the world shows sympathy on him as his story is noticed and embraced, which he slowly accepts with the whole Hollywood process.

        I’d argue there’s a decent, likable story with Les’s life. Such a misfortune with romance can be done well, and I particularly like the idea of “very personal tragic memoir being run through the wringer by meddling executives in the literature and movie world”. The problem is that, obviously, the writing is bungled with a melodramatic handling that leaves things comparable to soap operas and has a habit of giving Les way more lenience or emphasis than he really deserves (justification in punching Bull, focusing on him relative to Lisa’s side of the tragedies, being adored by and saving the life of a teenager crushing on him and proceeding to entertain her advances 10 years later as a romantic rival to a woman closer to his age). I’d argue it’s more tolerable in Act 2 as the snark-worthy bits are less emphasized and the storytelling is a little more novel (even if Le Chat Bleu is a very corny way to treat Writer’s Block of all things), plus at least Lisa’s (Cancer) Story, while I haven’t read it myself, I’m willing to give benefit of the doubt for doing a decent job with her struggle and getting enough of a good reception to have gotten that Pulitzer nomination (though of course shit like the hospital-files-mixup and the press statements that “SHE DIES IN A YEAR” demonstrates the heavyhanded intent behind it). It’s not perfect by any means, but back then it was more presentable.

        Act 3 Les is where everything falls apart, and I’m putting half the responsibility for the choices made for Ayer’s art. Giving Les such a punchable look for his 40s/60s appearance that makes every smirk look like a “I’m so smart lul” was the first misstep, with the directions of his behaviors not helping matters at all. His wry puns, Dr. Livingston jokes and exaggerated moping just sank his character’s reputation, and his righteousness about the treatment of Lisa’s story in published mediums was hammered in by ghost/imaginary Lisa hanging around as a faultless spirit to affirm his choices, “approve” her successor and for that one glorious moment where she literally called him from the afterlife to get off a doomed plane (before settling for saving the whole plane via bomb threat, otherwise they were all goners). A lot went wrong with the adapting of his story too. He was proved “right” with imagining the fate of the first “Lust for Lisa” production before it unfolded, making the in-universe books resemble the real collections down to the covers and prequel/sequel volumes was hard to not see as blatant product placement, and of course doing a movie “right” involved the pathos of a passionate insider, writing angst over creating the strip, and not being a box office it but somehow getting Oscar-tier cult following by the year’s end.

        And that fucking Oscar… I struggle to imagine a good scenario where a winner of the Best Actress Oscar gives her physical award to the (male) writer of the memoir that the movie she performed in. Maybe an award for the movie’s writing or directing, but an acting award is the actor’s achievement itself, it’s just too damn ridiculous to give a trophy with a woman’s name and achievement to a man who doesn’t know them personally beyond a work arrangement. That says way more as an epilogue to Lisa’s Story than “The Last Leaf” can attempt to artistically convey. Her story overstayed its welcome, and it’s only because we’re ending on her daughter becoming a literal messiah is it not going to be the most outlandish part of this 50 year saga.

    • hitorque

      Batiuk broke a literary/comedic rule: If one of your main characters is the archetypical “long-suffering lovable loser” like damn near everybody in the extended Funkyverse but especially Act 1 Lester, his victories in life must be extremely rare, random, small-scale and isolated… Andy Capp doesn’t ever win the lottery, Charlie Brown doesn’t become a superstar pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, Wile E. Coyote doesn’t ever get over on the Roadrunner, Squidward never actually quits his job at the Krusty Krab even though he clearly hates it, so on and so forth…
      If they occur, any major achievements or successes can only happen at the VERY END of that character’s storyline or when they’re getting written out so the reader can have some relief that the LSLL rides off into the sunset with a happy ending. The problem is (and Batiuk is not the first person to fall in love with their comic avatars) success is like a drug and the moment he allows Lester to taste just a bit of it, the floodgates open… First, the perpetually single virgin got the girl (as they always do in the Funkyverse)… Then he banks on his tragedy by becoming a bestselling national author… Then he keeps going back to the well by writing a Lisa’s Story sequel and prequel and the snowball keeps rolling downhill until the hottest actress in Hollywood is on his doorstep to personally deliver HIM the Academy Award SHE just won a couple weeks before…

      Unbridled success in the Funkyverse is cheap because no characters ever have to toil or sacrifice or even wait to get it… No hard work required; just showing up and giving an iota of basic effort… It’s like having a video game cheat code for life.

      So it’s almost like I can’t blame Lester and the others (i.e., Cindye) for being unbearable smug twats because Batiuk made them this way by giving them everything they ever wanted — He created this Frankenstein.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        They don’t even have to be a loser. Nobody wants to see characters get everything they want just handed to them. We want to see characters learn, grow, overcome challenges, and earn their happy ending. These things are anathema to Funky Winkerbean.

        And it’s happening again. Summer isn’t a writer, isn’t a recognizer of patterns, has no ability to finish anything, has done nothing but interview her dad’s friends about things she already knows, and hasn’t even started writing her book yet. But here’s a multi-dimensional time traveler telling her how he had to arrange her parents meeting, so she could be born and her book could re-define what it means to be human.

        This is why I don’t have much to say about this arc. How do you even make fun of this? This story captures all of Tom Batiuk’s worst traits as a writer, and takes them to a more ridiculous extreme than Ace Ventura could have pulled off. It mocks itself. But it’s still so understated it escapes mainstream notice. This is a bigger shitshow than Elizabeth marrying Anthony, but Batiuk will get away with it.

    • billytheskink

      The thing is, TB isn’t really taking any extra steps to make Les a whiny, egotistical shmuck. Les has ALWAYS been a shmuck (the very first FW strip ever has him essentially coveting Roland(a)’s copies of Playboy), he’s always had an inflated sense of self-worth. This makes for a pretty effective teenage character because teenagers are quite often shmucks with inflated senses of self-worth due to a combination of having a good amount of knowledge about life but such limited experience that they do not having a good grasp on things like consequences or perspective. Act I Les was often vain, rude, and not conscientious. We were able to laugh at his inability to climb that rope in the gym or his worries about tangling with Bull in large part because he was also the guy who copied Funky’s math homework and wouldn’t leave Livinia alone.

      Les in Act III is essentially the same guy as Les in high school. What TB did change, was how he framed Les’ behavior, starting with the Lisa pregnancy story. Les’ haplessness started being played less for laughs and more for sympathy, a trend that accelerated in Act II and transformed pretty much completely in Act III. Here’s a strip that is a great encapsulation of how TB frames Les’ behavior in Act III.

      While Les being irritating is part of the joke, the real butt of the joke is the airline. Look at the way his ranting is framed… his complaining is not regarded as unjustified, just something Cayla is kind of tired of hearing about. He’s not shown as being wrong, his attitude is not framed as inappropriate (even though it very much was, this flight was 100% FREE for him and Cayla). While we can easily see this behavior as ridiculous, by all indications of the writing he’s supposed to be the sane one, driven to rant only by the exaggerated nickel and diming of the greedy airline.

      • hitorque

        Perfectly illustrated… You think Lester was doing all this bitching and moaning when he went to climb Mount Kilimanjaro? Or the trip he took with St. Lisa to Paris? Or all those other trips he took with her to Manhattan? Or his national tours when he was shilling his books?

        Oh, but you see he’s 100% fine pulling this bullshit in front of Cayla without the slightest consideration for HER feelings or now this makes HER look in public on HER first trip to Hollywood (remember Lester was already in a pissy-shit mood before they left because Cayla had the audacity to want some new clothes to wear to her first Hollywood wrap party)… Yeah Batiuk, keep on trying to tell me this is a healthy marriage and Lester actually loves his “consolation prize”… FFS, only Lester Fucking Moore has enough toxic mopey anxiety and negative energy to turn an all-expenses-paid, first-class travel, 5-star hotel stay in Hollywood into someone forcing him at gunpoint to pass a gallstone… Nevermind the fact that Lester was, you know, THE AUTHOR AND MOTHERFUCKING CO-PRODUCER so he, you know, pretty much had a professional obligation to be there.

        And of course once the little two-hour finger food wrap party started Lester spent the entire time wishing he was anywhere else until Masone and the rest of the crew started kissing his ass and thanking him for his “inspiring presence” or some such nonsense… Because naturally everything has to be about HIM…

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          It’s also a great example of one of Act III’s core principles: No One Is Ever Ever Allowed To Question Les’ Behavior. Even when he badly needs to be told to grow up.

      • hitorque

        And it wouldn’t have been quite so bad if the “AIRLINES, AMIRITE!?!?” jokes weren’t so painfully outdated and unfunny…

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          They’re not realistic, and they don’t work as a joke either. They’re too wordy and pre-meditated, like Les spent the whole flight workshopping them. “They wouldn’t start the plane until the attendants took up a collection for a jet fuel surcharge!”

          Try that one on open mic night, Shecky. Takes waaaaaaaaaaay too long to get to the underwhelming punchline. “The pilot wouldn’t start the engine until we paid the fuel surcharge” is much better.

          • William Thompson

            “Cheap? The airline had a toll booth at the boarding gate! Cheap? The luggage carousel was an old merry-go-round! Cheap? The emergency survival instructions were a holy card with the Lord’s Prayer printed on the back! Cheap? The in-flight movie was a puppet show!”

  23. Perfect Tommy

    Janitor guy/Gary Seven isn’t going to explain how a small town history book unites humanity is he?
    If anybody needs me, I’ll be rolling rocks uphill.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      Does this mean that Le Chat Bleu is Isis?

      “Isis, oh, Isis, you’re a mystical child…”

  24. Maxine of Arc

    What the sam hill am I even reading anymore?

  25. Bob Baloney

    If Less and Lisa are outside in the flashback, what is the “Westview reunion” sign in the background hanging from?

    • The Duck of Death

      Well, obviously, the Custodian nudged the air molecules to move in such a way that the sign was held up by millions of tiny, coordinated gusts of wind.

  26. Y. Knott

    I like how the Custodian just flat out says “Tom Batiuk / Books” in his speech to what’s-her-name. I look forward to more characters in the days ahead just straight-ahead shilling for the complete Batiuk library.

    “And so then, that’s when this other thing happened. Tom Batuik / Books.”

    “Wow, that’s fascinating. Books Batiuk Books Batiuk Books.”

    “Batiuk Books Batiuk Batiuk Books Batiuk Books Books Batiuk Books Batiuk!”

    • be ware of eve hill

      Some comic creators embed the URL to their website in their comic strip. Others leave an email address for their fans to contact them.

      Batiuk could inform readers how to contact him on his shiny new Twitter account, but that’s not what he’s about.

      I doubt Batiuk makes a public appearance without a stack of his books with him. He wouldn’t mingle with the public at all if he didn’t think there was a chance to make a buck in it for himself.

  27. Courtesy ians’drunkenbeard:

  28. Lord Flatulence

    In today’s flashback, why are their clothes in color, but their faces are white? They look like mimes.