Greetings, Funkynauts! Banana Jr. 6000 here. In today’s strip, Summer asks the obvious question of whether Harley ever “nudged” her mind. It’s a valid question: he clearly has no qualms about nudging every person in town over the tiniest thing that might make Lisa hook up with Les faster. He’s basically a guardian angel for incels.
It reminds me of a moment in the first Men in Black movie, where Will Smith angrily asks Tommy Lee Jones if he ever used the memory-erasing “neuralizer” tool on him:
Agent “K” denies it, but we saw him do it earlier in the movie. It’s a fun little moment that fits the movie’s goofy tone, and underscores the MIB’s hilarious disregard for the safety of other human beings.
But fun and continuity have no place in Funky Winkerbean. No no no noooooo, Girl Les’ book about friggin’ Westview is of such grand importance that the time-traveling janitor couldn’t possibly influence it in any way! Because only Summer’s pure, uninfluenced mind could… do something, I guess. After 16 days of talking in a janitor’s office, we still don’t know why only Summer could write this book. This setup was dying to be a joke, like “yeah, I had to nudge your lazy ass out of going back for your 12th year at Kent State.” But like I said when this started, Summer is now officially a writer. Jokes at her expense are no longer permissible.
Then, Tom Batiuk tries to flashy-thing us all. He tries to handwave fifteen years of continuity problems with one panel of sci-fi mumbo-jumbo. Apparently, nudging (which is just influencing people) causes localized out-of-sync time bubbles (huh?), which means that Westview “sped ahead of other localities for a bit.” But now that Harley is sure Summer’s book will be written (something he has no more reason to be sure of then when he started), he’ll “see to it that the bubble is absorbed back into the timestream.”
And this man wonders why he never got hired to write comic books. This wouldn’t pass muster in the dopiest issue of Fantastic Four.
Yes, this is the only explanation we’re ever going to get for the massive timeline problems in the Funkyverse. Yes, “timestream” is one word. Yes, there is going to be a newspaper story where today’s strip will be described as “Batiuk deftly tied up loose ends.”
Here’s my choice for Great Moments in FW Arc Recap History: September 16-21, 2019: Linda Bushka spends a week opening an envelope.
Mind you, this was Funky Winkerbean‘s final “prestige arc”, about the death of Bull Bushka from football-induced CTE. A too-minor and yet too-major subplot was about Linda seeking payment under the NFL’s real-life settlement plan for CTE sufferers, without Bull ever knowing about it. It was never explained why she needed this money; we saw the Bushkas do things like travel long distance for health care they could have gotten locally. Nor was it spoken of again after this.
On top of that, it was a waste of a potentially good story. The NFL has been accused of dragging its feet about meeting its obligations to former players who were found to have CTE. And these stories were at a peak from 2018-19. Funky Winkerbean could have told a powerful story about how one man suffered, when the NFL failed to fulfill its promises. This is what Tom Batiuk did with it. He spent a week watching someone open their mail, then dropped it entirely. Then he had Linda say Bull wasn’t eligible because he was only on the practice squad, which (a) defeats the purpose of her applying for it in the first place, and (b) isn’t true.
Besides, everybody knows that receiving a letter for something you’ve applied for isn’t good news. Did she think there was going to be a check in there? Did Batiuk think he was building drama by revealing this obvious outcome so slowly, and then making it moot later in the story anyway? Abysmal. Just abysmal.
The CTE arc was an absolute disgrace. It played Bull’s dementia for laughs, killed him a way that made no sense, mocked him at his funeral, and then made it all about Les. Someday, when people are remembering Funky Winkerbean and what was so bad about it, this arc is going to be front and center. Tom Batiuk simply cannot write drama, or any realistic human characters or emotion. And this arc proves it. It’s aged badly in the three years since it happened, and it’s only going to get uglier.
This may be my last guest blog post, so I have some final thoughts about it all.
Since Funky Winkerbean announced its end, I haven’t had much to say about it. That’s because the strip is very loudly speaking for itself. The end of the strip came out of nowhere; most of us have concluded that it was not Batiuk’s decision or timeframe. Presented with only a few weeks to wrap up a 50-year comic strip, what does he do? He doubles down on all the worst aspects of Act III.
Another book publishing story. Another deification of Les by proxy. Another unnecessary character introduced. Another revisiting of that dumb space helmet. Another three weeks of needless exposition. Another plot ripped off from more competent works. Another comic book angle. Another tacky, demeaning usage of a real person in the story. Another clunky, pointless idiot plot. Another rat’s nest of loose ends, plot holes, and sloppy retcons. And above all else, another way to escalate Les and Lisa’s importance to the world. Apparently giving them an Oscar wasn’t nearly big enough.
If the current story is to be believed – that Summer’s amateur book about Westview will “create a science that allows us to recognize humanity as our nation”, to the point where interdimensional time travelers watch over her and make sure it was created – then Summer Moore is the most important person who ever lived. And despite that, she seems incidental to Harley’s story. He’s far more concerned with making sure Les and Lisa hook up, isn’t he?
So it ends up checking off two more boxes on the list of tired Act III tropes. It’s another phony female-empowerment story that’s really just Batiuk’s hateful sexism bubbling to the surface. And we all know Summer’s book is just a stand-in for Funky Winkerbean itself. We’re seeing how important Batiuk wishes it was, and/or thinks it should be. The strip’s last act was to indulge its author’s self-importance. I just wonder how any genuine fans, who probably wanted some kind of resolution or at least a few happy flashbacks, feel about how the strip ended.
I’m sad to see this community coming to an end, as it became a daily source of fun for me. I consider it an honor to have had a turn in the lead snarking chair. I thank TFH and ED for adding me to the team. And I thank the entire community for accepting me when I was a new and not-so-clever commenter. I hope I made everyone’s visits to this blog as bright as you made mine. This is one of the most knowledgeable and positive communities I’ve ever been involved with, and a shining example of how Bile Fascination can be a good thing.
I want to leave you with something that I found comforting, and you might too. It’s Episode 500 of the Dysfunctional Family Circus. The DFC was an early web feature with a simple premise: a blank Family Circus panel was displayed, and readers were invited to submit their own alternate captions. Which were hilarious, and not all in keeping with the family-friendly vibe of the original comic strip. As such, it was probably the only other community like this one that has ever existed: a long-running snark community devoted to a single newspaper comic.
Interestingly, creator Greg Galcik and cartoonist Bil Keane came to see each other’s points of view, and the party ended after the 500th such strip had been posted. A lot of fans wrote final captions that said goodbye, or celebrated what the DFC was, or talked about how much this silly community meant to them. A lot of them hit the same notes we have: the St. Elsewhere finale; variations on “it was all a dream”; ways to keep it going; retrospective haiku; jokes based on long-running memes. If I only have one thing left to say here, I will borrow this caption from DFC #500 (who borrowed it from Carol Burnett):
I’m so glad we had this time together, just to tell a joke or sing a song. Seems we just got started and before you know it, comes the time we have to say, “so long”.