We’re in the homestretch now, folks, and guess what? The last twenty weeks (or thereabouts)? Just a dream…MAYBE. “Interviews clogged her brain”…no, that was all the grit settling in your head while you slept, dingus.
The “it was all just a dream” trope is possible the hoariest, moldiest trope of them all, and if it was anyone else, I’d wonder how the writer in question could possibly live with the shame of having resorted to using it. But this is BatHam we’re talking about here, so, you know.
Great Moments In FW Arc Recap History
August 3-10, 2008
Summer apparently turns sixteen, attends a party at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where she spent the first weeks of her life, and watches a video made by Lisa. She learns about the horrors of cancer, PSA screening, and teen pregnancy in one take.
I don’t hate Summer based on recent history, oh my heavens no. It goes way, way back. I don’t even remember the one noted above, but they were all more or less like that. BatYam saw Summer as being the “anti-Les” as a teen…good at sports, confident, gritty…but with her mother’s wisdom and beatific insight, too. Very much like Lisa, but different than Les in every way. And it was pretty much the whole gag.
In a way, Summer is the perfect microcosm of Act III itself. He developed a premise with all kinds of possibilities…the Anti-Les with a heaping side of Lisa…then went absolutely nowhere with it. By the end of her early Act III run, she was a bland basketball nerd who’d mention Lisa a few times a year, and very little else. As always, the premise was just too ambitious for him, and he quietly let it die. After she appeared in 2013’s legendary Frankie bio-son date rape arc, she was barely even a background character until she reappeared this year. It’s almost like he suddenly remembered her, felt guilty, and wanted to make up for lost time. Lucky us.
132 responses to “But When We Wake It’s All Been Erased”
Folks, witness here, the greatest writing genius of all time has shown us a twist that has never been seen before in all of human history. I stand in line.
As an aside, Summer dreams that her book will usher in paradise? No ego on her, no, none at all.
Upvote for calling Batiuk out on Summer’s ego. Like father, like daughter. And we’re supposed to sympathize with her.
Three weeks on a dream sequence. What a nightmarish end to this strip
He actually wrote “WHOA!”, “it was just a dream”, and “or was it?” with a straight face. That might be his laziest writing ever. I mean, forget the “it was a dream” concept itself, which is lazy beyond belief. On just a straight writing level, man, that’s embarrassing.
A day late:
Work. Of. Art.
He can redeem this if tomorrow he has Les waking up and saying, “What a dream! I dreamed Summer was interviewing a Cosmic Janitor but it turned out she was dreaming!”
Then Crazy Harry wakes up, and next day Dinkle awakens confused, and so on, until on Dec 31 Act I chinless Lisa wakes up to reveal the last 50 years were all just an awful nightmare.
Upvote for a brilliant idea! It’s better that what we’ve gotten or are going to get.
What if the final strip shows it was all just a book written by Lisa?
I still think Summer’s “book about Westview” is an obvious stand-in for Funky Winkerbean itself. So a final strip explicitly declaring such wouldn’t surprise me at all.
She heads downstairs and there is her mom, Lisa, fixing her breakfast as usual
Great idea but (and I’m speaking also to my own comment above) I can’t see Batiuk undoing the Lisa dies arc.
I’d be happy if she went downstairs to find her stepmom and stepsister making breakfast. But, they would take the spotlight off of Les and Les, Jr. so that won’t happen.
Maybe she’ll find a Pulitzer waiting for her. Actually, it would be Bob Woodward’s Pulitzer but he’s given it her.
Beats finding Patrick Duffy in your shower.
“Dallas”-era Patrick Duffy or modern-day Patrick Duffy? In either case, you could do worse.
Not Bobby Ewing in the shower?
Colonel Mustard, in the conservatory, with an instrument as blunt as Batiuk’s creativity.
What was so crazy about that dream? She sat there, a typical Westview woman, and let a man take control of the conversation by deluging her with idiocies. It’s a sad thing when your dreams are as dull as your life.
Well, in that way she is obviously Batiuk’s dream woman. Maybe she’ll decide to write the history of Westview as a comic with the Timemop as a central character.
I guess I have no good reason to be shocked by this cop out, but I still kind of am. We spent two of this strip’s last five weeks on a dream sequence?!
TB is making EVERY SINGLE possible mistake here as he closes this thing out. It’s amazing. I’d say he’s trolling, but he’s trolled us before and it wasn’t like this.
Montoni’s is CLOSING! That affects the lives of, what, a dozen characters at least, most of them long-tenured lynchpins of this strip. I don’t want to see Les or Dinkle now or ever, but at least their appearances would be understandable. But no… TB decides to close this dumpster fire out by deploying Summer, who has not been the focus of a story arc of significant in close to a decade, and a time-traveling being masquerading as a high school janitor whose name none of us (the most devoted readers this strip has) would have remembered had he not been shoved in our face for 14 straight days. And all they do is talk… they talk about the most boring crap imaginable while hanging out in the janitor’s closet, occasionally flashing back to other moments of utter inaction. It was a batshit crazy idea deployed in a dreadfully boring way, but at least we could say it was batshit crazy. Now… now we can’t even say that! TB refused to commit to the last two weeks using a trope the ancient Sumerians thought was a bit played out.
“When the daylight came Enkibean got up and cried to Gilgashaft, ‘O my brother, such a dream I had last night. Tea, Berry, Blu and kingly Syndicate took counsel together, and Tea said to Syndicate, “Because they have killed the Bull of Bushka, and because they have killed Marysue who guarded the Sweet Water one of the two strips must die.”
As revealed to Utnapisttemoff.
Counsel, thou are not only wise but benevolent. For surely justice would allow the death of both strips as fair punishment for the acts of the past half-century.
Is it a Clockwork Orange saying “what’s it going to be then, eh?”
Or is it a Taxman saying “let me tell you how it will be”?
In the world according to Batiuk, it’s always one for you, nineteen for me.
And Summer will marry a lighthouse keeper and live by the side of the sea.
And give birth to Aquaman.
Say what you like about the King of the Seven Seas, he has appeared continuously in comics since his creation in 1941, a fact few others (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Arrow) can claim.
I date myself, but can’t resist:
Denny O’Neil wrote *Justice League of America* from 1968-70. In that time, he wrote out Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter, turned Snapper Carr into a super-traitor (that wasn’t a gay day…), added the Black Canary, gave the team a new headquarters and began injecting steady characterization into the series.
He used Aquaman in one story (his second), leaving it for Mike Friedrich to bring him back (his first).
they talk about the most boring crap —> May I humbly suggest they were talking about the second most boring crap? They did not talk about comics. At least they gave us something to work with her, and inspired our deep divers to come up with forgotten treasures.
Full agreement. Everything he’s done up to and including today is making an ironclad airtight case for why he should have been forced to retire years ago.
He has free reign including zero editorial oversight to do basically whatever he wants and this is what he chooses to make.
LOL I feel the same way. I shouldn’t be surprised, yet I am. It takes some balls to write “whoa, it was all just a crazy dream…or was it?” in ANY context aside from purely satirical comedy, which this is not. It’s an insulting affront to the intelligence of his readers, who he’s clearly indifferent about, at best.
And Summer. He brings back a one-time A-list character after a TEN YEAR absence, and the only thing we’ve learned about her is that she’s still in college, and she wants to write a book. That’s the sum total of her character development. He just picked up right where he left off, ten years later, like it isn’t deeply weird or anything. But it is, to a disturbing degree.
My guess: it was indeed a dream, it had nothing to do with anything and only existed so he could do that “custodian” gag, and now Summer will realize what her book should be about…mom, dad and how they were always meant for one another. The entire rest of the stupid strip will be forgotten faster than an old Klabichnik arc.
Where there Klabichnik arcs?
Literally the only one I can think of was in Act II, when he went crazy, lived in a cave, and desecrated a floating corpse.
Eh, he was definitely in a few. He was always like a two or three strip kind of character, like in a WHS-related garbage dump arc. I don’t recall him ever getting a proper arc to himself, though.
For my money, though, the true king of the garbage dump arcs was none other than Boy Lisa. For a while there, BatYam had no idea what to do with him, so he’d pop up and get a day or two to himself before they moved on. I recall it being a running gag, at least with me.
Are you kidding? There was a long story about Jim K being fooled into thinking aliens from outer space were attacking. Fooled by drops of paint on his telescope’s lens.
Oh, crap. Add telescopes to the list of things Batiuk doesn’t understand.
LOL drew a blank on that one. Funky history is just so weird.
Yeah, thats the arc I referenced earlier. Lasted like a whole month. But I don’t think we’ve gotten anything since.
Do you really want to know if it was a dream or not? Then just call Principal Nate and ask him if you stopped by the high school, checked in with him and spent six hours with the janitor.
It was all a dream… OR WAS IT??? Dun-dun-DUN!
Well… it kind of can’t be, can it? I mean, Batiuk DEFINITELY quietly erased the time gap between Funky and Crankshaft, and Timemop’s shenanigans were the only explanation he’s given us so far. And that cat definitely disappeared inside the Eliminator helmet; again, the only explanation so far was Timemop’s.
So if it was all a dream, then Batiuk will either have to completely ignore problems that he just went through the trouble of pointing out to us (and which we probably would have just dismissed as his usual sloppy continuity), or he’ll need to put forth alternate explanations, which renders the past two weeks even more pointless.
I guess it all comes down to: is Batiuk just being completely lazy, or is he outright incompetent at it’s called writing?
Dumbasses Advocate here….
He might be going for a ‘The Santa Clause’ situation. Where having a character know for a fact that there are time travelling janitors, (even if true,) doesn’t work with the logic of the rest of the world (time travelling janitors are the unseen magic) So the magic beings put them to sleep and to bed to wake up thinking it was a dream. Like Tim Allen falling asleep at the North Pole and waking up back at home.
To bring back BJ6K’s post, Harley flashy-thinged her.
The entire time janitor was the dumbest thing ever, and he shouldn’t have done it. But having Summer BELIEVE in time janitors and go on with her life KNOWING about time janitors…that would be worse. Somehow. Maybe.
It’d be another sack of wet catshit on the dumpster fire at least.
That’s exactly the problem with this “dream”: how plausible it is in this world. That the useless Summer would somehow redefine humanity by writing an amateur book about Westview just because she’s the spawn of Les and (her name be praised) Lisa, and then hear about it from a time-traveling high school janitor, was 100% believable. There was never any reason to question it.
If this was a dream, why didn’t it have any dream-like qualities? You’ve woken up from vivid dreams, pondered them, and realized something like “man, I should have known that was a dream. My dad was in it, and he died 20 years ago.” But your dreaming brain doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t notice out-of-place things like you normally would.
Good writers (i.e., not Tom Batiuk) will hint when they’re using a dream sequence. Calvin and Hobbes is very clear about which events are happening in Calvin’s imagination, and which ones we’re supposed to interpret literally. It usually juxtaposes the two for comic effect.
Funky Winkerbean makes no difference between what’s exaggerated and what we’re supposed to take literally. The problem permeates the strip. The humor has the same problem: there’s no difference between the jokes we’re supposed to groan at with the characters, and the ones that are supposed to win Pulitzers. The drama has the same problem: Les still mourning his wife 15 years after she died is given the same weight as if she had died 5 minutes ago.
Or worse, it just plain gets them backwards. Petty problems are treated with deadly seriousness, and vice versa.
“Hello, Principal Nate? It’s Summer Moore, class of 2012.”
“Oh Summer, how are you? So how are things going with you these days?”
“Quick question. Was I there yesterday, hanging out with the janitor for a really long time?”
“Let me check my log book. Hmmmm, nope, there’s nothing in the log book that specifically indicates that you were here yesterday.”
“OK, just wanted to make sure.”
“Anytime, Summer, it’s what I do.”
“Okay, if you’re sure…because I have a distinct memory of standing outside your clearly labeled office shaking your hand sometime…oh maybe in late November”
“I checked with Harley, and he said, quote, ‘I didn’t meet with the Divine Prophet Summer Moore, and neither did you, nudge nudge’. So I guess you must be mistaken.”
I would love to see how Batiuk phrased the question. “Hi, Principal Nate? Yesterday, I was so distraught that my mom died that I can’t remember what I did. Do you?”
It’s happening gang, we’re going all-out “Dallas” in the final months of Funky Winnkerbean! Place your bets now on if Summer finds her mom, Bull or John Darling in the shower in the next few days! Bautik just can’t let temporal wackiness remain interrupted in a universe where an elderly driver regularly sends grills into orbit with his barbeque explosions, honestly!
Also, though I doubt I was reading Funky back in the day (2008 I was still in middle school building Legos for entertainment), I feel I have vague memories of Summer’s Sweet 16 Hospital Party, and it’s definitely the lamest thing you can think of even if there’s “sentimental value”. Reminds me how regular snarker elsewhere David M. Willis of the Walkyverse webcomics and “Funky Cancercancer” from the Act 2 heyday has mentioned the outstanding Funky sighting that was a hospital ward pinning/framing strips from the “Summer is in intensive care after birth” arc, complete with Les fretting about having to plan a baby’s funeral. Truly the most touching thing to have in actual potential scene of medical emergency.
Summer finds her mom, Bull or John Darling in the shower —> Together at the same time? When Summer pulls back the shower curtain they shout, “The playground is open!”
Of course, it would take five days to get to that scene.
1. Summer tilts her head. Is that the shower? I thought dad was at a book signing.
2. She sticks her head outside the door. That sounds like the shower. But mom’s shopping in anticipation of the huge totalities from “Fifty Shades of Lisa.”
3. She opens the door and stares down the hallway. We see the empty hallway and the closed bathroom door.
4. She tentatively enters the hallway and has a flashback to the time she came him early and saw a naked Cayla storming out of the bathroom screaming at Les, “You promised not to call me Lisa anymore!”
5. She opens the bathroom door and we see steam rising above the shower curtain.
6. Summer pulls back the curtain. “The playground is open!”
Sunday: A comic book cover of the Atomix Aquaman rip-off.
*totalities? Royalties. Not sure what I did to get that.
Sigh. I am to typing what Batiuk is to storytelling. You can usually figure out what is meant but you worry for the guy’s mental facilities…
Why am I thinking “we all float down here”?
Words for the wise never come from Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
Summer is 🔥
Back in 2008, Batiuk was still riding the crest of his “Lisa’s Story” euphoria and taking victory laps all over the place, so an arc about premature babies, cancer, and death was right in his wheelhouse. The formula worked once before, so he just kept doing it.
Hey, small world! Me, too! But because I was so naive, I felt sorry for Tom Batiuk and wanted to praise the strip.
BOY, how wrong I was…
You were in middle school in 2008?!?!
And I thought I was young around here. To quote Cindy, ‘I have shoes younger than you.’
Yeah. As it happens I was sporadically checking the funny pages those years in particular, inspired by Calvin & Hobbes and Peanuts books to see what the “newest” comics were up to. I distinctly recall seeing the strips of Lisa’s death and the aftermath, finding it weird but I guess not too remarkable, all things considered. Mark Trail, 3G & Mary Worth already told me there were more soap-opera style strips, the only thing that made Funky stand out was retaining the cartoony artystle (and also seeing the “sneak preview” bearded jerkass Act 3 Les on a therapy couch retroactively telling the “current” events of spreading Lisa’s ashes and whatnot)
FWIW when my first comment said I wasn’t reading Funky at the time, what I meant to say I wasn’t sticking regularly to it, just one of many strips I was looking at in the paper day-to-day.
If it weren’t for this website and the joy of commenting, how many of us would read Funky Winkerbean on a daily basis? Without a court order?
Are “birthday parties at the Neo-Natal ICU” a real thing? Because they sound horrible. Who on earth would want to relive that? Being a preemie doesn’t have to be a defining trait in your life. But leave it to Funky Winkerbean to make it one.
I think the point was to show parents and nurses of preemies at the time that the kids can grow up just fine.
Well, fuck you too, Tom.
I just love how this one comment has gotten so many upvotes. BJ6K, you are the voice of Generation SoSF- saying out loud what we’re all thinking.
“Just” a dream? I don’t think so. It was Summer Moore’s subconscious spurring her on to write the most important book ever, an oral history of Westview, Ohio, that through the power of behavior-patterned algorithms will create the Human Nation!!! Huzzah!
He’s just throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks, isn’t he?
I think all of this adds support to the theory that the end of the FW strip was unplanned. I’m definitely leaning toward the idea that Ayers gave his retirement notice, that TomBa couldn’t find a replacement and that King Features killed the strip. It could also explain the switch of syndicates. TomBa could have told them that if they were ending FW, he would take Crankshaft elsewhere.
“Tom, we’ve decided that with Chuck retiring, Funky Winkerbean should come to a close.”
“If you do that, I’m taking Crankshaft to another syndicate!”
“REALLY? Oh, uh… no Tom don’t do that anything but that I guess we’ll just have to live without Shankcraft sorry to see you go no take backs bye.”
FW and Crankshaft would get renewed on an annual basis. Regular as clockwork, in around mid-September, the syndicate would extend their agreement with Batom to license the distribution of the strips for another year, both starting January 1 of the new year.
Tom was expecting everything to continue along this path. There was no “victory lap” for his 50th and final year; no mention of winding the strip down in his ComicCon interview. Because until sometime in September of this year, the thought of ending the strip didn’t exist.
But this September, when the renewal notice came, it was for a lot less money. “Sorry, Tom, but times are tight, the comic strips aren’t making much revenue, and we have to cut back. This is the new figure for Crankshaft and for Funky. Take it or leave it.”
In terms of the FW renewal, it’s a strip that has fewer subscribers, and the money on offer was much less. In fact, the amount of money on offer wouldn’t be enough to allow Batiuk to pay Ayers for his work, unless Ayers took a substantial cut. And Ayers — who tried to leave FW a few years ago but got pulled back in — told Batiuk that he wasn’t going to work for that low a dollar figure. It was time for him to retire.
Batiuk looked around for a replacement for Chuck, but quickly found that no-one was willing to work for the absurdly low dollar figure Batiuk could now afford to pay — especially not on a property with zero profile and no storytelling merit. And no chance of those things changing, no matter HOW good the artwork.
In a fit of pique, Batiuk then shopped around both properties to other syndicates … but nobody wanted FW. It was carried in fewer papers, and wasn’t worth bothering with (at least not at the price that Batiuk needed to set in order to pay for an artist to draw it.) Crankshaft, however, still had enough subscribers to make a modest profit, so it got a bite.
Not wanting to stay with the King Syndicate, who he resented for lowering their dollar figure, he jumped to Andrews/McMeel. Okay, so they only wanted Crankshaft, but at least the dollar figure they offered was marginally preferable to King. And, hey, he’ll show those jerks at King. He’ll put all his FW characters in Crankshaft! Ha! Easy! And it’ll be twice as successful now! Just wait and see!
Batiuk could then move his property to Andrews/McMeel, and blame the demise of FW on Chuck’s retirement (to save face). The only thing left to do was to craft those final few weeks of FW strips.
So the frame of mind in which he’s now working is one of feeling betrayed; of not wanting King Features to benefit from his ‘best’ work (a relative term, of course); and of just wanting to get this thing over with.
The syndicate essentially pulled the plug. So as with John Darling, the ending of Funky Winkerbean is a giant middle finger to the syndicate. Readers who feel offended (or puzzled, or bemused) by the current arc are merely collateral damage — Batiuk’s real enemies are those mean syndicate poopyheads who don’t appreciate his genius.
Anyone see any issues in this theory that need refining?
Anyone see any issues in this theory that need refining? —> I do Knott.
Does this mean we can expect to see Les doing book readings at Dale Evans in C-ville?
Your theory is a good one, but here is mine.
Sometime midway through last year, Chuck comes to Batiuk and tells him that he came out of retirement as a favor to an old friend back in 2018 when Burchett bailed, but now he is pushing 80 and is really going to retire for serious this time no kidding.
Batiuk goes to the King Features, but they are completely unwilling to help him look for a new replacement, nor are they willing to offer a new artist Batiuk might ask more than whatever pittance they were paying Ayers.
Batiuk begins moving some things around in case the strip will have to end with Chuck’s retirement. The remnants of moved or deleted plots can be seen in weird Sunday strips (which take longer and are worked on sooner) that seem disconnected from their surroundings, like Apple Ann in New York, the Octopus Prime commissioned cover that had no lead in week, and the complete disappearance of the St Spires choir for most of 2022 save for a Sunday Strip.
He also makes some moves to align the timelines between strips, but without making an announcement, in case he is able to find another artist. He wraps up a couple loose ends by remembering to marry Corey and Rocky finally. He does a lot of retrospective stuff that could be read as a 50th celebration OR a prep for the ending depending on his artist search.
Maybe he finds some artists willing, but only if they would be paid more. Kings Features refused, and this cools their relationship. Kings Features doesn’t make a fuss about the 50th due to the bad blood. But was still trying to tempt him to keep Crankshaft in the fold with the brand new MERCH STORE!
I do not buy that Kings Features would not care about Crankshaft at all. I mean, LOOK at their list of offerings. You’re telling me more papers carry Tina’s Groove than Crankshaft?
Batiuk talks to Dan Davis. Davis does not want to take on another strip nor does he want to end the more popular Crankshaft to switch to Batiuk’s pet project, but agrees to integrate some characters from FW if the strip is ended. He also mentions how much better Andrews McMeel Syndicate are to him while he works on ‘Garfield’.
Batiuk cannot find a new artist, even after pulling strings to get on Comic-Con to network and get some exposure. Finally, he is resigned. He commissions the final Wayback Wendy cover.
And then, yes, like you hypothesized Y Knott. He decides to troll Kings Features by jumping ship with Crankshaft as punishment for not helping him save his dying strip. And he decides to double flip them the birds by spending three weeks indulging in the kind of comic book, sci fi, nostalgic, ego stroking wankery he loves so much because who the f**k even cares any more.
I like your theory. It fits all of the facts and also is consistent with his observed behavior over time.
Yeah, but Tina’s Groove is actually good.
Wait… they still print Tina’s Groove?
I think it’s in repeats. Today’s offering has a 2007 copyright date between two panels.
I think you nailed it.
“So the frame of mind in which he’s now working is one of feeling betrayed; of not wanting King Features to benefit from his ‘best’ work (a relative term, of course)”
1. It’s funny to think that TB has been holding back his best work. I do agree with previous CBH comments that Crankshaft has been better written lately. But only in regards to CS having punchlines. (Crowds lining up to see soused Santa sleeping with cats was well done.) with 1 or 2 exceptions, we have rarely seen any best work from TB on FW.
2. Back in 1970, Marvel’s Jack Kirby decided to jump to DC. He stated that he was holding back his best work. Kirby was so good, I doubt the reader could tell any difference. That is until Kirby published at DC. Then we saw his 4th World epic, and Kirby making Jimmy Olsen must read again. Followed by Kamandi, Omac, and others.
3. Tom Batiuk is no Jack Kirby.
Batiuk is using Ayers’ retirement to obscure the fact that was basically fired.
TB has had no difficulty finding artists in the past. He has a whole other artist for Crankshaft, he had different ones in the past, and he’s hired comic book artists to draw his stupid Sunday covers. All these people have been very qualified.
“I couldn’t find an artist” is just a half-assed ego defense for why Funky Winkerbean had to die when Batiuk didn’t want it to.
I think the important thing to consider is: could Batiuk not find a new artist at all, or could he not find a new artist willing to work for the pay they would be offered? The comics artists he’s gotten to do those Sideways Sunday Strips probably got paid more for those than Ayers would for a normal Sunday, but being able to pay that much more for a one-off strip and being able to pay that much more for every strip would be a huge difference, one that Batiuk probably wouldn’t be able to pay, and the syndicate wouldn’t be willing to pay.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it turned out there were artists willing to take on the job (even if for a limited period of time while Batiuk found a permanent replacement), but Batiuk couldn’t arrange sufficient payment to make it worth their time.
To be fair, there’s no evidence that Batiuk is cheap. (Lazy, yes.) We also don’t know if it’s Batiuk’s job to pay the primary artist, or if the syndicate does it somehow. Perhaps Ayers has his own contract with them, which he could walk away from whenever he felt like. Which would make the “can’t find a new artist” claim even more dubious.
My understanding of a business deal like this would be that because Batom owns the property, they are merely licensing it to the syndicate for a set period of time to distribute to various newspapers and on-line sites. Therefore, Batom is responsible for hiring and paying any writers and artists it sees fit to create the material. This would be true for hiring a one-off Sunday strip artist, or for a gag writer, or for any combination of writers and artists that may be employed. The syndicate distributor would deal with a point person at Batom, and Batom would deal with the day-to-day details of how the strip is written and drawn, and who is responsible for doing so to an agreed-upon schedule.
For its part, the syndicate would have a set of defined editorial standards that Batom would have to meet with each strip (for instance, no material that’s defamatory, libelous or obscene; no reuse of material without explicit syndicate approval; no material that violates someone else’s copyright, etc.) Failure to meet these standards would result in a strip being withheld from publication. And because they could renew or drop a strip, the syndicate still has power over the long haul — if the strip doesn’t meet a certain threshold of client subscriptions, the syndicate can simply choose not to renew the distribution deal.
To that end, the syndicate has some power to give notes — because good notes that improve the quality of the strip can be mutually beneficial to the owner of the strip AND to the syndicate. (Ensuring the quality of the work remains strong thereby increases the likelihood that current client subscriptions will continue, and that new ones may be added.) But the creative direction of the work would ultimately lie with the owner of the strip, not the distributor. In other words, the syndicate can give notes on creative issues, but Batom wouldn’t have to take them. Note that Batom WOULD have to take notes on anything that arose out of legal concerns. But Batom could resist or refuse creative notes, knowing that the syndicate’s only real recourse would be their option to not renew a strip once the current contract expires.
So this would indicate to me that the responsibility for finding a new artist is entirely on Batom’s shoulders. The syndicate might be a resource for finding new people, but they wouldn’t ‘assign’ someone to the strip. After all, they don’t own the strip, they only distribute it to newspapers.
My guess is that either:
A) Chuck really did retire, and he was doing FW for a pittance as a favour for a friend. But finding anyone else to do it for the same pittance was impossible.
B) The syndicate lowered the amount they would pay Batom, or otherwise changed the set-up, so that Batom would be receiving less money for FW. Out of that money, Chuck Ayers had to be paid — and possibly the new syndicate amount was low enough that it would mean Batom would be creating FW at a loss, unless Chuck took a substantial pay cut. Chuck wasn’t interested in doing the comic for less money than he was currently receiving — and neither was anyone else.
With regard to B), above, the sudden appearance of the Crankshaft store lends credence to the idea that perhaps the syndicate was changing the contract. “Hey, here’s the new deal! The real money these days is in merch, not in newspapers. So we’ve had to lower your fee quite a bit to reflect this … you’ll get a much lower ‘newspaper reprint’ fee than you used to. Sorry! BUT, to make up for that, you’ll get a significant percentage of the sales from our on-line store! We’re gearing up a new Crankshaft store, and you’ll get $6 for the sale of each $36 hat. Pretty sweet, huh?”
Maybe Batiuk even bought into this for a couple of weeks. But when the Crankshaft store brought him absolutely no revenue, maybe he knew it was time….
It goes without saying: If you offer sufficient money, you will certainly find capable and qualified artists. That’s one of the several reasons why the “I couldn’t find another artist” excuse fails to pass muster.
You’d have to offer some pretty respectable scratch, given the short expected future life of a strip that’s 50 years old, drawn by a 75-year-old, and given the low quality and prestige of the work.
However, with professional artists as with everyone else, money talks and Pulitzer also-rans walk.
That makes sense.
A terrible writer writes terrible things, smiles and hits “Send.” Was this truly a surprise? “Have I truly become a monster?”
“Hey chef. What’s for dinner?”
“You did a swell job of roughin’ up that threat, HOUND.”
This morning you gave me a fake out dream sequence, a bare midriff, and an uncomfortable closeup all at the same time. I’d like to know what is going on here. as I am the last remaining reader. Can you hear me Mr. Batiuk…you’ve been acting very irrational lately…”
“FETCH ME A COMIC BOOK. A GOOD ONE. WITH THE FLASH.”
You know, it’s this kind of stuff I’ll miss the most.
Y’all have NO earthly idea how many times a daily SOSF reference to some completely unknown (to me at least) author or film or comedian or philosopher or satirist or historical event or comic book series or youtube channel or musical artist or webcomic or just a random bit of good old American pop culture I’ve instantly added to my bookmarks and/or sent me scrambling to the google gods or wikipedia to educate myself…
(How in the name of hell had I never heard of Firesign Theatre before SOSF?!)
Me too. Every day here was like a learning experience.
Maybe Summer takes her idea (dream or flashy-thinged residue) to Atomix Komix. Their creative well has run dry after four covers for the Elementals and now they can provide the artwork for “The Greatest Story Ever Told”
Mother: Thomas! Did you fall out of bed again?
Little Batty: O! Mother, I had such a dream! I was the creator of a most wonderful comic strip for 50 years, but no one would give me a Pulitzer and the Beady-eyed Nitpickers troubled me so!
Mother: No more rarebit for you before bedtime!
— From “Little Batty in Blunderland,” 1906
“Why did I eat that last, leftover slice of Montoni’s pizza? That crap always gave me weird nightmares.”
Unseen fourth panel: The sound of rhythmic tapping of many heavy clogs suddenly reverberates through the house
Honestly, from the expression on her face in panel one, I half-expected panel two Summer to turn her head and find Suzanne Pleshette in bed next to her.
“The “it was all just a dream” trope is possible the hoariest, moldiest trope of them all.”
Which is proven by this being the second time TomBat’s played this card this year, on top of at least two other times I can think of.
If he was planning on showing up his critics as a final star turn, all he managed to do is leave us all wanting less. Oh. Right. He’d have heard “Les.”
Are you serious??? Even if it was a dream (or not), how would she know – and have specific flashbacks – about things that happened THE WAY that they happened – if she wasn’t even there?
Identifying the nadir of Funky Winkerbean writing is like trying to calculate the square root of infinity: it can’t be done and is by definition a functionally meaningless task. And, yet, here we are with today’s strip.
What a gigantic middle finger this is. Tom Batiuk spent three weeks stupidly re-writing the strip’s 50-year history, and then says “psych!” like the obnoxious six-year-old he is.
But Batiuk can’t even commit to being non-committal. “It was all a dream… or was it?” I don’t know, Summer, aren’t you supposed to be telling me that? It’s something she could easily verify, as ED points out above. But I bet we’re going to spend a week – with only two more weeks left to go – working through it.
It’s as if he realized, looking back over the last 3 weeks’ of strips, that they were terrible and nonsensical, and rather than redoing them, decided to split the difference by suggesting that it might have been a dream, rather than committing one way or the other.
The thing that’s going to be really terrible about this revelation is that Summer’s not going to actually answer that question.
It’s not even good for a hackneyed “It Was All a Dream!” ending.
I have never had a dream where I sat in one place and listened to someone talk for hours on one topic. Have any of you?
And I’ve never woken up and seriously wondered whether what I’d just experienced was a dream or reality.
This trope can theoretically work (Bob Newhart stuck the landing of “Newhart” spectacularly, as JJ O’Malley alludes to above). But that ending was not a cop-out to explain away a train wreck of a show. And it was done with affection for the audience. In other words, exactly the opposite of how it’s being used here.
The idea of visions/dreams that weren’t real — or were they? has also been used successfully in “A Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” and countless other derivative works: Something apparently supernatural happens to the character and the character has an epiphany and changes radically almost overnight. These work because they propel the character forward in an emotionally satisfying way.
The first law of drama is that something has to happen. Someone has to change. Nothing and no one is changing or moving here. Not forward, not backward, not in a circle. Just static forever.
The only way this dream trope works is if it lasts one week, with Hardly mouthing bizarre, incoherent claims (which Batiuk can handle with ease on his flying trapeze). Then Summer wakes up. “I get it, Mr. Subconscious,” she grumbles. “I interviewed everyone in town. Now I have to make sense of their maunderings. Good luck with that!”
It would still be a pathetic failure of a story, but it would have sped us past the interviews and moved the story on to the next debacle.
People critique the cutaway gags on “Family Guy” (I enjoy them), but they serve a valuable purpose: Letting the writers use quick one-off gags that are funny enough to animate, but not narratively useful. I wish Batty had learned to employ something like them, instead of force-fitting one-off stupid ideas like “The Elementals” and “The Custodian” into canon.
OR… he could have stuck with the fun absurdist tone, in which computers and chairs could be sentient, pizzas could be played on a turntable, and a school locker could contain a multi-room condo.
Dead serious, po-faced award-baiting + absurdist ideas just go over like a lead (word) zeppelin.
I have to correct myself here, I guess — “The Custodian” isn’t canon. Or is it….?
(Several of us are expecting to find out that the Custodian used his Mop-Up Rays to convince Summer that it was a dream, when it was actually real. But even our worst fears aren’t usually as bad as what materializes…)
Is Zanzibar the Murder Chimp canon? Because right now I’d like to see him take aim at Summer. She looks shocked: “You aren’t for real!”
He speaks the last words she’ll ever hear: “Dream on!”
I can’t recall specifics of dates, but wasn’t there a FW strip or two where a Peanuts moment was illustrated to represent the mood of the scene, or am I mixing up with another comic?
Some years back, there was a panel in one of the Sunday strips that had a cutaway to Charlie Brown yelling “THAT”S IT!” to Lucy in her booth. What came before or after that panel is lost to memory.
There was also a panel of Charlie Brown getting bowled over by a pitch used to represent how Jinx Bushka felt pitching softball.
There one was where Linus shows up to say “oh no, I hoped for something good to happen!” Which gets the Great Pumpkin story 100% wrong. But, you, know, Tom Batiuk.
Sorry about the comments getting held up, folks. Damn torso chute.
I’m not surprised by the sheer terribleness of this ending (to the arc and to the strip).
I am surprised that Batty isn’t using his time to ooze some of his favorite characters over to Centerville so he can keep them alive there. Dinkle’s established in the church there, so that’s one down.
Wouldn’t you have expected him to have Comix Corner open up an annex there, or to have Atomic Komix move their office to the room above the Valentine?
And what of Les, author avatar extraordinaire? Couldn’t he get a part-time job teaching at Centerville High or something? Knowing how jealously Puff Batty guards his “valuable” characters, I’d expect him to be moving them around like chess pieces right about now, before Andrews-McMeel can tell him not to.
[Also, if any mods are reading: I have a comment stuck in moderation for some reason.]
Les has previously interacted with Lillian at book signings, so Batiuk already has an “excuse” for him to show up whenever he feels like it.
And, of course, Mason owns the Valentine, so he and Cindy can show up any time as well. All he has to do is hold another premiere there, and invite all his Westview friends.
Getting the FW cast to guest star in Crankshaft is a fairly trivial exercise. (Or would be, if Batiuk doesn’t insist on doing things in the most inane, nonsensical, convoluted manner possible.)
(Knowing Batiuk, we could probably even expect Susan Smith to show up to visit that nice bus driver who gave her a ride when her car ran out of gas ten years ago…)
I would say that the one cast member who will never appear in Crankshaft would be Funky Winkerbean himself. Batiuk’s loathing of him has been apparent for years, and he’s probably really miffed that his potentially award-winning strip has been saddled with his stupid name.
Funny thing is, he never stopped giving his characters silly names just like it. Jack Stropp and Les Moore and Harry Dinkle were carryovers from Act I, so he couldn’t just rename them. But he foisted Mason Jarre, Cliff Anger, Amicus Brief, Harley Davidson, and countless other post-Act I characters have been foisted on us.
Batiuk loves to act like he’s above certain lowbrow storytelling tropes. But he’s absolutely dependent on them.
Worse than dependent — proud. He’s obviously proud of these dumb names. He thinks they’re ever so droll.
(I pondered over “Cliff Anger” for a long time. I knew there had to be a “joke” in there somewhere because it was such an odd name, but what was it? He didn’t seem quick to anger… maybe the stereotype of the angry Commie? FINALLY I realized it was a play on “cliffhanger.” But “anger” and “hanger” don’t sound very similar to a native speaker of American English. They have totally different g sounds. That’s the kind of mistake you’d expect from a poorly programmed AI.
You know, like saying “solo car date” and “I stand in line.” Hey, waitaminit…)
1. I guessed this was going to happen after the outrageous “Lester goes back in time at his 40th reunion but it just turns out he had a cardiac event” storyline, the “Darrin gets shot trying to steal his super-special expensive sketch pens that he custom-ordered from Japan from a foreign cargo ship that was stuck in bureaucratic limbo, but he was only daydreaming” storyline, the “Mindy’s dad gets saved from the Wildfire that Ate L.A. by hiding out in a magical underground kingdom from some dumb movie” storyline and the “Lester thinks the Ghost of Blessed St. Lisa is regularly refilling the birdfeeder for years but it turns out it’s just the next-door neighbor” storyline and even the “Crazy Harold goes back to 1980 and plays some Defender” which was just earlier this year…
1a. Oh come on, when dude said Summer’s book about some Shitsburg in suburban Cleveland was going to change the course of humanity and usher in some kind of Roddenberryesque utopia, y’all had to know either she was dreaming, part of an elaborate prank, or the janitor was on ALL the hard drugs…
2. I’m so sick and tired of seeing this… Whoever the artist is, can he or she PLEASE learn what short hair on a young woman looks like?
3. “I think all these interviews I’ve been doing have been clogging my brain!” GOD DAMN IT TO HELL FUCK SHIT PISS TITS BALLS INTERVIEWS DON’T WORK THAT WAY!!
3a. So far Summer has I think talked to Harry+Donna, Dr. Funkenstoner had given her a tiny bit of Montoni’s history and she might have also interviewed the Big Dink… That’s all of *FOUR* people — People she’s already known all her life telling her things about her hometown she should have already known… Tell us more about how tired you are and how clogged your brain is, Summer?
3b. FFS when I was a general assignment beat reporter for the old Prince George’s Gazette, I might around a dozen interviews daily… And that was on a regular day(!)
Yeah really. She’s barely done anything. If you wanted to portray Summer as a screw-off doing the minimum amount of work on a pointless book just to skip college for a year and live at home for free, you wouldn’t portray her any much differently than Batiuk has.
Speaking of which: does Summer have her own room in Les’ house now? That doesn’t look like a dorm room, or a hasty setup for a guest.
I think the question should be, “Would Les Moore ever change anything in his house, or would he keep it exactly the way it was when Lisa was alive?”
Come to think, I bet Lisa has a room of her own, untouched and pristine.
And if we ever see it, we’ll learn she wasn’t cremated after all.
No, she’s in the fruit cellar, because, like Norman’s mother, she’s just not herself today.
Summer would know that Lisa’s shrine is not to be touched by anyone ever. Like Nigel Tufnel’s guitar.
1a) In fairness, while it’s not believable that Girl Les could write Bible II, it IS believable that Batiuk would write that plot. (I mean, Les’ terrible book got turned into a movie that completely bombed at the box office, yet somehow did well enough on streaming that it garnered a Best Actress Oscar (but no other awards). We don’t believe that such a thing could actually happen, but we can certainly believe Batiuk is oblivious enough to write it.)
Certainly, it all being part of an elaborate prank makes sense, but it could very well be that it’s Batiuk pranking the readers…
Summer needs to go see a chiropractor. No one her age should have trouble getting out of bed like that.
You mean 32?
Batiuk does really seem to be doing an amazing job of making sure absolutely nobody will miss his strip. It really does kind of remind me of a scenario where a new creative team is about to take over a comic or TV series, and the previous one decides to just ruin it all before the new people take over.
“It really does kind of remind me of a scenario where a new creative team is about to take over a comic or TV series, and the previous one decides to just ruin it all before the new people take over.”
I’m reminded of a story about Michael Piller, one of the producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was leaving at the end of a season, and he wrote the season finale: “The Best of Both Worlds, Part one.” If you’ve seen that, you know it has one of the greatest cliffhangers of all time.
Apparently, though, Piller had no idea how to resolve it, so it was kind of a naughty (but good natured) gift to the next team. “Let’s see ’em get out of that!”
Then they extended his contract, and he had to write part two.
Wow, I hadn’t heard that before. That would not have been a fun plot for a new team to have to resolve. 😛
“Is John de Lancie available for another guest shot? Problem solved!”
I am really baffled by this (for a lot of reasons). Batiuk’s been writing this thing for over five decades. Did he not have any idea how he wanted this to end? This is really the best he came up with? Even if he didn’t expect it to be ending now, you think he would’ve had at least a rough idea of how he would wrap up the strip. Something other than “Summer reappears for basically the first time in a decade to say she’s going to write a book and then dream about the school janitor”.
Not to be morbid, but if I were 75 and I had a comic strip that I believed to be a brilliant multigenerational study of an American small town and the families within, I would have a dead-man’s-switch ending prepared, out of respect to my own work.
I’m kinda shocked he apparently never even gave any thought to how to end FW, let alone prepared an emergency sequence of final strips.
It’s just weird. I really don’t get how you could spend so much time on something and not have a better ending in mind than this. Les dies and is reunited with Lisa. Les retires from teaching and Summer takes over his job. Funky sells Montoni’s to Cory and retires to Florida. Crazy Harry is revealed to be the post office bomber and blows up the entire town of Westview. Lisa is revealed to be alive and was disguised as the Pizza Monster this whole time. Or even no “ending” at all and just business as usual would’ve been better than this.
This really just seems like what happens when you realize you only have an hour to mail off your final strips ever and your mind is oversaturated in campy Silver Age comics and the extent of your humor now is just “custodian” wordplay.
For a split second, in P3, I thought Summertimeblues was pregnant. Now THAT would of been a development.
I thought it was a teen-age Les, still in high school and waking from a decades-spanning nightmare to face a gender identity crisis.
So help me, if Old Lisa walks into that room in tomorrow’s strip and says, “Did you sleep well, Girl Les, honey?,” I’ll…. I’ll….
I’ll sigh and say, “Yep, the man has no shame.” But then that’s what I said when I saw today’s strip.
The final installment will depict a young Batton Thomas at his drafting table in 1972 being visited by his wizened, time-traveling self, arriving to talk him into naming his new strip “Summer, Moore or Les”.
“Got to be easier to win a Pullet Surprise with a great name like that!” thinks the geezer.
“23 skidoo! That title is the bees knees, old-timer!” responds young Batton, because, you know, time bubbles.
Serious question, though – is Summer’s name supposed to be wordplay on “some more”? Asking for a friend.
I don’t know. It would make sense. In universe it’s just the season she was born. Summer comes before THE FALL (cancer)
And if she was born between June 22 – July 22, well….
They never thought about giving their baby a name!? I know anecdotally of a couple who wanted to take their baby home first to get a sense of what its name should be (when the childbirth class was explaining that’s not how things work). Some things need to be thought out beforehand.
The interviews I’ve been doing are clogging my brain … or are they?