Too Much to Handel

“Hey, Phil. Chester said he’d be making an announcement today about a ‘Christmas surprise’ he has for us. Whaddaya think it could be?”

“‘Christmas surprise,’ huh? Tell ya what, Flash: it had best be a bonus or a raise…I’m so broke I’m thinking about going back to working kids’ birthday parties! I can’t even sell off any of my old Batom covers because I “bequeathed” them all to that ingrate sonofabitch Darin!”

“Not so loud, Phil, he’s right behind you! Well, maybe with that old battleax Ruby retiring, that’ll free up some payroll. I know we hardly do any real work around here, but you and I are a couple of Silver Age legends and deserve to get paid accordingly. Look! Hagglemore’s got his coat on. Hope he’s letting us out of here early. Not only is it Christmas Eve, it’s snowing like a mother–”

Chester: “Your attention please, ladies and gentlemen…”



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

127 responses to “Too Much to Handel

  1. The Duck of Death

    Montoni’s apparently bought back everything that they sold at their bankruptcy auction and de-bankruptcied themselves; now Ruby, whom we saw walking out the door forever, has apparently walked back in. Guess she just couldn’t do without those sweet perks like the Shackleton Expedition to the altekacker Messiah.

    • Cheesy-kun

      Alte kacker? I’m in awe, Duck. (Again.) Your knowledge is wide and deep. SoSF- the Internet’s home of smart snark with a Yiddish accent.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      Shackleton came within ninety-seven miles of the South Pole and then turned back.

      When his wife asked him why, he said: “I thought you would prefer a live donkey to a dead lion.”

      This is starting to feel like Scott’s Last Expedition, which resulted in a monument quoting Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” (“to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”) only the poetry is more the sentimental doggerel given to Captain Oates, who walked out into a blizzard because he was a drain on his comrades and whose sacrifice still didn’t save them:

      Spake this knightly English soldier
      (Put the words to song or rhyme)
      I am going out, my comrades,
      And I may be some time….

      Is it just me, or does Roald Amundsen, who led the first party to reach the South Pole (and was the first cartoonist to age his characters…oops, sorry, he didn’t do that!), look like Dr. Seuss’s Grinch?

      “You’re a mean one, Mr. Amundsen, you didn’t prefer Scott to Shackleton…”

      • Cheesy-kun

        Students, take your seats. The outstanding Prof Sparrow has entered the classroom. (Cheesy-kun sits in the front row polishing an apple.)

  2. The Dreamer

    why is Ruby there when she retired over a month ago?

    • Y. Knott

      Regression to the mean. No matter what plot elements get thrown at them, Act III Funky Winkerbean characters will forever regress to whatever state they were in when Batiuk previously wrote about them.

  3. William Thompson

    Batiuk has shown us an incredible variety of creations in the past few days: a basic clown car, two clown delivery cars, a clown bus following a clown plow and now a clown limo (which bears a delightful resemblance to a clown hearse). Batiuk has exceeded himself!

    • RudimentharyLathe?

      Having just come out of a nine-day blizzard and it’s still subzero temps (AND continued closure of several roads including the Interstate); this whole Cutesy Caravan to the Christmas Concert is royally pissing me off. Quarter-inch from Reality, my ass 😡

      • William Thompson

        Batiuk has missed all the delights that make living in a Winter Wonderland such a joy. Shoveling plowed-up snow from the driveway entrance is one of them. It doesn’t turn solid; it’s a mix of ice and slush, and it takes more-or-less forever to move it with a shovel (a regular shovel, unless you’ve got muscles like King Kong). And driving on black ice? That’s a fate I wouldn’t wish on Les Moore. Well, not twice.

      • sorialpromise

        News Report: 50 car crash in Ohio.
        Horrific conditions.
        This is why inexperienced writers don’t joke about getting out in bad weather for stupid reasons.

  4. Andrew

    Oh for fuck’s sake, would comic nerds/writers seriously give THAT much of a shit for church music, of all things? Half of these people have no attachment to the Westview/Centerview area besides Montoni’s (another wasted story idea: these old farts do comic art fundraisers to try and save the business or something, turn Tony Montoni into some cheesy superhero or whatever), I am utterly unable to believe this would be a venue they’d want into. Except Baton Thomas of course, obviously he’d love anything to do with this world.

    • Andrew

      Granted, I suppose I can see the line of “logic” to some degree. Mindy is directly from Crankshaft and probably has hometown bias. Pete and Boy Lisa may be influenced by a lifetime of Dinkle propoganda, Chester apparently was a boy in whatever area Crankshaft was a young dad in during his comic-stealing days, and the old comic veterans are seniors who are probably religious and would go for anything under that banner. But I’d still call bull on them being moved enough by those motives to be eager to see such a performance in the middle of a snowstorm.

      • Maxine of Arc

        I said before that I’d be willing to buy all this as a nice enough way to get everyone in one cozy place for a sendoff… so why’d he have to put this stupid snowstorm in? I’m not from Ahia, but I am from New England, where we know from snowstorms. It’s dangerous to drive in the snow, Westview! If you don’t absolutely have to be someplace, you’re not gonna go! But TB couldn’t be satisfied with a picturesque light snow shower, it has to be all “follow that plow!”

        • William Thompson

          And didn’t it occur to Chester that, just maybe, everyone might already have plans for Christmas Eve? Midnight Mass, an evening at home with the family, dinner at a Chinese restaurant? Or is it a Westview tradition to ruin everyone’s plans with a last minute surprise?

          By the way, isn’t AK located in Akron, or Cincinatti, or whatever big city is near Westview? The group might be in for a long, slow drive both ways.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      What name would Tony use in his super-heroic exploits?

      General Garlic? Major Mozzarella? Archduke Anchovy?

  5. Epicus Doomus

    I won’t miss the Atomik Komix gang, I can tell you that with total confidence. Wheezy windbag Flash, irksome curmudgeon Phil, the always-tedious Boy Lisa (and that wife and kid of his), Mopey Pete and his stupid girlfriend (at least we dodged another wedding arc), the recently retired Ruby, the always-inexplicable Batton, and last but not least, Chester, the rich one. What a profoundly un-likeable group. Comic books were like the Lisa’s cancer of Act III. He started with one specific comic book, then the whole thing metastasized into something unstoppable and hideous, until the strip just withered away. One day young Funky is buying a retconned comic book, and next thing you know, ten years have gone by and you’re reading a three week arc about Flash being all out of ideas, again. It was pretty sad watching it all unfold.

    • sorialpromise

      I know you are a tough sell. You say there is no way you are going to follow Crankshaft. Now you say that you won’t miss the Atomik Komix gang. Have I got a deal for you! How about we entice you with the Atomik Komix Gang making regular appearances in Crankshaft at their local diner. Maybe Ruby enjoys Lena’s food. (I hope I got that name right!) or possibly Ed (not ED!) finds he enjoys talking about old comics, and they teach him to letter or even better: color! Oh, ED, the possibilities are endless. Have I won you over?
      [I sense several responses, some even printable]

      • Epicus Doomus

        To me, the thing that always stood out about BatNard’s fantastical comic book sub-universes was how poorly-developed and dull they were. He had a whole bunch of reasonable comic book premises…Starbuck Jones, Batom Comics, Rip Tide-Scuba Cop, Atomik Komix, and so forth…but none of them ever amounted to anything more than boring characters uttering boring dialog in boring settings. And you can’t help but wonder how it’s possible to have a vivid AND inept sense of imagination at the same time. Like how he’d create some far-out fictional comic book character, then do a Sunday cover where they were just standing in front of some generic flaming wreckage. There’s a whole weird dichotomy thing going on with Batiuk, always has been, too.

        • sorialpromise

          Yep. Like the climate damage cover where the problem seemed more like heavy littering. The only cover I thought he did any good on, was one where 4 bad guys were battling 4 good guys. That was mainly because the artist kinda copied an Avengers cover.

          • Green Luthor

            Plus, one of the characters was named “Hadron”, in a comic that showed minimal proofreading. Gonna miss that guy, he had such potential.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          I had no interest in comic books before reading FW, now I can’t stand them. The atomic comix gang are the worst characters ever, save for Adeela.

          I can’t wait to see how Batty ruins Crankshaft.

      • Now more than ever, I really hope Batdick doesn’t read this blog.

    • Hannibal's Lectern

      To me, the Batom and AtomiKKK comic arcs represent either an incredible missed opportunity of proof that Batiuk’s ambitions far exceeded his storytelling ability.

      I’ve maintained since I first encountered these strips that he was trying for something “meta,” a “behind the scenes at a comic book company” story along the lines of “The Front Page” or “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”

      Now, I can imagine a successful and engaging comic strip entirely devoted to the goings-on in a comic book company office. And yes, I know, the “Marvel Comics Bullpen” upon which Batiuk based AK and Batom never actually existed. That does not necessarily preclude a successful strip based on the premise that it did; it just makes the job of world-building that much harder. And to keep such a fictional world functioning, to keep readers up-to-date and maintain suspension of disbelief, you can’t make this just one more ball to juggle, a thing to be visited for five or six three-week arcs each year in between stories about the latest Dead St. Lisa Project and band turkeys.

      So that’s one missed opportunity.

      Another missed opportunity is in the comics themselves. Especially when he first seemed to get on this pony, back in the “Starbuck Jones” days, I could believe he actually had some stories in his head involving these characters. I wanted to see the stories behind those Sideways Sunday covers. Eventually I came to realize that there were no stories back there, just a collection of standard scenes: Starbuck saves Jupiter Boobs from an alien, something gets blown up, spaceships zoom around, all with no story to connect them. The AK characters, in contrast, have always struck me as just window-dressing, props to justify the preaching about “dammit climbage” or how women were (supposedly) treated in the Bad Old Days (and again, thanks to the SoSF crew for researching and largely debunking the cliches). And, of course, to justify the endless series of repetitive covers.

      Batiuk reminds me a lot of Ed Wood and “Plan 9.” If you stop laughing long enough to listen to the dialog, you find that Wood had something to say. Unlike most hack directors of his time, he actually tried to make Art. He just lacked the talent and budget to do it. Batiuk, if anything, aims even higher, and runs into the limitations of his talent, his attention span, the three-panel/six-day medium, and perhaps (though I speculate here) his courage (these days he could crowd-fund and self-publish a “Starbuck Jones Graphic Novel” and/or a book of strips about life in a comic book factory, but it seems to me he prefers the security of a syndicated strip).

      In the end, he shoots for the moon… with a popgun.

      • The Duck of Death

        “He shoots for the moon… with a popgun.” Brilliant.

        Ed Wood is unfairly maligned. He was clearly a sensitive guy in a very unforgiving industry. I read his book, “Hollywood Rat Race.” To sum it up: Hollywood is a vicious dream-killing machine that chews up and spits out ordinary people.

        I agree, he had something to say and the guts to try to say it. But there’s something else that sets him apart from Batiuk: His work is still entertaining. Oh, you can say it’s terrible, sure. It’s poorly shot, poorly acted, the special effects are laughable, the dialogue is cringeworthy, etc. But I bet everyone on this subreddit has seen Plan 9 at least once. People still watch it — this awful little film from 65 years ago. Tim Burton was so affected he made a movie about Ed Wood.

        Do you think that anyone will give a crap about any of Batiuk’s works in 65 years? There are plenty of comics that’ll hold up that long — hell, there are comics from the 20s and 30s that are still tremendously enjoyable — but I don’t see FW or Crankshaft being anything but a footnote, for all their longevity.

        Ed Wood: 2 (for “Plan 9” and the very ahead-of-its-time “Glen or Glenda”)
        Tom Batiuk: 0

        • William Thompson

          But–but–we are all interested in Westview, for that is where we are going to spend the rest of our lives!

          • J.J. O'Malley

            “Central Ohio at Christmastime is a strange place. All those cars, buses and snowplows. All going someplace. All carrying non-human sad sacks carrying out their cliched characterizations.”

            Does this mean Batiuk is the “real world” equivalent of Bela Lugosi in “Glen or Glenda”? “Pull the string!”

          • Anonymous Sparrow

            “Can you prove it didn’t happen?” asked Harley Davidson. “God help us in the future, Criswell most of all!”

            Oh, the stupid, stupid minds…

      • William Thompson

        I think Batiuk has complete stories for all his AK superheroes. He just won’t reveal any details because he’s convinced other writers will steal his brilliant ideas. He’ll let the world see them after he gets a publishing contract. Until then his AK Bullpiss scenes are advertising to get a publisher’s interest. They’re like a movie trailer that shows you a few bits of a movie’s best scenes, promises thrills, chills and spectacles, then turns out to be much better than the movie. By the time you realize you’ve been had, you’ve spent your money on the movie and popcorn.

        • The Duck of Death

          That’s been my theory — that he’s arraying this whole MC/DC-style universe in teaser form, hoping that some comic publisher will bite. He doesn’t understand that people can publish their own comics now. And a lot of the best work is being published on the web.

          He also doesn’t get that his Silver Age-style comics, with square-jawed, roided-up men in tights, and women in skimpy suits flaunting the goods, are as outdated as radio drama. The world has moved on in every way.

          It’s funny that someone who’s ever so terribly passionately dedicated to social justice never seems to comment on, or praise, the very SJW-ish new comics from the Big Two. Nor does he create any himself. Just dreck like The Amazing Mr Sponge and Absorbing Jr. Which could be fun in itself in an Ambush Bug-style way, but he just can’t get enough distance to see the ridiculousness and potential for humor.

          • William Thompson

            I doubt that Batiuk can imagine social justice without a white savior. He’s trapped himself in that Silver Age mentality.

      • William Thompson

        I’m sure Batty has all sorts of stories outlined for his AK comic books–but they’re things like “Starbuck Jones and Jupiter Moon are marooned in an alternate universe where humans don’t exist. They rename themselves Adam and Eve.”

        Batiuk missed the most obvious way to insert his SJ world into the strip: have Mopey Pete and Boy Lisa work on a story that parallels events in their lives. Starbuck Jones goes on a deranged quest to find the Wand of Creation. He lays waste to planets and galaxies while Aster Naught tries to bring him back to reality. As this story unfolds we see Dullard look for the missing Sharpie that Stan Lee gave him at a con, while Pete tries to bring him back to reality.

  6. Green Luthor

    Why is Ruby there? Didn’t she retire? Was that part of Girl Les’ dream, too?

    Why is Batton Thomas Creator Of The Comic Strip Three O’Clock High there? He doesn’t work there! Was he using the Cosmic Treadmill again, in the middle of a blizzard?

    Why is Skyler Who Is Going To Be Mentally Scarred When He Finds Out What His Favorite Toy Is Made From there? Did Boy Lisa and Jessica Darling Whose Father John Darling Was Murdered just randomly bring him into the office? (On a day with a severe blizzard going on, no less.)

    Wait, Jessica Darling Whose Father John Darling Was Murdered doesn’t work there, either, does she? Actually, does she work at all? Have we ever seen her do anything except make a documentary about her father John Darling Who Was Murdered, that she never even intended to release to anyone?

    Has Flash been using the Cosmic Treadmill to hit relativistic speeds, thus accounting for the extreme lengthening of his head? What is even going on there?

    Were all these people there to go to this stupid concert? If so, why is Chester telling them he got them tickets? Is he just repeating information they already know? Honestly, the “Christmas surprise” is pretty much the only way that makes sense, but did Chester also insist that all those people who don’t work there come in, too? (I mean, if I retired, I wouldn’t be going back into the office for an unknown surprise, and I DEFINITELY wouldn’t go in to see a terrible concert, especially in that weather. Nor would I ask my spouse (y’know… if I had one) to come in, and bring the kids along. Again, especially in that weather.)

    Though if this whole thing ends with several vehicles crashing into a church simultaneously, killing all involved, maybe it’ll be okay.

    • Why is Skyler Who Is Going To Be Mentally Scarred When He Finds Out What His Favorite Toy Is Made From there?

      That’s Rachel’s kid, who, as billytheskink pointed out the other day, “has caught that same fluctuating age disease that Wally Jr. and Skyler have.” His name is either Robbie or Billy. Or Rachel has two kids. Now, we’ll never know.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        TFH! Stop trying to confuse us more than we already are! That is obviously Skyler, you can tell by his terrifying tiny Muppet face.

        Can you tell the difference between Skyler, Robbie/Billy, and Mitch? Can the artist? Can Batiuk?

  7. William Thompson

    I hope Chester’s unseen driver doesn’t mind driving that stretched limo in a blizzard. Really, what did he do wrong to risk his life for this mob?

    • Hannibal's Lectern

      Ever seen a big ol’ Caddy beached on a snowbank with all four wheels dangling off the ground? It is a memorable and strangely beautiful sight. I bet Ayers has already sketched it out somewhere, and I hope Batty lets us see it.

  8. Batdick has spent days establishing the fact that every Westview citizen who matters is driving to the Jazz Messiah Nonsense in dangerous weather. He has spent zero seconds explaining why.

    I KNOW this isn’t leading to some sort of Funkocalypse. But it’s fun to contemplate, while there’s still time.

  9. It’ll probably only accumulate a few inches, but Ohio is in the path of a “bomb cyclone” as this blizzard is taking place in the strip. I’m having flashbacks to March 2011: Pete brainstorms a comic book villain named “Seismo the Human Earthquake.” The strip ran on the same day that a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami struck Japan.

    • Epicus Doomus

      LOL Batom’s weird, year-in-advance glimpses into the future. This happened a few times, but I only really remember this one.

      “That’s when people noticed that the strip ran on 9/11, meaning I must have known about the attacks in advance.”

      • billytheskink

        His best-known one is still probably the Westview post office bombing back in Act II, which started running just a few days after the July 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta. TB seemed almost giddy to have to answer for this coincidence in interviews, spitting out gems like this:

        “‘Obviously, you’re trying to be timely, but there’s no satisfaction getting caught in the middle of a tragic situation,’ he says. ‘I would much rather see the thing contained in my comic strip and nowhere else.'”

        Some of his other unfortunate coincidences happened over in Crankshaft, so you understandably missed them.

        – A summer 2008 strip had Crankshaft standing in an airport security line grumpily wondering aloud about the possibility of smuggling a bomb onto an airplane in one’s underwear… about 5-6 months before someone did indeed try to do that.

        – One of Crankshaft’s many many many exploding grill gags was printed on April 19, 2013… the 28th anniversary to the day of the Oklahoma City bombing and just a day after a terrible explosion at a fertilizer factory in the town of West, TX killed several people and destroyed the local elementary school, among many other buildings.

        • Green Luthor

          He also did an exploding gas grill strip on September 11 2008. And then earlier this year, he referenced that strip, including the date. Which REALLY confused people who didn’t know about the 2008 strip…

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yeah, woke up in a FW strip today. Blinding snow and high winds.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        Didja find a copy of Amazing Fantasy 15 under your pillow?

      • sorialpromise

        “Yeah, woke up in a FW strip today. Blinding snow and high winds.”
        Yeah, I also woke up to (-5 temps) 20 mph winds, ice covered streets. I couldn’t wait to get in my car and drive! An irresistible impulse. (Anonymous Sparrow got the reference before I could finish typing!)

        • RudimentaryLathe?

          My friends to the east, you may be in for a long week if it keeps the momentum it had here in SoDak. Hope you all stay safe 🥶

    • The Duck of Death

      See, I have a strong suspicion that whole stupid Seismo idea sprung from TB hearing the word “tectonic,” and coming up with what he thought was a clever way to use “tec-tonic.”

      Exactly how not to construct a character.

  10. The Dreamer

    So how is it to be explained that the last time Mindy appeared in Crankshaft/Centerville she was ten years younger

    • Green Luthor

      It’s called writing!

      • The Dreamer

        In fact the teenage Mindy should be still living with her parents at Crankshaft House and attending this concert with her parents and grandfather Where she will run into her twentysomething self and her future husband Now *this* is a storyline!

        • The Dreamer

          In fact in yesterday’s Crankshaft we see the Crankshafts, including the kids, leaving the house to go to the concert If twentysomething Mindy and young Mindy meet there, does this trigger a cataclysmic event?

          • LTPFTR

            Those were the twins who are always hanging around Lillian’s shop. They’re middle-school aged in Crankshaft and high-school aged in FW, so they could trigger some sort of timeline anomaly.

        • gleeb

          Or Mopey Pete, who it has been established likes younger women*, cheats on Mindy with Mindy.

          *Why else did he hit on Summer Moore, a high school student at the time, in his return home after bolloxing up Superman?

    • Cheesy-kun

      Any chance the blizzard is the event -or caused by the event – that shifts the timeline back into sync? No one but the Saint’s daughter notices?

      Meanwhile, all this scurrying feels Iike a bad rip-off of those 1970s Disney movies. I keep seeing Jonathan Winters, Don Knotts, Eva Gabor and Carol Burnett in both FE and CS. (Note to intern: find out if Gabor and Burnett were ever in those movies.)

      If this was an old Disney movie the writers would state some reason why people in two towns were risking life and limb to get to a church convey (guest appearance by a local kid who made it big as a singer, homecoming of a prodigal child, big announcement by the mayor, etc.)

      Batiuk’s wanted to be dramatic, zany comedic, and sardonic, but has never done any of them well this century.

      I’d hoped he wrap up FW with dignity. This is a mess and it’s hard to follow even to snark upon.

      • Cheesy-kun

        * convey? CONCERT
        (Note to intern: please take over typing duties.)

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        It’s a Smirk, Smirk, Smirk, Smirk World

        • Cheesy-kun

          LOL! Jonathan Winters and Don Knotts could make smirking funny not smug.

        • Cheesy-kun

          LOL! 🤣😂😅😏

          At least that old Disney cast would make smirking funny!

          I’d love to see Don Knotts play Les. Deputy Barney Fife is something likable, though

      • Y. Knott

        Y’know, I snarked that Batiuk’s lone snarker on Twitter snarked a snark that was too snarky. To wit:
        “Thank the gods your “comic strip” is about to end. You are a terrible storyteller and the “artwork” is cheap and shoddy.”

        I humbly apologize to that snarker. You in fact succinctly summed up the utter godawfulness of this strip’s final days.

        • Cheesy-kun

          Well, yeah, that snarker is right on the substance but the whole point of SoSF is to raise snarking to an art form: snarky fist in a velvet glove of wit, wisdom, and allusions to great literature.

          And squirrel pelts. The true snarker knows the value of a good squirrel pelt.

          • Y. Knott

            Fair point, but I feel for the snarker confronted with these strips. Sometimes, you just want to throw up your hands and say, “This is so stupid it actually has the power to literally drain intelligence out of anyone reading it, to the point that now all I can say is ‘this is so stupid’.”

      • Mela

        Not sure about Carol Burnett, but definitely Susan Clark, Barbara Harris, Ruth Buzzi, Stefanie Powers, Karen Valentine, Jodie Foster, and the Disney matriarch of 1970s live action films Helen Hayes. Check out The North Avenue Irregulars, The Apple Dumpling Gang, Freaky Friday, The Love Bug, and others. I probably saw most of these at the drive-in with my family! I’m not sure if Eva Gabor was in any of those, but she was the voice of Bianca in The Rescuers movies, along with Bob Newhart who voiced Bernard.

        • RudimentaryLathe?

          Wow, someone else remembers The North Avenue Irregulars 😂 I must’ve watched that one a thousand times as a kid; it’s SO dumb but the cast is SO fun and likeable.
          Another lesson Batty never learned: your audience might forgive a bad plot if you give them characters they can actually root for.

          • Mela

            Oh yes, North Avenue Irregulars is my favorite of the screwball Disney comedies from that era. Cloris Leachman (shame on me for not mentioning her earlier) driving with a fresh manicure and then breaking her nails in the standard car smash up finale is hilarious!

  11. billytheskink

    Tickets? TICKETS?!
    This strip-ending Dinkle wank is a ticketed event?!


    • Y. Knott

      Yes, it’s ticketed — but you only need the ticket to get out.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      And they’re valuable enough to be given as workplace Christmas gifts.

    • be ware of eve hill

      Tickets? As in, you actually have to pay to get in? Pay to see an amateur band present a jazz-fusion Christmas concert? 🙄

      Oh, man. I feel so bad for the folks who were turned away because the concert sold out. /s

      Perhaps the Bedsore Mannerisms can take this little show on a world tour! Wheeee!

      Geez, it’s nothing but rainbows, unicorns and cotton candy for Batiuk’s little town o’ Perfectville.

    • erdmann

      Sheesh. Thinking you would need tickets for a church Christmas program is like thinking a Grade Z newspaper comic strip is worthy of a Pulitzer.

      • The Duck of Death

        I hate to contradict a fellow snarker, but here in NYC there are countless church concerts that sell/require tickets. This is especially true of performances of the Messiah. The difference is: The performers are not nonagenarians recruited from a literal nursing home. And the other difference is that the potential attendees for a concert in Manhattan number in the millions, while the potential attendees for a show in Butt-end, Ohio, probably realistically number about 1/100th that. Because anyone who’s hankering to see a professionally performed choral work and willing to drive some distance to get to it is probably going to head to Cleveland, not out to some two-stoplight town.

        • erdmann

          Ah. You learn something new every day. Here in the sticks a church charging admission to a concert would never fly. It’s all “free will donations” or nothing.

    • Epicus Doomus

      “Tickets! Get your illegally resold tickets right here! Who needs two?”

      “Hey, you have St. Spires tickets? It’s sold out.”

      “I got two for Jazz Messiah right here, third pew, left-center. $1200 for the pair.”

      “TWELVE HUNDRED DOLLARS? IS THAT ALL? Cayla, pay the man!”

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        @Duck My mother used fo go to this church’s Christmas pageant every year that sold (not cheap) tickets. But this was a huge. elaborate show, that had been improving and building an audience for years. And as you say, it was in a major metro area. This is just Batiuk handing one of his preferred characters another triumph he did nothing to earn.

    • William Thompson

      Yes, it was ticketed for parking in an entertainment-only zone.

  12. J.J. O'Malley

    Well, today’s CS strip shows us that Ralph and Keesterman got their car stuck in a snowbank during their St. Spires hajj and just joined the Clown Bus crew. Will they stop for Max and his wife at Channel One or the Valentine tomorrow?

    Frankly, this whole two-strip “the gang’s all here” progression reminds me of the closing credits of “The Huckleberry Hound Show,” where HH was driving a jalopy inside a circus tent and would be joined along the way by Tony the Tiger, Snap, Crackle and Pop, Sugar Pops Pete, and the rest of the Kellogg’s cereal mascots. Or the opening credits to “The Flintstones,” when they had to add in Fred stopping to pick up Barney, Betty, and Bamm-Bamm. Maybe they’ll all crash into each other trying to get into the packed church parking lot, like in the “Wacky Races” closing credits.

    Say, have I been watching too many cartoons?

  13. be ware of eve hill

    Love the mock strip, TFHackett.

    You created a clip art library of angry Funky Winkerbean faces?

    • ian'sdrunkenbeard

      That is an excellent parody, TFH! I took a stab at recreating it using my ancient basic MS Paint program.

    • Too much free time, bwoeh!

      • be ware of eve hill

        We appreciate your commitment! 🤟

        I can see why you want to continue the SOSF website in some form. Whatever would you do with your free time? 😉

    • be ware of eve hill

      Duh, of course there’s a collection of Funky Winkerbean faces. The faces that appear in the SOSF banner every day? Where do those come from? Duh.

      Hello, hello, anybody home? Hey, think, McFly, think.

      Sorry. I had both my Covid booster and my flu shot Tuesday afternoon because my son’s family is coming into town for Christmas. I’ve been dopey since Tuesday evening. All day Wednesday, I kept nodding off.

      Compiling the grocery list.💤
      Returning home after grocery shopping. 💤
      Baking cookies. 💤
      Wrapping presents. 💤
      Doing laundry. 💤
      Watching TV. 💤

      It’s kind of funny. Every time I woke up, my Linus blanket was draped over me. I think it was a game for Mr. bwoeh to place it over me without waking me. My Linus blanket is a little light blue fleece that I purchased at a drug store for about $3.

      Anybody else get knocked on their ass by the latest Covid-19 booster? Does anyone know of a support group for narcoleptics?

      • sorialpromise

        I’m sorry, Eve. I have to give you an A-, for all of the emojis. (I didn’t set the standard.♥️💖❤️🌹💐🌺🐿️🐿️🐿️🚀☄️🛸☀️🫂🫂🫂 Personally, I blame CBH

        🎵🎶🎵 🎵🎶🎵 🎵🎶🎵
        [John Darling, Cayla, Winkerbean, Lester Moore, Funky, the Valentine, and gun made as a toy
        Saint Lisa, ghost Phil, Montoni’s Pizza sold,
        Summer bought, Summer sold, Sayanara,
        We didn’t set the standard
        It was always churning, since the world’s been turning.
        We didn’t set the standard
        No, we didn’t write it, but we tried to fight it.
        🎵🎶🎵 🎵🎶🎵 🎵🎶🎵]

        • be ware of eve hill

          Geez, SP, is there a support group for people suffering from emoji addiction? ( ͡~ ͜ʖ ͡°)

          Write two emoji free comments and call me in the morning.

          • sorialpromise

            Help me! Help me! I’ve got an emoji on my back! (Or on my foot if you are addicted to WKRP IN CINCINNATI.
            To BWOEH: ⚜️🏆🏅🎖️🥇🎟️🎟️🎟️
            It is frell to hear from you!

  14. ian'sdrunkenbeard

    Maybe this is why everybody is compelled to go to St. Spires.

  15. Paul Jones

    Five bucks says that BULL and Linda are the next to drive to the Looming Jazz Messiah. He’s retconning everything else so why not that?

  16. Cheesy-kun

    Great panel there, TFH. They all look like they’ve been reading this strip.

    Really well done. Thank you.

  17. Hitorque

    Oh I get it… This is the Funkyverse equivalent of “AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!” or some other silliness…

    And exactly how does this work? St. Spires doesn’t have enough capacity for the literal entire town to attend…

  18. bigd1992

    I’m rooting for an asteroid to strike and wipe them all out.

    • erdmann

      And what happened then? Well, in Westview they say
      The snow-laden church roof simply gave way

      And everyone died. The end.

  19. Dood

    What’s the over and under for a Ghost Lisa appearance at the final gathering?

    • Angusmac

      Of Dead Lisa will appear! It is a Messiah concert for the anointing of Summer. The Rapture can only occur with the benevolent blessing of the Chief deity… Dead St. Lisa!

    • RudimentaryLathe?

      Oh she’ll appear all right. The question is will she acknowledge her daughter’s existence before telling precious Les how noble and perfect he is one last time before this strip gets euthanized?

  20. The Duck of Death

    Since some of you stepped in to defend Ayers yesterday, let me say that I’m enjoying the effete way Chester Bestertester is pulling on his gloves in today’s strip. That’s one of the hallmarks of good comic art, to me: Showing character through postures and gestures (vs just by dialog or macro actions.)

  21. Gerard Plourde

    A thought struck me. Is it possible that there’s more to the change in syndicate? If memory serves, FW has always been the more popular strip (in terms of papers carrying it). I wonder if they were marketed as a package deal and King Features was either uninterested in carrying Crankshaft alone or came back to Batiuk with an offer he considered inadequate.

    • The Duck of Death

      IMO, that’s the far likeliest scenario. I suspect:

      King Features: “Tom, we’re cleaning house and won’t be renewing our contracts with you.”

      TB: “Hey, Andrews McMeel! This is your lucky day — you can pick up Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean to augment your recent acquisitions like Baby Blues and Pickles!”

      Andrews McMeel: “Yes on Crankshaft, no on Funky Winkerbean. Take it or leave it.”

      • The Duck of Death

        It’s also possible they weren’t cutting him loose, but just offering much less money. In effect, asking a supplier to take a pay cut is akin to gently showing them the door. You’re showing them that their work isn’t worth much to you any more.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      He’s changed syndicates before, and never for any good reason.

      • The Duck of Death

        I guess this could have been done because of a whim on TB’s part. It does seem to be part of a small acquisition binge on the part of Andrews McMeel. But as a lot of us have noted, the end of FW really feels as if it were forced on him. If he were actually glad to be ending it, it seems unlikely that he’d force the two strips together awkwardly like he’s doing now. Who can really say, though?

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          According to past Funkyblog entries, Tom Batiuk had a good relationship with the McNeel of Andrews McNeel, and moved FW to them in the past. I don’t know why Crankshaft wasn’t always with them too. Maybe it could be pieced together from blog posts, but that’s beyond Point Giveashit for me.

          • The Duck of Death

            I sailed a little sloop out of Gimmeabreak Cove, and took her out to just beyond Point Givashit, and I can report back that John P. McMeel, the guy you’re talking about, died in 2021 at age 85. Interesting fella, too. Started his business with just one strip/creator: Garry Trudeau.

            Anyhoo, that contact isn’t there any more, but I guess AMcM must still see potential in Crankshaft.

            We can generously assume that it’s possible that the switch of syndicates and the retirement of Ayers happened at the same time purely coincidentally. We can also very generously assume that somehow King Features forgot to do any celebration or publicity for FW’s 50th anniversary.

            But we all know there are literally hundreds of artists who would be capable of doing FW. “Chuck can’t be replaced” is a generous assumption too far for this waterfowl.

          • be ware of eve hill

            @The Duck of Death
            But we all know there are literally hundreds of artists who would be capable of doing FW. “Chuck can’t be replaced” is a generous assumption too far for this waterfowl.

            I vote Thursday Chick from SIX CHIX. 🤣😂🤣

            Seems like a perfect match for the writing. Crappy writing deserves crappy illustration. I’d love to see a sideways Sunday cover by Thursday Chick.

    • Y. Knott

      There’s been a noticeable exodus of long-time features from King Features to Andrews McMeel — in addition to Crankshaft, in the last few months Baby Blues, Sherman’s Lagoon and Mother Goose & Grimm have also made the jump.

      This would suggest a fair bit of dissatisfaction with King Features. My guess — based on the tried and true principle of “follow the money” — would be that King is sending out renewal deals that are much lower than their previous deals.

      The renewal deal for Funky, which is carried by fewer clients than carry Crankshaft, probably made it unprofitable to keep doing it — particularly for Batiuk. Chuck’s fee would come out of money paid to Batom by King…and I suspect that Chuck’s fee would be more than King was willing to pay for the whole strip, meaning Tom would be producing FW at a loss. (This is basically what happened with John Darling years ago, so Batiuk pulled the plug). The issue, then, isn’t that Chuck’s retiring … the issue is that the new syndicate fee for FW was so low, Batiuk couldn’t find an artist willing to work for half that fee (so Batiuk could pay himself as ‘writer’ with the remaining 50%.). And as discussed a day or two ago, Batiuk’s art skills are not good enough for him to draw the strip himself anymore — certainly not to a level that any syndicate would accept.

      The renewal deal for Crankshaftprobably wasn’t much better.

      Andrews McMeel couldn’t make the math for FW work either. Not at a fee that would employ two people. But they COULD come up with an acceptable deal for Crankshaft. So the move was made…

      That’s my theory, and I’m stickin’ to it!

      • The Duck of Death

        I agree. 99.9% of the time it really does boil down to money on both sides. And your theory seems the most likely.

      • be ware of eve hill

        For those keeping score, there was one comic strip that migrated the other way to King Features.

        Darrin Bell takes CANDORVILLE to King Features.

        Darrin Bell explained the change in the
        last Candorville comic on GoComics.

        This may be the last Candorville to appear on GoComics for a while. The Washington Post Writers Group is closing, so Candorville is moving to another syndicate as of this Thursday. There’s no deal in place yet to keep Candorville on GoComics, but I hope there will be one eventually. Until there is, you could follow Candorville on To get it emailed to you daily (along with my editorial cartoons), you could follow and support it (and comment on it) on my Patreon at , or on my Substack, at

        Sounds like the move was out of Darrin’s hands for the moment, and a return to GoComics isn’t out of the question. I really like how Darrin is taking care of his fans. He’s keeping his fans informed and making sure there is an archive available even if GoComics totally removes his comic.

        I hope the Crankshaft archive is imported to GoComics like the Pluggers, and Baby Blues archives were. At this time, the Sherman’s Lagoon archive only goes back to this past April, when the feature moved to GoComics.

        FWIW, Crankshaft is also featured on Arcamax.

        I wonder what’s going to happen to the Funky Winkebean and Vintage Funky Winkerbean archives. Will Batty in a big snit take his ball and go home?

        I imagine it will be something like this:
        Fan: Hi Tom, where are you going to put the Funky Winkebean and Vintage Funky Winkerbean archives? Tom? Hello? Are you there?

  22. Banana Jr. 6000

    Transactional storytelling to the very end. We don’t need to see every single person get in their car and go to the concert, or hear their reason for doing so. Just have one group say they’re excited for the concert, cut to it, and everybody else you want there can be there.

    Funky Winkerbean is stupid and petty. Tom Batiuk has no concept of when it’s acceptable to cut to the chase. Probably because he thinks his readers are too dumb to piece it together, and/or he thinks he’ll get complaints from beady-eyed nitpickers. Terrible, terrible, terrible storytelling.

    • The Duck of Death

      I suspect it’s not that he thinks it’s unacceptable to cut to the chase. I think he believes he’s building tension. I know that sounds insane, but I really think that.

      Someone mentioned “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” yesterday, and I think that’s what he’s aiming for: The classic trope of a motley assortment of characters all slowly converging on one goal. That works if all of the characters and all of the journeys are interesting in themselves. The key to those movies is that the goal is just a MacGuffin. The journey is the most fun and interesting part. If the journey is boring and relies on the audience caring about the goal, all you’re doing is stretching out the excruciating boredom

      I think this explains the week-long arcs where nothing whatsoever happens: Wally looking at the sidewalk, Adeela walking into a building, Linda Bushka holding a letter, etc. He thinks he’s doing some kind of cinematic, Hitchcockian tension-building.

      • Y. Knott

        I suspect this is true, but I also suspect that he’s fixated on “one idea per week”. He’s so focused on the week’s big reveal — Bull will get no benefits! Everybody’s going to be at the concert! — that the stuff prior to the reveal is simply wheel-spinning to fill the requisite number of strips he has to produce in a week. So it consistently takes six strips to accomplish what could be done in two. Or sometimes one.

        And he isn’t story-savvy enough to recognize that the wheel-spinning strips aren’t entertaining in and of themselves, AND they don’t add anything to the overall arc.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          This is another reason I think Batiuk has autism: his reliance on rigid but pointless rules.

          His blog frequently talks about the “rules of cartooning”, which were advice given to him when he got started. He thinks they’re some kind of holy writ, and that they’re the only rules he as to follow to be good at cartooning.

          The main one is “arcs should not be longer than three weeks.” Which isn’t bad advice, but he misses the point. A comic strip arc that’s three weeks long can probably be shortened. Keeping his stories under 3 weeks didn’t make Tom Batiuk a better cartoonist: it made him an expert at creating one- and two-week arcs full of needless material.

          This was the main thing I complained about the two times I got to be a guest blogger. So many FW strips don’t advance the story, don’t provide any exposition, and don’t work as standalone strips. Combine this with Batiuk’s tendency to drone on about his special interests, and it makes the whole strip gob-smackingly tedious.

          • The Duck of Death

            IMO, it is actually bad advice. An arc, like a story, should be as long as it needs to be. I’ve read wonderful short stories that were only a few pages long, and wonderful novels that were 350 pages long.

            I’m currently reading a number of great classic strips on CK. Big Ben Bolt, Apartment 3G (the Kotzky years), Buz Sawyer, Johnny Hazard, Rip Kirby, Barney Google/Snuffy Smith, and Thimble Theater, to name a few. Every single one regularly has arcs much longer than 3 weeks. The Popeye arcs often last for months. Not one of them is the worse for it. If there’s 4 months worth of good material for an arc, then let it breathe, and give us those 4 months of good material.

            It sounds like the kind of advice you’d give someone who couldn’t write worth a damn — “stick to 3-page short stories. Your stories should NEVER be longer than 3 pages!” But that doesn’t cure the problems of a lousy novelist; all it does is turn the lousy novelist into a lousy short story writer. The cure is to learn to do elegant exposition, and learn basic rules of drama, such as: Give your characters needs and wants. Create conflict and make your characters work to resolve it. Raise stakes. Don’t introduce irrelevant elements. Don’t get cutesy with punny dialogue unless your character is meant to be annoyingly cutesy. Etc.

          • Y. Knott

            For someone just starting out, it’s good, solid “don’t try to walk before you can crawl” advice. Y’know, make sure you don’t get too ambitious too quickly. Try a couple of strips that connect to tell a larger story over a week, then maybe two weeks … but don’t go bananas with a four-month story right off the bat. Build up to that once you’ve found your rhythm and your voice, and — most important — you’ve developed a longer story worth telling.

            But all Batiuk heard was “no story more than three weeks!”

            Of course, given how badly Batiuk can thoroughly botch a three-week story, maybe it’s best we never got to see him grapple with a four-month epic…

  23. Hannibal's Lectern

    This story is reminding me of the largely-forgotten 1981 movie “Honky Tonk Freeway,” in which a huge ensemble cast converges from all over the country to end up on a stretch of highway in Florida… where the really converge, in a massive pile-up. There is a story to the movie, about how a little town with a cheesy theme park was bypassed and sets about fixing that problem (if I recall correctly, they blow up a bridge and force traffic off the highway and into their town), but the meat of the movie is all these characters (unknowingly) heading for this grand collision. Kinda like “The Bridge at San Luis Rey,” but funny.

    Now that I mention it, if “FW” ends like “San Luis Rey,” I wouldn’t mind.

    Oh, and some more details: at the time, “Honky Tonk Freeway” was a megaflop, losing something over $20 million (about $70 million in today’s money, so still not in the league of “Cutthroat Island” or “John Carter”) and almost sinking Thorne-EMI. I saw it back then and thought it had some memorable scenes. Hmm… $3.99 on Prime, might have to watch it again.

  24. Charles

    Didn’t read all the comments so I’m not sure if anyone else made this point, but how is it that Chester can railroad his entire staff into going to this thing? He just springs the thing on all of them and they all abandon their other plans to go to church? None of them have family that they might want to spend time with? None of them have family who might be concerned that they’re staying out in the middle of a massive snowstorm like this, especially when it’s not expected?

    Also, is Skyler on staff or are they just essentially letting Darin do a perpetual “Bring your wife and child to work” day? We already know that Batton (I almost wrote Batiuk) has nowhere else to be, and that Chester would include him in those tickets he purchased. Batton’s desperate neediness and loneliness is actually making me sad. Chester bought him a ticket out of pity, because he knew he’d be there, and that he’d not have anything else to do that night.

  25. Charles

    Also, notice how Batton, the one guy who doesn’t work there or have family who works there (excepting the recently retired Ruby, of course), is the first one to jump in the limo to take advantage of Chester’s perks.

    He’s really just hoping that no one realizes that he shouldn’t be included in this group trip.

    • He’s there because young Tom Batiuk’s dream was to hang with the Marvel bullpen. (He might have preferred DC, though.) And he’s going to use his comic strip to fulfill all his fantasies. He’s spoken about how crushed he was to find that they didn’t exist.

      • Charles

        But the thing that’s weird is how he doesn’t incorporate Batton more into the group. If Batiuk wanted to be part of the bullpen, and this method of including Batton into AK stories is his way of “living” it, you’d think he’d make his role in these sequences a little more essential. Instead, he just looks like a guy who’s overstaying his welcome and yet no one at AK bothers enough to provoke a confrontation/sad situation by asking him to leave.

        Hell, make him a consultant for Christ’s sake, an unofficial adviser or something, and make it abundantly clear that that’s the role he’s playing. Because from the way it looks now, it looks like a sad, lonely man is hanging out in a place where he feels some acceptance he can’t get anywhere else, and everyone’s just pitying him because they don’t want to break him further.

        • No, he didn’t want to be part of the bullpen. He just wanted to be there and observe the magic as it happened.

          There are some things that Batiuk seems to know, despite his ego. One of them is that he is not a storyteller.

  26. none

    “I don’t like to drive in this kind of weather…”
    [5 minutes pass]
    “… but I don’t mind riding in it!”