Two for the Books

Harley the Custodian to Summer: “What you write about sparks others to build on it to create a science of behavioral-patterned algorithms that will one day allow us to recognize humanity as our nation!”

…and to burn down all the bookstores, apparently. Except for the Village Booksmith, which likely was spared because Lillian operated it as a bootleg enterprise located above a garage, where it escaped the bookstore burners’ notice. And as many of you have noticed, the “Skylar Aero” solar scooter that has transported these two to “the Outskirts” is the weird looking, bulbous spaceship that Phil Holt sketched for Skyler, and that Skyler’s dad had fabricated from a murder weapon into a toy for his son:





Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

156 responses to “Two for the Books

  1. I like the idea that, in a future mapped out by Batiuk’s writings, “burnings” would be a necessity. Probably a repeated necessity.

    What’s fairly bad, though, based on the sign, that it’s a future without scotch tape.

    • And one where women wear their coats backwards!

      • Cheesy-kun

        I think those are extra pockets, one each for a copy of The Book so that she’ll never be without and can always pass along a copy.

        Kind of surprised that Spandex is back in fashion. Maybe big hair bands are, too?

        Good to see that despite the burnings and the broken sign, someone is keeping the sidewalks and driveways shoveled.

    • Cheesy-kun

      Burning is an act of purification.

      The New Year holiday is coming up here in Japan, and there’ll be a lot of ritual burning of last year’s Shinto amulets starting the 31st. People take them to shrines and drop them in a fire that burns for several days straight, and buy new ones for the next year.

      People also do an O-soji, a “Big Cleaning” of their residences and dispose of a lot of objects they no longer use. In old Japanese animism, discarded tools, utensils, etc. were called “tsukumo-gami”- haunted relics, or, as Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda put it, “thing-wraiths.”

      These objects are angry and seek vengeance for being thrown away after serving their human owners. People need to perform a rite to appease them and thank them for their service. Or, they can repair and reuse them but not reassemble them into something different.

      In any case, a weapon would never be repurposed into a toy b/c the “spirit” (i.e. the human feeling from knowing what it once was) would contaminate the new object, its user, and the human world in general. (And that would seem to be a universal value, one common to most of humanity except Mr. Batiuk.)

      What I’m saying is, we can see that the purification of northeast Ohio was obviously incomplete and I would never trust someone whose ride was based on a toy made from murder weapon.

      SoSF myth fans you might be interested in two books by Yoda and Alt: Yokai Attack: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide, and Yurei Attack: The Japanese Ghost Survival Guide. Both are laid out like nature guidebooks classified by animal or plant, and contain manga-stylel artwork but are packed with facts.

      You may also be interested in a book about Shintoism called Shint0: The Way Home. The first half is probably the best English-language explanation of why Shinto means to the average Japanese, the second is a history of organized Shinto. You can read the one without the other if you like. I walk past a large shrine whenever I go to work, and there is always someone praying at its altar.

      The author is Thomas P. Kasulis, a professor at…drum roll…Ohio State University.

      I hope I did not overstay my welcome with this diversion.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        Absolutely fascinating, Cheesy-sensei. Today, you have been a teacher. The survival guides sound a little like the great Zombie Survival Guide from the early aughts.

        You pointed it out, the feeling that certain objects can be tainted or blessed based on their history and use is universal. Even if in the Anglosphere it isn’t as pronounced.

        I never thought of ‘The Brave Little Toaster’ as some kind of Shinto fairytale…but now I can’t unsee it.

        • Cheesy-kun

          Thank you, ComicBookHarriet. Coming from you that’s high praise. And I mean that, no sarc.

          Given Alt’s interests it seems possible he got the idea from the zombie guide.

          I knew a highly successful business owner who drove three hours one way to return a pebble to a beach at the urging (nudging?) of her local Shinto priest (Harley-sensei?)

          A long time ago I lived near the beach of a small, remote town that is part of one of Japan’s oldest and most scared pilgrimage routes. The beach is all rounded, black stones- lava pebbled and polished over time.

          The priest told my acquaintance she was as good as kidnapping part of the local spirits, who would punish her. So, they came down in her new Mercedes and asked me to attend the ceremony as an impartial human witness who could verify the rite of return had been performed.

          Thank you, again.

        • Cheesy-kun

          I never thought of ‘The Brave Little I never thought of ‘The Brave Little Toaster’ as some kind of Shinto fairytale…but now I can’t unsee it.—>LOL!

          • Maxine of Arc

            Cheesy, I have an omamori that a friend got me this year, but I live in the states and have no local shrine at which to burn it. Do you know if there’s a recommended procedure in such cases?

      • erdmann

        See, that’s one of the things I’m gonna miss about this place. You can learn so much here. That was extremely interesting. Thanks, Cheesy-kun.

        • Y. Knott

          Yup. I learn a lot from the comments here. And considering the source material this all springs from….

          But hey, dedicated gardeners can grow glorious roses from a base of manure.

        • Cheesy-kun

          Thank you very much for letting me know you enjoyed it, erdman. I’m glad to be able to give back a tiny fraction of what I receive here.

      • Great information. I’ll have to check out those books, they sound fascinating. Thank you!

        • Cheesy-kun

          Thank YOU for your kind remark, beckoningchasm. As I said, the first half of the Kasulis book really immerses the reader in what Shinto means to the average Japanese. I found it also gave me insights into movies like Spirited Away, if that interests you.

          CBH’s covid case reminds me that it’s still out there. Hope you and yours are safe and sound!

    • Cheesy-kun

      Probably b/c scotch tape contributes to climate damage. Batiuk’s future has replaced it all with…stuff. Powered by…energy.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      These “burnings” need more context. Did the townspeople turn against Lisa’s Story because they were sick of having this amateur ego wank shoved down their throats for generations? Did they resent being expected to constantly genuflect over Lisa when nobody cared about their own suffering in a clearly climate-damaged world? If so, it’s hard not to side with the town on that one.

      The other (and more plausible coming from Batiuk) possibility is that a Taliban formed around Lisa worship, and they’re the ones doing the burning. Did Les become a Jim Jones-type leader, and whipped the town into a frenzy against any media that Did Not Tell Lisa’s Story Correctly? (Mostly by daring to be about any other subject.)

      And where are Batiuk’s precious comic books in all this? Did Chester Hagglemore lead a jihad against “invalid” comic books, leading to VHS copies of the 1966 Batman TV show being burned in the town gazebo? And where’s the Internet in this future? I think it’s obvious that it was permanently shut down by the authorities at some point.

      What I’m getting at is: banning and burning books seems like an activity Tom Batiuk would be all in favor of. He’s so smug and hateful about everything that doesn’t fit his narrow preferences that he’d be the first guy with a lighter.

      • gleeb

        From the murder weapon car, I assume this is just little Schuyler playing, alone because this folks neglect him

      • Hannibal's Lectern

        It turns out the actual cause of “dammit climage” was toxic fumes emitted when the Dead St. Lisa Komix Purge burned all those VHS tapes of the “Batman” show.

  2. J.J. O'Malley

    Well, Ray Bradbury is doing 360s in his final resting place right about now.

  3. J.J. O'Malley

    “And what’s with the reptilian skeleton behind the store counter? Its nametag reads ‘Lillian.'”

  4. William Thompson

    Ray Bradbury must be chuckling.

  5. none

    Why would she not have her own god damned copy of the book? Particularly since it is so tremendously important to the entirety of humanity for chrissakes. She doesn’t even have one that was handed down from generations past? Why?

    • Cheesy-kun

      Why ask why? As usual, a Batiuk explanation raises more questions than it answers (beginning and ending, always, with Why do I care?)

      As so many of you have pointed out, he seems to go with “First thought, best thought.” It’s turtles of concepts all the way down, yet none of them are holding up a complete world with its own consistent logic of cause & effect.

      • Cheesy-kun

        Wow. What a pompous turd.

        Did he edit out the person in the audience who stood up and said, “I don’t get the reference. It’s a non sequitur.”

        Who pissed off Batiuk the year before that strip was published? Did he get sick of seeing ads for football betting? Was a fantasy league at his favorite sports bar (you know, the only one in Ohio that broadcasts the CFL) disrupting his lunch with his three favorite people- him, himself, and he?

        Thanks for the link, TFH. Thoughtful of you to look it up.

      • erdmann

        I recently visited a brand new independent bookstore in a part of my hometown that is being gentrified. The owner told me it had once been variety store. If you looked closely, you could still make out the faint letters of the name above the door.
        I remembered the store, although I had never been in it.
        I mentioned that I frequented a bookstore a couple doors to the north 40 years back. I didn’t mention the “mom and pop” owners, with good reason. Imagine Crankshaft and Lillian as a married couple, but with 57 times more reckless hate for all other living things. Brrr.
        The owner of the new store was just the opposite and I wish him well. Not wanting to leave empty-handed, I purchased a 58-year-old paperback of “Old Yeller” in good shape for $2 and took my leave.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Maybe, by saying ‘tree copy’, Ma Moore was implying that printed books have become rare in this FUTURISTIC SETTING. Not that Summer Jr did have any access to it via that hover screen nonsense she had yesterday.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        *Didn’t not did. As in the book is available digitally.

        Gonna blame that on covidbrain.

        • Cheesy-kun

          Rarer than Keisha
          Visiting mom and step-dad?
          CBH typo

          Covid brain? Are you infected? I sure hope you’re okay and feeling better, CBH.

          You don’t want to slide down the scale and suffer what I have – Cheesy brain.

          Seriously, I do hope you’re okay.

      • ian'sdrunkenbeard

        I’m glad you’re feeling better. I still have a few symptoms five months after becoming infected.
        I wanted to ask Cheesy-kun if Hokusai ever did any paintings of yokai.

    • Tom from Finland

      Here is my backstory:
      Summer’s book was the worst book ever written. It was so awful that it incited worldwide riots opposing the book.
      The humanity was united by the hatred of literature and after the riots subsided billions were dead, almost all bookstores were burned and a world government was formed to prevent such a carnage from happening ever again.
      To achieve that the world government created behavioral-patterned algorithms that were used to recognize anyone who would be capable of creating such bad literature and to quickly eliminate them.
      Thanks to that there has been world peace for a generation.
      But now Summer’s offspring have located the last remaining copy of Summer’s book, that no one knew existed…

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        Shall we call it *A Canticle for Lesmooreovitz*?

        If so, alas, Babylon, Mr. Adam…

        • Tom from Finland

          Sounds fitting.
          And thanks for the reading tip!
          I’m a fan of post apocalyptic fiction, but for some reason I haven’t ever come by Canticle for Leibowitz

          • Gerard Plourde

            It was first published in the late ‘50s or very early ‘60s if I recall correctly and is still in print. The premise is post-apocalyptic world and the efforts of a monastic order to preserve the lost knowledge. It’s been an age since I read it.

          • Veiltender

            Canticle for Leibowitz is one of my favorites. I only encountered one it a few years ago, but was incredibly struck by it.

          • Y. Knott

            Originally three short stories in the mid-50s, then stitched together as a ‘fix-up’ novel in 1959. A very quiet and philosophical work — definitely worth checking out!

          • William Thompson

            One of the best SF novels ever written. It has a subtle sense of humor and avoids both despair and false hope.

        • batgirl

          The Quiet Earth Abides, nonetheless….

  6. Green Luthor

    “Why did this store survive the burnings?”
    “It had a ton of copies of some crap called ‘Fallen Star’. Even fire wasn’t willing to touch that atrocity of writing.”

    • Epicus Doomus

      “Yeah, they were gonna burn all those unsold copies of “Lisa’s Story-The Trilogy”, but they forgot to bring a hand truck and those crates were freaking heavy.”

    • J.J. O'Malley

      “Not to mention ‘Murder at the Bookstore,’ ‘Murder at the Book Fair,’ ‘Murder at the…'”

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        Lillian’s titles always reminded me of Tess in Stephen King’s “Big Driver.”

        So, let’s all sing along with Stephen King’s Tess on “Baby Driver”:

        They call me Baby Driver
        And once upon a pair of wheels
        I hit the road and I’m gone
        What’s my number
        I wonder how your engines feel
        Ba ba ba ba
        Scoot down the road
        What’s my number
        I wonder how your engines feel

        It’s not full dark, but there’ll be no stars.

  7. Panel 1: Yup, that’s Philled Hole’s Phailrocket. Cool.

    Panel 2: The Future Folks float, eh? Good way to keep their shoes dry in these snowy climes.

    Panel 3: So that creature is Summer’s granddaughter, it seems. She sure inherited granny’s looks.

    I guess all the puzzle pieces are falling into place. The question is, what puzzle? Why? How are we supposed to care?

    • Epicus Doomus

      Lisa, Summer, Summer’s daughter, Summer’s granddaughter…sensible haircuts just run in the family, I guess. No wild Jessica hair in that Moore DNA, that’s for sure.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        My theory is that this entire post-apocalyptic society was cloned from Lisa’s DNA. Of course, this means they all have cancer. But that just makes them more pure.

        • Cheesy-kun

          Never mind all that déclassé betting on football. I’ll take this bet: I bet you’re right BJK6K

          In the Batiukverse it makes sense that humanity’s only hope is for everyone to carry St Lisa’s cancer blood.

  8. Cheesy-kun

    They’re also going to find a copy of Lisa’s Story, too, aren’t they? It’s going to be part of the future humanities canon.

  9. Andrew

    Is this what Harley calls a “utopia”? I can imagine that sort of thing coming out of a world crisis, light from the dark and all, but still, he was holding a lot back from Girl Les, I guess. Was the Burning a F451 situation as the world tried to denounce all books as “lame” and “for kids” of the past, or part of the climate damage to find kindling for fires. Also these “outskirts” seem to be doing fairly well based on the state of that pine tree, and the fact there’s enough moisture or something for a modest amount of snow, but also the pavement to still be melting it off. Was yesterday’s future home some satellite or part of a artificial-climate shelter? And why am I caring about any of these details anyway?

    Also, far be it from me to question speculative future lingo (imagine telling anyone even 20 years ago about “selfies” or “swag”), but “antiquarian” is quite the term to be using. Google says it’s a real world, but people adopting it more regularly is an interesting bit of speculation. And “tree copy”? Why that term for paper-printing? Do they still have paper but make it from dirt now?

    Furthermore, if this girl is part of the Moore dynasty, and only two generations away from Girl Les at that, why would her family not already have such original copies of the book lingering around as a family heirloom? Maybe someone torched their family houses at some point during these “Burnings”

    Four strips remain…

    • And “tree copy”? Why that term for paper-printing? Do they still have paper but make it from dirt now?

      I knew somehow that what Summer’s daughter meant to say was “dead tree copy.” Googling “tree copy” turns up a lot of results about things like data structures, but nothing about print books. I thought about updating the Batiuktionary to add this, but frankly can’t be arsed.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      I can’t believe it. This just keeps getting worse. I didn’t think it was possible.

      Batty couldn’t even pull off a nice easy ending a la Lynn Johnston. ( He is not capable to create an artistic ending a la Watterson.)

      The syndicate should just pull this and replace it with a TV test pattern. Lisa would have liked that.

      • Y. Knott

        Batiuk was the guy who thought the single strip “Zanzibar the talking murder chimp” actually brilliantly closed out his idiotic “1940s silent movie era” arc. I was confident that, if pressed, he’d come up with something even more spectacularly stupid.

        In this lone aspect of his work, Batiuk seldom fails to disappoint.

    • bunnydoe

      For people interested in old books, “antiquarian” is a pretty common word. For instance, there is or at least used to be an annual show near me known as the Antiquarian Book and Paper Show (the “paper” part is things like postcards, handbills, etc.). It wouldn’t be strange to me at all that a book shop specializing in very old books would call itself an antiquarian book shop. (I speak of the present, of course, having no experience with the Batiuk Future.) I can give that a pass, no problem. Everything else going on here is an absolute mess, though.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        Agreed! Antiquarian feels like an appropriate word choice.

        And it’s only appropriate choice I can pick out today.

      • batgirl

        Antiquarian books is legit (my actual job is searching online for available copies of out-of-print and rare books for the campus library) and though ‘antiquarian bookstore’ is a bit clunky, I’d give it a pass.
        However I am really bothered by “one of the last to survive the burnings”. It sounds weird. I would accept “one of the few to survive” or “one of the last surviving” but this wording doesn’t make sense to me. How is it different from, oh, “one of the first to survive the burnings”?

  10. sorialpromise

    1. Actually, it makes kinda sense. If you view Summer and Dead Saint Lisa as your greatest accomplishments, why wouldn’t you burn everything else.
    2. A big thank you to Iansdrunkenbeard for sending music videos yesterday. Loved Ruth Etting. I have heard her music for years. But then he posted ETYKEN. Spectacular! Introductions to new music, is a basic charm of SOSF. I had never heard of that group before. Great sound. Watched “Storm” all the way through, and then watched other videos of theirs. I have to admit the ladies were attractive. But the sexiest thing about them is that they looked so warm!!!

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      There’s a 1955 biopic about Ruth Etting called “Ruth’s Story”

      (Antiquarian mind waves…steering fingers…)

      There’s a 1955 biopic about Ruth Etting called “Love Me or Leave Me,” starring Marianne Winters and Mason Jarre

      (Antiquarian mind waves more insidious than ever…)

      Starring Doris Day and James Cagney. It’s quite well-regarded and Cagney won a Best Actor nomination for his performance as Martin “Moe the Gimp” Snyder.

      He lost to Ernest Borgnine as Marty; however, Jack Lemmon, who performed with Cagney in another movie that year, won Best Supporting Actor for Ensign Pulver in “Mister Roberts.”

      Lemmon would win Best Actor for 1973 in “Save the Tiger.” This was a year after the debut of *Funky Winkerbean.*

      (Antiquarian mind waves too strong…)

      • sorialpromise

        Anonymous Sparrow,
        You named some powerhouse actors. Doris Day, James Cagney, Jack Lemon, Ernest Borgnine who looked just like my Dad. Jack Lemon always gave 100%. My family loved Mr. Roberts. My great memory of “Save the Tiger,” was watching it on an AFBase. Jack’s biggest surprise was Ving Rhames giving his Golden Globe award to Jack, a fellow nominee. I suppose that is where TB got the idea for the girl to give her Oscar to Les.
        You are respected Anonymous Sparrow.

    • ian'sdrunkenbeard

      You’re welcome, SP. I’m glad you liked the songs.
      Ruth Etting was the bee’s knees in the 20s and 30s, with about 60 songs hitting the charts. She was the Beyonce or Taylor Swift of her time. I found her when I searched for “Ten Cents a Dance”.
      Several years ago I attended a party at a surgeon’s house in Medina Co. He had a big room devoted to Etting, with lighted display cases filled with memorabilia. There were even movie posters from theater lobbies. He was kind enough to give my wife and I the grand tour.
      He told me he began a correspondence with her and visited her in a retirement home in Colorado in the 7os. He brought sheet music and accompanied her on the piano. He said her voice was still lovely and she cried, telling him, “I haven’t sung some of those songs in forty years!” She gave him her memorabilia and he certainly gave it a good home.

      • sorialpromise

        What a heart warming story! Anonymous Sparrow was telling me about an Etting movie with Doris Day. We really live in such a small world. Thanks to you there are only 2° of separation between Ms. Etting and me.

  11. William Thompson

    So in this advanced society they . . . contributed to climate damage by increasing the CO2 levels? Did they burn the comic books, too? Or did they selectively spare everything related to Fifties American pop culture? Did they scan and store printed material, or did they decide that they could get along without all that old stuff?

  12. Epicus Doomus

    “The outskirts”…”the burnings”…good ol’ BatYam, as optimistic as ever. Apparently, he was right about “these kids today”, as apparently they let it all get away from them at some point.

    So if this is Summer’s daughter and granddaughter, and we assume that her daughter is around forty years old here, we can assume that this is taking place somewhere in the 2060s or thereabouts. Which means that these burnings have to take place sometime within the next thirty-five years or so, given how she’s talking about them in the past tense. Seems kind of far-fetched if you ask me.

    • Charles

      And not only did this cataclysm happen sometime in the next 50 years, society has managed to recover in that time such that they now have floating cars which look nothing like cars and completely revamped housing, clothing and furniture styles. The hairstyles remain the same, of course.

      And even though every member of the cast is now dead (woo hoo!), Lillian MacKenzie’s going to be running that damn bookstore, looking just like she did in 1995.

      I must admit I’m more interested in how everyone dies in the coming cataclysm than I ever was in any actual Funky Winkerbean sequence.

  13. The Dreamer

    This isn’t the old ages! Summer”s book would be available online in digital version or through Amazon Maybe ven an audio version

    • Yes, but don’t you want a “tree copy”?

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        In “The Adventure of the Empty House,” Sherlock Holmes briefly disguises himself as an elderly book seller. Dr. Watson knocks some books out of his hand and identifies one of them as…

        *The Origin of Tree Worship.*

        I would want a copy of that book, TFHackett!

        Incidentally, when Holmes returns later in this antiquarian (aggh!!) bookseller disguise, he offers the good Watson *British Birds,* *Catullus* and *The Holy War.*

  14. billytheskink

    I think this Moore descendant is being dramatic. No way Crankshaft’s house would or should survived any significant event called “the burnings”. Yeah, it’s boarded up… so what? That’s an easy thing to find in northern Ohio (or about any place) even in whatever year Crankshaft takes place in nowadays.

    More importantly… if cars fly now, why does anyone shovel snow out of their driveways?

    • Epicus Doomus

      And if they have someone shoveling them out from under Westview’s notorious blizzards, why can’t they fix the sign?

    • William Thompson

      They shovel snow so people can walk to your house and talk to you. That’s so much more civilized than using telephones or holoprojectors or mindnudging. It’s one of the foundations of Westviewian culture.

      • William Thompson

        Meanwhile keep an eye open for snow-shoveling robots. The one that went jogging with Funky was probably a time traveling fugitive from that work.

      • Cheesy-kun

        They shovel snow so people can walk to your house and talk to you. —> 😀😂🤣

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Maybe, in the future, sidewalks won’t NEED to be shoveled! Maybe, in the utopia arising from Summer Moore’s pattern recognition, we’ll have heated sidewalks that clear themselves!

      Maybe…in the future….after a magic book has been written…we’ll have such amazing miracles.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Forget Crankshaft’s house; I want to see Crankshaft himself. Because somehow he’s still alive in 2060. And still driving the school bus.

  15. J.J. O'Malley

    By the by…”The burnings”? Did ol’ Ed finally light one barbecue fire too many and set the whole neighborhood ablaze? I’d pay to see that arc lead off the All-New Crankshaft Featuring Select Characters from the Pulitzer-Nominated Funky Winkerbean in 2023.

  16. erdmann

    “I located an old tree copy of your grandmother’s book ‘Westview’ for your birthday… uh, I probably shouldn’t have told you that. Kind of ruins the surprise. Also, it’s going to be really awkward if it turns out someone else bought in the three months since I located it, huh? Well, sorry, kiddo. Maybe we can get you something for your next birthday.”

    I must admit, I do like the apprehensive way the girl is looking at the dangling sign as if she’s thinking “Oh, god! Mom’s gonna get us killed in this hellhole! They’re gonna sell our corpses to the body banks for spare parts and no one will ever know what happened to us!”

  17. Cheesy-kun

    What is the point of caring about the Crankshaft universe if we know the future is all clean and polished and Lululemony? Was there some great conflagration in between now and then? Whatever.

  18. Y. Knott

    I have occasionally in the past noted that you could re-edit a Batiuk arc, so that a typically lazy, draggy, stretched-out week-long sequence could (in losing a bunch of panels) actually make for a single decent Sunday strip.

    But of you were an editor, how could you edit something this awful? What notes could you give, other than “scrap this entirely and start over”?

    Maybe you could do what Chuck Ayers did. Over at the Battyblog, TB claims that Chuck stepped aside for this final week because “Chuck Ayers is not a big science fiction fan.”

    Maybe Batiuk hasn’t been edited in years because an editor just stepped aside, saying “Sorry, I’m not a big Tom Batiuk fan.”

    • billytheskink

      Ayers basically said “I will have no part in this atrocity!”? For real?

      Ha ha ha! I mean, it’s weird that THIS was his breaking point, but still… it’s the best thing I’ve heard this week!

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Yeah, that’s another lame, ill-fitting explanation from Batiuk. I’m sure Ayers knew the strip ran through the end of the year, and would expect to draw the final week of it. There’s also very little that’s science fictiony about it. But Batiuk can’t just say “I thought Byrne’s style was a better fit” or “Ayers wanted to retire as soon as possible.” Lying is such second nature to him that he does it when telling the truth would be easier.

  19. William Thompson

    Maybe Batiuk isn’t ripping off Ray Bradbury. Maybe this is his riff on Walt Miller’s “A Canticle for Liebowitz.” There’s been a nuclear holocaust. Many of the survivors turned against technology and civilization, which included burning all the books they could find, A few dedicated people salvaged what books they could, setting the groundwork for the rebirth of civilization, First, though, they had to fumble around and discover what the salvaged books meant (Capek’s “R.U.R” led to misunderstanding, as nobody knew for certain it was fiction).

    In Batiuk’s future one of the few books to survive the war was Summer’s book. It described an ideal society. People fixated on its commentaries, not realizing they were delusional. They created a pseudoscience that told them how to recreate this imaginary paradise. They were aided by comic books found in the old AK building (“Don’t nuke it,” Putin told his generals. “It’s more dangerous to America than a dozen Tsar Bombas.”) Fashions and architecture were lifted from old, slabbed editions of “Starbuck Jones.” We didn’t see the Skylar Aero Solar Scooter in motion because it really operates like a Flintstone ragtop (the characters wear those heavy boots for traction).

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      Have you read *Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman*? If so, would you recommend it?

      I can’t pay much for your answer, but I think I am good for a sacred shopping list of pound pastrami, can kraut and six bagels…

      • William Thompson

        I haven’t read it; until just now I didn’t know about it. If it’s an extended version of the story that appeared in F&SF, then I’d say it’s worth reading. (I just googled the book; it’s largely Miller’s work, with some tying-up of loose ends by Terry Bisson, himself an excellent writer. I’ll have to get a copy and find out for myself.)

  20. Since this is the last week I have a chance to ask before the opportunity is forever gone, could someone please explain to me:

    What’s with the “it’s called writing” meme?

    I mean, I’ve looked it up on the wiki, but I still can’t figure it out. I get that it’s an obnoxious-sounding thing for Batiuk to say, especially since he’s really pretty bad at writing, but that doesn’t tell me what HE means by it. Like, in what contexts has he said it?

    • Paul Jones

      When he wants to defend crass stupidities that he doesn’t see are crass stupidities because he doesn’t ‘get’ that sixties-era Flash comics are pot-boilers churned out by incompetents and NOT the guide to great writing only he thinks they are, he looks at people who can see errors he cannot and smugly states “it’s called writing”. It’s in the Batiuktionary.

      • Yes, I know it’s in the Batiuktionary, but like I said, the explanation there isn’t helping me. Do you think you could explain it to me with a little less vitriol? Like, if you asked Batiuk himself what he meant by it, what would he say?

        • Paul Jones

          We point out that Phil Holt’s condition is upgraded to alive, he says it’s called writing. We point out that it’s not smart to make a toy out of a murder weapon, he says it’s called writing. Murder chimp? Writing. Jumping over Summer’s childhood? Writing.

          Long story short, it’s called BAD writing and pointing that out results in his using a sock puppet to whine about being bullied.

          • Okay, still too much vitriol. :p I’m about 80% sure that he doesn’t just say “it’s called writing” whenever facing any criticism and that there’s some kind of context involved.

            Admittedly, the other 20% is because I can’t entirely discount the possibility that Batiuk really does respond to criticism with a single-sentence non sequitur, because, well… Batiuk. But still, usually there is at least some kind of broken logic to what he does.

            Like, I could see him be like… “you don’t understand, I can do these things. I can do anything I want. That’s the awesome freedom a writer has. Why are you so small-minded as to expect me to limit myself to things that make sense? That’d be a waste of the medium’s infinite potential!” That’s a bad argument, but it’s an argument. So, is that what he actually says?

          • Paul Jones

            The vitriol comes from the sheer arrogance that drips from his pen as he says things like that. It’s not for nothing that he’s reaching out to another bloated ego to draw the last week of strips. If they made John Byrne’s ego a state, it would be the third largest.

          • Gerard Plourde


            I think what you’re seeing as vitriol is is the frustration that longtime readers of Batiuk’s work experience due to his habit that you’ve succinctly summed up and identified as a bad argument – “I can do these things. I can do anything I want. That’s the awesome freedom a writer has.”

            The problem exists in that attitude. While a writer can do anything, the choices the writer makes in creating a world like FW limit the future choices the writer can make in that world. The current attempt to retcon the ten year discrepancy between the two strips is a prime example. Crankshaft characters have appeared aged in FW – Mindy, Crankshaft, Pam, Jeff, the twins (whose names I forget) to name a few. Now in merging the two strips (claiming a time anomaly affected Westview), he attempts to paper over the problem most of the Crankshaft cast remain their Crankshaft age with the possible exception of the twins who moved to Westview for high school) and then blames readers who he invited to take the journey along with him and now in essence have been told “never mind”.

            Similarly, we have the treatment of Bull Bushka. In Act 1 he was a complete bully. In Acts 2 and 3 his character developed and he was shown as forming a meaningful friendship with Les, even to the point of helping Summer rehabilitate from her injury. Yet at Bull’s fneral, Les can only focus and comment on the abuse he suffered in Act 1 (I won’t even discuss the way that abuse was retconned out of existence in Act 2).

            What makes it frustrating is that Batiuk has shown that he can do the work. Act 1 was funny and entertaining. The more serious stories told in Act 2 showed effort that brought readers along on the journey (even when Lisa made choices that many of us found troubling, though still plausible – her passivity when told of the X-ray mixup, her decision to forego further treatment). That effort was increasingly lacking in Act 3. I suspect that there were reasons for that which we do not know, but the strip suffered as a result.

            I hope this explains the tone that you’ve labeled as vitriol.

        • Y. Knott

          It was very specifically used by Batiuk to counter criticism from fans that his writing was slapdash, or nonsensical, or prone to continuity snafus, or not realistic. Essentially, Batiuk responded with “just wait and see. Keep reading. You think it’s bad, but you’re wrong and you’ll see I’m building to something fantastic. All will be revealed. Trust me.” And Batiuk himself ended his response with — and there’s no other way to interpret it — the sneering, condescending sentence: “It’s called writing.”

          What he means by it is that HE’S a writer and YOU’RE not. YOU can’t even recognize writing. You see, anything HE creates is writing. Anything you, personally have written ISN’T. (And he meant YOU personally, bearaad, as well as anyone else who deigned to question his writing credentials.) In Batiuk’s mind, writing is a wondrous talent, meant to be respected and admired. And in his mind, he has that talent. His every thought is imbued with the aura of “it’s called writing”, which explains why to Batiuk “first thought = only thought = best thought”, and why he cannot stand to be edited. For Tom Batiuk, what writing “is” is actually defined in its entirely by what Tom Batiuk writes. And ipso facto, what Tom Batiuk does not write is, by definition, not writing.

          Now, would Tom use those exact words to define ‘writing’? Of course not. He’d drone on about how he writes material “a quarter-inch from reality”, and how comics can be serious, and how he’s tackled serious issues, and how he escaped the shackles of “gag-a-day”, and how he invented the idea of serious comics that no-one else ever attempted, and how people don’t understand that comics can be serious and on and on and on and on.

          But what he MEANS is “Shut up. I’m a writer. I get paid to write, and so whatever I write is writing. Anyone who doesn’t get that is stupid. JUST READ MY STUFF AND BUY MY BOOKS AND I AM TOO A WRITER I AM SO, SO SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.”

          Sorry if that seems vitriolic. But there is quite simply no other way to interpret it.

    • @Paul Jones and @Y. Knott alike:

      Yes, but understandable though the outrage may be as a reaction, it’s not very helpful for explaining to an uninitiated person just what happened to inspire it… :p But okay. I think I have a rough idea now.

    • @Gerard Plourde

      Yes, I get it, but see above response – I asked for an explanation, not a rant. I’m not against rants, in fact I’m quite fond of them, but they don’t contain much actual information.

      But also like I said above, I think I kiiiiind of understand the context now.

    • Green Luthor

      A link to Batiuk’s blog from 2007, discussing why Wally wasn’t around after the second time skip:

      Probably the best, most neutral answer there is.

      • Thank you, that’s the sort of thing I was looking for. Yes, I agree, that is at least mildly obnoxious. From the sound of it, he wasn’t even responding to criticism per se, but to people just not approaching his rather uninspiring story with the awe and breathless anticipation that he thought it deserved. Shades of Terry Goodkind.

        • Gerard Plourde

          Although it doesn’t address his writing, here’s a post from his blog that may also provide more context. The event he’s describing occurred over fifty years earlier.

          • sorialpromise

            Thank you posting. I had never read the actual quote in full before. My observations:
            1. Batiuk is in college at Kent State. He is a college student. He is not in grade school.
            2. He camps out in his seat since 5pm for a 7:30 show.
            3. He gets furious as if he is in grade school! Wouldn’t you like to have seen that temper tantrum in person.
            4. Best of all: Those early episodes of Batman
            WERE taken from actual Batman comics. The very same comics that Batiuk read every week. Some of the script was word for word from the comics. It’s called writing.

          • Gerard Plourde


            In grade school I was a Batman reader, the eponymous title, crossovers with Superman in World’s Finest and the Batman Annuals. Having read all of those I found his objections surprising. They were replete with bad puns, crazy gimmicks (like a giant penny), and fantastic plots (The Joker’s origin story as a villain called The Red Hood whose skin became bleached escaping from Batman by swimming through a chemical stew).

            With that background, complaining about the 1966 series was baffling.

          • sorialpromise

            Growing up in the late 50’s, my brothers and I all read DC comics. My older brother loved collecting Batman. I was more into Flash, Green Lantern, and Superboy. 1950’s DC was crazy. Bizarre even. But I remember 1950’s and 60’s Batman. He fought the Riddler, and on the TV show, they used the exact same riddles. Burt Ward read the lines like Shakespeare. I think I found what Batty found objectionable in that first episode. Jill St. John plays Molly. She falls in love with Batman and he almost falls for her. That was too much quarter of an inch from reality for TB. YUCK! Icky girls in a Batman show. How dare they!

      • ComicBookHarriet

        Thank you so much for posting the link Green Luthor. I knew that the phrase came from a specific quote, but I couldn’t remember where it came from.

        For most of his career, Batiuk has worked without significant editorial control.

        So you’re right, Baeraad, it is a lot like Terry Goodkind. Or maybe, if we’re more charitable, George Lucas.

        Some artists get precious about their own work, as if letting someone else suggest changes they go on to adopt somehow makes it less THEIRS. Or, like Goodkind, scoffing at anyone who tells them their storytelling instincts are ever wrong.

        My circle of friends has several creatives. One is even currently putting out a webcomic, which I’m assisting her in proofreading. Running her story past a few trusted friends, who are willing to be constructive AND critical has been invaluable for her. She’s punched up humor, cut the fat, clarified themes and arcs, deepened characters. And the final decisions on anything were all her.

        The podcast interview with Chuck Ayers I listened to indicated that he was content to leave the storytelling up to Tom. So I don’t know if Tom even has an unofficial ‘beta reader’.

        • be ware of eve hill

          Would you happen to have a link for your friend’s webcomic? I read a handful of independent webcomics, and several are quite good.

          Furthermore, I like to support newer talents. I get frustrated reading some of these “zombie comics” that only exist because they were good a generation or two ago. Are these zombie strips filling a slot that could be filled by something… not lame? Something that is not rehashing the same strips over and over?

  21. hitorque

    1. Of course they’re getting a ‘dead tree’ copy of “Westview” because even 200+ years in the future, the Funkyverse is still full of Old Tech Hipsters…

    1a. What, Summer’s book wasn’t a global bestseller and didn’t get made into a blockbuster movie starring Masone Jarre? Is it up to this unnamed girl to discover the book and use her mutant powers to decipher the “divine patterns” that Summer hid in her dull, sterile prose?

    2. That house/garage would be antiquated in the year 1992, to say nothing of 2242. And yet somehow it has held up remarkably well over the centuries? Or is it restored? Or maybe a rebuilt replica?

    2a. And why the hell has nobody bothered to fix the sign since everything else is in excellent condition?

    3. “This antiquated bookstore survived the mass burnings because the Secret Police and roving Burn Squads couldn’t read the big sign that said “VILLAGE BOOKSMITH”…!

  22. Paul Jones

    Now, who do you think Batomic Comic Obsessive has racing around torching bookstores in the first place? Could it be people who call the Lisa’s Story a load of self-indulgent excrement? Awful interwebs people who bullied him by referring to him as an incompetent and self-absorbed nitwit whose author avatar is an extremely punchable git who treats his friendly like garbage?

  23. ian'sdrunkenbeard

    Is it coinkydink or fate that this song came on as I read about the burnings?

    • ian'sdrunkenbeard

      Perhaps Cheesey-kun knows some senior citizens who dug these cool cats when they formed the first Japanese psychedelic band in 1968.

  24. ComicTrek

    They *float* on the sidewalk, yet they’re walking normally up the stairs!? Unless the art is just that bad.

  25. ComicTrek

    What “burnings”? Did Frankie finally lose it and torch the whole town? Did Les finally lose it and blow up the whole town? Or did a Lisa Moore worship offering shoot out a hot cinder which burned the whole town and killed everyone?

  26. Smirks’R Us

    Way to double-down on the stupidity BatHack. Just an unbelievable way to end this trash heap.

  27. Gee, one would think a comic strip called FUNKY WINKERBEAN would have its last storyline feature Funky Winkerbean!

  28. The Duck of Death

    Les965529 looked up at the stained-glass panels depicting the Incidents in Lisa’s Story. The late-afternoon sunlight streamed through the colored glass as Les965529, kneeling, closed his eyes to pray to Summer for intercession with Lisa. The last few days had been the hardest of his life. Losing his family to the fire sparked by the Skylar Aero Solar Scooter’s electric battery — but then, hadn’t Lisa nearly lost her life in a fire? He gazed at the panel depicting Les outside the post office, flames leaping at him. White glass in the shape of a curled ribbon depicted the caption, “USA!!!” The priests had taught him in Sunday Lisa School that Les was, with that one word, condemning the degenerate, fallen country of his and Lisa’s birth. His word foretold the fall of the United States, which had once existed beyond The Outskirts, and the rise of the behavioral-patterned algorithms that led to Lisaland.

    A blotch of yellow light thrown by the stained glass of Les’ shirt danced incongruously on the morose face of Les965529 as a Darin Acolyte approached. “My son,” he said pleasantly. Les965529 looked up at him, all bedecked in his zipatone robes, yellow wig atop his head. “My son, you seem to be struggling. Allow me to help restore your full faith in Lisa.”

    “Brother Darin, I’m grieving –” “AH, yes!” smiled the Darin Acolyte, interrupting. “Grieving is the most exalted emotion, you know, my son. For did not Les himself grieve his own life away? Recall that it was his unwavering grief that drove him to write the first books about Our Mother Lisa.” The Darin Acolyte pointed at one of the stained glass panels. “For here, he was tormented by bluecat. And here,” he said as he gestured to another panel, “he received the Word that the playground would soon be closed. And here, he watched as Lisa was led back to Her heaven in the arms of the Masked Angel of Martyrdom. So you should be proud of your grief, my son. Lean into it. Nurture it. Feed it. Never let it go.”

  29. The Duck of Death

    “Yes, Brother Darin,” Les965529 said, feeling things would go better for him if he mustered a smile. “I only wish we could see the Holy Books ourselves. You know, to get closer to Lisa and Darin and Summer.”

    A benevolent smile beamed from the face of the Darin Acolyte. “But you know as well as I do, my son, that The Burning was necessary to protect our untutored minds from misinterpreting the Story of Lisa. Frankie lies in wait for those who take the Story into their own hands. You don’t want to end up with Frankie when you die, do you?”

    “No, Brother Darin. You’re right, of course.” The Darin Acolyte patted Les965529’s hand. “Of course. We’re trained here to think the correct thoughts. We give our lives over to worshipping Our Mother. Now what is your name, my son? We will add you to our prayer rolls.”

    “Les965529,” said Les965529 with a wan smile. “Les965529. What a lovely name. May Lisa travel with you as you journey through Westview,” the Darin Acolyte said in a cloying voice, using the ceremonial name for Lisaland to emphasize the elevated spiritual nature of grief. He watched as Les965529 got to his feet and walked out of the Lisa Worship Center. Then he hurried to the Worship Center office upstairs. “Father Darin,” he said, “I think we have an apostate on our hands. He was questioning The Burning. His name is Les965529.”

  30. Angusmac

    This is great stuff here! I for one just want moore and Moore of future funky. The idea of mass burnings (of what? Who knows? Isn’t it great!) and the use of tree-copy instead of the normal word “paper” make this already priceless. I NEED YEARS MOORE OF THESE STRIPS! And besides this blog is the laughs I need every morning before I drudge off to work.

  31. The Duck of Death

    Trying to critique this is like trying to itemize the loss and damage caused by WWII. Where would you even start?

  32. The Duck of Death

    The part of this that really makes ya squirm uncomfortably is: Batty’s proud of it. You can tell he really thinks he’s doing … something. Something bold. Something that breaks the rules. Something that’ll go down in the history books. There’s a sort of invisible, yet palpable smirk emanating off these panels.

  33. The Duck of Death

    Do you find this whole thing mind-blowingly atrocious and demented? Tsk tsk. Tom Batiuk has some words for you. The man who feels that the 1961 Flash #123 is the apotheosis of comic book artistry and still to this day is furious about the 1966 Batman wants you to embrace change.

    From a blog entry dated 4/30/20, about the time jump:

    Change in any way, shape, or form is anathema to comic strip readers. The syndicates even have a name for a reader’s response to change: the squeal factor.

    From yesterday, about John Byrne’s previous tenure as artist:

    I wasn’t quite prepared for the massive outcry from readers whose existential comics world I had just upended. It had kind of slipped my mind that change of any sort was anathema to readers of the newspaper comics, regardless of how good it was. Along with the perception that comic strips should only be funny (see? I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep from bringing that up again) came the proscription that anything that threatened their familiar comic strip–reading experience had to be bullied into submission and hectored out of Dodge.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Translation from Batiukese to English: “I’m too sophisticated for you dumb readers.”

      This is another answer to baeraad’s question about “it’s called writing.” Those three words are the most succinct expression of Tom Batiuk’s hateful, condescending attitude towards his readers. He acts like his comic strip is too advanced for mere mortals to understand. And call it “bullying” and “hectoring” when people ask him questions like why his characters randomly change names, ages, and being dead or not.

    • The Duck of Death

      I was gonna ignore it, but the incorrect use of “proscription” for some reason needles my brain. Puffy does this all the time — he uses what he thinks is a “big” word that shows off his alleged erudition, but falls flat on his face.

      I am not making fun of his vocabulary. I don’t care that he doesn’t know the word “proscribed.” It’s not that he doesn’t know the word; it’s that he arrogantly thinks he does, and refuses to consult a dictionary. IT’S CALLED WRITING, not being a big Poindexter with his nose buried in Webster’s, DUH!

      If he writes more than 3 sentences of prose, in his blog or in a strip, odds are high that there’ll be at least one piece of unpleasantly torqued grammar or one word clangingly misused.

      I constantly consult the dictionary, even when I’m writing a comment here. There’s an infinite amount of language that I don’t know, but at least I know that I don’t know it, and I’m willing to try to learn it.

      • Hell, he refuses to consult his strip’s own history, so that continuity is lying drunk in a gutter somewhere.

        I tried to read the entry, and couldn’t get past the first couple of paragraphs. His ego gets larger and larger and his writing gets worse and worse.

      • William Thompson

        Batiuk has trouble with the “small” words, too. Look at today’s strip: the bookstore is “One of the last to survive the burnings?” One of the few, Batiuk, one of the few.

        This whole arc is getting to be like that cornball Star Trek episode where a planet had a Roaring Twenties gangster culture founded on The Book.

        • Except that was entertaining. And we learned the rules for Fizzbin. Which were, surprisingly, the same rules for writing Funky Winkerbean.

          • Anonymous Sparrow

            The episode is “A Piece of the Action.”

            Curiously enough, the titles of the “Batman” episodes in which the Caped Crusader meets the Green Hornet are “A Piece of the Action” and “Batman’s Satisfaction.”

            Since it’s easy to find the lead-in to the “Green Hornet” series online, here are Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” lyrics instead (Alexander Courage was not amused):

            The rim of the star-light
            My love
            Is wandering in star-flight
            I know
            He’ll find in star-clustered reaches
            Strange love a star woman teaches
            I know
            His journey ends never
            His star trek
            Will go on forever
            But tell him
            While he wanders his starry sea
            Remember, remember me

          • Mr. Courage was mainly not amused because it meant that, now, half his royalties went to Mr. Roddenberry.

        • Y. Knott

          But that episode was at least played mostly for laughs. They knew it was a goofy, campy concept, so they had fun with Spock and Kirk trying figure out how to drive a car, inventing the game of Fizzbin, having Kirk take on the persona of a gangster, etc. It was cornball, sure, but it was amusing cornball.

          This final week is far too stupid to be graced with the descriptor “cornball”.

          “Turdball”? “Nothingburger”? “Post-traumatic ungrammatic problematic Batiuk on a bannock?”

          • Anonymous Sparrow

            My favorite running gag: Kirk says “right?” to Spock and Spock replies “Check,” and later Kirks says “check?” and Spock replies “Right.”

        • ComicTrek

          (*Bursts in*) Did somebody say Star Trek?? 😃 Enjoyable episode, by the way!

  34. KMD

    It’s fitting that the gun as toy as spaceship keeps resurfacing over the final weeks of FW. TB has basically blown the brains out of his own legacy–and nothing has shown that more than the past few months. Sometimes, you just need to know when to bow out, something TB should have done years ago. It’s sad. I’m old enough to remember when FW was good, even excellent, and it helped me steer the rough waters of growing up. I will always cherish that part of the FW legacy but it’s been largely eclipsed with the smug nostalgia and comic book worship of recent years.

  35. sully

    It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see this run-down, surviving bookstore still being operated by Liliann’s preserved head in a jar, ‘Futurama’-style.

  36. bunnydoe

    What disturbs me the most about this is that it implies that “the burnings” are recent enough that the only remaining bookstores are the exact ones that survived the burnings.

  37. Charles

    I see that in all the changes in this new futuristic society, Uggs have managed to make it through unscathed.

    • Charles

      Also, in the meantime the ADA was repealed, and/or handicapped people were all told to go screw. Look at that uncompliant stairway! How retro!

      • Green Luthor

        Lillian was running her shop out of the space above her garage, in violation of any kind of zoning laws. Complying with legal regulations was obviously not high on her list of priorities.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          Hey now, let’s not sell Lillian short. There’s also her blatant disregard for employment laws, with her two 10-year-old “volunteers” whose parents have never been seen or mentioned.

  38. Green Luthor

    Wait, hold on… where exactly did they park the John Darling Murdermobile? In panel two, they’re walking on the sidewalk that leads straight to the stairs, but the Murdermobile is on pavement that’s perpendicular to the sidewalk. But in panel one, the sidewalk is parallel to the driveway. (And the Murdermobile appears to be flying right up to the stairs?) They could have parked on the street (which presumably is perpendicular to the driveway and the sidewalk), but they’re way too close in panel 2 for the street to be off the bottom of panel 1.

    That layout is really wonky, right? It’s not just me, is it?

    • be ware of eve hill

      Not just you. I thought a Hall of Famer like John Byrne would be above such obvious booboos.

      Can we call it the “Tom Batiuk Effect”? Craptacular results via osmosis?

  39. Miskatonic Sophomore

    Speaking strictly for myself, the one entertaining element of today’s glimpse into the nightmare world of FUNKY JETSONBEAN 451 is Birthday Girl’s dot-face, looking back from the stairs at the dangling sign. My mind is projecting a lot onto those face dots: confusion, dumb animal fear, and maybe just a trace of a slowly dawning realization that all may not be as it seems. Did her friend, wonders Birthday Girl, cajole her away from yesterday’s meal of an ingot of zip-a-tone butter and a beaker of viscous fluid and whisk her all the way to the outskirts with nefarious intent?

    I hope so. I will be disappointed.