Retroactive Contemptibility

2022 Funky Awards coming soon!

Voting ends Saturday Night!

You remember when this was just supposed to be a little Frankie retrospective? A fun little character study to thank Epicus for his years of hard work on this blog? Sorry about that. We all have to grieve/celebrate the ending of Funky Winkerbean in our own way. So, on to Day 9 of FRANKIE WEEK!

The last couple days, Frankie has faded into the background while the Westview Avengers assembled.

What was our hero Frankie getting up to during the two weeks it took Cayla to remember Lisa had a high school journal?

Well, first he and Lenny attempt to interview the locals about Lisa.

Just some amazing facial expressions from our Frankie boy here.

Then, the partners take a idyllic stroll down lover’s lane.

Interesting show of empathy from Lenny.

So they’re in a holding pattern. Meanwhile at the Taj Moore Hall…

It’s a magic journal made of size shifting material!

I like to think that Cayla has already read the journal cover-to-cover and is just playing coy. Because my detailed and constantly growing CauCayla headcanon includes her Sapphic infatuation with dead St. Lisa. When she kisses Les, she is kissing the lips that Lisa loved.

I always remember this strip. No matter how hard I drink.

Back in November, TFH wrote a very thoughtful post about finding his mother’s journals, which he decided not to read. It sparked a trademark ‘thoughtful discussion’ in the comments section about the appropriateness or morality of reading someone’s diary after their passing.

Les seems reluctant here. But as TFH pointed out in his post, he would later cave due to peer pressure from Cayla and read Lisa’s journals. This gives him the insight into Lisa’s mind he needs to write the script adaptation for a book he’s already written. (wha?)

Les’ refusal here serves one function. It means that sweet little Summer Moore is the one to read the journal.

And, of course, picking up the book will take three whole panels.

And we are treated to an ENTIRE WEEK of shaky cursive hovering over panel after panel of Summer’s reading face.

I think the point was supposed to be, “Wow, high school mom was so clever and snarky!” But this would have made a shortlist for Most Pointless Strips of 2013.

In nine days of diary reading we get ONE DAY with two flashback panels. Why wasn’t the whole thing in flashback panels? We got more flashback panels when Jff was telling his tale.

STAR WARS, Revenge of the Shit!

Oh, we also get a SIDEWAY’S COMIC COVER!!!!! But this one is just a straight up reprint of Girls’ Romances #13 by Alex Toth. Batiuk dutifully credits the line artist whose work he stole. (HINT DAVIS HINT)

So what was Lisa’s Story, for real? Well here it is, straight from the mophead herself.

I desperately want to be accepted here at my new school so I couldn’t believe it today when one of the football players, a guy named Frankie, asked me out at lunch. I finally feel like all of the pieces in my life are starting to fit together.

Frankie picked me up in his van tonight. All of the seats are covered with leopard skins. Sorry, but leopard skin only works on leopards.

After the game tonight Frankie took me to a party at the home of one of his friends. Everyone there was drinking, so I did too. On the way home, Frankie pulled into an alley called Lover’s Lane and parked the van. That evening with Frankie was a bad combination of high expectations and low self-esteem. I realized I wasn’t in love or even in like with Frankie…just a little intoxicated and in the back of Frankie’s van. I looked him in the eye to let him know how I felt… I don’t know if it was the the beer or the fear…but I blinked.

I’m going to tell Frankie it’s over tonight…but I’m more than a little frightened about what he’ll do because he’s hit me before. I can’t believe that eyes I once thought were gentle could flash with so much anger.

My life is drenched in irony…I wanted so badly to fit in…and soon I won’t be able to fit into any of my old clothes… If writing is like praying… then let this be my prayer that this baby I’m carrying never gets to meet his real father.

So here we have another Mandela effect that had cropped up in Funkylore. If my reading comprehension hasn’t failed me, the night the Murdochs chased Frankie off and drove Lisa home was NOT the night Darin was conceived, but instead a night following when she attempted to break up with him. She gave in to him the first night but regretted it, and knew that he would continue to expect sex if she didn’t break it off.

Because, according to Lisa, it only happened once.

Notice how here she’s sassy and almost mad.
And in the remake she’s sad and haunted.

Even in the original Batiuk has to let us know that it was ONE time, and it was LOUSY, and she was giving in to PEER PRESSURE! She didn’t even ENJOY it.

Is it important to know that just one time is enough to get pregnant? Yeah. Does it fit the bitterly ironic humor of Act I? Yes. Is it believable that the inexperienced sex between nervous teenagers in the back of van would be unsatisfying? Duh. But it also allows Lisa to preserve as must chastity as possible.

(By the end of Act II Batiuk had Jess and Darin’s high school canoodling be sweet, consensual, and consequence free. Because he wants to pretend like he’s not old fashioned by showing people getting all premarital up in this business. But every couple that engages in a little free milk INVARIABLY goes on to buy the cow. Batiuk may fake otherwise but is a staunch monogamist at his core. Which would be fine if he just owned up to it, instead of lying to himself.)

Bigger question: Was this date rape?

Batiuk is being deliberately obtuse here by mixing Lisa’s fear with lack of either consent or protest. He’s stuck the story in that grey area that makes Lisa as much of a victim as possible without making Frankie a deliberate rapist. He’s physically violent, but we don’t know how far he was willing to go.

If you put a gun to my Indiana Jones poster, and demanded I weigh in, I would say I don’t think this was something you could label rape. But I don’t really have to have a firm opinion one way or another. Because this wasn’t a potential crime, this was a cheap plot point dreamed up by an author who couldn’t get over the death he’d written for his muse.

I’ve posted this before. I’m posting it again. Deal with it.

A couple of summers ago I felt compelled to go back to Elyria and take some pictures around my old apartment and the alley across the street from us. I don’t know why but I took all those pictures and I ended up writing a story where Frankie — he’s been mentioned a couple times and has actually appeared in the strip very briefly, the guy who got Lisa pregnant — returns.

In the return of that story we deepen the teen pregnancy story and say that it was a little more than just youthful indiscretion on Lisa’s part. There was some coercion involved and it’s like a coda to “Lisa’s Story.” This character was always hanging there. Whatever happened to him he comes back into their lives, disrupts them completely and then everything gets resolved, so in a way I guess that does involve Lisa. We find a journal of hers and we’re reading her journal so she kind of speaks to us from the grave.

Tom Batiuk, interview with CBR news, 2013. Bolding added later for emphasis.

Boy, this is a real downer huh? Here’s something to lighten your mood!

I’ll stop doing THIS when Davis confesses.

BTW, if you choose to discuss and comment on the sensitive subject matter brought up today, please remember site rules. (Don’t worry Cheesy-Kun, the tangent exception to the on-topic rule is a mile wide at this point.)

Thoughtful, Respectful, Snarky. It’s the SOSF version of ‘Live, Laugh, Love’



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

73 responses to “Retroactive Contemptibility

  1. So Lillian is Batton Thomas in a wig! That brings the number of author avatars to 7.

    • be ware of eve hill

      About three or four years ago in Crankshaft, Batiuk featured Lillian’s book writing adventures for weeks on end. Lillian was pretty much featured as the Crankshaft version of Les Moore. Snarkers started referring to the strip as Crankshaft Without Crankshaft.

      Worst of all was the story arc where the two met at a writer’s convention and Lillian asked Les for advice. I think that was the week the Comic Kingdom’s servers kept crashing. Too many crappy characters in one strip.

  2. Epicus Doomus

    Oh yes, the strip where Dead VHS Lisa gives Cayla permission to scold Les WHEN, not if, he cries out Lisa’s name during (gag) sex. In real life, that’s when the video diaries would have found their way into the fireplace, but this is Cayla we’re talking about here, so a brainless smirk was pretty much all you were gonna get there. Man, no one writes for women quite like Batiuk does.

    The date rape question: as always, BatHam deftly avoided any potential fallout or kerfuffle by obscuring everything behind an ill-defined and poorly-written veil of ineptitude and cowardice. Frankie was a scumbag, Lisa made some poor decisions, nothing really firmly established one way or the other. “Some coercion involved”…thanks for clearing that up for us, Tom. He never took a real stand against anything except cancer, and that’s an easy one, as who’s for it?

  3. Green Luthor

    The sad thing is, that strip where Dead Skunk Head is talking about having found a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15? That likely means Batiuk actually planned on doing Crazy Harry’s Bogus Journey ahead of time!

    So I did a little digging and found a list of how Overstreet valued a 9.2 (NM-) copy of AF15 over the years (the post only covered 1977-2016, but it’ll be adequate for the exercise).

    First we have to look at when DSH found the comic. CHBJ puts it in 1980, although that doesn’t match any other timeline established for the strip. In any event, in 1980, AF15 was valued at a whole $225. DSH, as far as I know, had his store for all of Act II (correct me if I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t imagine they showed his store getting set up?). Act II started in 1992, and was originally set that year, but the retconning would put it at 1976 instead. But in 1977, AF15 was valued at… $40. Yeah, you read that right. In 1992, it was up to $1500.

    So DSH’s “seed money” would appear to have been under $2000, unless Chester REALLY overpays for old comics. (And I’m not ruling that out, given how much he’s apparently paying those Atomik Komix chuckleheads to produce nothing but covers.) That… really doesn’t seem like enough to act as “seed money” to open a shop, does it?

    (Also keep in mind these are for copies graded at 9.2 (NM-). That copy wasn’t a 9.2. Not after sitting in a spinner rack for years. The price he would have gotten should have been considerably less than those figures. (Except, of course, for the “Batiuk doesn’t know how _____ works” factor.)

    In other words, this whole idea of “DSH finds valuable comic to start his store” was not particularly good. (Also, I should probably find a new hobby.)

  4. billytheskink

    I used to follow wanting
    Wherever it would lead me
    A lot of lovers had me
    When they really didn’t need me
    Fever in the blood
    Fever in the brain
    No one’s walking out tonight
    Down on lover’s lane

    Lisa’s checkbook journal’s got nothing on Peter Wolf.

  5. billytheskink

    Looking at Summer’s haircut next to Act I Frankie’s… Are we sure it’s Durwood who is his bio-kid?

    • Tom from Finland

      If your childhood was ruined by your dead mother controlling your father from behind the grave, you might get a subconscious urge to style yourself like the person your mother hated the most.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Well, it is also identical to Lisa’s hair in Act II…

      So are we saying that Lisa styled her hair to resemble her tormentor? Perhaps to harness his hatchet-faced powers?

      • Tom from Finland

        Maybe it was due to Stockholm syndrome, or more likely she wanted to torment Les by reminding him of the rape. It was Les’s “fault” after all, because he left Lisa.

  6. Paul Jones

    Well, if you brood about how you felt like you got cheated out of things as much and as long as Batiuk appears to have, people get to look worse over time. It’s akin to how Lynn Johnston parlayed a minor tiff with her mom about how she was letting success go to her head into a crazy lie on an interview about how the woman was Ilsa The She-Wolf who’d hit her for blinking funny.

  7. Banana Jr. 6000

    Les passive-aggressiving Summer into reading her own mother’s rape journal is one of the most vile things I’ve ever seen. Everybody should have walked straight out of Les’ little meeting, and washed their hands of his Lisa problems for life.

    It’s also ironclad proof that Les couldn’t possibly have written the Lisa’s Story that’s supposed to exist in this world. You can’t write a moving memoir of love and loss if you’re too fragile to even read the difficult parts.

    Fuck Les Moore, and fuck every character who didn’t tell him to go fuck himself when he desperately needed to hear it.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yeah I am glad this strip is gone. Batty now has to realize his prized strip was just a fart in the wind, it didn’t have to be this way, but the scent of that Pulitzer was intoxicating and it lured Batty into doing the most ridiculous things, and then when it became clear he would never win, he destroyed the strip.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        25 years from now newspaper comics won’t be remembered, much less Funky Winkerbean. The legendary strips will still have a place, and people will still buy books by Schultz, Watterson, Larson, Walt Kelly, and a few others. But it’s a dead art form, and really should have gone away by now.

        One newspaper replaced Funky Winkerbean with Beetle Bailey, FFS.

  8. The Duck of Death

    A nice, egregious coloring error in today’s Crankshaft, as DSH John tells Lillian he’ll drop off the check when Black Raven #1 sells, and she mentions that the words in the name Komix Korner are misspelled.

    I wonder who’s doing the coloring? Is it Davis or Batiuk? It’s a pretty glaring error — DSH John’s white hair is flesh-colored. Anyway, it’s good to know that having half as many strips to focus on hasn’t improved the quality control of Batiuk’s strips any.

    • A coloring gaffe and a quarter inch pinch! Oh boy!

      • billytheskink

        The coloring gaffe makes it look like DSH has a comically bad hairpiece. I think this is a sizable improvement, actually.

      • Green Luthor

        Dead Skunk Head’s hair styled by Moe Howard’s of Brooklyn.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        He looks like a young Professor Farnsworth. “Good news, everyone! I’ll be able to turn you back into Leela and Bender using Chronitons!”

      • be ware of eve hill

        If the DSH topper was green, I would swear it was one of the mega divots my husband creates on the golf course.

        Mr. bwoeh is a good boy. He always replaces his divots.

    • Y. Knott

      Standard industry practice is that colouring is outsourced, usually overseas (where the rates are WAY cheaper).

      • The Duck of Death

        Even if it is, one would think that it wouldn’t be too much work for the strip’s creator to glance quickly at it just to make sure there are no garish mistakes.

        One would think that. But one would think wrong.

      • Tom from Finland

        I suspect the coloring was outsourced to North Korea

  9. The Duck of Death

    One question has always bothered me: Why did Frankie, football player and big man on campus at Big Walnut Tech, want to date mousy Lisa in the first place?

    He clearly didn’t care about her at all. A guy like Frankie would have plenty of women interested in him, and would want to pick one that would reflect his social value (since he’s driven by a desire to dominate). A blonde cheerleader like Cindy, perhaps.

    CBH has given us soup to nuts — and nuts is the right word — on Frankie, but nothing in the exhaustive research seems to have turned up any motivation on Frankie’s part to date Lisa in the first place, take her to a big frat (?) party where all his friends would see his girl is an ugly duckling, and then fight to keep her — and then dump her, not even pressuring her to have an abortion or being nervous that he’d be hit up for child support.

    And then come back long after she’d died and obsessively try to make a documentary on her.

    I’m not a huge stickler for realistic motivations in comic strips, but come on, give us something. Even if it’s weak, give us something that’s driving Frankie’s actions. Every time you see him his face is twisted tightly into barely-contained fury, but you never have any idea what’s making him so emotional. What’s at stake for him?

    • Cheesy-kun Shiba

      That’s a really interesting point, Duck.

      From 1986-2017-ish I never read FW. Catching up on it (first at Comics Curmudgeon and then here) I assumed there must’ve been at least one strip that established Frankie’s motivation. I imagined he accepted a dare to try to score with the “nerdy chick” or something similarly cruel. Considering Batiuk’s low opinion of the “jockos” I figured he had Frankie and them standing around the ol’ “vendo” planning their hunt.

      For a guy who gets on his high horse about how “It’s called writing” that would seem to be a most un-writerly oversight.

      • The Duck of Death

        Well, my story is the same. I never read it, or even saw it, until the Comics Curmudgeon started to feature it.

        And as CBH has been doing this amazing deep dive, I’ve been expecting to see something like what you say. Was there a contest to pick the ugliest girl/virgin, lead her on, and then dump her? That would make sense based on what we know of Frankie.

        But then he shouldn’t have even given her the time of day once they’d shagged, let alone fought about breaking up.

        CBH, our most beloved and esteemed Queen of all Archivists, are we right that we never learned any motivations for Frankie’s behavior? Oh, other than Batiuk’s need to for an ever-malleable Deus ex Machina villain who pops in when he’s needed and disappears once Batty’s made his point?

        • Anonymous Sparrow

          You’re making me think of Henry Crawford’s pursuit of Fanny Price in Jane Austen’s *Mansfield Park.* Henry pursues Fanny to make her fall in love with him, at which point he’ll drop her and break her heart.

          Of course, Austen was a much better writer and storyteller, and recognized that the hunter can get captured by the game, as Smokey Robinson would one hundred and fifty years later, for while Fanny rebuffs Henry, he falls in love with her. (Or as much as a cad like he can fall in love with a proper maiden, which means that he gets over it quickly.)

          Ah, Batiuk as the anti-Smokey, who gives us clouds on a cloudy day, a mirage that was a mirage and a beggar who’ll take whatever he can get, because choices are for students at Hogwarts (take the cash — take the K.A.S.H…), and whose life of the party is only that in his own mind, because the joke or two he tells are one or two too many.

          I don’t suppose Les taught Austen at Westview, or George Eliot for that matter.

          • Y. Knott

            I came in very late to the strip, so I don’t recall seeing Les teach much of anything at all. He hung around the teachers’ lounge, had interactions with students, and attended graduation. But actual teaching? Hmmmm….

            I would assume he taught something about comic books. Or Lisa’s Story. Or making Lisa’s Story into a comic book.

          • sorialpromise

            “You’re making me think of Henry Crawford’s pursuit of Fanny Price in Jane Austen’s *Mansfield Park.*”
            Anonymous Sparrow,
            You made me think of another novel written in 1891, “Tess of the d’Ubervilles written by Thomas Hardy. It has some similarities to dead St. Lisa. Warning Spoilers Ahead. (But how many alerts do you need for 1891?)
            She gets pregnant basically on the first date. It is a result of rape. Tess gets some personal growth. Meets a decent guy. Rape guy comes back into Tess’s life. Good guy is physically repulsed by Tess’s moral failure to prevent her rape far out in the woods. Tess can’t resist rape guy. Later kills the rape guy. My observations:
            1) Hardy does good job describing the characters and situations. You can smell the farmland and the lifestyles.
            2) Hardy does something quite unusual. Rape guy professes Christianity and gives it up due to lusting Tess. Bold move for Hardy.
            Some negatives:
            3) Dickens and Hardy present decent men as such wimps. Had good guy actually listened to Tess’s story (she tried to tell him many times) the tragedy would have been avoided.
            4) Hardy *yada yada yada’s* over the best parts. No real description of the rape. I did not want something like “Harlequin Romances”, but something more graphic than Tess fainting during the attack, and if I remember correctly, the very next scene is 3 months later.
            Then the murder of rape guy takes place in an unseen room!!! That Hardy does not describe!!!The body is later found by a maid.
            Saying all that, Anonymous Sparrow, I did like the book, even with the short comings.
            Wow! A literary discussion with A.S. I should buy a lottery ticket. Today is my lucky day.

          • Anonymous Sparrow

            Good S.P.:

            I stand in line and extend my coat over puddles that you may walk without getting wet!

            By which I meantersay (as Joe Gargery of *Great Expectations* would put it) that I’m a more of a Hardyan than a Janeite, and I didn’t think of *Tess of the d’Urbervilles* at all. Perhaps it’s because Angel Clare could quote Shakespeare (“you were more sinned against than sinning,” he tells Tess, echoing *King Lear*) and Frank Pierce couldn’t, while Hardy’s irony is more interesting than Batiuk’s (Angel Clare’s arguments from Tess help undo the religious career of Alec Stoke-d’Urberville: not for nothing did he write a collection of short fiction called *Life’s Little Ironies*).

            Ultimately, I think it’s because Hardy was drawing a portrait of “A Pure Woman, Faithfully Presented,” while Batiuk couldn’t be as eloquent on what Lisa was, beyond the opener of doors. (I prefer drunken porters myself. They remind me to call it “the Scottish play” instead of its true title. Weirdly, in the “Columbo” episode called “Dagger of the Mind,” nobody follows the theatrical superstition…you’d think the British would be more scrupulous about that than Americans. Maybe that’s why Nicky and Lillian didn’t get away with it?)

            Have you seen Roman Polanski’s “Tess”? I think he was true to the Selznick dictum: he gave the illusion of the whole book, even if he couldn’t do the whole book. (The most recent “Far from the Madding Crowd” didn’t do nearly as well with its source material.)
            Whatever my problems with Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,” the detail about Sharon Tate picking up the book for her husband always reminds me of Polanski’s dedication of “Tess” to her memory and makes me a little misty.

            For what it’s worth, part of my current reading is four Emile Zola novels. (His novel of 1891 is *L’Argent* is not among them.) He wouldn’t have drawn back from showing Tess violated, but he was a naturalist, while Hardy was a meliorist.

            As you’ve probably deduced, I am a confirmed Hardyan (his “Christmas: 1924” is one of the few poems I can quote by heart), and I am grateful to you for allowing me to indulge myself in this vein.

            Sportos take note: at the end of *Tess,* we learn that the President of the Immortals had been having sport with Tess. Was it Stroppian? Or Bushkan?

            May climate damage never disturb your avocations, my friend, and may you have a great weekend.

          • sorialpromise

            A. S. Thank you for your reply.
            You brought up a sore memory. In 2015, returning from visiting friends and family in Dongguan and Shanghai China, I returned, and the inflight movies were Pitch Perfect 2, Tomorrowland, (the film wasn’t too bad until you got to the highly racist ending to the film. 🤢🤮), and Far From the Maddening Crowd. This last film was as bad as Heaven’s Gate. (Great actors. Brain amoeba movie. So bad, an extended nude scene couldn’t rescue it. They shouldn’t give teenagers condoms, they should force them to watch this film. That will scare them celibate. I understand that this is what they forced Alex in Clockwork Orange to watch. 😜) What does it say that Pitch Perfect 2 was the best of the 3 films?
            But apparently, the book Far From the Maddening Crowd is better by your recommendation. That encourages me to check it out.
            Good weekend, my friend!
            S. P.

          • Anonymous Sparrow

            Once again I owe you, S.P., for in recalling the 2015 “Far from the Madding Crowd,” I remembered that there was a 1967 version with Julie Christie, Terence Stamp, Alan Bates and Peter Finch. A YouTube search later and I found that it was online in its entirety, meaning that when I’m not in the mood for Lieutenant Columbo, I’ll check out Bathsheba Everdene (who gave a surname to Katniss Everdeen in Collins’s *Hunger Games* series), Sergeant Troy and their friends.

            The title comes from Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” which also gave Humphrey Cobb the title for *Paths of Glory,* which became Stanley Kubrick’s fourth full-length feature in 1957. “Paths of Glory” is Kubrick for people who don’t think they’ll ever like Kubrick, and receives a backhanded compliment from Stephen King in *The Outsider,* when Holly Gibney (no relation to Holly Budd) praises it and the early Kubrick films over his later work. (Still smarting over “The Shining,” Mr. King?)

            (Equally recommended early Kubrick: “The Killing.” Don’t miss the Lenny Bruce poster!)

            As for *Far from the Madding Crowd* in book form: well, I’m not the most objective critic when it comes to Thomas Hardy, but I think it’s one of his five greatest novels (the other four being *The Return of the Native,* *The Mayor of Casterbridge,* *Tess of the d’Urbervilles* and *Jude the Obscure*) and it probably cemented his reputation as an author to watch in a way that his second book *Under the Greenwood Tree* didn’t. So I encourage you to give it a try, but I’ll understand if, should you find you’re not enjoying it, you follow the lead of my stepmother, who will put aside a book she doesn’t like. (The male Sparrows see things to the end, confident that there must be a pony somewhere. Sometimes I think that Stepmother Sheila is much smarter than us.)

            Take that book about squirrels out of my face, Dinkle!

          • sorialpromise

            Be Ware of Eve Hill and I had some wonderful conversation about Paths of Glory some months back. She’s a wise and enjoyable woman. (BWOEH, watch your wallet with all that praise!)
            We also discussed “the Killing.” You might even had been the one to bring it up. Well, whoever did, I streamed it that night, along with an Eliot Gould movie. He played a P. I. that lost his cat. “the Long Goodbye.” Sterling Hayden was in both as you know. I think of him as under appreciated.
            PoG has such a sad song at the end. I found out later, “the Faithful Hussar” is actually kind of a jazz song.
            A. S. You are appreciated.

          • Anonymous Sparrow

            Sterling Hayden wasn’t supposed to be in “The Long Goodbye”: Dan Blocker of “Bonanza” fame was the original choice for Roger Wade, but he died before shooting could get underway. (The picture’s dedicated to him, for the picture’s director, Robert Altman, had directed several episodes of “Bonanza” before moving on to big-screen features.)

            Hayden has the title role in a decidedly odd Western called “Johnny Guitar,” which I recommend for its feminist slant on the genre. The director is Nicholas Ray, who a year later gave the world “Rebel without a Cause.”

          • sorialpromise

            Very surprised to learn Mr. Altman directed “Bonanza.” Even more so, to discover that he directed 20 episodes of a personal favorite of mine, “Whirlybirds.” Then to discover, Mr. Altman was a Kansas City native? Wow! The conversations we could have had. He would be a contemporary of my Mom and Dad.
            My personal favorite movie of his is “the Player.” Mainly due to him using the same technique that Orson Wells perfected in “A Touch of Evil.” That opening one camera shot. So beautiful.
            Much joy sent your way, Anonymous Sparrow.

          • Anonymous Sparrow

            Peace be unto you, and unto you be peace, S.P.

            I agree with you completely about “The Player” and its use of the “Touch of Evil” tracking shot…but I had to look up “Whirlybirds.”

            Clearly, there are aspects of Robert Altman’s career I still have to discover.

            My friend Brian has raved repeatedly about “3 Women,” and I’d like to start there.

          • sorialpromise

            I find it hard to believe that I knew about Whirlybirds and you did not. The wonderful Anonymous Sparrow is human. This pleases me. 😇
            One star in the show was Kenneth Tobey. To me his greatest movie was “the Thing from Outer Space. A Howard Hawkes film. It is a great one. All the soldiers act as real soldiers and very “by the book.” Probably the closest Mr. Hawkes get to Jack Webb kind of film. I mean this in a good way. I also enjoy Mr. Webb. I do not know if it was his first film, but James Arness play the alien. Great film. Great plot. Great acting.
            Got to see all of my surviving brothers and sisters today. Wonderful time.
            Good night, my friend.

          • Anonymous Sparrow

            Alas, the Sparrow is very human, as the therapy for his dislocated left shoulder reminds him regularly.

            Yesterday, I saw James Arness as a young detective in a great Humphrey Bogart movie called “In a Lonely Place.” That came from 1950, and in the same year, Arness was Floyd Clegg in John Ford’s “Wagon Master.” (Matt Dillon would have shot a man like Floyd on “Gunsmoke.”)

            But Arness was active earlier than that: his first film role (crediting him as “James Aurness”) was as Peter in “The Farmer’s Daughter” in 1947.

            I look forward to seeing his brother Peter (Graves) in “Night of the Hunter” soon.

            As Graves is most famous for playing Jim Phelps on “Mission:
            Impossible,” this comment will self-destruct in five seconds.

            Good Luck, S.P.!

          • sorialpromise

            🤯 💥 💥 💥

          • be ware of eve hill

            We just saw ‘The Killing’ on TCM a month or so ago. Sterling Hayden and Stanley Kubrick was a great match. We watch ‘Dr. Strangelove’ every time it’s on. Sterling Hayden, Peter Sellers, George C. Scott and Slim Pickens = chef’s kiss.

            The President: Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room! 😂

          • Anonymous Sparrow

            And did you catch the Lenny Bruce poster?

            A few months ago, I don’t think I’d ever heard the phrase “chef’s kiss” — and now it seems to be ubiquitous. Kate Bush would call that a strange phenomena.

            You pick up a paper. You read a name.
            You go out. It turns up again and again.
            You bump into a friend you haven’t seen for a long time
            Then into another you only thought about last night.

            The stars of “Dr. Strangelove” you listed are so good that you can often forget that James Earl Jones, Keenan Wynn and Peter Bull lend stellar (one might even say “sterling”) support.

            And Tracy Reed gets my vote for “Miss Foreign Affairs.”

        • ComicBookHarriet

          We are never given an official motivation for his lust for Lisa. But it mimics the earlier portrayed relationship between Susan Smith and Matt Miller…

          Mimics it quite a bit…

      • Sourbelly

        I too have long gaps in my FW readership. All I really remember from Act I is the (papier-mache) machine gun and the band director with the hat that covered his eyes. So I’m amazed at how Lisa was depicted in these retrospectives. She bears no resemblance to the Lisa I remember. Was the transition from loony frump to an attractive adult gradual, or did it occur instantly in a time jump?

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      It’s almost like the story isn’t telling us something. High school Lisa wasn’t just unpopular and unattractive, she was an absolute basket case. Either this was a hateful date-the-ugly-girl prank, as Duck suggested, or Frankie viewed Lisa as an easy target for his sexual predations.

      There had to be something more to Frankie’s interest in Lisa, because it makes zero sense in the status-conscious high school environment. (Something Tom Batiuk once understood, considering how central this was to Cindy Summers’ character.)

      CBH said it in the OP: the point is “allow Lisa to preserve as much chastity as possible.” That’s why Batiuk is so vague and contradictory. He thinks Dead Lisa is the face of the franchise, and can’t let it be besmirched. Even though he’s the one who besmirched it, back in the days when he was chasing awards with heavy drama.

      Lisa’s story changed as Batiuk’s needs for the strip changed. She went from homely inept waif to prom date to slutty teen to lawyer to rape victim to littlest cancer patient to Lost Lenore to global media franchise. And now she’s Incorruptible Pure Pureness, as Batiuk goes on his retirement tour of softball interviews in Cleveland-area newspapers to try and give Funky Winkerbean the legacy he wants it to have.

      • The Duck of Death

        I’m guessing that the retcon was not just to preserve Lisa’s saintly chastity, though I’m sure that was a big part of it. It also allowed Batiuk to explain why brilliant feminist lawyer Lisa was too dumb to use or insist on birth control. “It was rape” explains away so much. God forbid Lisa, or any woman, have true agency to make decisions, even if they’re sometimes stupid ones.

        And if Lisa had had, and enjoyed, consensual sex with someone before she married Les, why is that so terrible? Puffy wants it both ways: He wants to be a good, liberal, progressive NPR listener/obeyer, but he also wants to hold to the old tenet that it’s best to be a virgin on your wedding day, and premarital sex is somehow defiling.

        Roland/a changing gender? It’s beautiful and affirming. Lisa letting another man’s wingwang get close to her, when she’s not even married to him?!? A horror!

      • The Duck of Death

        I’m guessing that the retcon was not just to preserve Lisa’s saintly chastity, though I’m sure that was a big part of it. It also allowed Batiuk to explain why brilliant feminist lawyer Lisa was too dumb to use or insist on birth control. “It was råpe” explains away so much. God forbid Lisa, or any woman, have true agency to make decisions, even if they’re sometimes stupid ones.

        And if Lisa had had, and (heaven forbid!) even enjoyed, consensual sêx with someone before she married Les, why is that so terrible? Puffy wants it both ways: He wants to be a good, líberal, progressive NPR listener/obeyer, but he also wants to hold to the old tenet that it’s best to be a virgin on your wedding day, and premarital sêx is somehow defiling, but a little less defiling if the woman didn’t enjoy it.

        Roland/a changing gender? It’s beautiful and affirming. Lisa letting another man’s you-know-what get close to her, when she’s not even married to him?!? A horror!

        (Apologies for diacritical marks; my comment was [surprise!] stuck in perma-moderation and I was trying to guess which words triggered it.)

      • Tom from Finland

        Lisa being a narcissistic control freak, I assume that the relationship was initiated by Lisa as a revenge to Les and it then got out of hand.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          Another very plausible theory.

          • The Duck of Death

            Extremely plausible, if we’re talking about human behavior in all its irrationality and complexity.

            Which means that it couldn’t have been what Puffy intended.

          • Tom from Finland

            Quite Batiukian. He tries to write uplifting, empowering and topical stories but the implications are horrible and the characters show themselves as very dysfunctional.

    • billytheskink

      TB can barely be bothered to come up with motivation for his protagonists much of the time, he’s pretty much never had his strip contemplate what his villains’ motivation might be. It isn’t motivation that lacks nuance, even, it just simply isn’t there. There aren’t even effective context clues.

      Back when TB’s other recurring villain, Roberta Blackburn, was suing Komix Korner for stocking ambiguously scandalous manga or protesting the selling of prom tickets to unnamed gay kids, there was no elaboration on her motivation. Being a gadfly is simply what Roberta did, Lefty said as much in a strip even.

      Same deal with Frankie. He’s bad because TB’s story needs him to be, and that’s all TB thinks is necessary. In Act I where we don’t really see Frankie and the focus is entirely on Lisa, that actually is enough. It’s the regular repeat appearances where his lack of motivation makes the story start to unravel.

      • The Duck of Death

        Batty’s following the disheartening trend that’s becoming more and more prevalent in politics and culture: Attribute only the purest motives to your side and the worst possible motives to the other side.

        Using the DSH John court case as an example: DSH John is fighting for the right to artistic expression, and the appropriateness of selling (hentai?*) as a legitimate part of Japanese culture. It had nothing, of course, with his desire to attract customers or make money by selling the books.

        Roberta Blackburn’s motives, on the other hand, appear to be: Hurt as many people as possible, as badly as possible, and destroy local businesses — just for shíts and giggles.

        A grown-up person will attribute the best plausible motives to their ideological opponents, even if they very strongly disagree. An emotionally mature person might even find some common ground with their opponent. For example, DSH John and Roberta might agree on the need for censorship, but disagree on the items to be censored; would he sell an appealing, kid-friendly cartoon version of “Mein Kampf” or “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in his store? Probably not.

        Roberta is not trying to shut down publication of manga all over the world. She just doesn’t want it in a store where it might be sold to kids. Perhaps some of it is borderline, or blatantly, pørnøgraphic, and there are zoning restrictions in the town regulating where such material can be sold, and thus DSH John is in violation of zoning laws. That’s obviously way too sane and realistic to be a Puffy plot point, but it’s one of the ways such a case might be pursued in the real world.

        And I deplore the way the plot was ended — “It wasn’t a kid! It was a very small man!” That resolved nothing. Nothing about artistic freedom or Japanese culture or censorship. Just a cheap and utterly risible cop-out.

        *Were the comics implied to be hentai? I can’t remember any more. If so, then stick a blunderbuss in my hand and call me Cotton Mather, but I wouldn’t want little kids reading them either. And please forgive me if I’ve gotten some details wrong. Now that we’re archive-less, all I have is my faulty memory to fall back on.

      • Charles

        I think part of it re: Roberta and the Gay Prom was to keep it simplified. If he was more explicit in her motivations, it would risk him having to defend or attack a position that he wasn’t willing to. Or it would muddy up the message he was trying to make. It’s a lot easier to claim that your ideological opponent is being unreasonable when you don’t supply any reasons for them behaving the way they do.

        There was also a disturbing “Gay people are fine so long as they aren’t visible” suggestion in that sequence, which was underscored by having a literally hidden gay person praising the Batiuk stand-in. Seeing that, I’m sure that Batiuk didn’t want to risk wading too deep into the issues he was addressing.

  10. Cheesy-kun Shiba

    Holy moly, I never imagined I’d be mentioned in a CBH post! I’m going to give it the best possible spin and not assume it’s a reference to my bad record at staying on…oh, look! Cows!

    CBH, you’re the gift that keeps on giving and that I certainly don’t deserve. These dives are so deep I’m surprised you have not bumped into Subterranean.

    Seriously, you’re serving up a daily feast of delicious history and analysis. “Thank you”
    sounds woefully insufficient but, well, thank you.

    So the rape-not-rape take shows that Batiuk has always made a bold stand on not really taking a stand (profiling-not-profiling) and that he has an EQ somewhere between AI and alien. The bit from his interview just confirms that.

    Also, it seems doubtful that a teenager would have actual leopard skins on his seats instead of polyester leopard print covers which would be in step with the time period. But Batiuk never lets logic get in the way of (what he and he alone thinks is) a clever quip.

    Thank you, again, CBH.

    • The Duck of Death

      I assume Dead St Lisa was referring to the pattern “leopard skin,” not actual leopard skin, though one never knows.

      Look at her, especially before the retcon. A dumpy, frumpy, slumpy, literally chinless lump with an elaborate, expensive, yet seemingly deliberately ugly hairdo that must have looked something like this IRL:

      And this is the girl who cuttingly disses Frankie’s taste? Bitch, please.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        Good find Ducky! What did they even CALL that hairstyle?

        And Cheesy-chan, I wanted to make sure to specifically assure you that your tangents are welcome, as your little digressions to talk about Shinto, or history, or anything are a delight!

        • billytheskink

          They called that the “sombr-hair-oh”, I believe.

        • The Duck of Death

          I saw it called “Mushroom Hair” somewhere. My name for it is “Honey-You-Won’t-Believe-What-The-Plumber-Pulled-Out-Of-The-Drain.”

  11. Rusty Shackleford

    Frankie is the perfect example of Batty’s ham fisted approach to writing. And that Lisa strip where she lectures Cayla, pure cringe.

    It almost makes me want to go to the next Batty book signing, stand in line, then hand him his book back and say “comics are supposed to be funny”.

  12. Y. Knott

    I haven’t commented that much, because the intense level of awfulness ALL AT ONCE with these strips is pretty overwhelming. Parceling ’em out one day at a time (as they would have been viewed originally) almost seems like an act of mercy….

    But then compiling them into a three-year compendium as a “Complete Funky Winkerbean” book? That seems like it’d be a violation of the Geneva Convention.

  13. Hitorque

    Lillian is the type of misanthrope who probably stood in front of the Toys ‘R’ Us all fuckin’ day just so she could tell little kids going in that the sign was improper English so God was going to curse them or something…

  14. Charles

    Few days late but I still am amused at how Batiuk spent so many days having Fred say that they should call Pm and Jfff, and then have Fishstick explain to everyone what Fred was referring to, whereupon they had Jfff come over to Les’s house to tell THE SAME DAMN STORY that Fishstick had just told them over the previous few days.

    Almost every summer he’d have one sequence where he had about 3 weeks of material but was able to masterfully stretch it out to 6-8 weeks.

  15. be ware of eve hill

    Thanks for all the posts and LOLs, folks. An ongoing situation at work has gotten me a little down.

    ComicBookHarriet: I’m no psychiatrist, but I think you have a severe case of the blues. I’m going to prescribe another blog.


  16. be ware of eve hill

    CBH, you have a comrade. Today @JPuzzlewhiz called out Dan Davis for reusing panels in Crankshaft.

    Of course, a couple of comments later, JPW was hit with the dreaded “If you don’t like the comic, don’t read it.” There certainly is a different audience for Crankshaft in GoComics.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      JPuzzleWhiz should take a look at what I’ve found lately.

      Every. Single. Asset. Is traced or copies. Sometimes it’s a collage pasted together, sometimes the entire panel is stolen.

      Crankshaft is no longer drawn, it is compiled.

      • be ware of eve hill

        Lazy artwork to go along with the lazy writing. I miss the way the Crankshaft comic strip used to be.

        Like Funky Winkerbean, it used to be an enjoyable comic strip. It’s been on a downward trajectory for a while. 😢

        • ComicBookHarriet

          We spent the end dissing Ayers pretty hard, and yeah, he got sloppy, but I’ll give him this…when he was good he was pretty good. And he drew most of it by hand all the way to the end. Copy pasted Keisha/Mickey’s notwithstanding.

          I’ve been working on a stupid project for a post… and I can’t find too much reheated repasta art.

          Lazy art doesn’t always have to mean lazy writing. Dinosaur Comics proved that. But I feel like Crankshaft is destined for an undignified A3G ending.

          • batgirl

            Yes, Dinosaur Comics! With careful use of off-panel speakers.
            Didn’t Doonesbury have a strip joking about re-used art? I think it was three panels of word balloons over the White House.