Guys, I have a real confession to make today. Something intense, almost painful. It came up so suddenly, and completely blindsided me.
I feel like I’m a reporter about to drop some breaking news…
But the breaking news is that I suck.
For the past couple years people have been puffing me up as some insane Funky archivist, able to spout obscure facts and make connections. But the truth is I have a huge 20 plus year blind spot in my Funky knowledge. Before the Comicpocalypse, Kings Features had Funky Winkerbean going back to late 1998, and Vintage Funky Winkerbean was up to the very late 70’s. I’d skimmed most of it.
But in that mid-late Act I, early Act II time frame, my knowledge of events is primarily based on what I’ve gleaned from other people, other posts, and the ubiquitous flashbacks Batiuk spams his strip with.
If I want to pull a strip, or actually read an arc from back then, I’m relying on the Google Archives of the Toledo Blade. Which is spotty and kind of a pain. I don’t do it unless I have a date and something specific I’m after.
Well, yesterday I jumped in the archives diving for something specific. Spurred on by the conversation between Duck of Death and Cheesy-Sama in the comments, I decided to look up the relationship between Matt Miller and Susan Smith. I had a time frame to start, because I’d pulled a stupid sideways strip for a dumb Les gag a couple months ago.
So I go back, and find the start of the relationship. (Sadie Summers had taken Susan on a whirlwind makeover tour a month or two before, BTW.)
At this point, Matt Miller is a fairly new student in school, introduced just three days prior, but has already secured his spot as the football team’s quarterback during spring training.
And this is all I was going to be saying about Matt and Susan compared to Frankie and Lisa. That narcissistic douchebags often move in the circles of popularity, but are also disdained in those same circles for being aggressive, self-centered, or annoying. Come on, we all know that guy or girl. He’s on the football team, or the cheer squad, or the chess club, and people in the club let him hang, but they also hold him at arms length because he’s a dick. No one lets him get close. He’s no one’s real friend. The only people suckered in to thinking he’s really popular are the people who don’t really know him yet.
Maybe Frankie hung with the popular guys in Big Walnut Tech, but no girls that had attended the school very long would date him because of his reputation. Lisa was new. She still thought his letterman’s jacket and proximity to the football team meant something. She didn’t know enough to realize she was dating Zoidberg.
But then, after skimming through Susan Smith’s abusive relationship, (which dovetails with the drunken graduation party where Wally and Becky beta-tested that cliff on Nobottom Road,) I get to the breakup.
Then, the big stupid sideways strip.
Then, after Susan tells Matt off one last time, and the mean bully is chased away, we get this…
And wow. If I’d ever seen this before, I’d completely forgotten it. At the beginning of this insane multi-week retrospective, I said that the first scene in Montoni’s where Frankie’s flush with dot-com cash, is his Act II debut. Kind of true. (Maybe?) But I wrote that not knowing that the original Cerebus retcon was in 1998. (Maybe. I think. Oh Lord, what is HIDING in the preachy nightmare that was early Act II?)
And yesterday I said, ‘not rape’ and now Lisa’s here throwing around words like ‘forced’.
Which makes that stupid CBR article Batiuk did back in 2013 just so much stupider. Because he pretends like the retcon was in 2013. That the coercion was a new element. Rawr! Dumb dumb dummy! The truth is he softened it! He turned it from forced to pressured.
Let all of you witness this archive dive and know these two truths.
1.) Comic Book Harriet doesn’t know everything about the Funkyverse.
2.) Cancer death wasn’t the start of the fall for this strip, it was teen pregnancy.
And I mean it. Quality humor in Funky Winkerbean was in early/mid Act I. ‘Quality’ storytelling (such-as-it-was) was late Act II.
From what I’ve seen, I think I hate early Act II most of all. Because the success Batiuk was riding high off of wasn’t a literary award for a ‘complex’ look at dying and grief, it was getting his back patted for producing trite pamphlets for King’s Features to sell. He wasn’t writing stories. He was writing Jack Chick tracts.
Oh. And. In case you were wondering.