The Home Stretch

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Please, CBH, I beg of you — please dive into some Act I material when Batiuk actually wrote things that were mildly entertaining.

Y. Knott

I’m sorry, Y. Knott, but I am bound and determined to see this Frankie thing through. Don’t worry, today is the last day of unfortunate implications, as the final Frankie arc is as anodyne as it is baffling.

But still, I hear your plea, so here’s a little Act I palate cleanser of some strips I pulled at random during my deep dives.

First, cream of the crop Political humor.

And the 1986 edition of Batiuk’s classic gag: Existential Leaves Week.

I feel like this gives a good sense of the overall quality of mid/late Act I. 10% Pretty Funny, 20% Okay, 50% Not Awful, 20% Cringe.

So, if someone is sick of talking about Frankie, Matt Miller, or stolen artwork, feel free to wax eloquent about mortality and lawn mulch.

AND NOW! The exciting conclusion of Frankie Gets Real! 2013!

Jess, putting her crucial camera pointing skills to use.
The addition of a nasolabial fold has Lenny morphing into Crankshaft.
I would rather watch that movie than reread ‘Lisa’s Story’
A masterclass in pissyface.

And that’s all for 2013, the next day Les and Funky are in horrifying jogging clothes and Funky is fantasizing about alcohol.

What did valued, long time commenters have to say about this finale almost 10 years ago?

Frankie sees Darin and Jessica having a nice, loving relationship and he hates that, because he wanted that with Lisa.

Think of that: he wanted to be Les Moore.

Also, Darin and Jessica are horrible and no one should envy them, because, horrible.

Beckoning Chasm

Beckoning: Wanting to be Les Moore. Envying Darin and Jessica. Geez, now I actually feel bad for the guy.

Epicus Doomus

This installment doesn’t even pass the laughingstock test.


They may tire of Montoni’s pizza, but with the income of a part time pizza-ap maker and an unemployed documentarian, what else can they afford?


I don’t mind Frankie’s little Ignored Epiphany At least I think the story is slightly better for having it. Like a plywood prop iceberg. It’s hollow but it at least gives the illusion of depth. There’s actually an interesting through line with Frankie that takes us to the very end of the arc, and that is his defiance when stymied. He’s a big toddler who hates the words, ‘no’ and ‘stop that’.

Frankie is passionate about what he wants and will fight for it. Of course, what he wants ranges from selfish to reprehensible. But it’s easy to see how in a crowd of limp noodle characters always ready to roll over and admit defeat, he has an allure.

Why is Frankie the way he is? Lenny suggests it’s just in his nature. That he’s got killer shark blood and Adonis DNA or something. We’re not given anything to suggest otherwise.

When I compared Frankie to Matt Miller yesterday, I neglected to mention that Matt was given a Freudian excuse for his behavior and an understated redemption arc.

Of course, it is the magical Gary Stu savior, Les Moore, who mentors and counsels Matt.

But even after Les’ tutoring, it’s Bull who takes the high ground and benches Matt from playing in the championship game. His moral stance costs him that year’s championship.


And, of course, he did it because he was really jealous of Les and his great relationship with his own father.

aoids iaerhagoaskjfhgkjdg;kjher;klj (Sorry. In my rage I punched my keyboard.)

Which is a stupid retcon if I’ve ever seen one. Since it seems like the feelings Mr. Moore had for his son Les were the natural mix of resigned disdain expected of a man disappointed in his spawn.

Regardless, Matt Miller is allowed to become something more than a complete monster. And by the next year he is celebrating as LES MOORE coaches the Westview Scapegoats to victory against Big Walnut Tech in the championship game.

Yes, this is a thing that happened.
Les gets to try out his super special trick play.
Matt Miller makes the winning catch!
Because f**k you Bull Bushka, that’salkmmavie ;grlbskndf ;k (Sorry, punched my keyboard again.)

I read a great book in college. It’s buried somewhere in my giant raft of books I haven’t sorted yet, so I can’t get the title. But the gist was that it covered the portrayal of Nazis in pop culture through the decades. (Sorry, today we are breaking Godwin’s Law.) It was a fascinating read because it showed how the way evil and villains are conceptualized in the zeitgeist morphs over the decades.

Importantly, starting around the 80’s and gradually increasing to a peak somewhere in the late 90’s was a desire to give every villain a Freudian excuse. Something in their past that broke them. The examples in the book included giving Marvel’s The Red Skull and DC’s Captain Nazi abusive fathers.

A villain with a Freudian excuse is more sympathetic, more redeemable, more understandable, than a plain old bad egg. Matt can be forgiven, eventually, because we’ve been told what makes him tick, and so we can guess what it’ll take to make that bad tick a into a respectable tock.

With his little hatchet mouthed sad face in that last Sunday Strip, Frankie gave us the barest hint that maybe he had a Freudian excuse too.

But, then again, maybe he was just frowning at the horrifying memory of the Montoni’s pizza he’d eaten the night before.


Davis was real tricky with this one! Every person is like a little sticker he pastes into the scene. I couldn’t find them all, but I think I found enough.




Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

57 responses to “The Home Stretch

  1. I am the arbiter of That Which Survives. I decide the fate of your works, to decide which become artifacts and which become ashes.

    And I judge Tom Batiuk’s works…to perish in the fire.

    If you believe this judgment to be in error, there is a form you can fill out on our website. But be warned. We never lie, and we’re always right.

  2. Andrew

    Y’know at this rate I wonder if Davis’s tracing is intentional or not; self-tracing (as this could technically be as far as a broad term of authorship) isn’t exactly as looked down on as the more blatant theft of artwork from another artist/work (Though it could be considered such as an affront to Ayers). Some webcomics get away with it, but they typically aren’t to high standards (though of course newspaper funnies aren’t always either).

    So I wonder if someone were to email Batiuk or the new syndicate about the evident tracing, would a fuss actually be triggered, or would it be excused under that “it’s the franchise’s own work so it’s ok” idea? I could see this being excuse, but on the other hand it seems darkly funny if immediately after ending Funky, the last line of the Funkyverse founders from a plagiarizing controversy.

    • Gerard Plourde

      It’s certainly lazy, but it’s not plagiarism – FW and Crankshaft are owned by Batiuk, and he’s certainly entitled to re-use his own property or to authorize Davis’ reuse,

    • I suspect tracing and borrowing and copying is simply a tool of the trade in comic strips and comic books.

      Some years ago, I bought a current issue of Fantastic Four with the Frightful Four as the villains d’issue. But I’d previously obtained a Fantastic Four comic (can’t remember the number, but they were touting it as a “Pop Art” artifact) which also had the Frightful Four as the villain d’issue. And the amount of outright copying which Rich Buckler (the new issue) did from the old issue (Jack Kirby) was astonishing.

      I wrote to Marvel pointing this out, expecting a No Prize, but you’ll never guess this, I never heard a word about it.

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        I think you’re talking about *F.F.* #42-43, when Marvel was temporarily calling itself “Marvel Pop Art Productions” rather than “Marvel Comics.”

        By the way: Tom Batiuk seems not to have realized that the Republicans haven’t gone past a first ballot since 1948 and the Democrats haven’t gone past a first ballot since 1952. The smoke-filled rooms were a thing of the past well before John Darling (who was murdered) pontificated at Westview.

        Even those who get clobbered in November get nominated quickly.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      The reusing of assets, even entire strips, is just the way comics have always been done. And when a strip gets passed to a new artist, reusing the old artist’s stuff has also been common.

      But, to my modern sensibilities, I don’t like erasing the original artist’s name from the reference. Dan Davis is the name listed, so Dan Davis is the name I yell at. But I wonder how much Dan Davis actually has to do with the creation of Crankshaft these days.

      Dan Davis is the listed ‘cartoonist’ on Garfield now. He’s worked on Garfield associated media for years. But Garfield is actually created by teams of artists, though they pretend Jim Davis still ‘roughs it out’. I honestly wonder if Dan was chosen to be the new ‘name’ on the strip because of the identical surname.

      And I also wonder if Crankshaft is being handled by many artists in the ‘Paws Inc’ sphere. The omnipresent reference pulling is a way to keep the style consistent.

      And all the references are Ayers creations…so I think he should still be credited.

      • billytheskink

        The art swiping is especially interesting, I think, in light of the fact that TB and even Ayers used to consistently re-draw artwork they could have easily swiped whenever FW would have one of its many many many flashbacks. They did this for years!

        Granted, a lot of the reasoning behind that was to match the strip’s current artwork and/or to retcon something, but it is one of the few genuine credits I would give TB over the years. It is a prolific amount of work, and he was doing it in the face of industry trends that even Bill Watterson famously noted had been going on for a while.

  3. Epicus Doomus

    In that Sunday strip, Frankie says Jessica “makes documentaries no one watches”, but I don’t recall her ever, you know, making one. She BEGAN making one about her father, John Darling, who was murdered, but she didn’t complete it. And she filmed Cindy’s interview with Cliff Anger, but that was way later. So what the hell was he talking about?

    I do kind of vaguely remember that “Les tutors troubled jock” arc, unless I’m remembering some other instance of “sportos” getting their comeuppance, as it kind of happened a lot over the years. That Act II was one hell of a wild ride, I’ll tell you what.

  4. billytheskink

    Man those hokey old strips with the talking leaves…

    So, I’ve watched the entirety of a videotaped performance of Funky Winkerbean’s Homecoming that was put on by a midwest high school in the early 90s. Multiple times. It’s everything you might imagine and moore, but the perhaps the most confounding thing about the whole endeavor, yes more confounding than an entire musical number devoted to Crankshaft, is the talking leaves. Yes, the TALKING LEAVES have multiple scenes in Funky Winkerbean’s Homecoming as interludes between scenes with the human characters and the actual plot. I’m guessing they probably quote some actual FW strips verbatim. The interludes where jokey announcements are told over the school PA are better.

    Hey, look at Bull opening up to Les with sad and informing details about his home life and trying to make amends with the guy he used to beat up. Unfortunately for Bull, Les has a selective memory.

    • Andrew

      Ok now I have to known where you found that.

      • billytheskink

        The video was put up on the old Google Video service that Google had before they acquired Youtube (and before Youtube allowed 88 minute videos) and that next to no one used. That was around 2010. It wound up on Youtube itself for a year or two around 2013-2014, but has since been taken down and never seen again.

        I’m pretty sure I downloaded it way back then, I’ll have to check my old external hard drive.

        • The Duck of Death

          This video was definitely floating around YouTube as recently as a few years ago. It used to pop up when I searched the web for various FW-related things. I could never force myself to watch it, though. I had a feeling I wasn’t missing much, and I guess I was right.

          • billytheskink

            It’s high school musical theater from the camcorder age, both in how it is written and how it is performed. No better, no worse for the most part, even with TB’s tin-eared dialogue. It is probably most interesting as an artifact of what TB thought high school was all about back in the 80s, and how our present knowledge of some of these now-monstrous characters colors our view of the earnest high school kids tasked with playing them.

            I mean, you can’t hate a kid you’ve never even met for bringing his best Eddie Deezen impression to the role of Les… but you are still tempted to because he’s playing LES.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      I’ll take the talking leaves over preachy Lisa any day.

  5. So you watched Hellraiser 6 or Hellraiser 7? I can never keep them straight after the 3rd entries. Though the Wire Twins would fit right in to FW.

  6. billthesplut

    Please stop ignoring the 500-lb gorilla.

    John, the “guy who said give me hair like Rogue from the X-Men!” but didn’t get specific–ordered OVERNIGHT a–is it a statue, like the Iron Man and Robbie we saw earlier? “What? You’re out of the Agatha Christies? How about the old lady from Murder She Wrote? Helen Hayes from Snoop Sisters? WHAT? Everyone remembers her!” yells Tom. “Today, the home served us JELLO! With GRAPES!!”

    Imagine it. The cold, crushing pain of Tom not making it a statue of Batton Tom-me, holding aloft his many prizes. The Pulitzer, Oscar, Nobel, Third Place in the 1962 Spelling Bee!

    WHAT IS THAT THING? Is it the literal Miss Marple, because it can’t be, but wait this is FW2.0 (4.0?) and nothing’s off the table, Jesus could give Lester Leslie Moron his thorny crown and mumble “You earned this more than me, man.”

    The biggest comic store near me has two (obviously very expensive) statues. If you’ve ever been in CT, of course they’re of characters like us: Snarky sarcastic wiseasses, namely Deadpool and Harley.
    Yeah. But Ohio’s FunkoPop place spent money to make a lifesize Miss Mar Oh GOD, shakes head, walks away laughing.
    Where’s their animatronic Butter Brinkle?

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Because everybody in this world has to be a comic book geek, even people who aren’t interested in comic books. Their interests must be expressed the same way a comic book fan would, because silver age comic books are the Only Correct Way to be a fan of anything.

      • The Duck of Death

        Nail on the head, BJr6K. Any Agatha Christie fan would much rather have a Standee of Joan Hickson than, say, a first edition of Then There Were None, or a good Christie bio. Because Tom’s brand of comic fandom is the only right kind of fandom full stop.

        A generous interpretation of yesterday’s strip would be that for they acquired the Christie cut-out figure because it came with a large collection of memorabilia, and till now hadn’t had any use for it.

        I was thinking about that Iron Man figure too. I posted yesterday that we saw it get sold a couple years ago. The most puzzling thing about that sale is not that ol’ Shellhead was back in the shop within a year; I assume they bought another one.

        The puzzling thing is that the buyer walked out of the store with the figure under his arm, and a visible price tag reading “$8000.” A life-size figure light enough to be lifted with no trouble would have to be made of styrofoam or something comparable. The schmuck paid 8K for that? No wonder they always keep one on the sales floor. And the guy didn’t even get a base with it! I picture it leaning against a corner of his near-empty, beer-can-and-Doritos-bag-strewn, depressing post-divorce apartment on the cheap side of town, a sad reminder of the financial idiocy that doomed his marriage.

        After the argument, he’d taken it back. It wasn’t worth losing his marriage over. DSH John had pointed to the line on the receipt, “No returns, no exchanges.” When the man had left the store, DSHJ and Crazy Harry had collapsed in a fit of helpless laughter. What fools these collectors be!

        He’d tried to sell it on eBay, a challenge since it was effectively un-shippable. While researching, he’d seen that one person had sold one in mint condition for $275. Increasingly frantic research revealed that these styrofoam figurines seldom changed hands at any price, since they had a habit of getting gouged and dinged with even the most careful handling, and the lack of a base made them near-impossible to safely display.

        The divorce was uncontested. Frankly, he hadn’t had the cash to contest it after a lifetime of buying standees, figurines, miniatures, and every variant of every “collector’s edition” DC and Marvel had churned out since the early 90s.

        “I like microwaved Hot Pockets every night,” the man said firmly as he carried his dinner back to his sofa to eat while watching ST:DS9 reruns on the local station. “This is the life!” Iron Man looked skeptical, but said nothing.

    • William Thompson

      When I saw Crazy and Skunkhead carrying a wrapped-up statue, I assumed it was an inflatable sex toy. I don’t think there’s a way to prove that wrong.

    • be ware of eve hill

      How about the old lady from Murder She Wrote?

      That’s not a statue of the old lady from ‘Murder, She Wrote’. It IS the recently deceased Angela Lansbury. She wasn’t buried. She wasn’t cremated. She was disinterred and used to make a wax sculpture. DSH and Crazy Harry, the Westview version of Prof. Henry Jarrod (House of Wax).

      Could you imagine that on ‘Find a Grave’?
      Who: Angela Lansbury
      Deceased: October 11, 2022
      Where buried: On display at ‘The Village Booksmith’, Centerville. Ohio.

      DSH and Crazy Harry will get the chair for this.

      • be ware of eve hill

        Bad bwoeh, shame. That was in poor taste.

        Sorry, Dame Lansbury and everyone. My judgement was compromised. I’m still recovering from the sight of “The Arbiter of That Which Survives.” GAH!😱

      • be ware of eve hill

        Huh. Burial details unknown. Interesting.

        No. No. Stop it! It’s a coincidence. Bad bwoeh!

        • be ware of eve hill

          Is there a problem with Postimages? Does Imgur work?

          • Y. Knott

            It works! At least, I’m seeing the image.

            And despite the fact that her burial status is ‘unknown’, I feel safe in saying that the great Angela Lansbury would quite literally not be caught dead in a Batiuk-created book or comic store. I mean, I firmly believe she would actually come back to this plane of existence simply to smite whoever tried to heap that indignity upon her.

          • be ware of eve hill

            Thanks, @Y.Knott.

            The first attempt of the Angela Lansbury Find-a-Grave image (using the Postimages website) appeared after reposting the image again using Imgur.

            Instead of the Angela Lansbury Find-a-Grave image, WordPress was showing the missing graphic image (a broken puzzle piece?). @ian’sdrunkenbeard’s doctored Crankshaft Sunday comic below wasn’t properly displayed at the time, either. I know he uses Postimages too, so I assumed there was an issue with Postimages.

            Sorry about that. I should have mentioned I could see the image after the repost, but I had already replied to myself three times and didn’t want to appear like a weirdo.
            Typical SOSF Reader: Stop replying to yourself, you strange person. That’s just sad.



            And despite the fact that her burial status is ‘unknown’, I feel safe in saying that the great Angela Lansbury would quite literally not be caught dead in a Batiuk-created book or comic store. I mean, I firmly believe she would actually come back to this plane of existence simply to smite whoever tried to heap that indignity upon her.

            Considering in my scenario DSH and Crazy Harry were the cads who disturbed Dame Lansbury’s eternal rest. I would look upon their smiting with glee.

            Also, considering how Lillian treated her sister Lucy, wouldn’t a statue of Baby Jane Hudson made more sense?

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        Where is the Miss Marple statue in the future arc which ended *Funky Winkerbean*?

        How did the sign survive and not the statue?

        Neil Gaiman in *The Sandman* showed us the city of Baghdad “Ramadan” well before he gave us the story in No. 50.

        • be ware of eve hill

          According to TB, it’s called “writing.”

          Tom Batiuk: Stop pointing out errors on my super strip, you beady-eyed nitpicker!

  7. gleeb

    I feel…quoted.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      It’s the blog way of being ‘seen’.

      • billthesplut

        I’m new (Uncle Lumpy link here), so I lurked because that’s what you do, right? I didn’t comment until the end. Oh, Robbie, we barely knew ye!
        I didn’t know how welcoming you people are. Or expect that my one-off joke would lead to a thread involving Lansbury AND Gaiman.

        Or that you don’t like the Snoop Sisters! I saw one of those! You’re probably the same guys who messed up Columbo’s car!

  8. The Duck of Death

    HALLELUJAH! No sideways cover on Crankshaft today!

    Just an anodyne, and actually slightly amusing, if overlong, strip about Jff and the garbage man.


  9. Rusty Shackleford

    And now Batty is retconning his own life. From BattyBlog:

    “Even though my plan to bring Funky Winkerbean to a conclusion was a long time coming, nevertheless there was still a bit of trauma about saying goodbye to all of those characters after 50 years of hanging out together. And then one day I was typing up a Crankshaft script where Lillian goes to the Komix Korner to sell her copy of Black Raven no. 1. As she entered the comics shop I typed: “where she’s greeted by Crazy Harry”… and, when I did that, I realized that everything was going to be ok.”

    He had no plan.

    • Gerard Plourde

      “ He had no plan.”

      Agreed. I’m willing to bet that he had convinced himself that he could get Ayers to un-retire (like he had before) and was shocked when he couldn’t even get him to do that weird “In The Future” coda and had to get John Byrne on board.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      He’s just lying to himself at this point. And he doesn’t even realize that “I totally planned that ending” reflects poorly on his writing skill.

      • billthesplut

        Hasn’t he always famously bragged “I write these 11 months in advance!”? And…apparently not edit the strips once?

        For blog content, I once watched “Pink Lady and Jeff,” and the movie/lawsuit verdict “Foodfight!” One is painfully unfunny, the other is “You’ll reenact the last scene of Oedipus Rex after the first 10 minutes.” These took days to write, because–HAVE YOU SEEN THEM?! (pro tip: FUCKING DON’T) This guy takes a YEAR to write a “pun” that only makes sense when read, not spoken? Where he can’t remember his own continuity? Does he towel himself off and say to his wife, “Whoa, the January shower feels good after the December 2021 one! My hinder sure needed it!” (steps over all the canaries that have died in his bathroom)

    • Professor Fate

      Narrator “Nothing was ever okay again. In nothing had ever been okay. Ever. “

  10. ian'sdrunkenbeard

  11. Y. Knott

    Thanks for the Act I material, CBH. You can really see the Peanuts influence in those “leaves” strips! The ‘immortality’ one actually gave me a chuckle (although why leaves were required to deliver this joke is a bit of a puzzler.)

    Even in this small sample size, you can see Batiuk not quite getting the rhythms of joke-telling right, but sometimes coming close enough to get a mild grin. And he’s clearly flummoxed by the pacing requirements of an extended Sunday strip, and so simply uses six panels to tell a three-panel joke.

    Your Batiuk-o-meter calibration for Act I (10% Pretty Funny, 20% Okay, 50% Not Awful, 20% Cringe) seems about right!

    • Y. Knott

      The John Darling strips he posts on his blog from time to time really show off Batiuk’s complete inability to grasp the pacing requirements of a Sunday strip. He simply Does. Not. Get. It.

      Today’s Crankshaft — in addition to not having an actual well-observed punchline — is also an example of this. It’s a three panel ‘joke’, but he’s got six panels to fill…

    • ComicBookHarriet

      I don’t think it’s that the leaves were required for the joke, but that it was a joke he could give the leaves.

      Existential Leaves is one of those gags I think he did about every fall in Act I going all the way back to the first couple years. They were usually about the inevitability of death and the meaninglessness of life. Which is a trope a ton of people have done, sure, but Batiuk really liked it.

      Lisa wanting to live to see the leaves turn one last time was actually a kind of interesting and subtle callback if you’re a charitable soul like me. Or it was dumb and Batiuksribatory. All perspective.

  12. Y. Knott

    From the trade publication “Universal Press Syndicate: NEW SYNDICATE OFFERINGS: 1988 EDITION”, p. 132.


    Hey, newspaper editors — Tom Batiuk’s ‘branching’ out!

    No doubt you’ve noticed your readers have been thrilling to the un-be-leaf-able adventures of Eugene, Larry, Joyce, and the whole ‘Oak Tree Gang’ in the popular strip Funky Winkerbean, as already carried in your newspaper! Now, get ready for four times the fun, as the author of Funky, John Darling, and the recent hit Crankshaft presents his latest cartoon spin-off: What A ReLeaf!

    Available starting January 1, 1989*, this satirical look at live, love and luxuriant foliage will be sure to tickle funny bone of any reader who’s ever looked at a tree, and said “I’ll bet if those leaves could talk, they’d probably have mildly amusing things to say at least two to three times a week!”

    Yes, you’ll delight to the wacky existential Batiukian musings of the whole What A ReLeaf! gang — as well as exciting new characters! You’ll meet “A. Cornelius”, the acorn with a tough exterior, but a heart of gold! “Evil Bo Weevil”, the stunt-loving boll weevil who continually tries (and fails) to infest their tree! “Lawn Green”, who taunts our heroes from below! And “Veronica Rake”, who just wants to ‘rake up’ the whole tree and everyone in it!

    And many others, probably! This thing has lots of potential. There could be squirrels or something, too! Maybe some sort of gardener character who looks after the tree? Yeah. A tree guy. Like….”Arb O’Rist”? Does that work for you? I don’t know, what else is in trees? Birds! Yeah, there could be birds. See? This will work!

    Hell, you bought two other spinoffs. C’mon, one of these suckers will catch the public’s eye at some point. Give me a break. Why not pick up What A ReLeaf!?

    *What A ReLeaf! start date based on minimum subscription rate of 25 newspapers. Also, please don’t cancel John Darling to pick up this feature. Not that we’re worried — that thing’s gonna run forever!