Drawing a Blank

What can I say about this award?

Tom Batiuk had one year. He said he knew, and I have chosen to believe him. He had 365 strips. And that’s it. That is all the time he had left.

What can I say about these strips?

Not much. Being pointed out as pointless is more than they deserve.

So without further ado,

The Most Pointless Funky Winkerbean Strip of 2022

1.) An Exciting Discovery

2.) Meaningful Places

3.) Productive Conversation

4.) Important Character Building

5.) Crucial Exposition

6.) A Loving Homage

7.) Universal Humor

8.) Knee-Slapping Puns

And the ‘winner’ of The Most Pointless Funky Winkerbean Strip of 2022…

Meaningful Places




Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

74 responses to “Drawing a Blank

  1. It’s funny, isn’t it–if “the burnings” were meant to be related to “climate damage” they were awfully specific in that they only seemed to target bookstores…

    But what’s even funnier is that if “the burnings” were from “climate damage” it meant that the Atomik Komix work did nothing at all to prevent them. Their entire purpose was entirely futile.

    Kind of like whenever Tom Batiuk put pen to paper….

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Yeah, that’s the problem with the “it was about climate damage” theory CBH espoused. For all the things that cause…. er…. “climate damage”, books are pretty far down the list.

      And if they live in a world where climate change wreaked havoc, why are they taking what’s basically a family car on a leisure shopping trip? Why do more modern personal cars even exist?

    • The Duck of Death

      This stuck in my craw too: The “antiquarian bookstore” is one of the “few that survived the burnings.” It was not an antiquarian bookstore. That’s a bookstore that specializes in antique or rare books, which doesn’t describe the Village Booksmith. Does he mean that it’s an old bookstore?

      If there were climate change “burnings” (ie, fires), and they destroyed bookstores along with everything else, then why weren’t the bookstores just rebuilt in this glorious meet-George-Jetson future with flying Murder-Weapon-Cars?

      If the bookstores, antiquarian and all, were burned purposefully, then how is this any kind of utopia? And how are they able to call, check inventory, and freely buy from a friendly robot?

      Not to mention: There are some areas that wouldn’t be affected by climate-change wildfires. How is downtown Manhattan going to be burned by wildfires? Or a store in the Tundra? Didn’t those survive the burnings?

  2. Banana Jr. 6000

    I was torn between “A Loving Homage” and “An Exciting Discovery.” Both because the characters are so impressed over something gob-smackingly banal. Who’s surprised to learn that English muffins exist in grocery stores? I buy them every week. They’re great. They were kind of a new thing to American consumers in 1982, but not so much now.

    I spent two weeks in England on a work trip, and stayed at a hotel that served a breakfast buffet. They served things Americans wouldn’t expect, like baked beans and tomato slices. No English muffins, though. You can get them, but it’s more like they’re catering to you than vice versa.

    As for A Loving Homage: why was anyone else impressed with this? They all have their head up Stan Lee’s ass just as much as Phil Holt does, so they would have heard this before. But the story needs them to be impressed, so here we are.

    • Gabby

      Although I’m Californian, my mom was Canadian. We ate Foster’s English muffins (a SF breakfast chain) in the 50s

    • Rusty Shackleford

      I haven’t made it over there yet, but when I do, I am looking forward to trying a full English breakfast.

    • The Duck of Death

      The English eat crumpets, which are a bit similar to English muffins, but they’re not split and they’re springier and more tangy, less bread-like. I suspect English muffins per se traveled from us to them, and not the other way round.

      • be ware of eve hill

        Here in the American Southwest, if you want good English muffins, you have to stay with a national brand, like Thomas’. The local store brands miss the mark. They fall apart when you try to split them or are too doughy. The last time I bought store brand English muffins, most of them were outside for the birds because they frustrated the hell out of me.

        Crumpets are next to impossible to find in stores around here and are “Crumpets” in name only. They’re too thick and lack the holes on the surface for jams, jellies, butter etc. As you said, they’re not supposed to be split.

    • The Duck of Death

      There’s been a couple stories over the years about politicians who were humiliated when it was revealed that they knew nothing about the cost of groceries, or how a supermarket works, despite their claims to understanding the plight of the average American.

      Something tells me there’s some truth to this Funky strip about English muffins. It’s just WAY too specific in a strip that’s generally utterly vague about everything.

      I can totally imagine Batty having to grocery shop for himself for the very first time and being dazzled, like Khrushchev gawking at a Safeway in 1959.

      English muffins, by the way, have been widely distributed since about the middle of the 20th Century. I don’t know what the hell is going on in Ohio, but the rest of the country is more than familiar with them and aware that, as bread, they go in the bread aisle.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Yeah really. English muffin was the most exotic thing he could come up with? For a restaurant owner, who would know some things about buying food products?

  3. Y. Knott

    Got to disagree with the voters here.

    While all these strips are pointless, a late-period Funky Winkerbean strip without dialogue, by definition has one fewer thing wrong with it than any other late-period Funky Winkerbean strip.

    The other strips are frustratingly pointless — you expect the dialogue to reveal something, and it doesn’t. Then you re-read it in disbelief. Can that really be what made it into a nationally published comic feature?

    Seeing NO dialogue at least allows us to sigh in relief. Whew! Batiuk’s not gonna try to wrestle with any of those pesky words today! That’s point enough for me.

    (Plus Ayers draws a nice house.)

    • RudimentaryLathe?

      You make a good point, but I voted for Meaningless Places anyway. My reasons being 1) Those places don’t have any significance for Summer and 2) it’s a sideways panel and it really didn’t need to be

  4. Bill the Splut

    If I had a year to live–yes, I think I would go walk through the neighborhood where I grew up. I might even eat English muffins every day and make a non-joke about it.

    Let me ask: I only came across the strip’s ending when I came here (Uncle Lumpy link, before the official announcement). Was there an actual point before that when he said the strip was ending in a year? He just doesn’t strike me as a guy who wouldn’t scream it from the mountains the day he heard. “BUT–MY PULITZER!”

    • billytheskink

      There was no announcement until the official muted one issued in late November, though there was considerable speculation about the strip ending as we saw how some of this past year’s stories played out.

      Given that TB didn’t take the year-long victory lap we all thought he would, there has been a lot of speculation about how willing (or not) a participant he was in the decision to end the strip.

    • Y. Knott

      The announcement that the strip was ending was not made publicly until November 17, with about 6 weeks to go.

      Earlier in the year, Batiuk had attended the San Diego Comic Con as a featured guest … possibly a perfect time to announce the strip’s conclusion. Not a word.

      My guess — and it IS just a guess — is that the fee for the strip (and possibly for Crankshaft) was lowered by the King Features Syndicate. At the same time (and possibly connected to the fee being lowered) illustrator Chuck Ayers announced he was leaving the strip, and Batiuk putzed around for six months figuring that he could get someone to draw the thing for pennies. He couldn’t. So he left King for Andrews McMeel, who were willing to pick up Crankshaft, at least. (But not FW. At least not at a price where Batiuk could actually afford to keep producing it.) Davis still illustrates Crankshaft, using clip art, tracings, and previously created assets, thereby still making it a job that pays a living wage.

      Again, this is all speculation … but everything fits.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        I agree with this theory. Batty is so careless with the way he manages his properties and he clearly had no succession plan in place. When Chuck announced he was done, it left Batty in a pinch and he soon found himself stuck with retiring FW. Hence the rushed final arc.

        But this is what happens when you think you know everything and don’t think you need an editor or some kind of manager. I guess you showed those fat cats over at King Features. I’m only 55 and I have retirement plans in place. I’m hoping to work another 10 years but who knows. But at least I have a realistic plan.

  5. Epicus Doomus

    Every FW strip was ultimately pointless, but hardened, jaded FW readers understood that there were varying degrees of pointlessness within that pointless framework of pointlessness. Summer wandering around in a raging blizzard, the existence of Kitsch Swoon, the gang at Atomik Komix…all pointless, in slightly different, very subtle ways. So I would have voted for all of them, if only that had been possible. Trying to identify the most pointless one of the bunch is, in my opinion, a pointless endeavor, like trying to select the most disgusting goose droppings on the sidewalk at the park.

    Although one can safely say that Act III was by far the most pointless of FW’s three acts. One had some gags, two was downright action-packed, but three? Totally pointless.

  6. Green Luthor

    Another “worthy” “winner” here; that Batiuk wasted most of a week at the very end of the strip to show locations that, while they appeared in the strip before, weren’t particularly important and probably 99% of the readers wouldn’t even know what those locations were. Calling it “self-indulgent” wouldn’t even begin to cover it.

    Though I personally voted for “An Exciting Discovery” (“Meaningful Places” was very tempting, though) because the idea that two people pushing 70 who have lived in that same town their entire lives yet somehow have never been made aware of English muffins? Tom, I know you think “comics don’t have to be funny”, but if you’re going to write a joke in your comic, it kinda has to make sense? Like… it’s obvious this was supposed to be a joke, but I can’t even figure out what the intended joke was? (The best I can get is that it’s a minor miracle these two haven’t killed themselves through their own stupidity.)

    “Productive Conversation” I’m not too sure of the point of, either, but it might (might) be that Dead Phil just really doesn’t want to deal with Kitsch and is giving purposely vague and obtuse answers. But that may be giving Batiuk too much credit.

  7. billytheskink

    A very deserving winner, but “A Productive Conversation” got most of my votes because it was a pointless strip in a Dinkle-and-the-squirrels-level pointless story arc. A three-week Dinkle-and-the-squirrels-level pointless story arc, I might add!

    Most of these at least occurred in story arcs where TB seemed to be maybe trying to say something, seemed to possibly have a conclusion in mind. Phil’s utter failure to work on Prince Valiant and his childhood reminiscence with Flash led us absolutely nowhere (well, a Dibb’s gallery show where Flash’s lat name was changed… same difference).

    Unless… was that storyline supposed to be some sort of “thanks be being a team with me” send-off for the retiring Chuck Ayers? “Hey, I generously decided to credit both of us for the work we both did. You’re welcome Chuck. Deadline is a Friday in 11 months.”

  8. Bill the Splut

    Thank all of you for that, especially Y.K. All the theories make sense.

    I’ve been reading FW from literally day one, but forgetting each strip the second I finished it. Okay–I still get mad at “THE KILL FEE!” because, holy shit, did this guy love to proclaim his knowledge of things he “knew all about” when he really didn’t. (Ayers drew perfect 1940 fashions and cars, but I bet he thought “There weren’t silent movies then, savant-less-idiot.”

    But maybe you’ve reading to much into this guy? He doesn’t do subtlety more than wearing the helmet a guy died in as a joke. On his crutches!
    I just can’t picture him doing anything but screaming for months was”AYERS MUST STAY! SO MY DEATHLESS PROSE FROM 11 MONTHS AGO–WILL LIVE!”
    Of all the Krugers I’ve ever read, Tom is the Dunningest.

    • Bill the Splut

      Speaking of Dunning…Nice proofing, Bill.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      I’ve also been reading this from nearly day 1.

      Oh man that kill fee was epic Batty nonsense. But I also came despise Lisa, and especially Les, and I don’t know why but I especially despise Adeela—maybe because I have real friends from the Middle East and this cardboard cutout is a smack in the face to people I like.

      Anyways, I’m glad we hate the same things, it makes me feel connected with everyone here.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        The “kill fee”, as well as everything else involving the Dead Lisa Movie, were just Tom Batiuk projecting his own fantasies and frustrations with the movie-making process.

        “I don’t like the way you’re telling Lisa’s story. I’m just going to cancel the whole movie, and you have to pay me to do it. I’m going to take my beautiful work of art and go home, and you have to Cleveland and beg me to come back.” He’s like a 5-year-old.

        Batiuk probably could have gotten his dumb Crankshaft movie if he would just take his writer’s fee and shut up. Marmaduke got to be a movie, so being a bad comic strip property wasn’t the obstacle. His blog didn’t say what actually happened, but it’s easy to guess. He showed up in Hollywood making ridiculous demands like Les did, and “Hollywood” decided that dealing with a prima donna wasn’t worth the hassle.

        • The Duck of Death

          I’ve seen the photos of George Kennedy in the Crankshaft makeup. He looked perfect for the part. But I’m pretty sure it happened the way you describe. I just can’t imagine trying to deal with Les — er, Tom in this context. And something tells me that IRL he didn’t get a “kill fee” for scuttling the project.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            He really did. I gathered that Kennedy bought the “shopping rights” from Batiuk, and then tried to interest studios in it. I don’t know how far it actually got (and Lord knows Mr. Storyteller is never going to say). It may have been nothing more than “nobody wanted to do a Crankshaft movie,” even with a decent name actor behind it.

          • Y. Knott

            Yes, I would imagine the interest in the property was minimal. This probably never got further than one brief pitch meeting, done only as a favour to Kennedy. I mean, Crankshaft has got very little name recognition, and pretty much no fanbase — particularly amongst anyone under the age of about 70. It’s not a property with any kind of pre-sold audience.

            Plus, what story material is there? “He runs over mailboxes! And blows up his grill! And, um, mixes up words sometimes in a way that’s not especially funny! We do that for 90 minutes, we’ve got a movie, right?”

            Oh, and you couldn’t do the almost-a-major-league-baseball-player story, because that would require a YOUNG actor to star as young Crankshaft. And the period-piece costumes, props, and look would probably triple the budget.

          • Green Luthor

            “Plus, what story material is there?”

            In fairness, it’s not like there’s much story material in Garfield, and they made FIVE of those. Marmaduke got two movies, and the entire plot there seems to be “he’s a big dog”. The source material not having a real story has never been an impediment to Hollywood; I have no doubt SOMEONE could have thrown together a story based on Crankshaft. (It might not be a GOOD story, but… again, not an impediment to Hollywood…)

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            I wanted to see how George Kennedy played the character. We know from the Naked Gun movies that he can do funny. And this was his pet project, so he’d bring his A game.

            Even terrible movies can be watchable, if they have one really good performance in them. Like Christopher Walken in The Country Bears. Holy cow, you want a franchise with no story potential? It’s hard to top the Country Bears on that count.

            But Walken doesn’t half-ass any role, so he gave that movie a worthwhile, if silly, villain. Not much else going for that movie, other than the sheer bizarreness of the Country Bears actually existing. But sometimes that’s enough.

        • The Duck of Death

          “Dennis the Menace” has been made into at least a couple movies (in addition to the 50s-60s TV show).

          The starring role in these movies was the vaguely Crankshaft-ish Mr. Wilson. In one, the role was played by Walter Matthau; in another, by Don Rickles (with George Kennedy, interestingly, in a supporting role).

          There’s plenty to do with a simple property, as already mentioned. The simplicity can actually help. The sky’s the limit for plots. A meddlesome, prissy family move from the city and try to cramp Crankshaft’s style. A movie crew tries to shoot in Centervile and Crankshaft messes them up at every turn. The mayor’s son thinks he can get away with bullying everyone on the school bus until Crankshaft intervenes. You could come up with a hundred other simple plots in about 10 minutes. With a good actor, writer, and director, it could be a really successful family franchise like the “Beethoven” movies or other franchises with the slimmest of premises.

          Or it could die on the vine, possibly because the owner of the material doesn’t realize when he’s had a lucky break.

          • Late to the party and probably over-nesting, but appreciate the evocation of DtM and other lesser properties. The opening of the first version with Walter Matthau as Mr Wilson is some of the most annoying cinema I’ve ever switched off of.

  9. Paul Jones

    It’s a smorgasbord of pointlessness. Nothing he ever did to cement a legacy, even (or especially) a Lisa’s Legacy lasted or will mean anything. All he’ll be is proof of how boring and out of touch Marge Simpson is.

  10. robertodobbs

    “Loving Homage” still irks me because no EC comic ever had that on a cover. And ECs were such amazing comics, just think of Wally Wood, Jack Davis, and all of the amazing artists and the O. Henry “gotcha” story twists and endings. Just don’t invoke EC. As thay say, SMH.

  11. Hannibal’s Lectern

    For those who’ve sworn to never read “Krankshat”: today begins what I suspect will be a multi-week arc in which Hairy Dingle is taking the St. Spyglass choir to (where else?) the Ohio Music Educators Association conference, which means they need new robes, which means they have to do (what else?) fundraising!

    See? “Krankshat” is the new “Funky,” just minus the title character whom Batty so obviously despised. Wouldn’t be surprised if Ed largely disappears from his own strip, replaced by Dinkle, the AtomiKKK KomiXXX crew, the Bedside Manure band, etc. Well, as long as he doesn’t make Les a lead character…

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I said Lisa was the litmus test, but you’re right. This is another major signal Batiuk is going to turn Crankshaft into the new Funky Winkerbean.

      And you’ll never guess where Tom Batiuk is signing books this week! Go on, guess!

      • Bill the Splut

        “And you’ll never guess where Tom Batiuk is signing books this week! Go on, guess!”


    • The Duck of Death

      “From Pulitzer Nominee to OMEA Hanger-On: The Tom Batiuk Story.”

      Seriously, the OMEA is pretty much it for him now. They apparently still kiss his posterior because of Dinkle. It’s kind of sad all around.

      And we JUST had this exact arc maybe 18 months ago: Fundraising for choir robes. It was enraging then, and enraging now. Choir robes should cost maybe 20-30 bucks each. And you throw them on over your clothes when you perform, then put them back on the hanger. How the hell have they already worn out?

      I get it, I get it. Fundraising is THE Dinkle joke, and we’ve gotta keep shoveling this sh!t to keep the OMEA grift going. But couldn’t they fundraise for something else? He’s really that bereft of ideas? Plus, last time they fundraised they just put a video of Bingo the cat on MoneyForNothing and they raised enough in 3 minutes to “build a new church.” (How much would that be? One million? Three?) Which they did not do. So where’s that money now?

      “You’re reading too much into a silly cartoon, Duck,” you say. Maybe, but it makes me wonder how much the band leaders at the OMEA are grifting if this kind of thing appeals to them.

      • Yeah, why would adults need to fundraise for choir robes? You do that for band uniforms cause kids can’t buy their own shit.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          And why couldn’t Lillian buy them, since she just sold an insanely valuable comic book she didn’t know she had?

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Oh yeah, February is OMEA time, I was a band geek and I was in the percussion ensemble and we played at an OMEA event in Cleveland. For 2023, the event is in Columbus. Batty just can’t stay away.

      • Mela

        They need new choir robes AGAIN?? Good grief, even band uniforms have an average ten year lifespan.

    • The Duck of Death

      Here’s the strip:

      • The Duck of Death

        Since we’re mentioning EC, I’ll take a page from MAD and write a “Scenes We’d Like to See”…

        “Look! We’ve already raised everything we needed and enough left over to build a new church!”

        “Amazing! In only three minutes! Let’s buy some beautiful, durable choir robes, and with the seven figures left over, let’s help the poor and homeless in the region. Let’s see… a home for homeless pregnant women and new mothers! That’d help give their children a good start in life. Outreach to youth at risk. A place for kids to go instead of running away! Somewhere they can talk to counselors and get the compassionate help they need. You know, a lot of people are really struggling financially. We could build a community soup kitchen and pantry. Hot meals for anyone in a pleasant newly-built dining hall! No one turned away! Imagine, no one in Centerville will go hungr –”

        “RICCA. Ricca. The money’s already gone. Let’s not get hung up on who spent it or where it went. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” after all. Time to fundraise again!”

        • William Thompson

          As another flaw in this story, why haven’t they done more videos of Bingo the Moneymaker singing with the choir? Or leading it? Or discussing the feline view of singing humans? If nothing else it would give Batiuk a trope with more possibilities than “Crankshaft Discovers Fire+–oh. Right. Batiuk and imagination. You can’t have both.

          • Green Luthor

            If they REALLY wanted to raise money, they’d film a video of someone throwing Bingo right into Dinkle’s face.

        • Anonymous Sparrow

          That was so furshlugginer that it bordered on the potrzebie, Your Grease!

          Donna donna know about Lifebuoy, but maybe Steve will tell her now that he’s a dead boy, as the Vault-Keeper might have put it.
          (Johnny Craig can never get enough mentions for me.)

          Kurtzman and Davis did a story called “Cowboy!” which looked at the differences between a fantasy cowboy (Lance Sterling in black-and-white) and a realistic cowboy (John Smurd in color).

          It makes me wonder what a story contrasting a creator’s vision (Pulitzer nominee!) with an audience’s reaction (I can’t believe this shit!) would look like.

          The recent discussion over revealing Funky’s actual name, a la Jerome the Bull, has me thinking that it should be “Gregg.” Don’t ask me why, it just feels right.

          • Bill the Splut

            I always assumed, given how weird “Funky” would be in any generation, that he switched it from his birth name, which was the same as Steve Martin’s dog in “The Jerk”.

    • Gerard Plourde

      While I do think it’s likely that we never see Funky appear in Crankshaft, I do wonder how he’s going to resurrect Montoni’s/Luigi’s. He’s too enamored with the real location to drop it completely. (He conveniently retconned the closure away by having Funky & Co. travel to the St. Spires concert from Montoni’s using the delivery fleet.)

      • The Duck of Death

        Yes to everything you said except “retcon.” Phil Holt’s death was retconned with a handwave. This wasn’t even retconned. There was no attempt to explain why the kaput Montoni’s had a fleet of cars with new snow tires, etc, or why they’d put up Christmas decorations, why the TV hadn’t been sold, why they were fully staffed when they were closed and bankrupt, etc. More like the strips from a couple months before were just forgotten, or disregarded.

      • He’ll use the time-skip to have Tony still running Montoni’s.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        He decided he wanted Max and Hannah to get the Valentine back pretty soon after closing. It’s like everyone has reached their final positions and change can only be temporary.

      • Time skip, probably. I guess technically Crankshaft is still a decade behind FW even though he ignores it half the time.

    • EntrancedCat

      A completely different woman appears behind Blonde Ponytail in the second panel and she stole the first woman’s earring and shirt. Looks like an aged-up, hard-living version of Summer.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        Coloring monkeys did a terrible job. The ponytail chick is Mary Jane and earrings chick is Ricca.

        • EntrancedCat

          And Bingo is a black cat. This one is orange. Bingo II? That might make a decent arc: beloved choir cat runs away from Dingle. Church seeks deaf replacement.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      It’s like they said, know how we can assure people that Cranky is the new Funky?

      Use art from barely more than A MONTH ago.

  12. The Duck of Death

    “Meaningful Places” was just the most baffling thing I’ve ever seen in the comics. This is where I really started to wonder whether BJr2K was right that Bats has autism. He actually seems to think that the meaning these nondescript houses have to him, and him only will somehow magically beam itself into our minds. I don’t use this word lightly, but this is literally demented. Not to mention gobsmackingly self-indulgent.

    And, it goes without saying, excruciatingly boring and pointless.

    • Hannibal's Lectern

      My take on this strip… Batty was trying to be “cinematic.” Y’know, how sometimes they’ll do a half-minute or so in a movie where a character walks around, says nothing, looks at things in a manner that appears vaguely significant, and then the story resumes. Trouble is, for such a thing to work, it has to have meaningful story on either side of it, and this particular plot started out nowhere and ended nowhere. The “cinematic” bit was a nothingburger without the bun.

      Still, it could have almost worked as a Sunday strip, with dialogue panels before and after Summer’s stroll through the highlights of Westview’s crumbling real-estate scene.

      (It occurs to me that if Batty still did “funny,” he could have used a series of panels like this as the setup for Summer deciding to abandon writing and become a real estate agent.)

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I don’t think there’s any question that Tom Batiuk is neurodivergent. So much of what was baffling about latter-day Funky Winkerbean lines up perfectly with known behaviors of autism. And now those tendencies are dripping into Crankshaft.


      Batiuk’s interest in comic books fits the definition of an autistic special interest. Which is “intense focus on a specific topic that extends past the range what’s functionally useful.” Batiuk is obsessed with comic books – but only covers, spinner racks, The Flash, high-dollar collector sales, and the production process. He’s overly focused on very narrow aspects of the overall comic book experience. And every one of his characters shares this unusually narrow focus.

      And much of that, he gets wrong: he clearly has no clue what “Gem Mint” means, and at age 76 still thinks the bullpen is a real place and not a fanciful concept Stan Lee used to connect with his readers.

      Not knowing where one thing ends and another begins. Batiuk seems to conflate all three of his comic strips, and his own life, in ways that aren’t logical or conducive to storytelling. Batiuk’s blog post about Meaningful Places is a good example. It’s like he couldn’t talk about the in-universe meaning of these places without talking about the real-life personal meanings.

      Characters from one strip will randomly turn up in the other, like Mason Jarre buying the Valentine Theater in Crankshaft. Or Ed Crankshaft himself showing up in Funky Winkerbean to talk Susan Smith off the bridge, even though he exists in a vegetative state in that strip. To say nothing of all the timeline problems.

      I also think it’s noteworthy that Batiuk has spoken out against multiple comic book universes. I think the concept confuses him.

      No Theory of Mind. Batiuk cannot imagine anyone having opinions or motivations other than his own. As a result, there’s no real difference in any of his characters. They all like the same things, are motivated by the same things, have the same values, and do little but stand around and agree with each other. He can’t create conflict because, he can’t create anyone who would have a reason for it.

      Even the straw villain Frankie was motivated by his ego, his desire to be validated by mainstream media, and to control Lisa’s life narrative. Hmmm, who does that remind you of?

      Excessive reliance on rules. Many people with autism depend upon rules, to make sense of things they don’t instinctively understand. Some editor really should have broken Batiuk’s dependence on week-length arcs, or made him justify it. It’s a rule Batiuk adhered to for no reason other than adhering to the rule. Few of his stories actually fit the six-day window; they were either padded or rushed.

      Then there are the “Rules of Cartooning” Batiuk drones on about. The biggest one being “arcs should be no longer than three weeks.” It’s likely that he, as a young cartoonist, was actually given his advice. But he misses the point.

      “Arcs should be no longer than three weeks” really means “if your arc is longer than three weeks, you need to edit it.” And we all know the word “edit” isn’t in Tom Batiuk’s vocabulary, He labored under needless rules where no arc could be more than 18 days, but had to be divisible by 6 days, and editing was off the table. And what did he produce? A bunch of one- and two-week arcs that shouldn’t have been written at any length; a bunch of too-detailed stories that felt cut short; and arcs that droned on for years because he rules-lawyered himself by interrupting them every three weeks.

      This obsession with rules also ties into comic books; the Funkyverse was unusually concerned with how to make comic books correctly. Batiuk has his rules, and the world needs to follow them too.

      The importance and scope of things is wrong. The Funkyverse assigns huge import to things that just don’t have any. The story never explains it; it just acts like the behavior of these characters reflects universal human values. We’re supposed to be so invested in the comic book rules, in Les’ inexplicable wants, and all these boring-ass publishing stories.

      Batiuk doesn’t seem to realize how limited-scope a lot of his subject matter is. The Ohio Music Educator’s Association is a good example. It’s something almost no one can relate to. Not even secondarily, by being a teacher of something else and going to conventions for that. And Batiuk makes no effort to bring readers into this world.

      The strange dialogue and interactions. Batiuk’s tendency to create ill-fitting phrases like “solo car date” and “climate damage” permeates the Funkyverse. They seem like regionalisms, but they’re not. Every character talks like this. There’s never any explanation for it, nor is it ever pointed out.

      And the social rituals. The people of Westview live by all these rules that just… don’t seem to exist. Like Cindy Summers saying, “oh, as the high school popular person, it was my responsibility to attend Bull’s funeral.” Whaaaaaaaaat?

      Every conversation feels like a transaction. And Lord knows what motivates Les, or why this town treats death the way it does. Everything is either a four-generation Viking funeral, or they’re blunt and tasteless about it.

      Batiuk comes off as arrogant, but doesn’t seem to realize it. A statement like “I was sure I’d be immediately promoted to Spider-Man once they saw how good a writer I was” seems more like a failure to understand social cues. It doesn’t seem malicious or intentional. I think he genuinely doesn’t know how arrogant this sounds.

      His personal interview stories reveal this as well. He seems to think Marvel and DC were supposed to give him reviews, evaluate his work, and give him a set of tips on how to succeed next time. He betrays a gross failure to understanding of social dynamics, job interviews being a very social thing.

      I know that was long, but I wanted to give a detailed explanation of why I think the way I do about this.

      • The Duck of Death

        First, BJr6K: I would insert the “Citizen Kane Clapping” .gif here but I know it’d get stuck in the torso chute, so just imagine Orson Welles fiercely clapping.

        Second, this is a magnum opus that should be pinned in the sidebar and I second every word of it. You nailed why the focus on comics is so weird; it’s the fetishization of spinner racks and “bullpens” and Grand Statements, to the exclusion of the things that most fans care about, like high-stakes stories, exciting art and spreads, character development, and continuity. And I always found it rich that he railed against “multiple universes” when he seems to have created several himself. I’m not a huge comics buff, but couldn’t his holy grail, Flash #123, have been said to have introduced the “multiple timelines/universes” concept into the comics?

        Re: the three-week rule, I’ve said this before, but some of the most classic comics had arcs lasting months, even several months. If someone gave him this rule, I’m sure it was well-meaning, but it should have come with a caveat: “In general, as a beginner, try to keep your arcs short because it’s very easy for long ones to get lost up their own áss and become self-indulgent and boring. If you legit have a long story to tell, go for it. But cut out the fat; make sure every panel advances the story. Oh, and Tom — if your arc only needs a couple days, then don’t stretch it out to a week. Say what you’re trying to say, succinctly, then wrap it up.”

        Perhaps that’s what he was told, but the nuance was lost on him.

        Your comment about OMEA is well expressed. Nobody cares about the OMEA/Dinkle relationship except the attendees, and probably only the older ones at that.

        But that’s the job of the artist. Who on Earth could possibly care whether Linus had the egg shells his teacher, Miss Othmar, asked him to bring in? Answer: Everyone who was reading Peanuts cared, because Schulz made them care. He showed us Linus’ idolization of his teacher, his anxiety to please her, and his despair when he kept forgetting the egg shells. The fact that it wasn’t a big deal in the scheme of things wasn’t important. It was a big deal to Linus. Ditto Linus’ security blanket. Just a 2-D sketch of a cloth, but readers got attached to it and we felt Linus’ stress when his blanket was threatened.

        A skilled writer could make us care about the OMEA. He could raise the stakes and let us feel the characters’ need to do well. He could add a back story to deepen the emotional freight of the arc. He could create a difficult obstacle for the choir to overcome.

        Or he could assume that since he, Tom Batiuk, cares about getting his butt kissed at OMEA, everyone else cares too, and his job is done.

        And the “no theory of mind” concept is the overarching problem with the whole Funkyverse. Everyone thinks and believes and acts alike — like a 75-year-old liberal white man from Ohio –whether male, female, young, old, straight, gay, trans, Muslim refugee, black, white, Asian, one-armed, New York publisher, ex-President, or Afghan warlord. Thus, no conflict, and also no interesting stories.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          Also with Linus, we cared because we knew those feelings ourselves. We had them in our own lives. We remember what it was like to have that insane, soul-eating crush, and to pressure ourselves to try and win their favor. Ditto Calvin’s dead raccoon, and so much else in any well-remembered comic strip.

          Batiuk is always appealing to emotions that no one actually has. There are millions of comic book fans; I doubt one of them cares about spinner racks. Meanwhile, he’s oblivious to the emotions people do have. I always bring up Holly’s broken ankle. Her overbearing stage mother bullied her into doing that performance, pushed her too hard in training, and she got seriously injured. And the story just… dropped it.

          And it’s not some misguided attempt at surrealism. It’s all supposed to be – say it with me now – “a quarter inch from reality.” But it isn’t.

        • Anonymous Sparrow

          Some of us cared enough to remember that Miss Othmar became Mrs. Hagemeyer.

          In contrast, I always have to remind myself that Susan Smith’s married name was Weston. (Did we ever meet Mr. Weston? Did he look like Les, much like Peter Peel in Emma’s farewell to “The Avengers” looked like John Steed?)

          The plural of igloo is igli, according to Linus.

          • The Duck of Death

            I choose to believe she moved to married Wilbur Weston, of Mary Worth, and they will have a clutch of Wilbur-clone babies, as seen in Estelle’s nightmares.

      • billytheskink

        If nothing else, you’ve earned my applause for this post. Very well put.

      • The Duck of Death

        Well, I posted a comment where I mentioned that I wanted to post a [g-i-f] but was afraid that if I did it’d get stuck in the torso chute.

        And the comment got stuck in the torso chute anyway.


  13. Hitorque

    Krankenschaaften: Why did Batiuk spend so much time and effort wrapping up FW forever and merging the Westview — Centerville time continuum just so he could reprint some lame assed reruns?

    It’s funny because this is the most “secular” church choir in the history of Christendom?

    Why does the Big Dink even bother?? He’s ALREADY won every prestigious award and performed at every single prestigious venue on the planet…

  14. ComicBookHarriet

    I voted for a dark horse, ‘Crucial Exposition.’ Every panel of that strip probably could have been wordless, and we still would have gotten the message. In fact, it would have added some of that Funkybuns tension.

    If you just had to have a word balloon, a single one would suffice.

    • Gerard Plourde


      Your adjustment of “Crucial Exposition” is fascinating by what it reveals – the way that Ayers’ illustration without TomBa’s word zeppelins actually would have conveyed Harry’s shock and agita more effectively.

  15. be ware of eve hill

    I voted more than once and even split my votes a few times. This is the first time one of my votes didn’t go for a winner.

    For me, ‘Productive Conversation’ was a complete waste of time, effort, newsprint and bandwidth. It was a strip that accomplished absolutely nothing. It didn’t move the story along. There was no groan inducing joke or pun. It didn’t steal quotes from a more talented writer. There was no noteworthy artwork. It was a strip that elicited no response whatsoever. Two panels of meh. Thank you for sharing. TB. /s

    I’ve always been a sentimentalist, and perhaps that’s why I didn’t vote for ‘Meaningful Places’. A few years ago, I returned to Ohio to help my brother find a new home for Dad because the assisted living facility where he was living wasn’t able to deal with his Alzheimer’s. While I was there, I asked my brother to drive past the house where the two of us were raised. I remembered the house as a two-story colonial with white aluminum siding, red faux shutters and a red brick facade and chimney. We had a beautiful maple in the front yard and shrubs all along the front of the house. There was a small shrub around the gas lamp post near the edge of the driveway. There was a clematis hanging from the lattice post that held up the front porch roof.

    I guess you can’t go home again. The maple, clematis, and all the shrubs were removed. The gas lamp was removed. The lawn was featureless. The cheery red shutters were replaced by icy blue shutters, and the red brick had been whitewashed. The house looked so cold. Did Snow Miser move in? Brrrr.