A Budding Comic

Take a big breath folks, the next deep dive is about to commence.

Ever since Batiuk announced he was finally scuttling his waterlogged comic flagship, we here at the blog not only performed a salvage, recovery, and backdoor discovery operation on the existing online archives, but I also went on the hunt for economical copies of the Complete FW volumes 8 and 9. These books covered the years from 1993 to 1998, and thus filled in the majority of Act II I didn’t have computer access to. So my Funky Winkerbean blindspot is now only about 10ish years. I have perfect horse vision.

Blurry years have been skimmed, not read.

To reach our deep dive topic, we sink back to November 28, 1994. OJ Simpson is in jail awaiting trial. The Lion King has been re-released to theatres for Thanksgiving.

Hakuna Matata amirite, Dinkle!?

My brothers are a week old. I am obsessed with dinosaurs. My mother is screaming at us to change the channel every time the music video for ‘Don’t Take the Girl‘ by Tim McGraw comes on CMT.

Spoiler: The girl gets taken! And not in the fun Liam Neeson way.

And Les and Funky are walking from the recently opened coffee shop, The Blue Nile, down to Montoni’s.

Also appearing, Michael’s Pub, (Closed) and Funky’s mullet, (Gross.)

And what do I see there, half covered by Funky’s speech bubble? Something’s there, but boy, is it blurry.

Computer! Zoom and enhance!

By zoom and enhance I mean: take a picture of a book with a phone.

Yes, this is the first appearance I could find of Komix Korner. The seedy little hotbed of paper debauchery that for the next twenty-seven plus years would deal the Westview male’s drug of choice. A short five months after this little tease, Batiuk finally gives us a peek of the interior, and along with it we see the subject of our deep dive!

Also a peek of high-school-aged Wally and Monroe.

Yup! That’s right! Our subject is none other than the much requested and much insulted…


I will not explain this strip. I want you to imagine the worst.

You all remember Mike don’t you?

You all remember when Betty Reynolds was Betty Snyder don’t you?
Don’t you, Tom?

Mike was a student in Wally’s class, and the subject of a running gag where he would hijack the school announcements to practice his comedy routine.

Actually funny.

By running gag, I mean he did it like…twice.

Welp, there isn’t much more to say about Mike. Guess that wraps up that retrospective. Join me on Sunday when we’ll begin my planned thirty-week deep dive on the structural inconsistencies of the interior of the Taj Moore Hall. Can we draw up a detailed floor plan? How many bedrooms does it contain? Is the kitchen off the living room or the front hall? Are the wall colors inconsistent or a sign of time progression? Tune in to find out!

Okay…okay…I’ve run this joke into the ground.

Next deep dive is Dead Skunk Head John Howard.

And I totally get why you guys wanted this. DSH is a weird character. For most of Act III, he was consistently present, but never the main focus of any arc he was in. Like a part of the scenery, or a prop. His job was to have a comic shop and talk about nerdy things with other characters. But buried beneath that black and white and Batman veneer, was our knowledge that this was a man who had co-opted Wally Winkerbean’s wife and kids. There should be some pathos there, right? Something in the past that explained who Dead Skunk Head really was, and why he stuck around.

Of course, he isn’t Dead Skunk Head yet. Not in the 90’s. For the first several years of his tenure, he’s Pony Tail Head. And the first appearance I could find of him was that April 2, 1995 Sunday Strip where he is driving customers away by being surly and abrasive, as well as socially inept. A far cry from the genial and phlegmatic guy he was at the end of Act III.

Many of his early appearances show him being free and easy with the wisecracks and insults.

Ugh, Barf! Wally’s eyes in panel 6! Gross. I hate the monodiclops of early Act II SO MUCH.

Ponytailed, fat, sarcastic, bad customer service, sells comic books…

I cannot prove that Tom Batiuk stole John Howard from The Simpsons‘ Comic Book Guy. I can only point out the similarities, and also the fact that the Comic Book Guy’s first appearance, in the episode ‘Three Men and a Comic Book’, was May 9, 1991.

Is this a deliberate clone, or convergent evolution of a trope? You decide.

Ooooh I wonder who THAT distinctive Wonder Woman reading man could be?

Mayhaps Tom’s Ohio Comic Book Pal Tony Isabella?

Join us on Sunday night as we breeze through John’s early appearances in Act II.



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

57 responses to “A Budding Comic

  1. billytheskink

    After reading today’s sweat of strips, the fact that Funky and Tony Isabella later did multiple favors for John is a fact puts the “wonder” in Wonder Woman…

  2. Gerard Plourde

    Thanks for diving into this topic. I had forgotten how repulsive John was when he was first introduced. It does raise the question of what happened to transform him into the favorably treated if secondary character who ends up as Becky’s spouse.

    I eagerly anticipate the next installment for more clues to this puzzle.

    • Epicus Doomus

      It’s sort of interesting how John and Chester, two comic book-centric characters, have somewhat similar long-term character arcs. They both started out as snide, annoying, objectionable examples of everything that ailed the world of comic books. And they both turned out to be good-hearted lugs who really did care about comic books, albeit in an impure, non-Batiuk approved way.

      I always assumed that Becky’s massive husband downgrade from “war hero” to”comic book shopkeeper” accounted for her painfully weary, “what’s the use?” disposition she so frequently displayed. When you think about FW sad sacks you don’t immediately think of Becky, but man, that BatYam really put the boots to her over the years, you know? Dinkle, the arm thing, married to John…that’s some heavy sad-sackery right there.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        My headcanon is that the characters know they’re in a bad comic strip, and Batiuk made an example out of Becky to dissuade anyone else from trying to leave Westview.

        “Oh, you’re a genuinely talented person who got accepted to Julliard and wants to leave Ohio to pursue it? We’ll see about that, kid.” Straight to amputation, straight to Kent State, straight to Westview High School, straight to being Dinkle’s understudy, straight to marrying the biggest loser in a loser town. More than any other character in the strip, Becky takes what life gives her and doesn’t complain about her lot. She must be have so much pent-up depression. I would. You would too.

        Interestingly, this makes Becky a fit certain high school teacher archetype. I had a gym teacher like Becky. She was bossy and unpleasant, but life dealt her such a shitty hand we all kind of pitied her. Nobody ever gave Ms. Harrell any shit; there was an understanding that this wasn’t cool. As opposed to teachers who were like Dinkle or Kablichnik: bitter, abusive people who had no good reason to be.

  3. Oh darn, my Timemop cover will have to wait until the next update. Oh well.

  4. be ware of eve hill

    I have to confess, despite all the clues, I had no idea the subject of the next deep-dive would be John Howard. He’s an intriguing character, and I look forward to the deep dive.

    Intriguing as in what the hell was Becky thinking? How could she believe DSH was husband material. 🤦‍♀️

    I remember that Dead Skunk Head was introduced during the days when Batiuk drew the strip by himself. I don’t recall DSH having such an almost Asian appearance. Perhaps it’s the combination of the ponytail and the way Batiuk draws eyes.

    I hate Batiuk’s monodiclops eyes too. Especially when the character broke the fourth wall and stared directly at the readers. At times, the character’s eyes are so close together that they appear on the same side of the character’s faces. Gah!!!

    • be ware of eve hill

      Speaking of faces, I can’t avoid commenting on the image of Rachel I encountered in the SoSF banner.

      WTH? What’s up with the toothless grin? Why would the artists be compelled to give Rachel “Meth Mouth”? I had no idea she wore dentures.

      Rachel: Wally, does that hurt? Let me numb it for you. Num num num! (gums Wally on his owie).

      • Green Luthor

        Well, great. I have to try to sleep soon, and now that Rachel face is going to haunt my dreams. Thanks a lot. 😛

        • be ware of eve hill

          Has Rache has also experienced hair loss from drug abuse? Would that explain why she is a redhead in one strip and blonde in another? She might have a collection of wigs that rivals Moira Rose’s.

          Damn. Why am I being so hard on Rhode Island Red? Conditioning from reading too many decades of Batiuk’s mistreatment of female characters? What have you done to me, TB?

          • be ware of eve hill

            Has Rache has also experienced hair loss from drug abuse?”

            WTH? I think too many years of reading Batiuk’s verbose writing style is affecting me too. 😂

            That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.

    • Bill the Splut

      Peppa the Winkerbean

  5. Green Luthor

    I’m actually going to give Batiuk the benefit of the doubt and say that Dead Skunk Head and Comic Book Guy are just two examples of a similar idea.

    Matt Groening noted that: “I can’t tell you how many times people have come up to me and said, ‘I know who you based that comic book guy on. It’s that comic-book guy right down the block.’ And I have to tell them, “No, it’s every comic-bookstore guy in America.”

    If Groening says CBG is indicative of a common stereotypical comic book shop owner, there’s a good chance that Batiuk based DSH on the same general idea, not on the Simpsons character in specific. (I mean, I’m not ruling it out, but I can see where they could both be referencing the same thing rather than one referencing the other…)

    • erdmann

      Back in the late 1980s and early ’90s, I frequently encountered a comics dealer who made the swap meet/flea market rounds of the Midwest. He always had a good assortment of quality books (Lee/Kirby Fantastic Fours, anyone?) and I spent a lot of money with him. Unfortunately, he was also one of the most unlikable A-holes I had ever met. In fact, when CBG was introduced on “The Simpsons,” my first response was, “Geez! I’ve met that guy!”
      Funny thing, the dealer was from Dayton. Now, a quick check of Second Cousin Once Removed Google Maps, shows Dayton isn’t all that close to Cleveland, so it seems unlikely Batty and he ever met. On the other hand, the guy did travel as far afield as West-Central Indiana plying his trade, so who knows?

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Oh yeah, I totally buy the convergent evolution thing. The way both CBG and DSH were introduced was just a version of the stock geek of the 90’s. But you can’t deny that giving them both the same HAIR was a weird bit of nerd-Carcinisation. And CBG was first.

      • Green Luthor

        Maybe, although they also wouldn’t be the only examples of that hairstyle. (Off the top of my head, there’s Josh from Evan Dorkin’s Eltingville series, who first appeared in 1994, and… well, he looks even more like Skunky than Comic Book Guy does…)

        (Though I’d also say there’s likely zero chance Batiuk has any familiarity with Eltingville, whereas he definitely knows at least that one episode of The Simpsons…)

        (But again, I certainly can’t say DSH wasn’t based on CBG, although they’re also different enough that – given how decidedly unsubtle Batiuk can be – I would still assume they’re just coming from a similar place. But I could certainly be wrong, and I doubt Batiuk would ever own up to it if it was all intentional.)

  6. Bill the Splut

    I do not know why I’m still laughing at “I have perfect horse vision.” But I am, so I don’t worry.

    My theory, which I have carefully thought out over decades of study and stealing the idea from a post yesterday, would be “Tom went to a comic book shop, asked for a Silver Age comic, and the owner raised an eyebrow at him. In a way Tom felt was insulting. The owner was really trying to remember if he had a comic no one had ever asked for. Tom bought it, and later decided that it was “VG+,” and not “VG-NM”. He killed 9 people, and is up for parole in 17 years.
    I know he isn’t happy he named the strip “Wunkle Dinkersnoz” as that might have hurt his chances of getting elected “Pulitzer’s God of Earth,” but I remember when the strip started (and when teenagers actually read comics!) that was the reason they read it. Goofy name for a goofy gag strip.
    Has anyone ever heard what name he would’ve used now? “Socrates Mega-Brain Lester Battom” or something?

  7. Bill the Splut

    Remember that guy who said CS couldn’t get any more BORING?
    Ha ha, jerk toes! It actuall–wait that was me who said that?
    It’s about “wallpaper.” We’re back to 1998. Oh, okay, also cats, so we’re up to what, Cheezburger.com, 2003?
    Wow. Way to keep up on the trends, Tom. Is his next post going to be Lillian saying “A picture of Goats?! I love Goats–AHHH”

  8. Paul Jones

    I think that the turning point is when he was being threatened by Straw Religious Nitwit Roberta Blackburn. This not only allowed him to show Lisa doing actual legal stuff, he also got to take a big old swipe at Doctor Worthless and Production Of The Insolent.

  9. Rusty Shackleford

    The Blue Nile sounded familiar but I can find no evidence of a Cleveland or Akron connection. The closest thing is the Blue Nile in Ann Arbor which is an Ethiopian restaurant. Batty has family in Michigan, so maybe?

  10. Banana Jr. 6000

    I’m delighted to learn someone dislikes Tim McGraw as much as I did. He was the Tom Batiuk of country music: relentlessly mediocre, and stupid to the point of obnoxiousness. But he got away with it because there were worse artists. “Don’t Take The Girl” was so schmaltzy it might as well have been about Lisa’s cancer. “Indian Outlaw” should have been a career ender.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      There are a few Tim McGraw songs I think are okay, or enjoy as dumb fun. Mostly his more upbeat stuff like “I Like It, I Love It.” and “Where the Green Grass Grows”. Of course, he didn’t write any of his own music. So a few songs being okay is to be expected, as the guy can sing. Can’t hold a candle to Mark Miller from Sawyer Brown though.

      But you want one of the most UNBEARABLE ‘country music’ songs? I put country music is quotes because it’s some of the crap that’s been released in the last ten years. ‘Life Changes’ by Thomas Rhett. The chorus is ostensibly about how life throws curveballs at you, but the verses are basically Humble Brag: The Song. It isn’t about how anything bad has happened to him, its about how he graduated from college, married his high school sweetheart, and adopted a child from Africa. All with the musicality and complexity of a middle school arrangement of Chopsticks.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Here’s my opinion of modern country music:

        Yes, this joke has been made about popular music before, most effectively by “Axis of Awesome”. But just because two things have a common root, doesn’t mean they’re unoriginal. The songs in their parody all have different tempo, mood, lyrics, instrumentation, and production. The mind-numbing, formulaic repetitiveness of the country mashup speaks for itself.

        This ties in to the Comic Book Guy discussion. I don’t care if DSH John was inspired by Comic Book Guy or not. I dislike DSH John because he’s a smug, boring, condescending, unlikeable, know-nothing know-it-all Mary Sue character, in a world already full of them.

        • ComicBookHarriet

          That is the most horrific and disgusting yet mesmerizing thing I’ve ever listened to. Thank you for sharing that. I feel like I’ve been given concrete evidence of a conspiracy.

          The Bro Country of the early ’10s was cancer. But the RnB country of the modern day is AIDS.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            That’s not even the worst one. I can’t find an example right now, but there’s a variant: “the 10 top country songs from last year all played at the same time.” You can hear all 10 of them change keys, start and end different verses, and do the guitar solo within a second or two of each other. They’re the same length overall, have the same hooks, and the singers all sound the same.

            I think about this when I see how nervous everyone is about AI right now. People are worried they’ll be tricked into accepting algorithmically-written content as human? I think the country music business has been doing it for at least a decade.

    • be ware of eve hill

      How many of you folks knew there is one degree of separation between Tim McGraw and the world of comic strips?

      Tim’s dad, the ol’ Tugger himself, collaborated on a baseball-themed comic strip in the late seventies titled ‘Scroogie.’

      Frank Edwin “Tug” McGraw Jr. was an American professional baseball relief pitcher and long-time Major League Baseball player, often remembered for coining the phrase “Ya Gotta Believe,” which became the rallying cry for the 1973 New York Mets.

      A paperback cost only $1.25 in 1977? Pocket change?🤦‍♀️

      Ugh, I’m old. Just bury my body on the lone prairie.

      • be ware of eve hill

        Oops. Forgot the image.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          Wow, that’s one hell of an obscure pop-culture item. I’ve never even heard of Scroogie. Great find.

        • ComicBookHarriet

          Amazing! I’ve never heard of this either. So obvs not everybody was crazy about Scroogie!

          • be ware of eve hill

            Hey! How many comic strips are featured in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown?

            Back in the 1970s salaries for baseball players were nothing like today. Picking up off-season and in-season jobs off the field was a norm for baseball players. Tug decided to collaborate on a comic strip.

            Unlike Tom Batiuk, perhaps Tug said what he wanted to say, and ended the strip after a couple of years.

          • Epicus Doomus

            In my wildest dreams, I never imagined a classic CBH tangent would lead to a discussion re: “Scroogie”, much less Mark “The Bird” Fidrych.

      • Epicus Doomus

        Scroogie! I mentioned this to TFH once, and he’d never heard of it either. When I learned that former New York Mets relief ace Tug McGraw had his own comic strip, I bought a Scroogie paperback collection, a different one than the one Eve posted. I would describe Scroogie as being like a cross between Charlie Brown, old Crazy Harry, and a somewhat modernized Joe Garagiola. If I’m recalling it correctly, it was maybe a little too “inside baseball” for mass consumption, which is probably why no one remembers it.

        • Gerard Plourde

          The strip was carried in one of the Philadelphia newspapers for a while when Tug was with the Phillies (1975-84). I don’t think it ran for the entire time he was here.

        • be ware of eve hill

          Does your ‘Scroogie’ book have a blue cover? If so, between the two of us we have the entire collection. 😁

          A copy of the book you have is available on Amazon for $55.05 in “Used: Acceptable” condition. Another website has it for $95.05 plus $5.00 shipping. I guess it really is rare, but I’m going to have to pass. My copy of ‘Hello There, Ball!’ must be in similar condition. The cover is worn at the edges and the pages are turning brown. I’m afraid of opening the book too far for the fear of breaking the binding.

          ‘Scroogie’ was not carried in our local paper, ‘The Akron Beacon Journal’ (referred to by dear old Dad as the Leaking Urinal). I most likely bought the book at the Walden Books store at the local mall. Back in those days I bought quite a few ‘Peanuts’, ‘Beetle Bailey’ and ‘Hagar the Horrible’ paperbacks. I probably bought the book primarily out of curiosity after recognizing Tug McGraw’s name.

          The Pets won the World Series which was not something my favorite team came close to accomplishing at the time.

          The title of my Scroogie book, ‘Hello There, Ball!’, must be a reference to Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych who played for the Detroit Tigers in the mid to late 1970s. Fidrych was a flake who talked to the ball among many other quirky antics.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            They don’t make ’em like Fidrych anymore. What a goofy, delightful weirdo. Baseball players, even Little League kids, all carry themselves like they work at Merrill Lynch. That’s true of all the pro sports, really.

          • Epicus Doomus

            “Had”, unfortunately. My copy did have a blue cover, but sadly, it’s lost to the sands of time. I’m just amazed that anyone actually remembers Scroogie LOL.

            See, when I saw that “hello, ball” gag, I thought it was referencing Ed Norton “addressing” the golf ball. I never made the Mark Fidrych connection. I’m (sigh) old enough to remember Bird Mania, and The Bird was quite the sensation there for a while. Sadly, I believe Fidrych was killed on his New England farm in some sort of tractor mishap.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            He was, in 2009. He lived to be 54. Fidrych was undone by arm injuries that probably could have been treated nowadays. The first Tommy John surgery had happened, but it wasn’t used on anyone else until 1978.

          • be ware of eve hill

            @Banana Jr. 6000
            Whatever happened to the great baseball personalities? Baseball interviews are soooooooooo boring nowadays. It’s like they’re all
            reading from the same script.

            @Epicus Doomus
            Aw, man. Sorry to read about your book. I think my book just went up in price. 😄

            My favorite memory of Mark Fidrych was how he chased away the groundskeepers and manicured the dirt around the pitcher’s mound himself. He got down on his knees and raked the dirt with his fingers.

  11. robertodobbs

    I appreciate the research! I decided to do the Act I thing so having finished the Complete FW vo. 1 I sprang for vols. 2 and 3, taking me to 1980. I’m stopping there. Fun trivia fact that I’ve learned is that Dinkle is Presbyterian.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Seems like an okay stopping place if you’re wanting GOOD Funky Winkerbean material. These Act II books are interesting as more was going on, and much of it either carries over into Act III or is fascinating for it’s future absence. But it’s all so Lestrabatory it’s disgusting.

  12. Y. Knott


    Hey, he wasn’t bad. “Spirit Minute” is a funny concept! The wannabe stand-up who tests his material using his platform as a school announcer? It has potential.

    Further proof (as if further proof were needed) that Batiuk has an unerring gift for ignoring characters with at least some potential, in order to focus on running characters no-one likes into the ground.

  13. Dear CBH, please use caution using the “Dead Skunk Head” moniker for John Howard. Longtime readers of SoSF might remember a certain individual who got extremely offended by us making fun of DSH. Here’s a link to the post in which we gave him the boot. Same guy would go on to get kicked off of Twitter years later for suggesting that the 26 people killed in the Sutherland Springs, TX church shooting were “likely [Trump] voters” and so deserved it.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      What an insane bit of SOSF lore, TFH! Thanks for that crazy trip into the distant past of 10 years ago! You guys went HARD back then.

      I will of course use extreme caution, and have taken TheDiva’s suggestion to heart and will call him Goth Tribble Head from now on or perhaps pedoskunk as Sourbelly said.

      I’m sorry if the term Dead Skunk Head offends anyone. But I am a dedicated slave to the truth. I will speak it, not matter the consequences. His head looks like a dead skunk in Act III. And that’s hardly going to be the worst thing said about him in the next few weeks.

      I don’t think I’ll be the one saying those things, as I don’t really find DSH that reprehensible by FW standards. But I’m counting on BJ6K to pick up the slack.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Well, I did call him a “smug, boring, condescending, unlikeable, know-nothing know-it-all Mary Sue character.”

      • billytheskink

        Surely “Dead Skunk Head” isn’t all that widely considered offensive. I mean, essentially the same joke is in both the PG-13 and PG cuts of the Josie and the Pussycats movie. PG-13 seen below, with language that was cut for the PG version.

        • Bill the Splut

          He might’ve been one of those “My personality is based on one trait” people. We’ve all met them–I like this politician, or this band, and that’s pretty much it. They’ll let you know within 5 minutes of meeting them, although their clothes/hats will let you know it first. As someone who was once the only omnivore in an extended group of people who were vegetarian or vegan (and they could really hate each other in 1995, weirdly), he might’ve been a PETA person, the kind that gets offended at the very concept of animal death. Which is interesting once you find out what their “adoption shelters” death rate of cats and dogs is.

          Or maybe he ran over a skunk with his car and people just called him that from what he smelled like.

      • be ware of eve hill

        My favorite term for John Howard is “Divot Head” coined by a commenter in the discussion of The Comics Curmudgeon. I wish I could give them credit but I don’t recall the name.

        Mr. bwoeh is an aggressive golfer who often creates divots the size of the dark part of DSH’s hair. He’s a good boy and replaces them.

      • bad wolf

        I still can’t believe I was so active back then! I remember seeing Reflex on CK or maybe other boards back then…

  14. Bill the Splut

    CS, 2/24/23:
    (drags self from bed)
    Let’s see what the joke is today! Or how it progresses the plot, so I can say a funny thing!
    (goes back to bed)

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      “As you can see you on your new website, we left space on your bookshelf wallpaper where you can add more books.”

      That’s it. That is actual dialog from today’s Crankshaft.

  15. be ware of eve hill

    Golly gee willikers, Dilbert Classics seems to have disappeared from GoComics. Wonder why. /s