Gang Initiation

The PharmaCees set to run out the Sundowners.

In my previous HAH John post, I didn’t mean to imply at the end of that post that John and Crazy weren’t friendly in the years leading up to their first Comic Con trip. Indeed, their friendship was inevitable, given their shared interest in comics and shared interest in skipping out on their work to loiter for hours at Montoni’s.

It seems their nauseatingly geeky discussions occurred often enough that many Montoni’s patrons would rather sit outside than ruin their meal listening to it.

Twitch Stream your Pizza Cast you guys!

But deciding to go to San Diego Comic-Con together? That is taking the relationship to the next level. Whatever their intimacy was before, after this trip these two men will have showered in the same shower and used the same toilet, (Hopefully not at the same time.) I’ve gone on many a convention vacation with my galpals, and each new adventure was a new chance to see a roommate’s underwear.

HAH Describes the crowd he expects as it if were some kind of Borg hivemind made up of disgusting pony-tailed weirdos.

Yup, John, you’re right! Nerds never disagree about anything!

But before they brave the crowds, first HAH John and Crazy Harry apparently consume powerful stimulants and stay awake for four consecutive days, watching JAPANESE anime. Gotta be specific for all the normie readers who didn’t know what anime was in 2001. Why not be super specific and say you’re watching four days of Gundam anime? Why not inform the audience that you could watch 100 straight hours of just Gundam in 2001 and barely watch half of it?

Nope, just the regular died. Because of all the crack.

This physically taxing experience has HAH and Crazy pondering mortality. So they visit the Museum of Death in it’s original San Diego location, (which had already moved to Hollywood in 1999 IRL)

Preparing themselves for the arcs to come.
I ate at the pub down the street from here back during Botcon 2013. True Story.

Finally, HAH and Crazy head to the convention for real. And either they checked a lot of bags or they drove, because HAH John brought an entire Gorilla suit.

Becky voices concern for John. Subtle.

I don’t know what Tom’s obsession with Congorilla is. Because he’d go back to the Congorilla well in with Jeff decades later.

Don’t you mean FLEAbay?

And Congorilla is a real comic book character. So is Congo Bill. They hearken from the time when DC was putting so many gorillas in their comics they had to mandate a ‘one gorilla cover a month across all books’ commandment. A commandment James Gunn promises to break.

The gist of Congo Bill and Congorilla is that Congo Bill has a magic ring, and when he rubs it he changes brains with the magical immortal golden gorilla Congorilla. In the different continuities Congo Bill’s human body is sometimes dead, with his consciousness permanently in the big golden monkey. His heyday was the 60’s, but he still shows up rarely. Such as in 2011, when he had a weird oneshot with pretty boy alien and gay drama trainwreck Starman (III.)

2011 was trying way too hard to be cool.

His most recent appearance was in the cancelled ‘Damage‘ comic, part of the the failed The New Age of Heroes. In it Congo Bill is the supervisor of Monster Island, a wildlife preserve for magic monsters. There he counsels a angsty Hulk knock-off on how to control his powers.

2019 was trying way too hard to be retro.

I guess the weekday colorist that slapped the color on the internet archives didn’t get the memo that the gorilla was gold. But the color was correct for the Sunday strip. And, oh look! Becky is concerned about John and Crazy’s trip again.

You don’t suppose the giant unwashed monkey suit would have anything to do with it?
This is worded like HAH John is the one gouging people.

Then, Congo Harry and Johnorilla are star struck. And their reaction seems to indicate they had no idea that COMICS ARTISTS would be appearing at SAN DIEGO COMIC CON.

I mean, I’m a close enough caricature, so kudos to Ayers on pencils.

Murphy Anderson was, indeed, a talented and prolific comic artist, working from the 40’s all the way until his health failed. He passed away in 2015. While he could pencil his own stuff, he was known as a master inker, able to make anyone else’s stuff just a notch better. And he inked EVERYTHING for decades. So many famous covers, interiors, when I started skimming I was stunned.

Had some fun poking around reading interviews and articles about him. Had to laugh when I came across this little gem which brought me all the way back to my Ruby Lith Women-in-Comics take down in 2019.

MA: Yeah, when I started at Fiction House they had offices where the “three sixes” are. If you know New York at all, that’s where DC was located for many years.

ST: Most of those people working in those offices at the time were men; there were very few women

MA: No, just the opposite! When I started there they were all ladies, practically. There were only two or three males in there.

ST: What were the ladies doing? Comic books?

MA: Oh yeah, oh yeah. There was Fran Hopper, she did a number of adventure stories for Planet Comics and all over. Lilly Renée who did their lead feature for Planet Comics. Oh, Ruth McCully was a letterer. Ruth Atkinson was an artist who worked there. Her brother happened to be a very prominent jockey; he was one of the top jockeys in the country at the time. And Marcia Snyder, she did a very heavy adventure-type of material.

ST: Was that because it was around the war years?

MA: Oh sure, it was war time. There was a shortage of anyone to do the stuff. How do you think a 17-year-old kid could walk in and get a job?

Here’s an interview from 1998, showing about what he would have looked like during this con. Fascinating guy. He was self taught, and he basically witnessed the birth of comic books in real time. He also did a lot of art for Army Maintenance books, which was funny to see.

He may look like a news anchor sitting there talking to Gorilla John, but according to several interviews I read, he always wore a suit and tie to conventions to meet fans.

So yeah, these two gushing about this guy. Fair enough. Perfectly appropriate to show nerds doing that at comic-con. But Tom can’t just leave it there. The start of darkness has begun.

TB also seems to have been able to handle comix collecting with a lighter touch back in the day. It was more of a fun, slightly silly hobby some of the guys indulged in, and less of a religion with sacraments to be taken with grave seriousness.

Duck of Death

Sorry to ruin it for you Ducky my dear. But the sacramental ceremony is now…

He either left for school really early, or was prepared to be really late.

These are all real comic covers, and Murphy Anderson was an artist in some form on all of them. But these comics are all a little old to be HAH’s childhood memories. If he’s in his 20’s in 2001 he would be comics reading age in the 80’s. Murphy was still doing some work then,

Stupid sexy Brainiac.

But you know who WOULD have been comics reading age when these were out? Guess.

Flash 123, September 1961. (Anderson inked the cover)
Green Lantern 4, February 1961 (Inked Interior)
Strange Adventures 129, June 1961 (cover, pencils and inks)
Hawkman 5, January 1965 (Cover and interior, pencils and inks)
The Atom 8, September 1963 (Inked cover and interior)
Mystery in Space # 75, May 1962 (Inked cover and interior)

And what does little Johnny do when he gets all the comic books? He skips school, runs home while his parents are out, and this obese child gorges himself on cookies and science fiction. And all of this is presented in sepia toned reverence. As a positive and pleasant and useful experience, and not dangerous hedonism and lack of foresight.

And then my school called, and my parents were furious, and I got sick from all the cookies…
Murph tells HAH John to get bent.

Batiuk has presented this tableau so many times since, but this might be the first. And if it had stayed the first and only, it wouldn’t have stood out that much. The hedonism, escapism, and obsessiveness fit what we know about HAH John. You look at this doughboy of a man, and you can believe he’d be that kind of kid. And giving a comic book store owner a big ol’ reminisce about comic books? Fine. But not great.

What holds it back is something I’ve seen commenters like BJ6K point out again and again. The focus of John’s memory is the childhood regression and the generic escapism, not the specifics of the stories he’s reading. Done once, in an arc that lasted half a week, we can forgive it. Really it’s a little better, because at least HAH John tells a specific story about a concrete day where he skipped school. But then Tom does it, Every. Single. Time. With multiple characters.

When I was a wide-eyed-child, Star Wars was my thing. I had all the movies on VHS, I had action figures, and devoured 300 page novels even though I was in the fourth grade. I remember the time one of our VCR’s tried to eat my precious Empire Strikes Back. I could tell you the exact moment on the tape you had to fast forward to get past the bad spot, where Hoth had twice as much snow and no sound.

But I could also tell you why I loved it specifically. I loved the redemption stories of both Han and Darth Vader. I angsted about how Han’s shady past catches up with him in Empire. I was obsessed with Luke’s struggle to get through to his father in Return of the Jedi. Harrison Ford is hot.

But every Westview manchild loves comic because Generic Issue 773 took them to a magical generic place and they sat on the porch and ate cookies and imagined they were ‘far away’ generically. And now when they read comics they are generically 10 again.

Oh! Crazy Harry manages to pick up a comic issue at the con!

Action Comics 243, you say?

Thirteen years later!

Wow that must be some issue…

Or Tom’s a closet furry.

Until next time!



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

51 responses to “Gang Initiation

  1. KMD

    Just a quick tip of the cap to CBH for her good work, especially at the start of 2023. There are certain books and writers who make me feel less alone. I seem to come back to them during the awful moments when I am on the road by myself, in those seemingly endless times between when I close my eyes and when I Fall asleep. My wife seems to do better than me when she is on the road though like CBH she shares A room with her friends. I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress at work while dealing with an ill parent and finishing up my PhD. Not the best of starts to 2023. But reading your takes on old Funky strips have helped more than I can ever say, giving me a laugh before I go to bed. Thank you and good luck during calving season.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Thanks so much for the kind words, KMD. I’m struggling to articulate how gratifying it is that you get something meaningful from the words I put together. Something like, “You comment word make heart brain happy, work no work when work bring smiletimes.”

      I’ll be praying that things get less stressful for you soon. But until they do, we plan to still be here to give you a little escape.

      I know we have some sneaky artists hard at work!

    • Gabby

      I’ve supervised more than 20 PhD grads. It’s stressful because you’ve never done it before. Once you have finished you would be able to sit down and complete another dissertation with a hand tied behind your back (sorry Becky).
      As I tell my students, in all my years I’ve never encountered the bones of a PhD student laying on the floor of our building.
      My father died while I was a doctoral student, so I can understand some of your stress—just move forward at the best pace for you

      • The Duck of Death

        This right here — this is why I come here. We don’t fight each other; we uplift one another. You’re a mensch, Gabby. And I agree, KMD. This place is a tonic for the sometimes overwhelming challenges of life.

        ALL HAIL CBH (and TFH and Epicus)!

        • Gabby

          DoD—thank you so much!!
          I’ve lurked for several years, and this really is a warm and welcoming place, with an awesome store of knowledge and wisdom

    • Rusty Shackleford

      What will your PhD be in? We have the smartest snarkers anywhere!

      I have an MS in Physics and a BSEE. I found a good paying job after completing my master’s and never returned to graduate school.

      Good luck with your studies.

  2. erdmann

    This the first time I’ve seen the Anderson strips. One of comics’ greatest artists ever and this was the thanks he got? Sheesh.
    It’s interesting that Batty was already thumbing his nose at real comics history. There is no way even the books cover dated 1961 would’ve all been on the rack at the same time. They most certainly didn’t come out on the same day.
    Of course, in the Funkyverse Spider-Man #1 was still in a forking spinner rack in the 1980s, so what do I know? No doubt Time Mop was elegantly nudging Ohio Rexall owners to keep key issues available until the “right” people found them. Would that he had done the same in my neck of the woods.
    And you’re right about Batty’s empty, one-size-fits-all comic nostalgia flashbacks. I can tell you exactly why Shazam #2 caught my attention and still holds a place in my heart 50 years later. Could any of Batty’s author avatars say the same about Congorilla?

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      I met Murphy Anderson once at the DC offices, circa 1991. He was dropping off some artwork and, yes, he was wearing a suit and a tie.

      He was very pleasant and shook my hand, thus allowing me to speak later of things “from the hand of the man who shook the hand of Murphy Anderson.”


      The *Atomic Knights* feature appeared every three issues in *Strange Adventures* from 1960 to 1964. (Save for the final story, which appeared four issues after its predecessor.)

      While the cover is a very important selling device for a comic-book (thank you, Phil Holt, please fall off the Reichenbach Falls), the series only once made the cover, with issue #144.

      No gorillas appear on it, but the Knights are riding giant Dalmatians.

      • sorialpromise

        1. I enjoy speaking to the man whose hand shook the hand of Murphy Anderson. I knew there was something special about you!
        I came late to “Atomic Knights.” In the 1980’s they were retconned into the history of the Great Disaster from Kamandi. There were some stories about a missing Superman that had his suit found by lions, if I remember correctly. Omac was part of the history. I also believe Hercules joined with the Atomic Knights. I enjoyed reading about this shared universe.
        2. I always liked the DC stories of apes. I remember the giant gorilla crime boss in giant Batman Annual #3. Then giant Titano with kryptonite rays shooting from his eyes, and of course, Gorilla Grodd, one of TB’s favorites. But Congorilla not so much.
        But I must admit my favorite apes were from Marvel and not DC, found in “Fantastic Four #13”, the Red Ghost and his super apes. That issue had everything.
        3. Lest I forget: BWOEH have a Merlot on me.

        • Anonymous Sparrow

          An issue of *DC Comics Presents* (#57) established that the Atomic Knights were a dream world for Gardner Grayle…and that Marene Herald, Gardner’s love interest, wasn’t the sister of Douglas Herald, but his wife.

          It’s a nice wham line, and it has an echo a few years later when Dr. Jace imprisons the Outsiders in Gardner’s Durvale dream (Durvale was the home base of the Knights). Kadey, an authoritarian enemy of the Knights, throws a bomb at two women, Marene and Windfall of the Outsiders. Naturally, Gardner rushes to protect the woman he cares most about…and it’s Windfall.

          Looker’s timely intervention prevents either woman from being hurt, but Marene is pretty devastated.

          Quoth Marene: “Gardner…you saved her…and not me…!”

          *Secret Origins* #40 was an all-ape issue, giving details on who or what Gorilla City, Congorilla and Detective Chimp (Bobo to you) were and how they came to be.

          I read the first Red Ghost story in a 1974 reprint, when the U.S. line on the Soviet Union was striving for detente. Understandably, this made the 1963 anti-Communism of the story seem a little dated, and Roy Thomas provides a footnote noting this when the Invisible Girl likens the three Super-Apes to the Russian people under the Communist yoke.

          What he basically says is what the Velvet Underground sang in “Sweet Jane”:

          “Ya know, those were different times…”

          As you laugh, you realize the wisdom of Carl Reiner with “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” eliminating slang, period references and anything that might date the program in re-runs.

          Before I go:

          In 1948, Superman and Congo Bill (who would become Congorilla) both appeared in movie serials. Superman’s came out first, but both Kal and Bill followed Greg…

          Greg being Greg Saunders (originally Sanders), better known as the Vigilante. His serial came out in 1947.

          • sorialpromise

            1. With the exception of giant rideable Dalmatians, I found the stories and art of the Atomic Knights to be fairly adult. Then when they made them part of the Kamandi storyline, I felt they were even better.
            2. FF13 was the first appearance of the Watcher. Lee and Kirby could cram so much into a single issue. That’s what made them fun to read.
            3. Good to see you posting again.

  3. Andrew

    Kid John gets credit for knowing how to bake his own cookies within a school day’s hours, I give him that much. And I can get the thrill/fun/nostalgia of snacking while reading comics to sone extent, but realistically I can’t imagine the practice to be something to indulge too much in adulthood when that could lead to getting milk and chocolate stains on the undoubtedly worn vintage pages. (Also to confess my own outlier status, I never saw the appeal of prepare a glass of milk alongside your cookies. I was never a milk dunker, and while chocolate does make you thirsty milk’s not really my go-to drink).

    Also geeze, I know most of the act 2 stuff was before comics/their summaries could be found online, and even now finding older comic scans can lead to somewhat seedy websites, but the whole “i wanna know how the story went” motive to track down specific old issues seems particularly extraneous of an effort to do. Surely if the comic’s not that obscure there’s a collection book that fills the hole just as well?

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Don’t let reality spoil Batty’s wet dream!

      Not sure why John had to be shown making his own cookies, unless the next day they show his mom cleaning up the mess he made in the kitchen.

      • The Duck of Death

        Moms aren’t real people. They’re sort of shadowy servants. Their sole function is to facilitate comic book reading by keeping the household running and ensuring that chocolate chip cookies, or the ingredients for them, are always in stock….

        … until the switch on the back is flipped and they become evil automatons whose only function is to ensure that comic book collections are gotten rid of.

  4. Paul Jones

    It is not enough that Batiuk fixates on the most ridiculous elements of shlock culture. It is not enough that he takes his boring nonsense far too seriously. He must also blank out on how freaking disturbing and entitled he looks. It’s not nirvana to have an oblivious and spoiled little porker gorge himself on cookies and sci-fi absurdity. It’s not being a victim that his mother expresses active resentment at being thought of as being put on this Earth to cater to the whims of a blind-eyed and greedy nitwit who holws with pea-brain rage every time a writer changes why Flash runs at Impossible Speed.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Super entitled! Just think how bad he would have been had he won that Pulitzer. He is insufferable as it is.

      He expects the world to conform to his wishes 100% of the time. And when it doesn’t , it’s your fault: you are not appreciating comic books properly, you aren’t reading Lisa’s Story the right way, and so on.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes struck an emotional chord with people, because their characters went through things we could relate to from our own childhoods. We probably didn’t have a raccoon die, or blow an ironically easy word at the spelling bee, but we probably had similar experiences of loss and embarrassment.

        Tom Batiuk thinks that if you weren’t sitting in the same chair, eating the same snack, and reading the same comic book he was, then your childhood was incorrect. He has no ability to make any of his stories relatable, or make any of his characters different from each other. Nor does he want to. He’s here to dictate, not share.

        • The Duck of Death

          A lot of this problem could have been alleviated if he’d ever shown us the rest of his life, thus setting up a contrast between the outside world and the Inner Sanctum of Comix Worship (the attic) and the Holy Communion Wafers (the chocolate chip cookies).

          Example: He sits through a boring day at school. The teachers drone on as he looks through the window and thinks that there must be something more out there than this boring Ohio suburb. Is he destined to be like his dad, an insurance salesman at the local Allstate branch? He walks home alone after school, and some bullies taunt him. Head down, he tries to ignore them. But once he gets home, he ignores his mother’s call to start on his homework and runs to the attic. There, on the pages of a Flash comic, there’s a whole exciting world, full of brave heroes who have wild adventures every single day! No one dares to bully the Flash, and there are no insurance salesman to be seen! Good guys are good, bad guys are bad — no exhausting moral ambiguity to confuse him. Just fun, adventure, and good guys winning.

          Or, y’know, you could have no context at all and thus no emotional impact whatsoever.

          • Anonymous Sparrow

            The Flash may not have been bullied, but his alter ego, Barry Allen, sure had to put up with a lot of abuse from his fiancee Iris West. She thought him “the Slowest Man Alive” and made him enroll in a motivational course (to see how he did, have a look at “The Mirror Master’s Master Stroke”)

        • Rusty Shackleford

          And both had a nice softness to them in that they didn’t try to cram the author’s views down your throat. Their work stood on its own and the artwork gently pulled you deeper into the story.

          • Paul Jones

            This would requite him to commit ‘sacrilege’ and have the characters have deeper motivations than what he sees in the Holy Book Of Punching Australians And People With Freeze Rays At Idiotic Speed. People do things because he decides they do. The characters do not speak to him. He dictates to them what their motives are.

      • Paul Jones

        This could a lot of why he has a problem with The House Of Ideas. He felt betrayed and humiliated when Stan The Man tried explaining what an ironic and self-deprecating comment was when he wanted to see the so-called Marvel Bullpen. He felt anger when asked the horrible and baffling questions “Why would the character do that? What does he want and how is this supposed to get him there?”

  5. The Duck of Death

    Today, in Funkshaft, Jff tells Pmm that their family pictures are stored in the cloud. Pmm asks, why not store them in a tree? Jff says “There is no tree.” Pmm says it makes about as much sense.

    I assume that Pmm isn’t aware that words can have more than one meaning, and that words describing new things often borrow from older words.

    TB missed an opportunity for a surrealist kind-of joke here: Jff could have said, “As long as it’s a family tree.” As it is, there’s no joke at all. Pmm has never heard of a decision tree, a family tree, a shoe tree? Too bad Oliver Sacks is no longer around to explore the source of her neurological dysfunction.

    As expected, the strip does start with the word “So.”

    • Rusty Shackleford

      I hate it when you ask someone a question and their first word is “So,” followed by a pause.

      In today’s strip it is used appropriately, but it still annoys me!

  6. Andrew

    So here’s a thought about the Funkyverse’s comic obsession and covers in particular: any comic geek can tell you that one of the many reasons the Silver Age was absolute bonkers was that the covers were notorious for exaggerating the contents of the story within to make them even more ridiculous sounding (most prominently those that inspired the Superdickery blog, for one), and rarely explained exactly what happened beyond a rough premise pitch at best.

    Yet whenever we come to the nostalgia-festing in Funky & Crankshaft, the covers is the bulk of what we get. Be it a character remembering the wacky cover and inspiring them to want to know what happened (yeah that’s how covers typically worked) to the Sunday cover tributes referencing that, which then morphed to the in-universe comic showcases for Batom and Atomik Komiks that gave us them and only them to explain what even these stories were about.

    It’s obvious that Batiuk put a hell of a lot of weight into the merit of comic covers, and thinks them alone is what excites someone to pick them up and read one and join the communion. No, you don’t need to know the story (or even if it’s written well), just a cool premise for a cover (or cover potential, remembering that dumb villain Pete just *had* to make up to do a cool and unique Superman story for DC) is what will get your comic known and warm fans hearts with a milk-and-cookie reading session.

  7. Gerard Plourde


    Thanks again for an informative and entertaining post. It’s surprising to see that the seeds of all that is annoying about Act III were already being sewn in Act II. Also interesting apparently to have DSH and Harry develop their friendship prior to the (re)appearance of Donna “The Eliminator”.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      That was my takeaway from Harriet’s feature as well – how far back the All Comic Books All The Time format had been going on. I thought the comic book-centric stories were an Act III conceit, but it had been building a long time.

  8. Bill the Splut

    Wow, even then he thought his readers were dumb. Where’s the comic book convention being held? In San Diego at the convention center? And yet there’s no second explanation why HAHDSH (pronounced “radish”) is doing Robot Monster cosplay.

    Besides that one Spider-Man ref, did he ever write anything about Marvel? 1960s DC was not written for anyone above 10.

    I saw Star Wars right after it came out in 77. Everybody in the audience gasped as that giant spaceship came out–and just kept coming. No one had seen that before!
    Then we all groaned when C3PO got his oil bath. Because a thunderstorm took the power out. We sat there for 20 minutes, until the manager came out. He said the power might not be the rest of the day, and offered us free passes for another show. Great, another 20 minute wait! Almost the entire audience bailed. I got mine, and was back the next day.

    • Paul Jones

      He simpers that he didn’t want to be depressed by all the drama and scary things that Spider-Man and Iron Man dealt with. Our boy wants a simple world where questions have easy, stupid answers, not reality.

      Hmmm. It’s taking on Not!Marvel that causes Batom Comics to fold. From what he revealed, the smaller company tried to plagiarize a Spider-Man adjacent character and lost despite whining that since Mega had so much money anyway, they should just let losers and also-rans steal from them to be nice.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        At the same time, he hates the Comics Code, whose very purpose was to keep comic books in the endless juvenile state he cherishes so much.

        • Paul Jones

          Because he sees it as a device of someone on his mother’s side: Doctor Wertham. If he hadn’t written that book, Batiuk is sure his mother would have no reason to object to feed his face as she watched him dull his already dim mind.

  9. billytheskink

    Your point on Star Wars is well-taken, CBH. I was also a Star Wars-obsessed kid who came of age long after the movies had left theaters and first experienced them on home video. More specifically, I first experienced them on a 15″ Hitachi television set via HBO broadcasts that my uncle had recorded onto Betamax tapes. Most of the movies we owned until I was 10 or 11 were like this, recorded from TV to Betamax (preferably my uncle’s HBO… no commercials). The first Star Wars movie I watched was actually Empire Strikes Back (we did not yet have A New Hope recorded at the time), which was the second movie on a tape that also contained Karate Kid

    Now I am going to risk of being annoyingly effusive (and droning on WAY too long). The opening scenes of Empire, especially the Battle of Hoth, absolutely blew my mind as a kid and I would say that even today I continue to find them the most arresting things I have ever seen in any movie. That opinion is colored by nostalgia but it is not wholly driven by it, for reasons I will get into shortly.

    Back to little Billy and the Betamax… So I learned at a pretty young age how to operate the VCR largely so I could watch Empire over and over and over again. To do this, of course, meant I had to rewind the tape A LOT. But I also had to fast forward the tape a lot, as it was the second movie on the tape. I regularly played a game of trial-and error with the >> and << buttons in my efforts to get to the beginning of Empire. I have seen the entirety of Karate Kid once, I think, but I have seen its final scene countless times as I knew leaving the tape playing during that scene meant that I would not miss anything at the start of Empire when it inevitably followed.

    I like to recount this silly nostalgia trip because I think it is kind of amusing and perhaps a fairly unique experience among Star Wars fans, but like a Batiukian comic book story arc, it doesn’t tell you a thing about why I like the Battle of Hoth, Empire, and Star Wars or how those things really impacted my childhood or my life. I don’t consider the Battle of Hoth to still be the most amazing movie scene I have ever seen because of how I had to watch it as a kid, I consider it such because it is tightly-constructed, beautifully-rendered, action cinema perfection. When I watch it, I’m not taken back to my childhood living room, I’m taken to Hoth itself… just as George Lucas and Irvin Kershner and Industrial Light & Magic intended. Heck, I could largely recreate how I watched the movie as a kid. I own that tape I had growing up and I own a working Betamax. I haven’t done this since the Special Edition VHS releases in the 1990s though, because watching Star Wars was never about HOW I did it.

    It is also interesting to me how passive TB usually depicts comic book fandom, almost exclusively through only the act of consuming comic books or having nostalgia for having once read one. Almost no one discusses or critiques comic book titles or story arcs on anything but the barest of surface levels. Pretty much no one, not even kids, plays or imagines themselves as comic book characters or in comic-style stories. Outside of those whose job it is to do so in-strip, no one creates comic-inspired art or writes their own comic-inspired work. That’s not how fans work, especially younger ones. I didn’t just watch Star Wars, I played with toys and imagined myself in the Star Wars universe flying starfighters and whatnot, I talked about it with my friends, I drew pictures (I still do that today, actually). I tracked down ever single set in Lego’s Ice Planet 2002 line simply so I could use the pieces to build and play with my own version of the Rebel forces on Hoth. It is supposed to be fun, so why was it never shown to be in Funky Winkerbean?

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Great mini essay, BTS! It’s funny how much your Star Wars experience mirrored mine. I also watched the OT for the first time all out of order on VHS tapes.

      Batty does show some kids imagining and drawing comics on occasion. Like when Flash and Phil have their dumb flashback in 2022. Because that’s what Batiuk used to do. He even gives LES MOORE his own childhood comic art.

      I think both the reminiscence of a thing a person DID because they were a nerdy kid, or the actual qualities of the nerdy material consumed, could make decent character building material.

      But the material must build the character. It can’t all be abstract gushing about comics. And you can’t copy paste your own specific childhood and give it to a dozen guys. All that tells us is that all your characters are the same.

      You or I or anyone here could write a story with six nerds and find ways to make all of them different. Make one obsessive, one creative, one argumentative, one nit picky. One is using it for escape, another has dreams of breaking into the industry, another just loves the community.

      IRL a person can be all those things at once, but it’s not good characterization for a comic strip. We should be able to tell quickly why different characters are DIFFERENT.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Well that strip shows how Batty just makes a strip out of one of his insecurities. I’m surprised he did not say: “I want to write comics the way they are supposed to be written.”

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Another example of the Sunday pacing being all wrong. The “huh” and wordless panels accomplish nothing. They aren’t beat panels, because there’s nothing going on that would benefit from a pause. This should have been a daily strip, or Lisa should have done more than occupy space. (To be fair, occupying space is Lisa’s best skill.)

        “Why didn’t you want to write a comic strip?” is an out-of-nowhere remark. Just because you drew a comic strip when you were a child doesn’t mean you had any professional aspirations. It would make sense if the comic strip was good, but Batiuk is trying to be self-deprecating by showing his own poor childhood drawing, so it doesn’t work. Lisa says his because Batiuk needs it to set up Les’ oh-so-boffo punchline.

        And on top of all that, it should have been “you should have become a comic strip writer”, not asking why he didn’t. Statements are stronger than questions (more improv 101). And Lisa’s question assumes Les’ reason for not pursuing comic strips, even as she’s asking why he didn’t.

        Absolutely abysmal writing on display here. He fills two panels with nothing, then rushes an exchange that would have filled those panels if the whole thing was paced properly.

        • Y. Knott

          Yes to all of this. To this day, Batiuk can’t seem to grasp that a Sunday strip isn’t simply a mild four-panel gag with extra panels grafted on to take up space.

          Of course, he also can’t seem to grasp almost anything else in terms of telling a story … and after 50+ years, it’s pretty safe to say he never, ever will.

          Hey, has “Because I wanted to be a real writer!” ever shown up on the Son Of Stuck Funky banner up top? Isn’t that a great summary quote for Batiuk’s frustrated ambitions?

      • billytheskink

        Flash and Phil’s dumb flashback last year was actually probably one of the better story arcs of the year and probably would have been risen to the level of “fine” had the setup not been so clunky and the characters not carried so much baggage into the story. It was also the very rare case (presumably) of TB using one of his childhood comics fandom experiences to try and tell an entertaining anecdote instead of simply wallowing in nostalgia… well, that was really limited to the single strip where Phil asked his sister to color his artwork.

        Applying this to my childhood experience watching Star Wars:

        Basic, bland nostalgia trip – I watched the original Star Wars trilogy out of order on videocassette because I am of a certain age.

        Unique, mildly interesting nostalgia trip – I watched Empire Strikes Back on a Betamax tape that also contained Karate Kid and I had to fast forward through Karate Kid to get to Empire, which I did regularly.

        Entertaining anecdote from said nostalgia trip – One time I had a friend over and we both wanted to watch Empire, so I popped the tape in the Betamax and found that it had been rewound completely. I began fast forwarding through Karate Kid, hitting play every so often to see where I was, as I typically did when trying to get to Empire. I happened to hit play right at this exact scene in Karate Kid with its NSFW language… just as my mother, who was not supervising this endeavor and did not know exactly what me and my buddy were up to, walked into the room.





        I don’t remember much after that. I think I fumbled through a 9 year old-level explanation of what I was doing. I don’t believe I got to watch Empire that day.

        • ComicBookHarriet

          And the more specific your narrative gets, the more we learn about BTS as a character. Patient, methodical, friendly, with an uptight mother.

          Basic bland nostalgia trip, I played with Star Wars action figures with my cousin.

          Unique, mildly interesting nostalgia trip– My cousin had so many Star Wars figures that our favorite game was, ‘Clone Wars’ where every single Han was a different clone of the original Han, every Luke, every Vader, and so on.

          Mildly entertaining anecdote from said nostalgia trip– We named the rancor toy Fluffy, and considered it our favorite clones’ Psycho Han and Cat Luke’s pet. Once I insisted on taking it with me to my other cousin’s dance recital. I was sitting in the audience, holding this horrifying abomination of plastic like it was the world’s cutest baby doll.

      • “They That Came From There in Those”? How old was Les, four?

  10. Gabby

    The article about Murphy Anderson includes “MA: Yeah. That was my favorite character, my favorite vehicle, I guess. But my favorite assignment in my professional career was working for the Army on PS Magazine.”
    In the early 70s I was training NCO in an Army Reserve transportation (truck) company. Reading that magazine was often of big help in getting through the boring training weekend.
    I knew Eisner was a major part of the magazine, but never realized Anderson was part of it–I would have recognized the name by that point in my life.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      See, I had no idea what he was talking about. I thought it would be dry illustrations, but no. It’s more like Mad Magazine is trying to tell you to rotate your tires.

      I can see where working on something like this would be an artist’s treat.

      • J.J. O'Malley

        What an inglorious end for Starbuck Jones.

      • Gabby

        IIRC it was mostly relatively dry, but not too technical, articles about care and maintenance of various pieces of equipment. But, always with the Eisner illustrated story included.

        • Gerard Plourde

          My son is currently serving. He confirms that the magazine is still around but isn’t sure if it still has the fiction section.

  11. be ware of eve hill

    I blame Timemop for Daylight Savings. Tell me I’m wrong.

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