A Nauseating Development

Beckoning, those 75 cents you paid for this rare issue were definitely worth it. What a steal for a game changing, keystone installment like this!

And I don’t blame poor Batton for losing his lunch. Today is full of a lot of stomach churning imagery.

On March 30, 2002, we were treated to this:

Bushy eyebrows on a woman? Check.

Beady, narrow eyes? Check.

Hatchet faced smirk? Check.

Droopy one-sided stroke face? Check?

Tiny nose way too high? Check

The John Byrne saga has begun.

Around this time, years of running and playing tennis began to take their toll on my body, and I found that it was necessary for me to have some surgery on my foot because even walking had become rather painful by that point. The surgery and convalescence led to Chuck and me losing some ground on our year’s stockpile of strips. Rather than submitting once again to the grueling prospect of doubling up on our workload to regain what had been lost, I decided to bring another artist on board to cover that gap for us. I had long admired the work of comic book artist John Byrne, who worked in a more realistic “adventure strip” style. I became friends with John who, at one point, drew Ed Crankshaft into one of his Next Men comic books. Except that it was an “adventure strip” style depiction of my bad-tempered bus driver. I realized that I’d found something very close to what I had been wanting to do with the art. While his work was different from the artwork in Funky, I saw the same kind of drawing ability in John that Chuck possessed. I figured that I could take John’s pencils and simply back them off enough when I inked them to turn them into the Funky Winkerbean look I was going for. I thought it would be an interesting one-off experiment. I thought it would be fun. I unexpectedly got a lot more than that.

Match to Flame 182, from The Complete FW Volume 11.

Now I don’t want anyone to take my criticism of Byrne’s run on Funky Winkerbean as a blanket assessment of his artistic talent. The guy has serious limits, (children) but also many strengths (angular-faced older dudes, muscles, costumes, vehicles and future tech.) From my layman’s view, he does better the more structure or detail the face calls for. Unfortunately in the world of comics every extra line adds age to a face. So, in order to draw children and some women, you can’t give their faces the cheekbones, forehead ridges, naso-labial folds, and dimples that Bryne seems to need to figure out the underlying skeletal structure.

So he draws a pretty nice Crankshaft.

That is a very badass looking Crankshaft.

And horrifying children.

Ugh! Drown it quick!

For Funky Winkerbean, faces run the gamut from a few that are better than the normal Chuck art, to acceptable, to the sad twisted remains of a blowtorched Barbie doll.


Someday maybe I’ll do a deep dive on Rachel, but suffice to say for now she’s a little more flirty, sultry, and bold than baseline. She’s still kinda bland. But if Becky and Lisa are basic bitch tortilla chips, then she’s the bag labeled, ‘Hint of Lime’.

‘For Pete’s Sake!’ Is something my dad yells when he doesn’t want to swear in front of his children.

“Kind of Sweet.” This is Becky’s standard for a first date. And what she seems to value in a potential romantic partner. Fair enough. Someone good natured is a higher bar than you’d think, and a more important quality than six-pack abs or a six-figure income.

This conversation might not pass the Bechdel test, but it is realistic and human AND calls back to the time that Becky and Rachel beat up three thugs trying to mug them the Westview Ghetto.

I love to shout out loud the locale where I learned my skills, while employing them in self defense! Clumsily running away in fear on the farm!
Um, yeah, ladies, gonna have to charge you for assault and battery.

Man, these strips make me hunger for time and plot lines dedicated to the Becky and Rachel friendship. They have different values and personalities, but share interests and get along. These girls go to the same college, work in the same place, are around the same age. And would go on to share a husband. We were robbed. (Again.)

So Becky is meeting a fellow film buff from her chat room. Wonder who THAT could BE?

Gasp! What a twist!
HAH John was so startled his shirt changed color!

How long ago was their first date? I don’t know, even in Act II Funky time was funky. Becky is still in college I guess. Before their first date Wally had left for the military, and at this point he is MIA, presumed dead, in Afghanistan (for the first time.) So maybe it’s been a year or two. And much like Becky and John’s first date, they go to a cheap movie theatre. But this time it’s The Valentine. Ralph Meckler had an arc sometime before in Crankshaft where he’d decided to fix the old theatre up. The plot was recapped in a Sunday Strip when Hannah and Max were buying the place.

Better to be Crazy than Cranky or Funky.

We get to see John looking lovingly at Becky while she shouts loudly in a crowded movie theatre. And we get to see Ralph as drawn by John Byrne. The stuff of nightmares.

This Sunday strip…it haunts me. Sometimes, apropos of nothing, that last panel pops into my head and I shudder. I can HEAR it, and it sounds like a cursed Muppet.

Ralph Meckler in that final panel is a Dr. Seussian Sleep Paralysis Demon. Like the Lorax was wearing Mitch McConnell as a skinsuit.

Here’s a weird strip.

John is a geek who runs a comics store. He spends hours every week sitting at the Montoni’s coffee counter eating greasy pizza and chatting with Crazy Harry about movies and comic books. We know the man loves stories, appreciating old movies isn’t a given but shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. It’s Becky’s interest that is new information on her character. This conversation should be flipped.

See, now it’s John learning that he and Becky are more compatible than he thought. During their first date, he only seemed interested in her as an attractive woman, and had trouble making conversation. Now he learns she has hidden depths he can relate to.

But to flip the conversation is to flip the script Batiuk keeps falling back on instinctively: that women are inherently desirable just for being nice and attractive, and it is men who must win them over with their hidden depths. He bucks half this trend a only few times by having women pursue men they already want, ala Cindy and Masone and Les and CauCayla, but those men are receptive and find the women attractive. Have we ever gotten a woman or girl who must win a man with the power of personality?

The first half of his scrapped ‘Allison Date Plan’ a rousing success with Becky, HAH John tries for the second half.


Pffft, who would want to buy a comic spinner rack…

Oh, okay. Depends on your definition of ‘quite a lot’.

And now we see the REAL reason John wanted to bring Becky home. It wasn’t for a book.

Like selling pizzas! Or painting houses!

It was so she could see him being harassed by his verbally abusive alcoholic mother. Playing the wounded baby bird gambit on this born mother-hen. Smart. It pays off big time for him. He drives Becky back to her place, and gets nerd-first-date equivalent of scoring.

Unfortunately for him, he’ll never make it home.

The horror. The final panel strikes again!



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

75 responses to “A Nauseating Development

  1. Andrew

    I will say that in my experience as a Northeaster Ohioan, I do recall having run into spinner racks 2-3 times in places selling comics, but as I recall they were used to put bulk comic packs or graphic novels, so generally not for individual copies to be showcased. Beyond that, from what I have googled it does seem there’s still a market for selling newer racks for a few hundred bucks for businesses to furnish their stories, though I don’t really know what kind of stores make use of them for premium items, certainly.

    Becky’s handling is definitely weird here, and I got a gut feeling that it may get worse as I notice her use of the prosthetic arm again in these strips. May be early to judge, but at this point as the comic is clearly focusing on the pairing a lot, I don’t know why Batiuk didn’t have Becky and John tie the knot then and there and save Wally the salt in the wound. I may be biased as I am one of those people who think he horribly treated as far as the concept of “person who was thought dead finally comes home to find his love remarried” goes, but with this sort of setup it feels like this was what Batiuk always preferred, but either got cold feet that he quickly took the chance of the next time skip to reverse course on, or thought Becky needed a very dramatic love triangle.

    Also now that we’re focusing on the Bryne fill-in run, I might have comments of note assuming a certain strip makes the cut here as the recap continues.

  2. J.J. O'Malley

    Sad thing is, I’m sitting at my computer desk in the O’Malley Mansion’s third-floor library room, and proudly standing next to the desk is a “Hey!! Kids Comics” spinner rack filled with unopened packages of 3.75″ Marvel Legends Retro figures. While said rack does indeed squeak, it didn’t set me back $800.

    There but for a skunk-like head of hair go I.

  3. Gerard Plourde

    I may be jumping the gun here since we’re only in early Act 2, but the status of Becky’s marriage to John upon Wally’s return from his second MIA episode does pose a serious legal issue. It’s not my area of law, but it seems from what I’ve read that the majority rule in the US is that the second marriage would be considered null and an action to affirmatively dissolve the first marriage through a divorce proceeding would be necessary before a valid second marriage could be contracted. This would actually have made for an interesting story line, so of course it never even made so much as a blip on the strip’s radar.

    • Paul Jones

      Batiuk never quite managed to realize that Becky’s handing him his stuff and telling him not to let the doorknob hit him on his way out the door is not just bad form, it’s also illegal. John would be the one told to pick his crap up and slope back to Drunken Caricature Mother.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        As usual, Batiuk wrote himself into a situation he didn’t have the skill to write himself out of. So we get a simple-minded, half-assed resolution to a complex, gut-wrenching problem.

        Somehow Becky doesn’t have any conflicted feelings about Wally still being alive, and Wally just accepts that she’s married to someone else now and makes no effort to win her back. (From freaking John Howard, a character that was born to be a romantic loser, and had previously been characterized as such.)

        We don’t even get the Cast Away ending, where Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt they have to face why they can’t simply reunite, and Tom finds a new love interest. There’s not even a reason why Wally and Becky can’t reunite; John Howard isn’t much of an obstacle. Nor, as I mentioned, did Wally’s wife or his own parents make any effort to find out what happened to him.

        A great example of Batiuk introducing drama, then dropping it when it becomes too hard to write. Which is almost instantly.

        • Paul Jones

          Doing the hard thing would go against the sacred principles of Good Writing that explain why people can just push the reset switch after Flash uses science gibberish to beat Manure Master and Captain Koala. He can’t admit that he worshipped people who deliberately writing pot boilers for simple-minded children because writers need to eat. We know that Stan Lee hoped to write The Great American Novel one day and that his peers had the same goal. Batiuk doesn’t because it makes his mommy right. He might be a mopey spoiled child but he’s still a brat kid throwing a tantrum in public.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            I don’t think Batiuk has any clue how influenced by comic books he is. Everything in his stories is oversimplified and too easily resolved. Morality is black-and-white. His characters bear little resemblance to human adults. They have feelings, but Batiuk doesn’t seem to understand why, or what drives them. Magical solutions are the order of the day.

            He does everything like he’s writing a comic book, because he simply doesn’t know any other way. He’s never read anything else in his life, except those Asimov books he doesn’t understand. Even in college, he was breathlessly waiting in a media room for that stupid Batman TV show to come on. So he could get his nose out of joint about it, and hold a grudge for 50 years.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Missing civilians can be declared dead after enough years have passed. I think somebody has to do some paperwork, though. That could have been a gut-wrenching arc; having to get your own child or husband declared dead. I’m not sure how being an active/missing soldier changes that, though.

      But it raises a major flaw in the story. If someone was really keeping an American serviceman for years, it wouldn’t be a secret. Whoever kept him would be making demands, or at least propaganda videos about it.

      It also opens the possibility that the military knew he was alive and in captivity, but didn’t tell his family or wife the truth. Which, again, would be a far more compelling story than what Batiuk wrote.

      • billytheskink

        It seems TB wasn’t clear on the difference between MIA and KIA, based on these two strips.

        • Gerard Plourde


          It also appears he knows nothing about DNA identification.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          What the hell happened in that second one? “The bodies didn’t…. they couldn’t.” What is she saying exactly? That she knows the remains weren’t really Wally? And this.. didn’t change her attitude, or anything? The U.S. military is so dishonest and inept they told an obvious lie?

          • Green Luthor

            I think she’s saying that the bodies were so damaged that there wasn’t enough left intact to actually get a usable sample of teeth to make a dental record comparison.

            Doesn’t explain why they couldn’t get DNA samples, one would assume there would be a lot of that around, but… Batiukworld.

            (It also doesn’t explain why Wally was even in Afghanistan. Under the revised timeline, the second time skip covered 1990-2000. Which means he was there BEFORE 9/11? I think Tim Negoda might have something to say about that…)

            (I’m starting to think Batiuk didn’t put much thought into the implications of changing the timeline. I could be wrong, though.)

          • billytheskink

            The situation TB ultimately built around Wally was ridiculously muddled.

            First, there was the “Easter egg” he dropped in one of the last Act II strips (the newspaper headline “soldiers taken hostage”), an Easter egg he makes explicitly clear was intentional in the infamous “it’s called writing” blog post.

            Then we have the 2009 reveal that Wally was declared dead through the identification of unidentifiable remains, which is stated after we learn that he was in an armored truck that was rocked by an explosion, implying that the military likely thought he died in that explosion.

            But then, days later, TB tries to tie the whole situation back to that Easter egg newspaper headline with this strip, which uses newspaper clippings to describe a strange saga where Wally was publicly known to be taken hostage, then considered “missing”, and then declared dead due to his unidentifiable remains. The rare POW-MIA-KIA trifecta…

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Every story Funky Winkerbean tried to tell in Act III was ridiculously muddled. Like:

            Bull killed himself so his brain could be used in CTE research, but chose a suicide method that relies on head trauma, and wore a helmet to protect his brain from it. Linda doesn’t get a settlement from the NFL, then says Bull wasn’t eligible for it, even though Batiuk retconned his career into “a year on the practice squad” which actually *would* have made him eligible. The police cover up Bull’s suicide for unclear reasons, undermining the statement Bull was trying to make, and letting Linda get a settlement after all via implied insurance fraud. Why she even needed this money, or whether Bull got his dying wish, are never addressed.

          • billytheskink

            The Bull CTE arc was probably the most egregiously constructed storyline in all of Act III. Mistakes and retcons at every single turn.

            Insurance fraud is nothing new for Funky and Co. If you ever need Crazy to wink on cue, just ask him if he altered the postmark on the Montoni’s insurance payment that Funky forgot to mail before the place burned down back in the late 90s.

          • Green Luthor

            In terms of the “easter egg” that was supposed to point to Wally’s POW status… that was shown as a headline while Les was wandering New York City to dispose of Lisa’s remains in Central Park. But then he gets pickpocketed and has to use his “lucky Central Park quarter” to make a call at a pay phone. (Either Batiuk doesn’t know what “collect calling” means, or no one would accept a call from Les, either way is believable.) Anyhoo, he calls Funky, who goes all the way to New York to pick up Les.

            Now, I can believe that Funky might want to distract himself from his missing cousinephew or something, though surely someone else could have made the trip, so Funky could stay in contact in case any news came in about Wally? Like, couldn’t Crazy Harry go instead? I know the point was that Funky is Les’ best friend, and (more importantly) Batiuk didn’t want to tip off the readers about what had actually happened, but still…

            (I’m imagining the conversation involved Les saying “Who cares that Willy might be dead, this is about ME!”. Because Les is kind of a self-centered dick.)

            As for the Bull CTE story, there’s one thing I can’t help but wonder. It could be Batiuk just not thinking things through, but it might also be a sign of Bull’s deterioration that he didn’t/couldn’t think of the implications. (It wasn’t addressed in the comic as far as I know, so I’m guessing it might be a Batiuk thing?) Bull killed himself because of the CTE, but wanted his brain to be available for CTE studies. Okay, fine. He then picks an extremely violent way to kill himself, one that could potentially damage his brain further, potentially making it unsuitable for study. BUT he wears his football helmet to protect his brain! The same helmet that… didn’t protect it enough to spare him from the CTE in the first place…? Kinda feels like there was a slight flaw in that plan…

            But, again, it could just be that Bull, the character, didn’t make the connection, I don’t know. But it also seems like the kind of thing Batiuk would think was clever, when it’s really not? (Of course, he could have had Linda say at Bull’s funeral that Bull intended to leave his brain for study, but the suicide damaged it too much for that, meaning Bull failed to even give his death meaning. That would have been perfectly in keeping with how much Batiuk was crapping all over the guy at his own funeral.)

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            @Green Luthor Yes, Bull could have made some confused decisions in his state. But the story never says that. Nobody ever says “gee, it’s weird that a 50-year-old man was wearing a high school football helmet when he drove off the road to his death.” The police didn’t comment on it. Linda didn’t comment on it. Les didn’t comment on it. It’s a very strange detail that should have caught someone’s attention.

            On top of that, the police immediately knew it was a suicide attempt, and covered it up. Even though protecting your head is the action of someone who’s trying NOT to die. The presence of the helmet makes Bull’s one-car accident not the open-and-shut case the police acted like it was. (To say nothing of them wordlessly presenting Linda with the helmet, as if this explained everything.)

            Again, Tom Batiuk’s lack of theory of mind is on full display. There was no mystery to solve, because everyone in the story immediately knew Bull’s intent and motivations. Even though Bull’s muddled mental state made his actions unclear to even himself. Batiuk can’t imagine a character viewing the story like an outsider would. All characters are omniscient, and exist just to rubber-stamp wherever Batiuk wants the story to go.

      • Gerard Plourde

        They can be declared dead, but if they turn up alive, the marriage laws of many jurisdictions would void the second marriage. If affirmative steps aren’t taken (i.e. legally terminating the first marriage) some states would even prosecute the parties to the second marriage for bigamy.

        • Paul Jones

          Which would be a fascinating story…and thus one Batiuk doesn’t have the chops to tell. It would be like watching Les sue the shit out of the lab for malpractice or Linda bleeding an inept lawyer who dropped the ball on getting her her rightful blood money from the NFL white. People would have to take active steps to redress a bad situation and that would make them bullies somehow.

      • Green Luthor

        I get the impression that Batiuk saw Rambo or the Chuck Norris Missing in Action movies, decided that the idea that there were still secretly POWs in Vietnam was true, and then decided that the same thing would have happened in Afghanistan. Despite, y’know, the fact that it didn’t.

        But it’s called writing a quarter-inch from reality or whatever.

        • billytheskink

          To be nitpicky, Wally’s second stint as a POW was in Iraq… not that it changes ANY of the criticism of how he handled the whole affair.

  4. Green Luthor

    Byrne can certainly be an odd one. Unquestionably, he’s written some of the best comics I’ve read. (Though he’s also written some major stinkers.) But he also has some… unfortunate tropes that he uses, like… a lot. And he’s also one of the best artists in the field, but the things he’s NOT good at… oof, those are rough. And then there’s his personality… I’m not sorry that I’ve never had an opportunity to meet the guy, let’s just say.


    • ComicBookHarriet

      Ha ha! I knew I wasn’t the only Popsicle Pete Disciple out here.

      And Byrne amazes me. How can someone with such a long career in art NEVER learn the simple rules for children’s faces. It’s so easy in paint to take his horror dwarfs and make them slightly less awful. And I’m not an artist at all. Here. I fixed what I could, though the ears should be smaller too.

      Children have their facial features more compact in the center of their face, because they don’t have the cheekbone growth of adults, but they’re all forehead. Their head should be about 1/4th the size of their body. Bigger noses and eyes, smaller mouths. It’s not rocket surgery. But when you’re a prickly dude, I guess no one can tell you how easy it is to fix.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Seanbaby is hilarious.

      • Green Luthor

        Conveniently, that was the story where Byrne retconned Wanda and Vision’s children into being “constructs” created by Wanda’s hex power, so instead of actual children, they were manifestations of pieces of the demon Mephisto’s essence. They certainly LOOK like they were created from pieces of the devil, that’s for sure.

        (Mephisto had been ripped apart by Franklin Richards, the 4-year-old son of Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four. This all happened while the FF was being written and drawn by… oh, look, John Byrne.)

        (And this was all part of a story where Byrne felt he had to “undo” the marriage of Vision and Wanda, because… *sigh*… he thought marrying an android was like marrying a “toaster”. Then again, that’s also part of Byrne’s MO. He’ll make drastic changes to the status quo, but also turn around and reset changes made by OTHER creators that don’t fit the earlier status quo he prefers. Change is good… as long as they’re HIS changes.)

        And if you’ve made it this far, how about some more nightmare fuel of Billy and Tommy up there…?

        (Thanks for that image, Byrne!)

    • erdmann

      I’ve never met Byrne, either, but a friend of mind has. Based on his account, neither of us have missed out on anything.
      A shame, really. He was once one of comics’ greatest creators.

  5. erdmann

    “Like the Lorax was wearing Mitch McConnell as a skinsuit.”
    I laughed out loud at that… and was seriously, stomach-churningly disturbed by the image to which it referred.

  6. Paul Jones

    The irritating thing about this is how close it meshes with this week in Crankshaft. That’s because we have Pam mindlessly tossing away old Spider-Man comics because women are stoooooooooooopid and stoooooooopid and do not forget that they are stoooooooopid because they don’t understand the appeal of a teenager in long johns shooting silly string at a man hooked up to murder tentacles.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      I hate this trope, but I also hate Batty’s “girl power” trope too. So forced and unbelievable.

      He could have shown a strong woman dealing with a husband who is obsessed with his dead wife, or a strong woman dealing with her loser son who is obsessed with comic books.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Batty’s idea of girl power is more like New Powers As The Plot Demands. Some toughs have Lisa backed into a corner? It turns out she took kickboxing classes for years and never mentioned it! And the other pudgy blonde woman did too! And they can both take out hardened street thugs with one kick to the chest! How convenient!

        Even though such a class would have been a useful storytelling tool, to explaining how Lisa magically transformed from knocked-up waifish high school doormat into sexy high-powered lawyer. But hey, what do you know? New Girl Powers As The Plot Demands works here too.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Right, and he could have shown her fearlessly fighting her cancer. Well I guess he thinks she did. I mean he showed her complaining to Congress and all. If only those fat cats did something maybe Lisa would still be alive.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Batiuk just tells the story he wants to tell about his characters, with no regard to what actually happened. We’re supposed to see Lisa’s death as some kind of cultural touchstone, when she wasn’t even a likeable or popular character in her own (very small) world. She hijacked other people’s long-planned Congress trip to make it about herself; and exhibited no traits you would call noble or inspiring.

            But-but-but-but Lisa was the most cancery cancer who ever cancered! And Les was just soooooooooo sad she died, that he can’t move on 25 years and one marriage later! Even after she did nothing to stay alive, he did nothing to keep her alive, and the story itself had no other value than feeding Les’ ego.

      • erdmann

        The “women be throwing away comics” cliché is especially stupid in this day and age. Yes, once mothers viewed comics as junk (and, to be honest, many of us fans also treated them as disposable), but its well known today that a 60-year-old comic may be worth big bucks, so its more likely Pam would sell the books than dump them.
        Once, you could go to yard sales and find key issues for pennies (Swamp Thing #1, several old X-Men, etc.). Then, one dark day in the late 1980s, a suburban housewife discovered the Overstreet guide and the party was over.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Yeah, it’s a worn out trope. Heck, my mom had high standards for me, but she appreciated humor and loved reading my MAD magazines. She would never have thrown them out.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            It would be a great trope to subvert now. Some middle-aged guy longs for and eventually finds his long-lost childhood collection… But it’s in such poor condition it only sells for a couple hundred bucks.

            In a better universe, this story would have been a great fit for the Funkyverse. Having your hopes raised, actually getting what you wanted, but your hopes are dashed by something that was ultimately your own fault.

        • Paul Jones

          That would require Batiuk to look back at his past and see himself as another person might see him. He doesn’t have the guts or decency. If he did, he wouldn’t stand around screaming that 20th Century Fox Television was somehow making fun of him by reminding people that the idea of a rich dude punching a guy in greasepaint and a fat gangster with a nickname he hated is fundamentally absurd. God help us all if he reads the essay Klosterman wrote about how Batman can only be thought of as good in a fake world.

  7. Rusty Shackleford

    “ that women are inherently desirable just for being nice and attractive, and it is men who must win them over with their hidden depths”

    Great observation CBH. This would be ok except that the hidden depths is always something comic book related.

    • Epicus Doomus

      Women in the Funkyverse are almost always their partner’s moral compass, the beacons guiding their wayward man-child mates toward Adulthood Bay and Practicality Point. Except for Cindy, who subverts the whole trope, because she’s the most attractive one, and thus the shallowest.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Women in the Funkyverse are almost always their partner’s new mom. Simple as that.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Today’s Crankshaft 3/21 is a perfect example of that.

          Now I have never met Jfff’s mom, but she was totally right. Jfff never grew up, still is obsessed with comic books, has an ugly, stupid wife who pesters everyone with stupid questions, has lazy kids who live at home and pursue stupid “passion projects”, and he thinks a charred piece of rock is something special.

          I agree with his mom. Comic books are to blame for all of this! Throw them all away immediately.

          • Gerard Plourde

            And the comic book invasion of Crankshaft picks up steam.

            I’m trying to make sense of Jff’s comment that he brought the box home after his mother died. If memory serves, his mother lived with them for a good portion of the strip (she was there before Crankshaft moved in). There was an arc after she died (I think around the time the Starbuck Jones movie arc was playing itself out), where he goes back to the house he grew up in to retrieve something from under the floorboards of his old room, but I don’t think it was his comics.

  8. Banana Jr. 6000

    I love how this Timemop cover design mimics Batiuk’s precious Flash #123.

    • Green Luthor

      Bonus points for Batton having just thrown up, with an open Montoni’s box next to him. Great attention to detail!

  9. bad wolf

    “Why can’t you go for a walk?”

    “Um, my thumb hurts.”

    It always cracks me up that TB blamed his artistic problems on his foot surgery. It always makes me think of him sitting in front of his drawing table holding the pencils between his toes like Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot. I follow various artists that complain about tendonitis, joint problems, tennis elbow. At least i can understand how those would affect their art. Was he obliquely referring to painkiller dependence?

    Also his eternal humblebrag about his year-ahead schedule, which i swear is at least as big a problem as it is a solution. “Contemporary issues” aren’t necessarily “Last Year’s issues” and the pandemic years really underlined that.

    • Perfect Tommy

      Right? It would be like the guy in “Misery” after he got hobbled.
      “Well how can I finish the book NOW”?

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Look how fast they crank out South Park episodes. And Batty got a year ahead using gimmicks, like taking a week to open an envelope.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      The year-ahead schedule messes up him integrating current events, but I have sympathy for the thinking behind it.

      South Park is made by an entire crew. If one person goes down for a while they can still churn out episodes. The way the strip was being made before they started working very ahead, if Batiuk went down he would lose ground in a matter of weeks.

      In the intro to one of his volumes he talks about how in the early 90’s, 20 plus years of close dead-lines constantly looming had him so burnt out on stress that he alludes to suicidality and needing psychological treatment for depression.

      It was about this time that he brought Chuck on for pencils, and they worked to get a year ahead so that if either of them had a medical crisis they would have some padding.

      Look, if it helped keep him sane (ish) then I get it. But he didn’t need to pat himself on the back for it all the time.

      I think they did move things around in Act II to get September 11 in the strip much sooner. It starts to be referenced in October of that year, so the 1 year lead time used to be more flexible.

      My feeling is that Batiuk just shouldn’t have tried so hard to integrate current events very late in the game.

      • billytheskink

        For all of his faults, Tom Batiuk was and even still is an unfathomably prolific comics producer. Between the three comic strips he has written over the years, he’s approaching 35,000 strips created, many of which he also drew and/or inked himself and most of which were created simultaneously with at least one other comic strip that he also had a deadline for.

        While I don’t think it makes his constant missteps with “current” events and important issues forgivable, it does make them more understandable. With that kind of workload, he was not giving himself the time he needed to get his story fleshed out and his facts correct (and he probably needed more time than some would to do these things). I don’t know if the syndicate was reluctant to let him take a break and lean on re-runs for a few weeks or if he was so insistent on working that he refused to take some time off… but he probably would have been well-served by taking some time off (between the time jumps would have been a good time to do it, play a clip show before moving on to the new phase).

        Yeah, Schulz was pretty much indefatigable, but most of TB’s well-received contemporaries took some time off from their strips in the middle of their runs on at least a couple occasions. Trudeau, Larson, and Watterson, all did so I know.

  10. Jesus, that Byrne “artwork” is dreadful. It looks like Steve Ditko’s early Spider-Man drawings.

  11. billytheskink

    I never cared for Byrne’s wide, flat mouths. Made everyone look smarmy and frog-like. He does have a better sense of setting up a strip’s atmosphere than TB does, though. Ultimately, the Byrne break marked the real beginning of TB/Ayers’ move to a more “realistic” art style that mostly just removed whatever charm was left in the artwork.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Yeah I think Byrne’s art is odd. I don’t care for it. While I have enjoyed some of the more realistic fall scenes in FW, I like a little bit of quirkyness. This is why I enjoyed Bloom County, the art there elevated the jokes.

    • Epicus Doomus

      He never got the wryness just right, it always came across as weirdly malevolent instead. Everyone looks all sinister to me, like they’re secretly plotting something, like an evil soap opera character.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Funky Winkerbean itself was weirdly malevolent when it was trying to be wry and humorous. So Byrne’s art style actually kind of worked. It matched the tone of what FW really was, not what Batiuk thought it was.

  12. be ware of eve hill

    Last week The Far Side featured a comic that made me think of Comic Book Harriet.

    One of the comics today is for Billy the Skink and all the skinkheads in this discussion. We’re not creepy.

    • be ware of eve hill

      Dadgummit. I cropped the caption out of the comic. Dummy.

      The caption was…

      “Oh, God! It’s that creepy Ted Sheldon and Louise Dickerson.
      … They’re skinkheads you know.”

      Sorry about that.

      • TimP

        Whenever we go to the zoo and see the various skinks, I always think of Billy. One time I even took a picture of one and may or may not have tried to post it one or another comics mocking site.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        I was staring at that for awhile struggling to get the joke, then I finally scrolled down.

      • billytheskink

        Hahahaha, I love it! One of my favorite Far Side strips.

  13. ian'sdrunkenbeard

    Happy Spring!

    Here comes spring again,
    The season of love and beauty.

    The trickling brook thins out
    In search of the summer stream,
    And the calm sea
    Soothes away gloom and rage.
    The duck merrily dives
    And is cleansed by the water;
    And the crane alters its flight,
    Comes around again and disappears.

    The bright sun shines
    A more serene light;
    Shadows vanish from clouds,
    Which play, shift and darken
    Woods, fields, and hillsides.
    Human toil grows green again,
    And the meadow reveals its flowers.

    Venus’ son Cupid,
    Sowing the world with his arrows,
    Shall set ablaze the ardour of
    Animals that fly in the air,
    Animals that crawl in the fields,
    Animals that swim in the water.
    Even that which cannot feel,
    In love, will melt with pleasure.

    Let us also laugh and seek
    The frolics and games of springtime.
    Everything is full of mirth:
    Let’s celebrate this happy season.

  14. be ware of eve hill

    An autographed orangutang harness?

  15. J.J. O'Malley

    Meanwhile, folks, in actual “Crankshaft” strips, the March 22 entry is set in, of all places…the Komix Korner! Why, we haven’t had a CS strip take place in Westview’s Fortress of Arrested Development in just over eight weeks! Honestly, it feels like HAH John has appeared more in 2023 than Ed.

    And, of course, J*f is there to tell Superman-related dad jokes while, one assumes, trying to find replacement copies of the precious Spider-Man comics that presumably his mother (Gasp!) threw away. Batiuk’s never going to give it a rest, is he?

    • Rusty Shackleford

      For March 22, HAH John says he never banned anyone from the store. I think that is another continuity gaffe, kind of like what happened on The Simpsons recently with Jacques.

      And did Batty throw away a year of strips just so he can shoehorn in more comic book stuff?

      • Gerard Plourde

        “And did Batty throw away a year of strips just so he can shoehorn in more comic book stuff?”

        I think this is more evidence that Crankshaft was the neglected step-child strip. He was so busy doing “It’s called writing” on FW that Crankshaft was permitted to remain a gag-a-day or a “gag situation per week” strip. I have the suspicion that the portents aren’t favorable for it to remain so.

  16. Paul Jones

    To get back to something I said upthread about the lunatic children running the asylum, I don’t think that John Byrne had any damn business writing comics in the first place. Letting an angry and stupid child with a strong opinion about the characters does more damage than letting an adult who doesn’t really care about the plot does. Kirby was Two-Takes Frakes telling people to shut up and read the motherfucking lines as written. Byrne is Michael Dorn telling him “Worf wouldn’t say or do THAT!”

  17. Banana Jr. 6000

    All the stuff we’ve talked about here – the year-long delay, the weird art style, the continuity problems – would be fine if Batiuk would commit to them.

    You want a year lead time? Fine. Don’t write time-sensitive material. Pull or re-write strips if they don’t work by the time they’re published. It’s not like Batiuk can’t do this; he’s mentioned writing to the high school calendar in Act I.

    You want a more realistic, comic book style of artwork? Fine. Be Judge Parker. If Batiuk wanted to do drama, Funky Winkerbean could have seamlessly transitioned into a soap opera strip after Act II. Lisa’s death set it up perfectly. Batiuk said he wanted to do more serious work, and didn’t want to be “gag a day” guy anymore. He built himself a perfect route to the work he said he wanted to do… and didn’t take it.

    You don’t want to be bothered with continuity questions? Fine. Don’t do interviews and blog posts where you constantly pat yourself on the back for having continuity. Don’t making “my characters age” your defining trait as a writer. Because when you do, it’s not “beady-eyed nitpicking” for readers to point that you’re terrible at it.

    Or, if you’re going to do a contrast of styles, commit to that. I’d kind of like to see some funny strips in the Byrne art style; it would be so jarring it might actually have worked. Like those Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strips where photorealistic adult versions of Calvin and Susie play house. Or Happy Tree Friends, where the violence is even funnier because of how cute it all is.

  18. ComicBookHarriet

    To each their own, but I think the art style of mid act II to early Act III Ayers was fine, as long as Chuck wasn’t getting too sloppy and we ignore Flash Freeman’s Easter Island head. The character designs were in that sweet spot just this side of the uncanny valley, where they had somewhat realistic human proportions but also could be exaggerated. I don’t think taking it full Judge Parker would have helped.

    Byrne and Burchett were completely unable to produce consistently in that style though. So I have no idea why Batiuk crows on about how much of a game changer Byrne’s stint was.

    Ayers was already drawing Crankshaft identical to how he would go on to draw Funky. What Byrne’s stint really did was allow the last vestiges of BATIUK’S old style, that Ayers had dutifully aped for so long, to disappear.