Catalyst for Transformation

What a treat! In Crankshaft, DSH John is gracing us with his presence, leaning on his Komix Kounter and dispensing pulpy wisdom.

(Short post, fighting a cold. Have a massive Becky-centric post in the works next)

Following One-Armed Becky and Horse’s-Ass-Head John’s second date, fellow Montoni’s waitresses, Sadie Summers and Rachel gossip about it.

By the way, Sadie, how IS your herpes?

In true Byrne era fashion, these smirky faces run the gamut from nice to nightmare. But no matter how they look, the shit-eating grins feel unbearable.

If it weren’t for the mercy date, I’d never date at all!

I don’t know if Becky overheard this conversation, but she is feeling defensive on HAH John’s behalf.

Um. Barf.

This is one of the worst defenses I’ve seen for someone waiting in line for Attack of the Clones. One of the worst defenses of nerdery and similar obsessions I’ve ever seen in my life. Treating fantasy as a flimsy shelter for the pathetic.

What is Becky really saying here?

Because it seems to me she’s saying she doesn’t actually respect John’s interests, but instead sees his entire lifestyle as one big cope.

She’s playing on Rachel and Sadie’s pity. Pity for a man who has nothing else in his life but Wonder Woman. This is not a defense of fandom. This is a defense of addiction.

When my bestest high school friends and I took a day off of school to line up for Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, did we do it because it was all we had? Because our lives were terrible and we were trying to escape them? When we sat on the concrete, ordering pizzas and playing cards, laughing and saving spots in line so someone could run for more snacks, or to the bathroom, was it a sign we were broken? Should all those people who drove by honking at us, really have been struck with sadness that these dweeby teenage girls and boys had lives so broken that a horrible CGI glurgefest had them patiently waiting for hours for 140 minutes of escape?

I think the answer is obvious. Fantasy can be an escape. A good escape that serves as a nice little release valve for stress, or a bad escape that becomes addiction to denial. But it is so much more. And the strongest arguments for its value don’t rely on a call to pity.

Fiction is about art. About appreciating structure and form and technique. It is about the permutations of the human experience. It’s about imaging yourself in a different place, or a different time, or a different body, and exploring how that feels. And no genre takes you farther in that regard than fantasy or sci-fi.

Fandom and geekery are about communities, friends, and the sharing of ideas and experiences. The opportunity to perform and to appreciate. To commiserate, complain, and celebrate.

These things add to life. To a sad life, maybe they do add its only meaning and purpose. But to a happy and full life, they add over top of that, making the rich richer. The Attack of the Clones decal on my yummy chocolate 15th birthday cake.

Star Wars shouldn’t be something you pityingly allow others because it’s the only thing making their empty life less miserable.

Any geek stuff should be enjoyed by the people who want to enjoy it, and those who don’t get it should just shrug and be happy that these other people have something to enjoy.

I thought Tom understood this.

In other news!

Horse Plops.

We need a new name for Horses Ass Head John. A name for this interim period between equine rump and smashed skunk.



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

55 responses to “Catalyst for Transformation

  1. Banana Jr. 6000

    I can tell you the exact moment Phantom Menace disappointed me. Watching it in the theater for the first time, when Anakin is asking Qui-Gon about the force on the landing platform. I thought, oh wow, Liam Neeson is going to say the line from the original Star Wars.” The force is what gives a Jedi his power. It surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together.”

    What a perfect line that was. Told the audience exactly what they needed to know… and then ended. It didn’t overexplain everything, which got to be a huge problem in Star Wars. And this scene in TPM was the very moment it began. I sat back in 1999 and waited for my nerdgasm to arrive, but instead I got a bunch of bullshit about midichlorians. It’s never been the same since.

    I prefer this explanation anyway:

    • ComicBookHarriet

      The entire Auralnaughts Star Wars saga is one of my favorite things on YouTube. I haven’t seen Kenobi yet, but you can bet your ass I’ve watched all of Larry.

  2. Epicus Doomus

    Byrne’s smirks always had that weird, probably unintentional malice to them, like everyone was always ill-intentioned and even less sincere than usual. It was just too angular and severe for FW. FW should be all rounded edges and mushy, with a glaring lack of attention to detail.

  3. erdmann

    If it weren’t for the mercy date, I’d never date at all! (Ohhh!)
    Gloom, despair and agony on me!

    • mrvy

      That’s the only bit I remember from Hee Haw!

      • Jeff M.

        Not even Junior Samples’ used car lot – “Call BR-549.”

        • mrvy

          Sounds vaguely familiar. I have fond memories of staying up with my Grammy to watch Lawrence Welk and Hee Haw on Sunday nights. I was a wee thing and remember the Arthur Duncan the tap dancer from Welk and the 4 depressed dudes from Hee Haw most clearly.

  4. J.J. O'Malley

    Well, the Komix Korner craziness continues in Mar. 23’s actual “Crankshaft” installment. Having just discovered that his mom, at some indeterminate point in the past, gave his Spider-Man funnybooks the heave-no, J*ff immediately has to drive all the way to Westview to buy reprint collections of said books. Did it ever occur to him that he literally lives next door to a used bookstore? Did he stop to shop online with Glamazon, Fleabay, or whatever Batiuk is calling certain e-retailers? No, it’s the KK or nothing! Makes perfect sense.

    Also, nearly all of Spidey’s original run has been reprinted multiple times in various hardback and paperback volumes, J*ff; there’s no need to spring for an overpriced omnibus edition.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      How many times does Tom Batiuk have to go through this? I get it, Tom, you love comic books and your mom threw them out and they’re worth a billion gajillion dollars. His own therapist would be telling him to change the subject already.

    • Paul Jones

      The irritating thing is having to remember that he’s a dumb kid who only wants to enjoy something one set way. It’s why he made that arch, petulant and idiotic comment about the campy sixties Bat-Man show: they weren’t enjoying the character his way and they insisted on waving someone who reminded himself too much of the schmuck kid he actually was in his face: Robin.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Right, it’s not enough to like comic books, you must like it exactly like Batty does. That is the one and only one, now and forever, amen.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          And “exactly like Batiuk does” is so weirdly narrow no one else on earth can relate to it. Nobody cares about spinner racks, the social dynamics of the existent-only-in-concept bullpen, or his endless parade of unremarkable covers. He is the master of a storytelling world that revolves entirely around comic books, and couldn’t even draw an audience at Comic Con. ’nuff said.

          • Paul Jones

            It’s like how he’s a tribe of one when it comes to old serials. They have to be ‘enjoyed’ in a weird. solipsistic way just like we’re all supposed to be entranced by an attachment to jukeboxes that never really caught on.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            He’s a tribe of one about everything. You don’t just have to like the weird things he does, you have to like them the same way, or he’ll judge you for not enjoying it “correctly.”

            I stumbled on another fantastically obnoxious blog post of his, where he said something like “it was my job to restore comic books to their proper stature.” No, Tom, it stopped being your job when Marvel and DC both passed on hiring you, and you failed to produce even one comic book in your life.

  5. Paul Jones

    We have to remember that the DSH hairdo is the post-HAH hairdo with grey in it. That makes him Dead CAT Head John.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      As Jim Morrison would have put it: “Dead cat in a top hat/thinks he’s an aristocrat/that’s crap…”

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        What’s even worse: white patches in hair like latter-day John Howard had, is a genetic condition called Mallen Syndrome or Poliosis. (No relation to polio.) My brother has a small case of it. He’s had a little white patch in his all hair all of his life, even when he was a baby. Our Dad thought it was cool as hell.

        Maybe Harriet will address this, but how did John Howard’s hairstyle change from “Gordon Gekko with a man bun” to a genetic discoloration? Was this some kind of stylistic choice John made at the barber’s? Was there some comic book explanation for it, like Rogue in X-Men?

  6. Gerard Plourde


    I think you’ve identified an important component of the tragedy of FW and of Batiuk’s experience – for him comics may have been an escape from a sad and lonely child- and young adulthood. We often discuss how the dialogue and situations in the strip don’t reflect the way people talk and react. It may be that Batiuk for some reason didn’t have the opportunities that you and many of us nerds associate with growing up – finding a like-minded set of friends and hanging out enjoying shared experiences and actually doesn’t know how that part of life works. The thought of that possibility saddens me for him.

    • Jeff M.

      Couldn’t agree more. If that’s the root of all the “…shining beacon in the dark…” type language it does make me genuinely sad, because finding other nerds is such a great experience. What baffles me a little is that in the 1960s, at least for people in early/mid adolescence, were comic books really all that nerdy? Others will know better than I. But hell, I was a musical-theatre nerd in western Pennsylvania in the 1980s and even I could manage to find my tribe (secret: community theater!)

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        There’s two problems though:

        1. Batiuk’s childhood wasn’t that bad. On his blog he mentions having a two-parent household, growing up in the same place, having a sibling (IIRC), and mostly being free to explore his interests. There’s no hint of abuse, unreasonable parenting, a bad home life, difficult school situation, poverty, or lingering bitterness over anything other than comic books.

        2. Batiuk was never going to “find his tribe” because his tribe has a worldwide membership of one. Yes, there are millions of comic book fans everywhere. But even they’d quickly get tired of listening to Batiuk prattle on about his very narrow line of interests. And he’d get just as bored with them, wanting to talk about stories and characters and movies and which superhero would win in a fight, instead of the stuff that matters to him. Again, he can’t draw a crowd at Comic-Con, the global epicenter of his cultural interests.

    • ComicBookHarriet


      You may be right. Almost everything that Batiuk does is pulled from two wells, one of his own highly specific personal experience, and the other is from a big ol’ bucket of common tropes and ripped from the pamphlet narratives his brain has latched on to.

      For example, I don’t think that Batiuk has had alcoholism, or experienced domestic violence, but he pulled those from the trope pile.

      I think Tom was a kid with friends, but had a melancholy attitude that left him feeling glum even when on the surface things should have been fine.

      Batiuk in his autobiographical prologues to different volumes doesn’t seem THAT down on his childhood, and talks about getting his sense of humor from his father. It could be that his relationship with his mother was strained, but that he’s chosen not to air that bit of dirty laundry. If I ever have a chance to sit down and have a chat with Batiuk, I’d ask him if Rose Murdoch was based on anyone.

      From the writing, I sense, but don’t 100% know, that Batiuk was hurt that his parents didn’t 100% believe he would succeed in his goals and life ambition of being a comics artist. Sometimes the angsty teen brain has a hard time accepting unconditional love unless it comes along with unconditional support and affirmation without exception.

      Someone out there would read all this and think I’m REALLY crazy and REALLY weird, and just a little creepy for spending so much time psychoanalyzing this Z list minor comics celebrity when it makes so little difference to him or me if I ever understand him.

      To that I’d say. Yes, you’re right. But I’d also say that, as an amateur creative with amateur creative friends being able to parse out how personal experiences leech into art, (for good or for ill,) is important.

  7. erdmann

    Over at The Comics Curmudgeon its been announced that Joe Geilla, long-time Mary Worth artist and inker on “The Flash of Two Worlds” (and lots of other Silver Age tales) has died at 94.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Thanks so much for letting us know. Joe seemed like such a genuinely great guy. Some people may laud him for his amazing superhero work, but to me he’ll always be the man who brought Aldomania to life.

      Gosh, the Batton Comic Covers guys have been dropping fast.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        “And as if that wasn’t enough, the page is inked by Joe Giella the inker of The Flash books I read as a kid and which were the comic books that sealed the deal on how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. When I was setting this up and getting Joe on Board, at one point he said, “Don’t worry, Tom, I’m here for you.” I said, “Joe, you’ve been here for me my whole life.””

        This time, I won’t begrudge Tom this sentiment.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          “The Flash books I read as a kid were the comic books that sealed the deal on how I wanted to spend the rest of my life.”

          Key word: “wanted.”

          • That statement sums everything about Batiuk’s writing. That’s not a thought. That’s a blurb.

            You know, those things you read on paperback covers or DVDs. “An intense thrill ride! You won’t be able to put it down!” “His scariest yet, you’ll want to leave the light on!” “The special effects are AMAZING!”

            All those statements just say “I liked this” without stating any reason why, or offering anything as to why someone else might like it too. BillyTheSkink collected Batton’s statements on Flash #123 and they’re all like that. They’re not statements, they’re blurbs.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            His comic book covers are like that too. All he ever says about them is “they’re good.” No idea what makes some better than others, or why some odd choices make the cut.

            For comparison: the Angry Video Game Nerd did a series on video game box art. It’s jokey as hell, but he actually has something unique to say about each cover. He has an actual art criticism angle, talking about composition and perspective and symbolism and things like that.

          • Rusty Shackleford

            Key words: I wanted

          • billytheskink

            I hadn’t seen that AVGN. He could have covered nearly every Sega Master System and Turbo Grafx-16 cover. Surprised he did not have anything from the latter, especially with stuff like Dungeon Explorer on offer.

            I also find it hard to believe that Super Duper Sumos, a short-lived and tremendously unloved animated series churned out during DiC’s late-period freefall, was deemed worthy of a video game adaptation… but the proof is right there, I guess. No one ever called Andy Heyward unconnected.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Good lord, DiC. Which stood for “Do it Cheaper.” The animation studio Filmation looked down on. Have you ever seen Robot Chicken‘s “Tiger Woods Golf Jam” skit? NSFW but viciously funny, especially if you’re familiar with DiC.

      • Epicus Doomus

        Oh yeah, the space penis head guy! Forgot all about that one.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      Mark Evanier, whose lookalike broke the exciting news that “Phil Holt is alive!,” had a sweet tribute to him in his News from ME blog.

  8. be ware of eve hill

    We need a new name for Horses Ass Head John. A name for this interim period between equine rump and smashed skunk.

    I dislike fat jokes but I’m willing to make an exception for John Howard. The credit for this goes to Sadie.

    How about “Butterball John”? I don’t think anyone here will debate that John isn’t a “turkey”.

    • be ware of eve hill

      *Sigh* Sometimes, I over-edit my comments and muddle the original intent. Just to be clear, I meant no one here will argue when I say John IS a “turkey.”

      English is hard!

      • Gerard Plourde


        I understood your meaning in the original. I took it to mean that no one would argue in DSH’s defense.

        I did policy debate in high school and elliptically phrased propositions were the norm.

        • be ware of eve hill

          Thanks, Gerard.

          When I came back to add a second comment about Harriet’s “short post”, I noticed my first comment contained what might be considered a double negative. I wondered if I should bother writing another comment to clarify. It bugged me all afternoon.

          The bottom line is I didn’t want people to think I like John Howard. Yuck, yecch, bleah, ew and ick. (shivers)

      • be ware of eve hill

        Ha! You’re stuck on that timemop stuff. I love it. “Johnmop” reads like the brand name for a line of toilet cleaning supplies.

  9. be ware of eve hill

    I get a kick out of what you refer to as a “short post”. Looks kind of long to me.

    Hope you feel better soon.

  10. Jeff M.

    If anyone watched Season 2 of “The Crown,” there’s an episode in which Liz II first adopts her iconic, never-to-be-changed hairdo, circa 1958. It’s played for comedy – Lilibet asks her hair stylist for “something different,” and soaring, dramatic choral music begins – think “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s 9th – climaxing as the final result, the ‘do she was still wearing at age 96, is finally revealed. That’s what I imagined when I read that final strip above. A transformative hair moment that will last through the decades. (In “The Crown” it’s followed by a nasty scene where Prince Phillip just makes fun of it. I suspect a similar followup when the people who sit next to John at Montoni’s (we can’t honestly call them his “friends) do the same.

  11. hitorque

    Meanwhile in Krankenschaaften, Crazy Harry figures out how time and aging works…

    • Gerard Plourde

      Which raises the question – How old are Lillian and Crankshaft?

      The mess the second time jump created is really showing itself. Prior to Batiuk’s retcon, the FW cast graduated in 1988. With Jff and Pmm graduating from KSU in 1970 or 71, this would make them 17 or 18 years older than the FW cast and Greatest Generation members Lillian, Crankshaft and Ralph Meckler pushing the century mark.

    • J.J. O'Malley

      Just to recap this week’s “Funky Crankerbean” action:

      Mon.: J*ff discovers some of his old Spider-Man comics are missing.

      Tues.: J*ff realizes his mother threw some of his old Spider-Man comics out.

      Wed: J*ff drives to Westview’s Komix Korner to buy reprinted Spider-Man comics.

      Thurs.: Crazy Harry hands J*ff a hardback Spider-Man omnibus.

      Fri.: J*ff purchases the hardback Spider-Man ominbus.

      I suppose Saturday will show Harry putting said omnibus in a bag for J*ff to take out to his car. Seriously, this “relive my childhood” rehash could have been condensed and done in a single Sunday strip. Batiuk is doing what I would have considered impossible: making me actually miss Ed Crankshaft.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        JJ, I really enjoy reading your comments on GoComics. You speak eloquently to the problems of the Funkyverse, in ways the trufans can’t just disregard. I’d last about 5 seconds over there. Keep fighting the good fight.