Today’s Dinkshaft Double Feature is brought to you from the pen of Chuck Ayers, the words of Tom Batiuk, and the diabolical mind of TFH.
Now that the spring cold and the cold medicine and the just general cold have worn away, I am finally mentally and physically prepared to double dip deep dive into the angst heavy plots of Act II, hoping to uncover deep truths about Jonathan Howard and Rebecca Blackburn.
We sink down to April 2003 on our first stop, to catch up with Dead Cat Head John. He’s huffing Axe body spray, getting ready for his birthday date with Becky. And we finally get to see the elder Mrs. Howard, looking like some kind of alternate universe future Lisa. A dark possible timeline where she kept the poodle head and giant glasses from high school, and subsisted entirely on a diet of benzos and Virginia Slims.
John’s mom forgot his birthday, what a terrible mother. But not Becky, his new mommy. She not only went to two lame movies with him at a stinky old movie theatre, but she lets him into her place of work after hours so they can sit together in a booth in the dark. A booth festooned with three dollars worth of cheap party store decorations.
I guess it’s a little more impressive than that. She did produce (homemade?) chocolate a cake with lighted candles, presumably out of hammer-space. Either that or John watched her fumbling one handed with match after match after match, as she slowly lit each one, swearing through the matchbox clenched in her teeth, and sweating as she singed her fingers and dipped the sleeve of her blazer through the frosting.
Or she left a cake with lit candles alone in a restaurant for four hours?
Lets jump in universe for a bit. Becky has planned something special for John’s birthday. And despite knowing that he is very good friends with Crazy, decent friends with pretty much all the rest of the male Funkyverse cast, and at least friendly enough with their significant others, she does not throw him a traditional surprise party. She goes for something more intimate.
Prior to this, we could wonder if Becky was truly interested in a romantic relationship with DCH John. Yeah, she’d said he ‘seemed sweet’, and she stood up to people teasing him, and she spent time with him. But maybe she considered it more casual. Maybe she was planning to build up John’s confidence, teach him some social graces, integrate him into a wider friend group, and then gently push DCH John into the friend zone, and hope that he would be thus better able to attract a true mate.
But if she was just trying to be a nice friend, then she wouldn’t have elected to make this whole night about her alone focusing on DCH John.
And when I say make ALL ABOUT JOHN I meant it. Like all nice guys trying to woo a woman, he immediately starts unloading the emotional baggage he expects his partner to help sort. We learn a lot more about his parents and learn why fat guys shouldn’t ever wear turtlenecks.
(Okay, real talk. Relationship advice from a woman. Opening up emotionally about how your parents/your exes/ your traumas have shaped you IS an important step in intimacy. But it’s for the, ‘we’ve been dating so long marriage is on the table’ stage. Starting in on it too soon is an entire semaphore tower of red flags.)
And we get a strip so striking it was burned into BillyTheSkink’s brain.
Is it weird to say that I find this one strip effective? Like, there’s something to the idea that Mrs. Howard sobered up enough to run out and buy a cake. That she, even after mocking her son’s interests and career, chose to buy him Superman napkins and plates. And that she stayed up waiting for him to get home, because she so desperately wanted to make it up to him that she’d forgotten. I’ve got a feels trigger for thwarted expectations, unreceived gifts, and plans gone astray. So I get it BTS, this is burned in my brain too.
But you know what sucks? There’s no follow up. In fact, I’m pretty sure DCH John’s mother never shows up again. We’re told she’s an alcoholic, a plight Batiuk has been very sympathetic to in earlier arcs. Mr. Howard seems to be dead, so maybe she’s still grieving. We’re given this little hint of her redeemability. But do we get a redemption story for her? No, this is the end. Implication being that she’s missed her shot, and she will die miserable and crying, having lost the (adult) son she, in her illness, abused and neglected (but let live with him). John got a nice birthday from his new mommy.
But why is Becky drawn to John? Remember we saw her giving him smirky side-eye pretty soon after she started her waitress gig. And now we’ve confirmed that there is genuine interest there.
We sink down, further, to the second dig site.
We saw before how Becky went from being a prop in service of Roberta Blackburn’s character, to a prop in service of Wally Winkerbean’s.
Everything she does is driven by the needs of those two character’s stories. She smiles, doesn’t complain, and goes along with her mom’s desires for her musical success. She smiles and happily necks with Wally in a back alley. And when she goes to Hawaii for the Hula Bowl with both her parents and Wally, she blandly goes along with whoever is physically closer. Wally even uses underhanded means to get some alone time with her, but rather than let her in on his scheme doesn’t risk forcing her to chose between him and her parents.
Becky says her dreams are of music in general and Julliard specifically. Completely in line with what her mother has been pushing her into for her entire life.
Right as we get to graduation, Becky finally shows a single (playful) moment of non-agreement with the people around her. Like she’s suddenly allowed to be a real character.
It’s a mirage though. She’s only being given this so that we can see it in contrast to the VERY SPECIAL plotline about abusive relationships. Becky and Wally’s relationship exists as a counterpoint to Susan Smith and Matt Miller. Becky was finally loaned a backbone so that we could see how spineless Susan is in this scene.
And how much better Wally is than Matt.
Becky is right back to being stupid and spineless again, when she’s pressured into drinking at a party, letting Wally drink at a party, and then letting Wally drive her knowing he’d been drinking.
So she loses her frikken arm, but the accident is all about Wally. Even after the fact. The trauma is all Wally’s. Becky had said her ONLY dream in life was music. But she is completely unfazed by the accident, and the loss of her arm. We don’t get to see a single negative emotion from her in regards to the situation. We don’t even get to see her waking up, because Tom was saving his big pinned, up reveal for this strip.
Why? Because writing Wally’s guilt was what Batiuk wanted to do. Becky being sad, traumatized, or even angry, all of those would complicate the narrative Batiuk was focused on. Guilt in the face of anger is a complex thing to wrangle with, it risks making one or both characters seem like the bad guy. Wally would seem worse, or his guiltly manpain would seem trivial and selfish, if Becky was devastated. Becky may become unsympathetic to some if she actually blamed Wally and verbally confronted him over it. Nope, Becky is a blameless saint for suffering and forgiving others, and Wally is a martyr for refusing to forgive himself. The most Midwestern of Midwest Catholic/Lutheran guilt.
Becky’s still a prop. But now she’s a prop with only one arm.
But would anything change with Wally and music out of the picture?
79 responses to “Maid to Order”
I mentioned it before, and my comments are left behind elsewhere on the site, but that bit with John’s mother hit me hard as well. It’s incredibly easy to illustrate a pathetic, empathy-sucking image from things like a party nobody came to, almost to the point that it could be considered emotion bating. But very good point here that it’s just there for a black comedy/tragic punchline and gets no followup, just a nonsensical moment in the storyline, it’s remarkable.
Beyond that, it’s really starting to dawn what a bizarre love/narrative triangle that Wally, Becky & John all fit in. Two extremely divergent male characters both with vices and arcs that Batiuk clearly was enjoying the mileage he was getting from both (Wally for his dramatic/funny teen antics evolving into tragedy guilt and then a whole slew of “war is horrifying and also crashes your life” tropes, and John for being able to write “haha comic nerd” jokes that evolved into Batiuk’s first comic-centric projecting that led to the character getting a glow-up), and Becky is just smack-dab in the middle of both as a prop that he kept flipping back and forth on who she would commit to, up to and including marrying both. At least Lisa was a teenage zigzag of relationship controlling and grade obsession before her pregnancy led her down the path of well-collected, doing everything right and be the glimmer of desire for the male lead, Becky is just all sunshine all the time, and at most we got her learning she doesn’t “need” a prosthetic to make a man like her more, bleh.
It’s hard to any sympathy for Ms. Howard when she degrades her son constantly. I interpret that scene as John walking away from a toxic relationship, and letting his abusive mother wallow in regret and/or self-pity. Of course the story doesn’t clarify which, because there are comic books to talk about.
Good for John, though. More people in the Funkyverse should do what he did. I’m looking at you, Cayla. And Pmm and Jff. And anyone who doesn’t have a restraining order against Les Moore.
Thanks for doing this research. The timeline raises interesting questions.
Becky’s accident and Wally’s enlistment in the Army occurred in 1998.
Wally’s first MIA episode occurred during the post 9/11 action in Afghanistan which began in October of 2001. The birthday party arc ran in April of 2003.
Was TomBa’s plan always to have Becky and DSH end up together?
Did 9/11 give him an idea of how to get Wally temporarily out of the picture to bring them together as star-crossed lovers, separated by Wally’s return and Becky’s marriage to him and then to be reunited when Wally went missing a second time?
Another question – Becky and Wally graduated in 1998. The strip supposedly tracks in real time. Wally goes missing the second time in 2008. Becky would now be 28. Isn’t it odd that during the ten year time jump during which she married DSH that they didn’t have a child together, even with Rana and Wally, Jr in the picture? Or does DSH’s curation of the Komix Korner require that he be a consecrated vestal virgin to that shrine?
Very good points you’ve raised. I had already done some pondering on the timelines and what they tell us about how the story was planned out. Hope to really dig into that in the next couple dives.
As to Becky and John not having a biological child, in universe it doesn’t make much sense, unless they either were dealing with infertility or made a conscious decision that three would be more than they could afford. We’re given no insight either way.
The out-of-universe explanation is that Tom is horrible at remembering his characters have children at all. It’s soap opera, sitcom, Downtown Abbey logic. Every child introduced is there to be a device in a plotline and when the story moves on, the kid is always ‘At the grandparents.’ ‘With the ex.’ ‘At school’. until they’re memory holed completely.
If Tom had written a Dead Skunk Head Jr. they would have disappeared about as fast as Maddie’s Klinghorn’s younger siblings.
Becky has hinted at the Komix Korner being a drain on the family finances, and that she’s essentially the breadwinner. Which, again, would have been a great thing to explore, but never was.
Of course it wasn’t. It would mean that people who tell him that he’s going down a blind alley out of sheer bloody-mindedness are RIGHT. He should have a real God-damn job so his widowed mother and amputee wife can hold their heads up in society instead of having to apologize for a loser.
I’ve said this before, but Becky is the person who would be the least tolerant of a childish partner. She’s a rarity in Westview: hard-working, self-motivated, pulls her own weight in life, and doesn’t bemoan her lot (when she has valid reason to). She would quickly tire of putting in 12-hour days, while her husband plays with comic books all day and never changes his t-shirt.
They say opposites attract… but not in this way. Couples need to share values, and these two are a complete mismatch. The whole town is a mismatch for Becky. If she was a real character, she’d be miserable in Westview. She’d be much better off in a big city, populated with more ambitious people, working for a school system that would keep Dinkle away from her.
That is some very interesting and tasty food for thought.
Expect to be quoted in a future post….(If that’s okay 😉 )
CBH, you always have my approval.
Remember when Wally ran into his daughter at the local JUCO?
Rana! What are YOU doing here? Just baffling.
“Isn’t it odd that during the ten year time jump during which she married DSH that they didn’t have a child together…?”
Do you want my honest opinion?
I think if any married couple in Westview ever tried to procreate on-panel in Act III, it would have been the funniest damn thing that ever happened in the strip. Imagine Mindy trying to read a sex manual in a honeymoon suite, while a traumatized Pete reads a comic book and sucks his thumb lying in the fetal position. Imagine Cindy trying to jump Mason, who wants nothing to do with it. Imagine the bedroom equivalent of Les and Lisa’s “interlocked braces” incident. There are so many awkward couples, the possibilities are endless.
The irritating thing with DSH’s mother is that it’s probably how he treated his own mother in real life. She tried to reach out but Batomic Comic Obsessive just couldn’t allow it to happen. A woman isn’t supposed to feel angry or confused or worried, she’s supposed to smile vapidly to make a dumb and mean little boy not feel confused or, worse still, guilty about his being a jackass.
That’s exactly what I thought and maybe she drank to escape her unfulfilling life. My mother was an alcoholic but she was able to overcome this and rebuild her life. She ended up helping a lot of other people stay sober too.
Discussing how terrible a writer Batiuk is? Fine.
Bandying about the idea — unsupported by any actual evidence at all — that Tom Batiuk’s mother was an alcoholic who drank to escape her unfulfilling life? Uh, we may be crossing a line here…
Tom Batiuk’s mother is a real person. May I gently suggest that speculation about Batiuk’s family is not really in the spirit of this site?
Ah, I believe Rusty was referring to DSH John’s mother, not Batiuk’s mother.
Respectfully, I disagree (assuming Rusty was actually referring to TB’s own mother). TB is known for pulling plots and obsessions from his own life. Alcohol abuse is a recurring theme in the Funkyverse. I don’t think it’s out of line to wonder whether some of the “mother” characters in Westview are pulled from traits his own mother had.
“Ha ha, Batiuk’s mom was obviously an alkie” = way out of line.
“Since DSH is at least partially an author avatar, I wonder if some of his mother’s traits were based on TB’s own mom?” = reasonable speculation and analysis.
That’s how I see it, anyway.
In any case, if his mother is still alive, she’s pushing 100 at least, and is unlikely to be reading these words.
Batiuk might also be simply cribbing from Afterschool Specials and making a bit of a mess of things. He wants to be This Big SERIOUS GUY telling BIG SERIOUS STORIES and he doesn’t have the patience, stamina or brains to get what made them watchable so…..we get a woman stabbing a coloring book or Les saying that he can get to a hospital faster than a first responder.
This is an idea I’ve wanted to express myself occasionally – I have no interest at all in TB’s life, whatever travails he may have had in his youth, especially whether he may fall “on the spectrum” someplace. With all due respect this does seem like pushing the critique too far. That said – I do think the two-panel strip with the passed-out mom is a) entirely believable, at least to a person who’s spent a lot of time around drunks, b) good, efficient, cinematic storytelling that shows what a comic strip can do in terms of narrative, but also c) an entirely wasted opportunity for interesting storytelling and character-building. Maybe the mom’s drunken gesture was enough to open a dialogue with DSH. Maybe it was the last straw for DSH. I don’t think it has anything to do with TB personally to say that this is a tremendously lost opportunity, because those two panels are some good comic-stripping. It could have opened up a lot but didn’t.
I was not talking about Batty’s mom.
I found that strip to be tragic when I saw it. Maybe that’s what TomBa intended, but to leave the relationship between DSH and his mother unresolved is a failure of writing and disrespectful of both the characters and the reader.
That disrespect to his characters is a leitmotif of his writing. His characters remain one dimensional sock puppets solely in service of whatever he’s conceived the trajectory of the story arc to be. And because the characters aren’t real people in his mind, arcs like DSH’s birthday end without resolution.
@Jeff M I, of all people, agree with you that I’ve pushed the “spectrum” thing too far. In a clinical sense, I think it would explain a lot, but I’ve done a poor job separating that analysis from my general disdain for the Funkyverse and its creator. I fear I came off as mocking anyone who has the condition. I’ll back off, and only bring it up when some new evidence supports it (like the “my memory is color-coded” thing).
I was not talking about Batty’s mom. I was responding to the previous comment about DSH’s mom.
I apologize for misinterpreting your comments, Rusty! Paul’s comment appeared to be referencing Batiuk’s mother, and I believed you to be following up on that.
@yknott. Apology accepted, and no worries. Hope you have a nice weekend.
Do you see this? Do you see this, internet? This is why we don’t have to shadow ban, delete, and banish our comments section to oblivion!
And oh, yeah……let’s not forget that it wasn’t her idea to be Saint Amputee with the sleeve buttoned up just so…..she did it because someone with the power to make decisions said to. Meanwhile, in Crankshaft’s Komix Korner, Jffffff’s extended male family is coming to mourn his selling his long-box and keeping the girl germs away and trying to avoid discussion of yucky, scary and confusing ROMANCE comics.
Crap-shaft has really stirred up the comments section at gocomics. That’s the only thing that keeps me reading that strip..
Good ol’ Pm. Who would ask all the tough questions if she wasn’t there?
Recent Pm classics:
“What are you doing, Dad?”
“What game is this?”
“Do you still want the owner’s manual for the dehumidifier we no longer have?”
“So where are all of our family pictures exactly?”
“Can you think of that actor’s name?”
“What are you doing (Jff?)”
“Where are you guys off to?”
Poor Pm. Condemned to the straight man role for all eternity. Far be it from me to suggest that Batiuk ever write a story arc for her.
Pm: Need any help?
Batiuk: Back off, bitch! Comic books are for males!
Also, I don’t know if Crankshaft is supposed to follow real time, but Mitch was born early March 2020. In today’s comic, Mitch is helping load the trunk with heavy boxes of comic books. Pretty impressive for a three-year-old.
Of course, Batiuk has demonstrated Skyler’s and Mitch’s ages are whatever the story needs them to be. I imagine little Mitch will be with a baby bottle or a binkie the next time we see him. OTOH, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in the first grade.
At the risk of starting another digression on improv… One of the newbie rules is “Don’t ask questions.”
The context for this is: Questions just stall. They don’t add information and they don’t move the scene along. They suck the air out of the room. If your scene partner opens by miming something you interpret as packing a suitcase, you don’t say, “What are you doing?” or even “Are you packing a suitcase?”
You might say, “Don’t leave me! I’ll change! I’ll sell the thimble collection and get a job!” Or, “Hurry up or we’ll miss our flight — and don’t forget to hide the cocaine bindles in your bra!” Or SOMETHING, anything, no matter how stupid, just to put a stake in the ground, contribute to the scene, and keep things moving forward.
Reading Act III.5 is a lot like watching really, really bad improv. In other words, it makes you squirm with embarrassment and groan with boredom.
One of the newbie rules is “Don’t ask questions.”
Another one is “don’t do procedures.” It’s what FW loves doing more than anything else. This week has been: deciding to sell the comic books, saying goodbye to the comic books, offering to help move the comic books, and putting the comic books in the car. Coming Friday: driving to the comic book store!
If this was a longform improv scene, on Tuesday someone would have yelled “cut to the comic book store!”
Can you imagine TB writing a screenplay?
The dogged detective gets a call. “Meet me at the old warehouse in an hour and a half. And come alone.”
The detective hangs up the phone. He gets a cup of coffee and slowly sips it while scrolling through his iPhone. He laughs at a Minions meme on Facebook. He sorts through his mail. After 15 minutes of screen time, he takes a quick pee. Then he grabs his wallet and keys and walks to the elevator.
“How’s it going?” asks his neighbor, getting on the elevator on a lower floor. “Oh, you know, same ol’ same ol’,” says the detective. From the lobby of his building, he heads to the garage. He waves to the attendant and gets into his car. [etc]
He gets stuck in some traffic on the freeway, so he turns on the radio and listens to some sports talk. [etc]
An hour and a half of screen time after the call, he strides into the warehouse, to be greeted by a man in the shadows. The only thing visible is the barrel of a gun. “You thought I was gonna spill my guts? I hate cops. The only guts that are gonna get spilled today are –”
END CREDITS ROLL
Perfection, dear Duck!
Maybe Tom wrote the final scene of Sopranos?
At least that guy who used to post weird homophobic slash fiction about Batik and Ayers seems to have bailed. Wasn’t he banned from this site at some point?`
My headcanon is that Becky wanted to leave Westview to go to Julliard, but Batiuk punished her by having her lose an arm. “Oh, you want a music career? Guess what! You’re Dinkle’s sidekick for life! And don’t go counting the days until he goes deaf and retires; that won’t change anything.” And Becky got the message. She’s probably most compliant person in the Funkyverse.
Another superb deep dive and analysis, CBH. You highlighted the absolute worst thing about Puff Batty’s work: his cowardice.
He comes right up to the precipice of a deep human emotion, but then he chickens out and runs away or “time jumps.”
DSH John and his mother is one of the best examples of this. A mother who knows she’s hurt her son to the point where he’s totally alienated, but deep down she still loves him. Great dramatic setup — so Puffy runs away.
And the Becky thing never ceased to rankle me.
First, the trademark Tom Batiuk Chickensh!t Time Skip.™️ No showing the waking up in the hospital, the realization of the loss, the long healing period in the hospital where she had to stare at the wall thinking about what she’d lost. Nope, just avert your eyes and skip past all the human drama, Mr. “To Boldly Go Where No Comic Strip Writer Has Gone Before.”
IRL, people who lose the ability to do something they love grieve, sometimes for a lifetime. For musicians, music is an important part of self-expression and one of the ways they cope with the world. Losing that ability is almost like losing the ability to speak. Not for ol’ Becky, though. Not even a word of gallows humor through the years, never a moment of bitterness. Ironically, this makes her character far less likeable; she’s not even recognizably human. And she’s boring.
And I can’t believe Bats doesn’t know this, but one doesn’t just send an application in to Juilliard. They require an audition at the school in New York. That should have been a major subplot, given TB’s frequent use of NYC as a location/plot device. Becky’s first trip to the big city… seeing Lincoln Center for the first time and dreaming of performing there… the stress of the audition, the relief when it was over… and then the moment, back home, when she learned she was accepted. Getting into Juilliard is a really big deal that deserved more than a “Gosh, I can’t believe I was accepted” throwaway exposition.
That was a great distillation of how Batiuk works: he goes for so much cheap drama, and then when he hits a genuine nerve he runs away from it. Because he simply can’t write believable human emotions, and he damn well knows it.
I would argue that Becky is actually *more* likeable than most of the Funkyverse, because she’s a much better example of how to handle adversity than the undeservedly sainted Lisa.
Maybe Tom Batiuk’s second favorite Bob Dylan song after “Every Grain of Sand” is “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” in which our narrator informs us:
“Ah, me, I busted out, don’t even ask me how…”
It has some great logic at the end:
Well, by this time I’s fed up
At trying to make a stab
At bringin’ back any help
For my friends and captain Arab
I decided to flip a coin
Like either heads or tails
Would let me know if I should go
Back to ship or back to jail
So I hocked my sailor’s suit
And I got a coin to flip
It came up tails
It rhymed with sails
So I made it back to the ship…
To quote “Dirty Harry”: I gots to know.
Do you post on GoComics Crankshaft?
I saw a poster this week that reminds me of you.
It’s not me, no.
Your mention of “Dirty Harry,” coming after the picture of John Howard here as a turtle (Mitch McConnell will always be Terrapin Number One for me), reminded me of “The Beguiled,” in which things don’t turn out well for Amelia’s turtle Randolph.
What a double feature for the Valentine would be “The Beguiled” and “Play Misty for Me,” but as people would want to see these movies, Mitch and Hannah will never show them.
The reason I asked, was someone posts using your favorite Tom Baker character from the Silver Chair.
I also enjoyed Jon Stewart’s rendition of McConnell.
Heaven forbid that a theatre shows films that people want to see. 😎
Enjoy the weekend, my friend!
I tend to think that his imagination got rather stunted wasting his time reading comic books. Things just happened to people and they didn’t react like people actually would and that’s fine by him because it kept him from having to think too hard about things. When you have to remember that Ash Ketchum is more introspective than pretty much every Batiukverse character, you can see why his mother wanted to steer him away from that stuff.
Are there any mothers in Batiukville who aren’t monsters? And before you say “Lisa!” remember that she neglected her family so she could make tapes controlling every moment in their lives.
Lisa was the worst mother. Poor Summer, she really struck out with both of her parents.
Holly, Donna, and Pam? Not perfect, but not monsters.
But I can’t recall any of them interacting with their children, ie, actually being mothers. I guess Holly fretted about Cory, but that seems about it. Mostly they just shored up their husbands.
Thank you, CBH. Yet another wonderful chapter from your deep dive into the history of John Howard (and Becky). These are story arcs I have mostly forgotten.
Those strips about John’s mother are painful to read. It’s a miserable feeling to know you’ve let your child down. Mrs. Howard made a genuine effort to make amends. Does Batiuk believe the last panel was just deserts for the way she treated Dead Cat Head John? Thou art a cruel man, Tom Batiuk.
1. I agree those strips are difficult to read. My relationship with my Dad was great, but he died all too soon, 1980. Mom lived to 95. She died in 2019. With her I have lots of regrets. We weren’t close. Mom wanted to argue all the time. I debated on telling this next part. I lost. I believe Mom loved me, but did not like me. I was sort of the black sheep. I made different choices and Mom did not like them, particularly in religion. I was raised Catholic. Then switched to Protestant churches. We would reconcile, but the arguing would begin again. I didn’t like arguing, but I was not innocent. I would try to call her weekly. Then the arguing would happen, I would skip a month. Call. Berated. Put off calling again, sometimes up to 3 months. (Yes. I am a Froot Loop Dingus) Mom would be angry. I said, “You know the phone works both ways.” She said it is not her responsibility to call. It is mine. So yeah. These strips are painful.
You have mentioned that you were adopted and have talked about your relationship with your adopted Mom and Dad, my memory believes it was a good relationship.
2. Several days ago, Gerard Plourde (May his Tribe increase!) wrote something and I would like your thoughts about it. He wrote that before FW was cancelled, TB left Crankshaft basically alone, and he focused on FW. It was more of an Ayers and Davis production rather than Batiuk. If true that explains to me the schizophrenic nature of the 2 strips regarding humor and plot. Then January 1, 2023, and we have what passes for what Crankshaft is now.
3. On a lighter note, you and your avatars are hitting home runs on GC Crankshaft comments. Today was a grand slam. Keep up the good work, but I like your cat icon better than your pretty brunette icon. Back off, Mal. Please don’t crush my spleen today. I can’t help that BWOEH is pretty. (Knowing how Mal spends his days on his hobby sitting at his table, I should not intentionally irritate that kind, good hearted man who wouldn’t hurt the fleas on the Bear who walks like a man!)
4. My evening is jam packed. There is a new episode of Young Sheldon and new episode of
Star Trek: Picard. Gonna make me some popcorn.
1. I’m sorry to read about your relationship with your mom. I appreciate you sharing your experiences with me. From what you have shared, you have a loving family. A wonderful marriage with a wife you love and have fun with. Children who often want to be with (I’m jealous). And finally, grandkids you have fun with and often see (I’m sooooooo jealous).
Unfortunately, parents sometimes develop favorites among their children. I noticed that in the family I grew up in. Mom and Dad had a son. When Mom got pregnant again, they were hoping for a girl. They had a name picked out and everything. My little brother was born instead. Mom was 41, and having another child wasn’t in the cards. My little brother was definitely not unloved, but to Mom, he was always “The Other Son.” He, like you, made a religious decision that was not well received by his mother. He’s agnostic. For years, she tried to get him to go to church. Ironically, my little brother has fathered one child, a daughter. At times, I’m glad I only have one son to whom I can give all my love and attention.
I had a good relationship with my parents, but have some regrets. Not sure I know why, but as an adoptee, I always felt like a burden. Even though I could have gone to a local university, I elected to attend a university two hours away. After graduation, I didn’t return to my parent’s home and got a job and shared an apartment thirty miles from my old home. I wanted to be on my own. Essentially, I moved away from home at eighteen. I’ve even moved clear across the country. They never said anything, but I think it hurt them.
2. Dan Davis replaced Chuck Ayers as the artist on Crankshaft several years ago. As far as I’m aware, Tom Batiuk has always been the writer. It’s uncertain because Batiuk has been vague at times who deserves credit. IMHO, the only reason the quality of Crankshaft has declined recently is the incorporation of Funky Winkerbean characters and locales. Comic books were hardly ever mentioned in Crankshaft before the termination of Funky Winkerbean. Readers are just weary of Batiuk’s one track mind concerning comic books. It’s not necessarily just comic books either, it’s Batiuk’s inept handling of them. Even comic book fans hate the way Batiuk includes them in his strips.
My recipe to improve Crankshaft is; no more comic books, less Lillian MacKenzie bookstore owner & mystery writer, more Ed Crankshaft wanton destruction.
3. The “Why do you read it if you don’t like it” comments annoy me. My post was a genuine inquiry. Why does the snark (in their words, “whining” and “criticism”) bother them so much? Do they believe we’re picking on poor ol’ Tom Batiuk? Are they annoyed the snarkers aren’t reading the comic strip “the correct way” (i.e., their way)? Do they hate any form of negativity in their happy place? Once again, I received no reply (cue Genesis’s “No Reply at All”).
95% of my commenting on comic strips has been Batiuk related. Before Crankshaft migrated to GoComics, I seldom wrote comments on GoComics. I was “Eve Hill” before I was “be ware of eve hill.” I just haven’t changed my profile name and avatar on GoComics. Besides, I think that animated GIF is pretty cool.
BTW, it’s TEDDY Bear Who Walks like a Man. Something I heard a friend teasingly call her little brother.
4. Hope you had fun.
1. How could I possibly forget the “teddy” part? Someone has recently told me I have a poor memory. I wonder who it could be?
2. There may be variations, but there is only one true Be Ware of Eve Hill. That comforts me.
3. If you are right that Batiuk wrote both strips, it bothers me that the quality of Crankshaft has dropped so low since Jan 1. I mean, it was never great, but it was readable. Often funny. I liked the BBQ flying grills. Stupid but slapstick. I pride myself on having a low sense of humor. I guess 27 years in hospital and mental health work trained me to find the funny. By the way, I was a worker, not a patient. 💖 But there is no funny anymore. Like today. I see the kid and can’t remember if he is the one born in a theatre or the one who has a toy made from a murder gun. I don’t even care to find out. I think both boys are related somehow. Even related to Ed. But TB has robbed me of my desire to research. I read Crankshaft just to read the comments from you, JJ O’MALLEY, and Top-mop. I can’t see following it much longer.
Let me reveal something about myself and comic strips. If I like it, I follow it. Growing up, my Dad subscribed to the morning (KCTIMES) and evening editions to the KCSTAR. Both had comic strips. I was hooked. I read over 20 per day. I even check daily on WAWAWIWA Comic. He hasn’t had a new strip since a year ago, but I check. Why? Cause he teases me with a new comic on Twitter about once a week and GC posts it on his GC site, and I hope he will post again on GC. But I can’t stay with Crankshaft. Even the comment’s won’t hold me much longer. TB will have Ed and his buddies going to Komix Korner in another month. Why Tom, why? The biggest question is why does GoComics put up with it. They really bought a sow’s ear, didn’t they? That may explain why they pounce on the snark comments. I bet they are as frustrated as we are, but don’t know what to do. How much buck did they pay TB? They have gotten very little bang. ☄️💥🌟
4. Crap! Damn, Eve. It’s 12:47am. You should have told me long ago to shut up and go to bed!
(I probably would not have listened!)
Thank you both SP and BWOEH for sharing the stories of your parents. Made me think a little of my poor aunts, who just can’t get along and who both had trouble connecting at times with my grandma. Watching my aunts trying to be affectionate is like watching two porcupines try to hug. They can’t help but needle each other.
Not everyone has an easy relationship with the people who raised them. In many ways Jeff’s relationship with his mother Rose is one of the more complex things Batiuk ever tried to tackle.
SP, I hope you find comfort in the understanding that when you see your mom again, both of you will know each other and see each other and love each other more deeply and truly than you were ever able in this life.
You really touched my heart!💜 For a website devoted to snark and Tom Batiuk, I have met some of the dearest and kindest people. I am grateful for all of you.
I share your sentiment about that strip. The lack of resolution infuriated me.
It’s like Batiuk was saying, Mrs. Howard, you had a chance with your wonderful comic book loving son, but you blew it. It’s too late now. Enjoy oblivion.
Harsh. Brings a tear to my eye.
As CBH said, Dead Cat Head John found a new mommy in Becky.
But he doesn’t have the courage to admit it because it makes him feel like an asshole.
What is it about Batiuk and hair that sticks up? In that Hawaii Sunday comic, both Becky and Wally have ponytails growing out of their foreheads. Holly and Mason have tentacles that protrude from their scalps. Cindy and Sadie Summers’ unihorns. Emily and Amelia in recent Crankshaft strips have resembled Cameron Diaz in There’s Something About Mary after the “hair gel” moment. Is Batiuk overcompensating for his follicle-challenged scalp?
It reminds me of high school. Girls would use a ton of hairspray trying to achieve the Farrah Fawcett look. I remember a girl smoking outside behind the library catching her hair on fire.
Becky gifted DCH John, a Wonder Woman sketch by John Byrne? I would have given him a comb. His hair resembles the business end of a mop, a bird’s nest, etc.
Becky: I’d like to run my fingers through your hair, but I’m afraid I might break one.
Once again, I lament my lack of Photoshop skills. I’d love to be able to create an image of John with a cat’s paw taking a swipe at someone. *MEOWRRR* *HISSS*
I feel called out… But yes, that strip with John’s mother has long been burned in my brain. It is yet another one of TB’s incessantly maudlin Act II escapades, but unlike most of those it is memorable and darned EFFECTIVE.
It works so well because TB shuts up for once and lets Byrne cut loose with his pencils. I almost always found Byrne’s artwork in FW to be ill-suited for the comic strip medium and generally pretty charmless, but he was always good at creating a mood with his drawing and TB probably should have asked him to that more often.
Frankly, instead of bringing Byrne in for the last week of Funky Winkerbean, TB would have been better served to have had him draw the strips where Lisa died. Or maybe not… I think I laughed out loud when I first saw Masky McDeath in the paper.
The underling problem is Batiuk’s complete tone-deafness. I doubt he even thought for a second about how Byrne’s more serious art style would affected the overall presentation of the comic strip. He just wanted to hire Comic Book Guy. Even though his own work isn’t a comic book, and probably shouldn’t be drawn like one. You wouldn’t hire Banksy to paint your house.
Yes. Batiuk always forgets that comics are primarily a visual medium. He seldom opts to show, not tell. But when he does it, it’s usually his best work.
I agree that the strip is powerful. What’s galling is that the emotions that final panel sparks demand resolution, even a tragic one. Is it possible that she’s dead rather than merely passed out? If she’s not dead, where could the story lead? Either way TomBa owes his readers more than moving on to his next half-baked plot.
It would have been nice to see John make some attempt to help his mother sober up, but for a slew of reasons I can think of, Batiuk never made the attempt.
Just another affirmation of what a deplorable character John Howard is. It’s not about what John can do for his mother. It’s all about what his mother did to him. I have very little sympathy for John.
Eve, I can easily imagine a scenario where DSH’s mother is personality-disordered as well as alcoholic. She pushes him away because of mental illness and self-hatred but then hates herself even more, makes a feeble attempt to correct her wrongs, then dissolves in self-pity and self-medication with alcohol.
Not all alcoholics/addicts can be helped. Not all mentally ill or personality disordered people can be reached. Perhaps DSH tried for years and years to help her and finally became numb to the whole thing.
Or perhaps he was callous and uncaring from the beginning. Perhaps his dad was horrible to his mom, berating her and calling her names, and DSH identified with him so he never gave her a chance.
We can’t know who’s done what to whom because we’re not given any information at all.
Scant information can even work sometimes. It can allow the audience to read their own experiences into the story. But this is really too little information for anyone to do anything with.
I think the crux of the matter is: DSH’s mom is a woman. DSH is a man. It’s pretty clear whose inner life and turmoil are going to be the focus.
A better writer would have either shown both sides more fully OR not introduced DSH’s mom’s inner life at all. Another case of Batiuk’s Gun: Introduce tantalizing elements for no reason, then drop them abruptly.
Because they make him uncomfortable. If John’s mother can be said to have an inner life, John might actually be in the wrong about her. John tends towards the shallow and thoughtless because it’s a Flash Fact that surface impressions are all that matter.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Kids of All Ages….
Please give a warm welcome to the latest permanent cast member of Crankshaft: Life-Size Iron Man Dolly!
Yes, LSIMD will be a regular fixture from here on, joining the other, similarly lively characters you already know and love!
— Boy of Indeterminate Age and Parentage!
— Hallway Twins from The Shining!
— Young Couple Inexplicably Drawn to Broken-Down Theater!
— Some Blonde!
… and last but not least, expect occasional cameos from
— Old, Destructive Guy in Red Hat!
I think it’s possible that LSIMD will become the Crankshafy analogue to the famous Green Pitcher that inhabited Montoni’s.
OG TruFans know that the Green Pitcher, while an important cornerstone of Montoni’s, is overrated. Cory’s Rag is where it’s at.
Crankshaft Comic Question of the Day: Compared to last year at this time, we’re seeing much less of Ed Crankshaft, the comic strip’s namesake. Why are we seeing more Lillian McKenzie than last year?
Jeez, there’s not even a silver lining associated with the Funkyverse invasion. Why incorporate Lillian into the comic book shenanigans?
I’m tempted to start compiling a trademark ComicBookHarriet tally of Crankshaft character appearances.
“Your comic books are in pretty good condition, maybe a little water damage here and there.” Whaaaaaat? Any amount of water damage is fatal to the condition of a paper collectible. To say nothing of it also having odor.
The story didn’t resolve like I predicted, but pretty close. Crankshaft did catastrophic damage to the collectible value of Jeff’s comic books. But instead of Jeff not caring, the story just pretends it’s not a problem. A quarter inch from reality, folks!
If DSH is this forgiving of damage to everyone who comes in to sell their collections it’s no wonder that Becky is the primary wage earner in the family.
Yet another example of women in the strip taking the “mommy” role.
I think the water damage bit was in the service of an Aquaman joke that TB forgot to finish writing.
He never got to the part where he realizes he has throw the joke out, because it undermines the entirety of how his universe functions.
Yeah, what happened to the w@nking over “slabbed, gem mint” copies?
I’m actually glad to hear that water damage doesn’t affect the value of a comic if it’s an Aquaman title. I have here a vintage Human Torch #2 — Timely Comics, 1940. These sell for nearly six figures, as you know.
Oh, you want to see it? It’s right here in this little envelope. What do you mean “it’s just some ashes”? It’s the Human Torch, what did you expect? That’ll be $75,000, cash on the barrelhead, please.
And I’m holding in my hand a very rare Fantastic Four with Sue Storm on the cover!
Well of course you don’t see it. Duh.
I’ve mentioned many times here that in the Funkshaftiverse, the only repository of monetary value is comic books. Forget stocks, precious metals, or real estate. Even an authentic Tiffany pendant lamp (IRL value about 100K) doesn’t rate a second glance.
Of course, IRL, investments lose value all the time. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see one of these dorks go to sell a comic collection and be told, “Give ya 25 bucks for the lot, or 35 in store credit. Take it or leave it.”
“But these are rare and –”
“Yeah, a bunch of overhyped 80s ‘event’ issues, crinkled up, with brown smudges and grease all over them? I can sell those for maybe a buck tops. What were you doing, eating chocolate chip cookies while you pawed through them? The whole lot looks a grease-soaked pizza box someone fished out of a dumpster. Smells like it too. 25 bucks or I can’t use ’em. … NEXT CUSTOMER!”
You don’t even need the food stains. Handling the comic book at all will cause wear and damage, especially considering the outrageous standards that high-end grades hold you too. But these people manhandle comic books every day of their lives and they’re still worth zillions of dollars somehow. I’d love to see Jeff make the gut-wrenching decision to part with his precious comic book, and be told it’s a VG- 3.5 at best. Then he decides to take them back home and just read them again.
The “comic book collectible” and “comic book enjoyment” stories are mutually exclusive. But this is a fantasy world, so both things can be true.
Has anyone mentioned that storing comics in an attic (bagged or not) will dry them out and cause yellowing and brittle pages?
Yes, that was the teensy weensy itsy bitsy little snagaroonie in the “Lillian finds a treasure trove of Golden Age comics” story.
They had been in a box in her attic since WWII.
Now a few years ago I was an executor for an estate and had to clean out an attic. This was in Long Island, NY, a place with a climate quite similar to NE Ohio. There were many boxes of papers that had been in this lightly insulated attic for maybe 2o years. Almost everything was mostly or totally disintegrated. Anything newsprint basically crumbled when I touched it. The cardboard boxes themselves had also almost totally disintegrated, leaving the contents in ramshackle piles.
Those attics probably go up to 110-120 degrees on a hot summer day. They just trap the heat. And in the winter, they likely get to freezing or below. Year after year of this, and virtually everything stored there is damaged somehow. And that’s generously assuming no infestation of rats, bats, paper wasps, mice, racoons, silverfish, roaches, etc etc.
Here’s what would really happen. You would go up to the attic and find a pile of deep brown newsprint fragments surrounded by paper dust, the box having long ago fallen into nothing. In the more protected depths of the pile, you’d see a tantalizing scrap of a 1939 Superman cover. You’d go to pick it up and it would dissolve at your touch.
As BJr6K mentioned, everything about the way Batiuk handles rare comic collecting in the Funkyverse is pure wish-fulfillment fantasy. That would be ok if it weren’t treated with a contradictory nerdy obsessiveness. Jeez, Tom. Put a stake in the ground: Either hyper-realistic fixation on condition or total fantasy of holy grail finds in ancient attics. Trying to do those things simultaneously just doesn’t work.