I just know that when I’m on my deathbed, I’ll be lamenting that portion of my lifetime that I spent contemplating Funky Winkerbean.TF Hackett, April 12, 2023.
And now back to your regularly scheduled deep dive!
Once Wally Winkerbean returns from Afghanistan in June 2003 to blitzkrieg Becky’s heart, poor DCH John surrenders without a word and goes into a six month exile from the strip. He was probably hoping that if he sinks out of sight, Batiuk will forget to torture him further. Unfortunately Batiuk can never pass up the opportunity to kick someone when they’re down, and when John appears again in January 2004, Komix Korner is fading faster than his love life.
As his life slowly dissolves around him, DCH John is visited by one of the Winkerbeans. (I’m guessing Funky due to the bad news coming from his business partner, Tony.) This strip made me realize that, at this point, the Jade Dragon/Komix Korner building is not owned by Tony. That would change. Throughout Act II Montoni’s kept spreading down the block like a cancer before it metastasized during the time skip to briefly cover the entire nation.
Was the economy especially bad in 2003-2004? I didn’t remember. So I looked it up and, um…no. Batiuk’s one year lead time he’d built up in the early 90’s was biting him in the topical reference butt even 20 years ago.
Becky checks in on DCH John during the last day of Komix Korner operations. I like how this shows that she’s kept a place for him in The Friend Zone of her heart.
Meanwhile, Funky, Les, and Crazy are crying out, “Won’t somebody think of the children!?)
This strip has me cringing so hard. How exactly are these asshats different from Roberta Blackburn? Wanting children indoctrinated with their own special Gospel of Spandex. Because their holy tomes are the only way the next generation will learn Truth, Justice, Responsibility, Diversity, and Using Your Parent’s Death As An Excuse for Unilateral Vigilante Violence?
Lets remember what comic books were like in January 2004.
By 2004, comics had for more than a decade been violent, sexy, gritty, and subversive. The best were works of imaginative fiction that used the exaggerated situations and characters to examine all the shades of grey within the human condition. A whole ton of them were just tits and ass and guns and gore and sex and Wolverine being a cowboy edgelord. If I had some kids, I wouldn’t let them read this stuff until they were well into their adolescence. Because a kid reading comic books in 2004 might not learn the lessons Crazy Harry imagines. Depending on what they read, they could just as easily learn to be a violent asshole that treats women like toys, and thinks the ends justify the means. Comics are only a medium of storytelling, they’re morally neutral. And any story, no matter the medium, can be ‘a lie that helps us understand the truth.’ Or a story can be a dangerous and caustic lie. Or it can just be an excuse for tits, abs, and explosions.
But Batty doesn’t seem to see it that way.
You know what’s hilarious to me? Batiuk crows on and on about his disdain for The Comics Code Authority.
But everything he professes to love about comics is a result of those constraints being imposed. In 1954 the decision by was made by industry leaders that comics were for children, and thus they should be edifying and teach moral lessons. Lurid crime books catering to adolescents and adults were out,
Science fiction, magic, and wacky hijinks were in. And all the comics than Batiuk can’t shut up about sit firmly in this era when any comic book you grabbed was sure to present a common, positive, justice-oriented worldview.
But in 2004? In 2023? No. Kids in 2004 could, of course, still learn Truth, Justice, Diversity, and the like from super heroes. But they’d didn’t need DCH John’s stinky old shop to do it. All they had to do was turn on the TV.
But we’re stuck in the past with Tom, imagining that it is the present.
Gee, what a specific list of locations! He even mentions Danforth’s Drugs and the squeaky spinner rack HAH John went on to dig out of the dumpster. I wonder…
Yup. Batiuk is giving yet another of his characters his own specific childhood.
If I wanted comic books, and boy howdy did I, the price I had to pay was tagging along with my folks on their weekly excursions into Elyria where I could hit the comics racks in the Rexall drugstore, in the Acme supermarket, and on the newsstand at Captain EZ’s Confectionery. If I simply told my parents to pick up some comic books for me, I risked having them bring back a copy of Casper the Friendly Ghost or Little Lulu. No, this was something that required my personal attention. If a haircut was on the agenda, I could also peruse the comics at Looper’s Barbershop. I once (ahem) “liberated” an issue of Strange Adventures from Looper’s that contained a hard-to-find Atomic Knights story. It was an older issue that I had missed on my rounds, and I knew that it would eventually become ruined and ratty from rough handling by other kids who didn’t appreciate its importance. Kids who would (I can barely think this, let alone type it) fold a comic book in half to read it. I’m not kidding. So I kind of took it with me to give it a good home. I looked on this as more of a rescue mission akin to keeping art from the Louvre safe from the Nazis. I don’t mention this incident now out of any sense of guilt, but more out of a sense that the statute of limitations has probably long since expired.Match To Flame 32. From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. 2.
In a sign of things to come, far in the future of Act III, Crazy and DCH John work upstairs at Komix Korner together, packing up all the lousy merch John couldn’t offload even at half price.
Mopey Pete, meanwhile, decides it’s time for his Mandatory Montoni’s Service.
But, in what might be the ONLY time a person is ever deferred from Montoni’s service due to Excessive Moping, Tony decides he can’t bear to hire an ugly troll boy.
Are you ready for the stupidest thing ever?
Seems nice right?
Tony was literally the first person we see DCH John telling his woes to. He knew Komix Korner was going out of business before anyone. DCH John proceeds to advertise and hold a GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE. For days or even weeks DCH John was selling off all of his best and most desirable inventory for 50% less than he’d initially hoped to get out of it. All he has left is what no one was willing to buy, even steeply discounted.
And NOW Tony offers him a new location? Like an asshole offering a hostage the key to their handcuffs after they’ve already gnawed their hand off at the wrist. What a dickhead.
Despite losing all his best merchandise and flooding the local market with his liquidation sale, DCH John’s new location does seem to have some customers.
And proximity to friends means John’s rolling in the free labor. Maybe poor Mopey Pete will still be out of a job after all.
Will the new basement Komix Korner be a smashing success? Or is trouble around the corner?
Until next time, CBH out.
100 responses to “Morally Bankrupt”
Will the new basement Komix Korner be a smashing success? Or is trouble around the corner?
I’m gonna guess the second thing? Until somehow, the massive size of the word balloons emanating from the store’s employees are collectively lashed together and used as flotation devices that allow the Komix Korner to become buoyant, whereupon it floats gently up into the space above Montoni’s?
I mean, I can’t imagine that’s any dumber or less plausible than what actually happened.
Here’s a little hint/teaser.
Hentai? Is that what what egg farmers use to keep the chickens from running around in the barnyard?
Also, I’m looking at DCH John and Harry packing up loose comics into boxes and it makes me wonder if the store would have been a success if they had kept those valuable books in–oh, I dunno–plastic bags!?
I’ll have to think over his love of code-era books, hatred of the CCA code, love of free speech, hatred of comments online, love of his own progressive stances and hatred of modern (90’s?) comics a little more before i comment more. This is an era i’ve only heard of so looking forward to it.
Mostly i think of TB as a quintessential Boomer and that explains a lot for me. “The Eternal Boomer” if you prefer.
This is the best one yet, as I missed all of this when it originally ran. John’s store failing is such a classically Batiukian arc. Back when I first began commenting here, the regulars really hated Dead Skunk Head John, which mystified me a bit, as he wasn’t nearly as objectionable as Les or Ghost Lisa. Now I understand, though. Oh, the sad-sackery. Other than Les, he just refuses to let these characters succeed at anything. I mean, why couldn’t John have been a successful, fun comic book store owner, who made lots of hilarious comic book references? Why did he have to be an emotionally-stunted man-child and an abject failure? What happened to Tom that drove him to consistently torture and kick these characters around like that?
And I likewise enjoyed the stuff about the Comics Code, and BatHam’s weirdly specific brand of comic book love. He honestly doesn’t seem to like ANYTHING about comic books except for reading them for a few years when he was a kid. Other than that, everything about them is sheer drudgery. Making them, selling them, purchasing them, he makes it all seem so awful.
I see the art got moved out of the Byrne ward.
There’s another bit of “noble suffering” in Westview’s melodramatic world: John can’t run a sustaining comic shop to save his life, and keeps struggling to stay afloat, yet everyone encourages and supports him because encouraging the “joy” of comic books to the young and young-at-heart is so critical to our culture, so kids can come in and learn the story of heroes from pulling the newest comic from the shelf/spinner rack of Green Lantern being smack-dab in the middle of an arc where he’s undercover as a drug dealer or something. Then get awkwardly gestured to either a silver-age collection book or try to be sold a 70s comic alongside a helpful guide on how to not mistreat it (milk and cookies aside)
I have that Volume 2 book (mainly for the start of the Holtron/Computer years of Act 1), and having barely checked it I’ve missed that whopper of an intro. His nostalgic rambling aside, I legit hear more people complaining about folding comics/magazines to read more than I’ve heard or seen anyone doing that.
And that’s an interesting bit about the Comics Code and the paradox of what Batiuk’s comic preferences are. With all this in-comic and BTS info, we’ve basically got nothing for what he would recommend to a comic fan. None of the content and intrigue of his favorite stories except for the idea of inspiration and seriousness that makes them so worth grabbing (and a tangent that the Adam West Batman was wasted potential in telling “serious” stories for the 60s kids)
I’ll also name-drop a comic story from the 2004 era Batiuk was implicitly trying to sell to his readers: That June, DC started the “Identity Crisis” major event comic where the universe’s superhero community is rocked by the murder of C-lister Elongated Man’s wife, something that suggests a murderer knows several heroes’ secret identities and is a threat to them/their families. The story at the time was well-reviewed for I guess bringing a gravitating murder drama to the comics, but it ultimately barreled into infamy over the story’s handling and status-quo changing events, one of the most notorious being a reveal in flashback-retcons (and ultimately a big red herring for the murderer’s identity) that the victim had been raped by a minor villain some years prior, and the Justice League responded by not only wiping the villain’s memory of the incident to subdue him, but Batman’s memory of it when he had walked in on the act of the first mind-wipe and reacted against it, all for the purpose of drama between JLA characters.
The worst part of Batiuk’s comic book obsession is how simple-minded his tastes are. He has nothing to say about Watchmen or anything else of relevance. But he analyzes those dumb, boilerplate, child-focused The Flash stories as if they were Shakespeare.
It’s like watching a guy taste-test everything on the Taco Bell menu. It’s all pretty much the same and there’s just not a lot to say about it. And the fact that a grown man takes it so seriously says more about that man than I ever could.
Oh man, Identity Crisis turned into such a shit show. During my big DC phase from 07-about 2012, I read it just to get all the lead up into catching up with Infinite Crisis (Which was excellent)
I respect things that it was trying to do in the broad strokes. I don’t mind building up a little drama between the JLA members. But they achieved it through character assassination and fridging Sue Dibny not one, but twice! It felt like terrible DC fanfiction.
Crazy Harry “learned about loss from Batman”? No, I think it was Les who learned that. Because if there’s one thing Batman teaches about loss, it’s that it should be literally the sole defining thing in your entire life. Batman goes around assaulting mental patients because of his complete inability to deal with the loss of his parents, Les devotes his entire life to his inability to deal with the loss of Dead Saint Lisa. (I mean, seriously, if you’re learning about loss from Batman, you should probably seek out more competent mental health counseling than is apparently available in Gotham City…)
(Wait… was Les dressing as Batman at their wedding foreshadowing? Nah, Batiuk’s not that clever. Plus, I don’t think he ever realized that the Les he thought he was portraying wasn’t even close to the same Les the readers saw.)
Anyhoo… it’s not entirely accurate to say that CCA constraints were responsible for the comics Batiuk holds so dear. At the time, DC and Marvel (or National Comics and… whatever Martin Goodman was calling his company that week) didn’t really care one way or the other, because they weren’t publishing anything that wouldn’t pass muster with the CCA anyway. It was mostly just EC that was affected by the CCA; has Batiuk ever given any indication he was a fan of their output? So for Marvel and DC, the CCA was just an extra step in their printing schedule: send it off to the CCA, get their approval, and print the comic. (Well, until the 1971 incident with the Amazing Spider-Man drug story, but that’s getting off on a tangent…)
(Also of the major publishers, Dell and Gold Key didn’t seek CCA approval, but they printed licensed titles for Disney, Looney Tunes, and Hanna-Barbera. Anything the CCA would object to would have been shot down by the licensors long before the CCA ever got the chance even to consider the matter.)
(Amusing side note: there were, of course, some things that got by the CCA that… well, let’s look at an example here:
Kinda horrific for a Code-approved book. And what’s the kid being punished for in such a gruesome manner? He made fun of another kid who stuttered. Yeah, that’s even beyond what EC would have done, I’d say. So who published that, and how did it get approved? Would you believe it was published by Archie Comics, of all people? Yeah. As for how it got past the CCA, I’m sure the fact that Archie publisher John L. Goodwater was also an administrator for the CCA had nothing to do with it…)
(That last part really didn’t have anything to do with anything, but it’s kind of hilarious how blatantly Archie could ignore the CCA while maintaining their reputation as a “kid-friendly” company.)
(I have GOT to stop doing these pointless divergences on comics things no one cares about, especially when it gets this late…)
Archie comics also did a story about a possessed teddy bear that has haunted some people for decades. I’ve never read the story myself, but it clearly was strong stuff for kids.
I think not! This was incredibly informative. This is the kind of tangents I CRAVE.
And you’re right that Batiuk’s favorite ‘Gee Whiz’ kiddy books would have still existed without the code. What the code did was make sure that the ‘safe’ books were all there was for a very long long time. Even as the restrictions of the code were lessened over and over until a book about Speedy on Drugs could get a stamp of approval, and eventually you could get away with stuffing a dead body in a fridge.
Well, thanks. That means a lot, especially coming from you.
Then I guess I can do a bit more of the tangents…
The “Speedy on Drugs” story actually relates to that 1971 Amazing Spider-Man story I alluded to. The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the Department of Health and Human Services) approached Stan Lee about doing an anti-drug comic story, so Stan wrote one for ASM #96-98. And the CCA rejected it! While drug use wasn’t specifically forbidden by the CCA, they had a general “anything against the spirit of the rules” clause, and John L. Goldwater cited that as the reason for the rejection (that’s the same guy who published Archie and thus that lovely image above). Stan figured that, y’know, the actual government requesting the story should be grounds to allow it, but… the CCA still said no. So Stan said, “screw it, we’ll just publish these issues without the CCA seal”.
The stories were actually well-received, but DC publisher Carmine Infantino (co-creator of Batiuk favorite Barry Allen) said Marvel shouldn’t have defied the Code, and promised that DC wouldn’t do any drug-related stories unless and until the Code was changed. Which it shortly was, allowing drug use to be shown provided it was depicted negatively. And so the famous “My ward Speedy is a junkie!” issue came to be.
The Spider-Man story ran in the issues cover-dated May to July of 1971. The Green Lantern/Green Arrow issue came out in the September 1971 issue. Make of that what you will.
The CCA also had an influence on the “body in the fridge” incident. As originally written and drawn, Kyle found Alexandra’s body in the refrigerator, with the body actually being shown. The CCA thought the image was too graphic, and demanded it be changed so that the refrigerator door was only partly open, obscuring the body. Which led to a widespread assumption that she was dismembered before being placed in the fridge (because why obscure the image otherwise), even though that wasn’t the case. The CCA actually made people think the story was FAR MORE violent than it really was! (Of course, by that time, Image was already publishing and never bothered with the CCA at all, so it was pretty apparent its days were numbered…)
Reminds me of the music video for Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy.” The gory ending was so heavily censored, it implied that Jeremy killed his class, rather than just himself.
Today’s Crankshaft Thing:
Hey, gang! Lillian is going to a book fair!
Even I, a relative newcomer to Batiuk’s oeuvre, know that this portends naught but doom. We’re in for at least a week — but probably more — of fawning adoration over someone who has achieved the ultimate pinnacle in human endeavour: publishing a book. We can also look forward to recycled book fair gags (from the last sixteen book fair arcs), and probably some weirdly specific references to Ohioana book festival happenings that no-one actually cares about, including actual people attending the actual Ohioana book festival.
But we’re not at the book fair yet, so for now Crankshaft readers will have to content themselves with humour about preparing to go to a book fair. And sure, today’s ‘joke’ is pretty weak, but I’ll give this to Lillian — for a 102-year-old woman, she can sure lug around those boxes full of books!
Also, has it been commented on before in this blog how much Lillian resembles 1930s comedian Robert Woolsey in drag?
(Here’s Woolsey’s Wikipedia page, with a photo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Woolsey
And here’s a clip from the Wheeler & Woolsey film ‘Diplomaniacs’, which is very definitely pre-Code: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=10154701985761563
You’re all seeing this, right? It’s not just me?)
Lillian the Lizard is secretly Bob Woolsey in drag? Whoa-oh!
Well, there’s my obscure Hollywood reference for the week.
Happy to oblige!
An important way in which Woolsey doesn’t resemble Lillian: Woolsey’s a gifted comic actor. If you can attune yourself to their era, the Wheeler/Woolsey films feature some genuine laughs.
Wow, that’s creepy. And as someone pointed out on either Gocomics or Arcamax, Lillian is very clearly loading her books into a 1959 Ford (you’ll have to Google it; don’t know how to embed an image) – but it’s so obvious and specific – is there some backstory here? Photo research by TB clearly happened, but why is she driving a 64-year old deathtrap? I thought every little old lady in the world was driving a green Buick LeSabre from the mid-1990s.
Lillian has long driven a very old car, I guess she somehow rotates through makes and models. It was not too long ago that Chuck Ayers drew her putting around in a nicely-drawn 1961 Rambler Classic.
I am so glad you mentioned Robert Woolsey. He and his partner, Bert Wheeler, were true comedy standouts. They were so clever and fast. Masters of comedy. My favorite of their movies is “Half Shot at Sunrise.” They are WW1 soldiers enjoying time in Paris. They were equally matched with female counterparts. Bert Wheeler generally was love-connected to Dorothy Lee, while Woolsey was charmed by Leni Stengel. To me, Leni steals the movie. She had such presence. You could almost ignore Woolsey because Leni was so magnetic. But Woolsey kept up, and perfect scenes were the result.
Robert Woolsey, to me, was the ultimate cigar comedian. In my opinion, he was much more fun than contemporary George Burns. I am not quite fair to George. He had to play straight man to the brilliant Gracie Allen. Burns was a brilliant writer, but even later, his monologues were pleasant to listen to, but not really funny.
As BWOEH would say for our big finish, I will quote JJ O’Malley performing as Robert Woolsey: “Whoa-oh!”
And now we come to Batty’s sin that brought me to SoSF.
Long years ago, I somehow discovered the Comics Curmudgeon website. There, I learned that “Funky Winkerbean” was still being published, although vastly different from the mildly amusing high school strip I remembered. I also learned that the strip now made frequent references to comic books. As a long-time comic nerd, I was intrigued and surfed the web for more information.
My search led me here and the horror of Batty’s bizarre, obsessive “love” of comics.
I’ve read a lot of really good comics (and far too many bad ones). I will happily sing the praises of Lee and Kirby and material like Englehart’s “Avengers,” Ostrander’s “Suicide Squad” or Robinson’s “Starman,” but, sweet lord, I could never conjure up crap like that nonsense about “bright stars.”
I was embarrassed, then angered. Batty wasn’t doing anything make people want to read comics and he was making the fan community look like freaking, immature idiots. I suppose it was that anger that ultimately led me to post here.
Ah, Steve Englehart. When I was eleven and twelve, I didn’t think there could be better comics than his *Avengers* (even if I hated the end of the crossover with the Defenders) or *Captain America* (the sins of the Secret Empire were indeed sinister: the identity of its Number One was more horrifying than that of the Number One of the Village in “The Prisoner”).
Given the fact that Flash and Phil attributed a cover blurb to EC Comics which that company never used, I don’t think Batiuk paid much attention to them, beyond noting that a hue and cry (Roberta Blackburn and Fredric Wertham — separated at birth?) left them with only *MAD.* My feeling is that he knows neither Squa Tront from Shazam, nor Spa Fon from Sockamagee.
By the way, I appreciated CBH’s correction about magic being one of the Man of Steel’s weaknesses, because it took me back to *Superman* #233, in which all Kryptonite seemed to turn into harmless iron, leaving Superman vulnerable, in Jimmy Olsen’s mind, only to magic, and that was “real rare.”
And, of course, any allusion to Zatanna is always welcome. (I think her first meeting with Superman is in *JLA* #87, as he wasn’t part of the search for her father Zatara which introduced her.)
Today’s joke-free Crankshaft, as Y. Knott mentions, references the Ohioana Book Festival. You’ll never guess who’ll be there IRL. Go on, guess!
I don’t know why he doesn’t have Batton Thomas go, but I guess the Lillian thing is tradition in its own hideous way.
I’m actually relieved to see Lillian, because her arcs are almost always more snarkable than the Crankshaft material. And when we see Lillian, can Dinkle be far behind?
It’s all so pathetic, isn’t it? Any entity who will rent Tom Batiuk a convention booth gets to be a permanent recurring location/event in the Funkyverse. Which Batiuk uses to give himself awards left and right. While not having a drop of insight, humor or self-awareness about it.
Truth, justice and responsibility? Uhm, yeah. Theft is theft.
Are these the values he learned from the “Man of Steal”?
Can you imagine Superman’s reaction if he found out a fan was stealing things with his image on them?
But in truth, that childhood comic theft was nothing compared with his thefts in adulthood — of intellectual property, and of proper credit for fellow artists.
Today’s post reminded me of a song by a band called Ookla the Mook
“Stop talking about comic books or I’ll kill you
I don’t care if the Hulk could defeat the Man of Steel
I’m gonna rearrange your face if you continue to debate
Whether Logan’s claws could pierce Steve Rogers’ shield
I just couldn’t care less if they bring back Kraven
And I don’t care if Spiderman’s a clone
Stop spending all our cash on back issues of the Flash
Or I swear to God you’re gonna spend your twilight years alone”
and yes dear lord to have just one character dismissing comics as nonsense would have been a blessing.
And what always kills me is that the comic books that Batiuk goes into rhapsodies about are just about the most milktoast generic parade of blandness sin the history of industry, his delight in these continues to mystify.
Whoever wrote that song must have worked at my old job, where these two humorless mooks sitting near me, day after day, week after week, would grimly and sometimes angrily debate the finer points of superhero movies. Full grown men, with responsible jobs, just totally subsumed in the world of comic books with absolutely no sense of humor or the absurd.
Don’t get me wrong. People like what they like. I can talk old movies, or Seinfeld, or The Office, all day. I’m not pretending to be some highfalutin’ intellectual. But I also remember that this isn’t the freakin’ Cuban Missile Crisis, where the fate of the whole world hangs in the balance. It’s entertainment, that’s all. It’s supposed to be fun.
And also, like most people, I have many interests. I can talk about more than one subject. I can even listen to people talk about things I’m not currently interested in! Maybe I’ll learn something!
I have nothing at all against comic nerds. I’m married to one. (29 years this May 1!) But I think it’s pathetic to be an adult in your 30s, or 70s, who treats comic books, of all things, like a religion, instead of an enjoyable escape from the real world.
There’s a band called Ookla the Mok? Lords of Light!
Okay, there’s my second obscure Hollywood reference of the week!
Who would win in a fight between Superman and the Hulk? Let’s let the talking dinosaurs figure it out…
With great rhetorical power comes great rhetorical responsibility indeed.
Sic transit gloria mundi (no, Dan Dare, not Gloria Monday), here’s what Yip Harburg has to say in the lyrics for a song called “Napoleon”:
Napoleon’s a pastry
Bismarck is a herring
Alexander’s a crème de cacao mixed with rum
And Herbie Hoover is a vacuum
Columbus is a circle and a day off
Pershing is a square, what a pay-off
Julius Caesar is just a salad on a shelf
So, little brother, get wise to yourself
Life’s a bowl and it’s full of cherry pits
Play it big and it throws you for a loop
That’s the way with fate, comes today, we’re great
Comes tomorrow, we’re tomato soup
Napoleon’s a pastry
Get this under your brow
What once useta be a roosta’
Is just a dusta’ now
Napoleon’s a pastry
DuBarry is a lipstick
Pompadour’s a hairdo
Good Queen Mary just floats along from pier to pier
Venus De Milo is a pink brassiere
Sir Gladstone is a bag, ain’t it shocking?
And the mighty Kaiser, just a stocking
The Czar of Russia is now a jar of caviar
And Cleopatra is a black cigar
Yes, my honey lamb, Swift is just a ham
Lincoln’s a tunnel, Coolidge is a dam
Yes, my noble lads, comes today, we’re fads
Comes tomorrow, we are subway ads
Homer is just a swat
Get this under your brow
All these bigwig controversial
Are just commercials now
Better get your jug of wine
And loaf of love
Before that final vow
Napoleon’s a pastry
Caesar is a salad
Get it while you’re able
Harburg also wrote the lyrics for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and wrote Stephen Sondheim’s single favorite line in the lyric for “The Eagle and Me,” when he had the escaped slave Pompey speak of an urge which goes back to “when the world was an onion.”
I can’t blame Tony too much for the delay of his free offer of the Montoni’s basement to Komix Korner since it really appears he did so specifically to avoid having to hire Pete. It’s obvious, the offer only came after Pete applied for a job at Montoni’s. Tony had no other choice, you think he wanted “The Lord Of The Late” in his restaurant? The pizza is already bad enough, it wouldn’t improve when delivered cold.
And if you don’t think Tony HAD to hire Pete if Komix Korner klosed down, then you are not familiar with the laws of the Batiukverse.
Comics “were the bright stars by which we used to navigate our dreams”?
I’m truly mystified by the comic book obsession. What would those dreams be? I can understand if Batiuk is engaging in self revelation from his own youth – dreaming about becoming the artist who creates comics, but it’s difficult to translate it more broadly.
For example, it’s a stretch to see the air-guitar playing high-school aged Harry navigating his dreams through comics, even more so given his later developed interest in tech as showcased in his tape to dvd conversion business (which somehow evaporated once he began to work with DSH full time). Once again, a character’s development is sacrificed to become a mouthpiece for the author.
Also, as CBH points out, uncritically treating comics as source for a moral compass for young readers overlooks a substantial slice of the genre. It’s interesting that Batiuk doesn’t recognize this.
As with any religion, only the blessed, anointed texts of the One True Religion count. Any deviations from the approved texts — or the very existence of wholly unapproved texts falsely claiming to represent the One True Religion — are by definition heretical distortions and/or blasphemous perversions.
In the Batiukverse, only the Comic Books that have been anointed by Batiuk are the sacred blessed texts. Now, of course the unenlightened may use the term ‘comic book’ to refer to heretical non-anointed texts … but such people are not pure and true to Batiuk’s Guiding Principles of Comic Book Rightness.
The principles? The principles themselves are specific yet vague; broad yet exceedingly narrow; and inflexibly rigid yet subject to change. One could spend a lifetime trying to quantify the exact parameters of these principles … but as today’s Timemop cover shows, one would almost certainly end up regretting that lifetime.
“Comic books are like the bright sun on a clear day that writes your destiny.” I just made that up. Sounds just as good, doesn’t it?
I’ll see you that, and raise you “Comic books are the North Star that breaks through the clouds on a mountaintop, guiding you to a safe harbor.”
Those “Retro Pete and Boy Lisa working at Batom Comics back in the day” strips really illustrated how deeply warped his whole old-timey comic book obsession really is. Those old 1950s comic books are BatYam’s most favoritest things in the whole world, yet when given an opportunity to build an entire fictional sub-universe around this thing he loves, he chose to depict it as sheer hellish drudgery, a miserable pit where underpaid, overworked schlubs churn out uninspired drivel at the behest of a soulless monster who’s only in it for the money. Those arcs always revealed plenty about his sick, perverse world view.
Be the life of the party with Bat Libs, the riotous new word game!
Comic books are the [mystical or venerated thing] that [verb] you when you feel [emotion]. They teach you that [trite/cliche expression] and give you hope that your [noun] will turn out [adverb].
Without comic books, I myself could never have been the [adjective] [noun] that I’ve become. It was comic books that taught me to [phrase of advice] and allowed me to win the prestigious [adjective] [noun] Award.
Yes, you can keep your stupid [religious text]. For me, there’ll never be better life advice than [adjective] Man’s famous catch phrase: “Never [verb] when you can [verb] — and keep your [body part] on the [plural noun]!“
First ChatGPT result after I instructed it to fill in the blanks:
“Comic books are the mystical thing that inspire you when you feel low. They teach you that with great power comes great responsibility and give you hope that your tomorrow will turn out amazing. Without comic books, I myself could never have been the confident writer that I’ve become. It was comic books that taught me to never give up and allowed me to win the prestigious creative writing award. “
Chat GPT did a rather credible Batiuk there! I’d bet money it could write a better Crankshaft than Mr. Missed the Pulitzer by Thatmuch.
I roped my luckless spouse in, without revealing the topic, and here’s the mad lib that resulted:
Comic books are the [holy grail] that [mix] you when you feel [giddiness]. They teach you that [to err is human] and give you hope that your [can] will turn out [merrily].
Without comic books, I myself could never have been the [purple] [crutch] that I’ve become. It was comic books that taught me to [cross at the green] and allowed me to win the prestigious [Evil] [Cape] Award.
Yes, you can keep your stupid [Dianetics]. For me, there’ll never be better life advice than [Oily] Man’s famous catch phrase: “Never [shoot] when you can [eat] — and keep your [earlobe] on the [twins]!”
Not much, but more interesting than your average BattyBlog entry, I’d say.
This explains his virulent hatred for the campy sixties Batman show and the oeuvre of Ray Lichtenstein: he doesn’t like being reminded that what he thinks of as a lie that points him to the truth is actually just a fictional story that’s designed to amuse children and also sell them things. He’s kind of like Batman in his way: the refusal to face the sheer futility of what he’s doing is what defines him too.
In the days of infinite earths, Superman (Kal-L) married Lois Lane and often advised Superman (Kal-El) to settle down with his Lois Lane and to recognize that it was important to reconcile the “super” with the “man.”
The Golden Age Batman married Selina Kyle, had a daughter and became Gotham City’s Police Commissioner.
As far as I know, he never tried to persuade his counterpart on the earth that occupied the same space but rotated at a different speed to do something similar. Maybe he knew it was just a waste of time, and that while Superman was famous for his “never-ending battle,” the one the other Batman was waging was ultimately a losing one.
And he would never see it or admit it.
(Cue Bill Evans’s version of the “M*A*S*H” theme.)
After this, one of the longest deep dives yet, I need to say what I should have said weeks ago: “ComicBookHarriet, these are great! Thank you so much for your work.”
My knowledge of “Funky Winkerbean” prior to 2013 is very spotty (the Toronto newspapers never carried it). Any deep dive includes lots of material I haven’t seen before. And the commentary is excellent. You neatly summarize the state of comic books in 2004, and how it doesn’t line up with anything Batiuk was talking about. And then you call out his bizarre attitude toward the Comics Code.
We also get callbacks to a couple of classic “Funky” elements: crappily taped-up signs, and Becky’s pinned-up sleeve (really, look at that strip with her and John. There’s barely room to show her at all in the third panel, yet that tiny space makes sure to include the sleeve.)
I hope this keeps going and going. It is much appreciated.
Thanks EOG! Glad you’re still lurking around enjoying the show! 🙂
“I’ve forgotten how much fun these old comic books were…,” says John as he pages thru an issue of Green Arrow. GA didn’t get his own title until 1983.
Since I think John and I are supposed to be close in age (I went to my 50 year class reunion last year,) I wouldn’t have thought of that comic as “old,” even in the early 2000s when this strip takes place.
If I bought it when I was near 30, it’s not even old to me today. My old comics are from the late 50s-late 60s.
But that’s just my opinion. I may be wrong.
I’m a little late to the party, but just wanted to thank CBH for putting me on the Timemop comix cover! And, when my time comes, if Harley shows up with the offer of a do-over, hell yeah I’ll take it!
I regret nothing. In my opinion, it all needed to be said. Well, OK, maybe I made a few too many Becky arm jokes, but otherwise, the way I see it, Batiuk had it coming. It’s a fabulous cover, though. Maybe we could do like Comics Kingdom used to do and make the “Timemop” covers available as prints. I think $99.99 a pop sounds about right. $179.99 for the autographed ones.
“A few too many Becky arm jokes”? Eh, you could count the excessive number of those on one hand.
(C’mon, SOMEONE was going to say it!)
I like the way you think.
I’m so glad you like it boss! I tried to get the salt and pepper on the beard JUUUST right to turn Jimmy Olsen into you!
I hope, even if Harley does take you back to relive the 70’s, you still would take the time in 2010 to start this blog. Think of how sad and unfulfilled Epicus (and I, and others,) would be without it!
Perhaps Timemop might get a cease-and-desist letter from some fancy-schmancy law firm someday. I think that was probably the one single event that really strengthened our resolve. I so very much wish I had a recording of THAT phone conversation, when Batiuk spoke to his fancy-schmancy law firm about SoSF.
LOL. Love the Mopey Pete/Poochie parody panels, although I believe you could have left the original text “home planet.”
Mopey Pete, a.k.a. Monkey-Boy 🐵
“Laugh-a while you can, monkey boy!”
And that’s my third and absolutely final obscure Hollywood reference for this chat!
Thanx to MST3K, the term, “Monkey Boy” will always make me think of Sid Melton.
LOL. Pre-badass Jonathan Banks. Before he became Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad.
Of course, Jonathan was a bit of a tough guy as Frank McPike on the TV series Wise Guy.
A big shout-out to the incredibly handsome Wise Guy main lead, Ken Wahl. Good morning, Ken, wherever you are.
Call me. 🤙😘
From the movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). 😂
I call Mopey Pete “Monkey Boy” because of the physical resemblance. All that is missing is the prehensile tail. Whenever Mopey Pete holds a coffee mug, I can’t help but think of an organ grinder monkey.
Today’s e̶x̶c̶i̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ Crankshaft : https://www.gocomics.com/crankshaft/2023/04/18
Look, we know that time in the Funkyverse has all the consistency of unrefrigerated cottage cheese. But it’s been three pandemic years. Three.
I even looked it up to see if somehow, the Ohioana Book Festival for some reason actually went ahead in 2020. Maybe it was held in February or something? Maybe there were only two cancelled Ohioana book festivals, hence “two” pandemic years?
Nope. The 2020 Ohioana Book Festival was scheduled for April 25, 2020, but was eventually cancelled as an in-person event due to the pandemic. The 2021 and 2022 festivals were virtual.
It’s been three pandemic years. Three.
Also, Batiuk? Your joke writing sucks.
“It’s nice to be seen?” What’s the matter Lillian, did you miss having your ego stroked by all these annoying people you’re so much better than? Les has taught you well.
This is exactly something Tom Batiuk would say at a book fair: an insult that pretends to be wit. What’s wrong with “nice to see you too”? Oh, right, it’s courteous and demonstrates interest in other people. Then the Ohioana Book Fair wouldn’t be all about you. I see.
I could swear there have been a half dozen Ohioana book festivals featured in the Crankshaft
comicstrip over the past few years. I guess it just seems that way. “YaY! Lillian is at the Ohioana Book Festival!” Said no one in their right mind, ever.
It must be the “Batiuk touch.” With the end of Funky Winkerbean, TB now turns his attention solely on Crankshaft… and the strip gets noticeably worse. I don’t remember who said it here, but the theory of someone ghostwriting Crankshaft over the past few years is gaining traction.
J.J. O’Malley’s got the natives riled up again. 😂
Typical Batiuk Defender: You’re criticizing a cartoon. You must be an unhappy person. I feel sorry for you. 🙄
Why does it bother them so much? I want to come to JJ’s defense, but his comment got deleted the last time I tried.
The very people who cry, You’re criticizing a cartoon? You’re such a downer, I feel sorry for you — you can bet they’re not short on criticism for sports teams, movie franchises, cable news and commentary, “music these days,” TV shows, etc.
You can bet your bottom dollar on it.
It’s only newspaper comics that are sacrosanct. And only the ones they like. Criticize Mallard Fillmore (or Tom the Dancing Bug, depending on political preference)? That’s fair game, obviously.
You’re right. I can’t imagine these people receiving a steak in a restaurant that’s mostly gristle and forcing themselves to eat it rather than complain. “Oh, well. The restaurant tried. Not every meal is going to be good. I’m not going to criticize someone for doing their job when I don’t have a clue how difficult it can be. It’s their profession. Who am I to criticize?”
Sometimes I wonder how much enjoyment certain people get out of reading comics. For some, it must be part of a daily ritual, like taking their prescriptions. For years, they’ve been reading the same numerous titles out of habit. Some of the titles are now bland and a shadow of their former selves. Reading their comic strips is a part of their “happy place.”
Batiuk Defender: I’ve read my comics. I can do my daily walk now. (marches out the door whistling a happy tune)
They’ve recently added Crankshaft to their GoComics favorites.
They see the snark or “criticism” directed at a comic strip as a disruption to their routine.
Batiuk Defender: What’s this? They’re criticizing the comic strip? This is a disturbance to my happy place. I will not stand for this!
They do not understand the concept of snark. It blows their minds that someone is enjoying a comic strip differently.
Batiuk Defender: If these people are criticizing the comic strip, they must hate it. There is no other explanation. Why do they read something they hate? 🤔🤯
FOR OTHERS, SNARKING ON BATIUK’S WORK IS PART OF THEIR DAILY ROUTINE.
Are you saying that to these people, there’s only one right way to enjoy comics and all other ways are HERESY?
Seriously, has there ever been a single endeavor in history that was universally loved and never criticized? I can’t think of any. But clearly, if there were ever one human creation that could be exalted far beyond the reach of any criticism, it would be Crankshaft.
LOL. Got the reference! 🙋♀️
The thing about Batiuk’s joke writing is that at one time, he wasn’t too bad — early FW has some genuinely amusing moments. I wouldn’t say he ever rose to anything greater than B+ work even on his very tip-top best day, of course …but those days of B-level or even C-level work are now long, long past. His GPA has plummeted over the last three decades, and by now, you have wonder how he’s avoided getting expelled.
Agree completely. I miss reading Funky Winkerbean Vintage on the Comics Kingdom. There were several FW Vintage strips that cracked me up, and were added to the “Saved Comics” section of my CK account.
I think one of the reasons for my perception that the quality of Crankshaft has recently declined is the quality of the strips surrounding it in my current reading list. The comic strips on GoComics are better than those on The Comics Kingdom. Batiuk’s lackluster writing stands out more on GoComics.
When most people think of The Comics Kingdom they think of titles like Beetle Bailey, Blondie, The Family Circus, and Hi and Lois. Comic strips that are past their best. I used to put Crankshaft on a higher level than those strips.
Thanks ever so for the support, BWoEH. I have to confess there is a certain perverse pleasure to be derived from commenting and then watching the Go and Arcamax crowds get their knickers in a twist over same. It’s a darn good thing neither site carries “Mary Worth.”
Keep fightin’ the good fight, comrade.
Good news, everyone! The Crankshaft archive has been populated on GoComics. It goes back to March 2003.
Yes, I noticed this. I don’t have a subscription yet I was still able to access them.
Not all of them. There’s an oddity going on with the archive, no Sunday strips at all before 2023. Dunno if that’ll be fixed or that’s an exception to GoComic’s license for some reaosn.
Take a daily strip about, say, making a sandwich.
Add 4-6 panels of “Pmm, what’s your father doing?” “Dad, what are you doing?” “I’m making a sandwich.” “Making a sandwich?” “Yes, a sandwich.”
Final panel should contain “punchline.”
Badabing. There’s your Sunday strip.
Despite the aforementioned Sunday issue, it’s an interesting read-through some of the old ‘shaft archives, the gag-a-day and original story arc nonsense.
I actually even stumbled upon something that is relevant to the retrospective (though it might mean more work for you CBH, depending how deep you want to dive unfortunate). April-May 2007 demonstrated that Crankshaft Komix-Korner comic-obsession madness wasn’t unique to the 2023 Funkvasion; here Lillian (with help from the teen youth) cleared out her Alzheimer’s afflicted sister’s house and found a treasure trove of old comics; the teens promptly reached out to DCH John who attempted to make Lillian an offer, but found himself in “strong” competition with other comic shop owners/collectors in the Centerview area, leading to hi-LAR-ious hijinks of not only cash offers but doing chores and cooking up food briberies as John and the others sought to be Lillian’s chosen comic seller.
Once again, evidence of the deep-rooted disease that was Funkyverse’s Church of Bullpen.
Also anyone looking for a chuckle; Crankshaft and friend happy about not having cancer as Les and Not-Yet-Dead St. Lisa walk by is available here, fresh for commenting and bookmarking (also Lisa is blonde for some reason): https://www.gocomics.com/crankshaft/2006/05/13
I think that strip is a refreshing bit of honesty from Les and Lisa. She looks devastated, and he looks clueless and ineffectual, which are very believable emotions. They haven’t adopted their “I’m too cool to care I’m dying” and “my wife died and I’m a writer so the world revolves around me now” acts. They look like actual human beings in an actual story. Too bad they couldn’t maintain it.
I know this arc was resurrected here once or twice the last 5 years or so, but I’m glad you re-resurrected it. It’s a sterling example of everything that’s wrong with the comic book obsession. It neatly outlines the reasons why the Batiukverse makes comics seem dreary and unpleasant, instead of fun and nostalgic.
I already had my say a week or so ago about the utter unrealism of a 1940s comic collection surviving 65 years in an Ohio attic.
But that’s not what’s so offensive about the “McKenzie Collection” arc. It’s the tired old hobbyhorse: There is only one right way to read, enjoy, acquire, and sell comics, and it’s the Tom Batiuk way.
The EEEEEeevil yuppie couple, portrayed with all the subtlety of Snidely Whiplash, wants the comics for the exact same reason as DSH John: To sell them for a profit. Only somehow DSH is “purer” and “more deserving,” so Lillian, instead of taking the highest offer, ends up letting him have the collection.
TB obsesses, and has his characters obsess, over the value, condition, and price appreciation of comics as a collectible. He’s really fixated on it, and on opportunities he thinks he missed by not grabbing certain issues off that Imperious Rexall spinner rack, slabbing them, and saving them in 10/10 condition.
So what’s the difference between Pure, Deserving collectors who seek to profit from their collections and Wicked, Venal collectors who seek to profit from their collections?
I’ve tried to parse it, but the closest I can come is: Pure collectors = anyone who is a TB avatar. Wicked collectors = anyone else.
Anyone else able to make better sense of this bizarre corner of Batiukiana?
I get the impression that Batiuk doesn’t much like to admit how much he has in common with the people he deigns to despise. It half-way probably killed him to admit The Lord Of The Late was simply a reflection of his own tendency to dawdle so getting him to see what he has in common with boring, ordinary people is a non-starter as it means that he’s just another guy. That’s another thing he’s got in common with the Bat. Unlike Big Blue, Bats isn’t one to admit that in the end, we’re all just guys.
The Funkyverse runs on Designated Hero. Les and Lisa were heroes because Tom Batiuk said they were. And because he made every other character treat them like heroes, when no typical person would perceive them as such.
So it’s not surprising that his comic book fandom works the same way. There are “good collectors” and “bad collectors” even when there’s no difference in what they do or how they do it.
This is a guy who can’t even stomach the idea that a child might damage a precious historical lodestar biblical whatever artifact by… by… READING IT WRONG!
I forgot to mention that the “King Solomon Gambit” Lillian used to decide the buyer could have been amusing, but was handled so seriously that you come away with the impression that DSH John felt about a comic the way a mother feels about her infant child.
I think that was actually the intent. YUCK. Tone deafness, thy name is Puff Batty.
Thanks for being an Archive Informant, Andrew! BTS had done a mini dive on the DCH John/Crankshaft crossover a couple years ago, so I had scoped it out. But that might not be the case next time. I haven’t had time to just power through what there is on the archives of Cranky. So always feel free!
The latest “Match to Flame” installment has appeared. While discussing “Lisa’s Story” and the genesis of its second half, Batiuk mentions some aspects of his time at KSU. Acquiring comics plays a central role. Also a Beatles album release takes priority over taking a final exam. While I don’t doubt the narrative, I can’t begin to conceive the decision making process that would culminate in the choices.
“No slang, no period references, nothing that will date us in re-runs…”
That was a rule Carl Reiner had for “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” It served Rob, Laura, Buddy, Sally, Richie and Co. very well. (To say nothing of Reiner himself as Alan Brady.)
Not too long ago, I heard a reading of a Cormac McCarthy story in which two men investigating a plane crash listened to some music. Mozart gave way to Creedence Clearwater Revival, but while McCarthy identified the Mozart piece, we had no idea whether the CCR tune was “Graveyard Train,” “Bad Moon Rising” or “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.”
So when someone admits to skipping a final exam to pick up a Beatles album, I see no reason not to say which Beatles album it was (unless you’re the Temptations mulling over the Ball of Confusion, in which it’s enough to say that “the Beatles’s new record is a gas”).
Until *Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,* the Beatles’s U.S. albums were different from those in the rest of the world. They had fewer tracks and the singles were absent (the Beatles thought it “a drag” to buy a song a second time; Capitol figured correctly that those who bought a single would also buy the album on which it appeared). The album he skipped the final to purchase may be one which is only a U.S. release, or something as mutilated as the original *Revolver* (which in the U.S. has more lead vocals from George Harrison than from John Lennon, as three of his five compositions on the U.K. version turned up on *Yesterday and Today*).
And that may be too embarrassing to admit.
It wasn’t a Beatles album at all, but the newest release from a British Invasion group whose reputation hasn’t fared as well, such as Gerry and the Pacemakers or Freddie and the Dreamers.
Wow. Does Tom Batiuk have no clue how bad this makes him look?
He flat-out says he lost his place in the Honors College because of his “pursuit of culture.” We already know what “culture” means in his twisted mind, but he spells it out for us: “I was in downtown Kent looking for a place where I could find some comic books. I checked all the usual suspects—the drugstore, the supermarket, the tobacco shop—and had found nothing.” Sheesh, he sounds like a drug addict. No wonder his parents wanted him to grow up. And he’s PROUD of this.
And what the hell does any of this have to do with Lisa’s Story?
Apart from the pathetic admissions already mentioned (which TB for some reason thinks are brags), I also noticed a suspicious lack of specificity. A real Beatles fan — or a fan of any band — would have mentioned the name of the album. When your favorite band “drops” a new album, it’s a big deal. The first time you listen to it will be burned into your mind. It’s not just a generic thing. Especially with Beatles albums, as they’re all so different and mark distinct eras.
I also agree that it was more likely the cast album of “Hair” or something you might buy if the whole drug-culture thing was too scary and edgy, but you wanted to seem “down” with the “hippies.”
Batiuk was, and is, terminally square. That’s not a value judgement. Squares have a lot going for them and there’s nothing wrong with not jumping into whatever cultural movement is peddlet to you at any given time. It’s just that he didn’t realize he was on the outside of youth culture looking in. He really thought he was “with it.” And this BattyBlog entry was him bragging about how he rejected “the Man’s” value system — how young Tom tuned in, turned on, and dropped out.
Something tells me that despite his efforts to be “groovy,” he never did get it on with any of the Kent State “free love” chicks he undoubtedly daydreamed about.
I’ve come to doubt Tom Batiuk’s anecdotes about his own life. Because I can’t reconcile Batiuk’s sheltered, condescending worldview with the realities of growing up when and where he did.
I grew up in the 1980s. Even then, there was social pressure to “be cool or be cast out”, as that terrific Rush song says. By the time I was 11, liking comic books or any child-focuses activity was something you kept to yourself. Or only did in private, with like-minded friends.
Batiuk was college age, living in the Summer of Love, and he’s proud of how he snuck a mile off-campus to buy comic books?And pouted in public about the Batman TV show? And told everyone else they were wrong if they liked it? Tell me something, Tom, how many lockers were you stuffed into during your life?
Today, comic books and derivatives are uber-mainstream. But he’s still fighting a battle over them, because they’re not HIS comic books. Comic books keep doing things he doesn’t approve of. People aren’t enjoying them correctly. The “wrong” people are using them as collectibles. He hates the Comics Code, even though it hasn’t been in force for almost 25 years now, and it was the very mechanism that kept comic books in the child-focused state he needs.
I have to think Batiuk embellishes his past. Because the only other explanation is that he’s a complete asshole.
I’m a couple decades younger than TB, so I wasn’t there, but our cultural memories of eras are deceptive in the age of mass media. Most students in the 60s, especially in the Midwest, were not long-haired hippies in fringed jackets, smokin’ doobies, man, and debating Marx long into the night. Most of them were “normal” kids, from normal families, who may have smoked a joint once or twice, or may never have tried a drug stronger than Budweiser. Most of them didn’t drop out to go follow a guru in India, man. Most of them graduated and went on to ordinary lives.
This doesn’t change the fact that TB is still portraying himself as an out-of-touch… well… weirdo. Heaven forfend he socialize with other kids. God forbid he go to his classes, likely paid for by his parents judging by his cavalier attitude. No, he had to go alone to his Sanctum Sanctorum, the basis for Komix Korner.
I’ll say it again. Nothing wrong with squares, or weirdos, or people out of step with the world. It’s just that TB is clearly trying to portray himself as literally too cool for school — that’s obviously what he was aiming for — and instead he portrays himself as an oblivious social reject with no interest in his fellow humans or anything but his precious men in tights.
All I’m trying to say is that if Batiuk truly acted the way he says he did, he would be disliked to the point of it being an obstacle in life.
It’s not just that he’s a square – he’s obnoxious and combative about his squareness. But he doesn’t taken ownership of it, either. He doesn’t say “yeah, I was a square, and I was happier that way.” He’s not the Okie From Muskogee (another fantastic set of pop lyrics).
The stories all feel like they’re omitting something. Which I think is the amount of pushback he would have gotten for acting the way he did. Parents, peers, teachers, academic advisors, maybe even psychiatrists would be telling him he needs to go to class, not read comic books.
He’s also delusional about what he “learned” from comic books, even considering what his career is. Reading The Flash for 60 years isn’t going to teach you much more about creating comic strips than enjoying it briefly as a child would have. If anything, his refusal to consider learning from anything else stunted him as an artist.
Oh, it’s even worse. He didn’t even learn from his heroes. Infantino, Lee, Kirby — one thing you can say about them is that they understood the importance of tension, conflict, and a fast-moving plot. He obviously didn’t learn dynamic layouts or draftsmanship from his heroes, either; nor did his draftsmanship improve over the decades, which means he wasn’t putting any effort into improving it.
What, specifically, DID he learn? He’s always doing this vague handwaving about how comic books “taught him how to live,” etc.
What SPECIFIC lessons did he learn? What did he do differently because of comics? What were specific occasions when he asked himself, “What would the Flash do?” or remembered “With great power comes great responsibility,” and acted in accordance?
We will never get answers, only more vague bloviating. Because I have a sad feeling that, when it all boils down, the only thing he learned from buying and reading comic books was that he should continue buying and reading comic books. Forever.
Damn, that’s depressing.
Caveat: I don’t want the following to sound like a criticism. I’m truly baffled.
From what he’s written, I think Batiuk was a resident student at KSU. Isn’t he getting to know and hanging out with the other students in his dorm? Didn’t Kent have touring bands and comedians on the circuit making appearances? Somehow students on that campus were learning enough about the outside world that one of the most infamous episodes of the Vietnam protest movement occurred there.
I looked at the school newspaper for the Friday following the January 1966 Batman premiere and found an ad for upcoming on campus concerts by The Four Seasons and Stan Getz. I guess somehow these didn’t appeal to him.
To get a sense of campus life during the period, the Kent Stater archives are on line.
You’ll notice his blog posts are never about his interactions with other people. Everything is comic books, comic books, comic books.
Or if there are interactions, they resemble the following –
“So, I met with the staff at the Press and made my pitch waving my hands in the air and saying, ‘Imagine if you will . . . ,’ and they indeed expressed interest in publishing the book. I thanked them for that and also for not checking my academic record.”
Match to Flame 194.
They’re all just like the stories in Funky Winkerbean: everyone just gives Les whatever wants, in complete defiance of their own objectives, and basic human nature. And go out of their way to reinforce Batiuk’s strawman excuses for his own failures.
I’m quite sure that TB later worked that experience of his into a Crankshaft story, where Jff missed a big exam at Kent State so he could go buy a new album he just had to have. In the story, it wasn’t a Beatles album as I recall, it was a Lovin’ Spoonful album. A LOVIN’ SPOONFUL ALBUM.
That’s not “culture”, that’s a cry for help.
That changed detail makes the story not work. You don’t have to buy a Lovin’ Spoonful album on the first day, because it’s not going to sell every copy before class lets out. That trope only works for something with a massive following.
1352 guitar pickers in Nashville might disagree.
The Spoonful was also capable of “Summer in the City” (which is not about Les’s daughter).
And Joe Cocker covered their “Darling Be Home Soon” beautifully,
But I should also point out that when *The National Lampoon* did its “JFK Grand Fifth Term Inaugural Issue,” the Spoonful of the reworked Sixties had hits with “What a Day for Some Daycare” and “Mommy Be Home Soon.”
Ideally with milk and cookies (I’ll supply the comic-books).
Today’s Crankshaft-from-the-past: https://www.gocomics.com/crankshaft/2023/04/19
Okay. Crankshaft is apparently taking place one year ago, in 2022. And in a 2022 where the Ohioana book festival was an in-person event … which in this universe it wasn’t.
Was this scheduled for publication in 2022, and then bumped until the Ohioana festival returned to being an in-person event? And if Tom wrote this a year in advance, as seems likely, why didn’t he — or an editor — simply change the dates mentioned in the strip to tally with the date of publication?
A) Because that would take effort.
B) Because once Tom Batiuk has written something, it must not be tampered with.
C) Because no-one reads this stuff, not even the editors.
D) All of the above.
Also, who do you suppose Weirdly-Specific-Looking-Woman-Having-Her-Book-Autographed really is? It’s got to be an inside hello to someone, no?