Round ’em Up!

Greetings fellow Nitpickers! Hello from the blustery pastures of Iowa!

Our calving pasture is absolutely littered with baby beauties. Hopefully next week we’ll be able to move the widdle hamburger nuggets and the moo mommas out to the Van Fleet Place pasture. And if we’re really really lucky they won’t jump the fence to start tromping around in places they don’t belong.

Speaking of tromping around in places they don’t belong!

On March 4, 2005, Roberta Blackburn descends the dark alley steps into the seedy underworld of Komix Korner. She’s on a quest for to find a gift for her nephew. So, of course, she immediately gravitates to a certain section of the store.

And look! First appearance of one of Funky Winkerbean‘s weirdest recurring characters, Kevin Brown!

I have no idea what any of the looks and gestures between Kevin and DCH are supposed to signify.

Seriously, Roberta is drawn, magnet like, to something destined to get a rise out of her. But it’s hard to pay attention to that because of the absolutely inane conversation happening in the background.

Gasp! What about Vibranium?

So many questions!

First! Is Kevin Brown chewing tobacco?

Then, is Kevin referencing an actual thing that happened in a comic book? I searched and searched and wasted precious moments of my life I could have been using a toothbrush to clean off grease fittings. And all I found were long Reddit arguments where nerds have spent more time debating who would win in a fight against Wolverine and Iron Man than the French have spent debating entitlement reform.

Third, what is Roberta looking at that is causing her to blush from just the cover? Is it any of THESE mainstream titles released in March 2005?

Anatomically suspect.
Putting the ‘wat?’ in water.
Like, why would you stand like that? That’s begging for a herniated disc.
Atomic Super Wedgie!
With blackjack AND hookers!

Oh no, she’s far away from this kid friendly stuff. She’s in the ADULT comics section. Where you can buy copies of XXX and BAAD.

New questions from this strip.

Has there ever been a comic character called Ultra-Eternal? No. Has any character ever had their atoms scattered across the universe? Yes. Is there any manga-like comic called BAAD? No. Is there any manga-like comic called XXX? I HAD TO BLEACH MY ENTIRE COMPUTER AFTER GOOGLING THIS.

But, yes. Sort of.

Roberta Blackburn, the Funkyverse’s most prolific recurring villain, has purchased her BAAD comic, and now has a big bad plan. And it will involve the world’s most suspicious looking cop.

Is it canon that the God of the Funkyverse is capricious and petty?
Proto-Owen, Ur-Cody, and Archeo-Malcom are very impressed.

Credit where it’s due, there is a fun use of setting this week. DCH John calls his lawyer, Not-Dead-Yet St. Lisa, who is in the attorney’s office she set up in his old location. During this stage of Act II, that whole street did feel like it had a concrete sense of place. A bit of world building I wish Batiuk had expanded on, instead of allowing Montoni’s to eat the entire block.

Fun, even if it means we get an unsettling closeup.
Becky’s Mom has got it going on!?!

And lest newer readers forget the deep lore of Act II, Batiuk makes sure to remind his audience that this isn’t Roberta’s first moral crusade. The first one ran in a 1995 arc that was preachy enough on the whole ‘freedom of expression’ thing to convert me to hardline moral censorship in the style of Plato’s Republic.

“Shall we, then, thus lightly suffer our children to listen to any chance stories fashioned by any chance teachers and so to take into their minds opinions for the most part contrary to those that we shall think it desirable for them to hold when they are grown up?”

“By no manner of means will we allow it.”

“We must begin, then, it seems, by a censorship over our storymakers, and what they do well we must pass and what not, reject. And the stories on the accepted list we will induce nurses and mothers to tell to the children and so shape their souls by these stories far rather than their bodies by their hands. But most of the stories they now tell we must reject.”

Plato, The Republic
So, DCH John still lives with his mother?

Man, I have been looking forward to digging into this arc for A LONG TIME. But first, we need to get one thing out of the way.

I have, in the past, taken Batiuk to task for lack of research on various topics. However, a bit of brief searching quickly led me to court cases similar to DCH John’s taking place around the same time. This is not Batiuk branded truthiness. This is classic Batiuk ‘ripped from the headlines’. While I’m just chomping at the bit to kick this story to death for failings I see in logic and reasoning, I cannot fault it for being unbelievable in the broad strokes of ‘comic shop owner arrested for selling adult comics to adults’. I’ll highlight some of these real life case files, as well at Batiuk’s obvious pandering to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, in later posts.

Until then, see you in the funny pages!



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

64 responses to “Round ’em Up!

  1. Andrew

    It begins.

    It’ll be interesting to see what parallels this story does have to the IRL cases, to be sure. Going in though, I can at least comment one thing about the Funkycast staple that is prevalent in the narrative: just like John is a multipurpose tool in the box for both comic soapboxing, tragic irony drama and “noble suffering” potlines, Roberta is a versatile stand-in for a lot of annoying/detestable people. Over her long history she went from henpecking band mom/husband to moral crusading on student creativity, then to those against mangas being in breathing distance of kids, then straight up homophobic bigotry. Then her husband told her to shut up once and we more or less never hear from her again, iirc.

    Will say though will be nice to see some of Lisa exercising some non-cancer/love life/mortal peril story arc shenanigans. I can’t help but think of Ace Attorney and wonder if anyone may ever make a sprite sheet or something for her in the style of those games. That or just edit Mia Fey to resemble her.

  2. Green Luthor

    “Iron Man’s lasers”? Iron Man doesn’t HAVE lasers! He has repulsor beams and a uni-beam. (Neither of which can cut adamantium, but they’re not really supposed to be cutting-type weapons anyway, they’re supposed to be force blasts.) (Though Cyclops’ optic blasts are supposed to be similar, and they’re CONSTANTLY being shown as some sort of heat beam that can burn or cut things.) (And obviously Cyclops’ optic blasts can’t cut adamantium, either, or else Wolverine wouldn’t be so snippy with him.)

    So Kevin would be right that Iron Man shouldn’t be cutting through adamantium, but he’s still saying that Iron Man is using lasers, which is a mistake no self-respecting comic geek (or as self-respecting as comic geeks get) would ever make.

    Byrne drew Kevin for the Act III “Meet the Cast” pages, and it’s FAR less horrifying than whatever that thing in those strips is.

    And we should all stand in line for CBH’s dedication to this site. Googling any combination of “XXX” and “manga”… there are some horrors humanity was never meant to witness. (xxxHOLIC is a good series, though, but it’s not “that” type of comic. More of a Vertigo Comics-type semi-anthology horror book by CLAMP, and a companion to their Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles series, which ties into quite a few of their previous works like Cardcaptor Sakura and Magic Knight Rayearth.)

  3. sorialpromise

    CBH, that is a beautiful herd of mommas and babies. I have always loved white face angus.
    1. For calling out the earliest calf birth, I deserve to have my name attached to the calf.
    2. 🤪 I believe that is the only drawing ever done of Spider Woman’s bottom. 😎
    3. That cover of AquaMan…is that not the ugliest navel ever drawn? Is she wearing sunglasses below her tummy?
    4. I triple-dog-dare Anonymous Sparrow to get anything erudite from my posting of today.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      You get a black-white-face AKA a black baldy from a cross of Angus and either Simmental or Hereford. Both are very popular crosses. Simmental gets you growth, Hereford gives you long lived cows. All three are generally docile. (With exceptions)

      We’ve got a commercial crossbred herd with no real pedigree to speak of. For a while my dad would buy anything that would eat grass and have a calf. We even had a dozen longhorns for a while. We’ve got a little of everything, and most of our cows are crosses of crosses of crosses, but Angus genetics probably make up about 60 percent of it if you put the whole herd into a blender, followed by Hereford and Simmental.

      Black or black-white-faced feeder calves, (about 7 to 12 months old, a year or six months away from being butcher weight,) bring a premium over colored calves when selling them at that size. (Once they get to butcher weight we sell direct to Tyson, and they don’t care.) Most sale barns will list the last sale’s prices segregated by gender and color. (Steers bring more than heifers for feeders)

      Lately we’ve been selling more of our calves at that size, so my dad has made a shift toward black, (BORING), In the spring group this year we’ve only had one colored calf. BOOOO. I’ll make sure to get some pictures of the round up when we move them.


      • sorialpromise

        Down here in Clay County, my wife’s folks started with Charolais. They got a bull named Charger. Her Dad bought Charger after he got his horns cut. But they got infected with worms, and he got aggressive. That is how he got his name. But the bull liked my wife and her mother. Charger would let them treat his horns. He loved for them to curry comb him. Later, they moved on to Herefords. Beautiful breed. They had Angus cows also. One was named Suzie. I believe she had 2 maybe 3 sets of twins. But her milk was too rich, and they couldn’t let the babies nurse for fear of scours. Suzie was milked like a dairy cow. Her milk bottles were two thirds cream. She enjoyed the extra corn she got while milking. My wife’s folks sold the farm in 1987. But we had good times. The 2 dairy cows really liked us making sorghum. They got all the skimmings.
        You are loved!♥️💖❤️🫂🌺💐🌹

  4. erdmann

    Good grief! That malevolent sneer on Roberta’s face as she leaves the comic book store. Was her secret origin as Super-Prude an incident in high school when she became pregnant and gave birth to a child she put up for adoption? A child who grew up to be… Frankie? [Insert peal of thunder here]

    By the way, I don’t know what ads anyone else sees on this page, but I’ve got Kinga Forrester offering me help with a home loan. I’ve long wanted to branch out into super-villainy, but have never had a suitable lair. I wonder if she can help me get a good deal on her dad’s old place in Deep 13? It even comes with a ready-made theme song.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      Your reference to Roberta Blackburn as Super-Prude reminded me of a very obscure DC Comics character: Super-Hip, whose alter ego was Tadwallader Jutefruce.

      His battle cry, believe it or not, was either “Blech to Lawrence Welk” or “Down with Lawrence Welk,” which is proof that while in the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases, in SOSFworld, it’s not only connected, E.M. Forster, it’s all connected.

      I love the idea of Roberta being the mother of Frankie. I like to think that Susan Pevensie, the no-longer Friend of Narnia, was adopted by distant relatives of Harold and Alberta Scrubb, the Robertses, who changed her name by deed poll to Margaret Hilda, and, in time, married a man ten years her senior named Denis Thatcher.

      Kevin Brown is not ready to read a comic-book featuring the Iron Lady, because she’s not meant for turning, even when adamantium (or vibranium!) figures in the story.

    • Gabby

      Yes, it’s Frankie!

  5. Epicus Doomus

    An arc about obscene comic books…man, too bad SoSF didn’t exist back then. We would have had a field day with comic book cover parodies. Come to think of it, it might have even gotten out of hand. Sigh. The 00s were just a simpler time, I suppose. Lisa wasn’t even dead yet in ’05.

  6. spacemanspiff85

    As annoying as storylines like this were, every time I see them I’m just shocked that things actually happened in this strip, at one time. Late stage Batiuk would’ve just had Roberta give John a dirty look, a Sunday strip cover, and then a month of Batom strips.
    And maybe it’s just me, but having the adult comics directly across from the cash register without anything covering them up does not seem like the best idea.

  7. billytheskink

    WE HAVE ARRIVED! My favorite FW strip of all time!

    I remember reading this strip in the newspaper when it was first printed. I was in college at the time, and though I was 3 hours away from the major metro area I grew up in I was able to pick up their paper from a box on campus using a little plastic key that the paper sold me for $20 when I was a freshman. And I picked that paper up every day (along with the student paper) and usually read it over lunch in the cafeteria (where I also worked in the evenings).

    And so it was with this strip, I was poring over the three-and-a-half pages (!!!) of comics over lunch and got to Funky Winkerbean near the end… and I laughed! Out loud, though not loudly I don’t think. Then I ate my peanut butter cookie. Probably. But I distinctly remember laughing at this strip.

    At the time, I regarded FW as something fairly unique on the comics page, a hybrid comic strip: part gag delivery vehicle and part soap opera strips. What I found most interesting about it was not its humor or its soapy stories that even then I found overly maudlin, it was its deep roster of characters. I liked connecting the dots as to which characters the latest story was about and what their latest experience added to their history.

    So going into this strip, I knew much of DSH’s background, his history with Lefty, when he got his stupid haircut, all that. And then I see him get arrested at his own cash register by an undercover cop wearing the world’s worst DB Cooper costume… I couldn’t help but laugh it was so absurd. I’m still laughing.

    • Green Luthor

      I get less “DB Cooper” and more “guy trying to be sneaky about going into a 1970s Times Square porno theater” vibes. (Which, honestly, turns the entire thing into “Proto-Skunky sold adult comics to a guy who was very obviously looking to buy adult comics”.) (Though the idea that DB Cooper completely vanished only to take up residence in Westview is also rife with comedic potential…)

      (And in that last panel, he kinda looks like Henry Mitchell (Dennis the Menace’s dad), which would be hilarious in its own right…)

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        Ah, thank you for reminding me of George Carlin’s routine about the man selling “shit” to someone. When he offers to throw in some paper, the customer says he’ll “take several rolls.”

        Good shit often comes from Cambodia and makes the tastiest brownies.

    • Paul Jones

      Tt’s as absurd as his “Just Say No” arc from Crankshaft. Jfffff caught Max with a reefer and told him a month long story about a really good guitarist who ended up having to get lobotomized and locked away forever because he smoked a joint once.

  8. Paul Jones

    The interesting thing is that Roberta reminds me a Hell of a lot of someone: ELLY PATTERSON. We have the self-righteous stupidity, the need to interfere and the overweening presumption that she is somehow vital to society. We even eventually have the enabler husband telling her to shut her fucking mouth because she’s making an ugly fool of herself to distract herself from being what she is: a bored and poorly educated housewife who wants to invade a public sphere she doesn’t belong in.

    The big difference is that Elly is supposed to be sympathetic while Roberta is a straw woman based on Batiuk’s hatred of his mother pointing out how fucking absurd it is to make silly stories about a man who runs at Impossible Speed punching a man with a freeze ray into a guide to life and how worried she is that will warp his mind.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Batiuk doesn’t realize it, but Roberta drifts into Strawman Has A Point here. She’s not wrong that “adult comics” are a dubious concept, that seem to serve little purpose beyond appealing to fetishes in ways that get around content restrictions. And that John Howard is a pathetic manchild.

      • Andrew

        No objections on Howard, though while there’s a lot that could be said about adult comics and the quality thereof (only thing I have off the top of my head is that The Boys tv show is said to have improved a LOT on the quality of the original comics), it’s not always clear what’s even at the focus of the strawmen’s rage when it comes to Batiuk’s stories. We’re only given an “adult comics” shelf, some extremely on-the-nose faux cover titles (I’m reminded when Codename: Kids Next Door presented a fake R-rated film as “Violence: The Movie”, lul), and later on I guess some clarity of it being a manga of some sort (despite being drawn more like western comic covers). With that sort of broad description that could be anything from the most outlandish Japanese material that raises questions about Westviewian’s secret intrigues, to a specially gory violent comic like the one Justice League book where Superfriends’ Wonder Dog is turned into a violent beast that mauls one of the kids.

        May be too early to call, but I see a parallel to that one week in Act 3 where Les and Susan deal with a room of angry parents complaining about a school play involving cancer. We never actually hear about what the play is beyond the cancer bit, aside from Susan referencing the play Wit in comparison in a way that has confused people over the years to think that was what the school play would be. It was definitely a pretty lukewarm critic-callout storyline where there was word balloons aplenty and Les & Susan “throughoutly” defended their choice, ending with their words being final without any show of rejection or final statement from the parents. Most amusing thing about it was a parent complaining that the school couldn’t “a nice production of Spamalot”.

        • billytheskink

          Oh this arc is worse than the Wit week from back in 2009, mostly because it takes well more than a week and gives us both a strawman Roberta and a strawman lawyer (and a bloviating John Byrne) while further beatifying the insufferable St. Lisa. If it has one redeeming quality it is that it is fairly light on Les.

          But Wit week is a good comparison, because it was a spectacular showcase of TB’s love of the strawman in defense of something he feels personally attacked about when criticized. It really isn’t clear if TB intended for the play Susan chose to be Wit or for Wit to simply be a point of comparison…

          But of course, the merits or issues of Wit are not the point. The point is to defend Lisa’s Story from any and all critics… critics who are clearly nothing but vapid, angry, and unreasonable pearl-clutchers.

          And the defense, not entirely unlike the defense of DSH and “adult” comics we will see in CBH’s archive dive, is that art doesn’t need to entertain if it deals with something “important” or “thought-provoking”.

          And in the week’s capper, we see that art doesn’t need to entertain as long as it is gag-provoking either.

          • Paul Jones

            This one dropped smack dab in the middle of his self flagellation because he made people happy phase. For some reason, the nitwit got it into his skull that happy people were ignorant people unaware of the dangers that beset them.

          • The Duck of Death

            Is Man in Robin’s-Egg Blue Polo Shirt the same guy who browbeat his jock son until Les had to teach the failing athlete “how to like himself”? I can’t remember the details, but Football Prodigy was failing his classes and Bull asked Les to tutor him, and Les found out the kid’s dad was a vicious bully.

            The crewcut is a certain indicator of villainy in Westview, as sure as a black hat and vest in a silent Western serial.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            That jock sure asked the right guy for help. Nobody’s more of an expert at liking himself than Les Moore.

      • Paul Jones

        That’s the thing, though…….he’s not smart enough to realize that you can’t have good guys and bad guys if the bad guy is making more sense because the facts are not to his taste.

  9. Y. Knott

    What’s happening in Crankshaft today?

    Isn’t that Crankshaft character a riot? Isn’t a character who repeats information we already know in the form of a question a total hoot? Isn’t this someone you’d want to read about every day? Doesn’t his form of dialogue transform what would otherwise be a PWG about PTSD into a OSLWG? Do I have to explain that PWG means a Pretty Weak Gag, and OSLWG is an Only Slightly Less Weak Gag? Wasn’t it funnier that I phrased the information in the form of a question? Isn’t it hilarious that ‘rehab’ is totally the wrong word for what sufferers of PTSD would be involved in? Can you picture how terrifying the bus trip must have been, with a bunch of drunk and/or high 17-year-olds looking to let off steam away from their repressive home town for the first time? Can’t you just wait to see what drollery Ed and his friends will be up to tomorrow?

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      drunk and/or high 17-year-olds

      The Funkyverse would have been significantly better if it were more realistic in this regard. Batiuk loves making his world unrelentingly bleak; kids forced to grow up in it would react to that. Act III Westview should have had an Oxycontin problem, a meth problem, a Tide pods problem, a date rape/pregnancy problem (instead of just the one incident that dragged on for decades), a suicide problem, an unemployment problem, a dropout problem, a mass shooting, and whatever else you can think of.

      Instead all it had were comic book problems and Lisa problems.

      • The Duck of Death

        Oh, but it did have a suicide problem. Women were so enchanted, so enraptured by the sexxxxy hunk o’man-meat that was Leslie Moore, that they no longer wanted to live.

        I mean, I assume this was an Ohio-wide problem, but we only saw what was manifested in Westview.

    • J.J. O'Malley

      Regarding the current ‘Shaft arc, may I just point out that for two days in a row (and counting?) Ed has been finding out the whereabouts of the woman he is supposedly dating? At no point did Mary call or see Ed to tell him about her traumatic Ohio-D.C. bus drive, or that she’s going into a hospital, and apparently he was too busy ordering from the Bean’s End website over the weekend to check on her.

      As I mention in my once- (twice-?) pulled GoComics comment, today’s rehash is Batiuk once again leaving his loyal readers in the SOUP: Stretching Out an Unamusing Premise.

      • Y. Knott

        I had not read Crankshaft — at all, ever — until I started doing these updates two weeks ago. So I freely admit I have absolutely no insight to even the most recent developments in Crankshaft lore: my comments are totally based on the most recent installments. Ed has a girlfriend named Mary? News to me!

        • J.J. O'Malley

          Please don’t think I was casting aspersions (or, as Curly would say, “casting asparagus”) on your much-needed Crankshaft updates, Y. It’s the fact that Batiuk himself doesn’t seem to know about Ed and Mary’s relationship that I was pointing out. But yeah, she was the one sitting with him at the opera “Hansel and Gretel” a couple of weeks ago. Whether they were co-workers first or how they met otherwise I have no idea. Anyone out there care to dive in?

        • ComicBookHarriet

          Mary Marzipan was introduced as a new employee in the Bus Barn in September 2013, and she was meant to be the anti-Crankshaft. Sweet, loving, the kids on her bus loved her, and she won over all the coworkers.

          Ed hated her until he learned she was good a bowling. They had their first date a few years later.

          Their shared interest in bowling and gardening had them seeing a lot of each other but Crankshaft didn’t want to say they were in a ‘relationship’.

          They’re like some other older, widowed, not-quite-couples I’ve seen IRL. They enjoy having someone of the opposite sex to go out and do things with, but don’t want to take the relationship further, either because they’re set in their ways, or because they don’t really want to replace a passed spouse.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            That would be an interesting phenomenon to explore… but Batiuk always goes for the cheap, vague, unfunny joke. It would have been powerful for Crankshaft to be honest about why he’s reluctant, instead of HURR DURR THE SHIP HITS AN ICEBERG DURR, like he’s 12. Which isn’t even true, because we know he’s a widower who raised two children.

            Batiuk always, always, always, takes the easy way out rather than deal with the tiniest emotional implications of his own stories. Crankshaft and Mary have a connection despite their differing personalities? They’re “just friends.” Lisa gets a misdiagnosis? Les and Lisa both do nothing while she pouts herself to death. She finally died after 8 years? Skip the next ten years. A minor character died? The characters talk in circles about their own mortality. Holly’s mother bullied her into doing a stupid majorette show where she got seriously injured? Never even address it. The town’s center of activity, employment, and income closes down? It’s open again with no explanation, and bought new cars. Les doesn’t like how the movie is being made? Give him dubious “kill fee” powers, and a second chance where all of Hollywood defers to him, without him even saying what he wants. Characters are concerned about the environment? Make comic book covers. A major character is still in college after 14 years? Put her on “gap year” and let her write the greatest book in human history, from the most banal observation imaginable, assisted by a time-traveling janitor. Then call this an “elegant solution.”

          • The Duck of Death

            [imagine the Citizen Kane clapping gif here, because if I insert gifs or links I always get stuck in the torso chute, but you deserve that gif and more]

            Bravo! A lengthy enumeration of yellow-bellied chicken-heartedness, bragging about its courage. Batty is the Don Knotts of taking a brave stand.

            And we could all add more if we were arsed. I’ll contribute my own favorite Brave Tom Batiuk turned about, and gallantly, he chickened out incidents: Most everything to do with Muslims.

            He wants diversity points, but certainly doesn’t want to learn anything about Islam or how recent immigrants feel about the US or any issues they have with our radically different culture.

            So he does what he does with all sympathetic characters: Makes them Tom Batiuk in a hijab. Or a keffiyeh. Khahn was an Afghan warlord, for heaven’s sake, and he blended right in to kaffir society as if born and raised in Akron. They’re Just Like Us,™️, all right! You know who is just like Les too? Black people. No difference in culture or sensibility or opinions. No friction when moving a fatherless black daughter in as a sister to a motherless white daughter. All smooth sailing.

            I think it’s more than just a lack of “theory of mind,” as BJr6K has said, more than just not being able to imagine different thought processes. I think it’s that Bats can’t imagine a “good guy” who’s radically different from him. He can’t conceive how to write a sympathetic protagonist who (for example) is a devout Muslim who is uncomfortable being asked to serve pork or put up Christmas decorations. Or an Afghan who harbors rage over US actions in his country. Or a black person whose family is unhappy about her new white boyfriend and their granddaughter being raised by a white dad. All of those characters could be very sympathetic and interesting in the hands of a capable writer.

            Too bad we’re not dealing with a capable writer.

          • Y. Knott

            Thanks for the research and updates, CBH!

            You can certainly understand, I hope, that there was simply no way for me to divine — based solely on Ed’s utter indifference when he hears that Mary is going through rehab based on a recent traumatic incident — that Mary is Ed’s close quasi-girlfriend.

            In some ways, I’m probably the last person around here who should be doing Crankshaft updates, as I know absolutely nothing about the strip’s history or characters. On the other hand, I seem to know about as much of the strip’s history as Tom Batiuk can be bothered to remember, so maybe that gives me the extremely limited perspective I need?

  10. be ware of eve hill

    HOORAY! (happy claps) It’s Kevin Brown, the subject of my requested deep dive. Thank you, Harriet!

    Shutting up now to prevent revealing any spoilers. 🤐

    • The Duck of Death

      No one could spoil this arc more than Batiuk himself, with his ridiculous, cowardly deus ex machina “reveal.”

  11. Maxine of Arc

    Those covers certainly threw me back to the decidedly unpleasant experience of first entering a comic shop as a 14-year-old girl in the mid-80s. A lot of easily internalized messages on display there. *shudder* Delighted to see that things had only calmed down slightly by 2005.

    These days I’m an Old so I can ignore anything on the shelves that is clearly Not For Me, but as a teen that was a weird and isolating feeling. But that’s not what this storyline is about! It’s about plain old fetish porn, which I have much less strong feelings about! Go figure.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      I’m a man the same age as you, and some of the “comic books” my friends had at the time struck me as little more than niche fetish porn. (And 14-year-old me wasn’t exactly opposed to porn in principle.) So Roberta might have a point here. But as Andrew points out, this story is so vague, we can’t even judge the merits of her position. She’s wrong because Tom Batiuk says so, and he’ll soon let the always-correct Lisa (her name be praised) tell her how wrong he is.

      • Maxine of Arc

        Inasmuch as it doesn’t look like there’s any particular guardianship of the adult section other than a small sign, she might have a point. But if, as Lisa says, they’re marked as adult materials and sold to adults, there’s not much of an issue. I well recall a time when my local chain bookstore, when there were such things, sold porn right out on the stacks for any, say, curious youngster to page through when their parents weren’t looking. The mere existence of porn isn’t illegal, and as far as Roberta knows John didn’t sell it to children. But Lisa gets a soapbox to Defend Free Speech. Woo.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          If they’re marked as adult materials and sold to adults, and the undercover “buyer” was an adult, what law did he even break? Seems like all Lisa would have to do is move for summary judgment. (Meaning, existing law is clear on the matter.) But I’m sure she had to make some brilliant legal maneuever and then lecture the court about the importance of comic books, because Tom Batiuk.

      • The Duck of Death

        Why is it that when Batty sets out to defend some principle, he always seems to chicken out and reduce it to the smallest, most defensible, most parochial microcosm, so that it doesn’t even need defending?

        While he’s taking his fearless stance in favor of free expression, how far would he go? Would he defend hentai? How about loli? Would he defend Western comics depicting S&M? Vore? How about extremist content — a far-right or far-left comic with terrorist heroes? A graphic, sympathetic cartoon bio of a mass murderer or dictator?

        What if the issue were a depiction of Muhammed in a comic, and Rana and Adeela led an angry confrontation accusing DSH John of cultural violence?

        Because it’s easy to defend free speech when your antagonists are moronic strawmen who can’t muster an argument other than “duh… I don’t like it!” And when the content is nothing more than drawings of consensual sex between adults.

        What happens when the content is something Tom doesn’t like? What if it’s accused of being racist, sexist, transphobic, extremist, etc etc? Should it be forcibly removed from shelves then? Yes? Why? Why are Roberta Blackburn’s feelings and beliefs stupid, but Tom Batiuk’s are brilliant and valid? Is it because he’s on the Right Side of History, because, you know, he’s an Artist and the Great Tom Batiuk?

        I’m not trying to take the argument into a political sphere here — I’m saying that, in order to take a Brave Stand against censorship, you have to allow the other side a coherent argument. You need to let them score some points, then refute them. Bravest of all would be arguing for the freedom to sell something you despise. Otherwise, your argument boils down to:

        If you don’t like what I like, you’re a stupid meanie doodyhead.

        And that’s what all of TB’s anti-censorship arcs boil down to.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          Everything Tom Batiuk does is reduced to the smallest, most defensible, most parochial microcosm. Cancer is bad. Congress should spend more money on it. Reality shows are bad. Racism is bad. Comic books are good. Funding the school levy is good. John was sad when he didn’t get to propose to Becky when Wally turned out to be alive. Guns are bad and should be melted down. The NFL should have given Linda money for Bull’s CTE. Nothing ever gets more involved than that, even as the characters give you reasons to not instantly side with them. It is the blandest, tamest, and most self-serving storytelling world imaginable.

          Compare this to Simpsons episode “Itchy And Scratchy And Marge”, which had a ton to say about censorship. The dubiousness of blaming “violent media” for real violence; the very scripted TV news debates; the censored shows being so boring they drove children to go outside and play; creators using their show to take cheap shots at their critics; and the movement wanting to censor legitimate art their own founder didn’t find obscene.

          • Maxine of Arc

            And the Simpsons did it all in a single 30-minute TV timeslot.

          • The Duck of Death

            The Simpsons back then had the advantage of superb writers, which meant sharply drawn, complex, and sympathetic characters. So Marge’s objections are automatically not one-dimensional, because we know a lot about who she is. She is old-fashioned, perhaps misguided, but she’s sincerely trying to do the right thing by her children and her community. Every side has something valid to say. The viewer is pulled in by the complexity of the issue, and the show basically leaves the final moral decision to the viewer.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          Yep, you nailed it. Batty is so arrogant with his beliefs. Of course he thinks he is a maverick as he knocks down his straw men.

          As I get older I more and more realize that few things are black and white, and that there is always a another way to look at things.

          Batty can only show two sides and it is always right versus wrong.

          • The Duck of Death

            Yes, I have a kid in high school and I can imagine thinking that “Wit” wouldn’t be a great choice of play. I can’t imagine actually caring enough to protest, but it’s inappropriate in several ways:

            1. It has only one star, and the others are supporting players. Typically high schools aim for productions with ensemble casts so many actors can get stage time and experience

            2. It deals with subject matter that is remote from the experience of high schoolers (a middle-aged woman about to die of cancer) and, as such, can’t be very meaningful to them.

            3. It’s damned depressing. Yes, there is certainly a place for darkness and grimness and fatalism in the face of mortality, but in my opinion the latter years of high school are not that place. It’s a difficult enough phase of life as it is. Let the poor kids have a good time before they hoist the burdens of adulthood onto their shoulders. They’ll have time to get old and sick, to look back on their lives and then die. Let them be young and happy while they can. Let them do “Little Shop of Horrors,” or, yes, “Spamalot,” for crying out softly.

            Naturally no one took these reasonable positions when they protested the play. Naturally there was a straw man: “All entertainments should be shallow happy-clappy fun!”

          • Anonymous Sparrow

            From comic-books, Crazy Harry, I learned that the world isn’t black-and-white, but gray.

            Most satisfyingly, I think, from Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams in “Ulysses Star Is Still Alive” (*GL/GA* #79), which also introduced me to what may be my favorite Norman Mailer book, *The Armies of the Night.*

            John Byrne’s testimony for DSH John probably left no one “Norman Mailered and Maxwell Taylored,” though it may have made some eager for a simple desultory philippic.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            Typically high schools aim for productions with ensemble casts so many actors can get stage time and experience.

            One of the complainers said exactly that. To which Susan said “a school is exactly the place we should encounter thought-provoking ideas.” Which has nothing to do with that, or with any of their complaints. Also, shouldn’t you be provoking the thoughts of the students, not parents visiting the school for a show?

            I swear, all the dialog except Batiuk voicing his opinion could just be “blah blah blah” and it wouldn’t change much. Everything in those balloons is just filler to get the story to that point.

          • Paul Jones

            The problem is that when he does so, he’s so himself that he can’t see when he’s making the wrong people right. He hears phrases like “Being a teenager is a depressing and confusing mess to begin with so a play about someone dying of cancer is kind of stupid and just makes them feel worse than they already do” and the envy of other children who only looked happier makes the person saying day “Other, happier students shouldn’t be happy because they’re bullying me.”

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            (Batiuk is) so himself that he can’t see when he’s making the wrong people right.

            I think it’s worse than that – I think he just plain doesn’t care. His attitude is “I’m the storyteller, I decide who’s right and wrong, it doesn’t matter how the story gets there, the end.” He doesn’t tell stories; he dictates his reality by executive fiat. Batiuk seems blind to the notion that consumers of his stories can form their own opinions about the characters and events.

            And the Funkyverse is loaded with characters who simply don’t have the impact Batiuk thinks they do. He refuses to acknowledge external opinions, even when they’re positive: Becky and Wally are well-liked characters, because they’re NOT bitter and negative about life when they have every right to be. Granted, this is kind of a backhanded insult to the Funkyverse in general, because the main characters are huge whiners despite being incredibly privileged. But Act III was so widely disliked, he should take whatever positives he can find. He’d rather live in his own custom reality.

          • Maxine of Arc

            “Wit” is a terrible choice for a high school play, for all the reasons mentioned above and particularly because it is designed to be carried by a single actor. It just is! Let them discuss it in AP English if they want to talk about drama as a medium for themes of mortality or whatever, but staging it as a class production is ridiculous. The hecklers are RIGHT and Susan is WRONG, if not entirely for the reasons Batiuk thought.

          • billytheskink

            The worst thing, of course, about Susan choosing Wit as the school play (or even bringing Wit up at all) is that she did so while still entangled in a love triangle with a man whose identity is found almost entirely in his wife’s death from cancer. The dead wife, of course, being a part of an earlier love triangle she had put herself in with the same man.

            I really don’t think TB intended for it to look like Susan was trying to score points with Les by choosing a play about cancer, but it totally looked like that. Yuck.

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            And it’s not just Les; this whole storytelling world’s identity is wrapped up in this unremarkable, ignoble cancer death. Holly put her own and other people’s cancer aside to make sure Not Yet Dead Lisa was front-and-center for a trip to Washington to lecture Congress for not spending enough billions to save her, when she wasn’t lifting a finger to save herself. It’s sick, is what it is.

            I stumbled across this video recently. And holy cow, did it feel good to watch.

  12. Gerard Plourde

    Oddly, the issue of prosecution for the sale of adult comics to adults was a real possibility in some places in the 2000s and the result would not have been good for DSH. In the article below the facts recounted in Texas v. Castillo are almost identical and resulted in a conviction that survived appeal.

    • Gerard Plourde

      Here’s Wikipedia’s article on the case that gives a good concise overview of the facts and case history.

    • The Duck of Death

      That’s fascinating. I’m betting Bats pulled from that case to write his arc. Why didn’t the defense point to 1992 Pulitzer winner Maus, among other very non-kid-oriented comics?

      Kids today really don’t read comic books. I mean, some do, but it’s a niche activity now. Either the defense in Texas v Castillo was asleep at the switch, or the jury was as dense as adamantium.

      • Gerard Plourde

        The problem with that defense would be that if the obscenity statute itself survived an appeal that raised First Amendment issues on the grounds that it violated the standards of the local community (a rationale similar to that which the Supreme Court used to overrule Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs decision last year), then the magazine being sold would be deemed obscene by definition and a guilty verdict would be unavoidable.

  13. Y. Knott

    Today in Crankshaft-sits-there-and-listens-t0-chatter-while-not-reacting:

    Wow, Batiuk must figure he really hit gold with the bus driver “rehab” clinic.

    Uh-huh, Tom. It’s so hilarious, you can simply just talk about it for three days, and the laughs will flow! Sure, people will think it’s hysterical that drugs are being used to treat stress! And yes, absolutely, you’re completely reading the room in thinking that PTSD is a prime subject for sneering satire … or that people working in American schools today deserve to be ribbed for their ‘unreasonable’ demands for a less stressful working environment.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      You know how they say “don’t explain the joke”? On Planet Batiuk, explaining the joke *is* the joke. So far it’s been one day of saying “Mary’s in rehab, but for a class trip, LOL” and two days of explaining what “rehab” means.

      It’s also pretty considering galling watching him throw PTSD around after tried to mine it for drama with Wally. And how indifferent Crankshaft is about his supposed girlfriend. And how the story isn’t even *telling* us anything about this senior trip. The strip has atrophied from “tell, don’t show” into “tell about, in lieu of telling.” For a barely-seen character. This is what Ron White called “third generation don’t give a shit.”

      • Y. Knott

        As discussed in an earlier thread above, I’m completely new to the strip — so I had literally no idea that the woman being discussed was Ed’s girlfriend. And based on solely this series of strips, how could I? If Mary’s his girlfriend, Ed’s non-reactions to what’s being discussed are utterly sociopathic, verging on psychotic.

        This does lend a whole new dimension to this series of strips. Not a good dimension, let alone a funny dimension. But absolutely a dimension worth discussing.

      • The Duck of Death

        Worse, “rehab” almost always means drug or alcohol addiction treatment, or rehabilitation after a stroke or other severely disabling event.

        Admission to a psychiatric hospital after a traumatic event is not called “rehab.” It’s also not funny. A talented practitioner of black humor could wring some chuckles out of it, maybe, but, well, here we are.

  14. be ware of eve hill

    The cover of Marvel Knights Spider-Man #10 bugs me.

    A one-minute online search informed me the woman on the cover is named “Black Cat” (see, online research is easy, Mr. Batiuk). BTW, shouldn’t she have black hair? The white/platinum blonde hair is confusing. If she had a couple white stripes down her back, she could be called “Pole Cat.” Isn’t encountering a skunk considered bad luck, too?

    Black Cat is supposed to be an athlete. Shouldn’t she be drawn more like an athlete? I understand why she’s illustrated this way, but don’t guys find athletic women attractive too? On that cover, Black Cat looks like a refugee from Little Annie Fannie. She’s fortunate to have that ample derrière to counterbalance her prodigious chest. That narrow waist? Have fun with spinal issues, sweetie. Her costume bothers me too. It’s skintight, and she’s spilling out of it.

    Reminds me of an incident that occurred at the gym at work. An attractive, rather buxom young lady was checking out the workout facilities. She was wearing a tank over her regular bra. She picked out a treadmill and chose a moderate-speed jog. Her bouncing bosom drew stares from several guys. Five minutes into her jog, I heard a commotion. Her bra strap broke, and she beat a hasty retreat into the locker room. Two words, young lady. Sports bra.

    I can easily imagine a similar scenario in the Spider-Man comic.
    Green Goblin: Where did Black Cat go? Has she retreated from the battle?
    Spider-Man: She was forced to withdraw. Wardrobe malfunction.