Cranky Revolt








(If you would like to discuss how tone deaf, baffling, and awkward Friday’s Crankshaft was, you can stay.)



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

44 responses to “Cranky Revolt

  1. sorialpromise

    Chick Tracts yesterday. Billy Sunday today. It is the most inspired I have ever been reading Mr. Batiuk.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      I’m just glad someone got the reference! I wanted someone older than Billy Graham, but famous enough to draw a crowd.

      • mrvy

        You got me to look up someone I’d never heard of before! Being a Catholic, I find myself wondering how Billy Sunday’s preaching style would compare to Venerable Fulton Sheen’s.

        • sorialpromise

          They were totally opposite in style, but had the same purpose of changing people’s lives for God.
          Brother Sunday was a fireball on stage. He was a former professional athlete. Rapid movements crisscrossing the stage. He was very intimate with his listeners, and knew the different groups attending his meetings. At night’s end, he would challenge the various groups to come forward and make commitments to Christ. Thousands did.
          Bishop Sheen was just as effective on TV. He was intimate and magnetic. You just wanted to listen to him. My Mom would shush 5 kids, so we all could listen. People’s lives were changed for the better because of both men.

        • mrvy

          I didn’t mean to downvote my own comment, sigh.

  2. Epicus Doomus

    As you know, I’d ordinarily choose oral surgery over reading “Crankshaft” 100 out of 100 times, but my curiosity overcame me. Ooooof. Batiuk at his most tone-deaf and try-hard. He tried really hard to make it wry, too, like that would somehow soften the gag, but, as always, it really just makes it seem even dumber.

    Coming next week: Wally visits the Crankyverse to deliver a thoughtful soliloquy re: the proper use of the word “triggering”, at least until Crankshaft’s burnt toast “triggers” the smoke alarm, and sends Wally fleeing for cover. Wryness ensues.

  3. Paul Jones

    I remember his clunky take on the Kent State shootings and why Ed hates Jeff. It seems that Ed thinks that Jeff is the one who wanted to hang around and put Pam in harm’s way when his response was to tell her to join him in ambling quietly away and not stopping until they were in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

  4. gleeb

    Why is the hospital playing that in a constant loop on the wards anyway?

  5. Rusty Shackleford

    I was tempted to post something on GC but I am so tired of everything being politicized that I just walked away.

    Maybe GC will ditch Crankshaft.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      I did get a good laugh from the commenter who said “ it looks like Tucker already found a new job”.

  6. billytheskink

    You can find humor in the trivializing of a non-trivial event, and (this is as political as I will ever get on here) January 6 is something that no one on either side of the issue considers to be trivial. But there is not humor inherent to trivializing such an event, it has to be in the service of some point beyond “kids on field trips be crazy on the bus”. Generally, successful versions of such jokes use the trivialization to mock the trivializer for being obtuse or to use the trivial effects of non-trivial events to reinforce how non-trivial the event was. Sometimes, these jokes do both.

    There’s a well-worn joke about a German visiting New York and complaining about he can’t get a decent bagel back in Germany… being told “who’s fault is that?”. A trivial take on a non-trivial event that has a point an a punchline! What a concept.

    Also, at this point in his career, TB is just plain bad at getting anything out of the few jokes with potential that he does write. Not that this is a mystery to us, of course. Nearly every single one of them is about the worst version of what it could be, at least partially because neither TB nor Davis seems interested in using the artwork to help sell the jokes (I know TB doesn’t think comics have to be funny, but sheesh).

    Today’s Crankshaft isn’t terribly funny, but it could have been improved significantly with a small change in artwork. Move the blue tent INSIDE the bus driver’s lounge. Suddenly the weak gag that Mary’s PTSCTD (ugh) requires on-site treatment in one of those quick-folding tents that football teams use these days to treat injured players on the sidelines leans into the absurdity of its premise. It’s 100 times as ridiculous that the tent is indoors rather than outside and 1,000 times as ridiculous that Andy and ‘Shaft are asking Lena about Mary when the big blue tent is just a few feet away in the same room they are.

    • Y. Knott

      Today’s Crankshaft isn’t just not funny, it’s flat-out bewildering. Mary’s trauma is still being played for (non-existent) laughs. The blue tent ‘gag’ is, as billytheskink points out, poorly executed. And after spending a couple of days building up a hospital visit … we don’t actually see it. (Which is prime Batiuk, of course — all intro, no payoff. But it’s still utterly confounding every time it happens.)

      Now it’s a couple of days later. Ed is still overwhelmingly indifferent to all this, and while it’s refreshing to not have him utter a stupid, unfunny malaprop, I’m definitely of the opinion that Ed’s silent psychotic detachment is not as entertaining as Batiuk seems to think it is.

      Can you imagine if Crankshaft was a brand new strip, and the last couple of weeks worth of strips were sent out as samples to get newspapers interested? Not only would the answer be a resounding no, there might be some editors thinking about obtaining a restraining order to make sure this clearly disturbed individual never contacts them again.

    • J.J. O'Malley

      Not having the slightest interest in pro football, I’ll cop to being totally in the dark with the “blue tent” and today’s knee-slapper of a “punchline” (They set up a trauma tent for one employee? They couldn’t just drive Mary back to the hospital/rehab clinic/whatever?).

      Also, billy…”Andy and ‘Shaft are asking Lena about Mary”? As my soon-to-be-banished GC comment points out, our titular hero–who’s been dating Mary Marzipan/Cummings for a couple of years–has had precisely two lines of dialogue in this week’s arc on his girlfriend’s health issues. Every ounce of concern for her has come from Andy, while Cranky stands around or sits and drinks coffee. Nora’s husband in “A Doll’s House” was a more attentive significant other.

  7. The Duck of Death

    Thank you, CBH, for eschewing politics AND somehow making this last dreary week of Crankshaft funny! They said it couldn’t be done, but somehow you did it!

    That GoComics comment section really is a free-for-all for smug dopes, isn’t it? The CK comments section used to flame the pantaloons of anyone who stormed in with their boring, unoriginal political takes. They didn’t last long. We liked our snark politics-free.

    The sad thing is that this tiresome attempt at a gag could actually have been at least a tiny bit funny if the thing on TV had been:

    — The children’s show “The Magic School Bus”
    — A kids’ show in which someone is singing “the wheels on the bus”
    or perhaps
    — The films Speed or Mr Smith Goes to Washington

    No matter what the punchline is, it’s hard to salvage yuk-yuks from a scenario in which Ed mutely and apathetically tags along to see his girlfriend comatose/sedated(?) after an ordeal so traumatic it’s hospitalized her.

    I feel like someone told Bats that one of the keystones of comedy is humorous exaggeration, and he took that on board, but didn’t quite get it.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Right, this joke could have been done much better, but I suppose he was just looking for a reason to shoehorn in his political beliefs.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        Which are what? If there’s a political joke or commentary here, it’s not apparent.

        • none

          “The incidents of J6 are as equally significant and traumatic to the experience of driving a bus full of high school seniors on a class trip”, I guess?

        • William Thompson

          My takeaway on the January 6 mention was that Batiuk used to be a year behind the times. Now, with less “work” to do, he’s more than two years behind. Progress! I can’t wait until he’s so far behind he’s drawing his strips on the cave walls.

  8. Andrew

    I mentioned it last night going through the comments, but Crankshaft was always in an awkward place with the modern Funkyverse. It basically absorbed all the over-the-top cartoon energy of Act 1’s era of flaming baton acts, teleporting school computer and Crazy’s “bigger on the inside” locker while the main strip moved on and dismissed those antics as mostly playtime imagination (how may Timemop explain that I wonder), all in the service of having bus drivers run a racket of intentionally making kids miss the bus, have badly-cooked brownies be harder than diamonds (has that woman ever been seen eating them herself?), and blowing up grills as an annual, escalating tradition.

    Yet at the same time Batiuk was willing to give the strip fairly Very Special Episodes when talking about Kent State, kids joining gangs, dementia and other elderly sufferings and the emotional rollercoaster of caring for an aging abusive mother. Act 1 did get serious, but only at the end, and didn’t really balance out the zanyness that gripped the strip for the first 20 years. Keeping up that mix in Crankshaft just makes the strip that much harder to take seriously, which is part of why I still find it funny the time Les & Lisa made a cameo mid-cancer grieving.

    Also thinking about extended Crankshaft lore alongside Timemop’s explanation of Westview/Centerview’s “time bubble” differential, it kills me that not only did we see an elderly Jff survive California wildfires (that had “major” “”dramatic”” weight to other characters’ stories) with the hallucinated ghost of his child self and the the characters of the Phantom Empire guiding him into their cave for safety (with the whimsy implication they could’ve been real?!), but then we’re presented as early as 2021 with callbacks to his rock souvenir that he kept snapping between old and middle age because a time traveler’s “nudges” kept creating age snaps. To say nothing of Funky’s Dick Tracy crossover and all that implies (Freakin moon aliens!).

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Tom Batiuk runs on the Comedy Disconnect. This isn’t a TVTropes thing, it’s from a book called The Comedy Bible, which says:

      “When the comic tries to be funny, rather than communicate ideas. Or, a desperate attempt to get laughs at any cost.”

      Tom Batiuk hasn’t communicated an idea in decades. Ideas exist only to support his terrible gag writing. Like “Mary and Crankshaft are in a relationship” or “Mary took a senior trip to Washington D.C.,” both of which don’t exist anywhere else in this world and will only be brought up again when needed.

      Then he spends all day describing the situation over and over. It feels like he doesn’t get to the point. but he never had a point. The purpose of language is to fill space so he can keep publishing strips and getting money to buy comic books.

      • ComicBookHarriet

        Of course, there is a reason he had to describe the situation over and over and over this week. It’s because Cranky is still carried in newspapers that someone like my mom might read one day and not read the next. It is supposed to be mostly gag-a-day for seniors. That’s the only reason it survives.

        Which is why Cranky, and lots of other strips, rely on reused situations as shorthand, or visually distinct settings. You don’t need to explain the situation if Cranky has a rake in hand and is staring at a leaf that won’t fall. Or if Cranky is dressed as Santa and sitting in a store.

        But if the set up is weird and unable to be shown, then it has to be described anew EVERY DAY. Only the truly soapy strips, ala Mary Worth or Judge Parker, can get away without this.

        My edits above wouldn’t work in that situation, because some of the strips are dependent on you knowing what happened earlier.

        You shouldn’t do an entire week of only two and three panel comic strips with a premise that it takes 10 plus words to set up every single day.

        • Mela

          Excellent point, CBH. Every strip last week was the same joke: “those rotten kids gave the bus driver PTSD”. It would have worked better as a one day gag because by the end of the week I was thinking, “Good Lord, Mary, if driving the kids around puts you in the HOSPITAL, then perhaps it’s time to retire.” And do we know what these kids did that was so terrible? Did they rip the seats out of the bus? Were they smoking in the back of the bus? Did they threaten each other with violence? Or were they just a little too loud? My guess is that they were simply guilty of being average teenagers. Oh, the horror!

          Generally, when Crankshaft contains the daily one day puns, I think it’s harder to snark on because they’re either funny or they aren’t and that’s about as far as I can go with it. But I don’t have CBH’s skewering ability either. The sendup of the most recent strips was fabulous and far funnier than the originals.

          And though I haven’t commented much of late, I’m still lurking about and enjoying the deep dives. In the past week, I learned about cows and farming and have seen references to Ookla the Mok, Stan Freberg and Weird Al, so y’all are still my people! And I think I may have an answer as to how Becky ended up married to John in Act III-to annoy her mother.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          But that’s not happening here. This is not restating the situation so readers will understand the context of a larger-scope joke. It’s restating the situation again so it can tell a very similar joke.

          • ComicBookHarriet

            I think it’s a little of both. He has to restate the situation for the readers who only got one strip. But that restatement is so long and convoluted that he doesn’t have room for a whole new joke built on the situation. So he just has to tell the same joke all week long.

          • Y. Knott

            Reading Batiuk is a master class in every way you can fail as a writer. Sure, you can learn from studying the masters like Watterson…but you can also learn by studying Batuik’s utter inability to communicate.

            “Ah, THAT’S why you don’t do it like that! Right! It really WOULD suck if I did it that way! Well, I’ll be extra-sure not to Batiuk up my work like this guy did!”

          • Banana Jr. 6000

            I have mentioned How Not To Write A Novel, an instructive (and very funny) book full of bad writing examples. You could find a Batiuk example for 60% of them. He does pretty much everything the book tells you not to.

  9. batgirl

    I was trying to compose a theory that PTSD is serious in the Funkyverse (Wally) but a joke in the Crankyverse – but then I remembered that the arc with Crankshaft-as-Santa giving little kids PTSD by verbal abuse was a crossover-flashback in FW.
    So scratch that. PTSD is funny whenever TB figures he can use it in a joke, and serious when he wants to make a point.

  10. Gerard Plourde

    “The sad thing is that this tiresome attempt at a gag could actually have been at least a tiny bit funny if the thing on TV had been:

    — The children’s show ‘The Magic School Bus’
    — A kids’ show in which someone is singing ‘the wheels on the bus’
    or perhaps
    — The films ‘Speed’ or ‘Mr Smith Goes to ‘Washington’”

    “Tom Batiuk runs on the Comedy Disconnect.”

    TDOD and BJr6000 have hit the nail on the head here. For reasons unknown, Batiuk, in his search for a frame for his punchline, seems totally incapable of conceiving a relatable (or even a coherent) way of doing that. His odd phrasings and unreal scenarios have been and continue to be a source of befuddlement (and some excellent research and parody by our contributors) for us here. Whatever the cause of this scripting handicap, it is a testament to his ability as a salesman that he has been able to successfully market these strips for over a half-century.

  11. The Duck of Death

    Here’s an interesting bit of news… TB was scheduled to appear at the Ohioana Book Festival. However, he cancelled. No word about why from the festival or on any of TB’s social media. Odd.

    I’m breaking up this link so I don’t get stuck in the torso chute.


  12. The Duck of Death

    Well, I tried to post a link but as always, it got stuck in the spamtrap. Anyhoo… TB had been scheduled to appear at the Ohioana Book Festival, but cancelled shortly beforehand. No word on why from him or the festival.

    Wonder why?

    Source: Apr 21 post on Instagram from the account ohioanalibrary.

  13. Y. Knott

    In today’s Crankshaft, I guess the exciting saga of Mary’s trauma is over. Gosh, it sure is amusing how Ed is FAR more concerned with a misplaced coupon than he is about his girlfriend’s hospitalization.

    A coupon which, incidentally, he could probably just go back to his computer for, and reprint? Or just keep on his phone?

    Add “digital coupons” to the long, long, LONG list of things Tom Batiuk doesn’t understand. (Of course, “how humans behave and talk” is already high up on that list.)

    • The Duck of Death

      And yet again, Pmm starts us off with a wasted question, a wasted panel. It’s usually the same question, and today is no exception:

      “What are you doing?”

      What an unrepentant hack Tom is.

      • The Duck of Death

        … and adding that I realize these are “throwaway panels,” which are sometimes discarded by certain newspapers to save space. There’s still no excuse; other Sunday comics manage to put gags in their throwaway panels, or add exposition that’s not teeth-grittingly forced. The guy’s been at this for 50 years. He should have developed this skill by now.

        • Y. Knott

          With Batiuk, all panels are throwaway panels.

          Technically, however, the throwaway panel for this strip is the Crankshaft title panel. The other six panels, including Pam’s pointless intro, are the ones that every subscribing newspaper will run.

    • Green Luthor

      Also, “discount coupon”? As in, a coupon that gives you a discount on the purchase of something? As in, what normal English-speaking human beings would simply call a “coupon”? (More fodder for the Batiuktionary, I suppose.)

  14. Gerard Plourde

    I’d actually like to know what Crankshaft would be buying at the office supply store. It doesn’t carry gardening supplies or the stuff he needs to make a flame thrower or send his barbecue grill into orbit.

    • The Duck of Death

      That’s a very interesting point. Shouldn’t it be a Bean’s End coupon, or at the very least a Home Depot-type store?

    • Y. Knott

      He’s out of paper.

      He’d buy more … but, of course, he can’t print the coupon.

      There. Took about two seconds to come up with a funnier punchline than Batiuk.