Author Archives: beckoningchasm

This is the farmer sowing his corn

Link to today’s strip.

Good grief, look at that word zeppelin in panel one.

This the dolt who made the call
To schedule the audition
To fill the position
To be the organist
Down at the church that Tom built.

Presumably Harriet was right there the whole time and knows what was going on; of course, given the writing in this strip I’m surprised she didn’t repeat his words verbatim in her panel five frog-face. After all, she outlined all his other accomplishments and (of course) concluded that he was the best thing evar. In probably the fastest 180 I’ve ever seen.

The reason being, this entire episode is Tom Batiuk publicly patting himself on the back. “Look at this terrific character I created! Is this award-winning or what?”

As mentioned yesterday, unless this church has a single Sunday service, Dinkle will be spending a lot of time there. Most churches I’m familiar with have several Sunday services, a couple on Saturday and at least one every weekday. Let’s not even bring up holidays. That’s going to cut into a lot of Dinkle’s other activities. (Come to think, how does Lillian manage to run her bookstore? Answer: it’s magic. Dark magic.)

All of which promises what could be could be an interesting twist: what if Dinkle failed the audition? I think it would be the first time in the strip when he didn’t get everything he wanted. It might humble him and make for a rounder character.

And of course it will never happen. The strip is now total wish-fulfillment and trivial observations. Where every “hero” character is Superman.

And with that, I am out of here. Please welcome the always erudite and entertaining Epicus Doomus who will be your host for the next couple of weeks. Exit, stage left!

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The Old Die Rich

Link to today’s strip.

I’m not sure God appreciates being mentioned in Funky Winkerbean, especially in connection with Harry Dinkle, but his “at our age” remark raises a question.

When the organist died in Crankshaft, the immediate substitute was ancient crone Lillian. Here, Batiuk is going to reward the equally ancient (and equally loathsome) Dinkle with the position. Why wouldn’t the church try to find a younger person, one who could be expected to helm the organ for many years to come (before dropping dead)? I don’t think it’s especially rigorous physical work (I’m not an organist), but unless the church only has a single Sunday service, the organist is going to be spending a lot of time there.

Perhaps the job is a voluntary one, and there’s little (or no) pay, and a younger person would need a salary. A retired person wouldn’t have this worry.

But…I’m starting to think Tom Batiuk just hates young people. Whenever they appear, they are invariably shown as worthless idiots completely out of clues. Think of the youngest characters he’s shown us (Skyler, Bernie, the other high schoolers) and tell me I’m wrong.

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Inkle Dinkle Do

Link to today’s strip.

And as many predicted, here comes Dinkle to be rewarded. To be honest, my impression of the character is that he’s something of a tyrant, so I don’t know how suited he would be to work in a church. But Batiuk’s gonna Batiuk, and it’s time to praise Dinkle to the skies.

I forgot to mention the joke yesterday, but that’s okay as it reappears here as…I think…”Newspapers, am I right?”

I don’t know if Batiuk is making fun of newspapers or making fun of people who’ve abandoned them. It might be that even he doesn’t know. He seems to be wary of online things and prefers the old fashioned stuff. But who really knows?

All I can tell you is that this week has been a slog. Uninteresting characters discussing dull trivia. Admittedly, that’s every week, but this one seems especially devoid of even the tiniest bit of substance to grab on to.

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The Audience is Wide

Link to today’s strip.

For a man who has such great pride in his writing ability, Tom Batiuk shows remarkably little evidence of having any.

The fact that we’re on our fourth day of this non-story gives a very good picture of Batiuk’s “writing” process.

First, set up a situation. A church needs a new organist. It’s a fine premise, it would be possible to tell an interesting story with that situation. Except for the next step.

Second, find something in the premise that’s incredibly trivial and inconsequential, and stretch the Hell out of it. You should be able to get an entire week out of this; if you put in the effort, you can get two or even three weeks.

Third, go for an ending where you get to reward your hero characters with little or no effort.

As mentioned, finding an new organist could make an interesting story. You could have several characters try out for the position–one person who has always wanted the job, another who is qualified but hasn’t been a member of the church for years, perhaps a relative who thinks the position should be his, etc. Drama is certainly a possibility, as well as some interesting character work.

But not in Funky Winkerbean.

Heck, if you hired Tom Batiuk to write a “Fast and Furious” movie, the characters would spend two hours looking for their car keys. Then at the end, they’d be handed their car keys by an unintroduced character, and they’d spend the rest of the movie admiring themselves, their abilities, and their struggles to get those car keys.

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Let’s All Gather in the Gathering Room

Link to today’s strip.

Here it is Wednesday and we’re still all glabbering about replacing the organist. I realize that this is all supposed to be happening on the same day, strip-wise, but it makes it excruciatingly slow for the reader.

I know Batiuk doesn’t give a cusser’s tink for his readers, but he needn’t be so blatant about it.

This week’s strips together make the most desolate wasteland I’ve seen in this strip for a long while. If he really needs to stretch this sort of stuff out, he should give serious thought to retiring. Yeah, I know there’s some Golden Something award if he makes it to 50 years, but give the world a break.

This reminds me of people who talk constantly, who never shut up, and who also never say anything. It’s like they have to fill the world with noise, but it’s never interesting noise.

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I Get Carried Away

Link to today’s strip.

As I mentioned yesterday, we really have no timeframe for the events in Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean. I, therefore, find it funny to think that Lillian’s been on the job for only a day or two and has immediately been proven unsuitable.

I think that’s the first time I’ve found the strip “funny.” So, good job.

I don’t know why Batiuk insists on doing these terrible crossovers. Scratch that–I do know why. It’s to get people interested in reading the other strip. The thing is, if you’re telling people you’ve got something else that they may like, that something else better not be Crankshaft.

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The Old Rugged Crossover

Link to today’s strip.

So, if you’re lucky enough that you don’t follow Crankshaft, you’ll have no idea who these people are or what’s going on.

I rarely look at it; Batiuk is insufferable enough when he’s trying to be serious, but he’s unbearable when he tries to be funny. The short version is that a church organist died right in the middle of a service, and the much-loathed Lillian was drafted as a replacement. Although based on today’s thing, it looks like she’s not so much a replacement as a downgrade.

My question is this: when we see Crankshaft in Funky Winkerbean, he’s a barely sentient pile fastened to a wheelchair in the assisted living home. In Crankshaft, he and Lillian appear to be roughly the same age (if anything I’d say she’s older). So why isn’t she in Bedside Manor in a similar condition? “Well, we’d have no story.” That’s no excuse, we haven’t had a story in years.

Let me say, too, that the timeline is very confusing here. The “organist dies” bit just happened in Crankshaft. I suppose it’s possible that today’s strip is happening years later, but the scheduling of the two strips makes it seem like it’s all happening at the same time. Not even a fig leaf of dialogue, “Well, I’ve been the organist now for ten years” or something (I don’t claim to be a writer). If you’re going to be confusing, it’s a good idea to have something of substance to make it worthwhile to unravel.

“Lillian” sure does have a lot of squiggly L’s. Good thing her last name isn’t Llewellyn.

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Through a Glass, Dorkly

Link to today’s strip.

Gosh, Mr. Batiuk, that sure is a swell observation about Superman’s glasses, but don’t you think it might be too clever? I mean, it’s so deep and true and sure to leave an impact on the world at large. Here, you’re wasting it in the funny pages, which, aside from the notable exception of your own work, is chodder for dum-dums who can’t handle innovation! Maybe you should write a book — “Superman’s Story – The Other Lens” — and send it to those clodhoppers at the Pulitzer Committee! And write on the inside cover, “Here’s some genius–let’s see if you can recognize it!”

I believe Dullard’s “clever” observation has probably been in circulation since, oh, I dunno, probably as long as Superman himself. I’m sure there have been a number of theories about why it works when it shouldn’t. I recall one of the more, uh, fanciful ideas was that Superman is actually using a low-level form of his “super hypnotism” power. Against the entire world. At all times. That sounds like something Batiuk would write, so maybe DC should have snapped him up when they had the chance.

It does remind me of the 1978 Superman film, where Christopher Reeve’s acting style could make you believe that he was two entirely different people. That was an excellent performance, which I don’t think has been bettered in the role of Superman in the years since.

I think that’s the only way I can use the word “excellent” in a post about Funky Winkerbean,

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People Who Are Unalert and Afraid

Link to today’s strip.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but Jessica comes across as emotionally unstable, and Dullard comes across as a clueless clod. The fact that she’s ready to fly off the handle without knowing what’s actually going on, and then immediately turn lovey-dovey would be worrisome to a normal person.

But of course, Dullard isn’t normal. He thought he could hide his glasses from his wife, apparently forever; and he thought sharing his medical condition with his wife (again) was something one simply does not do.

Now, in the hands of a nominally clever writer, this could work, with a lot of details nudged here and there. You could get some good comic mileage out of this kind of a relationship. “Seinfeld,” “Friends” and dozens of other shows managed to make neurotic relationships amusing.

Of course, we are not in the hands of a nominally clever writer. What occurs to me is that this week’s “story” would have worked better with Pete and Mindy as the leads. Pete is already obsessed with his loser nature, and since they’re not married it might be a genuine worry for him that Mindy would say “Ugh! Glasses? No thanks!” Maybe. None of these characters are developed enough so we can reasonably guess what kind of reactions they would have. This week offers proof of this.

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People Like You (Dullard) and You (Jessica)

Link to today’s strip.

So Dullard was afraid that Jessica would think he was a nerd, because he was wearing glasses.

And then what? Divorce him? “Your honor, this man wears glasses. No wife wants a man who wears glasses.”

Seriously? I mean, sure there was a time when wearing glasses was considered “uncool” and perhaps a bit of a stigma…among school children, on television sitcoms. In the 1960‘s (at the latest). And I’m betting on each of those sitcoms the resolution was that it was “okay” to wear glasses.

Today, I’m not sure I know anyone who doesn’t wear glasses. It’s not a trait that really stands out anymore.

In a better comic strip, this could be the start of a “bit” that could be hilarious, as over the coming days Dullard tries increasingly bizarre ways to hide his glasses from Jessica. Because what else could his plan be?

Let me restate this: Dullard didn’t want Jessica to know he needs glasses. Since they are a married couple, and not casual acquaintances, this would be a very difficult achievement. “What are those?” “These? Nothing! Funky asked me to keep his glasses, just in case.” Later: “While we’re driving in the car, can you tell me when you see the signs for the exit for HorribleDemise Lane?” “Uh, I’ve got a better idea! Why don’t we ask Skyler, to test his reading ability?” “Oh, that’s such an awesome idea from a father! My father was murdered by the way.”

Skyler: “M-U-R-D-E-R-E-D. Murdered. Shot to death while on the air.”

This scenario, though, would require the creativity of 1950’s sitcom writer, which Batiuk can’t give, can’t even buy, and just doesn’t get.

Skyler: “A-E-O-N space F-L-U-X. Something unfathomably better than this horrible existence could ever be.”

(Sorry, I love that intro and wish I could do something half as cool.)

It’s another example of Tom Batiuk deciding that the first thing he thinks of would make a good story. “What if…Dullard had to wear glasses?” Well, what if? That’s just boring. “What if he wanted to hide this from Jessica?” What? That doesn’t make any sense! And it’s still boring!

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