Author Archives: ComicBookHarriet

Closing Ceremony

Why would a deaf man need a mute button?

And so we conclude The 2021 Funky Winkerbean Awards. The first ever year-end awards event in Son of Stuck Funky history! But will it be the last?

Years ago, many of us hypothesized that Batiuk may end his strip at the 50th Anniversary; go out with a major milestone achieved and draw a line under half a century of storytelling. The counter still sits at the very bottom of the right of the blog, expressing this hope.

64 days from the 50th, I think it’s safe to say he has no plans to retire this year, or even relatively soon.

And to that I say, good. Judging by the comments, the 2021 Funky Awards were a smashing success. If he wants to continue, then maybe we’ll be here again next year, with a new set of punchable Les Moore faces to choose from.

btw, this strip was Principal Nate’s only appearance for 2021.

But before we close this first one out, I have some people to thank, ANOTHER SPREADSHEET (yay!) and a final arc I’d like to recognize.

First of all, I want to thank those of you who comment almost daily! Some of you are relative newcomers, some of you have been at this for longer than I’ve been lurking around. You are ALL awesome.

A few years ago this blog was averaging 15 to 25 comments a day, often less. This year, as boring and inane as the stories seemed to be, we regularly hit 40, 50, sometimes more. There are a lot of great places to go on the internet to post snark on Funky Winkerbean, but people here were also discussing, debating, analyzing. They were posting photoshop edits, strip rewrites, and song parodies. This isn’t just a place to get some great sarcastic quips whipped up by clever minds, it’s also a place to vivisect the very concept of humor itself. So thank you!

Secondly, to the lurkers or occasional posters, thank you. Even if you’re just upvoting or downvoting comments, or chuckling at the banter as you scroll through, we’re glad you stopped by. You are always welcome to comment (provided it’s blog kosher), and should never feel pressured to.

A big thanks, and a tip of the CBH keyboard, to my fellow guest writers:

Thanks to Beckoning Chasm, for the hilarious post titles, the cheeky pop-culture references, and your dark artistic flair. Thanks for creating the hilarious gif of Les getting pummeled by an Eisner. Hope you don’t mind I wanted it front and center for these awards.

Thanks to SpacemanSpiff85 for being able to methodically shred the logical and humor failings of strip after strip after strip with Socratic insight. Every post from you asks how? why? when? and nails Tom to the wall for his lack of answers.

Thanks for Billy the Skink, our resident Batiukstorian, and poet laureate. We can always count on you to educate us on 50 years of Westview history; or spin a pointless strip into a golden bundle of haiku, and to tag the ever living HECK out of it. If we were the Starship Enterprise, (TNG, of course,) you would be Data. (I would be Wesley.)

A huge thank you to Epicus Doomus, the power behind the throne. He not only writes his two week shift, he moderates, he schedules everyone else, he subs if someone can’t complete a shift. I may go off on a tear and spend two weeks playing ‘try-hard’, but then I get to hibernate for a couple months. For Epicus, the work doesn’t stop. He carries the burden of a lot of the behind the scenes minutiae. Thank you.

Another huge thank you to TFHackett, Blogmeister-In-Chief, not only for creating this blog and keeping it trucking along, but for your posts, your humor, and your hilarious panel edits. Without you, this blog wouldn’t exist, and none of us would have this great place to voice our opinions on a single syndicated comic strip read by almost no one else.

And a final thank you to the mysterious ‘Stuck Funky’ writer, the progenitor of the original blog from which we are descended. Wherever our primordial ancestor is, I wish him or her happiness, humor, and health.

Speaking of voices….

SPREADSHEET TIME!

Since you enjoyed the appearance spreadsheet, I thought I’d also share the OTHER spreadsheet I generated this week. See, appearances are nothing, especially when women be tiny and disappearing into the background. So I decided to see how often various named characters actually SPOKE this year, so we could figure out which characters were actually characters, and which were just props.

Below is a list of the number of PANELS named characters SPOKE in for 2021.

(I excluded Marianne and Masone’s lines from the Lisa’s Story Trailer.)

It’s less an award, and more an arc this year that was lambasted in the comments, but that resonated with me. For very personal reasons.

So, The 2021 ComicBookHarriet Special Recognition Certificate goes to.

HOLLY AND MELINDA

Many in the comments criticized the early part of this arc; where Holly and Melinda reminisce, decide to arrange an alumni event, and then Holly breaks her ankle trying to impress her mom. They felt the relationship was regressive and borderline abusive. And, given the exaggerated characters on display, and everyone bringing their own personal histories to the table, that is a perfectly valid interpretation.

Nothing in Funky Winkerbean this year hit me harder or touched me more.

At the very end of September, I lost my 98-year-old grandma. She’d been declining physically for years, though maintained most of her cognitive function to the very end. Still, her death was a surprise.

My grandma was very much a softer Melinda Budd type. She was Olenna Tyrell from Game of Thrones. She was Violet Crawley from Downton Abbey. Propriety focused, status conscious, but practical. Very particular in the way she wanted things done, but generous to a fault. Occasionally prickly, but devoted to her family.

I adored her.

My mother, on the other hand, is gregarious, and laid-back almost to the point of laziness. Anti-conflict, comfort seeking and giving, a people pleaser. In high-school she’d been a cheerleader and homecoming queen and class president, but as an adult she morphed into a Holly Winkerbean type: warm, soft, and maternal.

For the last fifteen years of my life, I watched my mom and my grandma navigate the difficult transition where child becomes caretaker. They handled it better than many, mostly because my mother left my grandmother as much agency as possible, and my grandmother had the grace and intelligence to admit when she needed to cede some control. But what struck me was that, until the very end, my mom worried what her mom would think, and my grandma worried what my mom was doing.

How many times when I was visiting Grandma in the nursing home in this last year, when she was unable to walk, unable to care for herself, would Grandma ask me how my mom was doing? If she was alright? Because she, of course, didn’t trust my mom to tell her.

How many times would Mom say, ‘don’t tell Grandma this,’ or ‘why did you tell Grandma that?’ Always about something inconsequential, like Mom having a routine doctor’s appointment, or the state of the house, or a story I thought was funny but Mom found embarrassing.

This time last year I hugged her while she choked up; this woman in her 60’s, months away from being a grandma herself. And my mom told me, “I don’t want to lose my mom.” And she said it in a voice like a little girl, and I, her daughter, comforted her like a friend.

The beginning of this arc tapped into that for me. The dynamic between mother and daughter that sometimes you can’t get away from, and sometimes you don’t want to. Such a weird moment to find a connection in, for a strip that usually portrays women with all the nuance and depth of cheap paper dolls.

Maybe it really is as bad as the comments thought, and I was just looking at it through a rosy tear-blurred lens. But before we shut the door on 2021, even if I’m the only one who enjoyed it, I wanted to thank Tom Batiuk for this arc, for showing me a middle-aged woman and her elderly mother bickering and bonding, and reminding me that mother birds are mother birds forever.

Until next time, CBH out.

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The 2021 Funky Awards Week! Day 6

The wistful way John and Batton are looking at each other today, you’d think these two were carrying on some kind of illicit love affair. And in a way, they are. Talking about comic book memories is the ultimate form of intimacy two Funkyverse males can achieve. I wonder how Crazy Harry feels about John cheating on him like that.

Yesterday, we examined the few wisps of hay we found in the 2021 needlestack. Today a more onerous chore: to find out which of the innumerable rusty, tainted, twisted barbs hurt the most when it got under our skin.

The following are your nominees for The Worst Funky Winkerbean Strip of 2021.

1.) War of the Word Zeppelins

2.) Post Pandemic Doom Posting

3.) ‘Disappointed a Lot of Fans’

4.) Feeling Blue

5.) Randy Old Man

6.) Gross Randy Old Man

7.) Just Gross

And the winner for The Worst Funky Winkerbean Strip of 2021 is…

GROSS RANDY OLD MAN

Though other strips certainly made a strong case, only one strip this year had seasoned Son of Stuck Funky commenters saying things like:

The tonal shifts in this comic are several parsecs in length.

beckoningchasm

Looking at this offering is like playing “How many impending accidents and lawsuits can you count?”

William Thompson

The fact that I’m concerned about Lillian, who is utterly despicable, is kind of impressive.

RudimentaryLathe?

I don’t want to overreact, but I can’t help thinking this is just plain evil. 

Sourbelly

Can we nominate Batiuk for the Golden Crackpipe award? He can only be high if he thinks this was a good idea.

be ware of eve hill

 But never have I seen such a tone-deaf display as where today’s strip is leading this storyline.

J.J. O’Malley

I find it hard to believe that TomBa is this clueless but I also find it hard to believe that he could be so offensive intentionally.

Gerard Plourde

I can feel my sense of humor evaporating the moment my eyes fall on the strip.

The Duck of Death

Jesus, this is bad.

Rusty Shackleford

That’s it for the awards to hand out! Join us tomorrow for closing remarks as we wrap up the first ever Funky Winkerbean Awards, and I wrap up my shift.

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The 2021 Funky Awards Week! Day 5

Well look who’s referenced today, Lillian McKenzie. That’s a pretty obscure character to be pulling from there Tom, we only saw her 50 times last year in Funky Winkerbean, and 72 times in Crankshaft, for a total number of 122 Lillian strips for 2021, causing commenter ‘erdmann’ to wonder:

Loathsome Lillian appeared in 50 FW strips? That’s on top of her “Crankshaft” appearances? Lord, is it possible that wretched old bat could have appeared in more strips than any other Batiuk character last year?

(For those of you wondering, Crankshaft appeared in 266 of his eponymous strips, so he wins.)

A quick review of Crankshaft‘s year brought into focus once again how much better Crankshaft is. It has its terrible Batiukian moments, of course, but it also had several strips that gave me an out and out chuckle. Because Ed Crankshaft is a sort of horrible person it’s funny when dumb things happen to him. Which is why Funky can pun and complain as much as he wants, he can’t ever be anything more than a pale imitation.

Props to Davis for the facial expression in that last panel.

While I’m a little gentler on Batiuk’s humor than some here, it was still difficult to pick out strips that genuinely rose to the top. There were plenty of strips I found inoffensive, or mildly amusing, but those tended to mush together into indistinct blob of almost-humor. Still, with the help of a panel of my personal friends we were able to put together the following nominees for…

The Best Funky Winkerbean Strip 0f 2021

1.) Expensive Equipment

2.) Accessorizing

3.) The Joys of Reading Over 50

4.) Interdisciplinary Thinking

5.) Funkyverse in a Cookieshell

6.) I’ve Seen Things You People Wouldn’t Believe

And the winner for The Best Funky Winkerbean Strip of 2021 is….

I’VE SEEN THINGS YOU PEOPLE WOULDN’T BELIEVE.

Sorry if you didn’t want a nearly naked Rutger Hauer with Becky’s face burned into your brain.

Though it didn’t win, it was extremely gratifying for me to see ‘The Joys of Reading Over 50’ make such a strong showing. My panel of friends didn’t really get it, and I worried that I was just sentimental for the days I still lived at home. Remembering all the times coming in late from my gas station shift, seeing my dad passed out on the couch with a fat book splayed out across his chest; creeping over, taking his book, sliding in the edge of dust jacket to mark his place, slipping off his glasses to fold them on the side table, turning off the lamp and tucking him in.

When Batiuk isn’t stroking his ego with prestige arcs, or indulging his comic book fetishes, or pandering for attention from organizations, he still…very rarely…has the power to touch.

But if it was hard to find strips this year that were genuinely ‘the best’, it was even harder to narrow down all the potential nominees for our last catagory.

Join us tomorrow for the final award: The Worst Funky Winkerbean Strip of 2021.

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The 2021 Funky Awards Week! Day 4

Batton, John, you two have known each other since at least May 2019. You already talked about Amazing Fantasy #15 back in June. There is no way in this entire multiverse of madness John selling a copy to Chester hasn’t been discussed to death yet. So what the heck is today about?

While I appreciate the irony of the author avatar attending awards week, nothing about this week makes sense or stands out. And NONE of these panels from this week are Panel of the Year contenders. Two doughy-faced men blathering at each other in a boring beige room is about as visually appealing as cellulitis.

Which is sort of a shame, last year’s lovingly rendered Rexall Drug that we managed to track down via Google Street View did make my short list for panel contenders. If only to honor a day when Batiuk’s obsessive weirdness so closely dovetailed with our own.

But ultimately the Imperious Holy Temple lost out to some, (in one case literally,) stiff competition.

The following are the nominees for The Panel of the Year 2021

1.) The Final Note

2.) Rare Flying Discman

3.) Take THAT History!

4.) Smoking Vader

5.) Les Waterboards Himself

6.) Eros Panoptes

7.) Stag Film

8.) Pizza Box Signal

And the Son of Stuck Funky winner for The Panel of the Year 2021 is….

THE FINAL NOTE

Here’s a comparison with the ‘variant’ Davis cover of the crossover event.

Though we all enjoyed a flashback of Les Moore drenching himself with water while spouting grawlix, nothing can complete with, “You guys wanna go see a dead body?”

Mr. A had this picked out all the way back on June 19 . (Sorry your nominee didn’t make it Sourbelly.)

I promised you yesterday a ridiculous spreadsheet. See, when I was trying to figure out arcs of the year, it suddenly struck me that the ratio of Les to Funky this year was skewed Funky in a way I had never seen before. Then I realized how many previously integral characters, like Wally, Cindy, or Jessica had been shoved so far into the back seat, they may as well have been tied up in the the trunk. It made me curious. Who showed up the most this year?

Below is hours of my life I could have spent with loved ones or napping. But I found it interesting, and thought some of you might too.

Named Characters by Number of Strips Appearing In for 2021.

The most baffling development from this is that, believe it or not, many of Funky’s AA meeting attendees have names. This floored me.

In October, when I was going on an CK archives deep dive for my Wally Winkerbean Pizza Monster nonsense, something caught my eye.

January 15, 2001

January 20, 2001

January 23, 2001

April 22, 2021

Why? Why when Batiuk can’t even remember the names and number of the collective children of Wally, Rachel, Becky, and John; when he can’t be assed to check who the Dinkles had for Thanksgiving LAST YEAR, would he go back in time TWENTY YEARS to resurrect these characters?

When Funky was last at an AA meeting, in 2018, it was peopled by generics. So I can only assume that working on this era while preparing his massive omnibuses for Kent State jogged his memory, and he asked Ayers to recreate these important figures of Funky Lore.

But THIS is what I’m here for. THIS is what keeps me looking again, coming back, pondering, analyzing. Some kind of weird call-back, so obtuse and strange that, as far as I can tell, no one among Batiuk’s most dedicated and educated readers noticed for months.

Join me tomorrow as I attempt to convince you, despite all evidence, that modern Funky Winkerbean isn’t universally unbearable, as we award The Best Strip of 2021.

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The 2021 Funky Awards Week! Day 3

This seems like a weird question to be asking John now. Batton has multiple times this past year been, as Epicus put it, ‘schlepping up that dingy, creaky old KK staircase’ to wax eloquent on the naissance of his funny pages obsession. You’d think this would have been one of the first things they chatted about.

I described DSH John once as a bartender in a town full of drunks. He slumps behind his counter dispensing the Westview drug of choice and getting high off his own supply. Character-wise, he has nothing going on for himself. He’s simply a springboard for other people to launch off of. He hasn’t had an arc to himself since the aborted plotline where he was going to be a consultant on the Starbuck Jones movie.

I thought a lot about the subject of ‘arcs’ when preparing these awards. For the Worthy Awards, picking nominees for Outstanding Story of the Year seems easy. The Worthyverse has months long super arcs, usually between three and five a year. However, in Funky Winkerbean, anywhere from a week to a month may be spent on a group of characters before he moves on to another group, and then often back again to an earlier thread, weaving together like a messy braid of nonsense. And then there are one-off weeks spent on plotless gag concepts. Was Dinkle suffering through a series of anemic high school pranks an arc? Was the Pizza Box Monster an arc?

What constitutes an ‘arc’? I thought about it a couple different ways.

One way was looking at what seemed like major events; high points where long running plot points had new developments, or where the status quo changed. It was easy to catagorise the Comic Con trip or the flopping of Lisa’s Story as an arc.

But another way I analyzed the year was by breaking it down by location. Where did the comic spend most of it’s time? This is how Funky and Holly got an ‘arc’ nomination that encapsulated all their banal medical and reno stories. We also spent way too long poking around St. Spires with the choir in a number of mini arcs that begged to be rolled together.

Number Of Strips Taking Place at Each Location.

In the end, I simply went with my gut. I felt bad about it, because it felt like something Batiuk would do.

So, the nominees for The 2021 Story Arc of the Year

1.) Dinkle Joins the Choir

2.) ‘Lisa’s Story: The Movie’ Wraps and Flops

3.) Phil Holt: Resurrections

4.) The Winkerbeans Rehab, Reno, and Recover

5.) Tom Worships Idols of Silver

And the winner of The 2021 Story Arc of the year is…

‘LISA’S STORY: THE MOVIE’ WRAPS AND FLOPS

iT tUrnS BaAck iNTo A pUmPKIn.

For most of last week I was sure Phil Holt’s Resurrection was going to maintain its narrow lead. But at the very end Lisa’s Story swooped in to steal the prize. Congratulations to the cast. It will likely be the only accolade this cinematic turkey receives.

Come back tomorrow, when we’ll announce The Panel of the Year, I’ll show you another ridiculous spreadsheet that proves I have too much time on my hands, and we’ll go on an archive deep dive that will leave you scratching your head.

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The 2021 Funky Awards Week! Day Two

Very sneaky of Batton Thomas today, trying to distract me from this awards show with a massive word zeppelin chock full names; tempting me with a whole list of googleable rabbit holes that I would have loved to dart down in other circumstances. I’ll give Tom this, the comics and artists he admires are usually worthy of respect. Maybe they haven’t earned a sacred tabernacle at the high altar in the temple of Rexall Drug, but I took a quick look at some of these artists and titles and saw art and story-telling leaps and bounds beyond the Funkyverse. Stuff capable of eliciting more than boredom, bafflement anger, and disgust.

No one in the Funkyverse elicits more anger and disgust from the Beady Eyed Nitpickers of this blog than Les Moore. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing, or what emotion he’s expressing, the pervasive undercurrent of unwarranted melancholic superiority that infuses everything he does truly gives him a face in need of a slap.

But which faces needed slapping the most? Your nominees for

The Backpfeifengesicht Award for Most Punchable Les Moore

1.) Remembering Old Friends (For the First Time in Years)

2.) A Single “Manly” Tear

3.) No True Sports-Fan Fallacy

4.) Self-Centered Stage

5.) Deadly Pundemic

6.) The Smile on My Face

7.) Interacting With Fans

And the winner of The Most Punchable Les Moore of 2021.

NO TRUE SPORTS-FAN FALLACY

This was an incredibly close and divided race, with no one face getting even a quarter of the votes. It seemed nearly every Les Moore face triggered a strong response. Les is a character complex in his awfulness, and every awful thing about him is the worst thing to someone. He’s designed so that, no matter your pet-peeve, this man will infuriate.

Not all categories were so evenly split in the voting. For some, the winner knocked the competition right out of the water, as was the case in our next award.

Most Puzzling Continuity Questions of 2021

1.) Who Directs the Community Band?

2.) What is Rachel’s Major?

3.) Who Did the Dinkles Have for Thanksgiving?

4.) Are the Reindeer Broken or is Tony Dead?

5.) Was Phil Holt Really a Ghost?

6.) Where Are the Kids? Who Are the Kids?

7.) What Even Is Continuity?

And the winner, by the widest margin of the voting this year, of the Most Puzzling Continuity Question of 2021:

WAS PHIL HOLT REALLY A GHOST?

Yes, while some of you did wonder about the breakdown of the Crankshaft/Winkerbean time differential, and others of you pondered the whereabouts of missing and mis-named children, it was the metaphysical question on the nature of death that was on most voters’ minds.

Join us tomorrow, as we look back on the stories of last year, and find out which narrative arc stood out as, arc of the year.

POST SCRIPT.

I realized I didn’t put up the graphs for yesterday’s awards, and thought some of you might be interested.

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The 2021 Funky Awards Week! Day 1

Welcome, one and all, to the first ever Funky Winkerbean Awards Week!

And a very special welcome to an unexpected guest here at the awards, Batton Thomas!

It seems very appropriate that this week Tom Batiuk’s own author avatar has another of his John-and-Bat-gush-over-comics arcs. Because this week we are judging what Tom accomplished, and failed to accomplish, in the comic universe he controls.

2021 was the year of the author mouthpiece, the strawman, and the wry observer. Our first award goes to the unnamed character who managed to stand out in a sea of melting tired faces. Whether by attempting to one up the main cast in insufferability or obtuseness, or by giving voice to the feelings of the audience, these characters ensured that while we may never know their names, we are sure to remember their faces.

Your Nominees for The Thatsnot Hewmore Award for Standout Unnamed Character:

1.) Referential Heckler

The smirk that launched a blogwide meme.

2.) Suffering Saint Nursing Assistant

Giving Holly the pity she deserves

3.) Average Comics Fan

The Man who spoke for us all.

4.) Mature Comic Con Attendee

Another Batiuk mouthpiece monopolizes the mike.

5.) Zombie Orderly

The true face of existing in the Funkyverse.

6.) Oblivious Parade Spectator

I guess Harriet needed someone to blather at…

And the Winner Is….

AVERAGE COMICS FAN.

Though Referential Heckler made a strong showing, earning more than a quarter of the votes, the winner was clear early on. Whether it was cursing in front of children, complaining about the artwork, or paradoxically consuming the entire corpus of the comics he can’t seem to stand, we all saw a little of ourselves in Average Comics Fan. In attempting to make a strawman of his critics, Batiuk unwittingly built up the most relatable character all year. Bravo.

One way Average Comics Fan was like us is in complaining about the portrayal of women. While he complained that the women of Atomik Komix were too ordinary, we noticed women in the Funkyverse being stereotyped, being props, and flat out disappearing. Despite his seemingly earnest attempts at female empowerment via women in comics and media, it’s clear that Tom Batiuk will forever have trouble relating to, and portraying, the female characters he has created.

In recognition of this we present you with the nominees for

The Livinia Memorial Award for Achievements in Feminism

1.) Women Be Shopping

2.) Women Be Changing Their Minds

3.) Women Be Jealous

4.) Women Be Catty

5.) Women Be Another Species Entirely

6.) Women Be Tiny and Disappearing in the Background

And the winner is….

WOMEN BE JEALOUS

For a while, it seemed like ‘Women Be Tiny and Disappearing in the Background’ was a sure winner, but late in the game voters seemed to realize that Jessica Fairgood’s only arc this year was to become livid and suspicious at her husband of over a decade after half-hearing a single vague conversation, and then instantly gushing over his new, nerdy appearance. Though other strips might have been more blatantly stuck in the women-are-from-Venus, men-are-from-Marvel, mindset that plagues Batiuk’s thinking, and there were more tone deaf attempts at white-knighting, this arc showcases Tom’s willingness to betray the integrity of his female characters for a week of cheap ‘humor’.

Join us tomorrow, as we puzzle over Tom’s inability to remember his own history, and see which Les Moore face you wanted to punch the most.

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The Touchback

Voting Ends Sunday Night for the 2021 Funky Awards.

At least they’re not sneering at each other today.

And remembering Bull fondly for once is nice.

But…wait.

Uhhh….

But then again,

So, I guess..

And that’s it for me today! Join me tomorrow as we begin AWARDS WEEK at Son of Stuck Funky!

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Funk You! It’s January!

VOTE! Only Two Days Left

Funky in today’s strip has, once again, gone full Crankshaft on us.

This Sunday, many of you pointed out that poor Funky in the final panel was looking like He-Who-Shall-Usually-Not-Be-Named-In-This-Strip.

But when I really thought about it. Funky has been Crankshaft every single time he appeared this week.

Sunday. He complains while watching football.

Wednesday. He fails to find something he’s looking for in the basement.

Thursday. He wears stripey old man pajamas and gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

Friday. He refuses to lose weight with the power of wordplay.

Today. He sneers and ‘corrects’ a beloved family member who was attempting humor or encouragement.

And you know what? I like Crankshaft better. Crankshaft has always been a cantankerous old coot. It was what he was designed for by his creator, and he works hard at it. Funky has fallen and decayed to this state due to neglect and indifference.

Today’s strip stands out to me as especially mean spirited, even for Crankshaft. It is approaching Lockhorns levels of snippy. This is a strip that needs some smirks. But instead Funky looks offended as he slaps down his wife’s futile attempts at wordplay and spoons up another dripping cotton ball to eat.

As Banana Jr. 6000 put it yesterday.

FW makes no distinction between groan-inducing but harmless dad jokes, and hurtful remarks poorly disguised as humor. I’m sure you’ve known people whose idea of a “joke” is really just backhanded, passive-aggressive insults about people. Then when you don’t like it, they accuse you of having no sense of humor. Westview is full of that guy.

As Professor Fate said, “It felt mean spirited and a substitute for confronting the deeper conflicts that nobody wanted to face.”

Duck of Death put it more bluntly. “But this type of humor, Snappy Answers to Perfectly Normal Requests, is just assholery.”

This week of pathetic non-humor felt like it was cobbled together from stuff they dug out of the trash. They just put all this out here to fill some time, to take up space. It reminded me of an old running gag from one of my favorite YouTube channels, RedLetterMedia, making fun of how January and February are used by movie studios as a dumping ground for movies they’ve lost all hope for.

Did you want entertainment? Did you want quality? F**k you, it’s January!

(This video has foul language. Obviously. Viewer Discretion Advised.)

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Shape of the Past

IF YOU HAVEN’T VOTED FOR THE FUNKY AWARDS THEN YOU HATE DEMOCRACY AND JUSTICE.

How appropriate in today’s strip that Funky is reaching for some leftovers. Because we seem to have reached the end of the leftover strips that Batiuk’s been serving up to us all week, without even having the decency to warm them over to make them fit.

True, today is just another stolen joke told better a million times before. But Holly is back on her crutches, and we’ve nary an out-of-season fall leaf in sight. And ruining a promised New Year’s Resolution diet is a time honored January tradition.

Whatever congealed horrors await Funky’s appetite in that teal Tupperware aren’t the only relics pulled from the deep past today. In panel three Holly is giving us some vintage Winkerbean final-panel side-eye.

The final-panel side-eye was a staple in the old glory days of Funky Winkerbean. Back when my parents were wearing brown leisure suits and paisley patterned bell sleeves to the senior prom.

It used to be that every third or fourth Funky Winkerbean strip would end with some character staring glumly out at the audience, letting you know that THEY were playing the suffering straight man to whatever dumb thing the other character had just said or done. But there was usually a weird resignation to the stare. Like the staring character also acknowledged that by engaging with the zany character earlier, they had brought this upon themselves.

Batiuk hardly ever does this any more. And in one of his interminable Match to Flame digressions posted to his blog he lets us know his reasoning.

You can use time to more fully resonate with your readers on a real and believable level while you begin to discard the gimmicks that threaten that bond. For example, from the git-go in Funky, I would break the fourth wall on a day-to-day basis by having a character do a side-glance to the reader (a device I unashamedly “borrowed” from Tom K. Ryan’s masterful strip Tumbleweeds . . . I’m done with it now and have since returned it). I stopped doing that because, while it’s funny, you lose the investment and involvement of the audience. They know the characters are going to be just fine, and they don’t really care about their fate. By breaking the fourth wall, I inject myself into the story to wink at the reader as we share the joke. Now, however, I began telling stories where my presence was less intrusive and less needed. 

From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 10

So for the TL:DR summary: He chose to stop breaking the fourth wall because it breaks the immersion and thus lowers the stakes when the story gets serious.

But what I don’t know if Batiuk realizes is that he never has completely gotten away from the gags and zany antics/beleaguered straightman humor that he’d spent decades hammering away at. The rhythms of that humor were beaten into him as a child and he is compelled to continue.

Whenever my mom was doing something and would ask for a hand, my dad would break into applause. My mom never thought that was funny. I, on the other hand, found it endlessly amusing. At other times around the dinner table, my dad, my sister, and I would conduct a conversation consisting of nothing but non sequiturs, with my mom being the odd person out. We all found this to be great fun—again, my mom not so much.

From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One

The very foundation of his humor is that someone doesn’t find it funny. The ‘joke’ isn’t the joke. The ‘joke’ is the set up. And the punchline is annoyance. Someone has to be exasperated. Someone has to be his mom in the scenario. What this meant for the long term tenor of the strip, is that when he took away the side eye, all he had left for the final beat of his punchline was either allowing the annoyed person to speak. Which can lead to strangely aggressive strips like this.

Or leaving the baffled or annoyed person(s) staring into the scene in awkward silence, with nothing to defuse the tension.

I’ve seen comments in the past about how mean spirited Funky Winkerbean characters seem to each other. How easy it is to hate these people, because they are always snipping and needling one another. And I think this is the main reason why.

In the context of a real family or friendship habituated to this kind of teasing, there is the unspoken agreement that everything is in jest. It’s playfighting, like puppies or LARPers. Everyone is in on the joke.

In the context of a gag-a-day strip it can be mean spirited because it never seeks to be realistic or uplifting or educational. Everyone is exaggerated because it’s supposed to be funny. No one is being hurt. Everyone reading is in on the joke.

In the context of a strip that’s dealt with cancer death, suicide death, addictions, terrorism, PTSD, gun violence, divorce, mental illness, and comic books, he’s made it too real. And yet, not given us enough information on these relationships to believe that these ‘jokes’ are all in jest.

So, you know, if he wants to give us some more side eye. Wants to poke a few holes in the fourth wall to let the air in. Release the tension. I’d say we let him.

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