SIGH. It’s still going. Jessica, a born and bred Westviewian, doesn’t understand nerdy collectors? Puh-LEEZE! Not buying that, even for a second. Her husband owns a Flash treadmill, for crying out loud. This is just plain lazy writing, and BatYam should be ashamed of himself. If he had any capacity for that, I mean.
Another robin’s egg blue car. I’m assuming that a container ship full of knock-off Estonian cars washed up on the Ohio shores back in 2002 or so, and everyone grabbed one. And that car would NEVER pass New Jersey’s stringent auto emissions standards, that’s for sure. I mean, no one would notice or even care, but you’d never get a clean inspection sticker driving around in that thing.
So where in God’s name could this arc possibly be going from here? Will Boy Lisa find some local weirdo who repairs cracked coffee mugs, thus preserving John Darling’s (Jessica’s father) legacy forevermore? Will he use the gun to wrest control of Atomik Komix away from the geriatrics? I don’t know, but I do know it’ll be stupid in ways that none of us are capable of accurately forecasting, and that is a 100% certainty.
Interesting how the gun is nowhere to be seen today, in the Sunday strip. Perhaps he felt it’d be inappropriate, as a lot of people see the Sunday funnies, as opposed to the daily ones, which no one sees. It’s certainly conspicuous by its absence, as it was, you know, the whole centerpiece of the entire story and all.
Even stranger is Mitchell declining to talk about comic books. I repeat: MITCHELL DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT COMIC BOOKS. This is unprecedented in Westviewian history. It’s never happened before, and it’ll surely never happen again. Whatever that Brady Wentworth did to ol’ Mitchell back in the day, it sure was effective. Now let’s hope we never, ever find out what that was, OK? Because I really don’t want to know.
There really isn’t a ton of actual content here to snark on. Two people arrive at their destination, ring a doorbell, and wonder if someone is home-but he is! What interests me most about this strip is that it’s yet another example of how nobody in the Batiukverse ever calls or emails anyone, they just show up at the house of a stranger they’ve been told is odd without giving any kind of advance notice. I guess it’s meant to be more interesting or dramatic, but it’s always kind of funny to me.
I am looking forward to tomorrow’s strip. “You don’t know us, but this guy you worked with decades and decades ago told us you have something we want and gave us your address . . . “
Aaaaaand just like that, the teeter tooter pivots and suddenly I’m annoyed again. All the Holly relatability of the last three days evaporates in a puff of smoke because REALLY?
This drivel should be coming out of Les’ mouth. Not only is he a self-important sad-sack always eagerly searching for a way to inject pathos into the most mundane situations, but he also was actually bullied and teased in high school. And the fact that he took a job at the same school district so that he could constantly re-traumatize himself is perfectly in character for Les Moore. He’s just the kind of insufferable pseudo-intellectual that thinks pain is somehow more real than joy, and so seeks it out.
But Holly? Holly, you were a popular and well liked HOMECOMING QUEEN who seemed to take being regularly set on fire with carefree joy. You were so self-confident (and dumb) you didn’t even realize when you were being teased.
Maybe I’m missing a subtle turn in her characterization somewhere between where Vintage FW has gotten to on CK and the end of Act I. But while I’ll buy that a plump middle-aged Holly might be a little daunted tonight, wondering who she hasn’t seen in 40 years might have jetted to Westview to judge her weight gain and dough slinging husband, I don’t buy for A SECOND that she was nervous every day she showed up at High School in full majorette attire.
And, news alert Holly. THAT ISN’T THE SAME BUILDING.
Crazy Harry seemed to remember and reference it earlier this year, when he made sure to take a walk down to ‘the old high school’ during his off-gassing time travel adventure.
I think it’s symbolic of this strip as a whole that Batiuk tried to move on by tearing down the old building 15 years ago, and obviously regrets it now. He wishes he still had the thematic through line. My parents attended the same High School building I did. I remember at a brother’s wrestling meet my mom walking me down to her old locker and her combination still worked. Batiuk would fume in jealousy that such an opportunity is gone. He tried to ‘kill the past’ but somehow Palpatine returned.
He started Act III with big dreams of merging all three acts thematically together. You’ve got the old Act I crew being middle-aged adults, you’ve got the grown up Act II kids in Darin, Pete, and Jessica being the new young adults just starting out, and you’ve got the Muppet Babies kids to keep the High School hijinks flowing.
But now its a gerontocracy of the impossibly old taking over everything. Even poor Pete, Darin, and Mindy have been supplanted by octogenarians.
You’ve all said it below. This shouldn’t be the 50th class reunion. Their 30th class reunion was in 2008. This pretty much confirmed that the time skip from Act II to Act III moved their graduation date from 1988 back to 1978. Summer Moore was established as turning 16 a few months prior. So is she 36 now? Seriously?
I would be perfectly fine with Batiuk having his strip officially enter Comic Book Time. It didn’t bother me at all that it took Bernie Silver six years to graduate. In a medium where a single five minute conversation can take two weeks if a comic year equals a calendar year then you’re leaving a lot of these characters’ lives out. It’s a comic strip, we understand that Christmas comes in December, school starts in September, and it takes eight years for a toddler to turn four. It’s FINE.
But the sudden, inexplicable, fast-forwarding of random characters we’ve gotten recently is just baffling. Why is Crankshaft’s great-grandson suddenly eight, when he was born less than three years ago, but Emily and Amelia haven’t aged? Why is Funky suddenly over 65 and Skyler, born in 2013, is still sitting on Santa’s lap and baby talking?
The time pool reunion arc of 2015 DIDN’T have a date or year attached. And that was a much smarter take in my humble but correct opinion. Because it wasn’t clear an entire seven years had passed since the last one. (And a 37 year reunion seems really weird)
But Batiuk couldn’t resist slapping a big fat 50 on this one. Despite only MONTHS before presenting them as all in high school in 1980!
And you know what. I’m here for it. I’m here for all of it. I’m cracking open a cold one, kicking back, and watching this train wreck. Because I have such a great bunch of people to do it with. Because it genuinely brings me joy.
Don’t let Batty get you down guys. Just enjoy the screeching, burning, twisted mess. Are you ready for a 50th reunion of “Senior Discoveries” ? Are you ready for “exploring the honesty beneath such a gathering’s initial artifice”?
This week has been a real see-saw for me. Because while Funky himself has been insufferable, and Batiuk deciding to fast track his Act I cast to their late 60’s is just infuriating, Holly has been so darn relatable.
I can’t help it, guys. She just reminds me so much of my mom. There’s not been a single thing she’s said or suggested these past three days that would be out of character for Momma Harriet. From wishing she’d lost weight for a major event, to scoffing at too much nostalgia from high school, to wanting to avoid hours and hours of vaguely remembered former acquaintances pasting on smiles while silently gauging which of them had the most loveless marriage, messiest divorce, or the most messed up grandkids.
I don’t remember the context enough for specifics, but I KNOW my mom has suggested escaping to me while driving to some dreaded social event.
“What if we just kept on going?” She smiles, desperately, trying to psych herself up for a family reunion or wedding of a third cousin’s cousin. “Drive all the way down to your sister’s, and just…hid out?”
Is the choice of the word ‘disillusioned’ weird? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ve seen the way my mom’s face falls when talking about a friend’s divorce, or the profligacy of a young adult she’d nurtured as a child. She’d rather not know that the marriage she’d been a bridesmaid for fell apart after infidelity, or the sweet little girl she taught in Sunday School had to get a restraining order on her meth-ed out baby daddy.
If I’m being nicer to Holly and this strip than it deserves, just know that it’s because all it would take is a brunette wash and a pair of glasses, and Holly morphs into my mom. And I love my mom. And if you knew her, you would love her too. And if you didn’t it would be a clear sign that you are a garbage human forever beyond hope of redemption.
I want to thank BJ6K and anneki for bringing the Washington Post article to our attention yesterday. It was the puffiest of puff pieces. It reminded me of those puff balls in the timber around here. You whack it and release a giant yellow cloud of nonsense.
Everyone had their favorite quotes, but mine had to be when he compared the first time skip to a ‘Road to Damascus’ moment. Because yeah, I’d believe that Batiuk has been struck blind on his creative journey. And now he’s sitting there at home, his eyes covered in scales, with no Ananias of an editor to come and peel his blindness away.
FYI: Cows got out again on Monday morning. They thought our neighbors’ corn looked tastier than the dry grass left in our drought stricken pasture. Fixed the fence AGAIN, gave them some big round bales of hay, and they STILL were all standing by the fence this morning, staring longingly at the green stalks on the other side of the woven wire.
Maybe if we could get some REAL RAIN, and not mother nature spitting in contempt on the dusty cracked ground…
Y’all have been amazing in the comments lately! Love all of you!
Earlier in the week, I touched on how utterly bizarre and insane it is that Boy Lisa, of all people, is Cory’s best man. Nothing could possibly explain this, as there’s just no way it could be possible, but there he is, waving goodbye to his dear ol’ chum Cory and that girl he married. Interesting how Boy Lisa, Licensed Cartoonist, made the poster all about Cory and not the bride, but given what we know about Boy Lisa’s marriage, that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Way back before he became Boy Lisa, Darin was a fairly major Act II character, more or less the WHS “new generation” male lead. Along with his girlfriend Jessica and his best pal Pete, Darin was involved in all sorts of zany WHS hi jinx and shenanigans. I can’t remember any of them now, but trust me, something happened. Then we discovered he was adopted as an infant and everyone immediately knew he’d end up being Lisa’s surrendered love baby from THAT whole thing. And sure enough, five or ten years later, Darin met Lisa, his birth mother, not long before she died. And when they met, Lisa grabbed Darin by the forehead and transferred some of her superpowers to her long-lost bio-son, including bland geniality, and, well, bland geniality. And henceforth he was known as Boy Lisa.
Right after that, Boy Lisa and Jessica got married, went to college, and became Big City MBAs. Or at least he did, as Jessica’s backstory is less important, what with her being a girl and all. So that went on for five or seven or fourteen years or thereabouts, at which point This Economy f*cked Boy Lisa over, pretty hard in fact. So he packed up his robin’s egg blue car and returned to Olde Westview Towne, where he showed up unannounced at the door of his long-lost bio-step dad and bio-half-sister (avoiding his adoptive parents for reasons unclear), asking for a place to stay.
Les agreed, then got Boy Lisa a job at (surprise) Montoni’s, where he became some sort of pizza app developer and breakfast pizza pioneer. Then he discovered he had an adoptive half-sister, did the illustrations for Les’ cancer graphic novel and knocked-up his wife, although I’m not sure in what order that all was. Then Pete offered him a cushy storyboarder gig on the “Starbuck Jones” movie and he took off for Hollywood, minus Jessica, who stayed home and attended to her various womanly duties. Then he came back and ended up riding Pete’s coattails again, this time snagging a job at Atomik Komix, where he toils to this very day.
And this brief recap of his entire character arc makes it seem WAY more eventful and interesting than it actually was. In my opinion, his number one strip highlight was when he sneezed all over Summer right before the Big Game, as the illness somehow activated her natural grit and brought home the basketball title to WHS for the very first time. Or it might have been when he threatened Frankie and Lenny that time, although that was more Jessica. Anyway, it’s a really, really bland legacy when you look at it objectively, or even if you don’t. If Boy Lisa was Halloween candy, he’d be those terrible Necco wafers no one likes.
So maybe you thought that whole Keisha/Maddie/Summer thing might be going somewhere…well, guess again, snarker. Rule Number One: if it seems too involved, complicated and/or interesting for FW, it definitely is.
Obviously he was going for “cute” here, but, as usual, he landed squarely on “icky”, again. We’ve seen nothing in the past that would indicate that Holly is a psychotically overbearing mother, but she is today, because it’s funny, at least to one person. Now, in fairness, someone who doesn’t read the strip every day might (I said “might”) softly chuckle at this hackneyed premise, but when a regular character acts completely insane like this without any warning, it’s mostly just confusing.
And lest we forget, Cory is around twenty-eight years old, he was engaged for like seven years, AND he was a bomb disposal technician in Iraqistan, so I’d be willing to bet he’ll have no problem with navigating his wedding night without his mom’s help. And there’s the icky part, right there. This is yet another one he should have chucked into the “no” pile.
As always, it’s impossible to follow up the amazing posts of CBH, but here I go.
I’m guessing Rocky is carrying on Crankshaft’s illiteracy? Because I don’t know why Cory is reading that sign out loud if she can read it for herself. It’s also weird because it’s easily legible for anyone reading the strip, so there’s nothing at all added by him reading it. Of course the joke is “Cory’s mom is excited for him to get married” which I don’t think is a joke or really worth spending a day of a strip on, but that’s Batiuk for you.
I mean, uh, wow. I guess that is one reason to have Maddie come back. Cross one off my list of Long Standing Funky Mysteries. For those of you more recently jumping on the Beady-Eyed-Nitpicker wagon, the Big Gay Castle Mystery goes all the way back to Summer, Keisha, Jinx, and Maddie’s senior year prom in May 2012. In that plotline two unnamed boys buy tickets to go to prom together, Becky’s mom whips up a protest, Principal Nate holds an assembly where he clarifies that there’s nothing in the Student Handbook prohibiting people taking other people of the same gender to the prom, and then everyone cheered.
Of note was a couple strips at the very end of the arc.
Who was this kid obscured by The Big Gay Castle? It could have been anyone but Keisha. For ten years I’ve wondered, and I guess we’re finally getting our answer. Maddie Klinghorn. And it makes sense, Maddie was there.
Really, I’m just relieved that it wasn’t Summer. Les didn’t need another reason to virtue signal his greatness, and I didn’t want the cliché of the sporty tomboy being a lesbian all along. Especially since Summer has been shown mooning over Masone Jarre, though I guess she could be sporty enough to play for both teams.
This does fix the most glaring issue with Batiuk’s preachy Big Gay Prom arc: that the ‘gay’ couple is a nameless prop. They show up for TWO strips, looking like they just left their Hardy Boys cosplay competition.
And then they’re just an idea, never seen again, not even at the prom. In fact, there don’t appear to be ANY gay couples at the prom, except for maybe this panel of two guys standing shoulder to shoulder.
So I’m curious to see where Batiuk takes this new revelation. How will he handle his first named queer character? Is this going to be a big arc? Or are we in for a Northstar revelation, similar to Masone Jarre’s bipolar disorder, where Maddie’s sexuality is confirmed once and then dropped for years or forever?
It’s not like in the 70’s, where a Boston Marriage between socialites could be depicted in great detail in a comic strip, and yet the heteronormativity of both women strictly enforced and accepted prima facie.
These two ladies are Marcia and Jan, the two most baffling recurring characters in early Funky Winkerbean. They are introduced as Women’s Club members that run the ‘Rap Cellar’. Which seems to be some kind of afterschool program for high schoolers, that Marcia usually is the one leading.
The joke in the Rap Cellar strips are that these well-meaning but dim-witted ladies have completely different priorities, life styles, and interests than the hip kids they’re trying to counsel. They are from a decade before, not old enough to be their parents, but not young enough to understand them. And their Brady Bunch names might be a joke on their squeaky clean and sunny simple outlook.
But, the actual ‘Rap Cellar’ strips are few and far in between. Maybe a dozen or so, and they’ve mostly fallen off. Yet, these two ladies keep showing up. Talking over coffee, exercising, playing tennis, shopping, and watching TV.
Many of you have pointed out the Peanuts parallels to early Funky Winkerbean. They definitely exist, in the art style and the humor, but one big difference is that in Peanuts adults are unseen alien creatures warbling in nonsense lines, in Vintage Funky Winkerbean both the teachers and the students have equal parts as characters.
But these ladies aren’t teachers at Westview, they aren’t even parents like Roland’s Chair!Dad. The connection between Jan and Marcia and the Funky Bunch is tenuous to begin with…and by 1976 has almost completely disappeared. Yet these two ladies keep showing up for one-off gags, or a disconnected week of tennis strips.
Who are these ladies? Why are they still here? Given the eyebags on their cheek bones, is one of them Pete’s mom? Maybe they’re a weird repository for ‘upper middle class lady’ humor that Batiuk just HAD to get out there, tone and setting of his comic be damned.
I don’t know. The nicest thing I can say about them is that Batiuk usually does a good job of drawing their faces and bodies consistently different, so you can tell who is Marcia and who is Jan despite their hair being the almost the same.
And in a strip where almost everyone is already cynical and jaded, they at least provide a nice contrast.
Link to a redraw of a strip we’ve seen plenty of times before.
Donna’s devolution from gender ambiguous nerdy tween, to leather clad motorcycle hottie, to generic shapeless Westview-woman lump, is one of the great tragedies of the Funkyverse. But it is typical of Batiuk’s style, and has been from the very beginning.
If you’ve spent any time falling down the link-clink rabbit hole of TVTropes, you’re probably familiar with the term Flanderization. The term even has it’s own REAL Wikipedia article. Visually it looks like this:
The thing is, a little Flanderization can be a GOOD thing, especially in comedy. Characters need to be different from each other in the reader’s mind and a few exaggerated characteristics make a strong foundation for ensemble humor.
Funky Winkerbean characters, at least in Act III, go through a different process.
Whatever Batiuk’s initial conception of a character, it gets lost in the average. The minute differences in temperament between Holly and Donna, or Jessica and Mindy, or Funky and Darin, or Pete and Les need an electron microscope to measure. Even a character like Crazy Harry has lost all his edges. I’ve seen nuttier former postmen buying Pall Malls at the gas station, talking to me in all seriousness about how JFK Jr. is running for president next term.
This isn’t a new phenomena for him. He seems to subconsciously WANT his characters bland so he can use any of them in any combination to tell a story. No matter how he designs them, the distinguishing bits get knocked off. You can see this clearly with the early Act I character Miss Rita Wrighton.
Miss Wrighton, (Get it? Right On? Like… so hip,) was initially introduced as the young, idealistic, counter-culture teacher. She was dressed with chunky peace sign earrings, pants as well as skirts, and hair worn long and down instead of a shellacked professional up-do. She was at Westview fresh out of college and full of passion and hope to empower the youth to change the system.
The joke is, of course, that she was trying to teach in the way she’d spent years of college learning about, but the theory is different from the practice. No one, not even most of the other teachers, were taking this as seriously as she was taught.
Midway through that first year the peace sign earrings disappear. She’s regularly butting heads with Crazy Harry, and seems to have a hard time controlling her class in general.
At the beginning of the next school year, she’s jaded. Though more cynical in outlook, she still seeks positive change in the school. This would be a fine character progression, if she wasn’t moving into a space already occupied by Fred Fairgood. At this point they’re practically interchangeable, similar in temperament and tone, with the only difference being his additional experience.
During the summer of 75, she goes on a vacation to England with her friend Ann. Batiuk is now just using her for bland whatever gags. He’s losing her personality to the pun void.
I’m pretty sure this is Fred’s future wife, Ann Randall. I can’t tell if she’s also supposed to be the school ‘librarian’ seen early on in 1972.
The story arc currently being released on CK has Rita newly engaged and contemplating quitting teaching.
The whole story line has commenters confused. It’s unclear if Rita is considering quitting simply because her new husband can now support both of them on a single salary; or if Batiuk was pulling a Skunky Funkybuns and got confused as to when the ‘marriage-bar’ was outlawed, (the sixties.) Either way, it’s a pretty big regression, from counter-culture activist to contemplating giving up a career to be a housewife.
Will she disappear into the Phantom Zone of characters who lost their ‘edge’ now? Or will the last vestiges of her ‘modern-woman’ persona manifest itself and we’ll have another few years with poor neutered Ms. Wrighton? I’m genuinely interested to find out.
By the way. Have YOU seen Skunky Funkybuns? The greatest piece of stand up comedy this decade.