Tag Archives: Batiukmobile®

Stump Speech

Link to Today’s Strip.

Yesterday I did something relatively unorthodox in these parts: I found something to praise Tom Batiuk for. Of course, the overly-long post ended with me screaming at Batiuk in all caps, but that is part of the reason I did it. I never want to get to the point in my beady-eyed nitpicking where everything is a bug to me. Because when I force myself to admit what is good, what is acceptable, and what is innocuous, then when I am confronted with the unbearably bad I can nail it to the wall with confidence.

Today is really really bad guys. Just so bad. This is worst-case-scenario Les Moore at his most insufferable. Self-pitying, sarcastic, complaining, self-absorbed, quipping without being clever. The strip is worse than pointless. It’s not funny. It does nothing to further any ongoing plot, or even advance the conversation in a meaningful way. And the only way it develops character is to further metastasize the tumorous-asshole side of Les’ personality.

And it’s a shame. Because the art today is kind of interesting. One, Les is in pain in panel 2. Which is always nice to see.

And two, he’s putting a pumpkin on a stump.

I can only assume that it’s the stump of the large maple tree in their front yard that was cut down back in 2015.

And before we have our normal reaction, ‘Ah, a relic of Dead St. Lisa, of course it is fetishized,’ the tree was also a favorite of Cayla’s, who wanted to be married under its branches, and felt like the tree was ‘part of the family.’ Plus, Summer grew up eating the fallen leaves from under that tree.

I understand grief at the loss of a tree. Emerald ash borer beetles came through my state a couple years ago and took out seven massive beautiful ash trees on my parents’ farm. It makes me sad in a very Batiukian way, wandering across the acres of yard at home, and so many sentinels of my childhood are missing. Nothing left but weed filled dimples where oceans of shade once marked out the borders of fantasy continents.

Les and Cayla left the stump of the tree they were married under. They’ve left it for years. They decorate it in the trappings of fall it can no longer produce. Because they’d rather have the reminder of the tree for a while longer, than a pristine yard. And all of this is told visually. It develops their characters much better than the awful dialogue on display today. It rewards long time readers. It gives the strip a continuity of place. And there’s that word again, continuity.

When Batiuk chose to have his strip move forward in time, he subjected his strip to the harsh and beautiful realities of continuity. In the measured compliments I’ve given the strip the last couple days, I hope I’ve pointed out how continuity can lead to deeper and more meaningful storytelling. But Batiuk wants all the blessings of continuity, without paying the price of its restrictions. He’s not shy about how little he cares. In fact he revels thumbing his nose at it, like an edgy atheist in Sunday School. And that is why his storytelling so often fails, because we don’t trust it any more.

But still. I would miss that tree too. It was a good tree. After all, it once trapped Les high in its branches, to the joy of all the neighborhood children.

And the very first thing it did upon being introduced to Les Moore was smack him right in his dumb smug head.

Our Leafy Hero.

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Time in a Bottle.

Link to Today’s Strip.

For the best part of 10 years, I thought I understood the Funkyverse.

Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean take place in two neighboring towns, Centerview and Westview. They both take place in roughly ‘present day’ in terms of technology and occasional oblique references to current events. But they also take place roughly ten years apart. Crankshaft is set in the past of Funky Winkerbean. It really wasn’t that hard to understand.

Crankshaft takes a picture.

Crankshaft. September 3, 2011

And Les looks at it framed on a mantle.

Funky Winkerbean. September 3, 2011

Jeff reminisces about his old Starbuck Jones comic. And considers buying the last issue of an Action Comics storyline he never finished.

Crankshaft. March 20, 2014
Crankshaft. March 28, 2014

And years later he gifts the Starbuck Jones comic to Holly for Cory’s collection. And she gifts him the end of the ‘Congorilla’ story in return.

Funky Winkerbean. April 4, 2014
Funky Winkerbean. September 5, 2014

Crankshaft and his Bus Barn buddies complete in a bowing competition against a younger Montoni’s Pizza crew.

Crankshaft. December 2, 2015

And Funky recalls the same event from his perspective in flashback. Complete with old timey photo corners.

Funky Winkerbean. November 30, 2015
Funky Winkerbean. December 2, 2015

Crankshaft’s secret hoard of Bean’s End back catalogues is discovered. And his daughter sells them to a strangely young and buff Chester Hagglemore.

Crankshaft. June 7, 2018
Crankshaft. June 9, 2018

Years later, Chester puts the entire collection up for sale to fund his new comics empire. And Morton Winkerbean buys Crankshaft back his favorite issue.

Funky Winkerbean. June 12, 2018
Funky Winkerbean. June 22, 2018

Simple. One is past. One is future. In fact. I would almost nearly give it credit for being clever. A weird way to tell a story non-linearly. But it adds a certain depth to the proceedings if you’re in the mood to be charitable to Batiuk’s intended sentiments.

For example, the county fair arcs.

Funky Winkerbean. August 13, 2019
Crankshaft. August 15, 2019
Crankshaft. August 16, 2019
Funky Winkerbean. August 16, 2019.

Taken alone, they’re a bunch of bland fair puns on the Crankshaft end, and an awkward date ending in an even more awkward wedding proposal between Mopey Pete and Minty in Funky Winkerbean. But I’ve got a soft spot for grandparents. Seeing the younger Mindy enjoy the fair with the ‘Gramps’ that loves her, simultaneous to seeing an older Mindy fondly remember those moments years and years into the future when he can no longer be there…It kinda gets me in the feels. She’s trying to pass on to her boyfriend the vital essence of a person she loves who is now a weakened shell of what she once knew.

We get on Mindy for being boring and stupid. And it’s true. Because she is bland af. But this is the closest she comes to being a character to me. Because I get it. We’re seeing both sides of a painful transition, where a precious adult goes from being a childhood pillar, to a fragile keepsake. The story is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

So there. I’ve complimented Batiuk for something. Stop the presses. I’ve complimented him for using the time skip well. And he’s even done it more than once. It’s interesting, and occasionally sometimes even approaching good.

So why? Why by all that is sweet and bright? Is he throwing it all away over the pandemic!?! WHAT IS EVEN THE POINT?!?

When I heard that The Valentine was closing in Crankshaft, I could still make it work in my mind. Yeah, the location has showed up multiple times in Funky Winkerbean, still owned by an older Max Murdoch. Yeah, THE STARBUCK JONES PREMIERE was held there. But maybe, I thought, he would find a way to give Max back the theater after a while. Max has years and years to get that theatre back in time for it’s appearances in Funky Winkerbean. I can’t blame Batiuk for wanting to be topical, and hey, it’s conflict at least, so yeah, sure, let him lose the theater for a few years…

But then…then there was that fateful day in May.

Crankshaft. May 24, 2021.

Jeff shows up at the Valentine theatre with a rock he’s not supposed to get FOR MORE THAN A DECADE.

Funky Winkerbean. September 6, 2020.

Why?

Why?

Why?

And my only hope, was maybe he forgot. Maybe, just once, he forgot which strip was supposed to be the past of which. Maybe, just maybe, this dumb rock from Bronson Canyon was not the rock that shattered the temporal pane that separates past from future in the Funkyverse. I begged. I pleaded. Please don’t do this, Tom. Please, don’t rip away the final shreds of sense propping up the cardboard walls of your paper doll playhouse. Don’t be like this. Make the right choice, and tell me that you will stick with what you’ve established.

And today…

He told me no.

WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS TOM WHY

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Sugar Baddy

Ew. I’m feeling pretty nauseous now. I didn’t like the multiple times Dinkle made jokes about expecting his wife to put out when he did extremely basic things for her, and I am very much not liking Funky expecting Holly to repay him in sex for picking up her medication. I’m especially disturbed by how shocked and grateful Holly is acting in the third panel. Was she expecting Funky to make her walk from home to pick up the medicine? But what has me disturbed most of all is Funky’s expression. He is loving thinking of himself as his wife’s sugar daddy. Again, ew.

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The More Things Change, The More Les Annoys The Hell Out Of Me

Link To Another One

“The more things change…the more you’re going to find to worry about”. Uh, sure Cayla, whatever you awkwardly say. If she’d said “the more YOU’LL find to worry about” it’d sort of be a gag directed at Les and his endless complaining, but “you’re” kind of turns it into a totally meaningless platitude, which sounds about right.

Coming tomorrow: the latest very timely FW prestige arc begins as an enraged Bernie arrives at WHS with his COVID-19 gun in his backpack. Tragedy is averted, however, when Principal Nate cites the WHS handbook, which forbids “virus, germ and chemical dispersant devices” of any kind. Bernie receives some much-needed counseling.

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Marred Mount

Link to Today’s Strip

I don’t know what she just bought, but Cayla’s jeans magically manifest on her body between panels one and three. Maybe they slithered up her legs in panel two. Maybe that’s why she looks so shocked.

Anyway, she better run out and get dark sunglasses, wide brimmed hats, and old-timey high collared coats, because she’s going to have to wade through a picket line to get into the Chateau.

Once again, Batiuk writing a year in advance shoots him in the foot. Last September The Hollywood Reporter put out an in depth investigative hit piece on the hotel. After nearly all the staff was laid off due to the pandemic, many were willing to speak out against the hotel for discrimination, harassment, and general mismanagement. The allegations went all the way to the very top, with owner, André Balazs, accused of using the hotel as his own private playground, snorting cocaine, getting drunk, and groping workers.

Since then there’s been regular protests outside the hotel, as well as calls to boycott the business. A movie cancelled a planned film shoot there. Celebrities like Jane Fonda, Alfonso Cuaron, and Lena Headey have all supported the boycott. And when Cersei Lannister is ringing the bell and calling ‘Shame!’ you know it’s gotta be bad.

Not that the controversy has completely killed business, the place looks pretty booked up through the end of September. Sometimes, to my folksy midwestern eye, the entire SoCal area looks like a hyper-charged game of social activism whack-a-mole being played by a manic-depressive. Quixotically clutching their pearls in moral outrage over the living conditions of livestock while snorting cocaine off a dinner plate at a hedonism fueled wrap party.

Shame poor Cayla’s excitement had to be marred by this controversy. I wonder if Batiuk is hoping it will fly under the radar of his normal readers. Then again I wouldn’t be surprised if the last news story Batiuk remembers hearing from the Chateau Marmont is John Belushi’s death.

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One Long Boring Day at a Time

When I had to close my business, business really picked up!”. The dialogue in this strip is so often very very awkward.  It’s funny, just three days ago he was talking about the financial stresses he was under, and now he’s talking about how much business they had. It’s almost like whoever writes this doesn’t care much about continuity.
It’s funny, the last line is surely meant to be very dramatic, but given the context and history of this strip it’s way more likely that Batiuk is just talking about how Funky likes to cosplay.

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Organ Grind

Link To Today’s Strip

Another week of Dinkle…how utterly demoralizing. It’s often difficult to tell if Dinkle is supposed to merely be all full of marching band swagger or if he’s just a huge insufferable dick. It didn’t annoy me as much back when he was a satirical one-note caricature, but it sure annoys the shit out of me now.

I saw the post on the official BatBlog explaining this arc and that Ayers guy definitely did a bang-up job drawing the church and those bricks, which are spectacular even by FW brick standards. But nonetheless, “Harry Dinkle becomes a church organist” is one of the strangest BatYam premises in a while. I can’t even begin to fathom who this premise would appeal to, other than the real-life guy he based it on, that is. Doing the strip for one person…that’s what it’s come to, folks.

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Scataract

Humor is how I deal with tragedy“. I bet Batiuk has used that line a lot at book signings and when newspapers inexplicably interview him. And I’m sure the response he gets more often than not is “Humor? What humor?”.
I really don’t get what “tragedy” Funky is referring to here. The tragedy of successfully having a routine surgery that lots of people get? The tragedy of having to age when you’d rather stay ten in your parents’ attic reading comic books forever?
Oh, and Funky’s joke isn’t funny and really doesn’t work. It doesn’t really sound at all like what it’s supposed to, I don’t think. It’s a pity it’s one of the last things that poor guy pushing the wheelchair is ever going to hear, since he’s clearly about to drop dead.

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Park Your Carcass(es)

I’m pretty sure a sales fundraiser in which you wind up with a garage full of unsold merch is kind of a bust, no? What exactly is Classic Dinkle’s plan here in panel 1? Even if a polar vortex were to descend on Westview tonight, and linger through Christmas and New Year’s, no poultry (especially organic) would still remain edible. Those “Sam ‘n’ Ella’s” turkeys would soon be living up to their name. If “next year” means “next Thanksgiving,” then the premise becomes even more absurd.

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Pizza Forfeiture

Link To Today’s Strip

The ICE agent snacking on the pizza represents the cold soulless hand of an unfeeling bureaucracy and so forth. Sigh. Obviously Adeela needs to get in touch with The Gang in order to straighten this unfortunate kerfuffle out, but her phone is bricked, so I dunno. It’d be way funnier if they really did ship her off to Iraq on the 8:15 out of Columbus but I seriously doubt she’s going anywhere except (sigh) back to Montoni’s, where she’ll make some sort of weakly wry quip about how she’s still better off in Westview.

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