Tag Archives: Cliff Anger

That’s Not What I Smell

Link to today’s strip.

Well, Cindy’s discovering all kinds of new information about Cliff, isn’t she?  But let’s stop and take a look at this for a moment, just so we can see how utterly stupid it is.

If you’re anyone other than Tom Batiuk, you might recall that Cindy did a documentary about Cliff, which was considered worthy of an Emmy nomination.   In the interview, she and Cliff sat and talked about his life, his blacklisting, his rediscovery, all that stuff.  The fact that it was shot with a single hand-held camera…well, the contents must have been pretty damn good to garner an award nomination.

And, apparently, she asked him nothing about his career.   You know, the reason you would interview a performer.   Apparently, this whole bit about Cliff working with some “movie-serial comedian” (a thing I doubt existed anyway–serials tended to be action-adventure stories) is completely new to her.   I mean…*gasp*   I need a moment here to process this.

She’s coming across as so dense, I would not be shocked to find her surprised that Cliff played Starbuck Jones.   The entire reason for her interview.   “Really?  That was you?  Wow!”  But no, after the interview, she’s still unaware.  Was she born stupid, or did she study?

I can easily imagine Cindy making a documentary about (grabbing random celebrity) Paul McCartney and asking about how he met Linda Eastman, that time he was arrested in Japan, Linda dying (from cancer!!) and his bitter divorce from Heather Mills.  Then, she meets him at a party and says, “Say, I understood you knew John Lennon!  How the heck did that come about?  Also, someone told me you write songs!  Any I would have heard?”*

Today’s episode is amazing.  I suppose one could put this down to Batiuk’s general in-strip contempt for women, but wow, it’s pretty cold.  It’s ice cold.

Now, it would make sense for Cayla to be asking these questions, because Cayla hasn’t met Cliff before.  Cayla could have seen Cindy’s documentary and asked some follow-up questions.  But Cayla married Les, so she can’t be shown as flawed.  And Les would have told her all this stuff, and she would have listened intently.  And Les would be in the scene, to correct Cayla (and Cliff) about how things actually happened.

Cindy, on the other hand is consistently a target in the Funkyverse; Tom Batiuk loves to lob potshots at her, so sure–she’s stupid and bad at her job.  Ha ha ha, stupid!  You’re a dumb gurl and everything!  “Remember high school?  I do!”

Wow.

Just…wow.

*Granted, Paul McCartney’s story is pretty well known, so an interviewer might try to go in another angle to get a different perspective on him.   But the whole point of Cindy’s documentary was to re-introduce Cliff to a public that had largely forgotten him.  One of the things you would do in a documentary like that is tell people what he had done, and why he should be remembered.  And all of that would come from his career, not his personal life.

Yeah, I’m back to using italics like a madman.

 

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Eating Their Turds and Whey

Link to today’s strip.

Whoops!  Late to the party on this one, but I got involved in a project of my own and neglected the time.

Not much to say about this one.  The artwork continues to slide into the abyss, the dialogue is idiotic, and Rich Burchett shows us something in that last panel  (almost wrote “penal”; these hosting stints, lemme tells ya…)

I mean, look at Cliff’s face in that last panel.  “Oh?  Think I’m not planning on getting my cheese dip on?  Really, Vera?  Wow, are you in for a surprise!”

Overall, again, it’s people sitting around discussing things that we have not seen and we’ve not been given a reason to care about.  Eating food that looks, honestly…well, it looks largely like bowel movements.  Which, given the overall bent of this strip, makes perfect sense.  It also makes those vaguely flesh-colored cubes that show up now and then in Mary Worth look edible.

It’s kind of silently nauseating in its own unique way.  And it’s another step away from what people want in comic strips.  And it makes me feel that the 50th anniversary will be something to see, though I can easily imagine Batiuk presenting something ultra dull.  After all, it’s the Funky Winkerbean way.

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Does this Language Have Swearing or is it All Yawns?

Link to today’s strip.

Well, Cliff, you want a new language?  Wow–aren’t you the lucky one!  Turns out that there’s a person right there who happens to be The Lord of Language!  I’m sure he can help you turn your stifled yawns, underbreath mutterings and defeated scowls into a language you’ll be proud to speak.  And at such reasonable prices!

Oh, um, (cough) but before you go off to meet him, Cliff, your fake beard is melting off in panel one.  Better go adjust it so you can look great with your new frown-talk language. Keep fidgeting with your fake beard, Cliff, and it turns people off.  Glue it on good, though, man, trust me, it drives the ladies crazy!  Also, and think about this–Santa Claus gigs at the local mall.  You’ll want to terrify those tots as your beard is pulled apart by those tiny sweaty palms.  Then you can do a Bela Lugosi laugh and cause all kinds of childhood trauma, which, trust me, is big in certain comic strips.

Seriously, is Rick Burchett trolling Tom Batiuk to the same degree that Tom Batiuk is trolling his readers?  The artwork lately has given off a huge “It’s due in five minutes and no one cares, so let me scratch something out and hit ‘Send’ vibe.”

Honestly, this stuff is just awful and I can’t imagine someone who cares signing off on this and saying, “Great work, man.”  I’m sure the response is more in line with “Eh, it fits the space, so sure, it’s fine.”

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Hollywood Heartworm

Boy, the artwork in today’s offering is really terrible.  Those faces in panel one look like a set of sad balloons from an abandoned “melting-flesh” themed carnival.  And I don’t know what’s going on with Cayla’s hand.  That doesn’t look natural at all.  Rick Burchette is becoming worse and worse all the time; he’s actually making Batiuk’s work look good by comparison.  Whether this is due to influence from above (“Make it crappy, like me!”) or a growing disenchantment with his task (“This strip sucks, so who cares”), it’s hard to say.  I would guess that the recent Atomik Komix (gah) covers are his way of saying “I am actually quite a competent artist; ’tis the subject that dictates the work and moves the artist’s hand.”

And as to today’s content, well, we’re back to the self-depreciation crap.  I know Batiuk loves to have his characters wallow in misery, but seriously, give it a rest.  It hasn’t been “edgy” for decades now, it’s just tiresome.  It’s the sort of thing that teenagers grow out of.  Sheesh.  Cliff himself has had a 180 degree turnaround in his life, and he’s now revered and celebrated.  But no, he has to be all “Woe is me.”

How can one be a “Hollywood Heartthrob” by starring in one forgotten (but beloved) serial before disappearing into bitter exile?  How the Hell can these people be ambulatory and lucid, let alone alive, in their late 90’s?  It’s easy, really.  Because reality in this strip is whatever Batiuk wishes it to be, because reality in the real world refuses to cooperate.

If it weren’t so dull, it would be sad.

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The Gangrene’s All Here

Link to today’s strip.

Another dull entry…which would be a great name for this strip.

Imagine this particular episode presented with no dialogue–it’s just people standing around with a couple of handshakes thrown in.   Without the dialogue, it’s dull, but you have the possibility that adding dialogue might make it into something that could be interesting, possibly, depending on what these people say.  But in Funky Winkerbean, if you add the dialogue back, yes, it changes…but not for the better.  You end up with something no one could care about at all, except someone trying to reach a 50th anniversary on a project in which he has lost all interest.  And it shows.  Boring people saying boring things in a boring way.

I’m sure the idea is that Funky Winkerbean fans (those mythical creatures) would look upon this and shout, “Yes!  Vera and Cliff are back!  This is great!”  The problem–probably the main problem with the whole strip–is that in the real world, enthusiasm for characters comes from caring about them, because those characters are interesting, or do interesting things.  Here, these characters are uninteresting, do nothing but stand around, and we are given no reason to care about them at all.  This is because Tom Batiuk cannot create interesting characters, because he cannot care about anyone other than his various avatars (mainly Les, but also Dullard, John Howard and Dinkle).

Remember that time you were in a restaurant and you asked the table next to you if you could borrow their salt shaker, and you got an assful of stories that bored you to tears, but you needed that salt?  Say hello to Vera and Cliff.

While I can’t say much for his taste in clothing, it’s nice that Cliff and Vera dress up a bit when they’re going visiting.

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Can the Living Marry the Dead?

Link to today’s strip.

Apologies first off–I don’t know how Fearless Leader embeds these sideways things into normalcy, so you’ll have to suffer with strained necks for the nonce.  Unless I reach beyond myself, and give it a try–

–hey, that worked!  I think!

And check out that cast.  Isaac The Robot (defaming Dr. Asimov’s memory), Moon Mile Meek (or whatever that bowel movement was named), the Space Cadets, the Black Ghost, the Amazing Mister Sp0nge and the (*Cough* undead) Absorbing Junior, and the latest ass-pull, the Blue Astra.  I’d love to see a follow-up strip showing what gifts they brought (“a gift certificate for $10 at Best Buy?  Who the hell–“) but follow-ups are definitely not this strip’s strong suit.

–Case in point.  So, the Starbuck Jones movie world premier has come and gone, and we are no wiser as to how it fell on the world.  Was it a hit?  Did people enjoy it?  Were the fanboys irate over how it changed canon?   Did it rescue the Valentine Theater from foreclosure, and did it spring the careers of Mason, Marianne, Cindy, Cliff, Vera, Pete and Dullard into the stratosphere?  Did it circle the drain on the way through the toilet?   Is Cable Movie Entertainment now on the level of Marvel Studios, or are they instead competing with The Asylum for most horrible crap ever?

As the Residents once sang on their album Not Available, these are “Never Known Questions.”   Because the only answer here is another question, “Who cares?”  And the answer to that is, “Not Tom Batiuk.”

My theory on this is actually quite simple, and obvious once you hear it.   The success or failure of the Starbuck Jones movie was something that–had nothing to do with Les Moore.

Think on that for a moment.  Has this strip ever featured a creative, successful idea that didn’t involve Les Moore?  I certainly can’t think of any.  For the most part, it’s been “I need help, oh thank you for helping, [blink] oh it’s the next day and everything worked.”  (I’m thinking of Pete Movement and his battles with the…sigh…Lord of the Late.)

The message of the strip has been pretty constant in Act III–Les Moore is the only person who can be allowed a creative success in the world.  Everyone else succeeds only because they betrayed their ideals and settled for hackery.   No one else has lost a wife…no one else wrote a best-selling book detailing how he suffered when losing his wife…no one else wrote about how he just damn kept on, after losing his wife…and found a woman willing to be doormat.  That last bit is a little troubling, but, you know…Les Moore was once married to a woman, who…died.

It makes me fear what comes next week.

 

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Scenes from a Mirage

Link to today’s strip.

Now, I want an honest counting of hands, here.  How many of you thought we’d see something/anything of the Starbuck Jones movie during this, the arc in which the long gestating film finally had its premier?  Think of all the things riding on this film’s success–not just careers for Mason Jarre, Pete Robots, Darrin Undesireable and Cliff Anger, but the culmination of desire for a million fan-boys, the affirmation of belief for thousands of cellar-dwellars, and the salvation of the Valentine Theater (and a poorly-performing comic strip associated with same).   Surely such an expanse would provide proof of its benevolent effect.  Right?

Don’t be ashamed; after all, this was something that was fed to us for several years now as the event of the decade, as the measure by which this strip would ensure its place in the pantheon.

So, hands?  Well, there’s one.  Two.  Oh…oh…oh, dear.  That’s far too many hands than I thought I would see.

In my host duties here, I have tried to focus on the content of the strip and NOT on Tom Batiuk, the person.  I’ve never met, and don’t know Tom Batiuk; from all reports, he’s a genuinely nice guy, open and friendly, and I try to keep that foremost when I write here.  And to be honest, I wish him well.

But I’m going to violate that rule here.  Because Tom Batiuk cannot tell a story.

He must know this–aside from Les Moore, the characters he truly cares about (Starbuck Jones and The Amazing Mister Sponge) have never had a single panel dedicated to showcasing their, cough, awesomeness.  Sure, we’ve had lots and lots of covers, but nothing in the way of story.   Story being the key to why a character makes an impression.  Comic book cover?  Anyone who ever read a comic book ever knows that comic book covers are designed to lie you into buying them.  So they don’t count.

It’s much, much easier to ease back down off that plane, and shift the focus to a bunch of has-beens getting married.  Everyone likes marriages, right?  And that’s way more, like, focused than some movie thing that’ll be, like, forgotten in two years.  But marriage, man, that’s like eternal!  Until the next reboot.  But I’ve heard Les Moore has a new book!  Gotta be worth it all, man, gotta be worth it all.

And, just to be that guy,  I’ll be damned if I look it up, but I’m pretty sure Mason made this exact same joke some months back.

To paraphrase Charlie Brown, I weep for the newspaper comic-strip fans.

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