It doesn’t look like Phil Holt had much of a “try out” for Prince Valiant. It looks like he made an unsolicited submission to a large publisher, which was promptly thrown in the trash. By the receptionist. Ouch.
This is typical, though. Most big media companies have a stated policy of “we do not accept unsolicited submissions,” and return them to the submitter with a letter to that effect. This so people can’t claim the publisher stole some half-baked idea they submitted, and try to sue them for damages.
But who’s that in the background? A man who is very specifically drawn; has a monogrammed art satchel; a pair of initials no real person who worked on Prince Valiant had; and looks like he’s waiting for an interview.
It’s Batton Thomas.
As further evidence, I submit this photo from the Funky Winkerbean blog:
That’s Tom Batiuk on the left. I don’t know who the other man is, because I don’t know the context of this photo. It’s too young to be Hal Foster, who was born in 1892, and looked like this in 1962.
Today’s strip makes it clear that Phil Holt tried to nag his way into a tryout, when Batton Thomas had a genuine tryout lined up. Which raises the obvious question: why is this story about Phil Holt and not Batton Thomas??!! Just from today’s strip, we know that Thomas has a better “I tried out for Prince Valiant” story.
This makes Phil look like a liar. In fact, this strip raises a lot of questions:
- Two days ago, Phil said he has memory problems. Are we supposed to infer that his recollection of events is false?
- Phil said he was “up against” Wally Wood and Gray Morrow, but he didn’t even have an appointment to show his work when Batton Thomas did.
- Sunday’s strip was Phil telling an obviously fake story. Is he doing it again?
- Does Kitch know everything Phil says is baloney, and is just humoring him for some reason?
- Does today’s strip mean Tom Batiuk himself auditioned for Prince Valiant? Batiuk has never spoken of this.
- Why would Batiuk give this storyline to his Jack Kirby clone instead of his self-insert character?
- What does it say about the cast of Funky Winkerbean that it has multiple characters who could have plausibly auditioned to draw Prince Valiant in 1970?
- What’s even real in this world?
The Funkyverse tries to use Expy Coexistence. Characters are analogues of real people, but mention real people, places, and events. This is done very inconsistently, though. Some characters are real people (Hal Foster, Conan O’Brien); some are ersatz versions of real people (Phil Holt, Flash Freeman, Batton Thomas); some are purely fictional (Ruby Lith, Pete); some are unclear because they’re real names that are spelled wrong (Gary Morrow, Joe Schuster); and some are fantastic entities that can’t exist in a realistic world (Holtron, Lord of the Late). Some fictional characters are real people in this world (Dick Tracy); some fictional comic worlds are still fictional in this one (Prince Valiant, Batman); and this world has its own in-universe fictional properties (Starbuck Jones, the entire Atomik Komix oeuvre).
There are a lot of other inconsistencies that need to be cleared up, too. Like how the time skips are supposed to work.
Funky Winkerbean needs a Universe Bible. I know Tom Batiuk can do this, because he wrote one for Batom Comics. And it’s actually decent. It’s concise, has a clear idea what it wants to convey, and isn’t trying to bludgeon you with a dictionary. Compare that group of blog posts with this group and you’ll see the difference.
This will also be a Cartooning Suggestion:
This would solve a lot of the problems that arise from Tom Batiuk constantly reinventing characters and the strip’s history to fit short-term story needs.