Tag Archives: comic book art

Meta-mucil

TB goes full on meta in today’s strip… could this be a preview of what we’ll see over the next few weeks? Is everything else from here on going to be bizarrely (and blandly) self-referential? Are we in for even more unnecessary acknowledgements that these characters all of a sudden know they are in a comic strip? I suppose we will have to wait and see, though the wait won’t be too long now.

Meta references can certainly work, but are not inherently interesting or funny, nor are they funny in the context of this strip and story arc, or in the context of TB’s real life partial retirement for that matter. What is funny, however, is that Ruby joined Atomik Komix over 3 years ago to much fanfare, specifically to draw Wayback Wendy I might add, and she’s peacing out after drawing the cover of issue #4! And we all thought Phil Holt was a slow worker

And that’s a wrap for my latest and possibly last time blogging here at Son Of Stuck Funky. No goodbyes here, but I do want to thank some folks. Thank you to TFH and Epicus for running this place for the past 12 and a half years and for trusting me as a guest writer here over the past 8 years. Thanks to my fellow guest writers for keeping this site reliably humming for years and much thanks to all of you SOSFers for coming back and reading day after day in spite of my silly wonderings and regular typos. I’ve written over 500 of these things, believe it or not! But for me these posts are mostly a glorified header, the best content generally comes from you all in the comments. I can only hope that you have enjoyed reading some of my words even 1/100th as much as I have enjoyed being a part of this community.

And so, I will close this post the same way I wrote my entire first week of posts…

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With a capital ‘D’ and that rhymes with P…

Oh, we’re sticking with Ruby this week, huh… at least in today’s strip we are. Can’t you see the excitement on my face?

*staring noises*

Looks like Ruby is ready to start living off her social security checks and some meager and infrequent Miss American residuals. That or she’s dying (to start living off those social security checks and meager and infrequent residuals…). Either way, a blow for feminine editorial oversight at Atomik Komix, but what women’s lib doesn’t know won’t hurt ’em!

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Scorched Earth

Well, at least today’s strip made it easy to choose a post title. I don’t feel like I had any other choice.

As far as the strip goes, is this really more feminine and more hopeful than Atomik Komix’s previous climage damate covers? (Eh and Eh are my answers) More importantly, is this the kind of cover Chester can be deadly serious about? Yeah, probably. Chester, introduced as an unscrupulous and unpleasant wheeler-dealer, is pretty much the most laid back boss ever these days.

Pete should leave the snark to us. For one thing, baked potatoes are delicious and this strip suffers greatly in comparison to them. For another, all this damate climage comic business was Pete’s idea in the first place. And above all, Ruby’s given him some prime snark ammunition by drawing some planet that does not appear in almost any way to be earth and he just completely misses it. Leave the wisecracks to the professionals in our comment section next time, Pete.

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Nix Chix Fix Comix

Ruby has got to be regretting speaking up a few days ago because, as we see in today’s strip, she’s being told to… do her job?!

EGADS!

I know, I’m as shocked as any of you that someone at Atomik Komix is even suggesting the idea of doing work. Granted, Phil is suggesting that someone other than himself work, but still… This will probably work better for the deadline anyways, Phil is not known for his speed. Flash being kind of a jerk and everyone else standing around like this place has no editor in chief, or leadership of any kind – now that is the Atomik Komix we all know and love.

Anyways, we’re back from “the climage damate comics aren’t optimistic enough” to “the damate climage comics aren’t, uh, something about women I think”. Are we supposed to see these two complaints as the same thing?

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Climate-specific progress goes “broke”

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnd, back to damate climage in today’s strip. I know we were all wondering how last month’s second issue of The Subterranean sold. Not well, which I am sure surprises absolutely no one. Flash seems especially put out by this… and it was Batton that got nicknamed “Bummer”?

You know, the climage damate books aren’t the only things at Atomik Komix not working…

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Head and Hearts

Banana Jr. 6000
July 29, 2022 at 5:02 am
Who the hell would go to this exhibition? Both these men now live in this town, and have spent a lifetime putting out the comic book equivalent of shovelware.

Maybe people are coming out just to gawk at Flash “Fairfield’s” towering head. It’s the most interesting detail in today’s strip. Not a hell of a lot else to comment about here.

What is “show-offy” of even writerly about Pete’s comment? That paragraph that Darin has to lean in closely and squint to read is a little flowery (“its special magic”) but otherwise inoffensive and succinct. How is “From the hearts of Phil and Flash” an improvement?

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Fair Flashfield

The day of the big gallery opening has come at last. On the walls of the Dibbs Gallery are famous Phil’s Batom covers: Charlie & Chuck, the Cockroach, Starbuck Jones, and, of course, the Amazing Mr. Sponge. If they look familiar, it’s because these are the artworks which Phil Holt inexplicably bequeathed to Boy Lisa, who decided they should be auctioned off  to benefit Lisa’s Legacy, and which were bought, every last one, by Hagglemore, who happens to be Phil and Flash’s employer. There! I’ve explained how Phil’s sold-off covers are still available for this gallery show.

Now: can anyone explain how, after Batiuk has spent 8 years establishing his canon, Flash Freeman’s is now Flash Fairfield?

Comic Book Harriet commented the other day about Batiuk “[giving] Flash and Phil the same backstory as Darin and Pete.” Maybe by bestowing on him an alternate last name, Batiuk’s just giving Flash one more thing in common with Pete Roberts Reynolds.

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I’m Aware Of His Work

Link to today’s strip

Today’s strip is a lesson in how Tom Batiuk’s sloppy writing is undone by his sloppy writing.

Phil’s remark feels like a passive-aggressive insult. The name Phil can’t think of is John Cullen Murphy, the artist who took over Prince Valiant when Hal Foster retired in the early 1970s. He remembers the names of brief fill-ins Wally Wood and Gray Morrow, but not the man who drew the strip for the next 30 years. These were all real-life people who worked on the real-life Prince Valiant comic strip.

When you’re making a list of something and intentionally leave off the most prominent example, it looks like you’re trying to make a point. You’re saying “The New England Patriots’ last few quarterbacks were Mac Jones, Cam Newton, Drew Bledsoe, and some guy whose initials were T.B.” It looks like you’re trying to downplay the person for some reason.

But the joke fails because… he got one of the names wrong! It was G-R-A-Y Morrow, not G-A-R-Y Morrow.

When the joke is “I forget the important one,” you have to remember the unimportant ones. Forgetting them too makes the intent unclear. This is why “beady eyed nitpicking” matters. I’m not being a spelling pedant here. I’m pointing out a problem with the execution of the joke that makes it fail. And because we’re supposed to believe comic strip characters are speaking aloud, it’s not a trivial error. If it was incorrectly spelled G-R-E-Y, it would be less bad, because it’s said the same.

The intent is unclear for another reason: What did John Cullen Murphy do to deserve being snubbed like this? This story doesn’t involve Murphy at all. Batiuk’s never mentioned him on his blog either. Murphy could still be introduced, but bringing real (and deceased) people into the story would get into some thorny areas. Is he going to be the villain?

I do like Phil’s description of “your mind playing charades with you” when you get older. I recently turned 50, and I can relate to this feeling.

The other day I was trying to remember the name of a college hangout from decades ago. I said “it was something like ‘Thirsty Turtle.'” I remembered later it was Purple Porpoise. I couldn’t remember the name, but I remembered Adjective Marine Animal, and also that it was alliterative. That helped my brain find the right answer. I figure this is just how your brain works when you get older. Your mind can’t make the direct connections it used to, and you have to take roundabout paths to find pieces of information.

The real problem is that Phil Holt has never been depicted as having memory loss. He needs it for today’s joke, so suddenly he’s always had it, and has a mechanism for coping with it. Tune in tomorrow, when Phil remembers the precise details of things that happened 50 years ago.

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The Cartooning Commandments (Revised)

Oh goody, a needless vertical strip. To do an exposition dump on some tedious comics-related administrative process that happened 50 years ago. And wank over New York City some more.

Tom Batiuk speaks often of the “Cartooning Commandments.” Despite his assertions they are well-known and can be found on the Internet, they don’t seem to exist anywhere other than his blog. A lot of them don’t even make sense, or just reflect Batiuk’s own sensibilities. “Thou shalt only do funny comic strips. Your characters shall never grow up.” Nobody thinks those things but you, Tom.

Most importantly: they’re not helping. Tom claims he was given these guidelines to follow when he got started in cartooning 50 years ago. To the extent he’s following them at all, they’re not reducing any of the glaring problems in the strip. Sometimes they’re even counterproductive.

With that in mind, I want to write some new cartooning commandments. Commandments that, if followed, would actually help Funky Winkerbean be better. If I’m going to criticize something, I think it’s also my job to be constructive about it. And I can think of a lot of simple steps that would start to pull Funky Winkerbean out of the dull, self-indulgent abyss it’s been in for all of Act III. To keep the tone friendly, I will call them the Cartooning Suggestions.

Most of these suggestions will be in the form of “No more…” something. Because “Thou shalt not” is needlessly pretentious. One of my suggestions will be not to talk this way anymore. I’ll get to that one. But for right now:

No more vertical strips.

Vertical comic strips can be used to good effect. It was done once in Bloom County, in an arc where they made a flying machine by attaching balloons to Cutter John’s wheelchair. For the big reveal, the drawing was rotated 90 degrees, to show this tall, thin object in detail. It was the readers’ first look at something that drove a months-long arc. And it was a strange object that needed to be explained to the audience. This was a perfectly good reason to draw a strip sideways. And I think Berke Breathed only did it one or two other times.

Vertical panels in Funky Winkerbean are used to indulge Tom Batiuk’s worst tendencies as a writer. They’re used to make space for word zeppelins, author rants, pointless info dumps, self-indulgence, and worst of all: Sunday comic book covers. All of these things need to go. A blanket ban on sideways strips in Funky Winkerbean would be a great way to start improving it. If an idea can’t be expressed horizontally, it probably doesn’t need to be expressed at all.

Today’s strip is a shining example. This is strip #8 of the arc, including Sunday, and it’s the fourth one that could have been omitted entirely. It’s all been transactional talking, and a “witty” Sunday joke that’s only witty if the other character is a complete blithering idiot.

Phil Holt’s life makes even less sense now. After he quit his Batom Comics job and stole their property in the process, he… moved to one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the world? To do what? That needs more for an explanation, not 23 words of “I heard Prince Valiant needed a new artist” when we already knew that.

And: it’s apparently vital you know this happened in New York. Nope, Phil’s definitely not in Hollywood, that empty place of vacuous people!

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Cut!

Here’s another complete waste of a strip. Kitch Swoon found something in Phil Holt’s studio, but she’s not going to tell us what it is yet. Like Monday’s strip, this one should have been left on the cutting room floor.

If you missed any of the five strips this week, here’s everything relevant that happened:

That’s it. There have been 13 panels so far, and these three are all you need to know. Everything else has been aimless talking.

“We need more Roy Lichtenstein prints! I’m going to Atomik Komix! Hey, it’s Kitch! Hi, Darin! Hi, Kitch, I want more money! Sorry, Darin, I need to speak to Phil! He’s over there! Hi, Phil, I want your old comic book pages, even though I said I came over here for Roy Lichtenstein prints! The comic book pages are at my house! Okay, can we go to your house? I’m sorry, my house is such a mess! That’s okay, I wish I was a real estate agent! And what’s this? It’s nothing! No, it’s definitely something!”

Good Lord, get on with it!

Funky Winkerbean loves its needless conversation. Especially in Tom Batiuk’s publishing stories, where he re-creates his own fantasies for his own entertainment. He’s far more concerned about meticulously outlining every single step of his ego wank, than he is in telling a story anyone on Earth wants to hear.

Tomorrow, we learn what Kitch found. Maybe.

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