Tag Archives: comic book art

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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Art Sellers

Link to today’s strip

Hello! This is the commenter known as Banana Jr. 6000. I take my handle from the wise-cracking but philosophical desktop computer from Bloom County. Having recently completed the monumental task of finding Spaceman Spiff among the cosmos, I will now take on an even greater challenge: helping to make Funky Winkerbean fun and interesting to read every day.

I’m delighted to join such a strong team, where everyone brings their own areas of expertise to the discussion. My background is in writing, so that’s probably what I’ll talk about the most. And today’s strip gives me a lot to talk about!

The “Dibbs Gallery” marquee tells us this is Kitch Swoon, who was last seen at Atomik Komix handing out nice-sized checks. Apparently she’s hired the new-look Summer as an assistant. It also looks like Tom Batiuk went through a Roy Lichtenstein phase about a year ago, because this is his second mention in a month. The wedding sign Darin made was a blatant copy of Lichtenstein’s famous work “Crying Girl.”

Add another name to the list of better artists that Funky Winkerbean has ripped off.

How on earth is a visit to Atomik Komix going to “revisit the source material” for Roy Lichtenstein prints? Roy Lichtenstein was a real person, who died in 1997. Is she flat-out admitting that Atomik Komix and Dibbs Gallery’s real business is art forgery?

That would… make a lot of sense, actually. There’s no way those lame, derivative, preachy comic books are producing the kind of money we’ve seen these people throw around. And Westview is the perfect place for such an operation. It’s a town full of comics-obsessed suckers, and a police force that’s willing to cover up certain things.

Today’s strip should have been deleted. We don’t need a strip to tell us what’s going to happen in tomorrow’s strip. Just start the scene already. Batiuk did this correctly the first time Kitch Swoon appeared in 2019:

That strip also had a cameo from Holtron, the star of last week’s pointless Act I flashback. As several commenters remembered, Holtron was repurposed as a prop for the Starbuck Jones movie, and later given to the Atomik Komix team for free. Now this valuable prop from a multi-gazillion dollar movie is just sitting around an office, as a conversation piece. That’s a bit of conspicuous consumption, don’t you think?

Nice “Pineapple” computer, buddy. Get out of here with that crap.

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Q: Is He Best Man? A: He’s Boy Lisa

Link To The Strip

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.

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