Thought I’d give you guys a little bonus treat between John posts.
When I got The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 8, I took the time to read the lengthy introduction by Batiuk. Most of these have been reprinted in the form of the ‘Match to Flame’ blog posts over at Tom’s site. Included in the introductions were these cute little Christmas cards.
Last but not least, sometime after moving Crankshaft to Universal Press Syndicate we started sending out Christmas cards to all of the Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean features editors at our client papers. I thought you might like to see what only editors have seen before, so we’re including the cards for the years included in this volume—I think. I never put any dates on the cards, thinking that they would come in handy if they were ever included in a collection such as this (again, who does that?). I’ve tried to order them to the best of my recollection, and, unless you’re a newspaper editor who got one, you’ll never know anyway.
Introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 8.
But I saw something in those cards that just had me hysterically laughing. I cannot believe this is printed in The Complete Funky Winkerbean volumes, the books that are supposed to be the background, true, inside scoop on all things Funkyverse.
So…a fun group activity!
What is wrong with this picture?
(I swear on my 25th Anniversarry Funky Winkerbean T-Shirt. I have not altered these in any way. Check here if you don’t believe me.)
How about this one?
Unless you’re a newspaper editor…you’ll never know anyway.
Security has given us the all clear to continue. We thank the audience for their patience.
We’re also thankful to the first responders on hand who offered assistance to Mr. Thomas, as well as the ATF negotiator in the crowd who convinced Mr. Chaers to give himself up peacefully. We are confident that Chaers will receive back his Golden T-Square, once the proctologist at the hospital has retrieved it.
On with the show!
With a combined 86 years of continuity between Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean, keeping the Funkyverse accurate and consistent was bound to be a battle. A battle it was impossible to win.
A battle Crankshaft lost again this week, when Ed purchases a flamethrower despite already owning one.
I guess August 2022 is the month that Funky Winkerbean decided to try to out dick Les ‘Dickface McSmuggy’ Moore in a dickishness contest.
Because there is NO WAY that high school was more daunting, stressful, confusing, scary, exciting or heart breaking than beating cancer, overcoming alcoholism, surviving a car accident, weathering a divorce, losing a friend to cancer, raising a troubled son, and having a son in the military.
(Notice how only ONE of those things was a positive? For Pete’s Sake, Tom. Lighten up!)
Do we enshrine our high school years? Some of us, yeah. Not all of us, because like Holly said, they’re just FOUR YEARS. For some people they were pretty low key.
I had a pretty good time in high school. I wouldn’t say I ‘enshrine’ it, but I look back on it fondly. I had a group of great friends. I liked 75% of my teachers. I packed my days with extracurriculars. That’s what I miss the most about it. The thing wistfully wish I could get back is being called on to perform and having all of those creative outlets and the buffet of interests to pursue: band, choir, art, drama, sports, FFA.
The people that ‘enshrine’ high school don’t do it because it was the superlative apex of emotional experience. If someone had high school as the most exciting or heart-breaking time in their life, then they died soon after graduation, either literally or figuratively. People recognize high school as a distinct, notable time because it is a liminal period. The border between childhood and adulthood.
For many it’s the last time they’ll put on uniforms, play instruments, have their names on score boards, sing in a choir, and be asked to draw a picture. At the same time, they’re getting a little taste of growing up, dating, driving, spit-balling possible futures at a half-interested guidance counselor.
But after that, they have the rest of their lives.
I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I live in the same town I grew up in. I willingly put hours into writing a Funky Winkerbean snark blog every few months. If anyone is going to pretend High School was the MOSTEST TIME EVAR GUIZE, it’s going to be someone like me. But no. Life since then has been just as much, and often more daunting, stressful, confusing, scary, heart breaking AND exciting. I’ve gone on adventures. I’ve made forever friends. I got a tattoo on my ass. I met Mark Hamill. I kissed my baby nephew’s tiny fingernails and felt him fall asleep on my chest.
Batiuk wrote all kinds of these experiences for Funky and Holly over the last 30 years. The quality of the stories is debatable. But was is objectively true is that MAJOR STUFF HAPPENED.
In one strip, Batiuk is tossing away everything he’s written since 1993, more than half of his entire comics run.
Why did he decide to let the Act I cast graduate?
By allowing my characters to have a time-driven existence, I get to explore everything that flows from that . . . goodness and evil, happiness and sadness, weakness and strength, failure and success, love and grief, youth and age, and the quest for meaning. And the vehicle for all of this is story.
From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 9
But, I guess none of that matters. Since Funky is telling us today that everything explored since then is LESS meaningful, impactful, and exciting than the time these characters spent in high school.
I know I promised you guys the distant past. But first, a brief timeline of the last couple years.
December 2019 to March 2021: Life in Westview proceeds as normal; people self-medicating with comics to stave off the usual nihilistic despair. No mentions of pandemics, lockdowns, masks, or quarantines.
March 2, 2021: Les Moore mentions a previously unrecorded flu quarantine from when Lisa was undergoing breast cancer treatment. A week of retrospective strips on the ‘famous Flu Epidemic of 2007.’
April 2021: Funky Winkerbean attends an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and begins blathering about ‘last year’s pandemic’. It’s as if from a moment in the future the past has been altered, Flashpoint style, so that a pandemic occurred ‘last year’ but is mostly over.
September 30, 2021: Holly Winkerbean breaks her ankle. During her time in the hospital we see people wearing masks in the present, though no one at the football game was masked. (Consistent with late pandemic trends.) She begins a recovery that sees her using a pair of crutches through at least January.
TODAY: Holly Winkerbean is implied to have broken her ankle at the beginning of the pandemic.
You know, when I did the Funky Award for Most Puzzling Continuity Question, I really figured it would be a one time deal, since many of the continuity snarls had been kicking around for a while. I never imagined that by MARCH 2022, we would already have three or four potential nominees.
But Batiuk is no stranger to continuity snarls. They cropped up in his VERY FIRST month of Funky Winkerbean.
The fifth ever printed Funky Winkerbean strip, 3/31/72 introduces Fred Fairgood as the school counselor.
And yet, the next time we see him, 5/9/72, he introduces himself as if he is just arriving.
And that isn’t the only first month snafu. On 4/5/72, we see first see Les working on the school paper, an early running gag.
And a few weeks later, he announces to Funky that he is applying for the position.
Now, both of these are understandable within the context of trying to launch a strip. You’ve got (I’m guessing) a few months of strips prepared, but then you want to lead off with your best and most easily digestible material. So strips are put out of order.
Batiuk actually has some good insight into why starting a strip is difficult.
Starting a comic strip is a unique proposition that requires a slightly different skill set from the one you’ll hopefully be using a few years later.
When I was just beginning with Funky, I read a Peanuts strip that completely frustrated me. The strip in question had come after a week during which Linus had had his blanket taken away, and he was lying on the ground shaking as he went through withdrawal. In the second panel, Snoopy walks up wearing his WWI flying helmet and scarf. He pauses to look down at Linus shaking on the ground and then walks off saying, “Poor blighter, his kind shouldn’t be sent to the front.”
It was an elegant strip that Schulz had taken twenty years to set up. Twenty years in which he had developed the theme of Linus and his blanket, developed the character of Snoopy and Snoopy’s fantasy world as a fighter pilot in WWI—all so he could create the opportunity to eventually dovetail them into that one perfect strip. Twenty years that I didn’t have behind me in those first few weeks of Funky.
Instead, what you have in a beginning strip is a great deal of expository dialogue trying to establish your characters’ names, personalities, and situations. Oh, and have them say something funny. I’ve often likened it to a stand-up comic who has to win over new audiences each night with a series of individual jokes.
Later, if he’s lucky, he moves on to a sitcom where the situational humor allows him to extend the comic narrative. Finally, if he’s really lucky, he gets to make movies, where there’s room for the subtleties of behavioral humor. It takes a long time to establish your characters and develop their personalities.
From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume One
We can debate all day if he ever established his characters or developed their personalities into something consistent, but the above does, I think, point to one reason that Funky Winkerbean maintains it’s ironic audience. History. Any one year of Funky Winkerbean is mostly unremarkable. If it had only lasted a decade, any decade of its lifespan, it wouldn’t catch our attention.
But 50 years of this? 50 years of the Cronenberg-esq transformations of these strange sad-sack characters within a single universe, generated by a single mind.
When Marianne Winters pulled two VHS tapes out of her purse last week, that was the awful entrancing Funkyverse flipside to Snoopy as the Red Baron pitying Linus. It was a nauseating non sequitur built from years of disdain for a fictional character compounded with decades of facts and moments being referenced incorrectly.
Oh. And Batiuk was already creating inexplicable continuity biffs all the way back in 1973. Only a year after Les announced that he had applied for the position of school paper editor, the entire thing is retconned to being recruited by the school principal.