Tag Archives: Crankshaft characters

Not So Different

Link to Today’s Strip.

So Cayla states, AND I QUOTE, “He told me that one thing that gave him some solace…was reminding himself that he wasn’t like them.”

And so, I am willing to rest my case, and conclude that in an arc about racial profiling Batiuk and his team got two black characters confused because they looked too much alike.

There remains the outside chance that I am wrong, that the ‘wisdom’ Cayla spouts is also something her father, Smokey Williams, will be shown saying in his original arc. I will let you know my findings in the comments section when my copy of Strike Four! arrives. And I will add a retraction statement to this post if I was wrong.

But for now, lets look a little closer at the Jefferson Jacks arc. In truth, it was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw last Saturday’s strip, because it was the most significant arc I could think of that tackled racism. The storyline ran in Crankshaft from September 15 to October 12 in 2008. The following are some highlight strips, to give you all an abridged rundown.

First things first. I tried digging through the Toledo Mud Hens rosters to see if they ever integrated before the team moved to West Virginia in ’52. I couldn’t find any black players, though many didn’t have easily googleable pictures. But the Mud Hens integrating in ’47 is a bit of fictional license.

Second. While I couldn’t in my quick and dirty internet search blitz find instances of players confronting disgruntled potentially violent townsfolk, or a black player having to walk to a game, much of what is depicted in the arc is similar to what early integration-era ballplayers went through. I could find instances of heckling from the stands, eating and sleeping on buses, being boarded with local families, and having some white teammates be cold and others be friendly. Crankshaft being ‘one of the good ones’ is, of course, heavy-handed and self-serving. But I really didn’t hate this little story. And the art was especially nice.

This feels so oddly well researched for Batiuk work, doesn’t it?

Well…

Finally, in a bit of Crankshaft news, the Crankshaft story dealing with the black baseball player Jefferson Jacks has been nominated for a Glyph Award in the Best Comic Strip category by the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention which takes place on May 16th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Philadelphia. Just a bit of backstory here… a good friend, Tony Isabella, had suggested I write a story about a black minor league ballplayer who would have played with Ed Crankshaft on the Toledo Mud Hens. I was out of pocket on the Lisa’s Story book tour around that time, so I suggested to Tony, a fine comics writer in his own “write”, that he do it… and he did. Later, when Tony’s scripts came in, I wrote the Sunday strips to wrap around the story and they were then beautifully illustrated by Chuck Ayers. If I say so myself, it’s a fine story and I’m very pleased that it was nominated by the judges.

Finally, part two… the current Jefferson Jacks story was written by me as I recuperated after my accident last year, but Tony and I had such a good time with J.J., that we’re working on some new stuff for down the road. 

Tom Batiuk, blog post dated April, 15, 2009

He had a ghost writer for the story! Tony Isabella is a fellow Ohio native who’s written for Marvel and DC. He’s best known as the creator of Black Lighting.

The ‘current Jefferson Jacks story’ referenced in the blog post was, of course when Jacks played ball in pre-revolution Cuba. Since it was penned by Batiuk, I’m sure was just as well researched and substantiated as the arc Isabella wrote.

Note, the above was a vertical slice of the story. The full arc ran from April 13 to May 2, 2009.

Tomorrow is the last day of my shift. I can continue the saga of Jefferson Jacks for you all, if you’d like. Show you the conclusion to another Funkyverse story of prejudice.

Or, it’s not to late to learn all the exciting facts about Styrofoam and linoleum.

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All the Same to Tom?

When I first read today’s strip, it seemed to make sense. (Except for the last panel, of course.) I remembered Cayla’s dad.

His first and last in-the-flesh appearance in Funky Winkerbean.
ULTRA CLOSEUP ACTION

I remembered that Smokey Williams had been friends with Crankshaft.

The seasoning is piss and vinegar.

And I remembered, from my very earliest comic strip snark fandom days, that Crankshaft had a flashback prestige arc about Cranky befriending his black teammate during the early integration era.

Still, not as hamfisted as this week.

And I chuckled to myself over how it was just PEAK Batiuk to reference by name an obscure character that has only been seen in Funky Winkerbean once, who further references an awards bait arc he wrote in Crankshaft back in 2008. Are any readers, even among the dedicated snarkers on SOSF, CK, Curmudgeon, and elsewhere, going to remember who Smokey Williams was?

I tried to do a little mental math, if it would work if Cayla’s dad was a young man in ’47. But I just chocked it up to time skip weirdness. Then, I went back to the archives for Crankshaft to reread the Diet Jackie Robinson arc.

Wait…
Umm…
But….what?
One of these names….
Is not like the other….

And then I looked at the Crankshaft-meets-Cayla strip from 2011 a little closer.

Any closer and I could’ve counted the blackheads on Cranky’s nose.

Smokey calls Crankshaft an ‘Old-Timer.’ Cranky is a grandfather of adult grandkids at this point, and Cayla is Smokey’s daughter and a college student. Smokey is drawn slightly younger looking than Ed Crankshaft.

Guys. I don’t think that Crankshaft and Smokey Williams played on the same team. I think Smokey Williams is decades younger than Crankshaft. But then, who is he?

In the bedeviled Comics Kingdom hellscape, Crankshaft only goes back to late 2002. When Smokey calls Crankshaft up in 2011, it is the first time he’s mentioned or seen in the archives. But he isn’t treated like a new character. The Toledo Blade didn’t carry Crankshaft. In desperation I started googling madly into the void. And got this little clue from a book review of the Crankshaft baseball collection: Strike Four!

Memorable storylines include the time Ed became a coach and mentor to struggling Aeros pitcher Smokey Williams, and a flashback to Ed’s support for his team’s first black player, who took some harassment from both the public and other players.

Akron Beacon Journal, June 7, 2014

Crankshaft is certainly not a coach or mentor to Jefferson Jacks in the integration arc. And Jefferson Jacks isn’t playing for the Aeros, and doesn’t seem to be a pitcher.

So Jefferson Jacks and Smokey Williams…I think…are two different people. Evidence for this supposition is that Jefferson Jacks shows up at the end of the 2008 arc.

He does look like Cayla’s dad will look…thirteen years in the future.

And this strip from when Crankshaft was inducted into the Centerville Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

See the cluster of three bald heads to the left? The white one is Dusty Bottoms, Crankshaft’s catcher. Is the tall white haired one Jacks and the shorter one Williams?

So my working hypothesis right now is that some time in the first fourteen years of Crankshaft there is an arc where Smokey Williams was introduced. Was he the victim of racism then? I don’t know yet. But my Ebay order for Strike Four is in the mail.

Because one of two things is happening here. And I absolutely must know which it is.

1.) Smokey Williams, Cayla’s father, was also subjected to racism in the arc I haven’t read yet.

2.) Batiuk got his black baseball players confused, probably because he made the older Smokey at Cayla’s wedding look just like Jefferson.

You may think actually purchasing a Crankshaft book is taking my obsession with Funkyverse lore a little too far. To that I have the following two rebuttals.

1.) I took it too far a long long time ago.

2.) I actually like Crankshaft.

It’s funny about once a week.
The superior protagonist in every way. Even when it comes to conversing with his long dead wife.

You may think this is a sign that I’ve gone mad.

I have no rebuttal for this.

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Mall Marvels

Link to Today’s Post.

Oh, good. Logan, got my advice. Despite presumably having the entire summer to continue seeing each other, Logan is drawing a line under this date. Never again! After this is over, she’s never going to go to the mall with Malcolm, never going to eat ice cream with Malcom, and never going to watch a Marvel movie ever again. Good for her.

I do find the meta-joke funny here. (Not the strip itself, it’s pretty clumsy.) They went to see ‘the latest Marvel movie.’ Batiuk’s writes everything a year in advance, but he knew there would be ‘a latest Marvel movie’, no matter when this arc ran. There is always a latest Marvel Movie. There will always be latest Marvel Movie. The virtual reality computer chips Elon Musk will get us all to implant in our heads 20 years from now will come with Disney+ preinstalled and undeletable, and our decaying brain matter will be eternally wirelessly downloading the latest Marvel Movie as we lay dead and rotting in our Disney Corporate caskets in the Magic Kingdom to Come.

Weird that Logan is saying this is the first time they’ve ever eaten ice cream together. I mean, they’ve been friends, at least casually, for years. We saw them hanging out at Komix Korner together after school. But they’ve never eaten ice cream in proximity? Or just gone to the mall to kill time with Bernie and Connor?

Wait, what mall is this?

Thanks to strips the glorious Batiukstorian, Billy The Skink, dug up last week, we know at some point there was a Westview Mall. At least at the time of Les and Cindy’s graduation. Which surprises me because Westview doesn’t seem like a big enough town to support a thriving mall. Especially now that malls everywhere are dying a slow agonizing death.

When Cayla farmed her daughters out as labor for Christmas break in 2020, they certainly weren’t working at the Westview Mall.

An apt punishment for someone in their eighth year of college.

‘TH’ Mall is probably supposed to be Mammoth Mall; the mall in Centerview where Crankshaft used to traumatize children as a photo op Santa.

Crankshaft, the superior Funkyverse Protagonist.

Mammoth Mall is also where a very late Act II Darin and Pete went in 2006 for Senior Skip Day.

Also in attendance, Darin’s old nose.

And at the time Mammoth Mall is referred to, by both Linda and Pete as THE Mall. So I think we can safely assume that Mammoth Mall in Centerview is ‘the mall’ for both towns.

Do you remember Hispanic Linda? Harriet Farms Remembers.

But, that doesn’t make any sense. Because Crankshaft learns in 2019, (and ten years in the past?) that the mall was supposed to be closing.

Of course this could be a ploy to get rid of Crankshaft…

Indeed, in 2017 the Mammoth Mall was already as empty as the mall from Silent Hill 3, and full of similar haunting horrors.

Horrors beyond imagination, eating at a Toxic Taco.
Look how the tiny cashier in the one open store is drawn leaning on the counter bored!
I have nothing but respect for Davis.

Of course, in August 2019 there was still enough of a crowd for Crankshaft to taunt multiple groups of innocent children about the inevitability of summer’s end.

This is petty and spiteful and juvenile. I love it.

And for the 2020 Christmas season, either a year or eleven years after Cranky got fired from his Santa gig, there wasn’t a shortage of traffic.

I will give you small green paper to wrap this paper box in additional paper so that my loved ones may tear it off and throw it away and then return the paper box here to get the original small green paper back.

So Mammoth Mall is Schrodinger’s Shopping Complex. When unseen it is both dying and fine simultaneously. But when observed in strip it is always either dying or fine, based on Batiukian forces beyond our understanding.

In a way, it stands for the dual fates of malls in modern society. Many are sad, desperate shells, full of broken dreams, and dentist offices. Some are still doing fine, still a hub for women to shop, teens to hang, and men to wait on benches staring blandly at their phones. And I’m guessing that everyone is within day-trip distance of one of each kind.

When my mom calls me up and asks if I want to go to the mall, I always wonder which one she means: The living, or the dead?

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Your Funeral…My Trial

Link to today’s strip.

Well, Dinkle has agreed to do the funeral music the way the family has requested. How magnanimous of him. And the choir has no idea how to do this, because of course they don’t.

Fortunately, Dinkle carries around the CD he and the Bedside Manor people made, because of course he does, just like he’s always wearing the chocolate medal. Neither of which, by the way, indicate a healthy state of mind.

Can you imagine having to ask Tom Batiuk for directions? By the time he finishes telling you how to get to a place, that place has gone out of business and probably burned down.

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Obfuscation

Link to today’s strip.

Speaking of “obfuscation,” isn’t it interesting that some nobody we’ve never seen before gets several weeks of funeral planning, so that his service can be just the way he wanted it?

Contrast this with Bull Bushka, who I’m surprised didn’t just get dumped in the town landfill. And whose death led immediately, and I mean immediately, to a long discussion of Lisa’s Legacy and how awesome Les is.

Batiuk really has no shame, has he?

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Nothing is ever “fast”

Link to today’s strip.

Day three of this crap. Batiuk is one of the worst writers I’ve ever encountered…though at least today he didn’t start with “So.” He was probably tempted though.

Imagine him writing “Who’s On First.”

Monday – Costello: Hello, Abbott. I thought I’d find you here, in the middle of the stage. Abbott: Hello, Costello. I’ve been in the middle of this stage for a while now.

Tuesday – Abbott: Say, Lou, did you know that I used to manage a baseball team. Costello: What?

Wednesday – Costello: You used to manage a baseball team? I did not know that at all–that you managed a baseball team, I mean. Abbott: Yes, me.

Thursday – Abbott: I sure did–manage a baseball team, that is. Costello: Managing a baseball team–that sounds like a lot of hard work!

Friday – Abbot: Oh, it sure was hard work. Managing all the players on a baseball team, the way a manager would, was really hard work and it had to be done, if the baseball team was going to be a real baseball team and play baseball games. But I was the best at it, and I was nominated for awards. Costello: Of course, you were the best at it! And all those innovations!

Saturday – Abbott: Say, I had three players on the baseball team that I managed who had weird names! They were named Who, What, and Idunno! Aren’t those weird names? Costello: They sure are! I couldn’t have managed a baseball team the way you did with players named like that!

Sunday – comic book tribute.

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We Have a Funeral Coming Up – It’s Yours

Link to today’s strip.

I realize that every episode is a waste of a day, but this one really lives up to the strip’s reputation. We’re apparently going to get an entire week of this Reverend asking Dinkle if he can provide music at a funeral. And just the asking part, I’ll wager.

There’s an old rule about doing presentations for the public – Tell them what you’re going to say; say it; and then tell them what you’ve said. Batiuk has really taken that one to heart, to the point where he’s added several more copies of the same steps. The last step, of course, is to tell everyone how brave and innovative and deserving of praise you are.

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I Thought I Heard Cats Howling

Link to today’s strip.

Oh good, Dinkle again. Like Les, a character where “a little” is “way too much.”

I assume that we’re going to get full on Dinkle until the Rose Bowl parade, where he’s going to be given a middle-finger salute. Oh…I can just feel the joy oozing out of me.

Another assumption is that the Hanna-Barbera character appearing here is the Minister or Reverend or Priest of this parish. If so, Dinkle will not be asked for “a favor.” He’ll be asked to do his damned job the way the M/R/P wants it done, or he’ll be hurled into the sun.

This is one of the reasons that I loathe Dinkle more than Les. He’s always assumed to be completely in charge of whatever situation he finds himself, with full control of every resource. And he then turns those situations into a celebration of his ego. No doubt, the Rose Bowl parade will suffer the same fate, as he’s called on to direct it in its entirety, rather than appear as a guest.

Hurling into the sun is too good for him. What’d the sun ever do to us?

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Lisa’s Story, The Cure for Insomnia

As an avid reader, I do kind of like this strip, just because I like bookstores and seeing people read. I would really like to know what they’re reading, though. It’s extra funny if you assume they’re reading part of Lisa’s Story and that’s why they fell asleep. I would like to know what time of day it’s supposed to be, because if it’s first thing in the morning and they’re already passing out, that’s very different then if it’s night time.
I do like Funky’s expression in the third panel-“Yeah, that’s right, I have a credit/debit card! Aren’t I awesome?”.
I am very tired of these little crossovers. It’s funny how after years of these strips somehow being ten years apart and taking place in the present day at the same time, he’s just given up on it making any kind of sense. I won’t be surprised at all if somehow Sunday’s Crankshaft involves the title character and the annoying newspaperman being waited on in Montoni’s by Adeela.

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Passive Patricide

Link to today’s strip

Is there any character in this strip as thick-skulled as Mindy? She’s been standing outside the Bedbug Hotel with Pete long enough for Masone to drive from the Channel Island Harbor Marina (The nearest marina north along the coast from Malibu) to, judging by the view, the Hollywood foothills.

I know Comics Curmudgeon has been going nuts trying to parse out the geography of this arc, but here’s my take on it:

So, of course, given this map, it was entirely reasonable for Mindy and Pete to stand and wait for the minimum of two hours it would take Masone’s Starbuckmobile to drive BACK THROUGH THE FIRE to pick them up after dropping off Marianne and Les.

Only for Mindy to then remind her friends that her dad was hiking in Griffith Park.

Pete is smiling in relief in panel one, and suddenly worried in panel two. So unless he has the attention span of a goldfish, Mindy is only bringing this up now. And she seems at a complete loss as to what to do next.  So she’s going to let her fiancee and his pal decide if and how they should alert emergency personnel.  Or is she expecting them to go charging through the brushfire themselves?

Truly, dumb as a box of sponges. Because a box of rocks at least has some weight.

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