Tag Archives: Derek

All of My Friends Were There

Cindy’s Popularity Was Just a Cover for Insecurity? Whoddathunk?!

Cindy was the most popular, so she gets to talk about getting left out TWICE. Or we’re supposed to interpret the start of this interminable pity party on Tuesday as a private conversation between Funky and Cindy, and thus she warrants a second confession to the entire group. Continue reading

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(We Are) The Depressed Derek Appreciation Society.

The Minority Characters Speak Out!

Roland was an anti-establishment activist. Of course he didn’t feel a part of things in high school. I suppose we can read this as Roland feeling alienated even before, and choosing an identity in the counter-culture that justified those feelings.

At least by talking about prior ‘protests’ and ‘anger’ Rolanda has made her line specific to her, so she’s leaps and bounds ahead of Crazy and Funky this week. But Batiuk is just writing her saying this because he wants to let his new trans character talk one more time before this arc ends and she disappears forever.

It’s Derek who’s giving me a chuckle today. He gets one word. One word this whole year. “Seriously?”

I’m guessing that this was intended by the author to reference the one or two strips where he felt ‘alienated’ by his race. He was one of a few black students in a mostly white school. So obviously (sarcasm) asking him if he felt left out is silly.

The Cringe Echoes Through the Ages.

But I am invoking Death of the Author.

Because Derek is the embodiment of ‘Seriously?’ As in, “Why do I exist in this asinine universe surrounded by stupid, unfunny, jokes?”

Every time he would stare out at the audience, it was like a cry for help through the crack in the Fourth Wall. He had this air of resigned desperation. I imagine you would get a similar expression if Charles Dance was sent to a hell populated entirely by Teletubbies.

Chilling

And so when Derek today says, “Seriously?” I don’t hear, “Yes, of course I felt like an outsider.”

I hear, “Seriously? Seriously? It’s been 50 years! I hardly even remember high school. Why did I even come to this? Why did I bother to bring the ultrasound picture of my great-grandson? Or the photos of my granddaughter getting her doctorate? Why did I bother looking any of these chucklefucks up on Facebook to see what they’ve been up to. I came all prepared to talk about Les’ movie getting an Oscar. Cindy’s work on BuddyBlog. What it was like being stuck in LA for the fires. Funky’s punk son finally making an honest woman of that poor pretty army chick. Holly’s biography on being a majorette. Rolanda’s work counselling the families of senior gender transitioners. Maybe share some memories of Bull and Mary Sue, since this is our first reunion without them. But naw, I shoulda known better. These assholes are just gonna stand in a row all facing the same way, like they’re posing for a picture no one is gonna take, and pass the same damn sentence down the line in the world’s most half-assed game of telephone. Fuck these cookie-cutter punch-outs all thinking they’re a special snowflake. If they’re not all dead by the next reunion, I’m not coming. I was hoping to talk to Barry Balderman and Carrie and Melissa, maybe catch up with Wanda, but naw. They were too smart for this shit. I mean. Seriously?”

“At least Les didn’t have a pity party over his dead wife again.”

Speaking of Les! Here’s some more writing advice from the past! Brought to you by the world’s least prolific biographer.

Past, Present, and Future can all be thrown out without explanation if you suddenly decide that Crankshaft and Funky are no longer separated by 10 years.
Good pacing is spending five days on a woman being impotently worried, two days introducing a transgender character you haven’t seen in 40 years, and five days on characters all agreeing they have the exact same feelings using the exact same words.

We Are The Son of Stuck Funky Admiration Affiliate

Preserving the old strips from being abused
Protesting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
?

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Harry Rag

Crazy Harry? Copying the crowd? Strange but true.

Crazy Harry was never part of the ‘In-Crowd’? GASP! I don’t believe it. (sarcasm)

Crazy Harry noticed or cared enough to feel excluded? I don’t believe it. (not-sarcasm)

He could barely tell that Mr. Mathews openly despised him.

Crazy was so weird that he bent reality around himself. And he didn’t seem to notice how strange it was.

And yet, he was voted Student Council President in an election against Mr. Mean, Median, and Mode himself. So his weirdness notwithstanding, he must have been liked well enough.

50 years later, Crazy Harry is barely wacky enough to wear a Hawaiian shirt to his reunion. And his line today could have been spouted by anyone in attendance. In fact, it already HAD BEEN. TWICE. In order to get his anemic little point across, Tom will let Harry rag on high school now as if it wasn’t a decent time for him, that he reminisced on fondly just earlier THIS YEAR.

Banana Jr put in wonderfully in the comments yesterday.

It’s not exactly The Breakfast Club, is it? Those were different characters who each, in their own way, learned that they had some things in common. This is like watching Twelve Angry Men, if they all agreed he’s guilty in the first minute and spend two hours telling each other how right they all are.

I’ve complained about it before. I will complain about it again. But the hollow sameness of every character cripples this strip in ways I don’t think Batiuk realizes. You ever buy a danish, or a jelly doughnut, and when you bite into it you realize that all the filling has been baked out? That’s an Act III Funky Winkerbean character. Bland, flakey, overcooked yet doughy. And completely empty inside.

When poking around the Toledo Blade Microfiche, looking for when Cindy first hit it off with Funky, I stumbled across a hilarious and yet infuriating week.

Les teaches Sadie Summers STORY WRITING.

Ah, Tom’s a writer and Tom is bold
Tom is bolder than the writers of old
But whenever he gets in a bit of a jam
There’s nothing he won’t do to let Harry rag

Harry rag, Harry rag
Do anything just to let Harry rag
And he curses himself for the life he’s led
And writes himself a Harry rag and puts himself to bed

Ah, Tom’s old Lisa is a dying lass
Soon they all reckon she’ll be pushing up the grass
And her bones might ache and her skin might sag
But still she’s got the strength to let Harry rag.

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Who Will Be the Next to Whine?

Funky See, Funky Do.

Quick! The most popular and objectively successful member of the class has admitted they never felt like they fit in! Everyone must fall in line behind her and parrot her sentiments! This will prove how alienated and apart from things they all were!

This would almost be a joke. If the idea that “Les was a dork in school” hadn’t been hammered home so many times the nail is halfway to China, and they’re using a percussive drilling machine with 2000 feet of rod to reach the punchline.

Keep digging, Boys! We’ll reach that sweet black comedy!
I know it!

What even does ‘In-Crowd’ mean? In my experience, you want your circle of friends to share your interests and enjoy the same things. A chess club nerd is going to be lost and bored at a football kegger. The kids I knew in high school that were miserable were either the ones that faked their way into a clique that didn’t really suit them, or the poor kids who never found a niche no matter how small.

But Funky was considered perfectly acceptable in High School. Neither the most popular, nor the least.

‘Average’ is the first bit of characterization Funky was given, and as far as I can see it held true through 20 years of high school. You’ve got to give him some credit for keeping Les as his best friend, since nothing probably dragged him down Cindy’s popularity rankings more than having human tumor Les Moore clinging to his side.

I would say that Funky should let Les speak on what it really felt like to be excluded in high school. Since if anyone has a right to speak on the topic it is him.

But I bet Funky and crew remember Les’ self-righteous downer of a commencement speech and rightfully figured the less he said on the topic the better.

Wanda has been smart enough to NEVER attend a reunion following the 2008 fiasco. But really she should have known what she was in for, since Cindy showed up at her door in 2004 to for an entire week of groveling. Something I only found after my Wanda retrospective back in March.

Thank you, Cindy, for coming to my house and talking about your own feelings for five minutes and then walking away without waiting to see if I had anything I needed to get off my own chest.

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The Power Of Friendship.

Hey Look Derek and Junebug!

Did you guys enjoy this gripping, emotional, and politically charged tale which really challenged our main characters leading to growth and change that will really shake things up going forward?

Good!

Artistic Credit, Beckoning Chasm. Love you buddy!

(Seriously, tomorrow is Cindy and Holly.)

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Odd Man In

Link to another boring nonsensical strip that I still kind of understood because I’m always asking my housemate and best friend if she wants to go to the store with me but man was this week awful with maybe one almost joke and five days of pointless observation and yes this was supposed to be one long run-on sentence for comedic effect.

Full disclosure: Until I read through the Vintage Funky Winkerbean, I assumed Roland was black. I realized my mistake when Derek popped up, asking Les about why ‘brothers and sisters’ weren’t being covered by the school paper, looking like the lost sixth Jackson brother from the Jackson Five cartoon.

Ooh, ooh, Derek, (don’t want you back)

So Roland’s poofy hair was just an Art Garfunkel style jewfro, and Derek is the strip’s first black character. Which other characters seem to only notice and comment on occasionally.

In all of his appearances, there’s only a handful of strips where Derek’s overtly concerned about racism. And it always comes across cringy af. Now-a-days this is the sort of material that gets you twitter cancelled.

A modern activist would call this gaslighting.
I think the joke here is that the computer scheduling has more power than the school board and admin.

Other than these cases, Derek is written as ‘one of the guys’. Sometimes he spouts off Roland-esqe general activist talking points for a laugh.

His main character trait is this sort of weary detachment. In the four years of strips released, I think I’ve seen him smile twice. It’s like, somehow he knows. He knows that he’s stuck in Funky Winkerbean. And the best he can hope for is to feel slightly less than dead inside.

Like Livinia, unspoken identity politics hamstring his range. Because Batiuk wants Derek to be a positive portrayal of a black student, he’s never shown getting into trouble with the principal or being ignorant. He never asks the dumb question. He is the one Funky Winkerbean character that is never the wacky one spouting off inanity. He is all grimace and side-eye.

When Derek delivers the punchlines, they’re clever observations that reveal intelligence, not obliviousness like Batiuk will use for Les or even Funky.

Derek is still showing up in Vintage Funky Winkerbean through 1976. Most recently watching TV with Crazy Harry on 4-10-76.

I doubt he’s going to completely disappear for a while, since he fulfils an important diversity position. He’ll keep showing up until a more gimmicky black boy is introduced, or until Batiuk forgets to remind his audience he’s not racist. In September of 1975 a black female student was introduced, Junebug Jones. She and Derek are dating, and she becomes a cheerleader. Her ‘unorthodox’ cheering strategy is another running gag.

I’m of two conflicting minds on Junebug. On the one hand I wonder if she plays into the lazy stereotype of black girls as loud, aggressive, and tactless. On the other hand, I love seeing a lady with some backbone.

Derek and Junebug, one of the first couples in Funky Winkerbean. She might not have liked the odds, but she should have placed her bets. By the 1998 class reunion arc, they are confirmed to be married.

Crazy/Holly: the ship not taken.

And by the 2008 reunion they have grandkids!

Don’t worry Funky, I’m sure Corey and Rocky will give you some grandkids eventually. Maybe. If they get around to it.

Junebug shows up again in 2015, as part of The Upcoming Reunion planning committee.

Note: Except for poor Barry Balderman here, none of these other people are actually seen at The Time Pool reunion. I like to think they bailed when they realized what a shitshow it was going to be.

So, really, despite all his grumbling, it seems like Derek and Junebug had it pretty good for Funky Winkerbean characters. They escaped the plot before the Act II drama hit, and every subsequent cameo appearance has only reinforced their happy ending.

He who laughs last…

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When Everything Goes Pear Shaped.

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.

Never change, Tom. It’s too late to start.

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Do maladroits dream of selective *bleep*?

Today’s strip

Les – * There’s no DJ here. There’s no DJ here. There’s no DJ…
Cayla – Wake up, honey.
Les – * Hate Big Walnut Tech. Hate Big Walnut Tech. Hate Big Wal…
Cayla – Les. Les, dear, It’s Cayla, darling.
Les – Oh, Cayla, it’s… you.
Cayla – Yes, darling.
Bull – Hello, Les! Anybody home? I heard the you were distraught by the the big… well… you seem all right now.
Crazy Harry – Yes. He got quite a bump on the head. We kind of hoped… uh… thought there for a minute he was gonna leave us.
Donna – Oh.
Les – But I did leave you, Crazy. I came through the time pool. And then went back to our high school days.
Cayla – There, there, lie quiet now. You just had a bad dream.
Les – No.
Funky – Sure. Remember me, your old pal, Funky?
Les – Oh.
Holly – And me, Holly?
Cindy – You couldn’t forget my face, could you?
Les – No. But it wasn’t a dream. It was a time pool. And you, and you, and you, and you were there.
Barry – Oh!
Les – Not you Barry.
Cayla – Oh, we dream lots of silly things when we…
Les – No, Cayla, there was a real, functioning time pool. And I remember that there wasn’t much class… but mostly it was a reunion. But just the same, all I kept doing was wandering through the background listening to Cindy reveal her insecurities and Crazy plot to alter the present with a smartphone. Doesn’t anybody believe me?
Crazy Harry – Of course we believe you, Les. *wink*
Les – Oh, but anyway, Lis… uh Cayla, we’re here! Here! And this is the reunion – and you’re all here! And I’m not going to coordinate the reunion ever, ever again, because I loathe you all! And… oh, Cayla? There’s no one like Lisa!

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