It follows almost perfectly, doesn’t it? The story could have skipped this entire week. When it wasn’t redundant, it was confusing. Yesterday’s auction scenario now seems like a bizarre non-sequitir as we flip back to Summer’s insipid story. And next week apparently won’t be about either of these things.
I have to give today’s strip credit for moving the story along. The strip could have easily spent a month unpacking all the repetitive backstory Summer is hearing about today. Maybe her author arc won’t take as long as I thought. Batiuk probably just wants to get Summer her book tour, movie deal, and Nobel Peace Prize for Literature faster. But I’ll take the positive side effects where I can.
There’s still a lot to complain about, though. The intellectual bankruptcy of Summer’s stupid “oral history” is on full display. She asks her father’s friends about things that aren’t remotely history-worthy, and which she should already know anyway. Harley the janitor, a character so irrelevant that Linda and Kablichnik talk about him like he’s not there, gets his second mention in three days. Dinkle and the Eliminator get two panels each, even though the strip rehashes both stories constantly. No doubt this dross will be enough to make Summer the greatest historian since Pliny the Elder.
Is she interviewing people during the auction? I know I asked why she and Harry weren’t at this event, but isn’t this kind of rude? And how are you going to have a conversation while this is going on the background?
And with that, my guest hosting shift is up! This was one confusing fortnight in the Funkyverse. Though I had a blast, as always. My esteemed colleague BillyTheSkink is on deck.
And so we conclude The 2021 Funky Winkerbean Awards. The first ever year-end awards event in Son of Stuck Funky history! But will it be the last?
Years ago, many of us hypothesized that Batiuk may end his strip at the 50th Anniversary; go out with a major milestone achieved and draw a line under half a century of storytelling. The counter still sits at the very bottom of the right of the blog, expressing this hope.
64 days from the 50th, I think it’s safe to say he has no plans to retire this year, or even relatively soon.
And to that I say, good. Judging by the comments, the 2021 Funky Awards were a smashing success. If he wants to continue, then maybe we’ll be here again next year, with a new set of punchable Les Moore faces to choose from.
But before we close this first one out, I have some people to thank, ANOTHER SPREADSHEET (yay!) and a final arc I’d like to recognize.
First of all, I want to thank those of you who comment almost daily! Some of you are relative newcomers, some of you have been at this for longer than I’ve been lurking around. You are ALL awesome.
A few years ago this blog was averaging 15 to 25 comments a day, often less. This year, as boring and inane as the stories seemed to be, we regularly hit 40, 50, sometimes more. There are a lot of great places to go on the internet to post snark on Funky Winkerbean, but people here were also discussing, debating, analyzing. They were posting photoshop edits, strip rewrites, and song parodies. This isn’t just a place to get some great sarcastic quips whipped up by clever minds, it’s also a place to vivisect the very concept of humor itself. So thank you!
Secondly, to the lurkers or occasional posters, thank you. Even if you’re just upvoting or downvoting comments, or chuckling at the banter as you scroll through, we’re glad you stopped by. You are always welcome to comment (provided it’s blog kosher), and should never feel pressured to.
A big thanks, and a tip of the CBH keyboard, to my fellow guest writers:
Thanks to Beckoning Chasm, for the hilarious post titles, the cheeky pop-culture references, and your dark artistic flair. Thanks for creating the hilarious gif of Les getting pummeled by an Eisner. Hope you don’t mind I wanted it front and center for these awards.
Thanks to SpacemanSpiff85 for being able to methodically shred the logical and humor failings of strip after strip after strip with Socratic insight. Every post from you asks how? why? when? and nails Tom to the wall for his lack of answers.
Thanks for Billy the Skink, our resident Batiukstorian, and poet laureate. We can always count on you to educate us on 50 years of Westview history; or spin a pointless strip into a golden bundle of haiku, and to tag the ever living HECK out of it. If we were the Starship Enterprise, (TNG, of course,) you would be Data. (I would be Wesley.)
A huge thank you to Epicus Doomus, the power behind the throne. He not only writes his two week shift, he moderates, he schedules everyone else, he subs if someone can’t complete a shift. I may go off on a tear and spend two weeks playing ‘try-hard’, but then I get to hibernate for a couple months. For Epicus, the work doesn’t stop. He carries the burden of a lot of the behind the scenes minutiae. Thank you.
Another huge thank you to TFHackett, Blogmeister-In-Chief, not only for creating this blog and keeping it trucking along, but for your posts, your humor, and your hilarious panel edits. Without you, this blog wouldn’t exist, and none of us would have this great place to voice our opinions on a single syndicated comic strip read by almost no one else.
And a final thank you to the mysterious ‘Stuck Funky’ writer, the progenitor of the original blog from which we are descended. Wherever our primordial ancestor is, I wish him or her happiness, humor, and health.
Speaking of voices….
Since you enjoyed the appearance spreadsheet, I thought I’d also share the OTHER spreadsheet I generated this week. See, appearances are nothing, especially when women be tiny and disappearing into the background. So I decided to see how often various named characters actually SPOKE this year, so we could figure out which characters were actually characters, and which were just props.
Below is a list of the number of PANELS named characters SPOKE in for 2021.
(I excluded Marianne and Masone’s lines from the Lisa’s Story Trailer.)
It’s less an award, and more an arc this year that was lambasted in the comments, but that resonated with me. For very personal reasons.
So, The 2021 ComicBookHarriet Special Recognition Certificate goes to.
HOLLY AND MELINDA
Many in the comments criticized the early part of this arc; where Holly and Melinda reminisce, decide to arrange an alumni event, and then Holly breaks her ankle trying to impress her mom. They felt the relationship was regressive and borderline abusive. And, given the exaggerated characters on display, and everyone bringing their own personal histories to the table, that is a perfectly valid interpretation.
Nothing in Funky Winkerbean this year hit me harder or touched me more.
At the very end of September, I lost my 98-year-old grandma. She’d been declining physically for years, though maintained most of her cognitive function to the very end. Still, her death was a surprise.
My grandma was very much a softer Melinda Budd type. She was Olenna Tyrell from Game of Thrones. She was Violet Crawley from Downton Abbey. Propriety focused, status conscious, but practical. Very particular in the way she wanted things done, but generous to a fault. Occasionally prickly, but devoted to her family.
I adored her.
My mother, on the other hand, is gregarious, and laid-back almost to the point of laziness. Anti-conflict, comfort seeking and giving, a people pleaser. In high-school she’d been a cheerleader and homecoming queen and class president, but as an adult she morphed into a Holly Winkerbean type: warm, soft, and maternal.
For the last fifteen years of my life, I watched my mom and my grandma navigate the difficult transition where child becomes caretaker. They handled it better than many, mostly because my mother left my grandmother as much agency as possible, and my grandmother had the grace and intelligence to admit when she needed to cede some control. But what struck me was that, until the very end, my mom worried what her mom would think, and my grandma worried what my mom was doing.
How many times when I was visiting Grandma in the nursing home in this last year, when she was unable to walk, unable to care for herself, would Grandma ask me how my mom was doing? If she was alright? Because she, of course, didn’t trust my mom to tell her.
How many times would Mom say, ‘don’t tell Grandma this,’ or ‘why did you tell Grandma that?’ Always about something inconsequential, like Mom having a routine doctor’s appointment, or the state of the house, or a story I thought was funny but Mom found embarrassing.
This time last year I hugged her while she choked up; this woman in her 60’s, months away from being a grandma herself. And my mom told me, “I don’t want to lose my mom.” And she said it in a voice like a little girl, and I, her daughter, comforted her like a friend.
The beginning of this arc tapped into that for me. The dynamic between mother and daughter that sometimes you can’t get away from, and sometimes you don’t want to. Such a weird moment to find a connection in, for a strip that usually portrays women with all the nuance and depth of cheap paper dolls.
Maybe it really is as bad as the comments thought, and I was just looking at it through a rosy tear-blurred lens. But before we shut the door on 2021, even if I’m the only one who enjoyed it, I wanted to thank Tom Batiuk for this arc, for showing me a middle-aged woman and her elderly mother bickering and bonding, and reminding me that mother birds are mother birds forever.
You know, it was a huge revelation to both Dinkle and Harriet that you could just set up a web fund and people would give you money for no reason (and no effort on your part). Even better if you had a cat, and Dinkle certainly has access to Bingo (the cat from the church, in case any of you have memories like Tom Batiuk).
But no, those old candy-selling gags are money in the bank so they’ve got to be trotted out again.
I’m sitting here wishing for a different set of characters, and realizing that no matter who’s in the cast, it’s all going to be terrible. They’re all like whatever it is in the bowl in front of Harriet–something you don’t want to look at too closely.
By the way, the Firesign Theatre had an album some years ago called Boom Dot Bust. One of the characters was mayor William Cudlip P’nisnose. I think we’re seeing his wife in today’s strip. Or, Nixon in a wig.
I’m not sure God appreciates being mentioned in Funky Winkerbean, especially in connection with Harry Dinkle, but his “at our age” remark raises a question.
When the organist died in Crankshaft, the immediate substitute was ancient crone Lillian. Here, Batiuk is going to reward the equally ancient (and equally loathsome) Dinkle with the position. Why wouldn’t the church try to find a younger person, one who could be expected to helm the organ for many years to come (before dropping dead)? I don’t think it’s especially rigorous physical work (I’m not an organist), but unless the church only has a single Sunday service, the organist is going to be spending a lot of time there.
Perhaps the job is a voluntary one, and there’s little (or no) pay, and a younger person would need a salary. A retired person wouldn’t have this worry.
But…I’m starting to think Tom Batiuk just hates young people. Whenever they appear, they are invariably shown as worthless idiots completely out of clues. Think of the youngest characters he’s shown us (Skyler, Bernie, the other high schoolers) and tell me I’m wrong.
And as many predicted, here comes Dinkle to be rewarded. To be honest, my impression of the character is that he’s something of a tyrant, so I don’t know how suited he would be to work in a church. But Batiuk’s gonna Batiuk, and it’s time to praise Dinkle to the skies.
I forgot to mention the joke yesterday, but that’s okay as it reappears here as…I think…”Newspapers, am I right?”
I don’t know if Batiuk is making fun of newspapers or making fun of people who’ve abandoned them. It might be that even he doesn’t know. He seems to be wary of online things and prefers the old fashioned stuff. But who really knows?
All I can tell you is that this week has been a slog. Uninteresting characters discussing dull trivia. Admittedly, that’s every week, but this one seems especially devoid of even the tiniest bit of substance to grab on to.