Tag Archives: Falling leaves

A Very Winkerbean Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, loyal SoSF readers!

It’s a virtual cavalcade of stars today, featuring TWELVE of FW’s most beloved and adored characters. That’s over ten percent of the cast, in case you’re keeping score at home. I certainly hope Harriet started cooking early, or it’s gonna be a long, long night. I can’t imagine for the life of me why the entire Winkerbean clan would go to Dinkle’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, but hey, no one ever said a holiday garbage dump arc has to make logical sense. I assume that Rocky’s forgotten mom is sitting by the phone, forlorn and alone.

Coming tomorrow: Thanksgiving dinner at Dinkle Manor ends abruptly when Morton gets into the Sambuca and ends up exposing himself to Harriet in the hallway. Fortunately, though, it’s played for laughs and everyone smirks knowingly at the old coot’s perverse antics. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Chair Man Of The Bored

Link To This One

And suddenly the strip is TEEMING with new characters, one after the other! I wonder if they’ll ever be named? So the seldom-seen Halle Dinkle is back, which is weird, as it always is when one of those Act II/early Act III characters suddenly re-emerges. Otherwise, this one is so uninteresting it’s tough to really find much to complain about and or mock here. Halle’s husband sort of looks like a cut-rate Paulie Walnuts, except for that orange sweater that Paulie wouldn’t be caught dead in. But otherwise, this barely rates a “meh”.

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The Less Things Change

Link To It

Settlement school? I looked it up, but I’m still not 100% sure what the hell these idiots are jabbering about. As far as Halle Dinkle goes, I have no memory of the character at all, so feel free to fill us in on her no doubt compelling character arc if you’re so inclined.

It’s kind of interesting how BatHam wrote these 2021 strips under the assumption that COVID would be old news by the time they ran, and by “interesting” I mean “not really”. Mildly amusing is more like it. And could the gag here possibly be any weaker? And why doesn’t the most legendary band director who’s ever lived have any friends? No local pals, no former students, nothing. Oh, wait. I know why.

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It’s A Privilege, Not A Right

Link To The Next One

I remember that arc. It went something like this:

“Dad, I’m really sorry but I simply can’t allow you to drive anymore. It’s just not safe.”

“Beer nuts! Mom? Happy Arbor Day! Huh?”

“Now dad, don’t be that way. You know I’m only looking out for your best interests.”

(Morton lights up a Marlboro Light)

“Ah, that’s better. While I respect and appreciate your concern, I am also offended, as I obviously still have the cognitive and physical abilities required to operate a motor carriage.”

(Black panel)

Although perhaps my memories are a bit hazy, as there was a lot going on in the strip at that time. Good thing Funky didn’t entrust Linda with Morton’s keys, as he would have easily found them while Linda was on the phone complaining, then driven himself into Westview Gorge like how Bull did. And right now Morton is WAY sharper than Bull was near the end of his run.

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The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Elderly Jazz Band

Link To This One

It’s funny, because just a few years ago Morton didn’t have an imagination at all! At least they’re still both clothed and for that, we should be thankful. Obviously BatYam caught part of some rock band biopic and thought it’d be “very funny” if yadda yadda yadda and so forth. At least Morty finally stopped with the demonic sex offender leering, at least for now. The whole “aren’t depraved randy old coots hilarious?” thing is around 98% less funny than BatNard thinks it is and I really wish he’d leave those gags for his other, lesser known (chortle) comic strip, as I don’t read that one.

It’s funny how usually FW characters are heavily into pop-culture references from thirty years before they born, but today Morton is referencing rock and roll tropes from seventy years AFTER he was born. It’s amazing how his advanced dementia didn’t seem to affect his memory at all, which is, uh, highly unusual, I guess you could say. The way he just totally blew off that early Act III Major Prestige Arc remains one of Act III’s greatest and dumbest mysteries.

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If This Van’s A-Creakin’, Don’t Come A-Peekin’

Link To Today’s Strip

“No, no. no. He still looks too friendly and cheerful. I want the reader to see Morton as a malevolent sex machine who’s going to force himself on Lillian whether she consents or not!”

“Uh…OK, I guess. Here, let me cock up that eyebrow by 40% or so and add more sneer…and how’s that?”

“No no NO! MORE sneer! MORE eyebrow! And Lillian should appear frightened, like she knows she can’t say no!”

“Hmmm (sigh). OK (sigh).”

Once again Morton is inexplicably leering in unrestrained lustful malevolence, but what really sends this one caroming over that fine line between gross and disturbing is Lillian’s line about needing to go to confession, which is just completely unnecessary. The guy is supposed to be an “elderly ladies’ man”, not a coercive sex offender. Doing an arc about Morton trying to score a “date” is one thing, but having him luring old ladies into vans is, uh, something else entirely.

I can’t believe he’s actually doing a sub-arc about Morton trying to bang Lillian in the Bedside Manor van. I’m not sure which is more disturbing, the artist’s decision to draw Mort with that demonic leer of unbridled lust or BatYam thinking this is “cute”. In fact, this one is so far “out there” it might be the highlight of the entire year so far. It’s almost like he did this one as a test, to see if anyone was still paying attention.

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Boreds Of The New Church

Link To Today’s Thing

Thanks to everyone who held down the fort since my last stint! So based on all available evidence thus far, Dinkle went over to Bedside Manor, told the Manorisms they had a gig, then loaded them into some sort of cargo van without telling anyone where they were going. That nursing home’s ombudsman must have quite a full schedule. Bedside Manor might want to consider some sort of key card entry system or something, as right now anyone can just wander in and lead the residents God-only-knows where.

And speaking of God, what’s Walt’s problem? Is he skittish about churches specifically or being indoors in general? I believe it’s the former, but the gag here is so weak it leaves itself open to multiple interpretations, all of them boring. Now if we were in Act II, we’d eventually learn that Walt was involved in some sort of ghastly and tragic church fire, collapse or explosion as a youth, which would explain his pensive reaction. But this is Act III, which means it’s probably just a time-killing aside that seemed a lot funnier jotted down on a pizzeria napkin than it ended up playing out in the strip. And that’s certainly nothing new.

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The Cursive Westview

Link to today’s strip.

Dunno what to say about today’s strip. I’ve never had a broken leg, so I don’t know if toe-writing is a standard healing exercise or it’s just a bit of whimsy.

It’s actually kind of funny, to be honest. I mean, I didn’t laugh or anything, but I appreciated the attempt. I like, too, that she seems to be making light of the situation without being condescending–a real rarity in this strip. Though Ayers has drawn the doctor as if he had just been sneered at.

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Asinine Aphorisms

Link to Today’s Strip.

Les, that is a really, really, REALLY weird thing to say while staring lovingly into the chocolate brown sclera’s of your second wife’s eyes. What are you trying to say here? That you’ve realized you’re lucky your first wife died? Because in the end what you really wanted was both a supportive wife and a sob story? The knockout one-two punch that will win you gold in the victim Olympics in performative grieving.

I get the sentiment, it’s a nice sentiment. You’re trying to tell Cayla that you’re content in your life with her. That Hollywood fame wouldn’t have made you appreciably happier because you’re already happy. But, when talking about this to a second wife, as a widower, you should avoid words like, ‘lucky.’ ‘all along,’ and ‘in the end.’

By Cayla’s tired grimace, I can tell what she’s thinking. “I don’t know if he’s insulting me or snubbing Lisa, but at least he sounds happy she’s dead.”

Many of us this week have found ominous signs that the box office failure of Lisa’s Story might not be then end of this endless arc. That a box office bomb can still go on to be critically successful and win awards. And it would dovetail nicely with Batiuk’s sentiments on popular entertainment, for the true beauty of Lisa’s Story: The Movie, to only be admired by a few.

I fear we’re in for a Marvin’s Room deal. If TomBa is going to use anything as a template for Lisa’s Story’s success or failure, it’s not going to be one of the cancer movies of the last few years. It’s going to be from the glory days of weepy prestige drama. The 90’s.

Marvins room poster.jpg
Unfortunately the movie is not about a three headed multi gendered monster wearing a black sweater.

I’d never heard of this film before my cancer movie research of earlier in the week. And after reading the synopsis, and watching the trailer, it is top on my list of movies to never see. But the plot is Batiukian to the max. A movie about sarcasm in the face of disease, death, and poorly portrayed mental illness, written by a man who was himself dying of AIDS.

For 20 years Bonnie (Diane Keaton) has been taking care of her bed-ridden father, Marvin (Hume Cronyn) following a stroke. When she is diagnosed with leukemia, she reaches out to the sister she hasn’t seen for 20 years, Lee, (Meryl Streep), asking if she and her two sons would be tested for a bone marrow transplant. Lee retrieves her older son, Hank (Leonardo DiCaprio), from the mental health facility where he’d been kept since trying to burn her house down, and takes her family to see her sister. Much heartfelt sarcasm ensues. Bonnie’s treatment appears to be failing, but Lee is now comfortable caring for their father.

The movie bombed in 1996, making $12 million on a $23 million dollar budget.

And it got Diane Keaton an Oscar nod for best actress, Meryl Streep a Golden Globe nom, also for best actress, and three SAG nominations to boot.

The box office numbers might be in. But awards season is right around the corner.

And sometimes, the people you know the least…

are the ones you need the most…

and the places we’ve left behind…

are the places we’ve always belonged….

Marvin’s Room

Barf.

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Stump Speech

Link to Today’s Strip.

Yesterday I did something relatively unorthodox in these parts: I found something to praise Tom Batiuk for. Of course, the overly-long post ended with me screaming at Batiuk in all caps, but that is part of the reason I did it. I never want to get to the point in my beady-eyed nitpicking where everything is a bug to me. Because when I force myself to admit what is good, what is acceptable, and what is innocuous, then when I am confronted with the unbearably bad I can nail it to the wall with confidence.

Today is really really bad guys. Just so bad. This is worst-case-scenario Les Moore at his most insufferable. Self-pitying, sarcastic, complaining, self-absorbed, quipping without being clever. The strip is worse than pointless. It’s not funny. It does nothing to further any ongoing plot, or even advance the conversation in a meaningful way. And the only way it develops character is to further metastasize the tumorous-asshole side of Les’ personality.

And it’s a shame. Because the art today is kind of interesting. One, Les is in pain in panel 2. Which is always nice to see.

And two, he’s putting a pumpkin on a stump.

I can only assume that it’s the stump of the large maple tree in their front yard that was cut down back in 2015.

And before we have our normal reaction, ‘Ah, a relic of Dead St. Lisa, of course it is fetishized,’ the tree was also a favorite of Cayla’s, who wanted to be married under its branches, and felt like the tree was ‘part of the family.’ Plus, Summer grew up eating the fallen leaves from under that tree.

I understand grief at the loss of a tree. Emerald ash borer beetles came through my state a couple years ago and took out seven massive beautiful ash trees on my parents’ farm. It makes me sad in a very Batiukian way, wandering across the acres of yard at home, and so many sentinels of my childhood are missing. Nothing left but weed filled dimples where oceans of shade once marked out the borders of fantasy continents.

Les and Cayla left the stump of the tree they were married under. They’ve left it for years. They decorate it in the trappings of fall it can no longer produce. Because they’d rather have the reminder of the tree for a while longer, than a pristine yard. And all of this is told visually. It develops their characters much better than the awful dialogue on display today. It rewards long time readers. It gives the strip a continuity of place. And there’s that word again, continuity.

When Batiuk chose to have his strip move forward in time, he subjected his strip to the harsh and beautiful realities of continuity. In the measured compliments I’ve given the strip the last couple days, I hope I’ve pointed out how continuity can lead to deeper and more meaningful storytelling. But Batiuk wants all the blessings of continuity, without paying the price of its restrictions. He’s not shy about how little he cares. In fact he revels thumbing his nose at it, like an edgy atheist in Sunday School. And that is why his storytelling so often fails, because we don’t trust it any more.

But still. I would miss that tree too. It was a good tree. After all, it once trapped Les high in its branches, to the joy of all the neighborhood children.

And the very first thing it did upon being introduced to Les Moore was smack him right in his dumb smug head.

Our Leafy Hero.

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