Tag Archives: Fred Fairgood

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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Did I Stutter?

Link To Today’s Strip

Back in 1994 BatYak was considered something of a modern-day Nostradamus, courageously addressing timely social issues of the day long before they became fashionable. Guns in schools, teen pregnancy, drunk prom driving, alcoholism, divorce, talk radio, medical chart snafus…BatHack saw these broad social trends coming and tried to communicate these truths to us via his unique brand of obtuse wry banter, which unfortunately was just a bit too far ahead of its time for the “average” comic strip reader to properly appreciate. In an era marked by noisy dissonant pop-culture phenomenons like Nirvana and “For Better And For Worse” Batiuk’s subtle, more writer-ly take was lost in the shuffle. It was truly America’s loss.

Anyhow, it’s a real delight to see the still-dying Fred manage to weakly mutter his approval for the #hashtag movement as his loveless wife and reluctant caretaker Ann looks on with barely interested disgust at the frail wretch of a man her philandering ambition-crushing husband has become. So it turns out that the whole #anti-guns in schools arc was just a prop to take a victory lap acknowledging that FW addressed the issue way before it became trendy and fashionable. Nicely done. If any “young people” get teen pregnant or let talk radio inspire them to blow up post offices he’ll have that covered too. Sigh.

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Everything’s So-So

Link to today’s strip.

Ah, the perils of drawing your comic strip, word balloons and all, a year before you write the dialogue.  I feel certain Tom Batiuk wanted to have some reference to “medication” in Dullard’s word balloon, but alas he couldn’t make the word fit.  Too bad, as it would clarify the mysterious “they” in Ann’s balloon (supposed to be “medications” I guess) and make her reference to a “booster shot” tie it all up neatly.  It still wouldn’t be funny or good, but one could point to it as (at least) well constructed.

Oh well, can’t stop now!  Onward, ever onward, toward that 50th!

I try to point out things I like whenever I can, and I like the shadow pattern of the window on the far wall.   Somebody took his time applying craftsmanship to make that, and it is appreciated.  And unless I’m mistaken, the picture on the wall looks a little like “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth.  It may not be, but I like to think someone tried to slip something of quality into this dreary waste.

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Basket Case

Happy Easter, gang, and a tip of the ol’ SoSF Easter bonnet to Epicus and SoSFDavidO for their guest stints over the last several weeks! Your pal TFH is stepping in to ramp up the “festivities” marking the fifth anniversary of Son of Stuck Funky this week!

Before laying eyes on today’s tableau, I’d have wagered that today’s holiday would have passed unremarked (as it is in today’s Crankshaft, but then Easter 10 years ago might have fallen on a different Sunday). Despite the abundance of baskets, bunnies, and eggs, this scene suggests Christmas (specifically the Epiphany) more than Easter, as Westview’s Holy Family is surrounded by the Magi bearing gifts. I recognized dowdy, nondescript Kerry, Fred’s daughter from his first marriage, though she’s not been seen since Thanksgiving 2013. It took me a lot longer to surmise that the big smirking blonde to the right is Jessica’s mom Jan Murdoch Darling (you’re welcome).

Anyway, it’s a good thing for Skyler that this mob showed up bearing baskets, else he’d have had to content himself with that pitiful tiny basket before him, which I don’t think even contains any chocolate—that green rabbit’s probably made of carob or some crap. It’s certain that the basket’s chintzy size has less to do with “keeping Skyler away from candy”—on one of the two big candy holidays all year, for goodness’ sake—and everything to do with Boy Lisa’s meager Montoni’s salary.

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Principals of Pizza

Here’s a rather unusual Christmas Eve tradition that comes out of nowhere: serving Westview’s homeless a sumptuous Christmas dinner…of pizza. Yellow pizza, pepperoni not optional. Would it kill Funky to put out a tray of eggplant parm, and maybe a nice salad?

May I ask my veterans and service people in the audience: does Cory have to wear his uniform while he’s home on leave? Did he leave any civilian clothes in his bedroom, or just his comic book collection?

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Thank Les

DavidO here snarking from a somewhat dusty room in here…*wipes an eye*

In today’s strip, we’re celebrating a major holiday with nary a Les in sight. Neither is there a mention of book tours, ghostly wives, pizza or marching bands. We even get to see Skyler in a somewhat closer view today and the kid doesn’t look bad.

Let’s be thankful for everything we have today, including a FW strip that doesn’t make every bone in my snark body ache.

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(Sn)ugly Baby…

DavidO here, with a strip title swiped straight from a Seinfeld episode!
My ponderings about how little Skyler would look close up weren’t answered in today’s strip and that’s a good thing. Someone needs some SERIOUS practice with baby faces and heads. And arms legs and torsos. Thankfully blankets can be an uncertain artist’s best friend but the strip is starting to remind me of the opening Austin Powers routine, except with Skyler’s face instead of Austin’s willie. I mean, seriously, what is that supposed to be in P2? It looks like they’re fawning over a potato. Tombat better get to some real world life-drawing classes in soon or start stepping up his exposition even more to accommodate for his art.

blanket1

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Back at Montoni’s Already!?

Welcome to the world, kid! The whole damn thing smells like garlic and stale bread. Poor Skyler. It’s almost unavoidable from the looks of today’s strip that he’s going to be a 20 year old dishwasher at Montoni’s, destined to have his wife deliver her baby there, too, shortly after they have their wedding there.

Does anyplace exist in Westview at all any more?! Why is this strip not called “Montoni’s and Moore” ?!

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Cuts Both Ways

Today’s strip

So, one of the reasons Bull wanted to enter the world of higher education was so he could continue the great tradition of being a huge dick to the students.  That seems rather humble, doesn’t it?  I mean, all the teachers are huge dicks to the students; it must be the first instruction in the first paragraph of the Westview High School’s So You Want to be a Teacher pamphlet.  Being a huge dick just means you’re earning your paycheck.  I guess I can’t really blame anyone in the Funkyverse for setting his sights low; ambition is typically rewarded with a cosmic swatting.  Still, it’s interesting to see such a naked lack of ambition.

By the way, I went to high school and I don’t recall any teachers taking advantage like this.  Everyone, teacher, student and administrator, got in line and stayed in line.  Of course, there’s nothing funny about playing by the rules…just like there’s nothing funny about Funky WinkerbeanHey wait a minute–how can Bull “get cuts” in line, when lunch itself has been cut?  Is Bull fantasizing?  This…this is what he daydreams about?   Yeah…that’s some ambition all right.

I see that the “smart-pad” has already been dropped (by Les, into the swimming pool).  Someone from Apple must have hrmm-hrmm’d at Tom Batiuk’s lawyers, and the change from “iPad” to “Smart-Pad” probably didn’t mollify anyone.  Well…perhaps Mr. Batiuk has learned a bit of humility from the experience, and the next time someone uses a bit of the old Funky Winkerbean magic, he’ll…oh, okay I can’t really keep up the pretense.   My sense is that Mr. Batiuk will continue taking the advice from the So You Want to be a Nationally Syndicated Cartoonist pamphlet very seriously indeed.

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What the Heck Do We Care?

Now you know how many ‘holes it takes to fill Montoni’s Pizzeria.

TheDiva
July 10, 2013 at 11:50 pm
Okay, folks, place your bets:
Halle is drawn in the background of a Sunday spread in a listless nod to continuity: 6/1

Does Halle Dinkle’s presence here qualify as a “crossover” if nobody knows about her comic strip? She’s the one helpfully holding up a placard-sized “Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad” card. There’s another unfamiliar face in the crowd, above Dinkle’s head, whose identity will be revealed Friday (as an afterthought; TB’s just giving a shout-out to one of his music friends). Rachel’s been made to don the dreaded red apron but Wally (and his wonder dog Buddy) have been permitted to mingle with the invited guests. I would give Dead Skunk Head John a hard time for showing up in a t-shirt, but hey: we’re in a pizza parlor.

Get ready for another guest blogger: starting Monday, it’s the snark stylings of Beckoning Chasm!

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