Unless this is some kind of Sunday fake-out, it would appear that the John Darling handgun arc is finally, mercifully, over. That was weird. So anyhow, today BatYam aims his always insightful and cutting wit at leaf blowers, and how much they suck. Real topical there, Pulitzer (nominee) Boy. I could point out that Funky obviously hired the landscaping crew because he didn’t feel like raking the leaves himself, thus making him quite the hypocrite, but whatever. It’d totally kill the melancholy, depressing vibe he was going for here, and Lord knows I wouldn’t want to do that.
I assume that’s a young Cory there in panel four, which means that scene/memory probably took place during the time skip, which definitively proves it did in fact happen. Or maybe not, I don’t know.
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 →
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m starting to get kinda paranoid, guys. I’m starting to feel like Batiuk IS reading this blog. That he reads it, and then changes continuity or characters just to troll us. He saw my jokey headcanon that Roland became a conservative hardware store owner, and had to kick back against my fantasy of responsible small business success and respect for the establishment by inserting the character into a hot button political issue.
I had to fumigate and dissect a political hornets’ nest on my last shift. I’m in no mood to kick this one. I eagerly look forward to all of you in the comments respectfully discussing with each other the artistic merits of this decision and tearing Batiuk a new one. Remember the site rules.
Whatever our diverse views, we can all agree that Batiuk is mostly doing this because he lazily looked through the Overton Window and realized he could bring up a topic that would get him possible cheers from the people he loves to get cheered by and maybe even jeers from the people he gets off on hating.
Some context for your discussion. I don’t have anything concrete I’m trying to say with these. Just some stuff that’s weird to read with the new retcon in mind.
I stared at today’s strip for hours. Trying to decide if I was amused, offended, or bored.
On the one hand, valued commenter The Dreamer foresaw this strip yesterday.
I’m waiting for Cindy to show up. At the 50 year reunion, standing with all her old geezer classmates, still looking 25 years old with her great body and younger movie star boyfriend Mason Jarr…..
And I’m getting sick of Holly Budd Winkerbean being so mopey and self-conscious. A single strip of it is relatable, a week of it is exhausting.
On the other hand, it’s at least a structured joke. Again, the nature of my own parents’ relationship skews how I’m seeing things. They tease each other mercilessly. My mom once joked that my dad was going to leave her for his old college girlfriend, and my dad just scoffed.
“It would take too long to train someone else.”
And they laughed, sitting in their cluttered dining room wearing sweatpants and baggy t-shirts, sipping coffee from out-of-season Christmas mugs that never got put away. They were both in on the joke, that learning to put up with someone new, a whole new set of pet peeves, failings, wants, and triggers would be too exhausting. And beneath the ribbing is always the stubborn kind of unconditional love that has them picking ditch side tiger lilies and cooking enough pot roast to last a week because they know that’s just the thing to make the other smile.
But when I peeled the lens of my own experience away, I was lost. My sense of objectivity completely wrecked. I was seeing, but I had completely lost the ability to understand.
So I asked some of my normie friends. All women between 29 and 40. Some single, some in relationships. None with kids. People who know of Funky Winkerbean, and this blog, because of me ranting at them. But not people who could tell a Jessica from a Mindy at 100 paces. I sent them today’s strip and just said.
PLEASE GIVE ME YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS STRIP. Positive, negative, neutral, confused, whatever I just want some normie outsider perspective on it.
“It feels like he’s making like a lame mid-90s, sitcom joke about how women are difficult. Because two wives would be double the nagging and emotions or something?”
“ahem Wifey here is exhibiting a behavior promoted by our culture where women are encouraged to fight or tear each other down because #thepatriarchy. She is heckin intimidated by Cindy and is asking for reassurance from hubby. Hubby, instead of giving her blind reassurance that he only has eyes for wifey, ~apparently~ gives the wrong answer. – Signed, the token liberal (What this means coming from this comic in particular heckin idk.)
“I am now overthinking it. I think my initial thought was “I’m not sure I get the joke.” Upon further reflection, It is hard to say if he was going for ha ha two wives how silly or a sweet I’d have always have fallen in love with you sentiment. I’m going to be charitable and say he was going for sweet & snarky.”
“Blah. That’s my reaction to this. Just blah. If my partner said that to me, I’d feel pretty gross about the relationship.”
“If he’s fully joking, man is he playing with fire. Let’s reverse the roles. Husband is all “Man Steve is looking like a million bucks today. Do you still wish you were married to Steve?” And then wife says: “Don’t be silly! Then I’d have two husbands!” I don’t think husband would appreciate that response.”
“Side note, I do think him saying “well then I’d have two wives” might be an attempt to poke fun at her for even asking about wishing he was still married to Cindy. It’s pretty lame, but it somehow has the same energy as five-year-old me asking my Dad how he did something that, at the time, seemed incredible but wasn’t really. He’d always tell me that he was a wizard.”
“The second thing is that some of the guys I dated in Utah always liked to float the idea of having more than one wife.”
“Based on everything I have ever heard about Utah this, somehow, super doesn’t surprise me? God, why is Utah so weird.”
“Also also. Because apparently I’m not done yet, damn you. Like, look at this face.”
“It is quite a face. Little dots for eyes. But like for me, in a way, her comment kind of comes off as more casual? I don’t think she’s fussed specifically about Cindy.”
“But also I can see the 50th anniversary banner for the reunion in the background. Which just makes Cindy seem more jarring to me, considering the subject matter. Because they’re all pushing into their 70s at least. Which means Cindy has one hell of an exercise routine and a love for Botox, probably. Which, you know. Bodybuilding grandmas are a thing.”
“Side note – it’s kind of funny to me that big Hollywood stars like Cindy and Mason Jar would care to kick it back to podunk small town whereveritisville for a high school reunion. Iunno. Maybe it’s just because I’ve never made it to a reunion myself and the last one they tried to put together fell apart because no one was gonna show up.”
So, there you have it. Some normie opinions on today. As close as we can get to that hypothetical newspaper reader who occasionally catches a strip or two while flipping through the paper. The only thing skewing the sample is that all of my friends are just as into hyper-analyzing media as we are here. You give us something to dissect and we start gleefully pinning it down and pulling the wings off.
This week has been a real see-saw for me. Because while Funky himself has been insufferable, and Batiuk deciding to fast track his Act I cast to their late 60’s is just infuriating, Holly has been so darn relatable.
I can’t help it, guys. She just reminds me so much of my mom. There’s not been a single thing she’s said or suggested these past three days that would be out of character for Momma Harriet. From wishing she’d lost weight for a major event, to scoffing at too much nostalgia from high school, to wanting to avoid hours and hours of vaguely remembered former acquaintances pasting on smiles while silently gauging which of them had the most loveless marriage, messiest divorce, or the most messed up grandkids.
I don’t remember the context enough for specifics, but I KNOW my mom has suggested escaping to me while driving to some dreaded social event.
“What if we just kept on going?” She smiles, desperately, trying to psych herself up for a family reunion or wedding of a third cousin’s cousin. “Drive all the way down to your sister’s, and just…hid out?”
Is the choice of the word ‘disillusioned’ weird? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ve seen the way my mom’s face falls when talking about a friend’s divorce, or the profligacy of a young adult she’d nurtured as a child. She’d rather not know that the marriage she’d been a bridesmaid for fell apart after infidelity, or the sweet little girl she taught in Sunday School had to get a restraining order on her meth-ed out baby daddy.
If I’m being nicer to Holly and this strip than it deserves, just know that it’s because all it would take is a brunette wash and a pair of glasses, and Holly morphs into my mom. And I love my mom. And if you knew her, you would love her too. And if you didn’t it would be a clear sign that you are a garbage human forever beyond hope of redemption.
I want to thank BJ6K and anneki for bringing the Washington Post article to our attention yesterday. It was the puffiest of puff pieces. It reminded me of those puff balls in the timber around here. You whack it and release a giant yellow cloud of nonsense.
Everyone had their favorite quotes, but mine had to be when he compared the first time skip to a ‘Road to Damascus’ moment. Because yeah, I’d believe that Batiuk has been struck blind on his creative journey. And now he’s sitting there at home, his eyes covered in scales, with no Ananias of an editor to come and peel his blindness away.
FYI: Cows got out again on Monday morning. They thought our neighbors’ corn looked tastier than the dry grass left in our drought stricken pasture. Fixed the fence AGAIN, gave them some big round bales of hay, and they STILL were all standing by the fence this morning, staring longingly at the green stalks on the other side of the woven wire.
Maybe if we could get some REAL RAIN, and not mother nature spitting in contempt on the dusty cracked ground…
Y’all have been amazing in the comments lately! Love all of you!
I guess August 2022 is the month that Funky Winkerbean decided to try to out dick Les ‘Dickface McSmuggy’ Moore in a dickishness contest.
Because there is NO WAY that high school was more daunting, stressful, confusing, scary, exciting or heart breaking than beating cancer, overcoming alcoholism, surviving a car accident, weathering a divorce, losing a friend to cancer, raising a troubled son, and having a son in the military.
(Notice how only ONE of those things was a positive? For Pete’s Sake, Tom. Lighten up!)
Do we enshrine our high school years? Some of us, yeah. Not all of us, because like Holly said, they’re just FOUR YEARS. For some people they were pretty low key.
I had a pretty good time in high school. I wouldn’t say I ‘enshrine’ it, but I look back on it fondly. I had a group of great friends. I liked 75% of my teachers. I packed my days with extracurriculars. That’s what I miss the most about it. The thing wistfully wish I could get back is being called on to perform and having all of those creative outlets and the buffet of interests to pursue: band, choir, art, drama, sports, FFA.
The people that ‘enshrine’ high school don’t do it because it was the superlative apex of emotional experience. If someone had high school as the most exciting or heart-breaking time in their life, then they died soon after graduation, either literally or figuratively. People recognize high school as a distinct, notable time because it is a liminal period. The border between childhood and adulthood.
For many it’s the last time they’ll put on uniforms, play instruments, have their names on score boards, sing in a choir, and be asked to draw a picture. At the same time, they’re getting a little taste of growing up, dating, driving, spit-balling possible futures at a half-interested guidance counselor.
But after that, they have the rest of their lives.
I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I live in the same town I grew up in. I willingly put hours into writing a Funky Winkerbean snark blog every few months. If anyone is going to pretend High School was the MOSTEST TIME EVAR GUIZE, it’s going to be someone like me. But no. Life since then has been just as much, and often more daunting, stressful, confusing, scary, heart breaking AND exciting. I’ve gone on adventures. I’ve made forever friends. I got a tattoo on my ass. I met Mark Hamill. I kissed my baby nephew’s tiny fingernails and felt him fall asleep on my chest.
Batiuk wrote all kinds of these experiences for Funky and Holly over the last 30 years. The quality of the stories is debatable. But was is objectively true is that MAJOR STUFF HAPPENED.
In one strip, Batiuk is tossing away everything he’s written since 1993, more than half of his entire comics run.
Why did he decide to let the Act I cast graduate?
By allowing my characters to have a time-driven existence, I get to explore everything that flows from that . . . goodness and evil, happiness and sadness, weakness and strength, failure and success, love and grief, youth and age, and the quest for meaning. And the vehicle for all of this is story.
From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 9
But, I guess none of that matters. Since Funky is telling us today that everything explored since then is LESS meaningful, impactful, and exciting than the time these characters spent in high school.