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On Wednesdays I Go Shopping

Link to today’s strip (eventually).

Wednesday’s strip was not available for preview.  THANK GOD.

There’ve been many times lately when criticizing this strip feels like criticizing a preschooler’s finger-painting.   When presented with such a work, you don’t want to say, “Well, Tommy, arms don’t really come out of the sides like that, and shoes aren’t big and round like wheels.  And is that a dog?”  That just seems kind of mean-spirited.

Tom Batiuk doesn’t write well.  To put it mildly.  He cannot plot out a proper story, his ear for dialogue is deaf, and his points are buried beneath the ineptitude of his execution. Occasionally, he has a sort of ham-handed way with a phrase that has a certain off-putting charm, but that’s about it.

But what if that’s the best he can do?  His “stories” over the last couple of years have started out like they might be going somewhere but always–always–end up like a balloon that’s just been unknotted.  Falling to the earth with a farting noise.  The Butter Brinkle thing–seriously, what an embarrassment that would have been to a professional, published writer.  Here?  In it goes.  And once it was done, it was gone.  Nothing to tie it together, nothing to indicate it meant anything…no impact at all.

Lately, the strip has been all been wish-fulfillment.  Les gets showered with praise.  Funky gets stepped on.  Everyone talks about how awesome Les is.  Bull gets an off-hand death that is largely used to push “Lisa’s Story” again.  That really seems like the work of someone who doesn’t care.

But he seems to be losing his grip on the elements he’s always deemed important, like Les and “Lisa’s Story.”  How many times has Mason told Les he wants to option the book?  He flew out to Ohio to do it, then flew Les in to California to do it.  That doesn’t seem like someone who can separate the wheat from the chaff.  Both are treated with equal carelessness.

So I wonder if I’m pointing out the shortcomings in the work of someone who should do better…but can’t.

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This site uses cookies

Link to today’s strip.

Charles basically nailed it–and did my job for me, thanks!–in yesterday’s comments, in which he basically laid out the next month’s worth of strips.  I’d link his comment here, but I don’t know how to do that. (Here ya go. —TFH)

So, what we have here is what we had yesterday–two characters talking about Les.   Not a single step forward, but hey, if people are talking about Les, it has to be award-winning, right?

I don’t dare wish for anything different, because it’s certain to be worse.

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Return of the LisaVirus

Link to today’s barf.

Well, I should have known.  Batiuk’s revisiting of his “prestige arc” was so poorly performed that it should have been obvious he was going to spin up Lisa’s Story again.  The world’s worst book, written by the world’s worst writer, about the world’s worst person.

Of course Summer has no idea what’s going on.  Les is far too important to himself to waste valuable preening time on informing his family about anything.   “Hello, Summer!  How’s school?  We just spent a week in California with Mason Jarre!”  No, even that takes too much effort, effort that could be put to better use stroking his ego.

I would like to say something nice about the artwork.  The shift in perspective from panel one to panel two is nicely handled; it looks like Cayla went toward Summer to help her with her bags.  A rare instance of interesting art in this strip.

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What’s the deal with Les’ mood?

OK, when I typed “So, what’s the deal with airline food?” in yesterday’s post, I didn’t think Les would seize upon that and give us a airline complaints routine that even Milton Berle wouldn’t steal in today’s strip. I’m truly and terribly sorry. Seriously, I genuinely apologize and take full responsibility for this crime against newsprint. Somebody has to take responsibility…

Les griping about the airline nickel-and-diming him just doesn’t track, as Mason paid for his flight, a fact that was mentioned in the strip as recently as… literally yesterday. Well, I mean, the idea that Les and Cayla were charged extra for their stated “free” trip doesn’t track. Les griping at the slightest opportunity, of course, does. If Les was acting like this the whole flight he should be grateful that he wasn’t tossed out of the plane without a parachute. A nation sighs at the missed opportunity.

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Durwood and the Pete-meister, signin’ copies…

Much thanks to Spacemanspiff85 for taking the helm over the past two weeks, and for having a screen name that always reminds us of how good the world of comic strips can be. I am sorry I cannot claim that “billytheskink” will make you think of anything good, but I will do my level best to cover the rest of this role effectively.

Looks like time jump #4 happened in today’s strip, because apparently May 4 is here now… and hatchet-faced white men abound! This Sha-Na-Na reject is about 25 years too late to the world of post-Silver Age comics speculation, as if copies of Rip Tide: Scuba Cop and The Scorch are headed anywhere but the bargain bin.

Also, Lisa’s Story is a graphic novel again, maybe…

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A View with A Room

Link to today’s strip.

As Old Dexter once said, “Ah, thank you Billy!” and I thank BillyTheSkink for as always leaving the chair of Funky Winkerbean snark…just a little bit out of my reach!  Yes, it’s BChasm, your least favorite uncle, back in the chair of the unhallowed study group!

Like pretty much all of Funky Winkerbean, I don’t get this one.  The Doublemint Twins are looking for a particular room.  Given that numbered rooms follow a pattern in every universe, it would seem as if Room 107 would be somewhere in the 100’s, and thus, not that difficult to find.  Westview High can’t be that massive, can it?  It’s not a colony ship destined for Alpha Centauri, is it?  Is Cordwainer Bird around?

I should think that it’s odd, too, that the Twins just spent a week with Principal Nate, and he apparently told them nothing of value, such as where their classrooms would be located.  “Here’s Becky, and here’s Les.  Good luck!”

Knowing this (–one supposes), Redshirt McMeltface decided he’d have a spot of fun with the Twins, and thus directed them to a featureless door which he assured them used to be yclept “107.”  Why?  I can see no reason for McMeltface to be this mean, except…well, it’s an excuse to detail some kind of maintenance room.

And to be fair, the detail in this room is really impressive.  And I mean that sincerely; one can almost identify the make and model of the equipment presented herein.  Kudos to Mr. Batiuk for some nice artwork here.  This is the sort of stuff that makes me pause my snark, in that it shows Tom Batiuk can really draw when he wants to.  Really, I’m not hot-dogging you, this is good artwork–it’s nicely detailed and has all the bits and touches that make the scene work.  I’ve always wanted to praise this strip when the opportunity arose, and here’s an opportunity.

Tom Batiuk’s obsession over certain details–the lovingly rendered bricks, for example–have long a source of amusement, but to me, it does show a certain dedication to craft.  The details have to be there.

I just wish his craft had been put to better purpose.  Does “Room 107” have any kind of significance?  Because I can think of better numbers just off the top of my head–

Room 100, Hotel Chelsea.  Nancy’s dead, Sid’s out of his head.  Punk rock fell over dead.  Now it’s Miley Cyrus instead!  Wake me–going back to bed.

Room 101, from George Orwell’s 1984.  The room of the ultimate fear, where Winston Smith is forced to read The Complete Funky Winkerbean.

Room 217, from Stephen King’s The Shining.  Danny knew he shouldn’t go into this room, but he did anyway.  And there, standing in the middle of the room, was Les Moore.

Room 237, from Stanley Kubrick’s film of Stephen King’s book.  As Jack Torrance embraced the beautiful woman, he glanced in the mirror and saw that, instead, he was holding a naked Les Moore.  (This scene was changed by studio executives to allow an R rating.  In the film as released, Jack was holding a withered old hag.)

Speaking of changed by studio executives, Doublemint Naughty certainly has…developed…in that last panel.  In fact you might say, “Oh, she’s got a balcony you could do Shakespeare from!”

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Pizza My Mind

Wow, greasy, fattening pizza (which Funky undoubtedly donated) and flat Montoni’s root beer for all! Thanks Jessica! You really know how to show gratitude in today’s strip! You’d think from the look on Jessica’s face she’d just gotten them all tickets to Disneyland. The look on Cayla and Keisha’s faces say it all; please God, not another slice of Westview’s worst and only pizza.

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