Today’s strip recalls one of the very last things that ever appeared in Act I… and uses it to mourn the death of print media? Look, I dunno what’s going on in the last panel, but I can tell you what happened in flashback panels.
After bumming everyone out with his awful valedictorian speech, Les just… hung out in the auditorium until everyone left, sulking in the unfulfillment of getting a high school diploma.
Then he headed out to the “Student Council Graduation Party” in the middle school gym, as seen in today’s flashback, finding the place deserted aside from Coach Stropp.
Why was the Student Council Graduation Party a dumb idea? Why was the party deserted?
Yep, Cindy held a huge graduation party at the mall that everybody attended… including MTV VJ Karen “Duff” Duffy and some poor souls who entered an MTV contest to win a free trip to Westview.
Les, however, sat in the middle school gym with his free copy of the yearbook, reminiscing about the good times he had with his friends in high school rather than going and actually spending time with him. After a week’s worth of strips of this, Act II began…
I do not know if next week will time warp us into Act IV or not, but I do know I will be leaving this site in the skilled hands (and mind) of ComicBookHarriet. Godspeed.
Westview. Where the ancient battle for the top slot on an arcade video game is a community epic, gradually passing into legend, recited to the younger generation as a solemn verbal patrimony.
But, it wasn’t always that way.
Four years into Vintage Funky Winkerbean, and what has shocked me more than the politics is the almost complete lack of comic book references. There’s been maybe four, and in every case comic books haven’t been heralded as the sacred texts imparting lifelong wisdom for the darkest days. They’ve been the punchline.
This seems weird, doesn’t it? Batiuk hasn’t been the least bit shy over the last couple decades squealing about how much he loves comic books, and science fiction in general. Gushing about how formative comics were to his young mind. He gives old Flash comics the same kind of reverential, tender feelings the lifelong faithful reserve for their Sunday School songs.
You know what there IS a lot of in Act I so far? Sports.
Is this some kind of feigned smokescreen to hide his geekery behind?
Naw. Dude likes sports.
I’ve seen comments over the years about Batiuk using Les’ success in adulthood as a way to get back at the ‘sportos’ that made fun of him when he was in school. But I think this is drawing a false equivalency between Les and Tom. While Tom might see himself in Les more than any other character, I don’t think it means Tom was similarly hapless in school. And there’s a difference between being a bullied weakling, and being uninterested in sports. Plenty of bullied weaklings are interested in sports. That’s why The Orioles exist.
And while he may not have played on a high school football team, in one of his Flash Fridays, Batiuk talks about playing football with friends.
At one point in the story, KF runs past some kids playing sandlot football which hit a soft spot for me since I loved playing backyard football, at least until I broke my ankle and dislocated my shoulder. As risky as my comic book writer/artist stratagem was, it was a lot less risky than playing football.
Flash Fridays – The Flash #122
He goes into more details in the foreword to one of his volumes.
It happened on a snowy night in 1969 during my senior year at Kent State. I was riding home with a fellow student teacher named Ronnie from Kent. She was driving because I had my arm bandaged to my chest following surgery for several shoulder dislocations from playing football (the lawless backyard variety as opposed to the sanctioned school activity).
From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Four
And as nebbish as Les is, and as pathetic as he is climbing that rope, Batiuk has consistently shown him playing backyard football and tennis.
He always makes the school bully a football player, whether it be Bull or an endless series of Wedgemans. But at least in Act I so far, it isn’t like the football team is a cabal of sneering jocks. Funky and Derek are on the team. It’s Westview. Even the football players are bullied.
And I like Coach Stropp. The juxtaposition between him and Dinkle is interesting. Dinkle, Act I, is ramrod straight shouting all the time. Stropp is much more human. He’s got a softer side. And I love the subtlest hint that he’s got cauliflower ear, like an old wrestler or boxer. Batiuk’s jokes show an understanding of deeper sports vocabulary.
Coach Stropp has a Funky Winkerbean strip that makes me laugh out loud every time I see it.
So, for the first four years, Batiuk found ways to work his interest in sports into the strip, but hardly ever his love of comics. Was it out of embarrassment? Did he figure the sports strips had a wider appeal? Did he just not know how to integrate trademarked geekdom into his universe yet? I don’t know….but Star Wars is right around the corner, and I can already feel the walls starting to crumble.
Hey, remember when this story arc was about Bull? Today’s strip sure doesn’t.
Look, I’m just going to gloss over the fact that Dinkle was actually introduced well over a year into this strip’s existence and just give TB credit for remembering that Funky Winkerbean itself is 47 (and a half) years old… And with that out of the way I’ll go right into wondering what the heck this has to do with Bull, his condition, his life, or anything. I guess if you twist your neck 117 degrees and squint until you experience sharp pain in your temples it appears the notoriously egotistical Dinkle (or is that Buck?) is paying Bull a compliment by saying they were equals despite his long and incessant history of considering all things inferior to himself and his marching band. But really this is just TB repackaging his biggest hit.
Dinkle is the only thing about this strip that has ever moved merchandise. His “football fields are for band practice!” bit covers books and t-shirts, and even serves as his character’s introductory line in the stage play Funky Winkerbean’s Homecoming. Dinkle’s shtick has sold band posters (“Dinkle wants your horn to twinkle”) and shoes, and no less than 9 Dinkle-specific collections of FW strips have been published! No, seriously, there have been 4 Lisa books and 9 Dinkle books.
Football Fields are for Band Practice!
Harry L. Dinkle Live at Carnegie Hall
I Never Promised You a Rose Parade
Gone with The Woodwinds
Would the Ushers Please Lock the Doors!
Attack of the Band Moms
The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Football Field
Music is Worth it… Music is Worth it… Music is…
This is nothing more than TB pushing his most-recognized character/cash cow into a story the New York Times inexplicably gave him ink for. Ugh!
This time warping stuff is getting really really old, especially when it makes negative amounts of sense. At least with Tuesday’s “five years ago” mishap you could chalk it up to the strip’s time simply not matching real time even while matching real time’s seasons (not an uncommon thing at all in comic strips). This strip has long done that, though not in a consistent way – Summer’s generation was in high school for 5 years, Pete and Durwood’s for almost a decade, and the Act I gang was there for 20 of course.
Today, though, we’re at “three months ago”. That places this flashback in early July, and yet both Buck and Bull are wearing coats? I mean, this is presumably still an October funeral, right, what with the falling leaves colored a bright orange hue? Heck, this doesn’t even line up with Buck’s mid-September visit, where he and Bull stroll out to Jerome T. Bushka A&L Automotive Stadium, as neither man is wearing a coat then.
Is this beady-eyed nitpickiness? Maybe, but when there are little errors like this in nearly every strip it starts to add up to genuine distraction. This is especially true when the story hops all over the calendar, which *gasp* makes invested readers hop through the calendar with it in an attempt to understand what is going on.
Today’s strip is what passes for levity in Funky Winkerbean these days, I guess. Buck was apparently disturbed by a commonly-milked farm animal when he really should have been disturbed by the complete lack of almost everything at this football game. There appears to be no crowd, no officials, almost no players (look at that empty bench behind Stropp), and apparently no one else but Bull around to wrangle a loose mascot. Was Westview’s football stadium nicknamed “Uncanny Valley”?
Oh, and did you know that the Scapegoat mascot had a name back in Act I? It’s Billy, much to my chagrin… He once appeared on a book cover with Erma Bombeck’s name.