Tag Archives: kid with receding hairline

All the Same to Tom?

When I first read today’s strip, it seemed to make sense. (Except for the last panel, of course.) I remembered Cayla’s dad.

His first and last in-the-flesh appearance in Funky Winkerbean.
ULTRA CLOSEUP ACTION

I remembered that Smokey Williams had been friends with Crankshaft.

The seasoning is piss and vinegar.

And I remembered, from my very earliest comic strip snark fandom days, that Crankshaft had a flashback prestige arc about Cranky befriending his black teammate during the early integration era.

Still, not as hamfisted as this week.

And I chuckled to myself over how it was just PEAK Batiuk to reference by name an obscure character that has only been seen in Funky Winkerbean once, who further references an awards bait arc he wrote in Crankshaft back in 2008. Are any readers, even among the dedicated snarkers on SOSF, CK, Curmudgeon, and elsewhere, going to remember who Smokey Williams was?

I tried to do a little mental math, if it would work if Cayla’s dad was a young man in ’47. But I just chocked it up to time skip weirdness. Then, I went back to the archives for Crankshaft to reread the Diet Jackie Robinson arc.

Wait…
Umm…
But….what?
One of these names….
Is not like the other….

And then I looked at the Crankshaft-meets-Cayla strip from 2011 a little closer.

Any closer and I could’ve counted the blackheads on Cranky’s nose.

Smokey calls Crankshaft an ‘Old-Timer.’ Cranky is a grandfather of adult grandkids at this point, and Cayla is Smokey’s daughter and a college student. Smokey is drawn slightly younger looking than Ed Crankshaft.

Guys. I don’t think that Crankshaft and Smokey Williams played on the same team. I think Smokey Williams is decades younger than Crankshaft. But then, who is he?

In the bedeviled Comics Kingdom hellscape, Crankshaft only goes back to late 2002. When Smokey calls Crankshaft up in 2011, it is the first time he’s mentioned or seen in the archives. But he isn’t treated like a new character. The Toledo Blade didn’t carry Crankshaft. In desperation I started googling madly into the void. And got this little clue from a book review of the Crankshaft baseball collection: Strike Four!

Memorable storylines include the time Ed became a coach and mentor to struggling Aeros pitcher Smokey Williams, and a flashback to Ed’s support for his team’s first black player, who took some harassment from both the public and other players.

Akron Beacon Journal, June 7, 2014

Crankshaft is certainly not a coach or mentor to Jefferson Jacks in the integration arc. And Jefferson Jacks isn’t playing for the Aeros, and doesn’t seem to be a pitcher.

So Jefferson Jacks and Smokey Williams…I think…are two different people. Evidence for this supposition is that Jefferson Jacks shows up at the end of the 2008 arc.

He does look like Cayla’s dad will look…thirteen years in the future.

And this strip from when Crankshaft was inducted into the Centerville Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

See the cluster of three bald heads to the left? The white one is Dusty Bottoms, Crankshaft’s catcher. Is the tall white haired one Jacks and the shorter one Williams?

So my working hypothesis right now is that some time in the first fourteen years of Crankshaft there is an arc where Smokey Williams was introduced. Was he the victim of racism then? I don’t know yet. But my Ebay order for Strike Four is in the mail.

Because one of two things is happening here. And I absolutely must know which it is.

1.) Smokey Williams, Cayla’s father, was also subjected to racism in the arc I haven’t read yet.

2.) Batiuk got his black baseball players confused, probably because he made the older Smokey at Cayla’s wedding look just like Jefferson.

You may think actually purchasing a Crankshaft book is taking my obsession with Funkyverse lore a little too far. To that I have the following two rebuttals.

1.) I took it too far a long long time ago.

2.) I actually like Crankshaft.

It’s funny about once a week.
The superior protagonist in every way. Even when it comes to conversing with his long dead wife.

You may think this is a sign that I’ve gone mad.

I have no rebuttal for this.

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The Charlie Brown Cosplay Caper.

Link to this Sunday’s Very Special Episode of Funky Winkerbean.

Most of you in the comments seemed okay with me at least touching on the subject of this arc.

I wish the subject of this arc was this amazing article of clothing

What Batiuk wants this week to be about is racial profiling and ‘shopping while black’. Which is why Cayla, of all people, has been called in to interfere. (At least her being at the mall fits one of her two known character traits.)

Racial profiling in retail is, of course, a real thing that does happen. Like this case in Missouri in 2018 where cops were called on three black teens shopping for prom because a customer had accused them of shoplifting. The teens calmly let the officers check their bags and receipts and were let go. (The store later formally apologized.) So I’m not going to argue with Batiuk that what he’s depicting today is something that never happens. This isn’t a legal immigrant with a pro-bono lawyer on her side being deported immediately without recourse only to be saved by Bill Clinton.

But today is extremely muddled, because it isn’t clear that the cashier is racially motivated.

When I’m not working on the world’s ugliest tan, I work part time at a gas station to earn fun money for robot conventions and my raging caffeine addiction. During my shift, I am the only cashier in the store, and I have to watch for shoplifters. You know who I watch for? Kids.

And I won’t even be egalitarian about it. I’m especially sharp-eyed, right or wrong, when it’s a group of three or more boys between the ages of 12 and 16 unaccompanied by an adult. The only people I watch closer than a group of unchaperoned adolescents, are the few poor ghost people every town has, no matter how small. Scraggly familiar faces, just coming down off a high, who scrape together cans and change for just enough to self-medicate their demons with high-gravity beer and bargain cigarettes.

Is this kind of profiling wrong? I don’t know. Maybe. I try not to be too harsh with it. I try to joke with the kids, and smile kindly at the tweaked out.

But nothing puts me on guard faster than the kid who is always looking over his shoulder to see if I am watching THEM. That’s when I watch them even closer. And I have seen, many times, that my stare makes the kids act weirder. And I’ve known in the back of my head, that maybe they never were intending to fill their pockets with Twinkies. That maybe they’re acting weirder now simply because I’m watching them.

So what do we have here? Actual racial profiling, or a feedback loop of suspicious stares?

If Batiuk wanted to make this clear, he failed. Big surprise. But I’m guessing in most real cases of this scenario there isn’t someone shouting slurs and saying, “You people!”

But if Batiuk wanted to leave it ambiguous, to tackle the issue as it really is: Where it’s often unclear where racism ends and justified surveillance and suspicion begins… well, that might be a bit too ambitious for old Tom here.

He should just go back to thugs nonsensically hating on Chinese food.

Another story that appeared in 1997 was inspired by a completely different source. A Vietnamese couple had moved to our town and opened a restaurant on the site of a former Red Barn. Cathy and I enjoyed stopping in there, and one time while waiting for an order, I read a yellowed newspaper article that was framed on the wall by the door. It told of the young couple’s escape by boat from Vietnam and the harrowing journey they undertook facing pirates and being stranded and abandoned at sea until finally making it to a hoped-for life of freedom in the United States. I started getting some ideas for a story. One of the advantages of getting ahead on the strip like I had at that juncture was I could take the time to let an idea have a longer gestation period. I could keep rolling it over in my mind, examining all of the facets and considering various possibilities until I felt it was ready. And when it was, a young Chinese couple moved into the space next door to Montoni’s and opened a restaurant called the Jade Dragon West. Zhang Li and his wife Liu Lin were political dissidents from Hong Kong who, fearing a crackdown when Great Britain handed Hong Kong back over to China, made the decision to escape to America. They met their good neighbors Tony Montoni and Funky Winkerbean, but soon the couple also experienced the racism that lurks in the American shadows. In the course of telling their story, I made use of a number of elements of the tale I found in the yellowed newspaper clipping (I seriously doubt if that would have happened with Grubhub, and I’m glad that the nascent internet hadn’t grown big enough to ruin that opportunity for me). Go out to dinner . . . come home with a story. Nice when life works that way.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 9

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I’ve seen that look before…

So many of you yesterday were baffled at the nothingness of this week. You figured, maybe hoped, that after Malcolm and Logan’s embarrassing date, that they would slide down the memory hole and out of this strip forever.

But today’s strip silently forebodes something much more sinister. That bitter and sour expression on Miss Cashier Lady’s face. It’s almost… as if…

The face of meddlesome woe.

Batiuk. No. Stop. Please. You’re not equipped to handle this. You’ve really never been that great at handling these things, and the modern cultural climate is much less forgiving of the sort of bungled virtue signaling you got away with in the past.

No one wants this.

Having said that, I truly, unironically feel blessed that he doesn’t offer much in the way of political takes. I don’t recall any commentary about the last president; I don’t recall any lectures about vaccines or masks, or opinions on whether or not the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were just, or really anything other than the most anodyne of mainstream thoughts, viz. Bill Clinton’s a nice, regular guy; climate “damage” (his expression) is bad; availability of guns causes school shootings, etc.

I applaud his generally nonpolitical stance and hope never to hear his opinions on Ukraine or Russia, no matter what they are. All of us are pelted with political opinions every time we turn on a screen. I like having FW, and this comment section, as a respite. Mental rest is important.

The Duck of Death, May 30, 2022.

DOD, I hear you. No Politics is one of the very few site rules here. But it becomes a tricky rule when it’s Batiuk himself bringing politics into the conversation with his strip.

And so I’m wondering what you guys think. In the week to come, it gets a little political. (Of course in a very Batiuky bland way.) I’ve done some reading and thinking. Some preliminary archive browsing. I’ve got a few things I could bring up and examine regarding how Batuik has dealt (or not dealt) with racial issues in the past.

Or not. I could also just find something really random in the background of each strip, and tell you all about the history of linoleum or Styrofoam.

Not sure which way to go here.

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Mall Marvels

Link to Today’s Post.

Oh, good. Logan, got my advice. Despite presumably having the entire summer to continue seeing each other, Logan is drawing a line under this date. Never again! After this is over, she’s never going to go to the mall with Malcolm, never going to eat ice cream with Malcom, and never going to watch a Marvel movie ever again. Good for her.

I do find the meta-joke funny here. (Not the strip itself, it’s pretty clumsy.) They went to see ‘the latest Marvel movie.’ Batiuk’s writes everything a year in advance, but he knew there would be ‘a latest Marvel movie’, no matter when this arc ran. There is always a latest Marvel Movie. There will always be latest Marvel Movie. The virtual reality computer chips Elon Musk will get us all to implant in our heads 20 years from now will come with Disney+ preinstalled and undeletable, and our decaying brain matter will be eternally wirelessly downloading the latest Marvel Movie as we lay dead and rotting in our Disney Corporate caskets in the Magic Kingdom to Come.

Weird that Logan is saying this is the first time they’ve ever eaten ice cream together. I mean, they’ve been friends, at least casually, for years. We saw them hanging out at Komix Korner together after school. But they’ve never eaten ice cream in proximity? Or just gone to the mall to kill time with Bernie and Connor?

Wait, what mall is this?

Thanks to strips the glorious Batiukstorian, Billy The Skink, dug up last week, we know at some point there was a Westview Mall. At least at the time of Les and Cindy’s graduation. Which surprises me because Westview doesn’t seem like a big enough town to support a thriving mall. Especially now that malls everywhere are dying a slow agonizing death.

When Cayla farmed her daughters out as labor for Christmas break in 2020, they certainly weren’t working at the Westview Mall.

An apt punishment for someone in their eighth year of college.

‘TH’ Mall is probably supposed to be Mammoth Mall; the mall in Centerview where Crankshaft used to traumatize children as a photo op Santa.

Crankshaft, the superior Funkyverse Protagonist.

Mammoth Mall is also where a very late Act II Darin and Pete went in 2006 for Senior Skip Day.

Also in attendance, Darin’s old nose.

And at the time Mammoth Mall is referred to, by both Linda and Pete as THE Mall. So I think we can safely assume that Mammoth Mall in Centerview is ‘the mall’ for both towns.

Do you remember Hispanic Linda? Harriet Farms Remembers.

But, that doesn’t make any sense. Because Crankshaft learns in 2019, (and ten years in the past?) that the mall was supposed to be closing.

Of course this could be a ploy to get rid of Crankshaft…

Indeed, in 2017 the Mammoth Mall was already as empty as the mall from Silent Hill 3, and full of similar haunting horrors.

Horrors beyond imagination, eating at a Toxic Taco.
Look how the tiny cashier in the one open store is drawn leaning on the counter bored!
I have nothing but respect for Davis.

Of course, in August 2019 there was still enough of a crowd for Crankshaft to taunt multiple groups of innocent children about the inevitability of summer’s end.

This is petty and spiteful and juvenile. I love it.

And for the 2020 Christmas season, either a year or eleven years after Cranky got fired from his Santa gig, there wasn’t a shortage of traffic.

I will give you small green paper to wrap this paper box in additional paper so that my loved ones may tear it off and throw it away and then return the paper box here to get the original small green paper back.

So Mammoth Mall is Schrodinger’s Shopping Complex. When unseen it is both dying and fine simultaneously. But when observed in strip it is always either dying or fine, based on Batiukian forces beyond our understanding.

In a way, it stands for the dual fates of malls in modern society. Many are sad, desperate shells, full of broken dreams, and dentist offices. Some are still doing fine, still a hub for women to shop, teens to hang, and men to wait on benches staring blandly at their phones. And I’m guessing that everyone is within day-trip distance of one of each kind.

When my mom calls me up and asks if I want to go to the mall, I always wonder which one she means: The living, or the dead?

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The Bailout or the Boot?

Link to today’s strip.

Logan, woman to fictional girl, I think this better be your last potentially romantic date with your good pal Malcolm.

I mean, I guess he’s tall. And next to cowlick Connor and certified Michelin Manlet Bernie, he’s okay looking. Yeah, he’s got a receding hairline, but what fresh-faced Westview teen doesn’t have one? I mean just look the crowd at that graduation party you went to!

That’s a lotta kids in baseball caps for a pool party…

But girl. I’m seeing some SERIOUS red flags. You better put him right back in the friendzone.

I know from my work at the gas station, that a lot of the young high schoolers these days have debit cards. All well and good. But a credit card?

I remember the day my mom handed me a credit card with my own name on it. She said it was linked to her account. She said she would be able to see everything I bought. She said it was only for emergencies. Like if I was stranded in a blizzard and needed a hotel. (Many of my mom’s worst case scenarios involve blizzards. It’s also why she refuses to get rid of the compressed bale of old blankets wedged in her linen closet.) She gave me one of those serious mom stares. I felt like I was walking around with the nuclear football tucked into my nylon wallet.

But Malcolm tells us that this is HIS credit card. I guess that means Malcolm is 18, and has an independent source of income. Which would seem like points his in favor. But then he says he must have maxed it out and didn’t realize it? And so Logan has to pay for the latest rehashed Marvel product?

I don’t have a smart phone. My phone has a calculator, and always knows what time it is, so it’s already smarter than me. I had a smart phone for about six month, before I ruined it jumping into a pond to fish out a newborn calf. Now I’m playing a game of chicken with a 10 year old diet-blackberry Samsung to see which quits first, the phone or the entire 3G Network. (Looks like the phone will win.)

But I have seen the wizardry available with the internet in the palm of your hand. I’ve seen people at the checkout have a card decline, pull out their phone and pay it off, or transfer money from one account to another, in minutes. I’ve seen people glancing at their phones and checking their balance before telling me exactly how much in sticky quarters they’re going to give me to pay for their pack of Camels so they can run the rest on their cards.

Meaning, any tech literate young zoomer is going to be able to pay down the balance on their credit card with their phone on the spot.

Meaning, Malcolm not only has maxed out his credit card, he lacks the funds in his bank account to pay it down. And he didn’t think to check on this before his very special date with Logan? A date where he only brought his credit card? He’s already in debt, but was going to tack interest charges onto a date?

And I know most starting out credit cards have pretty low credit lines, but still $1000, $500?

Then he looks Logan in the eye, face both tired and pained, and tells her that this is nothing…barely peanuts…to the crippling debt he’s planning to inflict on himself. Malcolm already has a solid figure in his mind, so much so that he already counts that debt as HIS before he’s sat through a single lecture. Tens of thousands of dollars, maybe hundreds of thousands, more money than most people make in a decade, are already hanging over his head, future promise bucks handed from lender to unnamed college in his name. For what?

Why is he going to a college expensive enough to drain the light from his eyes? What are his plans? Does he have a career path that requires a degree? Because he isn’t being bankrolled by scripture sales from the Cult of Dead St. Lisa. He doesn’t have an Endless Summer to spend puttering around a university changing his major from one useless certificate to another.

College can be a rewarding place to learn, to find yourself, to make new friends, to fall in love, and have exciting experiences. So can summer camp. You do not go 40 grand in debt for summer camp. You go 40 grand in debt because you have a clear goal that necessitates that sacrifice.

Come on, Logan! Surely with your ABC News boosted business blog, you should be able to talk him out of the biggest and most expensive mistake an aimless young graduate can make:

A four year, $200,000, liberal arts degree.

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Jerrymandering Flautists

Link To Today’s Strip

Dinkle has had about enough of these pranks, and so have I. None of them are anywhere near the quality or level of execution needed to be more than a time-killer. The true goal of school pranks is notoriety and immortality. Moving the pickled animals in jars from the science lab into the trophy case, welding a car around the flag pole, staging a lunch room flashmob. A beautiful moment of adolescent apotheosis, where you have risen above the rules, the hierarchy, the schedule that has domesticated your youthful exuberance. A good prank is a shock to the system.

I hope you guys don’t mind another dumb slice-of-life CBH story. I’ve just got nothing to work with here.

My little sister is a modern day saint. A sweet, loving, little gem of a girl who sees the best in everyone, and who has never met a soul she wasn’t willing to pray for. The kind of person who, when she got a the flu, said, “Well, if I had to get the flu, this is the good kind of flu. Because I’m really not coughing all that much. And at least I got it over Christmas break, so I won’t have to miss any work.” I haven’t seen her get properly mad in 20 years. The closest she comes to anger is nervous laughter and pursed-lip silence. The only negative emotions she allows herself to feel are sympathetic sadness, and guilt feeling anything else bad. If this were the middle ages, she would have shrines built in her honor, and pilgrims would walk barefoot to have her lay upon hands. Instead she teaches kindergarten at a Christian school.

She was already like that in high school. And everyone in her class knew it, and most loved her, even if they found it hard to relate to so much concentrated purity.

But on the last day of band of her senior year, she kept getting called out by the band director for not playing her flute right. She’d never really been dedicated to her instrument,( I don’t think she’s picked up the flute once since she graduated.), but the teacher had never really picked on her like this before.

Finally he slapped down his baton and said to her, “I don’t even know why you’ve bothered being in band for four years. You’re terrible at it! You are the worst flute player I have ever had!”

And my sister turned bright red, and shouted back, “If I’m such a bad student, maybe it’s because you’re a lousy teacher!”

The band director went stony silent, and said, “You go to the principals office right now. You are out of my band.”

And my little sister stood up and roared, “You can’t kick me out because I quit!” Then she picked up the flute she’d been using, and bent it over her knee. She threw the twisted instrument on the floor and stormed out of the room.

You could have heard a pin drop. My little sister, the sweetest, most kind girl in school, had shouted at a teacher and was headed to the principal.

Then giddy laughter coming from outside the door broke the tension.

It had been her senior prank, planned between her and the band director. The flute had been an old, broken castoff of the department. No one in her class had seen it coming.

My sister is a saint who never really gets angry. But she’s also a pretty good actress.

And that is how you prank the band.

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Odd Job Man

Link To Today’s Strip

How long did these kids have to prepare for this prank? This amount of coordinated music, mouthpiece, and instrument switching could only have taken place if Becky’s absence was expected days in advance, and if this is either the first class period of the day, or the first class period after a lunch.

I want to thank TF Hackett for reminding me of the ‘knowing smirks’ tag in the comments yesterday. I’m going to need it so much to finish off my shift. Today we have an entire peanut gallery of unbearable knowing smirks being exchanged in panel 3. Some may think that these people are smiling mischievously at each other because all their clever pranks are being preempted by a witty old man. But obviously the real reason is that their ultimate prank has yet to be spotted: all of these so called ‘kids’ are obviously middle-aged adults involved in some kind of elaborate LARP.

The janitor in panel 2 is the real star of today’s strip. In all my decades of public schooling, I can’t remember a janitor sweeping the halls in the middle of the day, unless there had been some kind of unfortunate thumbtack crate explosion. But this janitor has staked out the 20 foot stretch of tile outside the band room as his turf. Nearly a year ago, it took him a full five days to carefully and methodically make his way past the classroom.

This strip made of random panels is funnier than any individual strip from that week.

So many fun ways to interpret this! Is he:

A.) A ghost who died in a horrific sign taping accident, forced to haunt this wing of the school, forever sweeping a floor that will never be clean of the stain of his blood?

B.) A man so polluted mentally and emotionally by the Westview climate of somatic decay, greasy pizza, trashy comics, smug nihilism, and puns, that he has become a mindless shell of a man who sweeps automatically and unceasingly, like an organic roomba?

C.) A security guard from the school, in disguise, ordered to tail Dinkle whenever he is on the premises to prevent another lawsuit from parents?

D.) Secretly in love with Dinkle or/and Becky?

Remember that sign-up ends Monday at midnight for Tuesday’s 7:00 pm live online revealing of Tom’s poster for the Ohioana Book Festival.

If you register on Eventbrite, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 10!

See TF Hackett’s comments on yesterday’s post for more details! Link Here for sign up,

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A Paltry Substitution.

Link To Today’s Strip

Dinkle’s back. We’ve had to suffer through an inordinate about of Dinkle this winter. From piano lessons to turkey shenanigans to OMEA. It almost seems like Batiuk is intentionally giving us a break from Lisa’s Cancer Movie Extravaganza. Is he trying to reset our sensitivity to the storyline? Like letting a prisoner stew in the hole for a few weeks before bringing them back out for another round of enhanced interrogation.

Had a moment of confusion on my first read. Who the heck is Mrs. Howard? You mean One-Armed-Becky? The wife of Dead-Skunk-Head? I’m so far removed from thinking of either of them having surnames. I can barely remember DSH is named John.

I don’t think that this is a Dinkle strip that’s going to get cut out and pasted on many doors. The joke is anemic, but tolerable enough. Shrewd old teacher is down with substitute pranks. But this must either be a Freshman band class, or Dinkle hasn’t substituted for three years straight, otherwise the kids should be wise to his wisdom.

The real thing holding this strip back is the atrocious art in panels one and three. What is that hand in panel one? I could draw a better hand left handed. All the poor kids have horrible receding hairlines. I half expect that panel two was changed to black outline after the fact. After Ayers drunkenly turned in a scribbly panel of twenty mangled high school students as seen through a cracked funhouse mirror.

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The Ultimate Racketeer.

Link To Today’s Strip

Potted plant is back!

I wonder if we’ve been a little harsh in our criticism of the bland offering of jokes this week. I showed the strips to a friend and they got a mild chuckle from her.

Our palates have really been ruined by consuming and analyzing EVERYTHING Batiuk provides in his greasy spoon buffet. When you’ve gagged over creamed corn that’s been congealing under a heat lamp for eight hours, it becomes so much easier to find problems with the innocent loaf of off-the-shelf white bread splayed out in slices at the end of the table.

I think it’s easy for us, deep in the lore, and with years and layers to our disdain for some of these characters, to forget that a week of strips like this is probably the only enjoyment casual readers get out of these comics, smiling half heartedly as they accidently let their eyes drift over Funky Winkerbean while searching for the obituaries.

Can you imagine being an average Joe, not a weirdo commenting obsessively over a comic strip online, and opening your local fishwrap to randomly read a strip from the L.A. Fire arc? Or Bull’s suicide? Or Zanzibar the talking murder chimp blessed be his name? Your brain would spit that wad of nonsense right back out to protect itself, like slamming the door on a Jehovah’s Witness.

But today’s strip? This is the kind of strip destined to be cut out of the paper and put on the fridge by kindly little old music teachers who paid for their grandkids’ Christmas presents with piano lessons. It’s a stolen joke, told with a microgram of charm, that will get a few smiles.

I talked earlier this week about Batiuk’s immortality. And, as much as he’d like it to be cancer or PTSD or teen pregnancy, it’s really one-off Dinkle type gags. I remember Dinkle strips posted in my own music teacher’s office. Tom’s real legacy isn’t massive volumes of collected comics, it’s yellowed strips of newsprint taped haphazardly to a filing cabinet beside a pile of music stands.

I can imagine, fifty years from now, a kid opening a cupboard in the attic of my old band room, where the retired uniforms and broken instruments are left to rot, and inside are a pile of dusty worn out band shoes, a few tarnished majorette hats, and, pasted to the door, a browned and crumbling clipping of Harry Dinkle, screaming at children in the pouring rain.

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Mr. Whole Note Takes a Week.

Link To Today’s Strip

Thanks to our glorious leader TF Hackett, who brought up yesterday that “Mr. Whole Note.” is, in fact, a song/training exercise for learning piano students. The excerpt he posted of ‘The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 2.’ is simultaneously infuriating and fascinating. So, I’ll let you all expertly dissect Dinkle’s non-joke in the comments, and look forward to your hilarious analysis. I’m going off on a tangent again.

Like a lot of mouth breathing nerds, I am a huge Tolkien fan. Like, I’ve read The Silmarillion more than ONCE kind of Tolkien fan. If you really start digging into his work, you find out that the man was a persnickety and easily distracted procrastinator who created reams and reams of unfinished material that his son, Christopher, carefully collated and annotated into multiple volumes. The famous Silmarillion is just the tip of the iceberg.

Reading through something like “The History of Middle Earth” series, and seeing his son deconstruct the evolution of his father’s work in parallel to his father’s life is to get a window into the creative process of a man. The single world that Tolkien invented is so complex, with thousands of years of history and dozens, if not hundreds, of complete stories and sagas he never thought finished enough to release. And his son spent his whole life studying and writing about his father’s work, carefully breaking down the evolution of concepts and characters. I feel like all the weird asides, and life commentary, written in the margins of The Complete Funky Winkerbean attempt to achieve the same thing for Batiuk’s massive world.

But, unlike Tolkien, who hid his unfinished material away, and really didn’t like the idea of psychoanalyzing authors to find parallels in their own work, Batiuk is compelled to write the deconstruction himself. He has to be the one to break apart and explain this weird, paper-paste, universe he’s spent his life creating, and tie it together with his own experiences. Writing paragraphs on his musical education and family life with serious self-importance, probably because there is no one out there obsessed enough to do it for him.

It’s really kind of sad. Tolkien was a deeply religious man, assured of his own immortality and humble in his act of subcreation. Even if you don’t share his belief, you can tell how his faith comforted him. His only self psychoanalysis of his work is a wonderful short story, ‘Leaf by Niggle.’ In it he writes a parable of painter that ends with the realization that even if the massive work of art he was trying to create was never finished, and never appreciated, and ultimately never remembered by anyone on this Earth, that somehow it would exist forever and finally be perfected in the world to come.

Tom Batiuk, meanwhile, has the Kent State University Press printing out an entire Midrash of Funky Winkerbean, trying to scrape together enough interest and importance for a hint of earthly immortality. And, it seems, the only ones who care enough to spend any time at all engaging with his world are a tiny cabal of beady-eyed nitpickers who he disdains.

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