Tag Archives: Les being a giant smug douche

When Arcs Become a Circle.

Link to Today’s Strip.

So after all of Les’ passive aggressive pouting yesterday, he’s actually happy the movie flopped. Peak Les. He’s happy at the failure of others, because it allows him to remain in his own comfort zone. Cassidy Kerr said the movie was going to change his life, and he worried if it was going to be changed for the worse or the better.

May 17, 2020

And ultimately he’s smugly satisfied to realize that his own life hasn’t changed at all. Millions of dollars of vainly wasted money; hours and hours of actors’ and crewpeoples’ lives; none of that is weighed against Les’ own desire to remain static.

Banana Jr. 6000 posted an awesome video in the comments of Tuesday’s post. It dissects what makes a character unlikable. I’m reposting it in case someone missed it, and I highly recommend it to anyone with writing aspirations.

The most damning criticism in the video, as it pertains to Les Moore, is the subject of repeated, fruitless, character arcs: where a portion of the story is dedicated to a character trying to overcome as struggle or flaw only to end up right back where they started from.

“The storytelling, in this case, puts our arc and character into the protagonist’s driver’s seat and makes a sort of promise that this is going somewhere. Instead, the wheel is turned all the way left and they’re going in circles. They’re left complaining about the same thing or acting in the same selfish way they have before. And it becomes harder for us to identify with a universal struggle that they’re going through, and instead we start to get frustrated with them personally.”

How many times have we seen Les pulled in circles? Like a dog lazily chasing its tail, half knowing it doesn’t want to catch it. Just killing time because it’s been chained to the same place for years, and it gives it a sense of a goal.

For my Funky/Cranky crossover continuity review a few days ago, I reread an obscene number of Crankshaft strips. And you know what? Crankshaft is so much better. I’m not saying it’s great, or even consistently good. The recent newspaper closing arc was Funky levels of unbearable. But the characters in that strip choose to do things. Cranky has decided he’s going to electrocute a tree using jumper cables and multiple cars, and he’s making it happen. Lillian decides she’s going to write a book, so she does. Then she writes ten more books and becomes famous in the same time it takes Les Moore to write a prequel about his dead wife in the strangest self-own I have ever seen.

While there are always exceptions: Crankshaft characters act, Funky Winkerbean characters react. In Funky Winkerbean there are a few ancillary characters, like Mason and Chester, who present the main characters with life changing propositions to react to. And in general the characters are happiest when they’re NOT moving. Everyone lives above Montoni’s, everyone works at the High School, or the restaurant. Darin, Pete, and Jess would rather take the nepotism hires close to home than capitalize on their Hollywood successes.

Les is happy the movie flopped. Inertia and entropy are the twin suns that warm his withered soul, and his only hope is to decay in place.

It’s all so tedious.

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Stump Speech

Link to Today’s Strip.

Yesterday I did something relatively unorthodox in these parts: I found something to praise Tom Batiuk for. Of course, the overly-long post ended with me screaming at Batiuk in all caps, but that is part of the reason I did it. I never want to get to the point in my beady-eyed nitpicking where everything is a bug to me. Because when I force myself to admit what is good, what is acceptable, and what is innocuous, then when I am confronted with the unbearably bad I can nail it to the wall with confidence.

Today is really really bad guys. Just so bad. This is worst-case-scenario Les Moore at his most insufferable. Self-pitying, sarcastic, complaining, self-absorbed, quipping without being clever. The strip is worse than pointless. It’s not funny. It does nothing to further any ongoing plot, or even advance the conversation in a meaningful way. And the only way it develops character is to further metastasize the tumorous-asshole side of Les’ personality.

And it’s a shame. Because the art today is kind of interesting. One, Les is in pain in panel 2. Which is always nice to see.

And two, he’s putting a pumpkin on a stump.

I can only assume that it’s the stump of the large maple tree in their front yard that was cut down back in 2015.

And before we have our normal reaction, ‘Ah, a relic of Dead St. Lisa, of course it is fetishized,’ the tree was also a favorite of Cayla’s, who wanted to be married under its branches, and felt like the tree was ‘part of the family.’ Plus, Summer grew up eating the fallen leaves from under that tree.

I understand grief at the loss of a tree. Emerald ash borer beetles came through my state a couple years ago and took out seven massive beautiful ash trees on my parents’ farm. It makes me sad in a very Batiukian way, wandering across the acres of yard at home, and so many sentinels of my childhood are missing. Nothing left but weed filled dimples where oceans of shade once marked out the borders of fantasy continents.

Les and Cayla left the stump of the tree they were married under. They’ve left it for years. They decorate it in the trappings of fall it can no longer produce. Because they’d rather have the reminder of the tree for a while longer, than a pristine yard. And all of this is told visually. It develops their characters much better than the awful dialogue on display today. It rewards long time readers. It gives the strip a continuity of place. And there’s that word again, continuity.

When Batiuk chose to have his strip move forward in time, he subjected his strip to the harsh and beautiful realities of continuity. In the measured compliments I’ve given the strip the last couple days, I hope I’ve pointed out how continuity can lead to deeper and more meaningful storytelling. But Batiuk wants all the blessings of continuity, without paying the price of its restrictions. He’s not shy about how little he cares. In fact he revels thumbing his nose at it, like an edgy atheist in Sunday School. And that is why his storytelling so often fails, because we don’t trust it any more.

But still. I would miss that tree too. It was a good tree. After all, it once trapped Les high in its branches, to the joy of all the neighborhood children.

And the very first thing it did upon being introduced to Les Moore was smack him right in his dumb smug head.

Our Leafy Hero.

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Neither can we, Marian… uh, I mean, Lisa

And we’re back to Les’s cameo in today’s strip. I dunno what that golf thing yesterday was about, but it will probably be awful and unsatisfying if it is ever revealed at all.

Having seen more of this scene, I really hope Les’ fear that his cameo will elicit knee-buckling laughter from his friends, family, and assorted other acquaintances comes true. What better time in Lisa’s Story to bust a gut than this maudlin bit where Les recaps a phone conversation Lisa had with her insensitive doctor? That’s the first and only thing about this Lisa’s Story flick that makes me want to watch it.

This strip is a nice reminder that Lisa’s second battle with cancer was full of bumbling and insensitive doctors: always mixing up important cancer charts and exhibiting awful bedside manner. What timing TB has… I cannot think of a time in my life when fewer Americans would be interested in fictional depictions of incompetent and unpleasant doctors.

And that’s it for me. I cannot say I envy spacemanspiff85, who takes over tomorrow. Good luck to you. You won’t have it, but it seems the right sentiment to express.

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Waitersday, July 22

Today’s strip was not available for preview; I guess that’s a Wednesday thing now. Les is, presumably, still antagonizing over the terrible horrible no-good very bad fate of making a 6 word cameo in a major motion picture. ¡Qué mala suerte!

While we wait on that, why not take another trip in the WABATIUK machine with me and check out a particularly disgusting Act II scene with Les Moore, the Midwest’s greatest monster, and his legendarily thin skin.  Here, less than 3 months into their marriage, Lisa made the mistake of offering up some constructive criticism of Les’ in-progress and all-stupid John Darling book manuscript.  Les acts like Les and Lisa complains about it downstairs in a conversation with co-worker Funky (EVERYONE in Westview has worked at Montoni’s at one time or another, it’s like compulsory military service in countries that have that).  Lisa has Les pegged perfectly…

FW1-29-97

This rare moment of seeming self-awareness from TB about the monster that Les truly is proves fleeting, though. The very next strip, Lisa regrets not giving Les ten thousand words of well-reasoned adulation.  Funky and Tony convincer her to bring him a pizza, and for good measure she stops by Komix Korner on her way home as well.  Seriously,  Les’ oversensitivity is rewarded with pizza and comic books and… an “apology” from Lisa.

This man must be stopped! This film must be stopped! This strip must be stopped!

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Thought-Les

Les, the humorless shmuck, humorless shmucks around in today’s strip.

Nothing – not cancer, not Hollywood, not even the students he loathes so much – seems to disturb and anger Les more (oy, sorry) than people laughing at him over something utterly trivial. Funky and Crazy found this out the hard way 9 years ago, in the infamous “Children left behind” strip. Despite what they are doing in Les’ imagination, I doubt they would be bold enough to so much as chuckle anywhere within earshot of Les again.

Is this how TB’s family and friends reacted to his recurring role as “Art Professor” (I think that is both his name and his profession) in the ongoing live-action saga of The Cardinal, the greatest comic superhero around who dresses like the Iowa State University mascot?

Yeah it probably is. Also, Les himself exists in The Cardinal live-action universe. *shudder*

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This strip’s just six words wrong

Get a load of today’s strip… Les is gonna cameo in this thing?!

I think we’ve all but officially moved into The Producers territory, haven’t we? This Lisa’s Story movie is actually some sort of scam cooked up by Mason, Cindy, Cassidy Kerr, and probably Martin Johns, right? You wouldn’t think anything could possibly make any part of this movie any worse, and then there is the mere suggestion that Les could actually be in the flick. Les’ appearance is inherently negative, it cannot even be neutral. Les, amazingly, realizes this.

And let’s not forget, Mason is getting “points on the backend” for this work as casting director, which has seen him cast three people with no genuine auditions. Gotta be a scam.

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Secrets, Lies and Errors

What fresh awfulness do we have in today’s strip? Oh, just the latest reminder that Lisa’s Story is all about Les… and that anything written or filmed about Les isn’t worth the paper or celluloid it is recorded on.

This is who Mason considers “a real hero”? Someone who apparently told the accomplished and successful actress Marianne Winters to her face that she wasn’t good enough for the role of Lisa? Someone whose advice to her on playing the role of his late wife in a scene where she is preparing to have a biopsy to confirm a probable cancer diagnosis is to think more about HIM?

Les Moore is monstrous cad and in a just Batiukverse he would have been thrown off of a railroad trestle years ago by one of a long list of suspects too long to investigate and whom no jury would convict even if caught.

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Snow Job Snore

Cameras are FINALLY rolling in today’s strip, which is take 3 (why?) of the contents of this Sunday strip from January 31, 1999.

FW1-31-99

Yep, even when it was actually happening, Lisa’s story was pretty much all about Les.

Les didn’t write the script for this movie, and yet, this scene is almost verbatim what was actually said back in 1999. I guess he had nothing to fear after all as the script writer must have been clairvoyant… or perhaps just too lazy to even try to punch up a bland passage lifted wholesale from the Lisa’s Story book.

If Les cannot live through seeing actors recite his own words, he knows where the door is. Even if he somehow didn’t walk through it to get in the soundstage, maybe he parachuted in or was brought in bound and gagged inside of a trunk (my favorite theory), he saw Marianne do so.

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Meeting the Four Hundred

Les just continues to mock Batton in today’s strip. Sheesh, whadda jerk! Apparently newspaper cartoonists were the original social distancing champions, which you probably would be seeing memes about if you were Facebook friends with one. Unfortunately, gags this terrible are not a rare sight in Funky Winkerbean

Emily or, uh Amelia… whichever one wears pink and doesn’t act like what TB imagines a Hot Topic shopper to be, asks a perfectly reasonable question for a “kids these days” kid. Seriously, it is a good question and it demonstrates a knowledge of what a comic strip is, how it is distributed, and its primary measure of success. Batton, of course spins this perfectly fine question into a self-pitying humblebrag so deftly that even Les seems impressed. Newspapers may be dying, but his comic strip is in EVERY SINGLE ONE of the ones that remain! What’re you gonna accomplish in your life, Blondie?

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The Thousand Panel Stare

Kids don’t read newspapers or newspaper comics these days… Boo hoo, so sad, this generation is killing the papers and the cartoonists, blah blah blah yackity smackity… Sorry, don’t care. I’ve heard it all before, and in better comic strips to boot.

Today’s strip is bland, rote filler in a dumb, overplayed story arc, but… that second panel. Chuck Ayers artwork since taking over duties in Funky a couple years ago has taken a good step back from the solid work he did for many years in Crankshaft I would argue, but the second panel in today’s strip is a genuinely excellent piece of cartooning. The beady eyes, the nonplussed expressions, the unrealistic density of students packed into every millimeter of the panel… you can practically hear the crickets chirping in background of this non-reaction. It is an extremely rare and truly good thing to see in Funky Winkerbean. What a pity it isn’t in the service of a better joke.

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