“So I find now, as some eight years ago I was doing things for the first time, I am doing them now for the final time.“
Hi folks, it’s me again, BChasm here for a one more romp through the Funky Winkerbean swamp.
And I must say, as romps go, this has been one of the most enjoyable. The hosts, the guest hosts and the commentors have been absolutely wonderful companions on this forage through the train wreck, and as we’ve sifted through the wreckage we’ve found some wonderful artefacts and some poor-grade sewage. Such it is on a journey like this, and I could not have asked for better companions. I love you all.
I’m going to ignore the current nonsense in today’s strip and touch on one of the defining strips of Act III.
Last week as you’ll recall, Epicus mentioned the events of June, 2011. Les inexplicably finds himself pursured by two women, and Crazy and Funky make some very mild comments regarding his romantic past.
A normal person would respond in one of two ways: 1 “Heh, I guess it is kind of funny.” 2 “I really need some help with this, guys.”
Les uses neither, instead storming off in high dudgeon.
Funky feels remorse over this, and we get the strip below.
Again, a normal reaction to Funky’s contrition would be something like “It’s okay, I was just upset” or “Hey, you’re my friend, don’t worry about it” or some such acknowledgement of the sentiment while diminishing the event.
Not Les. Les’ response is that of a man whose ego dwarfs the sun itself. If I were Funky, my reaction would be to mentally cross Les off my list of friends. I would know, now, that if I ever needed sympathy from Les, all I would receive is a counter-complaint (“Well, sure, your house burned down, but I thought I’d lost a Lisa tape. I was in a real panic, let me tell you–“).
The above strip was the biggest indication that Les Moore is a world-class prick. Looking back, I cannot recall a single moment when Les was sincerely concered about another (living) person; everyone around him exists solely to validate him.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, was our star character. But allow me to fix this one strip, to put it a quarter-inch from reality.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your indulgence. I have read and enjoyed the posts and comments here and I am glad that I was, in some small way, a part of this mosaic. For my final trick, let’s enjoy an old favorite!
Comic Book Harriet here! Taking the wheel one final time while this strip is still running, gently guiding it as it peacefully coasts to its final resting place.
As everyone has been saying in the comments, this arc has been monumentally bad. The sort of Aldo Keltrast, dog-in-the-corner while Margo smiles, Rey Skywalker, bad that will stand the test of time. Even if, for the last couple weeks, we get an abbreviated version of the kind of treacly Funky and Crew ending we all pretty much expected, the chance to make that ending a real story with a beginning, middle, end, goals, stakes, and conflict is pretty much over. It could have been as easy as Funky losing the keys to Montoni’s, or Les getting locked in the high school after dark. Any of us could pitch an ending more keeping with what this strip tried to be. Many of us HAVE pitched sci-fi endings more interesting than this.
But naw. Why don’t we have three weeks of emotionless, conflictless, exposition instead. Talk about what HAS happened and what WILL HAPPEN without any chance of it changing. Have two characters, one we definitely don’t care about and another we barely even know anymore, spout tensionless word zeppelins into the air, placidly; describing time travel and mind rape with the sort of bemused detachment I expect from people talking about a drizzly day.
I’ve heard more interesting descriptions on how to order from the Secret McDonalds Menu.
I don’t know how I feel about it. Because the part of me that is the nicest to Batiuk of our general crew. The part of me who confessed on a video chat with at least 10 other Batiuk haters, that a Crankshaft strip had made me cry. The part of me that chuckled at Vintage FW. That sappy part of me wants something better for the end, something to put a penlight (not a spotlight) on the B+ material this strip was occasionally capable of.
But the part of me that sat with a grin on my face through all of Rise of Skywalker. The part of me that laughed with glee when Phil Holt came back from the dead, and when Skyler blithely played with his grandfather’s murder weapon. The part of me brimming with self-righteous artistic indignation at every missed opportunity of this entire fictional universe. That nasty little gremlin inside is like…YES! THIS! LET IT END LIKE THIS! NOT IN GOODNESS! NOT IN THE GLORY OF A DUMPTER BLAZE! BUT IN THE REFINED PLATONIC IDEAL OF EVERY ONE OF BATIUK’S SINS! HIS DULLNESS! HIS LONGWINDEDNESS! HIS BLAND CHARACTERS! HIS AVATARS! HIS EGO! HIS NOSTALGIA! HIS OBTUSE LOGIC! THIIIIIISSSSSSSSSS
Great Moments in FW Arc Recap History: May 8, 1985. Les and Lisa on the bleachers.
Hannibal’s Lectern went off on a great tangent yesterday, talking about Harley Davidson motorcycles, and how the company wildly lies about the past to sell the present.
For those who are not familiar, H-D (the motorcycle company) trades heavily in “heritage,” its position as the world’s oldest motorcycle company. And they retcon that “heritage” like the old Soviet Union. How they do it is a lesson for Batiuk: they just do it. If the factual history doesn’t match the narrative they want to sell to their current customers, they just recite the narrative as if it were factual. No explanations. No acknowledgment of any inconvenient facts. No discussion.
Hannibal’s Lectern. Published author, gentleman (?), and motorcycle enthusiast.
Hannibal suggests that Batiuk should have done that kind of retcon when bringing the timelines together. I disagree, I think he should have explained it with a single strip at the end of the Crazy-Harry-Time Travel arc. ( Crazy: “I guess it was all an off-gassing mind trip, if I had gone back in time…things would have changed in the present!” *Crankshaft walks by*)
Hannibal and I are united in our assessment that three weeks in a janitor’s closet is NOT the way to do it.
But Batiuk is no stranger to Stalinist revisionism, with disappearing children edited out of families like murdered Politburo members from photos. Batiuk describes Les and Lisa’s year long Act I relationship like this on the blurb to Lisa’s Stoy: Prelude:
Introduced to readers of Funky Winkerbean in late 1984 as she experiences SAT test anxiety, Lisa becomes Les Moore’s best friend and a pivotal character. Les and Lisa go to the prom, begin steady dating, and then break up. Over the summer, Les realizes how much he misses Lisa.
In his Match to Flame, he’s even more vague about the nature of their dating relationship.
While all of this was going on, that girl from my sketchbook had begun little by little to insinuate herself into the strip. In my mind, the students in the strip had reached their junior year and as such the junior/senior prom was looming. Les needed a date for the prom, and this new girl seemed to be the perfect candidate. Along with Les I learned her name—Lisa. They went to the prom together and continued to date. They followed the typical bell curve of a high school relationship and eventually broke up with Lisa transferring to another school. Nice story, that. The problem, however, is that I had really grown to like Lisa and I missed having her in the strip almost as much as Les seemed to. It turned out that my journey with Lisa was only starting. Twice I would banish her from the strip and twice she would return with a new story to tell.
From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Five
What did that ‘typical bell curve’ relationship really look like?
Well, in early May 1985, Les Moore is busy litigiously harassing women while on his love quest.
He is as charming and suave as ever.
In our sanitized, censored, edited Act III, Batiuk presents Les getting up the guts to ask Lisa out, as if he already admired her.
When in reality, he didn’t even know her name. Like Billy The Skink pointed out in 2017, he was asking her because she was the last girl he hadn’t asked…and he had to psych himself up because he’d been rejected all day.
The dance goes well. He asks her to prom. Prom goes well. They kiss. Les crashes his car on the way home.
I guess they start dating. Though in the summer of ’85, Les is still openly oogling other women.
There is an entire week in August of ’85 dedicated to Les getting his braces stuck on Lisa’s sweater while they were necking. But that’s all we see of Lisa for the summer.
When school starts again, as a show of devotion, Les gives her a his pocket protector. Then he gets a horrible perm for the Homecoming Dance and freezes Lisa’s corsage…which does…something to her… off panel…
As a couple, Les and Lisa barely show up from Prom of ’85 through to about March of 1986. Much much much much more time is dedicated to Dinkle fundraising, Coach Stropp losing, people smirking at puns on TV. In all those months, I could find only a strip or two other than this. I think Batiuk didn’t know how to handle hapless Act I punching bag Les in a normal relationship. But then, in March, things take a turn.
The relationship goes toxic. And it goes toxic because LISA becomes jealous, crazy, manipulative, clingy, and physically abusive.
Les, being his extremely flawed Act I self, is no pure victim in this. But his forgetfulness and distance almost could be read as dissociation from the moment, as he tries desperately to cling to the validation of having a girlfriend even if that same girlfriend becomes someone he can’t handle.
Les finally gets up the nerve to break up with Lisa. By standing in a place both public AND where she can’t physically reach him without breaking taboos.
And their first round of dating ends like it began. With a creep threatening legal action.
Les pines for Lisa all summer long. And it is so typical of Funky Winkerbean that more strips are dedicated to Les moping around whining for Lisa after they broke up, than were spent on the what I assume were the happy times in their early relationship. And we have no clue what Les liked about Lisa in particular. He’s not missing Lisa, he’s missing the idea of being pair-bonded.
When school starts, he is determined to ask her out again. But…
I know that was a LONG archive dive. Even for me. But I wanted all of you to see this. Glorious Dead St. Lisa was not immaculately conceived sinless from the author’s pen. For a short while there, she was WORSE THAN LES. Batiuk has built up Les and Lisa’s relationship as a lynchpin to his universe. But the couple he puts up on a pedestal as the parents of the savior of humanity, had an utterly toxic beginning. That first year, they were two desperate, awful people that clung to each other for a while not out of any real deeper attraction or connection, but out of the self-centered desperation to be in some kind of relationship with anyone.
And now we know, it was Harley the Timeline Custodian who made it happen.
During the group chat last night (which was SO FUN,) it was announced that we will be doing a 2022 Funky Awards in January. I am currently accepting nominations for Best Strip, Worst Strip, Punchable Les, Panel of the Year, Storyline of the Year, and also suggestions for additional categories. Please email me at sgkhuk (AT) live (DOT) com.
Hey folks, billytheskink here… I’m back for at least one more post so I can tag the ever-loving dickens out of today’s strip.
Lest we think Harley only takes agency and free will away from women, we learn today that he did the same to DSH and to the various members of the Westview High School class of ’92-’88-’78-’72 reunion committee. Since TB is looking back, let’s step into our own WABAC machine and see what exactly happened in the these two events that Harley interfered in.
Great Moments In FW Arc Recap History
November 19-December 20, 2012 An extended Crazy Harry arc begins. Harry explains to Donna his love of old comic books. The next day he walks into Montoni’s to inform Funky that USPS is shutting down the Westview Post Office and he’s out of a job. Harry decides he must sell off his beloved library, spending a week sorting and packing his books and his comics before schlepping them off to John, who offers Crazy Harry a job at the Komix Korner.
Granted, I cannot say what she was thinking, but back during this story arc, Donna never talked about leaving town. She didn’t do much of anything, really, except try to come on to Crazy while he moped about and spout off about how his political beliefs had changed with age. Also, is Harley admitting here that he “nudged” long-time Komix Korner employee Kevin out of existence to clear the way for DSH to hire Crazy? There are consequences to this time-meddling, Batiuk!
Now for the star flashback of the day…
We’re looking at August 21, 1993, when Les and Lisa reconnected at one of the incessant high school class reunions.
Should we assume the committee back in 1993 (holding what was then a canonically a 5-year reunion) was the same cabal Les was drafted into replacing Cindy on in 2015: Cindy, Mary Sue Sweetwater, Junebug, who I think is Cindy’s frizzy-haired minion Carrie, and abdicated valedictorian Barry Balderman? Eh, why not? Barry wasn’t at this reunion, though, he had a cool job.
I’ll give Harley/TB this, his intervention into giving that crew Lisa’s Seattle address makes some level of sense as Lisa wasn’t close with ANY of those committee members (even nerdy Barry) and Les didn’t have her address until after he broke his hand punching Bull at the reunion for reasons that still defy explanation. In a rare moment of common sense, Lisa actually chided a deserving Les for still being stuck in high school. This moment passed quickly, though. Lisa was practically apologizing to Les for being upset even before dawn and the next week Bull was practically apologizing to Les for getting punched. What a time to be alive that was…
I can’t believe he actually tried to explain it in panel one. Then, for no reason at all, he dredges up Susan’s suicide attempt, and sort of plays it off as being a mere cog in a far greater scheme of things. Also interesting is how he seems to remember that arc as one worth re-visiting. I guess Harley’s “nudging” skills didn’t work on the medical profession, as, well, you know. Although he’ll (sigh) surely be “explaining” that detail soon enough. This really is one ugly, ugly arc, man.
Great Moments In FW Arc Recap History
January 14-February 2, 2013 Darin makes it known that he is happy; the universe punishes his happiness by causing his adoptive father to suffer a stroke. Fred is rushed to the hospital. In the waiting room, Fred’s wife Ann shares with Darin and Jessica that rather than falling in love, she and Fred “just fell into place”, and rather bitterly suggests that her marriage to Fred meant sacrificing her own dream of being a sportswriter. Later, Darin ruminates on his adoptive parents’ “doubts and unfulfilled ambitions”. Fred, confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak intelligibly, is released from the hospital and moved into Darin’s old room. Ann will be his speech therapist.
February 3-10, 2013 No sooner is Fred settled in back at home than his heretofore unknown estranged daughter Kerry shows up at the door. We learn that she is the product of Fred’s first marriage, and that Kerry’s mother, for reasons we are not told, prevented Fred and Kerry from having any contact. After a short visit with Fred, Kerry and Darin talk over coffee. On Sunday we are treated to a depressing scene of Fred in his chair, looking out the window at a snowy day.
One of the stranger Act III arcs for sure. The Fairgoods, Boy Lisa’s adoptive parents, were always kind of nice, affable, and not particularly objectionable in any way, unlike so, so many others. Then, out of nowhere, for no discernible reason at all, Batiuk decided to give Fred a stroke (on the toilet, no less), at which point Ann revealed that she was trapped in a loveless, joyless marriage with Fred, who was also a philanderer with a secret love child, the mysterious (and never seen again) Kerry. It was almost as if BatHam was punishing the Fairgoods for having the temerity to raise St. Lisa’s love child as their own.
Next week is SOSF GUEST AUTHOR’S WEEK and they’ll all be on hand, doling out the farewell snark. Our stable of hilarious and gritty guest authors were the pillars on which SoSF stood. It simply couldn’t have existed without their efforts. Every single one of them was excellent and you could set your watch by their consistently awesome output. Billytheskink, Spacemanspiff85, ComicBookHarriet, Banana Jr. 6000, BeckoningChasm, Oddnoc, David O, Charles, Stuck Funky, and HeyIt’sDave…the names will forever ring out in comic strip snarkdom. Hope I didn’t forget anyone there. My mind is slowly reclaiming space as soon-to-be obsolete FW information is purged. Seriously though, my team of guest authors were, in my opinion, an infallible bunch of terrific, funny people, and I’ll genuinely miss you all.
Hey readers! As the Batiuk Retirement Watch continues, your friends here at SoSF are putting our heads together to figure out what happens to this blog after the 31st of December…look for updates soon. –TFH
A couple years ago, my older sister showed me something interesting that she’d found among our late mother’s personal belongings: a number of pocket size “junior diaries,” one for each year, spanning a number of years from the early days of her marriage to my father through my own childhood years. While we were a little curious about what these little books might contain, my sis and I both agreed that we just wouldn’t feel comfortable reading through them. Though I did ask my sis if I could keep the one from my birth year.
Nobody connected to St. Lisa seems to have any such qualms about perusing her most private writing. Summer’s already read through Lisa’s account of being raped and impregnated by Frankie (and was even prepared to blackmail him by reading it on YouTube). When Les was struggling to write the Lisa’s Story screenplay, Cayla helpfully fetched Lisa’s journal from the bookshelf. Though she’s been dead for fifteen years, no FW character has dispensed more wisdom, between her journal (presumably journals; that same book probably wouldn’t contain entries from high school through her cancer battle unless she wrote really, really small) and her hours upon hours of video messages.