Tag Archives: Logan Church

Not So Different

Link to Today’s Strip.

So Cayla states, AND I QUOTE, “He told me that one thing that gave him some solace…was reminding himself that he wasn’t like them.”

And so, I am willing to rest my case, and conclude that in an arc about racial profiling Batiuk and his team got two black characters confused because they looked too much alike.

There remains the outside chance that I am wrong, that the ‘wisdom’ Cayla spouts is also something her father, Smokey Williams, will be shown saying in his original arc. I will let you know my findings in the comments section when my copy of Strike Four! arrives. And I will add a retraction statement to this post if I was wrong.

But for now, lets look a little closer at the Jefferson Jacks arc. In truth, it was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw last Saturday’s strip, because it was the most significant arc I could think of that tackled racism. The storyline ran in Crankshaft from September 15 to October 12 in 2008. The following are some highlight strips, to give you all an abridged rundown.

First things first. I tried digging through the Toledo Mud Hens rosters to see if they ever integrated before the team moved to West Virginia in ’52. I couldn’t find any black players, though many didn’t have easily googleable pictures. But the Mud Hens integrating in ’47 is a bit of fictional license.

Second. While I couldn’t in my quick and dirty internet search blitz find instances of players confronting disgruntled potentially violent townsfolk, or a black player having to walk to a game, much of what is depicted in the arc is similar to what early integration-era ballplayers went through. I could find instances of heckling from the stands, eating and sleeping on buses, being boarded with local families, and having some white teammates be cold and others be friendly. Crankshaft being ‘one of the good ones’ is, of course, heavy-handed and self-serving. But I really didn’t hate this little story. And the art was especially nice.

This feels so oddly well researched for Batiuk work, doesn’t it?


Finally, in a bit of Crankshaft news, the Crankshaft story dealing with the black baseball player Jefferson Jacks has been nominated for a Glyph Award in the Best Comic Strip category by the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention which takes place on May 16th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Philadelphia. Just a bit of backstory here… a good friend, Tony Isabella, had suggested I write a story about a black minor league ballplayer who would have played with Ed Crankshaft on the Toledo Mud Hens. I was out of pocket on the Lisa’s Story book tour around that time, so I suggested to Tony, a fine comics writer in his own “write”, that he do it… and he did. Later, when Tony’s scripts came in, I wrote the Sunday strips to wrap around the story and they were then beautifully illustrated by Chuck Ayers. If I say so myself, it’s a fine story and I’m very pleased that it was nominated by the judges.

Finally, part two… the current Jefferson Jacks story was written by me as I recuperated after my accident last year, but Tony and I had such a good time with J.J., that we’re working on some new stuff for down the road. 

Tom Batiuk, blog post dated April, 15, 2009

He had a ghost writer for the story! Tony Isabella is a fellow Ohio native who’s written for Marvel and DC. He’s best known as the creator of Black Lighting.

The ‘current Jefferson Jacks story’ referenced in the blog post was, of course when Jacks played ball in pre-revolution Cuba. Since it was penned by Batiuk, I’m sure was just as well researched and substantiated as the arc Isabella wrote.

Note, the above was a vertical slice of the story. The full arc ran from April 13 to May 2, 2009.

Tomorrow is the last day of my shift. I can continue the saga of Jefferson Jacks for you all, if you’d like. Show you the conclusion to another Funkyverse story of prejudice.

Or, it’s not to late to learn all the exciting facts about Styrofoam and linoleum.


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

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.

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.

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.


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Khan Do No Wong


Malcolm is now pouting like a child, which I guess fits one of the two ages he claims to be.

It’s okay Mal, you won’t have to feel seventy and seven for much longer. Because you’ll soon be completely forgotten. As a Westview student who isn’t a child of a main cast member, you were always cursed to be swallowed by the memory hole. I’m just sorry you had to go through this awful plotline first.

It could be worse. At least you weren’t initially created with sermonizing in mind, and then forced to linger in the background long after you were no longer wanted.

Commenter Bad Wolf had this to say yesterday:

I’m going to pin a lot of it down to his dismissing any of the (potentially) interesting characters he’s thrown in over the years—like that couple from Hong Kong he was so proud of—so that they aren’t around when he does want to use them for some social message. If he had built up Westview into a little Springfield of different quirky characters he could bounce back to whenever he wanted I’d be a bit more generous in how i looked at the strips.

I talked a couple days ago about culture as opposed to race, pointing out that any of the recurring non-white characters in the Funkyverse are culturally indistinguishable from anyone else. That doesn’t mean Batiuk hasn’t tried to introduce culturally distinct characters. He is just completely unable to sustain them. We’re seeing it happen in real time with Adeela the Iraqi immigrant. She was introduced for a big prestige arc in 2018 and was given the typical Montoni’s nepotism position.

After that she had nothing more than sporadic appearances for months. Appearances where she was a non-character, interchangeable with anyone else. She got another prestige arc in 2020 so Batiuk could preach at us about ICE. Then she showed up ONCE and said NOTHING in all of 2021, and is yet to appear in 2022.

Introduced as a prop in service of a ‘message’, then pointlessly kept around in case he wants to use her again. She’s walking the same path Kahn the Afghani immigrant walked before her. The same path Zhang Li and his wife Liu Lin trailblazed years before.

I don’t have access to the actual 1997 prejudice arc that Batiuk talks about in his blog. The incompetent misers over at Comics Kingdom only have Funky Winkerbean going back to October 1998. Maybe Billy The Skink can fill us in on the details. But what is clear from looking at 1998 and 1999 is that for a while Batiuk intended for Zhang Li and Liu Lin, along with their grandmother La Choi San, to be integrated into the crew.

Watching football with the boys.
Going Shopping with with the girls.
Playing backyard football.
Discovering cancerous tumors.

And what’s more, the integration of the Chinese family was supposed to allow for a different culture to be presented, and positive cultural exchange to take place. (I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this presentation is offensive or not.)

Accurate or Magical Asian Trope? You decide.

But after the arc where La Choi San offers her herbal remedies, and the arc where La Choi San coaches the Montoni’s Little League team to a championship, the Chinese family falls into the background. Literally. They do nothing more than show up in the background of various parties and social functions for the next six years.

Les and Lisa’s Anniversary, 1999.
Thanksgiving 1999.
Party for Lisa’s roommate, Allison, 2001.
New’s Years Eve, 2001-2002.
Funky’s Birthday, 2002.
Uhhhh……(Halloween, 2002.)
Crazy and Donna’s Wedding, 2002.
Les and Lisa’s housewarming, 2004.
That one time John got arrested for selling Hentai to Becky’s Mom. 2005.

Lin gets one maybe almost arc in 2004, when she watches men move a desk for a week and then walks all over Crazy Harry.

One arc in six years. And it’s to massage a male character.

And then, early in 2006.

They’re gone.

Within a week of Li and Lin leaving, Montoni and Funky hear of someone interesting in moving into the Jade Dragon’s space.

I heard you had an opening for ethnic boondoggle?

Why does Batiuk keep doing this?

Because, as a writer, in order to sustain interest in a character of a different culture beyond the initial introduction you have to make them deeper than their surface level identity. You have to give them goals, interests, and problems that aren’t related to them being black, or asian, or middle-eastern. And you have to be able to understand both the parts of the character that are different from you, and the parts that are the same. Star Trek TNG and DS9 were great at this. Worf was Klingon. Quark was Ferengi. Riker was a slut. But all of them had more going on than just their species.

But in the Funkyverse only a very select few are allowed to have unique personalities different from Tom’s. And most of those are muted hold-overs from Act I, like Cindy’s vanity or Dinkle’s ego. I don’t think when Batiuk sits down to write the next pointless Westview student body he’ll be saying, ‘This one will be fiery and intelligent but too brash, and interested in sports and action. This one will be level headed, but often hesitant and aloof, and interested in music and poetry. And this one will be Captain Kirk.’

He just decides which cheap flash clone of his own brain will be the nerdiest nerd.

In other news, I guess Westview did still have a mall in Act II. At least through 2002. Because Lisa and Lin go shopping there on Super Bowl Sunday.

Whoda thunk?


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Worming Out of the Bait Shop

Link to Today’s Strip.

Whooo boy! Y’all are getting spicy in the comments! Not at each other, which is just a beautiful thing to see. But at Batiuk’s gutless little morality play. Which puts me in a weird spot, because while I think this all is bad and stupid and cheap and self-serving. I don’t find it uniquely infuriating.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the 90’s, when this sort of cheap pandering to social issues was omnipresent? But I’m guessing that stretches back into the 80’s and earlier. There has never been a time in my life where I haven’t been blandly preached at by media makers looking to mould my young mind and make a few bucks off of the process.

Save the Planet! Buy our Merch!

Many of you in the comments are baffled as to why Batiuk had Malcolm move the sweater. This muddles the issue by giving Kashier Klerk Karen a kernel of something to base her suspicion on. Why is Batiuk giving her this out? Epicus thinks this was to keep the K.K. Karen from doing or saying anything overtly racist and thus invite controversy. And he might be right.

I have a different take. When I was poking around doing my ‘shopping while black’ research, I stumbled across a YouTube video. It had been put together by a young black man filming himself in stores to catch cashiers following him around. He walks around the store with his phone held out in front of him loudly talking about the cashiers and where they are. Then he calls out and laughs at the cashiers who are surreptitiously keeping an eye on him.

Most of the comments were people apologizing, commiserating, and laughing. But a few pointed out that, by having his phone out, he was probably raising the suspicions of clerks. Some even pointed out several tiktok memes that had involved filming yourself doing stuff in stores, and wondered if the clerks were on the look out for that.

We saw that Karen deKlerk, (Kudos to William Thompson for that,) was giving these two the stink-eye the second they walked in. Malcolm, angry at being treated like whatever the “…” trail off was supposed to signify, decides to bait her. For the very first time since he’s been introduced he acts like a stupid teenager.

Batiuk is actually saying something much more likely to get him in trouble than just having the Karen the Krazy Kleptospotter be overtly loudly racist. He’s saying that provoking a confrontation is wrong. That Malcolm’s anger is justified, but his actions are not. He is opening himself up to a whole army of people calling him out on ‘tone policing’ from his privileged position; people who think that the color of your skin, or your gender, or your place of origin bars you from commentary.

Kommadant Karen is not going to change in this story, she’s just a bitter force of nature ala Roberta Blackburn. Malcolm is going to change through the interventions of wise old Cayla. And Cayla is the mouthpiece of Batiuk.

If people other than us were actually paying attention, Batiuk could get in trouble for daring to preach at young blacks.

Some would say that he shouldn’t do this because he’s white.

I would say he shouldn’t do this because he’s really really bad at it.


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Getting Heavy Here.

Link to Today’s Strip.

Yup, like I said yesterday. Conflict is over. On to the fallout.

And, just like the first strip of my shift where Malcolm asked Logan out, today we’re given a reaction from Cayla that would seem normal, human, and understandable. If this one day existed in a vacuum. Which is in stark contrast to yesterday where, as Banana Jr 6000 pointed out, no one acted like a normal human being.

Today shows realistic empathy, concern, and compassion on Cayla’s part. And also a certain motherly wisdom with ice cream bribes. Offering food activates a primal, bond-building part of every human’s brain. Unfortunately, this is all in service of these three sitting down together so we can spend the rest of the week blandly talking about racism.

This entire arc is a slap in the face. Tim Negoda style. Just as Batiuk was about to shove these two kids he had hardly bothered to name down the memory hole, he realizes he can use them for their race. And then he drags Cayla into this. Cayla who, in the nearly fourteen years since her introduction, has yet to have a single arc to herself that wasn’t about Les Moore. She gets to be here now, because he made Cayla black. Something that, up to this moment, was only used for a single throwaway joke.

Implying that Funky isn’t male?

People have pointed out, numerous times, how Cayla’s ethic characteristics have been leached from her over the years, leading to the nickname CauCayla. Though, this really was only a visual bleaching.

First appearance.
Lighter tone. Maybe this was done for how it appeared in newsprint?
She tries dreads or braids when competing with Susan for Les’ attention.
Right after this love confession goes south, she decides on a hair change.
For this scene, where they both confess love, her hair is covered. It could be that she’s combed out her braids or dreads and is deeply moisturizing to prepare it for relaxing.
The transformation is complete.

I call this a visual bleaching, because Cayla herself really hasn’t changed in personality, goals, or interests. She’s black, but she’s never been portrayed as culturally different. Some of you noticed this.

Speaking of Derek, he was one of the guys, but he was cool and had his own style. Junebug, who came along later, had spunk and did things her way. These characters were black, and Batty had the balls to write them that way. They were unique and believable. That brings us to Logan Church and Thatsnought Hewmore. All the black characters in the class of 2022 act exactly like the white characters. Awkward, glasses-wearing, brainy, wimpy white nerds. *Yawn*

be ware of eve hill

I’m going to start throwing around the words culture and race. Of course, the definition of these two words and their very reality as concepts is constantly being changed and bickered over by social scientists trying to earn their paychecks and gatekeep intelligent conversation by changing the rules faster than Calvinball. But for the purpose of this week I’m going to say race derives from the place of origin of your ancestors and culture is the way of life of a group of people.

For the purposes of this discussion. Race is immutable. You cannot change who your biological parents were. Culture is given to you as a child by the people around you. As you get older you can keep what you’re given, or change it by your behavior and who you choose to associate with.

Just like any racial group in America there are all kinds of black cultures, subcultures, and expressions. There are plenty of black people who are just like Cayla, Logan, Malcolm, and Principal Nate. That they exist, and act this way, isn’t a problem.

But there’s not a single non-white character currently in Funky Winkerbean who acts culturally different from the main cast. Even Adeela, a first generation immigrant, doesn’t act appreciably different.

In vintage FW Derek and Junebug were subtly different, both in the way they dressed AND the way they spoke. But nowadays portraying a character of a different culture can be a dangerous game. Where one person sees as an accurate representation, another person will puff up with outrage at a harmful stereotype. There’s the general consensus that some stereotypes are off limits to outsiders. A white person couldn’t, and probably shouldn’t, be writing something like The Boondocks.

But before you get to a Key and Peele sketch on Civil War Reenactors, there is a massive field of grey where a thousand people with ten thousand agendas are scribbling all over trying to make their line the line no one crosses. Apu gets cancelled. Ben gets taken off his box of rice. Everyone has a big old twitter meltdown over if a white woman should have written The Help. They yell if everyone is the same race. They yell if a culture is portrayed wrong. And what ‘wrong’ is is undefinable and ever changing.

And you know what is safe? You know what is easy? Visual diversity with cultural homogeneity. Race without culture.

It’s also boring, unchallenging, and it only tackles one type of prejudice, while potentially leaving the other standing tall.

If you look at this week’s premise it’s easy to come away saying, “Racism is bad because we are all the same inside.” Malcolm and Logan are ‘good kids’ just like any other kids in Westview. They dress the same, act the same, talk the same.

But what happens when people aren’t just the same? When they’re louder or quieter, colder or warmer? When they dress different, act different, talk different? When they value different things? Those are all learned behaviors, but they are also all choices. And so the previous way of thinking can make a person viciously prejudiced. Because these people can choose to believe something else and they don’t deserve respect until they do!

Real diversity isn’t a bunch of people who all look different and think the same. But Batiuk has only very rarely even attempted to tackle a cultural divide.


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky