Tag Archives: Maddie

Cory is Ex-Interesting

Oh, hey, Maybe-Summer speaks again. I kind of hope that isn’t actually Summer, just because it would be hilarious to me that someone who sort of looks like Summer has had more lines in two days than actual Summer has had in probably five years.
And look, it’s Maddie! Or possibly a random redhead, who knows. What’s funny is that she’s at this wedding but apparently doesn’t know the couple was in the military, which is one of the two character traits they have anymore.
I’m also not sure what the two figures in the first panel are for, since they sure don’t seem to be favors. The little green army men are at each setting and seem to be the favors. It looks more like a centerpiece or cake topper, which makes it extra funny, to me at least, that both of the figures are apparently male. There are female G.I. Joes, after all. It maybe would’ve been nice to have one of them be used, since the bride served in the army and all. Heck, he could’ve had Rocky talk about how she was inspired as a child by one of the female G.I. Joes. But that would’ve taken a little more effort than apparently Rocky’s character is worth.

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YMMV

Unlike other initialisms, which were invented and grown on the internet, “your mileage may vary” goes back to the 1970s and ’80s in the U.S. During that time, automobile manufacturers frequently promoted their estimated mileages to compete…However, due to the variations in driving conditions, they had no way of guaranteeing the exact mileage customers would actually get. Therefore, these ads would feature the disclaimer, “Your mileage may vary.”

What Does “YMMV” Mean, and How Do You Use It?, Vann Vicente, howtogeek.com

What a weird taunt. “Beat that!” is sufficient…adding “your mileage may vary” suggests that you can score as well or even higher than me, but maybe that phrase was just coming into vogue. Batiuk’s been getting considerable mileage out of sending his Act I characters back in time. It’s been nearly 12 years since Funky’s car accident sent him back to the town square of late ’70’s Westview, where he would encounter his teenaged self as well as his future mate, before checking out the comics spinner rack. Five years later, the entire gang got to meet their middle aged selves (except Lisa LOL)  during another month-consuming story arc that was the Time Pool Reunion.

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Wild Eyed, Crazy Maddie

It’s true: we boomers love to brag about having survived a childhood in which auto seat belts were not standard equipment, and among our childhood playthings were polonium rings, hot miniature ovens, and Lawn Darts. I’m just not sure why Maddie would take the existence of a kid’s helmet made of “off-gassing” plastics and extrapolate that to everything being dangerous in the old days.  But I do like Maddie’s gleeful grin at the thought of living in the dangerous old days, and for once you can believe she’s her Act I father’s child (whatever happened to the other two?).

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Blippin’ and Trippin’

Sourbelly
April 23, 2022 at 10:53 pm
Passing out from wearing a cheap stupid helmet 18 sizes too small may have had more of an impact on Kwazy Harry’s boring, stupid, pointless psychotic embolism. Whatever. It’s over, right? On to the next thing!

If only. If only! Ya know, snarkers, I was secretly kinda hoping that Tom Batiuk would drag Funky across the fifty year goal line, accept his Gold T-Square (to put with his Inkpot Award), call it a career, and live off the (surely massive) proceeds of the Complete FW volumes he so incessantly flogs. If only! Instead, the comic strip creator who crowed about allowing his characters to age and even to die, has given himeself carte blanche to run around tying up his strip’s countless loose plot threads. And in the cheapest way possible: “it was all just a dream/coma/toxic fume induced fainting spell.”

July 1982

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Rhymes with Attic

“There, there, lie quiet now. You just had a bad dream.” Yep, it had to be the “off-gassing of the plastics” in a helmet that’s sat in the attic since 1980. In addition to her prowess at video games, Donna’s also some kind of an expert in plastics chemistry.

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Weird is Relative

Um, Harry, shoehorning “Lisa’s Story” wherever you possibly can is the absolute least weird thing in this strip. It happens constantly. It should’ve seemed inevitable that Donna reminiscing about her glory days would lead to the Lisa Bench.
So I guess Harry has travelled back in time (again). Which makes this all even less weird, since this is now the second time that Harry has “travelled back in time”. Or, since he’s seeing the Dead St. Lisa Cancer Death Memorial Bench, it’s possible he just died. Which would make Donna’s insistence that he wear the helmet instead of her very interesting. Really, the only weird thing today is that a helmet his wife wore as a young teen fits old man Harry perfectly.

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Less Hairy Harry

Link to today’s strip

As always, it’s extremely intimidating following up the amazing ComicBookHarriet, but I’ll do my best. And so, the latest retelling of “a girl used to play arcade games” is continuing on. It still stretches any credibility that Maddie (who has to be over thirty at this point) never once heard about this before. Or that she never wondered what the weird helmet that was apparently just sitting around in the attic for decades was. It’s also kind of funny that Donna doesn’t have it on display or in a shrine, given that “used to be the Eliminator” is literally her only character trait.

It’s extremely sad how the younger generation of Summer and Maddie only exist now so the older generation has someone to recount the Act I strips to. Maddie wanted to see Donna wear it because it was her helmet, that she used to wear and has a history with. There’s no point in Harry wearing it. Apart from it just being kind of hilarious that after weeks of “girls can do everything guys can”, we have “actually, we can’t wear this helmet, so a guy needs to wear it for some reason”.

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That’s a Strange Way to Tell Me You Love Me…

Link to a today’s strip.

Um. Okay.

If you really break down what Crazy is saying here, it seems to imply that when he was sixteen he was attracted to an eleven year-old-child he assumed was a boy.

No Boku No Pac-Man, please…

Unfortunate implications aside, all we have here is a restatement of the week’s plot. The only thing of note is that the Sunday colorist managed to depict a redhead character correctly for once.

March of last year Tom let us know this arc was incoming, when he posted the book cover that inspired his Eliminator helmet, and said this:

I saw this book on a spinner rack at the Captain EZ Confectionery a few blocks from our first apartment. Couldn’t resist the cover. Picked it up and later “borrowed” the Hunter helmet for a character I’d just created in Funky called the Eliminator. Said helmet, coinkadinkily enough, will show-up in a Funky story arc next year.

Cover Me 143
posted on MARCH 20, 2021
“Hunter” – Art by Paul Neary and written by Rich Margopoulos, Budd Lewis and Bill DuBay. Six parts in total, appearing in issues #52-57. Set in a near-future world devastated by nuclear war, it features Damien Hunter, a half man/half demon who seeks to destroy all the demons on Earth, including his father Oephal. As a half-breed consumed by self-loathing, Hunter frequently moralized on racial issues in contemporary America.

I want to thank Banana Jr. 6000, none, Charles, Mela, as well as others for providing some background on the arcade game Defender. I didn’t grow up with video games, only picking up the habit during college, so the context was great. I hunted up a few short YouTube vids that cover the development and just how unique and challenging the game is.

Today is the last day of my shift. It has been a real treat celebrating 50 years of Funky Winkerbean by going back in time to see what a 25-year-old Tom Batiuk was capable of. Thanks everyone who enjoyed it with me!

But what did I really think of the first four years of Funky Winkerbean?

It was alright.

Not usually laugh out loud funny, certainly capable of being bad, but amusing enough. Certainly not out of place squeezed between Hagar the Horrible and Wizard of Id.

But I easily found strips where the seeds of what would grow into Batiuk’s thorniest issues were germinating.

Preachy Nihilism.
Recycled Jokes
Observational Non-Humor
Vaguely offensive portrayals of women
I mean women WANT to be sexy and hate not being sexy and hate other women for being sexy amirite?
Dinkle writing AWFUL puns.
Worshiping Les. (Okay, this one is actually funny.)

And, as I’ve said before, I think we’re sometimes too hard on modern Batiuk during those occasions when he dips his toes back into gag-a-day humor. It might not be as good as his best was back then. But his best now is as good as his average was.

So sue me, I liked this one.

There were a couple strips I stumbled across that made me cringe or shudder, knowing where the strip would eventually go.

Baby Wally was born fearing death.
Alcoholism runs in Funky’s family.
Les hopes his future wife will make him money…
Uhh…
Uhhh…..

But despite all that, there were strips that had me genuinely laughing out loud. So here they are, my favorite strips from the first few years of Funky Winkerbean.

Act I Crazy Harry is my spirit animal.
I have literally done this.

So that’s it for me this round! The esteemed SpacemanSpiff85 will be taking over the ship tomorrow, asking the hard hitting questions.

Like, when is the strip ending? Will Wally Jr. ever return? Will Mindy and Mopey ever marry? Will Summer ever graduate Kent State? We’ve reached 50 years and we’re still chugging along. Maybe someday, we’ll know, but it doesn’t look like it’ll be this year.

Comic Book Harriet, signing off.

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Relics of the Past

(It’s a long one today folks. Sorry ’bout that.)

Link to another dumb question from Maddie that I can’t believe she’s never asked her mom before. And how has Maddie not seen the picture at Montoni’s? She worked there.

Who doesn’t at least know the very basics of how their parents met? Heck, I referenced my own parents’ story of sneaking out to the county fair behind my grandma’s back in the very first post of my shift. I will admit, sometimes I pretend like I haven’t heard a story, just so I can hear it again; but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

And, as many of you have commented, this story has more holes than Swiss Cheese. The real backstory here is that in 2001 or 2002 Batiuk realized that he had married off Les to Lisa and Funky to Cindy and wondered who he should set Crazy Harry up with. He then had the idea to reveal that The Eliminator kid was a girl all along, and have her and Crazy fall in love. Not the worst idea, really. Done right it could have been a cute reference to ‘Samus is a girl!’. The problem was in the execution.

No. It wasn’t.

In Metroid, Samus isn’t ‘hiding’ her gender because the Mother Brain is sexist and won’t fight a woman. She’s just in an androgynous space suit for most of the game. Players might assume she’s male, but it’s not confirmed either way until the end.

Hai Guize

I haven’t read all the old The Eliminator strips; I don’t know how often she self-refers as male. So I don’t know how feasible it would be to present Donna’s past actions as allowing the people around her to think she was a boy because she didn’t care to clarify, or because she thought it was funny. (“I was named for your Grandpa Donald. My mom always called me that when she was angry.”)

But the only other way to salvage this would be writing a more serious story about Donna as an insecure little girl who thought she needed to disguise herself coming to the realization as an adult that she was wrong. Because she didn’t need to. Period. Mary Ellen, and Livinia, and Junebug, and even Wanda have proved that handily almost a decade before The Eliminator is introduced.

Batiuk is repeatedly guilty of recontextualizing his own past to suit the narrative of the now. I found some old puff piece newspaper articles that just plain don’t make sense after reading the first few years of Funky Winkerbean.

To Batiuk, delving back into the high school years with the gay prom issue underscores the generational changes and contemporary challenges his characters faced once he decided to let them begin aging along with Batiuk and the rest of us.

“I had crossed the threshold and I had grown up and the characters wanted to grow up too, it seemed like,” Batiuk said in an interview in his cozy and bright studio jammed with books and mementos.

“Funky Winkerbean” might have a lower profile in mainstream culture than, say, “Doonesbury,” possibly because “Funky” was a gag cartoon in the early years when society was highly politicized in the Vietnam era and has become more issue-oriented since the 1990s…

The San Diego Union-Tribune
Thomas J. Sheeran, AP
May 29, 2012 

When he began “Funky Winkerbean” on March 27, 1972, Batiuk was a 25-year-old cartoonist who seemed to be purposely unaware of the furor then affecting American society. The Vietnam War was still a focus of the nation’s rage, Watergate was just beginning to heat up and all the rest of the post-‘60s-era concerns – sexism, racism, the Cold War, social-welfare programs – hogged the daily headlines.

In the midst of this, Batiuk’s strip existed as if in another dimension. His characters were mostly students whose main interests involved air-guitar contests, flaming-baton routines, bullies roaming the hallways, student popularity polls and how to survive the daily humiliations of gym class.


The Spokesman-Review
Dan Webster
July 20,1997

In the 90’s and beyond, Batiuk wanted to pretend he hadn’t been talking about ‘serious issues’ in Act I, because he wanted attention for talking about them now.

The first years of Funky Winkerbean didn’t exist in a ‘different dimension.’ They were more contemporary than the modern strip has been in years.

VIETNAM

Let’s talk about the draft on the fourth strip ever.

WATERGATE

August 4, 1973

THE BICENTENNIAL

PLANE HIJACKINGS

LABOR STRIKES

SUGAR PRICE SPIKE OF 1974.

Some of these events were very much ‘of their time.’ For someone like me, born after this era, reading through is a fun little history lesson. Like when I was a kid, learning about the 80’s by reading Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits and watching old VHS of Saturday Night Live.

“There’s no delicate way to put this. Running around naked in public was one of the biggest and strangest trends of the 1970s.”

But other ‘current events’ only serve to prove that time is a flat circle, and the more things change…the more they stay the same.

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The Secret Life of the B-Tiers.

Link to today’s interesting new wrinkle.

I mean, uh, wow. I guess that is one reason to have Maddie come back. Cross one off my list of Long Standing Funky Mysteries. For those of you more recently jumping on the Beady-Eyed-Nitpicker wagon, the Big Gay Castle Mystery goes all the way back to Summer, Keisha, Jinx, and Maddie’s senior year prom in May 2012. In that plotline two unnamed boys buy tickets to go to prom together, Becky’s mom whips up a protest, Principal Nate holds an assembly where he clarifies that there’s nothing in the Student Handbook prohibiting people taking other people of the same gender to the prom, and then everyone cheered.

Of note was a couple strips at the very end of the arc.

Who was this kid obscured by The Big Gay Castle? It could have been anyone but Keisha. For ten years I’ve wondered, and I guess we’re finally getting our answer. Maddie Klinghorn. And it makes sense, Maddie was there.

Really, I’m just relieved that it wasn’t Summer. Les didn’t need another reason to virtue signal his greatness, and I didn’t want the cliché of the sporty tomboy being a lesbian all along. Especially since Summer has been shown mooning over Masone Jarre, though I guess she could be sporty enough to play for both teams.

This does fix the most glaring issue with Batiuk’s preachy Big Gay Prom arc: that the ‘gay’ couple is a nameless prop. They show up for TWO strips, looking like they just left their Hardy Boys cosplay competition.

And then they’re just an idea, never seen again, not even at the prom. In fact, there don’t appear to be ANY gay couples at the prom, except for maybe this panel of two guys standing shoulder to shoulder.

Bumping shoulders is the height of homosexuality.

So I’m curious to see where Batiuk takes this new revelation. How will he handle his first named queer character? Is this going to be a big arc? Or are we in for a Northstar revelation, similar to Masone Jarre’s bipolar disorder, where Maddie’s sexuality is confirmed once and then dropped for years or forever?

It’s not like in the 70’s, where a Boston Marriage between socialites could be depicted in great detail in a comic strip, and yet the heteronormativity of both women strictly enforced and accepted prima facie.

These two ladies are Marcia and Jan, the two most baffling recurring characters in early Funky Winkerbean. They are introduced as Women’s Club members that run the ‘Rap Cellar’. Which seems to be some kind of afterschool program for high schoolers, that Marcia usually is the one leading.

The joke in the Rap Cellar strips are that these well-meaning but dim-witted ladies have completely different priorities, life styles, and interests than the hip kids they’re trying to counsel. They are from a decade before, not old enough to be their parents, but not young enough to understand them. And their Brady Bunch names might be a joke on their squeaky clean and sunny simple outlook.

But, the actual ‘Rap Cellar’ strips are few and far in between. Maybe a dozen or so, and they’ve mostly fallen off. Yet, these two ladies keep showing up. Talking over coffee, exercising, playing tennis, shopping, and watching TV.

Many of you have pointed out the Peanuts parallels to early Funky Winkerbean. They definitely exist, in the art style and the humor, but one big difference is that in Peanuts adults are unseen alien creatures warbling in nonsense lines, in Vintage Funky Winkerbean both the teachers and the students have equal parts as characters.

But these ladies aren’t teachers at Westview, they aren’t even parents like Roland’s Chair!Dad. The connection between Jan and Marcia and the Funky Bunch is tenuous to begin with…and by 1976 has almost completely disappeared. Yet these two ladies keep showing up for one-off gags, or a disconnected week of tennis strips.

Who are these ladies? Why are they still here? Given the eyebags on their cheek bones, is one of them Pete’s mom? Maybe they’re a weird repository for ‘upper middle class lady’ humor that Batiuk just HAD to get out there, tone and setting of his comic be damned.

I don’t know. The nicest thing I can say about them is that Batiuk usually does a good job of drawing their faces and bodies consistently different, so you can tell who is Marcia and who is Jan despite their hair being the almost the same.

Jan is also the fat one.

And in a strip where almost everyone is already cynical and jaded, they at least provide a nice contrast.

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