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.
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.)
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.
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.
And then, early in 2006.
Within a week of Li and Lin leaving, Montoni and Funky hear of someone interesting in moving into the Jade Dragon’s space.
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.
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.
I remembered that Smokey Williams had been friends with Crankshaft.
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.
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.
And then I looked at the Crankshaft-meets-Cayla strip from 2011 a little closer.
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!
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.
And this strip from when Crankshaft was inducted into the Centerville Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
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.
You may think this is a sign that I’ve gone mad.
I have no rebuttal for this.
Filed under Son of Stuck Funky
Tagged as archive deep dive, Cayla, Crankshaft characters, dumb CBH tangents, half-assed political commentary, kid with receding hairline, Logan, Logan Church, Malcolm, mall, Thatsnought Hewmore