Tag Archives: Malcolm

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.
ULTRA CLOSEUP ACTION

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.

Wait…
Umm…
But….what?
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.

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Khan Do No Wong

NOBODY TALKS LIKE THIS!

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?

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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.

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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.

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Down the Escalator.

Link to Today’s Strip.

Whooo boy, today is a parade of crazy, rage eyes. You’d think someone had put a greasy slice of Montoni’s finest atop a priceless Starbuck Jones issue.

Cayla says we all know what is going on… but do we? Why is the cashier still grabbing after Logan’s bag if the sweater is accounted for? Why doesn’t Logan just let her look inside and then skewer the suspicious sourpuss with righteous innocence? Why are all of them risking an assault charge over this? This reedy, prim, Maris Rogers faced clerk doesn’t look like the kind to physically attack or restrain potential shoplifters. It isn’t like they’re being accused of pocketing oxytetracycline from the Farm and Supply and 6-foot Davis from the stock room is gonna tackle and hog-tie them.

Cayla says they can escalate things, but that is such a lie. None of these characters are capable of escalating things. Not only are they Batiuk creations in the Funkyverse, but they are, at best, tertiary characters. This is the most negative emotion we’ve seen any of them ever convey. And now it’s done. Off to fume and muse and pout.

Batiuk burnt himself out on melodrama decades ago and now the precious few strong negative emotional moments he can muster are reserved for his A-tier. If Linda Bushka didn’t get to break down sobbing at her husband’s degenerative disease and suicide, if Adeela stoically faced deportation with nothing more than a concerned look, if Marianne blithely listened to Les blather about his dead wife while Hollywood burned in the background…then you don’t get to escalate this.

That’s one way to deescalate things.

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The Charlie Brown Cosplay Caper.

Link to this Sunday’s Very Special Episode of Funky Winkerbean.

Most of you in the comments seemed okay with me at least touching on the subject of this arc.

I wish the subject of this arc was this amazing article of clothing

What Batiuk wants this week to be about is racial profiling and ‘shopping while black’. Which is why Cayla, of all people, has been called in to interfere. (At least her being at the mall fits one of her two known character traits.)

Racial profiling in retail is, of course, a real thing that does happen. Like this case in Missouri in 2018 where cops were called on three black teens shopping for prom because a customer had accused them of shoplifting. The teens calmly let the officers check their bags and receipts and were let go. (The store later formally apologized.) So I’m not going to argue with Batiuk that what he’s depicting today is something that never happens. This isn’t a legal immigrant with a pro-bono lawyer on her side being deported immediately without recourse only to be saved by Bill Clinton.

But today is extremely muddled, because it isn’t clear that the cashier is racially motivated.

When I’m not working on the world’s ugliest tan, I work part time at a gas station to earn fun money for robot conventions and my raging caffeine addiction. During my shift, I am the only cashier in the store, and I have to watch for shoplifters. You know who I watch for? Kids.

And I won’t even be egalitarian about it. I’m especially sharp-eyed, right or wrong, when it’s a group of three or more boys between the ages of 12 and 16 unaccompanied by an adult. The only people I watch closer than a group of unchaperoned adolescents, are the few poor ghost people every town has, no matter how small. Scraggly familiar faces, just coming down off a high, who scrape together cans and change for just enough to self-medicate their demons with high-gravity beer and bargain cigarettes.

Is this kind of profiling wrong? I don’t know. Maybe. I try not to be too harsh with it. I try to joke with the kids, and smile kindly at the tweaked out.

But nothing puts me on guard faster than the kid who is always looking over his shoulder to see if I am watching THEM. That’s when I watch them even closer. And I have seen, many times, that my stare makes the kids act weirder. And I’ve known in the back of my head, that maybe they never were intending to fill their pockets with Twinkies. That maybe they’re acting weirder now simply because I’m watching them.

So what do we have here? Actual racial profiling, or a feedback loop of suspicious stares?

If Batiuk wanted to make this clear, he failed. Big surprise. But I’m guessing in most real cases of this scenario there isn’t someone shouting slurs and saying, “You people!”

But if Batiuk wanted to leave it ambiguous, to tackle the issue as it really is: Where it’s often unclear where racism ends and justified surveillance and suspicion begins… well, that might be a bit too ambitious for old Tom here.

He should just go back to thugs nonsensically hating on Chinese food.

Another story that appeared in 1997 was inspired by a completely different source. A Vietnamese couple had moved to our town and opened a restaurant on the site of a former Red Barn. Cathy and I enjoyed stopping in there, and one time while waiting for an order, I read a yellowed newspaper article that was framed on the wall by the door. It told of the young couple’s escape by boat from Vietnam and the harrowing journey they undertook facing pirates and being stranded and abandoned at sea until finally making it to a hoped-for life of freedom in the United States. I started getting some ideas for a story. One of the advantages of getting ahead on the strip like I had at that juncture was I could take the time to let an idea have a longer gestation period. I could keep rolling it over in my mind, examining all of the facets and considering various possibilities until I felt it was ready. And when it was, a young Chinese couple moved into the space next door to Montoni’s and opened a restaurant called the Jade Dragon West. Zhang Li and his wife Liu Lin were political dissidents from Hong Kong who, fearing a crackdown when Great Britain handed Hong Kong back over to China, made the decision to escape to America. They met their good neighbors Tony Montoni and Funky Winkerbean, but soon the couple also experienced the racism that lurks in the American shadows. In the course of telling their story, I made use of a number of elements of the tale I found in the yellowed newspaper clipping (I seriously doubt if that would have happened with Grubhub, and I’m glad that the nascent internet hadn’t grown big enough to ruin that opportunity for me). Go out to dinner . . . come home with a story. Nice when life works that way.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 9

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I’ve seen that look before…

So many of you yesterday were baffled at the nothingness of this week. You figured, maybe hoped, that after Malcolm and Logan’s embarrassing date, that they would slide down the memory hole and out of this strip forever.

But today’s strip silently forebodes something much more sinister. That bitter and sour expression on Miss Cashier Lady’s face. It’s almost… as if…

The face of meddlesome woe.

Batiuk. No. Stop. Please. You’re not equipped to handle this. You’ve really never been that great at handling these things, and the modern cultural climate is much less forgiving of the sort of bungled virtue signaling you got away with in the past.

No one wants this.

Having said that, I truly, unironically feel blessed that he doesn’t offer much in the way of political takes. I don’t recall any commentary about the last president; I don’t recall any lectures about vaccines or masks, or opinions on whether or not the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were just, or really anything other than the most anodyne of mainstream thoughts, viz. Bill Clinton’s a nice, regular guy; climate “damage” (his expression) is bad; availability of guns causes school shootings, etc.

I applaud his generally nonpolitical stance and hope never to hear his opinions on Ukraine or Russia, no matter what they are. All of us are pelted with political opinions every time we turn on a screen. I like having FW, and this comment section, as a respite. Mental rest is important.

The Duck of Death, May 30, 2022.

DOD, I hear you. No Politics is one of the very few site rules here. But it becomes a tricky rule when it’s Batiuk himself bringing politics into the conversation with his strip.

And so I’m wondering what you guys think. In the week to come, it gets a little political. (Of course in a very Batiuky bland way.) I’ve done some reading and thinking. Some preliminary archive browsing. I’ve got a few things I could bring up and examine regarding how Batuik has dealt (or not dealt) with racial issues in the past.

Or not. I could also just find something really random in the background of each strip, and tell you all about the history of linoleum or Styrofoam.

Not sure which way to go here.

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Mal. Bad. In the Latin.

Link to Today’s Strip.

Logan is playing an age old scheme. A game as old as the rolodex and the address book. She’s not really interested in Malcolm now, in fact, never really wanting to see him again, but still wants to keep the echo of a line open. Another invisible thread in her bundle of similar invisible threads so that, when time gets short or she get tired of the hunt, she can yank on that bundle and see which fish haven’t been caught yet. See which fish have gone from bony bait to a trophy. Catch and release romance.

erdmann and newagepalimpsest had a different take on Malcolm and Logan reiterating over and over to each other that this is their last date:

And…wow. The nihilistic existential dread in the idea that you are an unimportant fictional character that is doomed to not only cease to exist, but cease to be remembered, the moment the eye of your uncaring creator finally passes from you. That you are conscious and aware only in this meaningless moment, and all that you have is the companionship of those trapped in the same hell, teetering on the edge of the cliff that will plunge both of you into damnatio memoriae. That is some psychological horror that Batiuk never has the guts or ambition to delve in to.

I feel sick.

Existential horror isn’t the only nightmare we’re subjected to today. We also have a visual monstrosity in the background of the first panel. In fact, you guys have been spotting weirdos in the background all week. I wonder what it is like to experience the Funkyverse from their eyes. What their stories might be.

Jeremy ‘Jay’ Raffe knew that wearing his hair down would hide the damage from the accident, that horrible day with the taffy puller that had changed his life forever. He’d grown his hair out intending to do just that. But…gradually he had realized, self-acceptance is all about control over what you choose to be. You cannot be a freak without your consent. And if he was going to be a freak, it would be for the manbun he chose, and not the neck that he didn’t.”
Paul Roberts’ mother told him that his father was a great man, a great man who had worked for great men. Before he’d left her, he’d shown her a Philips-Norelco PC80 color broadcast camera, and said that when his son was old enough to lift it, he should take what was under it and come find him. She’d only find out later about all the cameras. All the cameras, all the women, and all the green plaid shirts. Dozens of boys and men, travelling the country, wearing the emerald flags of their patrimony, hoping to find their father, and instead finding brothers with the same story and the same dream. Many had stopped the search for Father Roberts, taken off their shirts and changed their names…but Paul still held out hope. Even as his shirt faded, his dream never died. That someday from out of the crowd he would feel a hand on his shoulder, and a voice calling him, “Son.”
“‘Seven days….” the childlike voice had whispered over the phone. But Charles ‘Chet’ Bruin wasn’t too concerned. His buddy, Seth, knew he had the tape and knew he was going to watch it once he’d dug his parents’ old VHS player out of the downstairs closet. It was just a senior prank. ‘Seven Days’ to graduation. Much Lulz for the TikTok.

Chet was running home after the ceremony to grab his trunks when he heard a crash from the living room. He ran in to see his dad’s precious 146 inch Samsung LED flatscreen had fallen off the wall. When he lifted it, underneath he found her, soaking wet in a nightgown. A little on the wan side, maybe, but kinda cute. She looked up at him with the palest blue eyes. He had to at least give it a shot.

“You wanna go to a graduation party?” Chet asked. “My sister has a swimsuit that would probably fit you.”

She smirked at him. Then opened her mouth impossibly wide. And Chet knew, it was gonna be a good party.”

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Mall Marvels

Link to Today’s Post.

Oh, good. Logan, got my advice. Despite presumably having the entire summer to continue seeing each other, Logan is drawing a line under this date. Never again! After this is over, she’s never going to go to the mall with Malcolm, never going to eat ice cream with Malcom, and never going to watch a Marvel movie ever again. Good for her.

I do find the meta-joke funny here. (Not the strip itself, it’s pretty clumsy.) They went to see ‘the latest Marvel movie.’ Batiuk’s writes everything a year in advance, but he knew there would be ‘a latest Marvel movie’, no matter when this arc ran. There is always a latest Marvel Movie. There will always be latest Marvel Movie. The virtual reality computer chips Elon Musk will get us all to implant in our heads 20 years from now will come with Disney+ preinstalled and undeletable, and our decaying brain matter will be eternally wirelessly downloading the latest Marvel Movie as we lay dead and rotting in our Disney Corporate caskets in the Magic Kingdom to Come.

Weird that Logan is saying this is the first time they’ve ever eaten ice cream together. I mean, they’ve been friends, at least casually, for years. We saw them hanging out at Komix Korner together after school. But they’ve never eaten ice cream in proximity? Or just gone to the mall to kill time with Bernie and Connor?

Wait, what mall is this?

Thanks to strips the glorious Batiukstorian, Billy The Skink, dug up last week, we know at some point there was a Westview Mall. At least at the time of Les and Cindy’s graduation. Which surprises me because Westview doesn’t seem like a big enough town to support a thriving mall. Especially now that malls everywhere are dying a slow agonizing death.

When Cayla farmed her daughters out as labor for Christmas break in 2020, they certainly weren’t working at the Westview Mall.

An apt punishment for someone in their eighth year of college.

‘TH’ Mall is probably supposed to be Mammoth Mall; the mall in Centerview where Crankshaft used to traumatize children as a photo op Santa.

Crankshaft, the superior Funkyverse Protagonist.

Mammoth Mall is also where a very late Act II Darin and Pete went in 2006 for Senior Skip Day.

Also in attendance, Darin’s old nose.

And at the time Mammoth Mall is referred to, by both Linda and Pete as THE Mall. So I think we can safely assume that Mammoth Mall in Centerview is ‘the mall’ for both towns.

Do you remember Hispanic Linda? Harriet Farms Remembers.

But, that doesn’t make any sense. Because Crankshaft learns in 2019, (and ten years in the past?) that the mall was supposed to be closing.

Of course this could be a ploy to get rid of Crankshaft…

Indeed, in 2017 the Mammoth Mall was already as empty as the mall from Silent Hill 3, and full of similar haunting horrors.

Horrors beyond imagination, eating at a Toxic Taco.
Look how the tiny cashier in the one open store is drawn leaning on the counter bored!
I have nothing but respect for Davis.

Of course, in August 2019 there was still enough of a crowd for Crankshaft to taunt multiple groups of innocent children about the inevitability of summer’s end.

This is petty and spiteful and juvenile. I love it.

And for the 2020 Christmas season, either a year or eleven years after Cranky got fired from his Santa gig, there wasn’t a shortage of traffic.

I will give you small green paper to wrap this paper box in additional paper so that my loved ones may tear it off and throw it away and then return the paper box here to get the original small green paper back.

So Mammoth Mall is Schrodinger’s Shopping Complex. When unseen it is both dying and fine simultaneously. But when observed in strip it is always either dying or fine, based on Batiukian forces beyond our understanding.

In a way, it stands for the dual fates of malls in modern society. Many are sad, desperate shells, full of broken dreams, and dentist offices. Some are still doing fine, still a hub for women to shop, teens to hang, and men to wait on benches staring blandly at their phones. And I’m guessing that everyone is within day-trip distance of one of each kind.

When my mom calls me up and asks if I want to go to the mall, I always wonder which one she means: The living, or the dead?

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The Bailout or the Boot?

Link to today’s strip.

Logan, woman to fictional girl, I think this better be your last potentially romantic date with your good pal Malcolm.

I mean, I guess he’s tall. And next to cowlick Connor and certified Michelin Manlet Bernie, he’s okay looking. Yeah, he’s got a receding hairline, but what fresh-faced Westview teen doesn’t have one? I mean just look the crowd at that graduation party you went to!

That’s a lotta kids in baseball caps for a pool party…

But girl. I’m seeing some SERIOUS red flags. You better put him right back in the friendzone.

I know from my work at the gas station, that a lot of the young high schoolers these days have debit cards. All well and good. But a credit card?

I remember the day my mom handed me a credit card with my own name on it. She said it was linked to her account. She said she would be able to see everything I bought. She said it was only for emergencies. Like if I was stranded in a blizzard and needed a hotel. (Many of my mom’s worst case scenarios involve blizzards. It’s also why she refuses to get rid of the compressed bale of old blankets wedged in her linen closet.) She gave me one of those serious mom stares. I felt like I was walking around with the nuclear football tucked into my nylon wallet.

But Malcolm tells us that this is HIS credit card. I guess that means Malcolm is 18, and has an independent source of income. Which would seem like points his in favor. But then he says he must have maxed it out and didn’t realize it? And so Logan has to pay for the latest rehashed Marvel product?

I don’t have a smart phone. My phone has a calculator, and always knows what time it is, so it’s already smarter than me. I had a smart phone for about six month, before I ruined it jumping into a pond to fish out a newborn calf. Now I’m playing a game of chicken with a 10 year old diet-blackberry Samsung to see which quits first, the phone or the entire 3G Network. (Looks like the phone will win.)

But I have seen the wizardry available with the internet in the palm of your hand. I’ve seen people at the checkout have a card decline, pull out their phone and pay it off, or transfer money from one account to another, in minutes. I’ve seen people glancing at their phones and checking their balance before telling me exactly how much in sticky quarters they’re going to give me to pay for their pack of Camels so they can run the rest on their cards.

Meaning, any tech literate young zoomer is going to be able to pay down the balance on their credit card with their phone on the spot.

Meaning, Malcolm not only has maxed out his credit card, he lacks the funds in his bank account to pay it down. And he didn’t think to check on this before his very special date with Logan? A date where he only brought his credit card? He’s already in debt, but was going to tack interest charges onto a date?

And I know most starting out credit cards have pretty low credit lines, but still $1000, $500?

Then he looks Logan in the eye, face both tired and pained, and tells her that this is nothing…barely peanuts…to the crippling debt he’s planning to inflict on himself. Malcolm already has a solid figure in his mind, so much so that he already counts that debt as HIS before he’s sat through a single lecture. Tens of thousands of dollars, maybe hundreds of thousands, more money than most people make in a decade, are already hanging over his head, future promise bucks handed from lender to unnamed college in his name. For what?

Why is he going to a college expensive enough to drain the light from his eyes? What are his plans? Does he have a career path that requires a degree? Because he isn’t being bankrolled by scripture sales from the Cult of Dead St. Lisa. He doesn’t have an Endless Summer to spend puttering around a university changing his major from one useless certificate to another.

College can be a rewarding place to learn, to find yourself, to make new friends, to fall in love, and have exciting experiences. So can summer camp. You do not go 40 grand in debt for summer camp. You go 40 grand in debt because you have a clear goal that necessitates that sacrifice.

Come on, Logan! Surely with your ABC News boosted business blog, you should be able to talk him out of the biggest and most expensive mistake an aimless young graduate can make:

A four year, $200,000, liberal arts degree.

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