After a week of Holly being cripplingly insecure, she now is trying to infect others with her self-doubt.
Cindy is a good call to try and make self-conscious. Her entire tenure as character, Cindy has been consistently portrayed as brimming with self-confidence ONLY when arbitrary ‘success’ conditions she’s built up in her mind have been met. She’s like a popularity Pharisee, as long as she’s safely within the Talmud of Flawlessness, she’s a self-righteous zealot.
But you take her ONE INCH from the straight and narrow, and she collapses. And this was worse when she was younger. When not having a date for New Year’s Eve had her hiding out at McArnolds with LES MOORE, because it broke some unwritten mental rule of hers.
And she has a history of jealousy when it comes to her romantic partners.
But yes. Cindy’s jealousy. Maybe not completely misplaced when it came to Funky and Rachel.
But, of course, she’s also been jealous of Masonee Jarree.
But it is LAUGHABLE that Cindy would be jealous of the Westview Women Lumps on display today. Marianne and Rachel were both women YOUNGER than her and lauded as attractive. Cindy is still miles above anyone else female at the reunion. Even with the crippling scoliosis she’s been stricken with in panel 1.
This, this is the ultimate power FANTASY. Parading your delicious arm candy to all the dowdy hausfraus in Ohio. Beneficently allowing all the ugly old geese a moment to pose with your prize.
I mean, who could be jealous of ‘scribbles’ and ‘Jan’? Who even is Jan?
Is she some late Act I graduate I’m unfamiliar with? Why not Cindy’s old wingwoman, Carrie?
So that is my headcanon now. These two ladies posing with Masone are Marcia and Jan. They crashed the reunion in order to meet a movie star. They’re a good 8-10 years older than everyone else, but everyone is so dumpy looking no-one can tell.
I stared at today’s strip for hours. Trying to decide if I was amused, offended, or bored.
On the one hand, valued commenter The Dreamer foresaw this strip yesterday.
I’m waiting for Cindy to show up. At the 50 year reunion, standing with all her old geezer classmates, still looking 25 years old with her great body and younger movie star boyfriend Mason Jarr…..
And I’m getting sick of Holly Budd Winkerbean being so mopey and self-conscious. A single strip of it is relatable, a week of it is exhausting.
On the other hand, it’s at least a structured joke. Again, the nature of my own parents’ relationship skews how I’m seeing things. They tease each other mercilessly. My mom once joked that my dad was going to leave her for his old college girlfriend, and my dad just scoffed.
“It would take too long to train someone else.”
And they laughed, sitting in their cluttered dining room wearing sweatpants and baggy t-shirts, sipping coffee from out-of-season Christmas mugs that never got put away. They were both in on the joke, that learning to put up with someone new, a whole new set of pet peeves, failings, wants, and triggers would be too exhausting. And beneath the ribbing is always the stubborn kind of unconditional love that has them picking ditch side tiger lilies and cooking enough pot roast to last a week because they know that’s just the thing to make the other smile.
But when I peeled the lens of my own experience away, I was lost. My sense of objectivity completely wrecked. I was seeing, but I had completely lost the ability to understand.
So I asked some of my normie friends. All women between 29 and 40. Some single, some in relationships. None with kids. People who know of Funky Winkerbean, and this blog, because of me ranting at them. But not people who could tell a Jessica from a Mindy at 100 paces. I sent them today’s strip and just said.
PLEASE GIVE ME YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS STRIP. Positive, negative, neutral, confused, whatever I just want some normie outsider perspective on it.
“It feels like he’s making like a lame mid-90s, sitcom joke about how women are difficult. Because two wives would be double the nagging and emotions or something?”
“ahem Wifey here is exhibiting a behavior promoted by our culture where women are encouraged to fight or tear each other down because #thepatriarchy. She is heckin intimidated by Cindy and is asking for reassurance from hubby. Hubby, instead of giving her blind reassurance that he only has eyes for wifey, ~apparently~ gives the wrong answer. – Signed, the token liberal (What this means coming from this comic in particular heckin idk.)
“I am now overthinking it. I think my initial thought was “I’m not sure I get the joke.” Upon further reflection, It is hard to say if he was going for ha ha two wives how silly or a sweet I’d have always have fallen in love with you sentiment. I’m going to be charitable and say he was going for sweet & snarky.”
“Blah. That’s my reaction to this. Just blah. If my partner said that to me, I’d feel pretty gross about the relationship.”
“If he’s fully joking, man is he playing with fire. Let’s reverse the roles. Husband is all “Man Steve is looking like a million bucks today. Do you still wish you were married to Steve?” And then wife says: “Don’t be silly! Then I’d have two husbands!” I don’t think husband would appreciate that response.”
“Side note, I do think him saying “well then I’d have two wives” might be an attempt to poke fun at her for even asking about wishing he was still married to Cindy. It’s pretty lame, but it somehow has the same energy as five-year-old me asking my Dad how he did something that, at the time, seemed incredible but wasn’t really. He’d always tell me that he was a wizard.”
“The second thing is that some of the guys I dated in Utah always liked to float the idea of having more than one wife.”
“Based on everything I have ever heard about Utah this, somehow, super doesn’t surprise me? God, why is Utah so weird.”
“Also also. Because apparently I’m not done yet, damn you. Like, look at this face.”
“It is quite a face. Little dots for eyes. But like for me, in a way, her comment kind of comes off as more casual? I don’t think she’s fussed specifically about Cindy.”
“But also I can see the 50th anniversary banner for the reunion in the background. Which just makes Cindy seem more jarring to me, considering the subject matter. Because they’re all pushing into their 70s at least. Which means Cindy has one hell of an exercise routine and a love for Botox, probably. Which, you know. Bodybuilding grandmas are a thing.”
“Side note – it’s kind of funny to me that big Hollywood stars like Cindy and Mason Jar would care to kick it back to podunk small town whereveritisville for a high school reunion. Iunno. Maybe it’s just because I’ve never made it to a reunion myself and the last one they tried to put together fell apart because no one was gonna show up.”
So, there you have it. Some normie opinions on today. As close as we can get to that hypothetical newspaper reader who occasionally catches a strip or two while flipping through the paper. The only thing skewing the sample is that all of my friends are just as into hyper-analyzing media as we are here. You give us something to dissect and we start gleefully pinning it down and pulling the wings off.
Oh yay, we finally get to meet Rocky’s mom, Carla! I’m sure she’ll quickly become a beloved recurring character, and surely doesn’t exist entirely for this “sin-in-law” joke. Holly’s face is looking especially rough in the second panel. I don’t know if it’s because she’s weary at the prospect of at least another week of bad sitcom level wedding tropes, like I am.
(If you saw a different post earlier, it’s because you’re getting caught in a time vortex and totally not that I got my days mixed up.)
So Young Harry, who was completely baffled by the concept of “comic book store”, can think of nothing more important to ask his future self than “does my mom throw away all my comic books?”. And Old Harry’s response is basically “no, but your wife does, because wives are just like moms, basically, making you get rid of what really brings you joy”.
I could really do without that last panel, honestly. I know they’re technically the same person, but a teenager talking about sex with a strange old man he just met is a bit uncomfortable, and Young Harry’s face really does not help it.
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.
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
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.
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.
There were a couple strips I stumbled across that made me cringe or shudder, knowing where the strip would eventually go.
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.
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.
Link to the first almost passable strip of the week.
If Livinia lost her main character status due to being too bland, Roland had the opposite problem. In the very first year of Funky Winkerbean, Roland Mathews had the strongest characterization of anyone. It’s apparent from the second strip he appears in.
He’s an ‘activist’. But unlike Livinia, his activism is vague and almost always played for laughs. The joke is usually Roland’s underlying hypocrisy, or the way he uses his ostensive political stances to ego trip and divert responsibility.
In the first couple years of FW, when he isn’t just rounding out the trio of guys, he has three recurring gags/storylines:
First is his rivalry with ‘Wicked’ Wanda, a student who is a women’s lib activist. These strips invariably lead to a sign smashing gag.
Second is his underground newspaper that Funky often helps with.
And third is his antagonistic relationship with his unnamed father, who is always shown sitting in front of the TV like he is some kind of bald chair-human hybrid.
As was shown in my spreadsheet yesterday, Roland shows up quite a bit in that first year, with 57 appearances. A distant third behind Les and Funky, but handily beating Livinia. He continues to show up regularly in 1973, though it’s clear that Crazy Harry has supplanted him. By 1974, Roland is on his way out. He shows up 10 times that year, 5 times in relation to his dad.
There’s the last mentions of his underground paper.
And, on September 3, 1974, his last appearance at school.
What is really really weird is that his chair!dad has continued to show up a few times since then, most ‘recently’ on 1/10/76. He seems to be taking a protoCrankshaft role.
Did Batiuk intend to write the topical and tragic story of a passionate teen with an uncaring and emotionally abusive parent lashing out against society, acting out at school, and eventually dropping out? Presumably leaving home with an incomplete education and no support structure, and disappearing into the world like so many hurting and alienated young people of his generation?
I’d put a sizable chunk of change on NO. Batiuk stopped using Roland because he’d decided to stop pulling from the counter-culture so much. On my first read through of 1972, I was shocked at how political it was. Batiuk doesn’t have his characters preaching THE TRUTH from a soapbox, like he does now, but he was constantly referencing politics, social issues, and the environment, usually with a kind of helpless sardonicism. It’s so weird that FW of 2022 feels more ‘hopeful.’ The preachy characters of today are a call to action to fix Batiuk’s pet problem of the week. The 1972 FW characters can’t change anything, and the joke is they try.
FW starts off with this chip on its shoulder, personified in Roland. It references the hippie values and politics because it’s trying to prove that, “It’s not like most strips.”
From the very beginning, I had some definite ideas about how I wanted to approach a teen strip. The crop of teen strips in the early seventies seemed oblivious to the time in which they existed. The enormous changes taking place in the youth culture were quickly making the strips with the jalopies and letter sweaters irrelevant… I decided to avoid the standard teen strip clichés. There would be no teenagers hanging on the phone or parents yelling at them to clean up their rooms; there would be no letter-sweatered football hero trying to decide which cheerleader he wanted to date. Instead, I was going to write about the realities of the school that I knew, from the tedium of being an unheralded and unrecognizable member of the band to the horrors of having to climb the dreaded rope in gym class. Rather than focus on jocks and cheerleaders, I was going to write about everyone else.
From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. One
Of course, that quote just shows how willfully myopic Batiuk has always been. He wants so badly to be unique, that he builds up a fake version of something to put himself next to. I’ve never read much Archie comics, but I am sure that it’s not a shallow as he wants it to be. And the irony is his strip relatively quickly morphed into something rife with teen cliches. Crazy Harry steps in with his wacky personality, and omnipresent hat, and apolitical non-confrontational weirdness, and Roland disappears. Roland was angry. Crazy is effervescent, his antics just confuse and amuse those around him.
As BillyTheSkink pointed out a few days ago, Roland did show up at the 2008 Reunion. He looks like he’d just gotten off work at the hardware store, and has what BTS calls “the haircut my grandfather was given when he joined the Air Force (and kept for the rest of his life).”
So that’s my headcanon now. After dropping out of school, Roland joined the Air Force, where he worked in logistics and communications. Finally getting the structure and support he needed and working in an organization that he felt got things done, he mellowed out. He became a successful small business owner and votes straight ticket GOP every election.
Link to a strip that is somehow more nonsensical than yesterday’s.
Before we dive into individual characters. I thought we would briefly take a look at 1972 as a whole, just to see the cast of characters at play, and how often they showed up. This list misses out on a few characters that showed up more than once, but didn’t have names, such as an older curly haired teacher, a cashier, and the school librarian. Also, the records on CK are somewhat incomplete, there were strips missing. This is just to give a rough overview.
Below, the trademark CBH nonsense spreadsheet! Funky Winkerbean characters of 1972 listed by number of appearances.
It seems that, from the very beginning, Les and Funky were the main focus. Poor Livinia Swenson never stood a chance.
The second strip she’s in, (which is almost 2 weeks after the launch,) it seems to me that she’s set up as a distaff counterpart to Funky, his equal in averageness. The way their hair is only differentiated by length, like they’re the Wonder Twins or something, only furthers this impression.
But, in the grand scheme, she doesn’t show up that often. Like everyone in the cast, she puts in time as the ‘Person-Who-Asks-Question’ and the ‘Person-Who-Watches-TV-And-Makes-Face.’ Roles anyone and everyone fills, almost always devoid of specific connection between line and speaker that would keep them from being swapped with someone else.
When her personality does manifest itself, she’s opinionated, strong-willed, and socially conscious with a focus on ecology and feminism.
She’s also never afraid to step on someone’s toes or hurt some feelings. She’s got this kind of blunt honesty I really like.
She’s shown to be questioning gender norms, but unlike other political opinions only mined for yuks, hers can be sympathetically presented, where the joke isn’t her question, but the response.
When I put all of Livinia’s strips together, it seems obvious why Batiuk never could muster up much interest in her. She’s built to sit on this intersection between average and activist, and that severely limits her range. Batiuk doesn’t want too many of the jokes to come at her expense. He wants her to be a more or less positive representation of a ‘modern’ free-thinking teen girl. So the only gimmick he gave her can’t be exaggerated too much. And in order to survive Act I FW, if you’re not Funky himself, you have to have a solid gimmick to mine for humor. Despite what Les said above, Livinia was subtle, too subtle to last as a main character once Holly and Cindy were introduced.
Which is too bad. Because she was unrelentingly cruel to Les, and it was beautiful.
Currently on Comics Kingdom Vintage Funky Winkerbean is up to May of 1976, and Livinia hasn’t completely disappeared, showing up on April 21, taking a test.
Her appearances have become few and far between, however. I don’t know when the last time she shows up alive is, but I’m wondering if it’ll be soon. I couldn’t see any sign of her in the strips I found of the Act II class reunions of 1992 and 1998, though what I had to look at via scanned microfiche was pretty blurry. By the reunion of 2008, she was dead.
Farewell Livinia. You were too good for this strip.
ComicBookHarriet reporting in for duty. Normally I would thank Billy the Skink for the lyrical and well tagged two weeks he put in, but I’m sort of seething in jealousy here. He got two glorious weeks of the most amazing trashfire to talk about in his Les-Wins-Best-Actress arc. A beautiful blazing dumpster glowing with Lesplotation goodness. And I’m stuck back in AA with Funky and the ageless former addicts he tempts with donuts to listen to his nonsensical ramblings.
It’s been pointed out before, but it deserves to be pointed out every time it takes place: This is not what AA meetings are for, Funky! He hasn’t talked about temptation to drink since the very first week Batiuk used this gimmick. Since then it’s been weeks and weeks of focus-less blathering about a pandemic that happened ‘in the past’ like it’s open mic night at the TED talk tryouts. Unless this has been turned into a Post-Pandemic-Support-Group, talk about booze or put a lid on it.
Of course Batiuk wants to do material on the pandemic, even if he’s laughably late. All of the inconveniences of the last two years are a motherlode for his favorite brand of observational almost-humor, something to pad out the spaces between his precious prestige arcs. But why the AA meeting? Why couldn’t this just be a conversation between the guys at the disgusting Montoni’s coffee corner? Because Crazy and Les and DSH and Wally would already know this stuff? That’s never stopped Batiuk before.
But no. Funky has to go to AA to tell a group of dead eyed donut junkies his barely amusing, and definitely embarrassing, stories about his wife. If my dad ever pulled something like this in regards to my mom, she would have shit a brick and beat him to death with it.
I have a feeling that this week is aggressively unfunny all across the board. Often I would take this as an exciting challenge in making something out of nothing. But it feels so anticlimactic as we count down the final days to Funky Winkerbean’s big 5-0.
I decided that I wanted more to mark the occasion, and in preparation for the big day, I paid my toll to Comics Kingdom, and read the roughly four years worth of vintage Funky Winkerbean they’ve posted there. A little at a time, off and on, for the last month. I wanted to see what this thing was at the beginning, and I wanted to see enough of it to judge those beginnings as whole ideas. Give the characters time to fall into recognizable patterns. It was fascinating, finding so many fossilized and forgotten creations (Hi Roland!), as well as barely germinated seeds of the future.
So, I hope you don’t mind, but while Funky is reminiscing about a pandemic past that never was, I’ll be pulling up some old strips from a time when Nixon was president, Vietnam was raging, and my grandma was chasing my terrified dad away from the door because my mom wasn’t allowed to go out with boys yet.
Many of you yesterday were baffled by how obtuse and unfunny Funky telling his wife he couldn’t find hamburger was. So much so, that poor Duck of Death could only wave the white flag of defeat.
Batiuk’s done it. He’s created The Unsnarkables™️, a series of comics so nondescript that they can’t be mocked. Like a piece of driftwood, a discarded gum wrapper, or a random rock in a park, they just exist uselessly without making any kind of impression, leaving no openings for snark or humor.
I admit defeat. Tom has won.
This is TRAGIC. A valued commenter has been weighed down by the sheer baffling yet boring inanity of Funky Winkerbean in January, and now sits slumped in the trenches, unwilling to fight. I hunch down by our wearied and war torn comrade, shell shocked by a barrage of nonsense, and I whisper in their ear the warcry of the Son of Stuck Funky blogger: “Nothing is Unsnarkable.”
Our gallant sergeant SpacemanSpiff85 once snarked for 100 words on a silent strip of sidewalk renovations. Staff-sergeant Billy the Skink once wrote six hilarious haiku on three wordless panels of a woman realizing her brain damaged husband had taken the car keys. I’ve snarked over dialogue-less panels of SALAD DRESSING! Look around you Duck of Death! These brave nitpickers once snarked for an entire week on nothing but envelope opening!
Are you tired? Rest. We shall take up your burden. But know. Know deep in your heart. That someone here will fight this beast. Someone here will take on this monster. Someone here will find SOMETHING FUNNY to say ABOUT NOTHING.
And cheer up. While today’s strip makes somehow even less sense than ANYTHING I’ve seen in weeks. At least it has the possibility to get a great Beach Boys song stuck in your head.
And now for your Comic Book Harriet Useless Factoid Report.
It is believed that there was a real Sloop John B. It sunk off the coast of the Bahamas in the 17th century.
The lyrics to the Bahaman folk song were first published in 1916, by Richard Le Gallienne, in Harper’s Monthly Magazine.
Richard Le Gallienne had a friendship, and even a brief love affair, with Oscar Wilde. Though he was also a notorious womanizer who was married three times.
Poet, Carl Sandberg, included “The John B Sails” in his 1927 collection of American folksongs, The American Songbag.
Carl Sandberg won three Pulitzer Prizes in his lifetime. Which is three more than Tom Batiuk has won.
Carl Sandberg claimed he collected the song from American artist, war correspondent, and political cartoonist John T. McCutcheon.
McCutcheon owned a private island in the Bahamas, where he often lived.
In 1932, McCutcheon won a Pulitzer Prize for cartooning. Which is one more than Tom Batiuk has won.