Oh, we’re sticking with Ruby this week, huh… at least in today’s strip we are. Can’t you see the excitement on my face?
Looks like Ruby is ready to start living off her social security checks and some meager and infrequent Miss American residuals. That or she’s dying (to start living off those social security checks and meager and infrequent residuals…). Either way, a blow for feminine editorial oversight at Atomik Komix, but what women’s lib doesn’t know won’t hurt ’em!
Pete should leave the snark to us. For one thing, baked potatoes are delicious and this strip suffers greatly in comparison to them. For another, all this damate climage comic business was Pete’s idea in the first place. And above all, Ruby’s given him some prime snark ammunition by drawing some planet that does not appear in almost any way to be earth and he just completely misses it. Leave the wisecracks to the professionals in our comment section next time, Pete.
Ruby has got to be regretting speaking up a few days ago because, as we see in today’s strip, she’s being told to… do her job?!
I know, I’m as shocked as any of you that someone at Atomik Komix is even suggesting the idea of doing work. Granted, Phil is suggesting that someone other than himself work, but still… This will probably work better for the deadline anyways, Phil is not known for his speed. Flash being kind of a jerk and everyone else standing around like this place has no editor in chief, or leadership of any kind – now that is the Atomik Komix we all know and love.
Anyways, we’re back from “the climage damate comics aren’t optimistic enough” to “the damate climage comics aren’t, uh, something about women I think”. Are we supposed to see these two complaints as the same thing?
Yesterday these climage damate comics had too much testosterone… but in today’s strip Ruby is arguing that they aren’t optimistic enough. For who? For sales? For readers? For her, personally? How do you even conflate testosterone with pessimism? Is that what she’s even doing? What’s going on in her mind? What’s her motivation? Annnnnnnnnnnd, why should I care?
Flash is pretty smug about dying before the coming damate climage cataclysm occurs. I wouldn’t be if I was him. STILL drawing comic books at his age? It’s a safer bet to assume he’s immortal until proven otherwise. No one dies in the Batiukverse unless three things are satisfied:
1 – Their death is in the service of an award-winning-seeking important issue. (Okay, we can check this one, though I’m going to doubt TB has the writing chops to figure out how to kill Flash with climage damate)
2 – They are not involved in or devoted to comic books. (No check here… recall how comic book and movie serial uberschmuck Jff Murdoch survived the damate climage fire that ate Los Angeles)
3 – Their death enables Les to feel even more superior to others. (No check, again)
We’ve teased you with her face at the top of the page for a full week now… but she’s finally here folks! Please welcome Ruby Lith to the climage damate/pandemic/supply chain issues story arc (now with comic book misogyny or something) in today’s strip.
Is Ruby just annoyed that all of the damate climage comic books Atomik Komix is putting out don’t feature female characters or are too muscle-bound action man violence explosions so many explosions-oriented (did she forget about The Oceanaire?.. well, she doesn’t appear to be the only one) or does she believe that these issue du jour comic books would somehow be more effective in changing the hearts and minds of the world citizenry if they weren’t so… ugh, “testosterony”? And why is she addressing Batton like he works at Atomik Komix? Unless… oh no. Surely it won’t come to that, will it?
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.
‘TH’ Mall is probably supposed to be Mammoth Mall; the mall in Centerview where Crankshaft used to traumatize children as a photo op Santa.
Mammoth Mall is also where a very late Act II Darin and Pete went in 2006 for Senior Skip Day.
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.
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.
Indeed, in 2017 the Mammoth Mall was already as empty as the mall from Silent Hill 3, and full of similar haunting horrors.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Funky in today’s strip has, once again, gone full Crankshaft on us.
This Sunday, many of you pointed out that poor Funky in the final panel was looking like He-Who-Shall-Usually-Not-Be-Named-In-This-Strip.
But when I really thought about it. Funky has been Crankshaft every single time he appeared this week.
Sunday. He complains while watching football.
Wednesday. He fails to find something he’s looking for in the basement.
Thursday. He wears stripey old man pajamas and gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
Friday. He refuses to lose weight with the power of wordplay.
Today. He sneers and ‘corrects’ a beloved family member who was attempting humor or encouragement.
And you know what? I like Crankshaft better. Crankshaft has always been a cantankerous old coot. It was what he was designed for by his creator, and he works hard at it. Funky has fallen and decayed to this state due to neglect and indifference.
Today’s strip stands out to me as especially mean spirited, even for Crankshaft. It is approaching Lockhorns levels of snippy. This is a strip that needs some smirks. But instead Funky looks offended as he slaps down his wife’s futile attempts at wordplay and spoons up another dripping cotton ball to eat.
As Banana Jr. 6000 put it yesterday.
FW makes no distinction between groan-inducing but harmless dad jokes, and hurtful remarks poorly disguised as humor. I’m sure you’ve known people whose idea of a “joke” is really just backhanded, passive-aggressive insults about people. Then when you don’t like it, they accuse you of having no sense of humor. Westview is full of that guy.
As Professor Fate said, “It felt mean spirited and a substitute for confronting the deeper conflicts that nobody wanted to face.”
Duck of Death put it more bluntly. “But this type of humor, Snappy Answers to Perfectly Normal Requests, is just assholery.”
This week of pathetic non-humor felt like it was cobbled together from stuff they dug out of the trash. They just put all this out here to fill some time, to take up space. It reminded me of an old running gag from one of my favorite YouTube channels, RedLetterMedia, making fun of how January and February are used by movie studios as a dumping ground for movies they’ve lost all hope for.
Did you want entertainment? Did you want quality? F**k you, it’s January!
(This video has foul language. Obviously. Viewer Discretion Advised.)
Haiku post for today's strip
Where nothing happens
"Who spent most of his
Time at war with the world and
Ev'rything in it"?
We talking about
Phil Holt or that Ed Crankshaft?
Both? Makes me shudder
C'mon now, Durwood
Phil did not know a dang thing
About your mother
C'mon too, Mindy
Who here cares one iota
About your granddad?
Pete here wins the strip
Only offense is a smirk
Default win's a win
Could Ruby and Flash be any less excited than they are in today’s strip, the big reveal of their hall of fame induction? I actually think they could, in theory… if they had to read this comic strip.
Despite Ruby’s wry response to being honored before she and Flash go the way of Phil Holt, the real life Eisner Awards Hall Of Fame is more than willing to honor comics icons who are no longer with us. Four of the six 2021 inductees announced thus far are no longer living, including legendary American political party mascot creator (and 180 year old) Thomas Nast and Swiss proto-comic strip pioneer Rodolphe Töpffer (who passed away when Thomas Nast was 5 years old).
One inductee who is still living is Lily Renée, who turned 100 back in May and is most likely one of TB’s biggest inspirations for the Ruby Lith character (big kudos to our own ComicBookHarriet for making and elaborating on this connection). Given that TB is known to work about a year in advance of the publishing date, the Ruby Lith-Lily Renée connection makes this story arc remarkably prescient… or it would if TB had not revealed his eerie precognitive powers several times before in both Funky Winkerbean and Crankshaft. At least this time he used his powers to predict something good.