In today’s strip, Les and Summer’s visit to Montoni’s continues. To recap: Summer has returned from being out of town for a decade, and she and Les are celebrating her decision to write a book that will no doubt become a seminal event in the history of Westview.
Shouldn’t Summer’s stepmother be along for such a momentous event in her step-daughter’s life? This wasn’t an impromptu trip to Montoni’s. Les and Summer have both changed out of their jogging clothes and into more formal dress. They had to go home to do this. Did they just walk in, silently shower, and leave again without even telling Cayla where they were going?
Summer’s relationship with Cayla should be a lot more complex than it is. Cayla was more a part of Summer’s life than Lisa ever was, though that’s not saying much. Cayla’s daughter Keysha has been Summer’s closest companion. But Summer treats Cayla just like Tom Batiuk does: as a prop to be brought out for Lisa- and race-related stories, and ignored the rest of the time. Everything revolves around what Les wants.
And what Les wants right now is another Lisa fetish object. I can’t imagine why he needs one: every known object and human activity reminds this man of Lisa. Bird feeders, cancelled checks, VHS tapes, book ideas, class reunions, time travel journeys, motion picture production, and of course his hand-delivered Oscar for Best Actress. I shudder to think what that statuette has seen.
Funky Winkerbean thinks it’s a realistic comic strip. But no wife would accept being ostracized from family activities, or being made to accept ridiculous monuments to ex-wives. Cayla has already been way too indulgent of Les’ inability to move past Lisa’s death. In the Lisa’s Story era, you could argue that she was putting aside her feelings to support his work. But that justification doesn’t exist anymore. Lisa’s Story is over. And despite being Les getting an Oscar-winning movie made to his exact specifications, he still can’t move on. Now he needs a pizza sign because it reminds him of Lisa.
Les Moore is a sick, sick man. Everyone in this town needs to quit enabling him. Starting with the two other people in today’s strip. Summer’s reaction to this sickness is to throw jazz hands and try to steer the conversation back to herself. What she says makes no sense, but her facial expression is clear: “It’s time to talk about me some more. I’m writing a book, remember?”
Even Funky should be interjecting here. He tried telling Crazy Harry that salad dressing wasn’t a good anniversary gift, so he should be hinting to Les that this is a much worse idea. He could at least offer some pre-fab divorce papers, like Atomik Komix does if you buy a life-size Iron Man figure. But Funky’s more interested in making a sale. He’s grinning like he knows someone else wants to buy that sign, and Les is going to bid the price through the roof. Great guy, that Funky Winkerbean.
It’s not Wally. (Sobs and takes down the thumbtacks and string)
But who is left?
Darin? Fat chance. The only time Boy Lisa ever risks his life is in his dreams.
But I don’t know if Mason knows Montoni’s layout intimately enough for this stunt… We’ve never seen the action star on the roof, or in the back room.
But then again, who does that leave?
Only one man.
Suspect: ‘Kahn/ Khan’ (Possibly an alias?)
Background: Khan hails from the wild hills of Afghanistan. He was a bandit leader, drug dealer, and gun runner, who held Wally captive for months hoping to sell him to anyone willing to pay, even presumably American enemies, so the buyer could in turn make ransom demands.
Wally charmed Khan with chess and pictures of American women, stalling for enough time to signal allies and escape. Rana’s older sister found Wally and helped to hide him from the desperately searching Khan, and eventually led him to an American airfield.
When Wally and Becky returned to Afghanistan with an NGO mine clearing organization, they hired a local liaison to work as their guide and driver, and he turned out to be Khan.
Khan seemed overjoyed to be reunited with Wally, and Wally was pretty gracious to a man who had intended to sell him for cash.
On one of their last days in Afghanistan, Wally stepped on a landmine. Knowing it might trigger when he stepped off, he told Khan to leave him and drive a safe distance away.
Instead Kahn attempted to defuse it,
And when he couldn’t decided that he would bat the mine right out of the air in a stunt more nonsensical and ballsy than anything Crankshaft has ever rigged up with Bean’s End Merchandise and lighter fluid.
They return to the city to find that the Afghan family that’d helped Wally escape from Kahn before had exploded in a car bomb attack, leaving only Rana, the orphan Becky and Wally immediately decided to adopt.
A few months after the family returns to the US, Kahn walks into Montoni’s asking for Wally.
And like anyone who ever walks into Montoni’s, this murderer, drug dealer, and former terrorist is offered a job there on the spot.
Kahn arrived mere moments before the fateful letter that Wally was to be redeployed to Iraq, where he is blown up and captured again.
Post-time skip. Kahn is still working at Montoni’s.
Wally returns home in summer 2009 and takes a job at Montoni’s February the next year, but we get no strips of Wally and Kahn in a panel together because Batiuk is boring and unimaginative and I hate him.
In 2011, we are informed that Kahn has received American citizenship and has opened a Deli next door to Montoni’s
In 2014, Wally and Funky notice a ‘Going out of Business’ sign on the door and go in to talk to Kahn. He says he intends to move back to Afghanistan.
Spelling change why?
And that’s it. That’s the last time we’ve ever seen or heard of Kahn.
1.) Khan is tall, male, slim and, while darker complected than other characters, light skinned enough.
2.) Khan is a former bandit leader who was allowed American citizenship. This implies that he must have turncloaked and aided the Americans enough to receive some significant favors.
3.) Khan was an employee, and manager of Montoni’s for years, he would be very familiar with the building.
4.) Khan once batted a landmine away with a wooden board. The man has no fear.
Why would Khan do this?
To figure this out, I had to archive dive and see what was happening in the Funkyverse, and specifically Montoni’s, in the time leading up to the first appearance of the Pizza Monster. And, in the year before, Wally finished college and was made not only a manager, but seemingly a part owner of Montoni’s.
In his final semester of college, he also befriended Iraqi immigrant Adeela, and reconnected with his adopted Afghan daughter Rana. Rana told him that following graduation she intended go back to Afghanistan to teach in a girl’s school.
And, who may have Rana looked up in Afghanistan to help her get the lay of the land? Mayhaps her old family friend Khan?
So Khan hears that Wally is now in line to inherit the Montoni’s pizza fortune. So what?
So. We know two things about Khan. He admires Wally Winkerbean. And he didn’t think all that highly of Funky.
I think it all boils down to the landmine incident. Wally had every reason in the world not to value Khan’s life, and to hate him. Khan was a murderer who had indirectly killed his friends. And the only comeuppance Wally sees fit to give him is a black eye.
Khan also seems touched and impressed that Becky and Wally would adopt Rana with no reservations.
When they first met, Khan had only seen Wally’s life in terms of how much money he could make. But when his own life is in danger, Wally tells Khan to leave and save himself. Khan makes a daring gamble, puts both their lives on the line, and miraculously they both walk away. But is that enough to make up for the months and months Khan held him captive?
Kahn follows this admirable man to America. When Wally is presumed KIA, Kahn stays working at Montoni’s for years, ragging on Funky for neglecting the restaurant Wally had so loved.
When Wally returns from a traumatic captivity, so similar to what he had already been subjected to, maybe Kahn keeps his distance so as to not remind him? Maybe Khan leaves Montoni’s to make space for Wally’s advancement? Maybe he only leaves Westview once Wally seems stable and secure: newly engaged to Rachel, going back to school etc.
And now, Wally’s daughter tells him that, once Funky retires, Wally will have the whole restaurant. The entire pizza empire of Westview. The only thing standing in the way of his hero is the fat aging blowhard he never respected.
So, Kahn uses his US Citizenship to return to the states, and plans a series of drastically escalating pranks designed to drive Funky crazy and send him into an early retirement.
Still not convinced?
Remember last year, when the Pizza Monster was able to keep Mr. Monster from unmasking him by suggesting he was a woman?
Well, during Wally’s daring escape from Khan, Wally used the exact same ploy. Completely covered in head to toe, and using Khan’s people’s reluctance at revealing the female form to maintain his disguise. Khan had learned from the tricks of his friend.
So, Kahn is the Pizza Monster. Canon.
But why does Rachel look so enamoured with the PBM today? Does he remind her of someone?
It’s been a fun two weeks! Beckoning Chasm takes over tomorrow. Happy Halloween everyone!
I’m sorry Jimmy. A broken sarcasm meter is one of the most common injuries suffered by SOSF commenters. We’ve been trying to pioneer a new treatment that involves carefully grafting sarcasm from other sources to the site of the meter injury.
But Wally Winkerbean is a name I’ve seen mentioned again and again, both in our comments and in the comments on Comics Kingdom. So I spent way too long over the last few days pondering the character of Wally Winkerbean, an exercise nearly as psychologically damaging as the actual act of BEING Wally Winkerbean.
And the whole time, I was asking myself, is this man the Pizza Monster?
Suspect: Wally Winkerbean.
1.) Wally could fit the physical description. He is nearly always drawn equal to or just a shade shorter than Funky. He is physically fit.
2.) Wally has former military friends and connections. While he probably lacks the funds to hire a helicopter, maybe a pilot buddy owes him a favor.
3.) Wally is familiar with helicopters.
4.) Wally is a manager of Montoni’s, and lives above the store. He is very familiar with the building. This works against the Mason Jarre theory. Would Mason have known about the roof ladder? Would he have had a key to the side delivery door? Would he be able to plan his interior getaway through the upstairs apartment? Did this require a key? Wally would have all of these things.
And here is where things get hazy. What motive would Wally have to do this? Who is Wally?
I don’t even think he really knows. He’s like a dog that’s been kicked around one too many times. He’s so guarded. He lingers at the edges of panels, letting other people do the talking, smiling benignly. He’s always trying to be helpful, always aiming to please and not cause a fuss or make trouble. Like he’s apologizing for existing.
Because he is.
Wally used to be an underachieving, pseudo delinquent who spent his days goofing off at band practice and dragging a frozen turkey around on a string.
And then, right after high school graduation, when he was joyfully confessing his drunken love, he caused a horrible car accident that maimed his girlfriend and ruined her music scholarship. He didn’t speak to her for more than a year and joined the military. To atone? To escape? Both?
The car accident sets Wally off on a spiraling cycle of trauma and atonement. He is in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, presumed dead (for the FIRST time) but escapes captivity and returns to Westview to marry Becky.
But the trauma of Afghanistan weighs on him, and he returns to the country in an attempt to atone for that. Both he AND Becky are nearly exploded, and adopt an orphaned girl.
Wally is unexpectedly redeployed to Iraq. When he gets there he learns that his wife is pregnant and he misses the birth of his son. During the time skip wally is exploded by a roadside IED, and held captive for years. The only face he can remember during his long imprisonment is the face of his beloved Becky.
And when he’s finally reunited with her, she shows him her second husband, takes him to his own grave, hands him a trombone, tells him Dinkle said hi, and LETS HIM WALK TO FUNKY’S HOUSE.
And you know what? He takes it all. We barely see him complain. He just accepts it. He gets angry and loses it ONE TIME to a random guy at a traffic light. He has a panic attack at a basketball game. But he doesn’t want anyone to make a big fuss on his account. When he can’t minimize, he apologizes. When someone helps, him he thanks them. He resists help only when he sees it as fruitless or too much of a hassle.
Eventually, Wally get’s his wonder dog and his wonder wife, and things have mostly turned around. He’s happy now. But he still seems happiest when he’s pleasing others, or when he’s doing good. That’s what the Adeela thing turned out to be. She reminded him of his sins and trauma, so first he tried to run away. Then he tried to please her. He offered her a job, helped her get her license, worked to keep her from being deported, just another bit of atonement for the fact that poor Wally still doesn’t really think he’s worth the hassle.
Why would this sad sack of a man be the Pizza Monster? Why would he torment the one person who was there for him when even his own wife had abandoned him?
And so again: Motive:
1.) Similar to a Mason theory, Wally believes that this yearly prank is somehow good for Funky. Either as a distraction from grief, or a catalyst to shock Funky out of his usual ennui. He believes this helps Funky so much that he is willing to go through a dangerous stunt that would likely trigger his PTSD.
2.) When you peel back the layers and layers and layers of guilt and trauma, there is something inside Wally that craves the boy he used to be. A prankster. A fearless daredevil. And that buried side of himself has responded to his life’s trauma by craving first the anarchy of anonymous pizza theft, and then the danger of this year’s stunt. Even Wally seems to realize that he is repressing something.
At what moment in Wally’s life did he feel the most joy? When did the art show us he was completely free of the weight of all his guilt and inadequacies?
The adrenaline pounding in his veins, the rush of air in his lungs, the unbridled cry of triumph. Yes, I am alive! I have done the impossible! I have stood at the precipice of death. Yet everything I love awaits me in safety! I have broken the rules of this dark universe!
What would Wally do to recapture that moment when every thought in his tortured brain was blanked out by wordless, animal joy?