Having said that, the Spinal Tap reference in this strip offends my improv sensibilities. We call this “being too jokey.” Today’s strip tries to force a joke, in a way that undermines the reality of the scene.
Phil is right to be annoyed with Kitch here. He’s an accomplished artist. Auditioning for a comic strip is well within his ability, and it’s insulting that she’s so surprised at this. “Dial back your incredulity” is enough to make that point. If he just said that, without the tacked-on “goes to eleven” joke, it would have been much more effective.
And there’s the universal Funky Winkerbean problem of awkward dialog. Try saying this aloud: “Maybe you could dial your incredulity back from eleven just a bit.” Now say “Maybe you could dial back your disbelief a little.” That second one sounds much more like a real person talking, doesn’t it?
On top of that, “tried out to draw” is a very clunky way to say “auditioned.” Is this an Ohioism? When I was in school, people only “tried out” for a sports team, or maybe a play. The first time I read today’s strip, that phrase struck my mind as “tried to out draw,” as if Phil Holt had challenged Hal Foster to a cartooning duel at high noon. Which would have been much more fun.
I’m kind of shocked this wasn’t another comic book. It’s a comic strip, which isn’t exactly the same thing. But as usual, Tom Batiuk tipped his hand about this plot twist:
The comics that interested me the most were Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates, and of course the ineffable Prince Valiant by Hal Foster (shoe drop alert—the significance of the strips I’m mentioning here will drop later on, so hang with me and all will come out in the shoe store). Especially Prince Valiant, wherein classical Renaissance figures, rather than being frozen in time, came to life and moved from panel to panel.https://funkywinkerbean.com/wpblog/match-to-flame-176/
Ugh, that’s terrible writing. But we can infer that this is going to be another love letter to something Tom Batiuk likes that hardly anyone else cares about. Fine by me. I’d much rather have a week of Prince Valiant than a week of The Phantom Empire. Or of Funky Winkerbean.