Before we get started, a huge shout-out to Comic Book Harriet, who always brings the knowledge. Her ability to analyze and correlate is second to none–and you certainly won’t see anything like that from me! Which means my mundane and dim-witted commentary will seem refreshing because of the contrast!
…I always knew I’d end up thinking like a Batiuk. With any luck I can get therapy for this, maybe with some kind of salve.
Today’s entry is kind of baffling. Seems to me he wrapped up the Pizza Box Monster arc pretty well yesterday, yet he felt he needed to add this weak coda. I guess he thought “CSI: Montoni’s” was too clever to leave out, but when it came time to write the strips he forgot to add it.
Weird how Rachel is mooning over TBM, while her husband is standing right there. Nobody respects Wally. Oh, and check out Holly–you can see it looks like she’s holding some kind of crutch, as a middle finger to everyone who said “Well, she’s limber and can get to the roof easily, because he wrote this arc several years ago, before he decided Holly needed a broken ankle.”
I did not. I completely did not. I am just as creative and innovative now as I was forty years ago!
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!
Today we can add one more slim slice of evidence to our profile of the Pizza Monster. He is someone who would shout to his victim that he’s been ‘Punked!’ You know, something giggling teens told each other circa 2004.
The comments section has been busy considering suspects for days. Much of the speculation has involved the helicopter. While just about any tall, slim, white man could have pulled off the prank the previous years, this helicopter stunt is a dangerous and potentially expensive endeavor.
Maxine of Arc crunched the numbers earlier this week,
I decided to do a quick run on Grandpa Google to find out how much it would cost to charter a helicopter in Ohio. One of the first results is for Cleveland helicopter tours (look I don’t know, I’ve never been there, maybe there’s lots to see) and it appears you can get a 10-minute sightseeing tour for around $100, half an hour for ~$240. So the mere existence of a helicopter doesn’t necessarily mean the PBM is made of money. Now, to get a helicopter to drop you on a roof in the middle of town, that will probably have to run you some extra bribe money, but even so, if this is the highlight of the PBM’s sorry existence, they could have been planning this since last year.
So I don’t think we’re limited only to Chester Moneybags. A couple of high school kids with part time jobs chipping in might be able to make it work.
While I agree with her assessment that simply hiring a helicopter wouldn’t be out of the price range of most of the cast, this is more than that. This helicopter pilot was willing to fly low over a small city, precariously dangling a man in an unwieldy box costume hundreds of feet off the ground. He was willing to participate in a stunt so dangerous it would make Tom Cruise balk. If the Pizza Monster dies, he could be legally liable. He would definitely lose his pilot’s license. He’s probably breaking the law even IF the stunt goes off without a hitch. That’s more than just some bribe money. That is someone who is either being paid a HECK of a lot, someone who owes significant favors, or someone just as crazy and daring as the Pizza Monster himself.
The existence of the helicopter was a big clue. And in the comments section we seem to have narrowed things down to four hypotheses.
One hypothesis is a coordinated effort of multiple people. (I loved ian’sdrunkenbeard’s ICE theory yesterday. That’s the creativity I keep coming back for.) Of course, this year, the Pizza Monster has to have at least one accomplice in the helicopter pilot, but there could be more. Maybe someone is the daredevil, and another the financier. So this theory can work in tandem with the three main suspects I’ve seen.
1.) Mason Jarre.
2.) Wally Winkerbean.
3.) Someone so wacky that it doesn’t even make sense. (I saw Buck, Flash Freeman, Cliff Angere (too old?) Bernie Silver, Lisa, Sadie Summers.)
To this I will ad, briefly, Darin Fairgood being financed by Chester Hagglemore. No one has mentioned it, but I haven’t ruled it out yet, since it is, on paper, plausible.
So today, lets make up a dossier on Mason Jarre, using the template pioneered by ‘be ware of eve hill’ and furthered developed by Banana Jr. 6000 and Suicide Squirrel.
Suspect: Mason Jarre
1.) Mason fits the physical description. He is tall, white, slim, and suitably athletic.
2.) Mason is portrayed as wealthy and loose with his money. He owned two houses in the L.A. area simultaneously and has chartered flights to Westview before. He would have the means to hire a helicopter pilot, and bribe him into breaking the law.
3.) Mason is Bi-Polar. The lows of which have never really come up in the strip. But we’ve seen numerous indications of his impulsivity. He is portrayed as someone who gets an idea, and just runs with it, no matter how crazy.
4.) Mason is an action movie star, who has in the past showed a willingness to risk his own life.
5.) Mason is familiar with Montoni’s, having been there many many many times over the years. He knows Funky well enough to have his cell phone number.
Motives: 1.) Mason is married to Funky’s ex-wife. Though everything seems amicable now, it could be that he enjoys messing with Funky to punish him for the years where Funky was a lousy husband to Cindy,
2.) Mason is also at least a casual friend of Funky’s. He could be doing this from a misguided notion that he’s adding a little needed excitement to Funky’s life.
3.) The first Pizza Monster incident came right after Mason and Cindy were in Westview for Bull’s funeral. Maybe was hoping to provide a zany distraction from the grief.
4). He’s just a weird guy who likes doing weird things to the tiny town he’s adopted as his own because he’s a bored thrill-seeker. Like an impulsive Lightning McQueen.
Chance of Being the Pizza Monster: Maybe? Mason Jarre fits the profile. He has means and opportunity. But is the motive too flimsy?
Welp, anyone who guessed Cory Winkerbean over the last few days, I’m sorry but we have to cross him off our list. He’s appeared in the same panel as the Pizza Monster, so now has a better alibi than dead characters, like Bull. We’ve had inexplicable resurrections numerous times, but only one instance of quantum superposition.
Not that I thought Cory was a likely candidate. Though he might have strong means and motive, we can rule him out for the simple reason that Cory Winkerbean is the smallest adult in this strip (ever since that actual dwarf stopped hanging around with John circa 2011.) Cory may be a former military man in his mid twenties, but he has the appearance and build of an old-timey malnourished newspaper boy.
And while yesterday we confirmed that the Pizza Monster could not be someone fat, he also cannot be someone short. Even given the artistic license of comic body proportions, the dramatic angles used in the framing, and the fact that the pizza box head could be taller than the wearer, if we use the shoulders as a measuring stick the Pizza Monster Person has to be as tall, if not taller than Funky.
We can also tell from their ankles and footwear, that the Pizza Monster never wears shoes that would significantly increase their height.
In the often sloppy art of this sloppy strip, it is hard to gague how tall people are by measuring them against objects, but in my exhaustive research I’ve discovered that there does tend to be consistency on which characters are drawn taller than others when multiple characters are standing in a panel.
The comparison seems to be: Tony < All Other Women < Summer < Les </= Wally </= Funky < Mason < Darin.
Funky is portrayed as a tall guy. Wally is usually drawn about equal if not a hair shorter, with Les another notch lower. Mason and Darin are taller. I would feel safe crossing off our list of suspects any character shorter than Les Moore. So, Pizza Monster’s gender mindscrew last year notwithstanding, I am confidently crossing off the list all women. Though the idea of Cindy borrowing Traffic Helicopter 1 to prank her X-man has it’s allure, let’s be real, she wouldn’t be caught dead in pure white sneakers, even if her face was obscured.
So, we’ve narrowed Pizza Monster down to a tall, slim, limber, lighter skinned man. We’ve got several suspects left, and as commenter Suicide Squirrel pointed out yesterday believable motives for this prank are varied enough to make it hard to narrow down based on the crime itself.
1). Funky’s increasing agitation. It’s fun messing with the fat man’s head.
3.) Montoni’s staff getting revenge on Funky for unfair working conditions and/or low pay.
4). Revenge on Montoni’s for their rancid cardboard pizza.
5.) Revenge for the Great Westview Salmonella Outbreak of 2018.
6.) It’s Halloween.
But I’m sure we’ve got more clues to find if we just look closely enough. The dossiers and profiles in the comments yesterday were creative, thoughtful, fun, and wacky….everything Funky Winkerbean isn’t. If you’re not reading the comments of Son of Stuck Funky you’re doing this wrong.
A few commenters yesterday quipped that this dumb, lazy, illogical storyline doesn’t deserve this level of analysis. And they’re completely right. This material probably doesn’t deserve the consideration we’re giving to it. But there are only so many times you can write a blog post saying: “This just isn’t funny. Boy, Tom sure is lazy and self-absorbed.”
So, I try to limit criticism like that to the strips where it is most effective; not more than a couple times a shift. I would get tired of writing it, you would get tired of reading it, and this wonderful little place would die. It’s why the rotation of writers is so gosh darn important.
Every couple weeks, one of us poor saps gets locked in a room with a big stack of whatever wisps of brittle, old barnyard bedding Batiuk saw fit to rake together and shovel out. And we’re told, ‘make something of it.’ And while no one would really blame us if we just flopped down a took a nap, we all set to spinning anyway. We spin poems and jokes, analysis and observations, vitriol and sarcasm. And I usually end up selling out to the twisted little man named Grandpa Google, hoping he’ll give me some gold.
The straw does not deserve to be spun into anything. It’s straw. It’s a filthy mass of tangled and broken stems, something that hasn’t been alive in years, all puffed up with air. But this blog is all about digging through that to find the kernel of something maybe interesting hiding underneath, and growing that seed into the madness you’re now witnessing. It’s exhausting. Sometimes you fail. It’s why we all take the burden in shifts. But it’s worth it. Because when it works, it is a wonder to behold: straw into gold.
I saw so much gold in the comments yesterday. Beautiful, glorious, shining nuggets of hilarity. And it makes all the spinning worthwhile. Spin on, you crazy diamonds….spin on.
Yesterday we ruled out some possible Pizza Monsters based simply on having an ironclad alibi, and we got some interesting guesses in the comments based on the evidence. Today I want to take a deeper look using geometry…see if we can cross a few more names off the list.
First of all the dimensions of an average large pizza box are as follows.
Now lets look at the dimensions of the Luigi’s Pizza Monster. It is made up of at least two different sizes of pizza boxes though they seem to have a similar height.
So the Luigi’s monster would be, at a very minimum, 66 inches tall…and probably a little more. Somewhere between five and a half and six feet tall.
More importantly, this monster is only about 18 inches from front to back, even though it is 32 inches wide. Assuming a human torso is roughly elliptical, and using the equation to find the area of an ellipse. A = πab. With a as the minor radius of 9 inches, and b as the major radius of 16 inches, we get an area of roughly 450 square inches, and an estimated perimeter of 80 inches, However, that is an ellipse twice as wide as it is deep, most people with an 80 inch waist would not be that flat. Unless they were some kind of horrific softshell tortoise human.
Point being. The Pizza Monster probably isn’t very fat. As can be seen in the bits of wrist or ankle we can see in various shots.
Also, did you know that the Pizza Monster this year has a different construction technique for the arms? I’m guessing it allows for better helicopter clinging and ladder climbing action.
So, I’ll say we can safely rule out DSH John. Even though it would fit his cheap nature to use the dozens of old Montoni’s boxes he no doubt has stashed around his comic shop in order to steal yet more pizza. And even though it would have also suited his underhanded and duplicitous side to offer the services of the cosplayer Mr. Monster last year, and then use his knowledge of that friend’s cootie allergy to steal the aforementioned pizza. Poor Dead Skunk Head is just too fat and out of shape.
By the same token, we can rule out Tony, Donna, Dinkle, Harriet, a magically rejuvenated Crankshaft, and Chester Hagglemore. They’re all just too portly, old, or both to make this costume work. Especially since, on average, the Montoni’s Pizza Monster seems to use less boxes than Luigi’s.
From the hands we can also tell that Pizza Monster has a lighter skin tone, ruling out Cayla, Principal Nate, and Bernie’s two friends who maybe have names I guess.
So our culprit is white, not fat, still limber, knows Montoni’s, knows Funky, and has such a strong desire to mess with him every Halloween that they’re willing to do all of this.
What do you guys think? Any more names we can add to, or take off, of the list?
A most sincere congratulations to everyone who correctly guessed yesterday that the ‘WHUP’ onomatopoeia was a helicopter. William Thompson, and Cabbage Jack; your predicative Winkerplot skills, honed from years and years of skillful beady-eyed nitpicking, have served you well.
I must also second a sentiment I saw from a few of you in the comments, I don’t hate the Pizza Box Monster. I hated last year’s arc with him, but that was because it became as awkward, offensive, and misogynistic, as an elderly Bill Clinton slowly eating a bacon burka off of Adeela’s face. The first year was fine. The concept is fine.
But, who is the Pizza Box Monster? Of course, the real answer is that the Pizza Box Monster is the Pizza Box Monster. It’s a faceless reference to a annual prank at Luigi’s, as Batiuk was happy to point out in a blog post during the very first Pizza Monster arc in 2019.
Batiuk put him in the strip because he pursues patronage from minor Ohio based corporate entities in a manner that’s practically antediluvian. He’s like a modern day Virgil, putting prophecy of the greatness of Caesar Augustus (Luigi’s, OMEA, Ohiana Book Festival.) and the glory of Rome (Ohio) in the mouths of revered characters in his epic, all so the king of the world might toss him a bone instead of an exile. (Tough luck Virgie boy.)
Does Batiuk have any idea who is in that weird boxy suit? Maybe not. It’s probably no one, just an idea. A literary device. But in the universe of the strip, he (or she) has to be someone. Someone who knows Montoni’s. Someone who knows Funky enough to want to prank him three years in a row. Someone who would take all this time and effort to annoy a middle-aged man on Halloween. Everyone has a motive, and no one does.
Who can we rule out? Well, certainly characters who have been seen at the same time as Pizza Monster.
Funky and Holly. As well as the Mr. Monster cosplayer.
And now Rachel and Crazy Harry.
I didn’t want to rule Harry out a first. But while Crazy Harry is crazy enough to have gone from standing in an alley, to putting on an elaborate pizza box costume he’d stashed in a dumpster, to climbing on a roof, to clinging to a rope ladder dangling from a helicopter. To letting go of the helicopter, climbing back down the fire escape ladder, and sneaking in the back of Montoni’s, I doubt he is strong or agile enough to do that without breaking a hip.
We also can rule out these customers, who were unfortunate enough to witness the Pizza Monster the last couple years.
Whoever these customers were, we know two things about them. They have stomachs of pure iron, and they aren’t the Pizza Monster.
Also we can rule out Mopey Pete’s shirt for appearing twice.
But who ELSE can we rule out? Who is our most likely cardboard costumed culprit? Tune in tomorrow.
Comic Book Harriet here again! Can’t believe I’m up again already. It seems like yesterday I was struggling to find a band turkey joke that wasn’t as overdone as the ones in the strip. But Tom rolls on like an ever flowing stream of consciousness, bringing me back again, panning through his muck for fool’s gold.
I want to give special commendation to SpaceManSpiff 85. He was given a relentlessly dim and myopic arc, and managed to fill the week with a overwhelming flow of cataract puns. Sir, you have my admiration. And my sympathy. Because it seems I’m going to be just as burdened this week with shortsighted visual humor.
I asked earlier this arc if Funky has always been a hapless character that only exists to be neurotic and spout lame puns. My interactions with Act I Funky come through flashback photo-cornered panels, car accident coma dreams, and the offerings of our resident Batiukian researchers. Longtime Stuckfunkians Rusty Shackleford and Banana Jr 6000 were kind enough to reply, and both used the term ‘burnout’ to describe Act I Funky, which kind of surprised me. I can’t see the preachy Batiuk, with more cheap soapboxes than a Palmolive warehouse, insinuating his main character was dating Mary Jane Wackytabaccy on the weekends, and playing it for harmless laughs. Crazy Harry? Sure. But the eponymous protagonist?
I can see it now. Panel two has Act I Funky, in all his mellow glory, blissed out on his tiny bed, with every comfort a baked adolescent needs within arm’s reach: lamp, pizza, soda, music, The Amazing Mister Sponge. Curled up in a tiny cluttered nest of his own hedonism. He even has his SHOES on the bed, that’s how much he DNGAF.
Stark contrast to Act III Funky in panels 1 and 3, sitting on a huge, empty bed, in a mostly empty room. Only a featureless smartphone and a rapidly expanding mattress his plebian pleasures. His specific interests have been pulled out, leaving us with a boring box containing a boring man with a face slowly drooping like a blobfish.
I wish Funky could have gotten glaucoma instead. We could have had burnout Funky back.
So now we’re back to “Funky’s Body is Failing, Chapter 43”. Is that supposed to be Corey in the first panel? I hope so, because it’s legitimately hilarious that he’d have no clue that his dad is about to have surgery. Years ago, somebody must have told Batiuk that the way to get readers up to speed on what’s happening in your story is to have one character ask another what’s happening, because he sure does it a lot, and it’s super awkward every time.
Oh, and Funky is still nervous, in case you didn’t know. I really don’t know why Batiuk thinks “someone is nervous about surgery” is comedy gold, but he does.
Haha, can you imagine? An actual(?) superhero man is petrified just at the thought of being near a woman! Hilarious! Can you imagine if maybe an actual superhero was a woman, and not just this evil supervillain(?) Pizza Monster? The entire multiverse would collapse! They’d have to invent new words like “superheroine”, probably! Ha, total fear just from being near someone who merely suggests they might be a woman, truly this is the epitome of hilarity and quarter-inch from reality writing.
So I guess some guy dressed as Mr. Monster (who is actually a character not created by Tom Batiuk, so I do feel bad now about making fun of, but really, if you’re doing a “tip of the felt tip” to another artist, maybe don’t do it super tiny in between the panels of a daily strip?) really did just bust into a crowded (ha) restaurant and pull what sure look like two real guns on somebody, just because they’re dressed up in pizza boxes? Just to find out their identity? And this is supposed to be funny? Wouldn’t it have been easier, and safer, if Funky and Harry and just pulled out bats and started beating the Pizza Monster, or maybe set the boxes on fire so the Monster would have to remove them? That seems much simpler than arranging for someone to hold somebody at gunpoint in the middle of your restaurant. Putting aside the “haha, he never thought it could be a woman” angle, which is weird since Funky also referred to the Pizza Monster as a he earlier in the week, shouldn’t it be obvious who the Pizza Monster is, just based on the voice? Only like five people, at most, are ever shown eating in Montoni’s anymore, and it would be very weird (although much creepier) if this was just some random person with no ties at all to Montoni’s. Or is there a voice changer under the pizza boxes (that also have no eye holes, but that’s another issue)?