Tag Archives: retcon

When Everything Goes Pear Shaped.

I know I promised you guys the distant past. But first, a brief timeline of the last couple years.

December 2019 to March 2021: Life in Westview proceeds as normal; people self-medicating with comics to stave off the usual nihilistic despair. No mentions of pandemics, lockdowns, masks, or quarantines.

March 2, 2021: Les Moore mentions a previously unrecorded flu quarantine from when Lisa was undergoing breast cancer treatment. A week of retrospective strips on the ‘famous Flu Epidemic of 2007.’

April 2021: Funky Winkerbean attends an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and begins blathering about ‘last year’s pandemic’. It’s as if from a moment in the future the past has been altered, Flashpoint style, so that a pandemic occurred ‘last year’ but is mostly over.

September 30, 2021: Holly Winkerbean breaks her ankle. During her time in the hospital we see people wearing masks in the present, though no one at the football game was masked. (Consistent with late pandemic trends.) She begins a recovery that sees her using a pair of crutches through at least January.

TODAY: Holly Winkerbean is implied to have broken her ankle at the beginning of the pandemic.

You know, when I did the Funky Award for Most Puzzling Continuity Question, I really figured it would be a one time deal, since many of the continuity snarls had been kicking around for a while. I never imagined that by MARCH 2022, we would already have three or four potential nominees.

But Batiuk is no stranger to continuity snarls. They cropped up in his VERY FIRST month of Funky Winkerbean.

The fifth ever printed Funky Winkerbean strip, 3/31/72 introduces Fred Fairgood as the school counselor.

And yet, the next time we see him, 5/9/72, he introduces himself as if he is just arriving.

And that isn’t the only first month snafu. On 4/5/72, we see first see Les working on the school paper, an early running gag.

And a few weeks later, he announces to Funky that he is applying for the position.

Now, both of these are understandable within the context of trying to launch a strip. You’ve got (I’m guessing) a few months of strips prepared, but then you want to lead off with your best and most easily digestible material. So strips are put out of order.

Batiuk actually has some good insight into why starting a strip is difficult.

Starting a comic strip is a unique proposition that requires a slightly different skill set from the one you’ll hopefully be using a few years later.

When I was just beginning with Funky, I read a Peanuts strip that completely frustrated me. The strip in question had come after a week during which Linus had had his blanket taken away, and he was lying on the ground shaking as he went through withdrawal. In the second panel, Snoopy walks up wearing his WWI flying helmet and scarf. He pauses to look down at Linus shaking on the ground and then walks off saying, “Poor blighter, his kind shouldn’t be sent to the front.”

It was an elegant strip that Schulz had taken twenty years to set up. Twenty years in which he had developed the theme of Linus and his blanket, developed the character of Snoopy and Snoopy’s fantasy world as a fighter pilot in WWI—all so he could create the opportunity to eventually dovetail them into that one perfect strip. Twenty years that I didn’t have behind me in those first few weeks of Funky.

Instead, what you have in a beginning strip is a great deal of expository dialogue trying to establish your characters’ names, personalities, and situations. Oh, and have them say something funny. I’ve often likened it to a stand-up comic who has to win over new audiences each night with a series of individual jokes.

Later, if he’s lucky, he moves on to a sitcom where the situational humor allows him to extend the comic narrative. Finally, if he’s really lucky, he gets to make movies, where there’s room for the subtleties of behavioral humor. It takes a long time to establish your characters and develop their personalities.

From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume One

We can debate all day if he ever established his characters or developed their personalities into something consistent, but the above does, I think, point to one reason that Funky Winkerbean maintains it’s ironic audience. History. Any one year of Funky Winkerbean is mostly unremarkable. If it had only lasted a decade, any decade of its lifespan, it wouldn’t catch our attention.

But 50 years of this? 50 years of the Cronenberg-esq transformations of these strange sad-sack characters within a single universe, generated by a single mind.

When Marianne Winters pulled two VHS tapes out of her purse last week, that was the awful entrancing Funkyverse flipside to Snoopy as the Red Baron pitying Linus. It was a nauseating non sequitur built from years of disdain for a fictional character compounded with decades of facts and moments being referenced incorrectly.

Oh. And Batiuk was already creating inexplicable continuity biffs all the way back in 1973. Only a year after Les announced that he had applied for the position of school paper editor, the entire thing is retconned to being recruited by the school principal.

Never change, Tom. It’s too late to start.

48 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Do quit your day job

Et tu, Skyler? Crazy being baffled anyone would think he looks like Santa Claus while wearing a Santa Claus hat was bad enough… but today’s strip sees Skyler puzzled that Santa Claus spends time away from the North Pole? Has the kid never been to a mall? A store with a Salvation Army bell-ringer out front? A December Rotary Club fundraiser?

Actually, Given Westview’s general economic and retail landscape, that may be believable. The inquiry “North Pole?”, however…

As pretty much every single one of us beady-eyed nitpickers noted yesterday, Skyler was born in 2013, eight years ago (in fact, his birthday was November 22, just a few weeks ago), and has demonstrated his ability to speak in complete sentences on multiple occasions in the past. His regression to the verbal ability of a two year-old is a puzzling and insipid development, but no less so than a number of other things that have happened in this strip in Act III. Tomorrow may well find Kevin Garnett (no, not that Kevin Garnett, this guy after a visit to the Pete Reynolds New Last Name Store) correctly shouting “Anything is possible!” It’s true, we’re all living in Phil Holt’s world now.

55 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Snow Job Snore

Cameras are FINALLY rolling in today’s strip, which is take 3 (why?) of the contents of this Sunday strip from January 31, 1999.

FW1-31-99

Yep, even when it was actually happening, Lisa’s story was pretty much all about Les.

Les didn’t write the script for this movie, and yet, this scene is almost verbatim what was actually said back in 1999. I guess he had nothing to fear after all as the script writer must have been clairvoyant… or perhaps just too lazy to even try to punch up a bland passage lifted wholesale from the Lisa’s Story book.

If Les cannot live through seeing actors recite his own words, he knows where the door is. Even if he somehow didn’t walk through it to get in the soundstage, maybe he parachuted in or was brought in bound and gagged inside of a trunk (my favorite theory), he saw Marianne do so.

29 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Die or Die Not, There Is No Try

Today’s strip takes a pre-dick-tably maudlin turn. Like we didn’t all know “Les tries to sullenly undermine this dumb movie thing” was going to be the gist of this story arc.

Even if I wasn’t short on time to write this, I’m wouldn’t archive dive to prove that Lisa did or did not say what Les is claiming at some point in time… because I can quickly and easily point to a time when she pretty much said the exact opposite.

36 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

This Clown

Well, as Mason himself said yesterday, “things never seem to be going anywhere”… and no where has that statement ever been more true than in today’s strip.

Mason closed out yesterday’s strip implying that something had happened with the production of the Lisa’s Story movie he has allegedly been pitching around “this town”*, but we gain not a single bit of information on that today. Instead, Mason bemoans being an attractive, successful, and in-demand actor as a fate worse than death. Being an action hero was once his goal, by the way, and now he’s mad that he’s in demand for the kinds of roles he apparently had been pursuing? Perhaps he’d like to go back to starring in whatever Dino Deer was supposed to be or working on second-tier cable TV projects that never get finished

* While I am sure there are folks in Hollywood who refer to it as “this town” and manage not to sound insufferable and pompous, Mason is not one of those people. I’m reminded of the use of “this town” in SCTV’s Sammy Maudlin Show sketches, written and recited by people who understood folks like Mason (and TB) who play the put-upon auteur for the bags of wind that they typically are.

33 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Possibly nothing… interesting at all is going on here

Since we went over how what Cayla claims in today’s strip is in no way true back in Tuesday’s post, I have little left to say. This strip is almost spectacular in how utterly boring it is.

I don’t think anyone would cry if Les retired two years early. Same goes for a certain cartoonist who is now, in fact, about two years away from a milestone anniversary that some experts speculate may also mark his retirement.

24 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Perfect Atten-dunce

Hark! Saint Les has revealed his halo in today’s strip. He doesn’t want to miss teaching school to deal with the affairs that arise from being a professional writer. How noble!

Here is a list of strips where Les unremorsefully left his students with a substitute teacher:
January 9, 2011
January 31, 2011
September 25, 2017
October 5, 2017
October 30, 2017
November 14, 1997
May 7, 2018
And these are just the ones I could find in 15 minutes!

But this time… how noble!

31 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night

Link to today’s strip

Epicus had a great comment yesterday, and judging by the upvotes most of you agreed. There was one thought in particular that gave me pause. He said, “A child could write it. Unfortunately though, no children were available so BatYam took a stab at it…”

When I was younger, I used to do theater. My first role, when I was 12, was the mother in James and the Giant Peach. I was eaten by a giant invisible rhinoceros at the very beginning of the show. I flung myself all over the stage screaming and dying, and I got a pretty big head by thinking I was good at it. That was, until I heard my director say, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”

As near as Grandpa Google can tell me, the actual origins of that famous turn of phrase come from a story movie director George Seaton told about going to see his friend, the actor Edmund Gwenn on his deathbed in 1959.

“All this must be terribly difficult for you, Teddy,” [Seaton] said sympathetically.

Gwenn didn’t buy that sympathy. A smile touched his lips.

“Not nearly as difficult as playing comedy,” he answered cheerfully.

They were his words of exit. His head turned on the pillow. He was dead.

As a kid that pithy little aphorism was a revelation. Melodrama is easy. It’s easy to act, and it’s easy to write. Death hangs like the sword of Damocles above us all, and in time every sword will fall. Who do you love? Your mom? Your spouse? Your goldfish? Find the fear you hold inside knowing they are mortal, and you’ve found the massive emotional button any artist worth their paycheck can push at will. Entire genres of weepy books and Hallmark Channel movies are built on the cheap, baking-soda-and-vinegar, combination of love and death.

Twelve years ago, Batiuk pushed that button. And, go back and read those strips, he was effective.
cheap and effective, like your mom
This strip is cloying. It’s maudlin. And yet, it is 110% more real than anything we’ve seen in years. A mother won’t see her daughter grow up. A father struggles to explain. A child tries to comfort a loved one they can hardly realize they’re about to lose. Death is taking a knife and cutting to ribbons the story of a happy family just as viciously as Rose stabbing a precious comic book.

We’ve gotten none of this in Bull’s death. None. We didn’t see Linda calling her children. We didn’t see the pain of Jinx thinking about how Dad wouldn’t be there to walk her down the aisle. Or Mickey realizing her own kids would never know a Grandpa Bushka. We didn’t linger on Linda’s pain as she sits through a funeral full of terrible secrets, as she comes home to an empty house, as she has to do laundry that will only remind her of her dead husband’s illness.

It should have been easy. A child could have done it. But Batiuk decided to give us a death without really showing the love that death was cutting off.

Instead Batiuk decided to end this arc (for now?) with a week of strips where Linda gets down on her knees in front of his author avatar so she can fellatiate Les Moore’s metaphorical ego-dick.

In the past, I’ve tried to cut Tom some slack. But not today. Please insult this man.

29 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

We have Always been Allies with Eastasia.

Link to today’s strip

I hope no one expected much out of me this shift, because I literally cannot see the screen through my seething rage. There’s nothing more I can possibly say that others haven’t said better. In case anyone out there doesn’t read the amazing comments provided everyday by our Funkysnark crew, here are couple that show we know Batiuk better than any New York Times reporter. I promise tomorrow, when I’ve had time to process my anger, I’ll attempt to mold it into something of my own creation, rather than plagiarize the hilarity of others.

beckoningchasm
Oh
My
GOD

Batiuk is going to make Bull’s death All About Les, isn’t he? Good GOD, is there no depth to which this man will not sink to promote The Worst Character In The Entire World?

Banana Jr. 6000
Let’s cut to the chase here… this is going to be about Les getting over being bullied, isn’t it? Even though they had a friendship for many years in adulthood, that extended to Bull helping Les’ daughter rehab her knee, and Bull managing Les’ precious Lisa’s Legacy run. But no, as we saw at the funeral, Les just isn’t over it yet.

It’s creepy how much the town of Westview indulges Les’ bizarre psychological needs. Like with the new Lisa’s Story movie, he didn’t even start it – Mason Jar did! And then a random person came up to say yes, Lisa’s Story is a universal tale that must be seen by all. Now Linda invites him over to show him this picture when he should be the one consoling her.

Les’ life is like the part in Being John Malkovich where John Malkovich takes the passageway into his own head, and all the dialog in the world is just “Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich.” Which should be horrifying, but Les’ ego is so huge it seems perfectly normal to him.

Epicus Doomus
Sometimes I seriously believe that BatYap is writing this shit just for us and amusing himself by our consistently outraged, bored and disgusted reactions. “Heh heh, watch them freak out when I have Bull and Les sharing a water bottle on the football practice field, they’ll lose their minds!”.

See above. Now it’s not only not about CTE or suicide anymore, it’s not even about Bull OR Linda, but LES! Apparently this old and totally implausible photograph that Linda lovingly shared with Les triggers Les’ memories about what a disgusting slobbering animal Bull was, all sweaty and gross and germ-laden. That’s some truly touching and timely stuff right there. I’m wagering that he didn’t share this part of his big prestige arc with the NYT people.

27 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Deafinitely Dumb

Hey, remember when this story arc was about Bull?
Today’s strip sure doesn’t.

Look, I’m just going to gloss over the fact that Dinkle was actually introduced well over a year into this strip’s existence and just give TB credit for remembering that Funky Winkerbean itself is 47 (and a half) years old… And with that out of the way I’ll go right into wondering what the heck this has to do with Bull, his condition, his life, or anything. I guess if you twist your neck 117 degrees and squint until you experience sharp pain in your temples it appears the notoriously egotistical Dinkle (or is that Buck?) is paying Bull a compliment by saying they were equals despite his long and incessant history of considering all things inferior to himself and his marching band. But really this is just TB repackaging his biggest hit.

Dinkle is the only thing about this strip that has ever moved merchandise. His “football fields are for band practice!” bit covers books and t-shirts, and even serves as his character’s introductory line in the stage play Funky Winkerbean’s Homecoming. Dinkle’s shtick has sold band posters (“Dinkle wants your horn to twinkle”) and shoes, and no less than 9 Dinkle-specific collections of FW strips have been published! No, seriously, there have been 4 Lisa books and 9 Dinkle books.

Football Fields are for Band Practice!
Sunday Concert
Harry L. Dinkle Live at Carnegie Hall
I Never Promised You a Rose Parade
Gone with The Woodwinds
Would the Ushers Please Lock the Doors!
Attack of the Band Moms
The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Football Field
Music is Worth it… Music is Worth it… Music is…

This is nothing more than TB pushing his most-recognized character/cash cow into a story the New York Times inexplicably gave him ink for. Ugh!

43 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky