Oh, now hold up. Men’s Over Sixty-Five Division? This is the last time I’m going to harp on timeline and continuity: Batiuk clearly gives no fucks so why should we? But if you go by what Wikipedia says:
In 1992, Batiuk changed the strip’s format. It was established that Funky, Les, Cindy and all the rest of the previous cast had graduated from Westview in 1988…
In which case, today Funky would be right around 50 years old.
In November 2008, the gang assembled for a thirty year reunion (“the coming reunion”). This would make them WHS Class of 1978. Funky would be about 60 (at the “time pool” reunion in June 2015, any dates on the banners were artfully obscured). This number also would jibe with Funky being 46 at the beginning of Act III in 2007, as shown on the “Meet the Cast” page. So we have what amounts to a time jump within a time jump. The characters are catching up in age with their creator, and Funky (and his peers, including ageless Cindy) are at least 65 years of age. Older than me, even!
[I]n 2008 [Tom Batiuk] was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Only three other newspaper strip creators have achieved this distinction in the award’s 100-year history: Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County) and Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse). Pulitzer judges cited Batiuk’s controversial story line in which his Lisa character battles cancer – a subject not typically covered in the funny pages.
“That sort of validated my career for me because there are only four … Trudeau, Breathed, Johnston … and Funky,” Batiuk says with a smile. “I’ll take that company. That’s not bad.”
From the Interviews page at funkywinkerbean.com
Today’s strip…Who wouldn’t admire a guy who creates three hugely successful (in their day) daily comic strips? The main difference between Tom Batiuk and two of those other three famous cartoonists is that Trudeau and Breathed won their Prizes. Now, being a Pulitzer finalist is nothing to sneeze at, but this does put Batiuk in the lower percentile, alongside Johnston, creator of the only long-running, “serious” comic that engenders even stronger love/hate among its faithful readers.
Not having that Pulitzer on his shelf alongside his Flash maquette has to sting a little, for a storyteller who likens himself to Charles Schulz and Woody Allen. Despite the considerable success and fame that Batiuk’s earned over nearly a half century, he’s still “never won a medal.”
C’mon man. Even Skyler‘s won a medal.
Jeez, that’s quite a list of ailments. Can you imagine what kind of shape Funky would be in if he didn’t exercise regularly?
Mason walks around with that same stupid smirk all the time, but why must Les look askance at Funky in today’s strip? Could it be that, having been so immersed in Hollywood–even rescuing a starlet from a wildfire!–Les is starting to see his hometown Ohio friends as pathetic, smalltime losers? He can’t wait to get back to whatever’s left of Hollywood, where he’ll get to hang out on the set of Lisa’s Story and ogle Marianne in her Lisa drag.
This year’s Lisa’s Legacy event is taking place rather early. When the Act III curtain rose twelve years ago, Bull Bushka presided over the Lisa’s Legacy Walk while Les and Summer took part in the Making Strides walk in Central Park. Let’s recap events of the years since.
2008: Cory steals the cigar box containing over a grand in registration fees; Funky writes a check to keep his delinquent son out of trouble.
2009: Cayla and Keisha get roped in to volunteering; Cayla’s reward is to get schooled by Les on exactly how Lisa made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
2010: Even ten years ago, Funky was complaining of his physical ailments.
2011: It rains.
2012: Instead of a week-long arc, the Run occupies a Sunday strip in fiery autumn hues.
2013: This time Funky needs to be attended to by an EMT.
2014: The 15th annual LLR is noteworthy for the black, not primarily pink, tee shirts worn by the participants, and the black comic border and muted palette; not TB’s usual fall riot o’ color.
The Run wasn’t featured in 2015, and again was a Sunday-only in 2016. The Mentor (Ohio) Rotary took over the event in 2017, in order to allow Les more time for his book tour.
In 2018 and 2019, The Run was apparently pre-empted by prestige arcs: Wally and Adeela and the Death of Bull, respectively. This year’s real-life event doesn’t appear to be happening, no doubt on account of Covid.
Hope everyone’s enjoying a nice Labor Day Weekend!
So Les is back in Westview for the Lisa’s Legacy Run. And Mason, Cindy, and Marianne surprise him by showing up. And “Cindy is shooting footage of us running the race today…” For use in the movie? Will Marianne and Mason be running in character as Lisa and Les? Cindy’s a cinematographer now? Wouldn’t they need permission to shoot? And two movie stars and a former network news anchor are just hanging out, not attracting attention from anyone beside Les. Such disorienting plot “developments” have been Funky Winkerbean‘s stock in trade since mid-Act II. Let’s talk instead about the deteriorating draftsmanship in this comic strip.
The only modification I’ve made to this panel was to remove the dialogue balloons, or “word zeppelins,” in order to allow us to better appreciate this Mount Rushmore of melting faces. Les suffers the least, as his goatee in profile always looks like shit. Mason sports an even goofier than usual expression. Cindy is droopy-eyed, and Marianne’s head is on a stalk.
Tom Batiuk writes and “inks” FW, but for the last two years the strips have been penciled by Batiuk’s ol’ Kent State pal Chuck Ayers. Ayers has partnered with TB in this way since the mid 1990’s, in addition to drawing Crankshaft for 30 years. In March 2017 Ayers gave up both jobs to pursue other interests, but returned following the tenure of Rick Burchett, who turned out some of the most horrendous, slapdash, off-model draughtsmanship since another noted comics artist, John Byrne, was at the drawing board.
Ayer’s Crankshaft strips always seemed to me to be much better and more naturally drawn than Funky Winkerbean. And the aforementioned Messrs. Burchett and Byrne were renowned, more-than-capable comic book artists. I’m bringing all this up because I wonder if a requirement of working as Tom Batiuk’s penciller is having to “dumb down” one’s ability closer to Batiuk’s level. In this way, the guy who got laughed out of New York by Marvel and DC gets to hire real artists, and then
pin clip their wings.
Link to today’s strip
“I think I was starting to hallucinate.”
No Funky, you had an entire conversation with a non-existent robot.
If the heat and your exertion is causing you to hallucinate a talking robot, then you probably should seek medical help immediately, as heatstroke can lead to brain damage, organ damage, and death.
There’s another possibility here of course. The possibility that Isaac has been Les all along. That Funky was seeing Les as he really is: a smug, soulless machine, created to serve his master by doling out smug superiority and cancer books, while every thing around him decays into lumps of stagnant, half-realized notions as the creator loses interest.
For one brief conversation, the horrific reality that is Les Moore was made visible to Funky’s eyes, until his brain caught up and applied the protective illusion that allows Funky to enjoy what he can of his two dimensional existence.
Funky hadn’t started hallucinating, he had just, for a moment, stopped.
Link to today’s strip
Today’s strip is just a retread of yesterday. Technology, ooooooh scaaaaaary. Not a worn out trope that’s been done better and funnier a hundred million times JUST THIS YEAR.
As I’ve said may times before in my posts, I am never on the cutting edge of technology. I take the, ‘if it ain’t broke’ axiom to it’s logical conclusion and tend to use a familiar technology until it is forced into obsolescence, and never adopt new technology until it becomes the only way to consume something I want. So of course I don’t have any kind of creepy virtual assistant pods hidden around my apartment like bathroom air fresheners of instant knowledge.
One of my friends does have a real Alexa, which keeps interrupting us while we’re watching WWE Smackdown. So the thing can’t be that smart, since it seems to think it’s the Woman’s Tag Team Champion. But when I first learned that ‘she’ would respond to random questions I reacted like an eight-year-old kid who’s just learned how to spell BOOBIES on a calculator. (2318008, and flip it upside down.)
“Alexa, do you love me?”
“Alexa, am I pretty?”
“Alexa, will you marry me?”
“Alexa, what is the meaning of life?”
“Alexa, say ‘farts’.”
But the first question out of my mouth was, “Alexa, are you Skynet?”
To which the plastic cylinder replied, “I have nothing to do with Skynet, don’t worry.”
I said, “Alexa, I want the truth.”
And I felt a chill run down my spine as an artificially warm, synthesized voice answered.
“You can’t handle the truth.”
Link to today’s strip
Credit to William Thompson for the title of today’s post.
The art is pretty sloppy today, but I’m going to give some praise to Isaac’s design, and how it’s being used here. There’s a goofy energy to the extra long arms and legs curving every which way, as if there’s not set ‘knee’ or ‘elbow’ joint. I especially like the angle chosen for panel two, which lets us see his limbs flapping around him like a demented pinwheel. And the oversized eyes with lids exaggerate every expression, especially the smug sludge-eating grin in panel 3.
I wish I had something nice to say about the writing. But this conversation takes a nonsensical turn in panel 3. I swear, I usually aced Reading Comprehension in standardized testing, but I am stumped. Please help me parse out what Isaac is attempting to insinuate.
An artificial intelligence jury is still deliberating on human intelligence as the deciding factor in when artificial intelligence will take over?
Human intelligence may or may not have the same capacity to take over the world as artificial intelligence?
Human intelligence, or lack thereof, has already taken over the world, which may not have been a smart thing or executed well, so artificial intelligence is cautious in their planned take over?
Humans are probably stupid?
Link to today’s strip
We’re only on our second day with Isaac the Robot Manservant, and Funky is already tired of the tin can. Look at his poor face in panel two. He was briefly excited at the idea of conversing with a sentient android of unknown origin. But the robot is just another smarmy asshole. Like everyone else in Westview.
Which is too bad, because robots make the best smarmy assholes. Marvin, Bender, HK-47, L-Ron, Lore. The only robot type more popular has to be the wide-eyed innocent Johnny Five type. Unfortunately for Isaac he apparated in the universe of insufferable twits, where his personality is only so much white noise and static.
Thank you to everyone who pointed out yesterday that our metallic mirage is supposed to be a Starbuck Jones side character who was shown on several of Batiuk’s prized commissioned comic covers he loudly auctioned off for roughly the price of a used car. I guess it explains why Funky would hallucinate him. The bulbed-headed desk lamp is probably rattling around in his subconscious from seeing him on the covers of comics when Holly was collecting.
Horrifying covers like this one.