Comic Book Harriet here! Taking the wheel one final time while this strip is still running, gently guiding it as it peacefully coasts to its final resting place.
As everyone has been saying in the comments, this arc has been monumentally bad. The sort of Aldo Keltrast, dog-in-the-corner while Margo smiles, Rey Skywalker, bad that will stand the test of time. Even if, for the last couple weeks, we get an abbreviated version of the kind of treacly Funky and Crew ending we all pretty much expected, the chance to make that ending a real story with a beginning, middle, end, goals, stakes, and conflict is pretty much over. It could have been as easy as Funky losing the keys to Montoni’s, or Les getting locked in the high school after dark. Any of us could pitch an ending more keeping with what this strip tried to be. Many of us HAVE pitched sci-fi endings more interesting than this.
But naw. Why don’t we have three weeks of emotionless, conflictless, exposition instead. Talk about what HAS happened and what WILL HAPPEN without any chance of it changing. Have two characters, one we definitely don’t care about and another we barely even know anymore, spout tensionless word zeppelins into the air, placidly; describing time travel and mind rape with the sort of bemused detachment I expect from people talking about a drizzly day.
I’ve heard more interesting descriptions on how to order from the Secret McDonalds Menu.
I don’t know how I feel about it. Because the part of me that is the nicest to Batiuk of our general crew. The part of me who confessed on a video chat with at least 10 other Batiuk haters, that a Crankshaft strip had made me cry. The part of me that chuckled at Vintage FW. That sappy part of me wants something better for the end, something to put a penlight (not a spotlight) on the B+ material this strip was occasionally capable of.
But the part of me that sat with a grin on my face through all of Rise of Skywalker. The part of me that laughed with glee when Phil Holt came back from the dead, and when Skyler blithely played with his grandfather’s murder weapon. The part of me brimming with self-righteous artistic indignation at every missed opportunity of this entire fictional universe. That nasty little gremlin inside is like…YES! THIS! LET IT END LIKE THIS! NOT IN GOODNESS! NOT IN THE GLORY OF A DUMPTER BLAZE! BUT IN THE REFINED PLATONIC IDEAL OF EVERY ONE OF BATIUK’S SINS! HIS DULLNESS! HIS LONGWINDEDNESS! HIS BLAND CHARACTERS! HIS AVATARS! HIS EGO! HIS NOSTALGIA! HIS OBTUSE LOGIC! THIIIIIISSSSSSSSSS
Great Moments in FW Arc Recap History: May 8, 1985. Les and Lisa on the bleachers.
Hannibal’s Lectern went off on a great tangent yesterday, talking about Harley Davidson motorcycles, and how the company wildly lies about the past to sell the present.
For those who are not familiar, H-D (the motorcycle company) trades heavily in “heritage,” its position as the world’s oldest motorcycle company. And they retcon that “heritage” like the old Soviet Union. How they do it is a lesson for Batiuk: they just do it. If the factual history doesn’t match the narrative they want to sell to their current customers, they just recite the narrative as if it were factual. No explanations. No acknowledgment of any inconvenient facts. No discussion.Hannibal’s Lectern. Published author, gentleman (?), and motorcycle enthusiast.
Hannibal suggests that Batiuk should have done that kind of retcon when bringing the timelines together. I disagree, I think he should have explained it with a single strip at the end of the Crazy-Harry-Time Travel arc. ( Crazy: “I guess it was all an off-gassing mind trip, if I had gone back in time…things would have changed in the present!” *Crankshaft walks by*)
Hannibal and I are united in our assessment that three weeks in a janitor’s closet is NOT the way to do it.
But Batiuk is no stranger to Stalinist revisionism, with disappearing children edited out of families like murdered Politburo members from photos. Batiuk describes Les and Lisa’s year long Act I relationship like this on the blurb to Lisa’s Stoy: Prelude:
Introduced to readers of Funky Winkerbean in late 1984 as she experiences SAT test anxiety, Lisa becomes Les Moore’s best friend and a pivotal character. Les and Lisa go to the prom, begin steady dating, and then break up. Over the summer, Les realizes how much he misses Lisa.
In his Match to Flame, he’s even more vague about the nature of their dating relationship.
While all of this was going on, that girl from my sketchbook had begun little by little to insinuate herself into the strip. In my mind, the students in the strip had reached their junior year and as such the junior/senior prom was looming. Les needed a date for the prom, and this new girl seemed to be the perfect candidate. Along with Les I learned her name—Lisa. They went to the prom together and continued to date. They followed the typical bell curve of a high school relationship and eventually broke up with Lisa transferring to another school. Nice story, that. The problem, however, is that I had really grown to like Lisa and I missed having her in the strip almost as much as Les seemed to. It turned out that my journey with Lisa was only starting. Twice I would banish her from the strip and twice she would return with a new story to tell.From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Five
What did that ‘typical bell curve’ relationship really look like?
Well, in early May 1985, Les Moore is busy litigiously harassing women while on his love quest.
He is as charming and suave as ever.
In our sanitized, censored, edited Act III, Batiuk presents Les getting up the guts to ask Lisa out, as if he already admired her.
When in reality, he didn’t even know her name. Like Billy The Skink pointed out in 2017, he was asking her because she was the last girl he hadn’t asked…and he had to psych himself up because he’d been rejected all day.
The dance goes well. He asks her to prom. Prom goes well. They kiss. Les crashes his car on the way home.
I guess they start dating. Though in the summer of ’85, Les is still openly oogling other women.
There is an entire week in August of ’85 dedicated to Les getting his braces stuck on Lisa’s sweater while they were necking. But that’s all we see of Lisa for the summer.
When school starts again, as a show of devotion, Les gives her a his pocket protector. Then he gets a horrible perm for the Homecoming Dance and freezes Lisa’s corsage…which does…something to her… off panel…
As a couple, Les and Lisa barely show up from Prom of ’85 through to about March of 1986. Much much much much more time is dedicated to Dinkle fundraising, Coach Stropp losing, people smirking at puns on TV. In all those months, I could find only a strip or two other than this. I think Batiuk didn’t know how to handle hapless Act I punching bag Les in a normal relationship. But then, in March, things take a turn.
The relationship goes toxic. And it goes toxic because LISA becomes jealous, crazy, manipulative, clingy, and physically abusive.
Les, being his extremely flawed Act I self, is no pure victim in this. But his forgetfulness and distance almost could be read as dissociation from the moment, as he tries desperately to cling to the validation of having a girlfriend even if that same girlfriend becomes someone he can’t handle.
Les finally gets up the nerve to break up with Lisa. By standing in a place both public AND where she can’t physically reach him without breaking taboos.
And their first round of dating ends like it began. With a creep threatening legal action.
Les pines for Lisa all summer long. And it is so typical of Funky Winkerbean that more strips are dedicated to Les moping around whining for Lisa after they broke up, than were spent on the what I assume were the happy times in their early relationship. And we have no clue what Les liked about Lisa in particular. He’s not missing Lisa, he’s missing the idea of being pair-bonded.
When school starts, he is determined to ask her out again. But…
I know that was a LONG archive dive. Even for me. But I wanted all of you to see this. Glorious Dead St. Lisa was not immaculately conceived sinless from the author’s pen. For a short while there, she was WORSE THAN LES. Batiuk has built up Les and Lisa’s relationship as a lynchpin to his universe. But the couple he puts up on a pedestal as the parents of the savior of humanity, had an utterly toxic beginning. That first year, they were two desperate, awful people that clung to each other for a while not out of any real deeper attraction or connection, but out of the self-centered desperation to be in some kind of relationship with anyone.
And now we know, it was Harley the Timeline Custodian who made it happen.
During the group chat last night (which was SO FUN,) it was announced that we will be doing a 2022 Funky Awards in January. I am currently accepting nominations for Best Strip, Worst Strip, Punchable Les, Panel of the Year, Storyline of the Year, and also suggestions for additional categories. Please email me at sgkhuk (AT) live (DOT) com.
I’m also considering doing some Act III character dives to run during voting week. Let me know if there’s any character in particular you want to get the ‘Is Wally Winkerbean the Pizza Monster?’ or ‘Why is Cayla Married to Les?‘ treatment.
Until then, see you in the comments you beautiful snarkers you!