Today’s strip concludes (we hope and pray and hope and wish) this latest visit from the Ghost of Distress Past. Her Royal Wryness. The VHSaint herself.
Special thanks go out to Summer for being a prop with no impact on the story whatsoever, she has already collected her prize of appearing in a full 3 panel strip this week (panels will not necessarily be consecutive).
Special thanks also go out to Les for having such an insatiable ego and such milquetoast friends and family that he will continue to receive the unearned praise he has been given for decades now.
And extra special thanks go out to Crazy Harry, who demanded nothing but 18 panels of our precious time in return for his brilliant idea of pretending Isaac Asimov invented the concept of recording video using already obsolete technology.
On the subject of 18 panels (well, 16, thanks to a couple of 2 panel strips), this new Lisa tapes origin story actually takes up more column inches than the entire original origin story AND depiction of the recording of the tapes! That took just 16panels in fourstrips. For all its faults, Act II got to the point…
More word zeppelins in today’s strip… Not as bad as yesterday, but still, get your bookmarks out, folks!
You know, this is actually one of TB’s tidiest retcons, probably because it is one of the very few intentional ones he’s ever undertaken. It takes the original scene and changes its context (slightly) by depicting a previously unseen scene. Tidy. The pieces actually fit together. There are no loose ends, deleted original context, or unresolved conflict with the originals scene. See? That’s not so hard.
Heck, as a bonus it even (unnecessarily but adeptly) explains a silly detail from the original scene, why Les has a camcorder and this Hari Seldon story readily at hand as if he was waiting for Lisa to lament about all the things Summer she will never get to experience. Turns out, he pretty much was just waiting on the chance to whip that camera on out.
Tidy as it is, this retcon was no more entertaining or less irritating because of it. In fact, it makes the origin story of the Lisa tapes tremendously off-putting. The focus shifts away from the impending reality of Summer growing up without a mother seen in the original scene to the needs of Summer’s nogoodnik parents… First, Lisa wants to record the tapes so she can live vicariously through Summer’s adolescence in her imagination. Then, Crazy and Lisa hatch this cockamamie plan to let Les take credit for the idea to record the infamous tapes, which only soothes his ego and bolsters his hero complex. These people are awful and I hope I never wind up sitting next to any of them on an airplane.
I’m surprised it took until today’s strip for the word zeppelins to arrive… but one has docked right at Crazy’s mouth and is unloading such a tremendous volume of technobabble that it threatens to lift the roof right off the porch of the Taj Moore-hal! In explaining the concept of recording Lisa’s advice on video, Crazy somehow spits out 60% more words than Les did in the original take on this story back in 2007. It is almost enough to make you pity Lisa, who apparently had to listen to this verbal assault twice.
Hey, I said almost…
I’m not a big Isaac Asimov guy or a sci-fi reader in general, I’ve always been very much a non-fiction reader when it comes to things that aren’t comics, so I cannot tell you how accurate or apt or idiotic or unnecessary Crazy’s rambling is (I can tell you it makes for miserable comic strip reading, but that should go without saying). I suspect we have some folks much better suited to that than me in our comments section, so I will now turn this over to my fellow SOSFers.
So much for Summer’s reappearance… with today’s strip we’re now seven panels removed from Monday’s “Hey Harry! What Brings?” with no end in sight to the sepia-toned sadness blocking Ms. Moore from view. If that’s not bad enough for poor Summer, Lisa can’t be bothered to even mention “her daughter” by name in the word salad she spits out in panel 2.
Are we headed toward another unnecessary and uninteresting retcon?
Cue the laugh track for today’s strip… because otherwise there’s just this long, awkward pause between non-jokes. It’s like a newsprint manifestation of those “sitcom without the laugh track” videos, only more more cringe-inducing. Why are these two ostensible friends (one of whom is terminally ill) being insufferable to each other? This kind of thing works when you establish that the two characters have some type of relationship and that unbearable wryness is their M.O. As far as I know, Crazy and Lisa never had much of a relationship of any kind (he was Les’ weirdo buddy), much less a whole Gilmore Girls thing going on.
Lisa really let Harry slide on that face after saying she didn’t feel as bad as she looked? Sure, she’s dressed like Crankshaft, but she’s also sick and at her own home. He’s the one who went out in public dressed like Gallagher wearing a Paul Simon Halloween costume.
Today’s strip appears to be the latest installment of one of TB’s most recent recyclable story concepts: “old person has a Lisa flashback in front of Summer”. Of course, it’s also the latest installment in his most overplayed story… but we all knew we would be back here eventually.
Just how many Lisa tapes are there? We can see 5 or 6 peeking out of the top of the box Crazy is carrying today, meaning there are probably at least 10 total in the box. The box Summer brought to him close to seven years ago was about twice as deep, also with about 5 or 6 tapes visible out of the top. This suggests that there are about two dozen tapes, over two full days worth of Lisa video assuming she recorded a full 2 hours in SP mode on each tape.
Regardless of how many of these tapes there are, they can’t be much more than conversation pieces now given that Crazy baked them when converting them all those years ago. Not that Les wanted anyone conversing about them despite having 7 or more of them on prominent display in his living room.
Hal Foster himself shows up at the King Feature Syndicate offices, and fishes Phil Holt’s unsolicited submission out of the trash.
Hal Foster was auditioning people to take over for him. So he would know who the candidates were, and who submitted what pieces of art. This drawing being in the trash implies its worth clearly enough.
It doesn’t look like Phil Holt had much of a “try out” for Prince Valiant. It looks like he made an unsolicited submission to a large publisher, which was promptly thrown in the trash. By the receptionist. Ouch.
This is typical, though. Most big media companies have a stated policy of “we do not accept unsolicited submissions,” and return them to the submitter with a letter to that effect. This so people can’t claim the publisher stole some half-baked idea they submitted, and try to sue them for damages.
But who’s that in the background? A man who is very specifically drawn; has a monogrammed art satchel; a pair of initials no real person who worked on Prince Valiant had; and looks like he’s waiting for an interview.
It’s Batton Thomas.
As further evidence, I submit this photo from the Funky Winkerbean blog:
That’s Tom Batiuk on the left. I don’t know who the other man is, because I don’t know the context of this photo. It’s too young to be Hal Foster, who was born in 1892, and looked like this in 1962.
Today’s strip makes it clear that Phil Holt tried to nag his way into a tryout, when Batton Thomas had a genuine tryout lined up. Which raises the obvious question: why is this story about Phil Holt and not Batton Thomas??!! Just from today’s strip, we know that Thomas has a better “I tried out for Prince Valiant” story.
This makes Phil look like a liar. In fact, this strip raises a lot of questions:
Two days ago, Phil said he has memory problems. Are we supposed to infer that his recollection of events is false?
Phil said he was “up against” Wally Wood and Gray Morrow, but he didn’t even have an appointment to show his work when Batton Thomas did.
Sunday’s strip was Phil telling an obviously fake story. Is he doing it again?
Does Kitch know everything Phil says is baloney, and is just humoring him for some reason?
Does today’s strip mean Tom Batiuk himself auditioned for Prince Valiant? Batiuk has never spoken of this.
Why would Batiuk give this storyline to his Jack Kirby clone instead of his self-insert character?
What does it say about the cast of Funky Winkerbean that it has multiple characters who could have plausibly auditioned to draw Prince Valiant in 1970?
What’s even real in this world?
The Funkyverse tries to use Expy Coexistence. Characters are analogues of real people, but mention real people, places, and events. This is done very inconsistently, though. Some characters are real people (Hal Foster, Conan O’Brien); some are ersatz versions of real people (Phil Holt, Flash Freeman, Batton Thomas); some are purely fictional (Ruby Lith, Pete); some are unclear because they’re real names that are spelled wrong (Gary Morrow, Joe Schuster); and some are fantastic entities that can’t exist in a realistic world (Holtron, Lord of the Late). Some fictional characters are real people in this world (Dick Tracy); some fictional comic worlds are still fictional in this one (Prince Valiant, Batman); and this world has its own in-universe fictional properties (Starbuck Jones, the entire Atomik Komix oeuvre).
There are a lot of other inconsistencies that need to be cleared up, too. Like how the time skips are supposed to work.
Funky Winkerbean needs a Universe Bible. I know Tom Batiuk can do this, because he wrote one for Batom Comics. And it’s actually decent. It’s concise, has a clear idea what it wants to convey, and isn’t trying to bludgeon you with a dictionary. Compare that group of blog posts with this group and you’ll see the difference.
This will also be a Cartooning Suggestion:
This would solve a lot of the problems that arise from Tom Batiuk constantly reinventing characters and the strip’s history to fit short-term story needs.
It’s Day 10 of the arc, and this is the fifth strip that could have been omitted entirely. It does not advance the story, reveal any new information, or serve any other purpose.
When I was in high school, I was in a theater production of Rebel Without A Cause. There’s a scene where a character dies because his car goes off a cliff. We accomplished this by playing a sound effects audio clip on the PA system, and telling the actors to improvise some dialog to fill the time. They never got it right. It was either “He’s getting close to the edge! He’s going to go over the edge! Oh no, he’s at the edge! He’s really close to the edge now!” Or they just said random things, and were somehow surprised when the crash sound happened.
Funky Winkerbean reminds me of that. It has no idea what pacing it needs, or what direction it wants to go. It’s just slow, slow, slow, slow, slow, slow, slow, ohmygodIneedtowrapthisuphurryhurryhurryhurry. It’s either burying you under an avalanche of pointless exposition because it’s got all week, or skipping important story points to get finished because the week’s almost over. It’s like watching the first hour of a long. tedious movie, and then random bits of the rest of it.
I blame Tom Batiuk’s insistence on week-long story arcs. I think it’s one of the less-talked about reasons why Funky Winkerbean is as bad as it is. Batiuk seems far more interested in making his arcs exactly six days long than he is in making them any good. I would put an end to that, with the second of my Comics Suggestions:
No more week-long arcs. Stories will be the number of days they need to be, rather than filling an arbitrary length for no good reason. Hopefully, this will encourage the culling of unproductive strips (which this arc has a lot of), and let stories happen more naturally.
This also replaces the “three-week rule” Batiuk frequently mentions. There’s nothing wrong with long story arcs, if they are otherwise compelling. This is dreadful at any length.
Ha, ha ha! He’s screwing with the students’ educations and undermining his fellow faculty members! Just to suit his own needs! Isn’t that HILARIOUS? Comedy f*cking gold right there, folks! What a guy! No wonder eleven or twelve Ohioian band directors love Dinkle and tape these Dinkle strips to the side of their office filing cabinets! Haphazardly, too, no doubt. Then, after they inevitably retire, those same strips are scraped away with a razor knife and become more floor sweepings, quickly forgotten floor sweepings. It’s kind of sad, really.
I’d give just about anything if this arc would just abruptly stop and suddenly go into, I don’t know, a few strips where Funky works out or Holly uses the credit card or something. Anything. Dinkle being felled by a massive coronary would be good too, but then there’d be a flashback-packed funeral arc that’d drag on for weeks, and no one wants that. And as we all know, it wouldn’t necessarily mean he was really, permanently dead, as people return from the dead all the time in the Funkyverse. So really there’s just no practical way to get rid of him, ever. BatHam likes him and he’s going to feature him twelve weeks every year whether we like it or not.