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…
“Bunged up”? Is Funky continuing to morph into Crankshaft or is he suddenly a British chap with a bit of a knee allergy? Either way, Funky has apparently had the kind of knee trouble that keeps you off the tennis court for over four years (shout out to that Rick Burchett artwork). And, of course, Les got better results from tennis lessons than Funky did. Of course.
Today’s strip is all about the numbers for me… and not just the zip code of “Boston, Mass”. We’ve got 3 faculty on stage here, which is what… half of WHS’ known paid staff these days (along with Les, Cayla, and Lefty)? Of course, maybe you only need 4 teachers, 2 administrators, and a Dinkle when you only have 16 students in your senior class. To be fair, only nerds would show up for a school assembly during the last weeks of their senior year, so maybe these are just all the nerds (that would explain why Maris Rogers is having to plan on crashing graduation parties instead of hosting them).
Wait a second, this is the Senior Honors assembly. That explains it…
The good news is we can all boot up our Packard Bells and our MS Paints and join Bernie out in Tinseltown, where we’ll be paid handsomely for our rudimentary green screen skills (citation needed). Here’s a blank Bernie to start with:
Link to another dumb question from Maddie that I can’t believe she’s never asked her mom before. And how has Maddie not seen the picture at Montoni’s? She worked there.
Who doesn’t at least know the very basics of how their parents met? Heck, I referenced my own parents’ story of sneaking out to the county fair behind my grandma’s back in the very first post of my shift. I will admit, sometimes I pretend like I haven’t heard a story, just so I can hear it again; but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
And, as many of you have commented, this story has more holes than Swiss Cheese. The real backstory here is that in 2001 or 2002 Batiuk realized that he had married off Les to Lisa and Funky to Cindy and wondered who he should set Crazy Harry up with. He then had the idea to reveal that The Eliminator kid was a girl all along, and have her and Crazy fall in love. Not the worst idea, really. Done right it could have been a cute reference to ‘Samus is a girl!’. The problem was in the execution.
In Metroid, Samus isn’t ‘hiding’ her gender because the Mother Brain is sexist and won’t fight a woman. She’s just in an androgynous space suit for most of the game. Players might assume she’s male, but it’s not confirmed either way until the end.
I haven’t read all the old The Eliminator strips; I don’t know how often she self-refers as male. So I don’t know how feasible it would be to present Donna’s past actions as allowing the people around her to think she was a boy because she didn’t care to clarify, or because she thought it was funny. (“I was named for your Grandpa Donald. My mom always called me that when she was angry.”)
But the only other way to salvage this would be writing a more serious story about Donna as an insecure little girl who thought she needed to disguise herself coming to the realization as an adult that she was wrong. Because she didn’t need to. Period. Mary Ellen, and Livinia, and Junebug, and even Wanda have proved that handily almost a decade before The Eliminator is introduced.
Batiuk is repeatedly guilty of recontextualizing his own past to suit the narrative of the now. I found some old puff piece newspaper articles that just plain don’t make sense after reading the first few years of Funky Winkerbean.
To Batiuk, delving back into the high school years with the gay prom issue underscores the generational changes and contemporary challenges his characters faced once he decided to let them begin aging along with Batiuk and the rest of us.
“I had crossed the threshold and I had grown up and the characters wanted to grow up too, it seemed like,” Batiuk said in an interview in his cozy and bright studio jammed with books and mementos.
“Funky Winkerbean” might have a lower profile in mainstream culture than, say, “Doonesbury,” possibly because “Funky” was a gag cartoon in the early years when society was highly politicized in the Vietnam era and has become more issue-oriented since the 1990s…
When he began “Funky Winkerbean” on March 27, 1972, Batiuk was a 25-year-old cartoonist who seemed to be purposely unaware of the furor then affecting American society. The Vietnam War was still a focus of the nation’s rage, Watergate was just beginning to heat up and all the rest of the post-‘60s-era concerns – sexism, racism, the Cold War, social-welfare programs – hogged the daily headlines.
In the midst of this, Batiuk’s strip existed as if in another dimension. His characters were mostly students whose main interests involved air-guitar contests, flaming-baton routines, bullies roaming the hallways, student popularity polls and how to survive the daily humiliations of gym class.
In the 90’s and beyond, Batiuk wanted to pretend he hadn’t been talking about ‘serious issues’ in Act I, because he wanted attention for talking about them now.
The first years of Funky Winkerbean didn’t exist in a ‘different dimension.’ They were more contemporary than the modern strip has been in years.
SUGAR PRICE SPIKE OF 1974.
Some of these events were very much ‘of their time.’ For someone like me, born after this era, reading through is a fun little history lesson. Like when I was a kid, learning about the 80’s by reading Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits and watching old VHS of Saturday Night Live.
But other ‘current events’ only serve to prove that time is a flat circle, and the more things change…the more they stay the same.
In today’s strip Les, appropriately, puts all of his stolen Hollywood paraphernalia in same place.
Marianne doesn’t appear to understand the concepts of opacity and walls.
Cayla plans to monetize this display even though presently no one seems willing to visit the Moore house for free (and peoplearewilling tovisitDinkle!).
Why am I blandly narrating this strip in lieu of hard-hitting commentary and rapier wit? Because I know my limits. Why is Les blandly narrating his actions in the first panel? Because there is no limit to his disdain for even those that worship him.
Today’s strip marks Summer’s first appearance since… oh wait, yeah, sorry, that’s (Marianne) Winters, not Summer.
Summer actually has appeared in this strip as recently as 7 weeks ago, which is not something you could often say since she graduated high school. Even so, it’s kind of remarkable that Les and Cayla have interacted more over the past few years with a now-Oscar-winning actress than they have with their own children, both of whom (still!) appear to go to Kent State… less than an hour away from where Westview is generally considered to be.
And by “remarkable” I mean 1/4 inch AU from reality. I think I would have found it more relatable and more entertaining had we focused instead on the adventure that must have been Marianne’s efforts to bring an Oscar stuffed in a small drawstring bag through a TSA checkpoint.
Ah, the classic tug-of-war between privacy-invading exuberance and false modesty… who wins that race to the bottom in today’s strip?
Les’ false modesty does, of course. For one thing, it’s coming from Les, which makes it an additionally off-putting version of an already off-putting behavior. The biggest reason, though, is that Cayla’s desire to “let people know” is essentially moot, everyone already knows. Anyone who cares saw Marianne tell the television cameras that she was coming to give her Oscar away to Les this week. Yeah, if she’s trying to organize a mob to meet Marianne then that might not work if by “on the way” Marianne means that she’ll be there within the hour… but with Marianne’s very public announcement of her planned visit and the relatively specific time frame she gave, the Taj Moore-hal should have been descended upon by pushy celebrity obsessives and Starbuck Jones fans days ago. Where are they? Where’s Lenny and Frankie and (ugh) DMZ? Why am I asking you?
Quite the crowd on hand in today’s strip, with the first panel serving as the Batiukverse equivalent of the semi-famous crowd reaction photo from the 2017 Academy Awards’ wrong envelope incident. While the crowd of stars watching Marianne are not quite of the same wattage as those in the 2017 audience, I still spy some big names.
OK, I don’t know who this is, but his mouth is huge
The shirtless Nazi who gets shredded by a propeller in Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Dorothy Hamill (what’s with all the sports people?)
Today’s strip begs the classic 5 Ws (and an H) of writing. It also begins the Oscars story Variety promised last month. Yeah, I thought that maybe if I buried the lede it would stay in the ground, but alas.
Who is Mason talking to on the left? Wait, he calls her Marianne… that’s supposed to be Marianne Winters? The lady with the pentagon head and the pigtail-bun hairstyle my niece insisted on wearing when she was a toddler is Marianne Winters?
What is with TB’s willingness to use Hulu and HBO’s trademarked names but still insist on sticking to the eyeroll-inducing “Netbusters”?
When does TB think the Academy Awards ceremony takes place? We’re three weeks out from this year’s Oscars broadcast… Does that mean? Oh no, please no. I really hope TB just got the dates wrong.
Where is the “chateau” where this “real party” is happening? Chateau Marmont? Haha, really? I guess if you don’t know… then you don’t know. I’m in no hurry to find out, either.
Why are Cliff Anger and Vera Nash here? Neither one was involved in the Lisa’s Story movie at all… well, other than inexplicably being at the film’s wrap party.
How is this story going to end? Insufferably, no doubt. I don’t think any other outcome is possible.