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
Oh Goodie! Just my luck, a strip so banal that the entire thing, both in words and artwork, progresses the story in an almost negative direction!
In panel one, a lobed-headed monstrosity announces from the inky black crowd mass that the auction is about to start. We know this can’t be Darin or Jess since it’s shown in the next panel that they’re jockeying for position in in the back row like this is church or something. The unseen person doesn’t say ‘The auction is about to start,’ like a normal person might, but mentions again the full title of the auction. This gives him a chance to utter the name of The Blessed Dead St. Lisa aloud, which knocks off a few hours of future Masky McDeath Purgatory. No one in Funkyverse ever passes up a chance to mention St. Lisa’s name.
In the second panel, the vaguely Asian woman is either chewing tobacco, or has a severe case of lump jaw. But the greatest miscreation of this scene blooms between Darin and Jess like a horrifying, fleshy flower. Four hands. THERE ARE FOUR HANDS! Gripping and grasping each other in a sweaty mass. And creeping out of Lockjaw’s hair are the slender fingers of Jess’s right hand. Meaning… DARIN HAS THREE HANDS!
Luckily in the last panel, we learn that jogging lightly for less than three miles sends Darin’s pulse rate skyrocketing. Congestive heart failure will soon end his multi-appendaged misery. And I for one look forward to Darin’s Legacy Fund for Congenital Defects.
Also, are we sure that Darin hasn’t gotten a nose job? He looks uncannily like Masone Jarre. I’m predicting a ‘Talented Mr. Ripley’ scenario coming soon. And Jess can join in! All she has to get is a bob cut and she would look just like Cindy!
I don’t know quite what to make of this. Usually I can tell what the punchline’s supposed to mean so I can ascertain how unsuccessful Batiuk is, but this leaves me baffled. Are the Rotary Mentors called “Angels” or something? That must be it.
And no doubt that made Cayla think for a moment that Les had lost his mind before he explained his odd comment. I wonder if she was supposed to (like me) think that Les has gone around the bend and meant that Lisa was going to make sure everything worked by offering spiritual support for the Run.
The Run… God, it’s this dumb thing again. Even worse as they have decided to have printed t-shirts with Lisa sitting on that damn bench, as if that would mean anything to anyone.
Other annoying things: The fact that it’s always called “The Lisa’s Legacy Run” no matter what. That Cayla is apparently packing Les’s suitcase. That Les’s smug smirk appears in every panel where he’s facing us. That Cayla calls Les “The World Famous Author” despite the fact that his signing at the Columbus Museum of Art apparently is a bigger deal than anything he’s done before. And finally, that damn pink shirt she wears.
Anyway, this is it for me. Have fun with Epicus Doomus as he takes over starting tomorrow!