In case you missed it, we are in the final weeks of Funky Winkerbean. Tom Batiuk appears to be reluctantly retiring the strip much in the same way he’s written Ruby as reluctantly retiring from Atomik Komix this week and in today’s strip. The timing of this thin gruel of a story arc and TB’s fairly muted announcement is certainly no coincidence. Most all of us here at SOSF, despite speculating for over a decade on when and how this thing would end, are probably still processing the suddenness of the announcement, how soon it will become reality, and what that means for this wonderful community going forward.
But enough wallowing about, let’s leave that to the strip and try to get back to business as usual. I guess today’s strip is aiming for bittersweet, but it largely is coming across as just bitter. You can’t mask your true feelings in a wall of smirks, TB… And even if the strip wasn’t ending at the close of this year, I’m guessing we were never going to see Chester meet with the building manager by looking in a mirror anyways. I’d say “a pity”, but, you know, it’s not. It’s really not.
Let me see if I’ve got this straight, Phil. You faked your own death so you could work without being bothered, and in the literal years since you’ve managed to draw and layout a single issue? Seriously? GRRM works faster than you! I swear to Galactus, if there isn’t Berserk levels of detail to every single panel of this book…
Jack Kirby would be ashamed! You know, the guy you’re supposed to be based on? Jack Kirby was a legend for his output and work ethic. He could complete multiple pages a DAY. The man was a machine. If Jack Kirby faked his death to work on a project for four years, the final output would rival Henry Darger.
But how close are you really to Jack Kirby? I took the time this week to watch a few documentaries, read a few articles and interviews. Let’s see how close Phil Holt stacks up to The King. The glorious co-creator of Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Mr. Miracle, The New Gods and so many more.
First of all, the physical resemblance is as close an approximation as the art style allows, especially in the earliest appearances. The poofy, swept back hair, the cigar, the squarish head and round face, all look like a caricature of Kirby. Even more, they look close to how Kirby depicted himself in comic form. The strip even goes out of it’s way to show that Phil is shorter, just like Kirby who was 5’6″.
The only difference is the glasses, and even then, the glasses seem to serve the function of giving him the boxed off square brow and deep set eyes he had naturally.
But does Phil resemble Jack in personality?
Not really. Phil is prickly, he snips and snaps at everyone. He might have depths of generosity, and hidden warmth, but twice he is described as someone whose resting state was antagonistic.
The Jack Kirby described by others, and I saw in interviews was not this person. Yeah, he was a pugnacious guy, who could hold a wicked grudge against people who he thought slighted him. He even lashed out at people he was frustrated with by creating comic villains to RESEMBLE those people.
But to anyone else, he was warm and welcoming. He had a wide circle of friends. People liked working with him. The documentary I watched talked about how random people would show up at his house and he would let them in, show them his studio, and his wife would feed them sandwiches.
Did you know he had a wife? And kids too! People he was financially supporting. Relationships that drove him to look for work and and fight for contracts that paid him his fair share of the profits he was creating, and get rights to royalties that would allow him to continue to provide for his family in the future.
And Jack Kirby never disavowed comics. Sure, in the 80’s he moved on to animation for Hanna-Barbara, but he created comics intermittently through the 80’s and early 90’s. He continued attending conventions and meeting with fans right up until the year he died. He was proud of his work, and went through a legal slugfest with Marvel trying to get his artwork back.
I might think it was petty to draw a sniveling caricature of poor Roy Thomas, and print it in the pages of DC; but I’ll give Jack Kirby this, he didn’t stomp out of an entire industry in a huff and never work again. Jack Kirby worked hard his entire life. He fought hard for his credit, and switched comics companies multiple times, because he wanted that hard work to be recognized. Not just for himself, but for his wife and kids.
Is Phil Holt meant to be Jack Kirby? Probably. But he’s a Jack Kirby that existed in a world where he had nothing to fight for but his own ego.
This was my favorite of the documentaries I watched. It’s probably more hagiography than strict history, but peeling back the veneer of eulogy you can still see that the truth of the man beneath. If you’ve got the time, and the inclination, I’d recommend.
DID YOU KNOW? Despite being drawn 24 times, Mindy has only been allowed to speak twice this entire month?
Pete, stop. The fish that clean other fish by eating algae out of gill slits are less pathetic and parasitical. By spouting out constant, enthusiastic, purposeless praise you’ve basically become the annoying junior sidekick that you said you despise.
So, the year was 2015. I was trying on used pants in the cluttered dressing room of a Goodwill, when my phone lit up. It was a friend of mine sending me a text.
Did u c the news?
Harrison Ford crashed his plane.
My heart immediately froze then sank. I sat down on on the bench, pants around my ankles, and frantically typed back.
Yeah, sounds like he’s ok tho.
And then, I could breathe again.
Understand, I don’t think Harrison Ford is a especially admirable person. I mean, he seems decent enough. He’s a Hollywood movie star. I imagine he’s a little egotistical, an ounce more hedonistic and self-serving than I generally like to see, but just a normal guy otherwise. A man I have never met, and will likely never meet, and if I ever did meet him it would just be a cool story for me, and a completely forgettable moment for him.
When he dies, (given our ages, odds are that it’ll be before me,) it really won’t affect my life. He’s not my dad, my grandpa, my friend, or even that one crazy old guy who used to come into the gas station to buy Mr Pibb and lottery tickets and always had a sassy word.
But when he dies, I’ll still be sad. Not devastated, but sad.
Because somewhere in a box of old school things, there’s a fifth grade note book where I drew hearts around a sticker of Han Solo and wrote, “My favorite actor, Harrisen Ford.” And beneath it, in the same box, is the 1998 People magazine when he was ‘Sexiest Man Alive’. I took that thing to school to keep in my desk. A very weirded out Mr. Dunlap asked me if I knew that Harrison Ford was older than he was. I didn’t care.
Harrison Ford was my first crush that wasn’t 2-D cell shaded, and no matter how much my adult brain understands that he isn’t really a part of my life, the lovesick girl in my heart still remembers. You can think of that as good, bad, or neutral; it is still a fact. His existence impacted mine. It’s the reason we mourn famous people. I don’t think it was unhealthy when I had a moment’s pause and pang of sadness at the passing of Christopher Lee, Johnny Cash, Carrie Fisher, or Hank Aaron. It’s natural to be sad when someone who played a part in your own life experiences passes away. When the world loses a little piece of itself that helped to shape it, it’s okay for all of us to notice.
So say Alan Rickman springs up from the audience of Ellen one day, explaining he really just needed some time away from Potterheads lusting over Snape. Or Terry Pratchett shows up at Dragoncon to accost Neil Gaiman, shouting that he knew he would ruin the legacy of Good Omens and just had to see for himself how he would do it. Or Robin Williams heckles Jerry Seinfeld off the stage and does an impromptu set of impressions of how everyone reacted to his pseudocide.
I wouldn’t be overjoyed they’re still alive.
I would be enraged.
They’d be alive, sure. But they’d be dead to me. The person I hoped they were torn away to reveal a callous, selfish monster who was content, even happy, to cause grief in the millions of people who thought of them fondly. Someone so narcissistic as to be oblivious to everyone elses’ feelings, and to come sauntering back into the spotlight expecting to resume their career and fame.
And if I learned that I, somehow, was the instigator of this decision in the famous person; the catalyst sparking all that grief, and now anger.
Well, if I never did anything else in my life, that would probably be the worst thing I’d ever caused.
Apparently, as long as you aren’t lying to or defrauding the government, or intending to defraud others, or committing some other crime in the process thereof, faking your death to others isn’t illegal.
But that doesn’t mean it’s victimless.
(BTW: Thanks to everyone who enjoyed yesterday’s metaphysical musings. It made digging through all the Les/Lisa ghost porn worth it. )
Comic Book Harriet, back in action. Ready to dig through the comic muck of this Inedible Pulp to, hopefully, stab at the heart of this horrifying nonsense.
First of all, I want to thank Spaceman Spiff for easing us through the shock and awe of the first ‘back from the dead’ soap opera moment I think we’ve had since Wally Winkerbean came home.
While some of you have been frustrated and angry at just how baffling the decision to retcon Phil Holt’s death is, I’ve actually been relishing the absolute stupidity of this arc. Unlike Batiuk’s biffing of Bull’s Suicide, the morally dubious resolution of the Adeela ICE arc, or the callous insensitivity of the LA Fires, the crazy on display here has no offensive real-world victims unless you find it libelous to Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, or Joe Simon.
And today, I finally get the answer to the most pressing question raised by Phil Holt’s ‘resurrection’: did he fake his death, or have a near death experience? Hanging on this question, was the interpretation of this strip from three years ago.
With the retcon, and the knowledge that Phil was completely fine at the time, there is only one explanation for these ghosts. Darin was imagining Phil and Lisa’s spirits having this conversation as they looked on approvingly at the auction. It was a fantasy that he concocted for his own gratification.
Furthermore, this suggests that every time we see ‘ghosts’ in strip it’s just the daydreaming of a living character, comforting themselves with a lie, roleplaying a no longer possible conversation, or expressing an internal anxiety, sometimes all at the same time.
Like when Lillian was visited by ‘Lucy’ coming back from the grave to lead her on a guilt purging journey of taking an undelivered letter to a demolished building, where Lucy and her old boyfriend Eugene could finally spiritually be together (even though Eugene was still alive at the time.)
Les of course is the worst offender of this. Lisa constantly pops up around him, encouraging him, praising him, agreeing with him, and smiling while watching him make out with his hot new wife.
But even Les seems to realize that this is just him projecting what he imagines Lisa would say. And that Lisa only lives on inside his mind as a fractured reflection of his memory. She sleeps forever, in the oblivion of death.
If I could ask Batiuk a personal question, I would ask if he believes in an afterlife. Because I don’t think he really does. I think he wishes there was something after death, but has been convinced that the only immortality we actually get is the lingering echoes we leave in the hearts and minds of others.
And, in time, those people will pass away, and so then passes even memory. Life has meaning, but only temporarily.
And so all metaphysical experience is really just human consciousness and awareness fractured and reflected back on itself. When we try to conceive of or reach out to God, or dead loved ones, or eternity, the only thing that can reach back is a part of yourself.
Dead St. Lisa was only a part of imagination. She’s no more or less real than that heatstroke robot Funky imagined when running, or Jeff’s Inner Child avatar, or Les’ depression cat.
But, then again, apparently the depression cat is real and crazy old film producers can see it.
And Dead Lisa did call into an airport and talk to customer service, then Les, then called in a phony bomb threat…
Meanwhile… *stupid cloud bubble panel border that TB inexplicably thinks should indicate an in-strip shift from one place to another*
Everyone’s 5th favorite Stooge, “Curly-Joe” DeRita, and Darth Vader himself are hanging out at Ye Olde Comic Shoppe. What’s that all about? Spacemanspiff85 is going to be our guide as we find out (provided we do in the next two weeks). Thoughts and prayers, man, thoughts and prayers.
Haiku post for today's strip
Where nothing happens
"Who spent most of his
Time at war with the world and
Ev'rything in it"?
We talking about
Phil Holt or that Ed Crankshaft?
Both? Makes me shudder
C'mon now, Durwood
Phil did not know a dang thing
About your mother
C'mon too, Mindy
Who here cares one iota
About your granddad?
Pete here wins the strip
Only offense is a smirk
Default win's a win
If there was a contest to use the most words possible to say “Flash and Phil didn’t like each other”, today’s strip would definitely be a contender. Same for a most exposition crammed into a single panel contest, with panel 1 making a game effort. The only place such contests could possibly exist is, of course, the Batiukverse… so please forgive me if similar contests appear in this strip a year from now.
All that exposition in the first panel and Flash doesn’t realize the hall of fame awards given out at Comic-Con honor the deceased on the regular? Seems like having Comic-Con remotely would work well in Flash’s hypothetical honoring a live Phil Holt scenario, but since Flash doesn’t even know that dead people regularly get honored at this and other hall of fame ceremonies then it stands to reason that he wouldn’t know that Comic-Con and other events are held remotely. And by “Flash” in the previous sentence, I mean TB.
How do you make a “long story” longer? You do what TB does in today’s strip, talk about how long the story is while telling absolutely none of it. It could low-level fridge brilliance if it was in the service of a joke about how long everything in this story arc seems to be taking.
How do you make a short SOSF post shorter? Make it about today’s strip…
All Hail! Here is the beloved Holy Ghost of Dead St. Lisa! Once again haunting a charity function in her honor. But this time she has company. Their horrible dialogue in the first two panels is supernaturally banal. The only interesting thing about what they’re saying is that the lines seem all out of order. SEEM.
Until you consider what we’ve seen of Funkyverse’s afterlife. Masky McDeath comes and reaps you, sure; separating spirit from body. But the multiple ghost appearances, by multiple characters, in the strip suggest a soul remains on Earth. Drifting through the physical world, fully conscious of what is going on around it, and tied to objects and family it was close to in life: Dance hall railings, benches, comic covers, bio-sons. It only makes sense that the spirits beyond would introduce themselves to each other by explaining what in the physical world is their current tether. What goes on in the real world has the power to please or distress them. Like ancient pagan ancestor worship, the memory offerings of their progeny please their departed souls.
Which is why it is HILARIOUS when Phil learns that the precious comic covers he kept framed on his dinky apartment wall all those years, and then willed to someone he thought would treasure them and his memory forever after his death, were instantly liquidated to enrich the memorial of a woman who didn’t give two shits about stupid disposable funny pages. Silly man, you thought you had a LEGACY? The Death Cult of St. Lisa devours all offerings!!!!
No preview…stay tuned. My guess: Boy Lisa drops by one of Les’ “Lisa Trilogy” book signings to drop off the Batom Comics covers for the big “Lisa’s Legacy” cancer charity auction while wearing a Kent State sweatshirt and everything at long last comes full circle.
UPDATE: There’s a lot of information packed into this little gem. I got the impression that Phil was bitter and angry, mainly by how bitter and angry he was acting, but today Boy Lisa verifies it. What a surprise, as the usual one-shot FW character is normally all full of rainbows and light and all.
Then things take a typically sappy turn as Darin’s Lisa “gosh darn helping people” gene kicks into overdrive which, strangely enough, sends Jessica into another craven display of wanton desire, this time sexual instead of financial. Man, this woman is just a ball of “help me I never signed up for this” energy, isn’t she?