Tag Archives: things that take an unnecessarily long time

Batting .500

Ugggggggggggggggggggggggggh.

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:

Story arcs must start on a day other than Monday, or end on a day other than Saturday and Sunday.

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.

29 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

I’m Aware Of His Work

Link to today’s strip

Today’s strip is a lesson in how Tom Batiuk’s sloppy writing is undone by his sloppy writing.

Phil’s remark feels like a passive-aggressive insult. The name Phil can’t think of is John Cullen Murphy, the artist who took over Prince Valiant when Hal Foster retired in the early 1970s. He remembers the names of brief fill-ins Wally Wood and Gray Morrow, but not the man who drew the strip for the next 30 years. These were all real-life people who worked on the real-life Prince Valiant comic strip.

When you’re making a list of something and intentionally leave off the most prominent example, it looks like you’re trying to make a point. You’re saying “The New England Patriots’ last few quarterbacks were Mac Jones, Cam Newton, Drew Bledsoe, and some guy whose initials were T.B.” It looks like you’re trying to downplay the person for some reason.

But the joke fails because… he got one of the names wrong! It was G-R-A-Y Morrow, not G-A-R-Y Morrow.

When the joke is “I forget the important one,” you have to remember the unimportant ones. Forgetting them too makes the intent unclear. This is why “beady eyed nitpicking” matters. I’m not being a spelling pedant here. I’m pointing out a problem with the execution of the joke that makes it fail. And because we’re supposed to believe comic strip characters are speaking aloud, it’s not a trivial error. If it was incorrectly spelled G-R-E-Y, it would be less bad, because it’s said the same.

The intent is unclear for another reason: What did John Cullen Murphy do to deserve being snubbed like this? This story doesn’t involve Murphy at all. Batiuk’s never mentioned him on his blog either. Murphy could still be introduced, but bringing real (and deceased) people into the story would get into some thorny areas. Is he going to be the villain?

I do like Phil’s description of “your mind playing charades with you” when you get older. I recently turned 50, and I can relate to this feeling.

The other day I was trying to remember the name of a college hangout from decades ago. I said “it was something like ‘Thirsty Turtle.'” I remembered later it was Purple Porpoise. I couldn’t remember the name, but I remembered Adjective Marine Animal, and also that it was alliterative. That helped my brain find the right answer. I figure this is just how your brain works when you get older. Your mind can’t make the direct connections it used to, and you have to take roundabout paths to find pieces of information.

The real problem is that Phil Holt has never been depicted as having memory loss. He needs it for today’s joke, so suddenly he’s always had it, and has a mechanism for coping with it. Tune in tomorrow, when Phil remembers the precise details of things that happened 50 years ago.

35 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

The Cartooning Commandments (Revised)

Oh goody, a needless vertical strip. To do an exposition dump on some tedious comics-related administrative process that happened 50 years ago. And wank over New York City some more.

Tom Batiuk speaks often of the “Cartooning Commandments.” Despite his assertions they are well-known and can be found on the Internet, they don’t seem to exist anywhere other than his blog. A lot of them don’t even make sense, or just reflect Batiuk’s own sensibilities. “Thou shalt only do funny comic strips. Your characters shall never grow up.” Nobody thinks those things but you, Tom.

Most importantly: they’re not helping. Tom claims he was given these guidelines to follow when he got started in cartooning 50 years ago. To the extent he’s following them at all, they’re not reducing any of the glaring problems in the strip. Sometimes they’re even counterproductive.

With that in mind, I want to write some new cartooning commandments. Commandments that, if followed, would actually help Funky Winkerbean be better. If I’m going to criticize something, I think it’s also my job to be constructive about it. And I can think of a lot of simple steps that would start to pull Funky Winkerbean out of the dull, self-indulgent abyss it’s been in for all of Act III. To keep the tone friendly, I will call them the Cartooning Suggestions.

Most of these suggestions will be in the form of “No more…” something. Because “Thou shalt not” is needlessly pretentious. One of my suggestions will be not to talk this way anymore. I’ll get to that one. But for right now:

No more vertical strips.

Vertical comic strips can be used to good effect. It was done once in Bloom County, in an arc where they made a flying machine by attaching balloons to Cutter John’s wheelchair. For the big reveal, the drawing was rotated 90 degrees, to show this tall, thin object in detail. It was the readers’ first look at something that drove a months-long arc. And it was a strange object that needed to be explained to the audience. This was a perfectly good reason to draw a strip sideways. And I think Berke Breathed only did it one or two other times.

Vertical panels in Funky Winkerbean are used to indulge Tom Batiuk’s worst tendencies as a writer. They’re used to make space for word zeppelins, author rants, pointless info dumps, self-indulgence, and worst of all: Sunday comic book covers. All of these things need to go. A blanket ban on sideways strips in Funky Winkerbean would be a great way to start improving it. If an idea can’t be expressed horizontally, it probably doesn’t need to be expressed at all.

Today’s strip is a shining example. This is strip #8 of the arc, including Sunday, and it’s the fourth one that could have been omitted entirely. It’s all been transactional talking, and a “witty” Sunday joke that’s only witty if the other character is a complete blithering idiot.

Phil Holt’s life makes even less sense now. After he quit his Batom Comics job and stole their property in the process, he… moved to one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the world? To do what? That needs more for an explanation, not 23 words of “I heard Prince Valiant needed a new artist” when we already knew that.

And: it’s apparently vital you know this happened in New York. Nope, Phil’s definitely not in Hollywood, that empty place of vacuous people!

43 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Cut!

Here’s another complete waste of a strip. Kitch Swoon found something in Phil Holt’s studio, but she’s not going to tell us what it is yet. Like Monday’s strip, this one should have been left on the cutting room floor.

If you missed any of the five strips this week, here’s everything relevant that happened:

That’s it. There have been 13 panels so far, and these three are all you need to know. Everything else has been aimless talking.

“We need more Roy Lichtenstein prints! I’m going to Atomik Komix! Hey, it’s Kitch! Hi, Darin! Hi, Kitch, I want more money! Sorry, Darin, I need to speak to Phil! He’s over there! Hi, Phil, I want your old comic book pages, even though I said I came over here for Roy Lichtenstein prints! The comic book pages are at my house! Okay, can we go to your house? I’m sorry, my house is such a mess! That’s okay, I wish I was a real estate agent! And what’s this? It’s nothing! No, it’s definitely something!”

Good Lord, get on with it!

Funky Winkerbean loves its needless conversation. Especially in Tom Batiuk’s publishing stories, where he re-creates his own fantasies for his own entertainment. He’s far more concerned about meticulously outlining every single step of his ego wank, than he is in telling a story anyone on Earth wants to hear.

Tomorrow, we learn what Kitch found. Maybe.

41 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

All The News That’s Fit To Sit

“Really good news” for Ruby and Flash in today’s strip! We learned the “really good news” yesterday, of course, and Ruby and Flash will have to wait to learn it until… well, hopefully sometime this week. Please let them learn it sometime this week!

“What is the point of this strip?” is a question that could be asked about Funky Winkerbean almost daily, yes, and it is a question that is never going to lead to any satisfying answers… but let’s pontificate anyway on today’s long panel of pointlessness. Is there really any reason at all to not have Durwood, Mindy, and Mopey Pete tell Ruby and Flash in this strip that they will be honored at Comic-Con in a month? Not revealing the news to them today does absolutely nothing. There is no suspense for the reader because we all learned the news yesterday. There is no suspense or anticipation for the characters because they have barely expressed the need or even want to be recognized for their work. Ruby and Flash have been glorified props in nearly every strip they have appeared in, existing almost solely to help Atomik Komix’s hard-shirking employees shirk even harder. Why wouldn’t Comic-Con and the Eisner Awards reach out to Ruby and Flash directly instead of relaying the news to Pete? Why wouldn’t these three wait for the Eisner folks to inform Ruby and Flash even if they got the news first? Why would Ruby offer her sad-sack take on the state of the comics industry as a response to the question “guess what?” posed by a coworker? Shouldn’t everyone who works at Atomik Komix be well aware of the sales of both their titles and the titles of their competitors? And what is Flash even doing here? He doesn’t work for Atomik Komix. Please tell me he’s not going to become a fixture, the Dinkle to Pete’s Lefty…

All this is doing is padding out the week worse than I padded out the preceding paragraph by asking hopeless and rhetorical questions. Oh, silly me, the point of this strip was in front of me the whole time!

32 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Parish the thought

I’m not on Dinkle’s side or anything, but I struggle to sympathize with the choir ladies in today’s strip. Those stern looks of disapproval are genuine and understandable, but these ladies have got to stop setting Dinkle up for this miserable gag. This is the third time they’ve walked right into it. Yes, Dinkle is insufferable and arrogant, but they’ve had plenty of time now to learn that asking him if he knows anything about a subject is a sure way to draw out that insufferableness and arrogance. If you don’t like the way he acts when baited, stop baiting him!

At least there’s no blood this time from Dinkle biting his tongue… Well, that’s not really an improvement. For a while there I thought that maybe Dinkle could be put on a path to self-destruction by frequently questioning his credentials.

26 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Putting the “die” in dilate

Let us all sincerely hope that today’s strip is the end of “Funky terrorizes the optometrist’s office with his shmuckery.” Oh please please please! I ran out of things to say about it on Tuesday and since then I’ve been filling space with a Droopy photoshop done in Microsoft Paint, obscure 90s punk rock references, and my own experiences at the ophthalmologist. Today, I very nearly wrote 3-4 sentences in this post about what my cat was doing right now, but I’ve taken up too much of you all’s valuable time already. Well, at least I finally thought of something to say about this strip…

Speaking of drops, I’m thinking this country’s newspapers should do just that to a couple of comic strips.

26 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Please no more Lesday, October 10

Today’s strip was not available for preview. I considered waiting for it become available to post, but with the possibility of more Les on the table… I am sorry but I am not willing to burn the 11:00 PM oil potentially posting about a despicable character in a despicable situation.

However, true believers, just so I don’t send you to the comments section empty-handed… here, in honor of the late Jerome Bushka, is Bull’s very first appearance in Funky Winkerbean:

FW5-3-72

Oh, sorry, that’s the first mention of Bull, May 3 of 1972, in classic TB tell-don’t-show style. Here’s his first appearance, on September 23 of 1972 (Wait, why doesn’t Funky have CTE too, being a football sporto?):

FW9-23-72

And the first time he appears and is named, on September 26, 1972 (Until 2013, this was the canonical reason Fred Fairgood was estranged from his daughter Kerry. No, really!):

FW9-26-72

43 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Mail Day Part Four…The Pondering

Link To Today’s Strip

Nothing spells “storytelling” like using no dialog at all day after day after (sigh) day. Turns out the letter is from (peppy marching band music) the National Football League, America’s preeminent and benevolent Fun Time Sports League, the league that once gave an already-ruined and addle-brained Bull Bushka a shot at the big time, a shot he of course totally botched. Why, my guess is they’re going to give Bull a retroactive fifty million dollar “Nice Try, Local Sports Hero, Get Well Soon!” grant that he can use to beat this CTE thing once and for all! So what is she WAITING for? OPEN THE LETTER LINDA, OPEN THE LETTER!

No, because a CERTAIN SOMEONE who just happens to have a lot of extra Pulitzer space around the house decided to give away the entire outcome of his big Prestige Mega-Arc weeks ahead of time, we know the letter is actually from the non-fictional and maliciously malevolent (ominous scary music) NFL (trademark!), the heartless and amoral pro sports concern that cruelly turned Bull’s brain into putty and now laughs at his feeble prayers for help as it sacrifices billions of dollars a day to Lord Satan himself upon its blackened altar of young broken men’s ruined bodies. Otherwise she wouldn’t have brought it upstairs to her bedroom to open it, because in every cornball sitcom scenario like this one when a female character gets bad news in letter form she must have pillows handy in which to throw herself upon reading said news. Don’t lie, ladies, we all know this stereotype is 100% true, otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to do it on TV. Anyhow, it’s a near certainty that the letter will utterly destroy Linda and turn her into a humorless wad of wryness (it’ll be tough to tell sometimes, though) and viciously mock Bull, his life and everything he ever believed in while coldly sneering at his pitiful plight. Or something similar but less dramatic.

The next installment of this thing isn’t dropping til midnight tomorrow. Not that it matters much, as we all already know what’s going to happen thanks to a CERTAIN SOMEONE who just couldn’t stop yapping and flapping his gums about it. There were a dozen ways to go about it without saying “and then the lead character kills himself” followed by actually running the climactic strip a MONTH ahead of time, but in all the excitement a CERTAIN SOMEONE couldn’t be bothered to care about shit like his dumb stupid readers or their “opinions” of him. Man, I’ll never forgive him for that blunder, it would have been the biggest day in SoSF history since that prom scenery came out as gay. I really hope that pillar eventually found someone, you know?

42 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky