Tag Archives: Tom doesn't get women

That’s a Strange Way to Tell Me You Love Me…

Link to a today’s strip.

Um. Okay.

If you really break down what Crazy is saying here, it seems to imply that when he was sixteen he was attracted to an eleven year-old-child he assumed was a boy.

No Boku No Pac-Man, please…

Unfortunate implications aside, all we have here is a restatement of the week’s plot. The only thing of note is that the Sunday colorist managed to depict a redhead character correctly for once.

March of last year Tom let us know this arc was incoming, when he posted the book cover that inspired his Eliminator helmet, and said this:

I saw this book on a spinner rack at the Captain EZ Confectionery a few blocks from our first apartment. Couldn’t resist the cover. Picked it up and later “borrowed” the Hunter helmet for a character I’d just created in Funky called the Eliminator. Said helmet, coinkadinkily enough, will show-up in a Funky story arc next year.

Cover Me 143
posted on MARCH 20, 2021
“Hunter” – Art by Paul Neary and written by Rich Margopoulos, Budd Lewis and Bill DuBay. Six parts in total, appearing in issues #52-57. Set in a near-future world devastated by nuclear war, it features Damien Hunter, a half man/half demon who seeks to destroy all the demons on Earth, including his father Oephal. As a half-breed consumed by self-loathing, Hunter frequently moralized on racial issues in contemporary America.

I want to thank Banana Jr. 6000, none, Charles, Mela, as well as others for providing some background on the arcade game Defender. I didn’t grow up with video games, only picking up the habit during college, so the context was great. I hunted up a few short YouTube vids that cover the development and just how unique and challenging the game is.

Today is the last day of my shift. It has been a real treat celebrating 50 years of Funky Winkerbean by going back in time to see what a 25-year-old Tom Batiuk was capable of. Thanks everyone who enjoyed it with me!

But what did I really think of the first four years of Funky Winkerbean?

It was alright.

Not usually laugh out loud funny, certainly capable of being bad, but amusing enough. Certainly not out of place squeezed between Hagar the Horrible and Wizard of Id.

But I easily found strips where the seeds of what would grow into Batiuk’s thorniest issues were germinating.

Preachy Nihilism.
Recycled Jokes
Observational Non-Humor
Vaguely offensive portrayals of women
I mean women WANT to be sexy and hate not being sexy and hate other women for being sexy amirite?
Dinkle writing AWFUL puns.
Worshiping Les. (Okay, this one is actually funny.)

And, as I’ve said before, I think we’re sometimes too hard on modern Batiuk during those occasions when he dips his toes back into gag-a-day humor. It might not be as good as his best was back then. But his best now is as good as his average was.

So sue me, I liked this one.

There were a couple strips I stumbled across that made me cringe or shudder, knowing where the strip would eventually go.

Baby Wally was born fearing death.
Alcoholism runs in Funky’s family.
Les hopes his future wife will make him money…
Uhh…
Uhhh…..

But despite all that, there were strips that had me genuinely laughing out loud. So here they are, my favorite strips from the first few years of Funky Winkerbean.

Act I Crazy Harry is my spirit animal.
I have literally done this.

So that’s it for me this round! The esteemed SpacemanSpiff85 will be taking over the ship tomorrow, asking the hard hitting questions.

Like, when is the strip ending? Will Wally Jr. ever return? Will Mindy and Mopey ever marry? Will Summer ever graduate Kent State? We’ve reached 50 years and we’re still chugging along. Maybe someday, we’ll know, but it doesn’t look like it’ll be this year.

Comic Book Harriet, signing off.

35 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Relics of the Past

(It’s a long one today folks. Sorry ’bout that.)

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.

No. It wasn’t.

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.

Hai Guize

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…

The San Diego Union-Tribune
Thomas J. Sheeran, AP
May 29, 2012 

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.


The Spokesman-Review
Dan Webster
July 20,1997

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.

VIETNAM

Let’s talk about the draft on the fourth strip ever.

WATERGATE

August 4, 1973

THE BICENTENNIAL

PLANE HIJACKINGS

LABOR STRIKES

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.

“There’s no delicate way to put this. Running around naked in public was one of the biggest and strangest trends of the 1970s.”

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.

35 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

The Secret Life of the B-Tiers.

Link to today’s interesting new wrinkle.

I mean, uh, wow. I guess that is one reason to have Maddie come back. Cross one off my list of Long Standing Funky Mysteries. For those of you more recently jumping on the Beady-Eyed-Nitpicker wagon, the Big Gay Castle Mystery goes all the way back to Summer, Keisha, Jinx, and Maddie’s senior year prom in May 2012. In that plotline two unnamed boys buy tickets to go to prom together, Becky’s mom whips up a protest, Principal Nate holds an assembly where he clarifies that there’s nothing in the Student Handbook prohibiting people taking other people of the same gender to the prom, and then everyone cheered.

Of note was a couple strips at the very end of the arc.

Who was this kid obscured by The Big Gay Castle? It could have been anyone but Keisha. For ten years I’ve wondered, and I guess we’re finally getting our answer. Maddie Klinghorn. And it makes sense, Maddie was there.

Really, I’m just relieved that it wasn’t Summer. Les didn’t need another reason to virtue signal his greatness, and I didn’t want the cliché of the sporty tomboy being a lesbian all along. Especially since Summer has been shown mooning over Masone Jarre, though I guess she could be sporty enough to play for both teams.

This does fix the most glaring issue with Batiuk’s preachy Big Gay Prom arc: that the ‘gay’ couple is a nameless prop. They show up for TWO strips, looking like they just left their Hardy Boys cosplay competition.

And then they’re just an idea, never seen again, not even at the prom. In fact, there don’t appear to be ANY gay couples at the prom, except for maybe this panel of two guys standing shoulder to shoulder.

Bumping shoulders is the height of homosexuality.

So I’m curious to see where Batiuk takes this new revelation. How will he handle his first named queer character? Is this going to be a big arc? Or are we in for a Northstar revelation, similar to Masone Jarre’s bipolar disorder, where Maddie’s sexuality is confirmed once and then dropped for years or forever?

It’s not like in the 70’s, where a Boston Marriage between socialites could be depicted in great detail in a comic strip, and yet the heteronormativity of both women strictly enforced and accepted prima facie.

These two ladies are Marcia and Jan, the two most baffling recurring characters in early Funky Winkerbean. They are introduced as Women’s Club members that run the ‘Rap Cellar’. Which seems to be some kind of afterschool program for high schoolers, that Marcia usually is the one leading.

The joke in the Rap Cellar strips are that these well-meaning but dim-witted ladies have completely different priorities, life styles, and interests than the hip kids they’re trying to counsel. They are from a decade before, not old enough to be their parents, but not young enough to understand them. And their Brady Bunch names might be a joke on their squeaky clean and sunny simple outlook.

But, the actual ‘Rap Cellar’ strips are few and far in between. Maybe a dozen or so, and they’ve mostly fallen off. Yet, these two ladies keep showing up. Talking over coffee, exercising, playing tennis, shopping, and watching TV.

Many of you have pointed out the Peanuts parallels to early Funky Winkerbean. They definitely exist, in the art style and the humor, but one big difference is that in Peanuts adults are unseen alien creatures warbling in nonsense lines, in Vintage Funky Winkerbean both the teachers and the students have equal parts as characters.

But these ladies aren’t teachers at Westview, they aren’t even parents like Roland’s Chair!Dad. The connection between Jan and Marcia and the Funky Bunch is tenuous to begin with…and by 1976 has almost completely disappeared. Yet these two ladies keep showing up for one-off gags, or a disconnected week of tennis strips.

Who are these ladies? Why are they still here? Given the eyebags on their cheek bones, is one of them Pete’s mom? Maybe they’re a weird repository for ‘upper middle class lady’ humor that Batiuk just HAD to get out there, tone and setting of his comic be damned.

I don’t know. The nicest thing I can say about them is that Batiuk usually does a good job of drawing their faces and bodies consistently different, so you can tell who is Marcia and who is Jan despite their hair being the almost the same.

Jan is also the fat one.

And in a strip where almost everyone is already cynical and jaded, they at least provide a nice contrast.

67 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

The Lost Girl

HOLY GUACAMOLE! LOOK WHO IS BACK!!!!

Unless Rachel Winkerbean has taken to wearing a hat and hanging around with Crazy and Donna…Maddie Klingorn has finally returned from The Phantom Zone! She hasn’t been seen since 2012, when she graduated in the same class as Summer, Keisha, and Jinx Bushka. Her last appearance is hard to confirm. The Sunday colorist having a longstanding religious refusal to color any characters as soulless gingers, and invariably blondwashing. But panel juxtaposition implies this is Maddie hugging Jinx on 6/3/12.

Yes! You made it! None of you have additional younger children you’ve been completely forgetting for the last four years!

Unfortunately, it looks like Maddie’s return heralds a week of ‘Did U Kno Dona Wuz Eliminater Bak n da Day?’ A storyline I expressed my thoughts on a couple years ago during the Salad Dressing Arc of 2020.

As the SOSF writer’s room’s current Smurfette, I always find myself wrestling with Batiuk’s contradictory portrayal of women. I don’t want to claim he’s a malicious sexist, because I don’t believe that’s true for a moment. He is able to give women positions of authority, give them careers, give them interests and concerns that go beyond pleasing a man. He is capable of writing them well, (even if he often doesn’t.) And it’s obvious that he builds several characters with Positive-Strong-Woman in mind.

I don’t want to get to the point where we can’t have an individual woman character being weak in a story. Where we can’t have men who comfort, who rescue, and who care for. As long as we’re not setting up a world were women are objects that NEED to be comforted, rescued, and cared for by men due to their chromosomes.

I also don’t want to be a stick in the mud and complain that gendered humor is ‘harmful’. Or that a man shouldn’t be able to make gendered jokes because ‘he’s punching down’. No. Nobody punches down on me. I’m just an individual, and I don’t speak for all women, of course, because all women are individuals. But this individual woman enjoys a joke about women-be-shopping and men-be-stubborn-and-holding-on-to-broken-farm-machinery-for-way-too-long-dad-really-let-it-go!

I’m really rather moderate, and always wary of those seeking to violently or rapidly tear down ‘the establishment’ without understanding it first. If someone asks me to be offended, my first question is always, “What do you stand to gain by my anger?”

And yet. I can’t tell you how many times Batiuk has written something, and I’ve gone, “Hey now, mister! This Nerdy Girl is offended!”

I don’t think of myself as a progressive. Batiuk does. And I think that’s his problem.

As the grandson of union men and living in a home where as a child the Weavers could be heard on the record player, I came by my progressive leanings honestly. 

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume Five

Batiuk has always thought of himself as ‘one of the good ones.’ He’s written Livinia, so it’s okay to write ‘Wicked’ Wanda in all her permutations.

Wanda was the women’s lib activist that liked to smash people with her sign. And really, that was the least problematic of her portrayals.

I think it’s fair to show a character so wrapped up in her social cause that she’s become a bully, a distaff counterpart to Roland. Livinia exists in strip to provide a #notallwomen’slibbers.

After the early sign gag seemed to have run it course, Wanda disappears for a while. When she comes back, it’s without her sign. Consistent with Batiuk stepping away from edgy activism and into teen-age tropes, she’s now just a big strong girl in overalls.

And she immediately falls in love with Les Moore in an awful storyline.

I get that part of the joke is that Wanda is treating Les in the same way that he has been shown treating girls throughout the strip, being creepy and insistent despite their obvious feelings. I’ve seen this plot done before, in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) Seriously.

In that version of the show Donatello has a hopeless crush on April, and it leads to him acting like a clingy jealous jerk on occasion. In a season 3 plot, a female sasquatch falls in love with HIM.

This show was pretty great. At least through season 3.

Donatello complains to Raphael, “Bigfoot follows me around everywhere like a love struck puppy.”

To which Raph replies, “Now you know how April feels.”

THEN, Donnie realizes he’s been a big jerk, apologizes to Bigfoot, apologizes to April, and becomes a BETTER PERSON. Les’ plot with Wanda lacks both the sympathy for Wanda and any self-realization on Les’ part. Les might be despicable at times, purposefully flawed, but he is also a complete character with range and a voice. Wanda is only allowed ONE WORD.

But at least Les lets her down easy, and Wanda doesn’t seem too hurt by the end.

Believe it or not, the last arc with Wanda is, by far, the worst. In it, Wanda decides she wants to be a majorette, and all the humor comes from her ‘unfeminine’ body. Unlike the sign gag, or even the Les arc, this is making fun of her for something out of her control.

Her last appearance so far has been a single panel on 1/14/76.

Is this the last time I’ll see her in Vintage Funky Winkerbean? I don’t know. But if she does show up again I’m sure she’ll be the punchline.

To his credit, Batiuk seemed to realize in retrospect that he went too far here. In the 1998 reunion he brings Wanda up.

Of course, Batiuk being Batiuk, and Act II being Act II, it’s God’s Perfect Man Les Moore who calls them all out on their treatment of Wanda, and pretends like he was just too scared to stick up for her. Then he goes on a self-righteous speech. As if he weren’t one of the worst offenders.

Terrible, blurry, microfiche LIES.

Wanda finally shows up at the 2008 Reunion.

Of course, she is now thin and glamourous and looks like a Roman nosed Marianne Winters. As if a later life attractiveness somehow proves that she has grown beyond the ‘bullying’ she received as a child. As if coming to her reunion as plump and aged as anyone else would have lessened her ‘victory’ over her past. And is the white haired lady with her supposed to be her spouse? Maybe not, maybe just another classmate. But if so, double reductive on you Batiuk, deciding that the strong football-playing tomboy in high school must have been a lesbian all along, in spite of her longest arc spent mooning after boys.

Batiuk, so progressive he can’t properly look back. Failing his female characters once again. Wanda deserved better.

NOTE: I am currently on a vacation to visit family and was on the road all day. But thanks all of you for enjoying the 50th Anniversary strips. For those wondering, I did it in a combo of old and new paint, and the dialogue was done with a combo of preexisting speech bubbles, complete lines/paragraphs/phrases cut from a few strips, and a few things spelled out.

I’m probably proudest of the last strip, where I edited out an entire person from both panels used.

39 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

I actually already named a post on here “Bored on the 4th of July” but I’m using it again, OK

Well there is nothing that says “Happy 4th of July!” like today’s strip, where Crazy and DSH take turns playing one of Scott Adams’ most/least beloved tertiary Dilbert characters. It’s got everything you would want to celebrate America’s birthday: a close up of DSH’s gaping maw and blackhead-pocked nose, bricks, people not working, Domo, people complaining about having to get out of bed at a reasonable hour, a store with not a single customer shopping… Like I said, everything!

Have a safe and happy 4th everyone.

17 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

Table discussion

Whether or not the St. Spries choir will ever sing a note under Dinkle’s direction will have to wait for another day, for today’s strip returns to (what I assume is) TB’s latest writer’s block go-to: domestic scenes with the Winkerbeans. Hey, that rhymes!

Did you forget that Funky and Holly were having their kitchen “reno”-ed renovated? I don’t want to brag… but I did! And now Holly’s trying to spend the cataract surgery that Funky’s other eye still needs on a table they don’t need… such timeless humor. Wives, they’ll do it every time! What, there wasn’t a tip of the Hatlo Hat at the bottom of this strip? Guess my brain’s filling in missing visuals again.

Hey, thanks for putting up with me through two more weeks of this mess. I genuinely appreciate it. Steering us all through the swamp starting tomorrow will be the one and only man of space named Spiff, Spaceman Spiff. May you see no Les or Dinkle story arcs on your journey, good sir.

11 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky