For the best part of 10 years, I thought I understood the Funkyverse.
Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean take place in two neighboring towns, Centerview and Westview. They both take place in roughly ‘present day’ in terms of technology and occasional oblique references to current events. But they also take place roughly ten years apart. Crankshaft is set in the past of Funky Winkerbean. It really wasn’t that hard to understand.
Crankshaft takes a picture.
And Les looks at it framed on a mantle.
Jeff reminisces about his old Starbuck Jones comic. And considers buying the last issue of an Action Comics storyline he never finished.
And years later he gifts the Starbuck Jones comic to Holly for Cory’s collection. And she gifts him the end of the ‘Congorilla’ story in return.
Crankshaft and his Bus Barn buddies complete in a bowing competition against a younger Montoni’s Pizza crew.
And Funky recalls the same event from his perspective in flashback. Complete with old timey photo corners.
Crankshaft’s secret hoard of Bean’s End back catalogues is discovered. And his daughter sells them to a strangely young and buff Chester Hagglemore.
Years later, Chester puts the entire collection up for sale to fund his new comics empire. And Morton Winkerbean buys Crankshaft back his favorite issue.
Simple. One is past. One is future. In fact. I would almost nearly give it credit for being clever. A weird way to tell a story non-linearly. But it adds a certain depth to the proceedings if you’re in the mood to be charitable to Batiuk’s intended sentiments.
For example, the county fair arcs.
Taken alone, they’re a bunch of bland fair puns on the Crankshaft end, and an awkward date ending in an even more awkward wedding proposal between Mopey Pete and Minty in Funky Winkerbean. But I’ve got a soft spot for grandparents. Seeing the younger Mindy enjoy the fair with the ‘Gramps’ that loves her, simultaneous to seeing an older Mindy fondly remember those moments years and years into the future when he can no longer be there…It kinda gets me in the feels. She’s trying to pass on to her boyfriend the vital essence of a person she loves who is now a weakened shell of what she once knew.
We get on Mindy for being boring and stupid. And it’s true. Because she is bland af. But this is the closest she comes to being a character to me. Because I get it. We’re seeing both sides of a painful transition, where a precious adult goes from being a childhood pillar, to a fragile keepsake. The story is greater than the sum of it’s parts.
So there. I’ve complimented Batiuk for something. Stop the presses. I’ve complimented him for using the time skip well. And he’s even done it more than once. It’s interesting, and occasionally sometimes even approaching good.
So why? Why by all that is sweet and bright? Is he throwing it all away over the pandemic!?! WHAT IS EVEN THE POINT?!?
When I heard that The Valentine was closing in Crankshaft, I could still make it work in my mind. Yeah, the location has showed up multiple times in Funky Winkerbean, still owned by an older Max Murdoch. Yeah, THE STARBUCK JONES PREMIERE was held there. But maybe, I thought, he would find a way to give Max back the theater after a while. Max has years and years to get that theatre back in time for it’s appearances in Funky Winkerbean. I can’t blame Batiuk for wanting to be topical, and hey, it’s conflict at least, so yeah, sure, let him lose the theater for a few years…
But then…then there was that fateful day in May.
Crankshaft. May 24, 2021.
Jeff shows up at the Valentine theatre with a rock he’s not supposed to get FOR MORE THAN A DECADE.
And my only hope, was maybe he forgot. Maybe, just once, he forgot which strip was supposed to be the past of which. Maybe, just maybe, this dumb rock from Bronson Canyon was not the rock that shattered the temporal pane that separates past from future in the Funkyverse. I begged. I pleaded. Please don’t do this, Tom. Please, don’t rip away the final shreds of sense propping up the cardboard walls of your paper doll playhouse. Don’t be like this. Make the right choice, and tell me that you will stick with what you’ve established.
He told me no.
WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS TOM WHY