It’s Probably Safe To Read Funky Winkerbean For A While


I’d warned in mid-September that Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean was about to do a storyline about a character’s suicide. I’d promised to give a follow-up when the immediate storyline seemed to have passed.

Well, the first part of it seems to be done. It was in a baffling manner, though, one which managed to not make clear that the character even did deliberately suicide. Someone who read only the comic strip and not supplemental material like my essays might reasonably think the character had a terrible but ordinary accident.

My understanding was that the suicide storyline was intended to run about twice as long as it has. So my hypothesis is that Tom Batiuk wanted the character’s death to happen in an ambiguous way, and then have characters eventually discover it was suicide. If that is so, I will try to give warning when the story resumes.

In the meanwhile this week the strip seems to be doing a whimsical Halloween zombie story. The previous two weeks it’s been doing a gruesome zombie storyline, resurrecting the Movie Of Lisa’s Story. Lisa’s Story was, in-universe, the book Les Moore wrote about his wife’s dying of breast cancer. (In the real world it’s a collection of the comic strips detailing this story.)

For about 36 years there in the early 2010s there was a story about a cable-movie production company trying to make this into a movie, with Moore as the novice screenwriter unhappy with … absolutely everything, at all times … until the project collapsed for some reason. So I can’t say that I’m happy that Mason Jarre, star of the abortive First Lisa’s Story Movie and of the in-universe Starbuck Jones science fiction intellectual property franchise, wants to do a new movie only Right This Time. But, as ever, I’m hoping for things to turn out good. There’s very few premises so bad that a good story can’t come from them.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

3 thoughts on “It’s Probably Safe To Read Funky Winkerbean For A While”

  1. Maybe Les was not fully to blame for the collapse of the first Lisa movie… but he not-so-silently rooted for its demise while he largely shirked the writing work for it that he was brought out to California to do (maybe not sabotage but at least some William Shatner-esque sabotaaaaajjj).

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    1. Yeah; it’s hard to work out where exactly the blame for the collapse of the First Lisa Movie should go. We never really saw Moore screenwriting effectively, but in fairness to Tom Batiuk, screenwriting effectively is really boring. People having problems with screenwriting, that’s something you can make a story about. But too much of that and it looks like he’s never getting anything done. And, in fairness to snarking on Tom Batiuk, we don’t see a lot of his creative-type characters (Les Moore, Mopey Pete, That Guy Working With Mopey Pete, and Old Woman In Crankshaft) overcoming the problems on their projects. That said, Old Woman In Crankshaft does show that he could write someone who just sort of stumbled into writing and who isn’t constantly stressed out and anxious over doing a thing she enjoys that creates things other people enjoy.

      For those who have arranged their lives not to be intimately familiar with every detail of Funky Winkerbean plots from Like 2012: Les Moore, novice screenwriter hired to do the teleplay for Lisa’s Story The Movie, spent forever being put up in Los Angeles hotels that he pouted around like he was Holden Caulfield. Occasionally we’d see him writing the script version of some scene from the original Death Of Lisa storyline. Often we’d see him upset that the studio wants to change things about the story, and taking offense at the thing every person who knows anything about screenwriting happens all the time. His greatest sulk was over the studio wanting to change the ending so that Lisa lives, which I will agree is the sort of change that would destroy my ability to care about the project. After some weird fantasies in which he imagined being a vaguely 40s-ish noir detective he thought of the words “kill fee” and this somehow gave him the idea he could just walk away from the project. In reality, a kill fee is a consolation payment given a writer when the project they were hired for is cancelled; I can’t imagine a writer just deciding he wants the kill fee and getting it. But simultaneously to this there’s something where something happens and the producers shelve the project forever, so maybe it was pointless that Moore quit? Who among us can say?

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