Why I Am Angry at Funky Winkerbean, Yes, Again


I wrote a version of this as a comment on the Son of Stuck Funky blog, the web’s premiere source for remembering things about Funky Winkerbean, but you know? I’m still bothered so I’m going to write more.

Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean opened this week with Crazy Harry bringing over a bunch of tapes of Lisa Moore. Lisa Moore died, reader time, in 2008. It was a big story, where she responded to the news her breast cancer had returned by recording videotape messages for her daughter and then dying. The dying may seem like an extreme reaction. It seemed the best way to escape her husband, Les Moore, the most insufferable person on the comics page. It hasn’t worked, as Les Moore wrote a book about her dying and turned it into a graphic novel and an annual fun-run and a failed made-for-TV movie and a completed made-for-theaters movie and the whole of his personality except for being snide to acquaintances.

A couple years back Les Moore loaned the suspiciously many videotapes to Crazy Harry for digitization. And today, years after finishing the project and I thought returning the tapes, he came over with a bunch of the Lisa Moore tapes. What’s got me angry is a line that I might have ignored if I had more patience with the comic strip.

Summer: 'Hey, Harry!' Harry, carrying a box of VHS tapes: 'Hi there, Summer!' Summer: 'What brings?' Harry: 'Donna said I had to get rid of my boxes of VHS tapes or open a museum ... and I found some of your mom's old tapes that I forgot to get back to you.' Flashback: Harry, coming up to the same porch: 'Hi, Lisa ... I just thought I'd stop by and say 'hi'.' Lisa: 'And you just did ... twice!'
Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean for the 15th of August, 2022. Summer there is Summer Moore, the little-seen daughter of Les and Lisa Moore. She’s important in that she sits on the patio swing that Lisa Moore sat on.

Why does Crazy Harry explain that “Donna said I had to get rid of my VHS tapes”? Yes, yes, I know, because she was tired of them cluttering up the basement or whatever. But Tom Batiuk decided that Harry’s wife was tired of the clutter. Why? What does that explanation do that, oh, “I was organizing my VHS tapes and noticed I still had some” would not? Or “your father asked about a couple of these tapes, which are more precious to him than are his daughter, his current wife Not-Lisa, or the Academy Award won by the woman who played Lisa in the movie about Lisa’s Death”?

Because it fits a pattern and it’s a subtly annoying one. It’s the same role that most all the male characters have been through, where their mother made them get rid of their comic books. Or their wife made them get rid of their superhero stuff. The current era of Funky Winkerbean sees a lot of characters passively accepting the indignities of life, yes, as see Lisa Moore’s whole acceptance of death. Why is it the only time a women in this strip take an active role, it’s the off-screen decision that the man in her life has to give up a hobby?

The one time I can think of when the woman didn’t make the off-screen decision to make one of the player-characters give up a hobby was a story a couple weeks ago. Funky Winkerbean’s wife decided they were going to go to a estate-planning seminar. That’s a reasonable and grown-up thing to do, yes. It’s also something she forced him to do, and he was a total Les Moore about the experience. (The Son of Stuck Funky folks, who have an uncanny ability to find old plots, also found where Funky and Mrs Funk went to an estate planner five years ago. I’m tolerant of comic strips repeating themselves — it’s baked into the genre — but I do want the new iteration to at least be pleasant.)

Why can’t Crazy Harry decide he’s got too many hobbies and VHS tape collecting isn’t bringing him joy anymore? Why can’t Crazy Harry notice he’s got stuff he doesn’t need and doesn’t want? Why does Donna have to be the heavy? Also, why did Lisa Moore have more hours of screen time than Regis Philbin did? These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.

Author: Joseph Nebus

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

8 thoughts on “Why I Am Angry at Funky Winkerbean, Yes, Again”

  1. My only question is : Why does Batiuk keep going back to this toxic well, despite the entire world* telling him to leave it alone?
    *At least the few bored souls who still read the strip.

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    1. This is another great question! I would understand if there were a lingering plot hole about how The Lisa Tapes came to be. But even if it hadn’t already been explained — the Son of Stuck Funky blog noted it was set up in 2007 ( https://sonofstuckfunky.com/2022/08/17/hari-dont-care-i/ ) albeit with Les, rather than Harry, giving her the idea — it’s not like the idea of “record messages for your child whom you won’t see grow up” needs explanation to be plausible.

      For switching the idea from Les to Harry … I mean, I won’t object to a creator changing the continuity when they have a better idea of what to do with an idea. That’s fine, the average person gets a better story out of things and the fans get a mystery to explain away. But how is this retcon supposed to be an improvement? Unless it provides a setup for Harry and Summer to have a new aspect to their relationship? But I somehow don’t believe that’s where we’re going.

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  2. Well said. This trope is so rote that it largely comes up in a mocking or subverted way when used at all these days… not in the hands of TB, though. Nope, he plays it straightforward and often, so often I almost don’t notice a lot of the time.

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    1. Right right. I can’t fault someone for wanting to play their stock tropes straight. Goodness knows, I like Gasoline Alley and Jim Scancarelli is trying to sincerely write a radio sitcom of the 1950s there. But I wouldn’t be upset with the strip if we got to see other sides of these women, sides where they choose to do something that makes things better and isn’t about Dead Lisa Who Died Of Death.

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  3. Wouldn’t it be wacky if Harry “accidently” taped over one of the Lisa tapes with Bull’s last game before he Aldoed himself, having the various plotlines intercept Seinfeldishly?

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