So there’s some news I was not expecting, even though there was foreshadowing in the text. According to D D Degg at The Daily Cartoonist, Tom Batiuk is bringing Funky Winkerbean to an end with the end of December 2022. It’s about fifty years and nine months after the comic debuted. This comes shortly after a somewhat confusing storyline where the characters got together for the 50th anniversary of their graduation, which happened in 1992 to readers or in 1988 (in-universe), but, you know. It sort of makes thematic sense for an anniversary of the comic strip’s existence, and it makes even more sense as a harbinger of the artist retiring.
Folks in the Funky Winkerbean Snark Community started speculating that the strip might be at an end soon. I didn’t think it likely since Tom Batiuk seems to be of the older generation of artists who keep on the strip until ten years after his death, but I suppose we all change our minds about these things sometimes. The suggestion got more prominent with an odd storyline a couple weeks ago where Montoni’s Pizza — the centerpiece of the comic since it moved out of high school — announced its closing and we saw bits of an auction of its effects. The announcement was so sudden, and given so little weight — it started mid-week, and the strip moved away from the theme midweek — that it hardly seemed real.
That retirement moved from subtext to text this week, when Ruby Lith — one of a number of old-time comics artists moved to the in-universe Atomik Comix — announced her retirement. And then we got the announcement, as posted on Tom Batiuk’s web site. Batiuk says he figures to occasionally post new Funky Winkerbean stories at his web site, and that he’ll keep doing Crankshaft, possibly with the Funky characters making more appearances there. We’ll see.