Monday, September 09, 2019

A "Funky Winkerbean" Tragedy

SPOILER: Do not read any more if you want to be surprised by the current storyline in the newspaper comic strip "Funky Winkerbean."

Tom Batiuk's long running "Funky Winkerbean" comic strip can be seen online and in about 350 newspapers. It's gone from a gag-a-day strip to a real-time comedy/drama, where characters have reality-based problems and, occasionally, death visits.

For the "A 'Funky Winkerbean' Tragedy" article, Senior New York Times Editor George Gene Gustines talked to San Francisco Comic Art Museum curator, former Northeast Ohio native and Winkerbean fan Andrew Farago:

"Unlike the characters in the great majority of comic strips and cartoons, the regulars of 'Funky Winkerbean' do not stay frozen in time. That is quite a contrast from a traditional strip like 'Little Orphan Annie,' whose plucky protagonist remained young from her debut in 1924 until the feature was canceled in 2010.
"Mr. Farago said there were at least three comic strips that allowed their characters to age: 'Gasoline Alley,' which was created by Frank King, and started in 1918 and continues today; 'Doonesbury,' by Garry Trudeau, which began in 1970 and continues today with new Sunday strips; and 'For Better or for Worse,' by Lynn Johnston, which ran from 1979 to 2008. In both, characters grew older and, sometimes, died"
In one of two upcoming wordless Sunday pages, a policeman gives some bad news.

Beginning today, there will be a ten week storyline in which one of the characters, Jerome "Bull" Bushka, who is suffering from a sports-related concussion or "CTE," is getting worse.  He will decide to take his own life.

From the Times:

"Mr. Batiuk has laid other characters to rest. In 2007, a recurring character, Lisa Moore, died after suffering through breast cancer, eight years after receiving her diagnosis. The narrative drew a mixed reaction at the time, its author said.
'"A lot of it, initially, was people didn’t feel that a story about a woman with breast cancer belonged on the comics page,' Mr. Batiuk said. 'They were really kind of wedded to the idea that the comics are called the comics for a reason and are supposed to be funny.'
"In the end, he said, his job is to tell stories, wherever they may lead.
"'Whether they’re heavy stories or lighter stories,' Mr. Batiuk said, 'I’m a storyteller.'"


sarusa said...

For about 20 years (?) it was a pure gag comic, then 25 (?) years ago he turned it into dramedy, heavy on the drama, sometimes wallowing in it. Suddenly the running gags were something darker, like the jock who bullied Les did it because he suffered domestic abuse at home.

I can see why people don't like it, but... there's really nothing else like it on the comics page. Even the 'drama' strips like Mary Worth or the strips with casual death like Tarzan or Captain Easy never got as dark as Funky. It's X-Men levels of angst in four panels. And it's good that he can take it as far as he wants to go - the last time I looked at a physical comic page it was just a wasteland of reruns and identikit gag strips.

Unknown said...
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IBM5081 said...

As a senior citizen myself, the story line was handled very well. The pace of revealing where it will go is just right. It's really no surprise when the end comes and the finish is strong for a person who lived well.

Ed Baptist said...

Thanks for the explanation. Our local paper no longer runs the strip daily, only on Sunday.

Zeke said...

I was so moved by the cemetery scene today and the use of Dylan's "Every Grain of Sand." Truly lovely. Death is part of life, although most folks live in a state of denial. Lisa's death from breast cancer and now coach's suicide to escape the downward spiral of CTE give credibility to life's challenges. Tom Batuk is to be commended for his thoughtful regard for his readers.


Unknown said...

The irony is that he used this 'arc' to shill for that cancer one. He can't let the 2007 one go.