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Comic Strip / Funky Winkerbean

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A long-running Newspaper Comic strip, written and initially drawn by Tom Batiuknote  since 1972. Chuck Ayers has penciled the artwork since 1994, and took over responsibility for all artwork production in the 2000s. (Ayers started receiving credited co-authorship billing in the 2010s.)

In the beginning, this was a gag-per-day strip set at a High School. Funky Winkerbean was a happy-go-lucky student. Other regulars were Les Moore, Candice Kane, band director Harold Dinkle and pizzeria owner Montoni. Regular gags/stories involved, among other things, silly answers to test questions, Les Moore's incompetence at gym, a sentient school computer with a transporter beam, and Harold Dinkle's attempts to win the Battle of the Bands (which was generally rained out), while trying to unload Band Candy and Band Turkeys (and in one strip Band Candied Turkeys) to a generally unwilling to buy public.

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In 1992, Batiuk — figuring that two decades in high school was long enough — quite deliberately decided to initiate Cerebus Syndrome (not that it was called that then): he ran a graduation storyline, and to indicate and hammer in the change of tone, he had the class overachiever have a nervous breakdown and lock himself in the yearbook room after hearing that the position of valedictorian would be chosen by popularity, and after a brief standoff. Then we got Les Moore's valedictorian speech (which is universally considered underwhelming), and then there was a four-year Time Skip...

And then there was Angst. Loads and loads of Angst. For every good thing that happened to the cast (Funky married to Cindy, Les married to Lisa) there were two bad things (Funky is a divorced recovering alcoholic, Lisa died after a breast cancer relapse) and one thing that was revealed to be worse than we thought (Lisa's teen pregnancy retconned into date rape, Bull's Jerkass nature as a result of parental abuse).

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And then in 2008, Batiuk decided there needed to be a second Time Skip to gloss over the aftermath of Lisa's death (he's never been good with handling emotional aftermaths, preferring to present the shock of a sudden bad situation and then skipping past the 'actually dealing with it' phase). As well, it was announced that Batiuk would turn the storylines over to the kids of the original cast. Except that didn't actually happen: the majority of the storylines continued to focus more on the adults experiencing even more traumatic events and angsting about them and less on their children, though a handful of stories have focused on the lives of the teens. Since then the strip has gradually become Lighter and Softer, with more optimistic (or at least not ludicrously pessimistic) storylines and strips being structured around wordplay: Les Moore has become a successful writer, Pete Roberts (er, Reynolds) has become a successful comic writer, Darin Fairgood has become a successful comic writer, Harry Dinkle has become a successful writer... well, you get the idea. Unfortunately, this has resulted in nearly all characters who aren't middle-aged men in the writing industry being put Out of Focus.


Funky Winkerbean contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc:
    • The Lisa's Story one was a particularly tragic example (as acknowledged by Batiuk himself). Rather than follow the story through to its end and explore the effects her death had on her friends and family, it's promptly dropped in the form of a ten-year Time Skip. This abandoned a potential gold mine of material, and foreclosed on the opportunity to flesh out the supporting cast who now had to carry the strip themselves.
    • Likely as a result of the above, this has now become the norm in Act III. Plots tend to have very long, drawn out introductions and are then just abruptly dropped. The Starbuck Jones movie arc, for example, has years of build-up, but as soon as it reaches the premiere it (and its twenty or so subplots) is immediately forgotten and buried.
  • Accidental Adultery: Happened to Wally Winkerbean twice, both times due to being taken prisoner during the War on Terror and being listed as missing in action and presumed dead.
  • Age Cut: Time Skip II officially began with a Sunday strip. Les began to say "You know your mother would be proud..." while young Summer and he hold hands. The next panel is a much older Summer's hand still holding his. Les finishes with "...of the young woman you've become" as the final panel shows the teenaged Summer and middle aged Les.
  • The Alcoholic: Funky and Wally. both recovering.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: During the 1990s, when she is in high school, Becky Blackburn – much to her overbearing mother's dismay – falls for Wally Winkerbean, the "bad boy" who is on the fringes of academic failure and would rather party on the weekends. In a 2010 strip, Becky remarks that it was indeed Wally's "bad boy" charm that made him desirable in her eyes.
  • All Just a Dream:
    • Funky's accident storyline from 2010, where he flashes back to 1980 after being involved in a serious car accident and rendered unconscious.
    • In 2015, the present-day incarnations of the Westview gang meet up with their teen-aged selves during a class reunion. There, a teenaged Lisa is upset that her adult self is absent from the reunion ... and then learns why, after seeing a table with photographs of classmates who had since died, and a display calling for contributions for breast cancer research and the local chapter in Lisa's name. In the end, the trope kicks in when it is revealed ... that Les, who helped organize the event, had passed out during the reunion (for unexplained reasons) and was having a dream.
    • 2016 had a zany arc about Pete and Darin sneaking onto a cargo ship to steal some pens, which, this being Funky Winkerbean, ends with Darin getting shot to death. Fortunately, it turns out to be a dream.
  • Always Someone Better: Keisha, Summer's basketball rival whose great talent overshadows her and thus deprives her of her love for athletics.
  • Art Evolution: Batiuk's drawings have gotten less cartoony and more realistic to coincide with the strip's shift in tone.
  • Artifact Title: Once true, though not anymore. After the first decade or so, the strip focused much more on Les than on Funky, although Funky was always part of the ensemble cast (albeit often a very minor part). But little by little, he made his way back to the limelight, and in 2021, Funky appeared more often in the strip that bears his name than any other character — and by a wide margin. Still, the title "Funky Winkerbean" suggests the Lighter and Softer strip it was at the start of its run, and not the Darker and Edgier Deus Angst Machina Diabolus ex Machina Crapsack World for which it's become infamous.
  • Artistic License – Explosives: While in Iraq, Wally steps on a mine, which Kahn identifies as a "Bouncing Betty". The mine is depicted as inert until Wally steps off it, unable to be defused because its wires are on the underside, and is defeated by Kahn smacking it away with a bat when it lights. In reality, Bouncing Bettys will detonate immediately regardless of if the victim is still standing above it, can be defused by using a pin to fool the pressure sensor, and deploy so much shrapnel that it's safer to fall to the ground than try to whack it away.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Lisa is correctly told that radiation cannot cure her Stage IV breast cancer. This is mostly true, as pretty much nothing will kill recurrent breast cancer. She is however not told that radiation and chemotherapy can put the cancer into a temporary remission or that some Stage IV breast cancer patients are able to survive for twenty years or longer. This omission influences Lisa's decision to discontinue treatment. Worse, it takes the better part of a year for her to die, which means that she could have beaten it back: had the cancer been so invasive that chemo or radiation wouldn't have helped, she would have been dead within a few weeks.
  • Artistic License – Military: Pretty much everything relating to the storyline with Wally is a slap in the face to anyone who has even a smidgen of knowledge of the military, POWs, and basic procedures for declaring a soldier killed in action (hint: they tend to involve identifying the body and not grabbing random corpses without even the most basic of forensics testing) This may have been inspired by the controversy some years back over the deliberate misidentification of skeletal remains recovered in Southeast Asia. (A forensic scientist claimed that he had positively identified fragmented skeletal remains from a crashed bomber when in reality it was impossible to tell whether the specific remains sent to each family were actually from their loved one, from one of his comrades, or even from an animal.)
  • Asshole Victim: John Darling. Jessica's documentary about her father has somehow or other flushed out an army of people eager to tell her what a despicable, foul-tempered, self-absorbed ignoramus he was. That wasn't the first time that it happened — in an earlier arc in the 90s, Les got in touch with Darling's co-workers about his murder and all of them said something along the lines of "he had it coming".
  • Author Appeal: Batiuk really likes comic books and generally his characters will express very good opinions about them even if they've barely ever read them. Characters who don't are usually depicted as bad.
  • Author Avatar:
    • Without a doubt: Les, especially post-Time Skip. This became blindingly obvious in October 2010 as Les embarked on his book tour (which takes place mainly at Montoni's) and is surrounded by adoring hordes of middle-aged women who worship the ground he walks on - and who are all clearly inferior in some way or another to him.
    • Batton Thomas, an occasionally-appearing character introduced in 2019, is a very explicit and deliberate Author Avatar. He's Batiuk's age. He looks like Batiuk. His first name is similar to Batiuk's last name, and vice versa. He's the creator of the (fictional) newspaper comic strip Three O'Clock High, which was Batiuk's original name for his strip before the syndicate rejected it. His appearances are seasoned with Creator Career Self-Deprecation, and he tends to wax nostalgic about things that Batiuk loves from his childhood (mainly Silver Age comic books).
  • The Bus Came Back: The Starbuck Jones film arc brought back the sentient WHS computer (now named "Holtron") from the wackier days of Act I. Problem is that there’s absolutely no frame of reference at all, meaning one has to be familiar enough with the comic to both remember a side character that hasn't appeared in thirty years AND the fact that the Starbuck Jones team re-appropriated that old computer to use as a prop in the film. Most readers just expressed confusion at a talking computer appearing out of nowhere.
  • Bus Crash:
    • Livinia Swenson. She was a fairly significant character in the strip's earliest years—she actually appeared in the very first strip—but she faded into obscurity well before the first Time Skip. She apparently died sometime before the main cast's 30th high school reunion (a 2008 story arc), where her picture was shown on the "Gone but not Forgotten" display next to Lisa's.
    • Coach Jack Stropp, the football coach who led Westview through its worst era (a long losing streak with absurdly one-sided scores) is revealed to have died of prostate cancer in the early 2010s.
  • Call-Back: Funky's time traveling is real since he's the "old geezer" who told his younger self to save the comic book.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless:
    • In one storyline from 2010, Funky gets in a car accident. When he tries to call for assistance, he finds that his cell phone isn't getting a signal. A few strips later, Funky realizes that he's been warped back in time to his high school years; his phone didn't work because the cell network doesn't exist yet. (And then it's revealed that Funky is actually having Adventures in Comaland after the car accident knocked him unconscious.)
    • For unknown reasons, Les never bothers to use a cellphone (or any phone, for that matter) to call home and check and see how his teenage daughter is doing. Nor do people at home call him. This results in bizarre situations like the February 6th, 2011 strip, where for for some reason he's completely shocked that his daughter got injured.
  • Cerebus Retcon: Several sitcom-y plot points were retconned into something significantly less funny.
    • The January-February 2013 arc has perhaps the most depressing, severe retcon yet. Peripheral character Fred Fairgood suffers a stroke. As recently as Autumn of 2012, he and his wife Ann had been depicted as a happy couple, looking back on their past with joy, love and pride. However, upon waiting in the hospital, Ann tells their son Darin that their marriage was a loveless union of lies and convenience that crushed her previously unrevealed dreams of being a writer. (The fact that in 2012 a major plot point was her great accomplishments in teaching girls' sports seems to be forgotten). Darin also discovers that his father had a family before he married Ann, complete with a daughter he hasn't seen in decades. Shattered by the revelations, Darin does nothing to comfort his mother or spare kind thoughts for his father, instead wandering off with a smirk to hope the government would give him money. In just a couple of weeks, Tom's transformed what previously seemed like an unusually (for Westview) happy family into a group of miserable, self-obsessed, deadbeat losers. Dark indeed.
    • This is veering sharply into Unreliable Narrator territory as of February 2011, with Les reminiscing about his grad-student days to an old schoolmate and blatantly re-casting the gag-strip period of his life as a bleak, existential affair where he and his friend would dream of escaping their small-town life and doing Big Things (complete with visuals in no way reminiscent of On the Waterfront's famous "contender" scene, no less!) Not to mention the visuals reinventing his old dorky young-adult self as looking more like a beat poet.)
    • What would be a mild retcon — Jeff from Crankshaft being revealed as Jess Darling's maternal uncle in 2013 — turns into this as this reveal was in furtherance of retconning Darin's conception into outright rape.
    • In the late 2010s, strips that had Bull Bushka being mildly forgetful or otherwise doing strange things that seem funny in context were just that ... something for a good laugh. Then, in 2019, things took a dark turn when it was revealed that Bull – wanting answers for severe headaches and his weird behavior – learns he had developed a degenerative brain condition (through years of playing football). He and his wife learn of treatment options ... except that healthcare coverage for his condition was denied. A despondent Bushka eventually takes his life rather than suffer through a disease that will eventually render him in a dementia-type state, cause him and his family to go bankrupt and to know his friends and colleagues can only watch heartbreakingly as he suffers through what will eventually be CTE. The storyline made national headlines and was a major feature article in the magazine Sports Illustrated.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Possibly the biggest example, short of the Trope Namer (and that's debatable).
  • Changing of the Guard: Each Act has a different central character: Funky in Act I, Lisa in Act II, and Les in Act III.
  • The Chew Toy:
    • Lisa never could catch a break. Even Batiuk admitted in an interview during the second cancer storyline that he didn't quite understand why she was always getting so much drama.
    • Les used to go through through this, but these days seems to be getting the opposite treatment. Possibly to make up for years of torture, and possibly because Batiuk has started to identify with him more.
  • Comic-Book Time: Started off this way, then went to real-time progression (or maybe slowed-down time progression) after the first Time Skip, then... well, it's hard to tell now. Both time skips seemed to take the strip from the present day to... still the present day but with everyone being older.
    • This is further complicated by the strip's relationship with its Spin-Off, Crankshaft, which did not participate in either time skip.
      • Before the second Time Skip, the strips were "simultaneous" for all purposes, even though the first skip and subsequent semi-real-time progression in Funky should have thrown things off. Batiuk has cheerfully admitted that he fudged the timelines during this period to make Crossovers easier.
      • Now, after the second Time Skip, things are kind of weird. In one sense, both strips take place in the present day, since current technology and current events are the same in both strips. (Most notably, the COVID-19 Pandemic occurred simultaneously in both strips.) But in another sense, Crankshaft is set a decade or so before Funky Winkerbean. Characters from each strip are visibly older or younger when they cross over into the other strip, and any Crankshaft plot events referenced in FW are treated as having happened years ago. Except when they aren't, like the time Jeff found a special rock in FW and then his younger self had the rock in Crankshaft. Generally speaking, Batiuk seems to drift back and forth between remembering there's a time discontinuity between the strips and completely forgetting (with "completely forgetting" becoming more dominant as time goes by). It's...best not to think about it too much.
    • Here's a rundown of how the characters' birth years have shifted over time:
      • In the original timeline, the characters were ca. 15 years old in 1972, which presupposes a birth year of roughly 1957. They reached their senior year in high school just before the first time skip in 1992, which would put their birth year around 1974—they were younger than the strip itself at that point.
      • The first time skip set their high school graduation year as 1988, implying that they were born in 1970.
      • The second time skip has them at roughly 46 years of age in 2010, giving them a birth date of about 1964.
      • In a 2020 strip, Funky ran a race in the "men's over sixty-five division", which would give him a birth year of 1955 or earlier.
  • Crapsack World: And the characters clearly are aware of it. Hell, Funky even described life as a curse. Les appears to be the most aware, and at all times seems to be merely waiting his turn, if only to be with Lisa again. A 2012 strip had him openly admit to not wanting to appear too happy lest the universe conspire against him.
  • Crossover: With Dick Tracy in 2015.
  • Deus Angst Machina: Especially the cancer plots, but pretty much everyone has had a pile-up of horrible events. Poor Les, what the heck is he going to do with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro? (The critics admit that it is a rather daunting "vacation".) He'd rather just go to Disney World.
  • Devolution Device: In the strip for June 8th, 2014. The entire strip is the cover of issue #216 of the fictional comic book Starbuck Jones. Starbuck Jones is on the cover, but he's in the shape of a chimpanzee after being affected by a Xaxian De-Volv ray.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Ever since the first time skip. One of the worst being Wally being declared AWOL because his discharge papers were filed one day too early (and not by him), and sent back for an entire year of active duty in Iraq. Did we mention that this is also how he ended up missing for ten years and declared KIA, thus spending years in captivity and returning home to his wife having remarried and his son never knowing his face? Oh, and developing serious PTSD that prevents him from going out in public and holding steady work? Yes, this is a typical life for a Funky Winkerbean cast member. For just one example, one week in 2009 covered an entire miserable day for the middle-aged Funky. This started with him facing laying off employees, progressed to his wife getting involved in a car wreck, to his father falling and breaking his hip, to him picking up his son from detention, and ending with the revelation that all this happened on his birthday. Oh, and while at the hospital, listening to the TV blare on about the horrible economy, Funky gets an e-mail warning him of elevated PSA levels - meaning he's also looking at the threat of prostate cancer. About halfway through the day, he even got upset at God for his string of failure. Regular readers simply wondered why more characters don't curse out the malevolent deity that controls their universe.
  • Driven to Suicide: A dark example: A series of events in late 2019 affecting Bull Bushka and his recent diagnosis with what will be explained is CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy, here caused by repeated blows to Bull's head during his football playing days) and his inability to get his health insurer to pay for treatment all leave Bull with no options ... except to take his life. This, despite having the full support of his wife, friends and Westview community. Incidentally, how he ends his life is a literal example: he drives his car off the road, through a guardrail and crashes into a deep ravine, crushing his skull upon impact (despite the fact he was wearing his football helmet).
  • Drowning My Sorrows:
    • An entire week in late 2009 depicted Wally doing this as a response to the complete implosion of his entire life. It ended with him talking to his adopted daughter while hiding a gun behind his back.
    • Funky thinks about doing this, but decides not to.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The characters in this strip aren't the most emotionally, mentally and/or physically stable of the bunch.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The principle this universe runs on.
  • Faking the Dead: Minor character Phil Holt died "offscreen" in October 2017. In July 2021, he surprised everyone by literally unmasking himself at a major public event. (This probably qualifies as a Series Continuity Error, for reasons described below.)
  • Flashback Effects: shading flashback panels to look like old photographs in an album.
  • Fully Absorbed Finale: The Funky Winkerbean spin-off John Darling ended very suddenly in the early '90s with the title character's murder on panel, as sort of a Take That! to his syndicate during a heated battle over the strip. The murder was never solved in that strip and in fact, at the time, Batiuk had not intended to ever solve it and had not originally planned who the killer was. In the late '90s, Batiuk returned to the storyline when Les wrote a book about the murder and through the writing process solved the mystery. (Not that it took much authorial ingenuity; John Darling was such a hated character is was a case of Everyone Is a Suspect. Batiuk just had to arbitrarily decide which minor character (that he didn't want to use again) it would be. He settled on Peter "Plantman" Moss.)
  • Game Show Appearance: The gang makes an appearance on Family Feud in the 1980s (during the Richard Dawson era).
  • The Grim Reaper:
    • Appears in a dream sequence as a man in a suit and tails with a strange white mask on his face. Pearls Before Swine parodied this almost a year later, as did My Cage.
    • Lisa as well, or at least her memory, seems to haunt Les. (As of the December 2010 strips, this seems to have become literal. Though, knowing Batiuk, this could turn out to be the beginning of Les' actual mental breakdown instead of the year's second Twilight Zone ripoff.) Given the real phone call and the aircraft mechanics' discussion about it, it doesn't seem to be all in his head.
    • My Cage did a parody of this plotline in late 2009, in which Jeff's son portrays Masky McDeath in a school play based on the (once-) popular newspaper comic "Groovy Blinkerlegume". This is likely also a dig at the Funky Winkerbean musical that was once popular as a high school production, and the then-recent Funky Winkerbean plot about the school doing a production of Wit.
  • Hide Your Lesbians:
    • After the principal's speech about no sexual discrimination in the student handbook, he's later seen talking to someone who's very awkwardly hidden by props in the foreground. Speculation is that it's either a known character or the personification of closeted gay teens everywhere (but just the light-skinned ones), but the plot point remains unresolved.
    • The couple that started the whole business stayed in the story exactly long enough to establish that a) they wanted to purchase prom tickets and b) they were a gay couple, after which they were never seen or heard from again.
  • Hope Spot: Lisa's cancer going into remission. Psyche! Turns out the hospital mixed up her paperwork with someone else and because she lost months of valuable treatment time, her cancer is now terminal. Of course, since recurrent breast cancer is always terminal (the best she could hope for, even if detected in a timely manner, would be a few more years at most), the Hope Spot was rather pointless - not to mention her doctor doesn't bother telling her this. Or that the therapy they're giving her can't cure her cancer. Did we mention Lisa was a lawyer?!
  • Hot for Teacher: Susan, as a teenager, had a crush on Les, her teacher during the post-Time Skip 1 era. When he married Lisa, she tried to kill herself. She returned as a teacher - still with a crush on him - and eventually told him she loves him, throwing herself into his arms and kissing him. When a photo of the kiss spreads throughout the school, she immediately resigns and leaves, Les making jokes about her obsession and smirking smugly all the while.
  • Jerkass:
    • Funky had an abrupt change post time-skip into an unabashed selfish, greedy jerk. Then again, this is a Crapsack World, it's enough to turn even the most idealistic heart to stone.
    • Les is coming off as this when he brings in two women he's involved with for a relatively self-centered demands to help him with the book, with the implications they're going to have to compete for his affections by agreeing with him.
    • Les on his Kilimanjaro adventure and annoying everyone by making "Livingston, I presume" jokes and unforgivably bad puns. In his defense needs some kind of stress-release considering he's climbing a mountain in a foreign country with only a few months of preparation from his ex-bully-turned-high school coach.
  • Just Plane Wrong: So Les is on a plane that gets grounded by a bomb threat called in by Lisa's ghost to prevent the plane from crashing. According to Les, the plane (with all the passengers and luggage still on board) sat at the gate for a couple hours after which they were given seats on a later flight—instead of being immediately removed from the plane and undergoing intense scrutiny by the TSA, as one might expect in the circumstances. Oh, and apparently there's no trouble getting an entire planeload of people seats on a later flight, though it's only a few days before Christmas.
  • Karma Houdini: In Crazy Harry's case, it's escaping the bad karma the rest of the original cast soaks up. The worst thing he's experienced is losing his job as a postal worker...which by this universe's standards is a slap on the wrist.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: There's an absolutely insane amount of characters for a three-panel comic strip. If you think Doonesbury has a large cast, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Unfortunately the format isn't suited to such a large cast, and Batiuk himself routinely loses track of character relationships, backstories, and occasionally names.
  • The Last DJ: Les Moore is apparently the only person in the entire world who does anything for the sake of artistic expression. Everybody else is creating twaddle for money-grubbing weasels. Taken to absurd lengths in the Lust For Lisa storyline, where Les's film script is rejected by the only-in-it-for-the-money studios for, in their dismissive words, being "a beautiful work of art."
  • The Lost Lenore: Lisa, for Les. Mourning Lisa is Les's raison d'être after the second Time Skip. There are so, so many strips where Les is thinking about Lisa, or talking about Lisa, or talking to Lisa, or writing books about Lisa, or trying to sell his books about Lisa, or reluctantly participating in the creation of a movie based on his books about Lisa... His relationship with Cayla was supposed to represent him "moving on", but many of his story arcs revolved around Lisa even after he and Cayla married.
  • Love Triangle:
    • Between the post-Time Skip II Les, his former suicidal student-turned-colleague Susan, and fellow post-Time Skip II teacher Cayla. It eventually ended with Susan causing a scandal by being seen kissing Les and her departure from the strip, leaving Cayla the winner to eventually marry Les. At least she had the approval of Les' dead wife's ghost!
    • Summer Moore (Les and Lisa's daughter) is liked by both a nerdy boy who looks suspiciously like Les and his slacker best friend who's defined by his goofy hat — however there's no proof she likes either (critics were thankful that Generation Xerox was avoided... for now). Complicating matters is an unnamed blonde girl who likes the nerd but he doesn't know she exists even after she texts him thanks to a prank by the slacker.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: How far the series has fallen into Wish-Fulfillment at any given moment can be calculated by looking at the proportion of characters who are writers or comic artists (or the wives of writers and comic artists). These characters also tend to be more happy and successful than those in other jobs, who are invariably either severely depressed or saddled with an ironic injury of some sort. In fact, writing comic books seems to be the most prestigious goal a Funky character can achieve - one arc has two characters abandon lucrative careers as Hollywood movie writers to write comics (for a brand new company with no stable of characters, no less).
  • New Media Are Evil: Batiuk isn’t the biggest fan of the Internet, probably helped along by the numerous websites dedicated to trashing his comic, so in his Wish-Fulfillment universe that’s the consensus re: the Internet, everyone hates it and are always totally outraged and disgusted by it. This occasionally gets to the point where the story and characters bend around it and work it in at completely random moments, such as one particularly strange strip where an actor gets angry over bloggers suggesting his movie could win an Oscar. What actor would get upset at seeing his earning potential rise?One who got the news via the evil Internet, that’s who.
  • Off the Wagon: Teased in a 2010 strip, though subverted - while the Saturday strip showed Funky ordering a drink, the next day's strip showed him simply chatting up the bar tender about his horrible life, then leaving the full glass behind, which the bartender then drinks himself, even though bartenders really aren't supposed to drink on the job. Because that is how depressing this comic is.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Jerome Bushka, aka “Bull.”
  • Out of Focus: Funky himself hasn't been the strip's central character in a long time; see Secondary Character Title, below.
  • Parental Abandonment: After his stroke, Fred's estranged daughter showed up to look in on the old man. It seems that he never seemed to want to tell Darin his disastrous first marriage or the daughter he was 'forced' to give up.
  • Parent with New Paramour:
    • Time Skip II finds Becky married to John, the comic book store owner; the reappearance of her first husband Wally after years of captivity in Iraq has made her life somewhat awkward.
    • Les Moore eventually began to date again after the second time skip, though he frequently sought comfort from his wife's ghost (though whether this was merely in his head or not is unexplained.) The woman was Cayla Williams, who was also the mother of Summer Moore's athletics rival. Les eventually married Cayla in late 2012.
  • Phone Call from the Dead: Les Moore's deceased wife Lisa calls him in the airport to warn him not to take a flight that's destined to crash. He takes the flight anyway, but she saves him by arranging for the plane's mechanical problem to be discovered.
  • Punny Name: It's safe to say that Batiuk is fond of these. Some of them double as Meaningful Names, but others are clearly just for fun.
    • Les Moore.
    • Several early characters, including bandleader Harry Dinkle, the late football coach Jack Stropp, and—in a less risqué vein—drum majorette (and future Mrs. Winkerbean) Holly Budd.
    • Mason Jarre ( Jarr), Hollywood actor.
    • Speaking of Mason, he bought a house that "used to be owned by the rapper Hershey Barr...and then later by the alt-Latina singer Bubu Zayla".
    • Cliff Anger, a much older Hollywood actor from the era of cliffhanger-y movie serials. And by MUCH older, Cliff would seem to be about 120 or so....if the Time Skips are taken into account. (Even if they aren't, Batiuk has an extremely shaky grip on probable time lines, as demonstrated by an arc about Cliff's adventures in the silent movie era....which was presented straight-faced as having taken place in the 1940s.)
    • Amicus Breef, the lawyer who tries to help when Adeela is mistakenly detained by ICE.
    • Ruby Lith, the elderly female comic book artist. Likewise, her daughter Amber Lith.
    • Chester Hagglemore, a wealthy comics collector infamous for his wheeling and dealing and...well...haggling. (At least in his early appearances.)
    • Echo Chambers, the youthful news director at a vaguely-defined online media company.
    • "Rocky" Rhodes, Cory Winkerbean's Army buddy (and later, his fiancée).
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Most of the high school students from the first time skip, despite the second time skip ostensibly being to pass the torch to the younger generation. Then despite a great deal of build up to said generation of students, they were also Put on a Bus to largely focus on Les' daughter Summer Moorenote .
    • Funky's stepson Corey joined the army...without really resolving any of his own open storylines.
  • Prom Is for Straight Kids: A spring 2012 storyline featured a gay couple wanting to attend prom together. Said couple then vanish without a trace for the rest of the arc, not even getting names. When "Prom Committee Member" Roberta Blackburn finds out, she launches a demonstration to force the school officials' hand and stop the couple from attending. However, Summer Moore decides that a bunch of students will skip class as a show of support, even though Batiuck makes it clear the majority of students just want to skip class, period. The principal who holds an assembly to point out that there's no discrimination based on sexual-orientation in the school handbook. Even though as Roberta was just a volunteer, he could have easily dismissed her instead of lecturing his students on a viewpoint they never put forth. Roberta is only stopped, however, by her milksop husband unexpectedly chewing her out in public, causing her to crumple like a damp dishrag.
  • Samus Is a Girl:
    • The Eliminator, a helmeted Bratty Half-Pint arcade gamer from the original strips, retconned late in the first time skip into Donna, a hot blond (and Crazy Harry's future wife).
    • Cory's unseen friend Rocky in the military has since been revealed to be the rather pretty Roxanne.
  • Secondary Character Title: Applied for a long time, in that while Funky originally was the main character, he gradually ceded the spotlight to Les. By the 1980s and through the 2010s, Funky was definitely a secondary character ... but by 2021 he had clawed his way back into the forefront of the strip, receiving far more "screen time" than any other character by far.
  • Series Continuity Error: Batiuk's tendency to not always remember things — like the Time Skip, or details about how old characters are, or their names, or what permanent infirmities they may be battling, or whether they've already been established as dead — make these a constant feature in the strip's later years.
    • The gap in time between the spin-off strip Crankshaft (which didn't make any Time Skips) and Funky is particularly prone to continuity snafus wherever a crossover is attempted. Sometimes the time gap between strips is apparent (usually when the aging, vegetative husk of Ed Crankshaft is seen in Funky Winkerbean), but often it isn't (usually whenever one of the Crankshaft supporting characters makes an appearance).
    • The "Funky renovates his bathroom and kitchen" plot thread is definitely one of the weirder continuity snarls. Hang on, this gets complicated.
      In April 2021, after a year of the-world-as-normal storylines, the strip finally made its first direct reference to "the pandemic". However, it referred to the pandemic in the past tense—as something that had happened "last year", but was now pretty much over (at least to the point that no one was wearing masks in public anymore). This was followed by a series of flashback arcs, to show what things had been like in Westview during the height of the pandemic.
      While this sudden insertion of the pandemic into the strip's history could be framed as either a standard Retcon or a "stealth" Time Skip, the "Funky renovates his bathroom and kitchen" plot thread doesn't fit either of those models. The renovation work clearly began before the pandemic started, and ended after it was over, without any sign that the work was affected by the pandemic or took a full extra year to complete.
    • The death of Phil Holt. In November 2017, about a month after his "offscreen" demise, several strips explicitly showed his ghost conversing with another dead character and observing what was being done with his old stuff. Then he showed up alive in July 2021, and explained to everyone that he had been Faking the Dead the whole time. How he faked his own ghost was not explained.
      • Some readers have tried to reconcile this by proposing that the "ghost" was actually an unlabeled Fantasy Sequence, imagined by one of the living characters in the scene. However, Batiuk has not confirmed this interpretation, and those living characters were visibly distracted with other business.
    • In the 2018-07-25 strip, Mason Jarr introduces Les and Cayla to Cliff Anger and Vera Nash, and then they all sit down to dinner together. In the 2021-08-20 strip, Mason introduces them all again, and they all act as though they've never met before.
    • Skyler (Lisa's grandson) was born in 2013, and seemed to grow at a normal rate at least for a while, looking and acting like a six-year-old in 2019 and speaking in complete sentences. But by 2021, he had unaccountably regressed back to about 2 years of age in both appearance and vocabulary.
    • In the early 2010s, Funky's father Morton slowly started exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's-like dementia, and progressed to a point where he was in a nursing home, wheelchair-bound — and when trying to have a conversation, his memory loss had him simply repeating phrases over and over again. Since then, he seems to have somehow recovered; although he still lives in the retirement home, he now gets around quite well, has detailed and specific conversations, and is quite the smooth-talking ladies man. In universe, no-one has commented on his remarkable turnaround.
    • In what was meant to be a tearjerking storyline, in the late 1990s Harry Dinkle (whose entire self-image rested upon his position as a band leader) retired from his beloved job because he was experiencing severe hearing loss and was going deaf. Since then, over the next 20+ years there's been no mention of Harry having any hearing impairment — in fact, he seems to hear everything just fine. In universe, no-one has commented on his remarkable turnaround.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • Wally stopped going to his therapy sessions so he can sit in a crappy apartment and drink to forget; given that one strip had his ex Becky whine about how destructive he was, it's obvious that we're about to see a massacre that is All Wally's Fault for not Getting With The Program.
    • Wally in a very believable series of strips was given an assistance dog to help him with his PTSD. With the dog's support, he has become mentally and emotionally stable enough to take care of himself and start dating again.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog:
    • Lisa's death. The author made it clear almost a year before the plot line resolved that it was going to end with her death, so enduring a year of Lisa not knowing, getting a few false hopes, and then wasting away in hospice, was excruciating.
    • Bull's encephalopathy from a history of football injuries has recently been fodder for awkward "jokes" about him being forgetful or quirky, which would possibly be chuckle-worthy if not for the fact that they're the direct result of severe brain trauma. And just like Lisa's fate it's been confirmed, months in advance, that Bull's story will end tragically, this time by suicide. Here We Go Again!!
  • Shout-Out:
    • In real life, Batiuk is a huge fan of comics and has a few friends in the comic book industry, such as his neighbor Tony Isabella and John Byrne, who once drew Funky Winkerbean for ten weeks while Batiuk recovered from foot surgery. This has manifested itself in other Shout-Out moments during the strip.
    • From time to time, Batiuk will devote an entire Sunday strip to a replica of a Silver Age DC Comics cover, usually with a single panel tying it into whatever is going on with the characters' lives. Sometimes he parodies it by inserting his own characters into the cover, but other times the only appearance of Funky cast members is in the tie-in panel.
    • Les and Lisa got married wearing Batman and Robin costumes. When Les remarried he wore a normal tux, but he still referenced his first wedding and said he felt like Superman.
    • One of Les' former students (during the post-Time Skip I era), Pete, went on to become a writer for Marvel Comics after the second Time Skip.
    • A 1/24/10 (Sunday) strip had Crazy Harry discussing comic book heroes of past generations and how they were "real heroes" who "weren't deeply disturbed and borderline psychotic". This shout out was problematic because the retro hero he held up as an example was Marvel's Speedball, who went Darker and Edgier in Civil War a few years prior. Comics Curmudgeon commenters thought this hilarious and joked that Speedball/Penance would fit into the miserable Funkyverse perfectly. Arguably, it fits into Harry's rant about The Dark Age of Comic Books perfectly; Batiuk is knowledgeable enough about comics that he may be well aware of his fate. It's the total failure to see that he's doing the exact same thing to his own comic that makes it hilarious.
  • Show Within a Show: Quite a few of them by Act III, given the number of characters who are either writers, comic book artists, or actors. The two most consequential are Lisa's Story and Starbuck Jones.
    • Lisa's Story is Les's memoir of Lisa's struggle with breast cancer and her eventual death. The success of the book spawned a sequel, a prequel, and two separate attempts at a movie adaptation.
      • The first movie attempt crashed and burned when Les decided the story wasn't being handled to his specifications, so he invoked a clause that allowed him to cancel the project even as it was in the middle of being made, along with retaining the right to his book to sell the movie rights again.
      • The second movie attempt went through years of development and creation, but had big name actors (well, big names within the Funky Winkerbean universe) attached. After a long process of shooting the film (in which Les bungled his cameo as a waiter), production wrapped. No further details on the film followed for months, until it was off-handedly mentioned that Les learned in an e-mail that the "Lisa's Story" film bombed. But several months after that, it was revealed that the film did surprisingly well on streaming services after bombing in theaters, and earned enough critical attention for the actress playing Lisa to be nominated for an Oscar. The storyline is ongoing as of February 2022.
      • Incidentally, there are three real-world collections of Funky Winkerbean strips that have exactly the same titles and cover art as Les's three books about Lisa. Is that Product Placement, Defictionalization, or both?
    • Starbuck Jones was a Silver Age comic book about a Captain Space, Defender of Earth! hero, published by Batom Comics. It was popular enough at the time to spawn a movie serial, but then lay more-or-less forgotten until Hollywood decided to make a modern blockbuster out of it. The movie was a huge hit that turned its lead actors into stars. Its sequel, Rise of the Zeton Warriors, should be out in...well, it's not clear, but as of 2021 there are already billboards advertising it.
    • The Amazing Mr. Sponge was Batom Comics's second-most-popular title, about a superhero with the power to...absorb liquids? The title later fell into the hands of Mega Comics, where Pete wrote a very controversial story that retconned Mr. Sponge as having been a clone of the "real" Mr. Sponge since the very first issue. Fans were, predictably, outraged.
    • Atomik Komix is the self-appointed heir of the Batom Comics tradition, and has put out a number of different titles, none of which we've seen in much detail beyond their impressive cover art. (Most examples of which, in real life, are drawn by respected working comics artists who are commissioned by Batiuk to create one-shot Sunday comics which consist of a large rendering of one these covers.) These include: Atomic Ape (Raygun Gothic, but with monkeys); Rip Tide, Scuba Cop (self-explanatory?) and its Spin-Off-or-Sequel Series The Scuba-Side Squad; The Inedible Pulp (big monster guy made of soggy comic books); Scorch (a woman made of fire); Wayback Wendy (adorable little girl and her Canine Companion have time-travel adventures through history); The Stardusters (Asteroid Miners); The Sunset Kid (The Western); The Subterranean (big gray Hulk-looking guy who lives underground and is presumably made of rock); and Doctor Atmos (a living gas-cloud in a human-shaped pressure suit). Whew.
    • Fallen Star, Les's earlier and less-successful book about the murder of John Darling.
    • Murder in the Bookstore and its sequels,note  a series of book-themed Cozy Mystery novels by Lillian McKenzie. (Technically, Lillian is more of a Crankshaft character, but both she and her books have appeared in FW as well.)
    • Three O’Clock High, the long-running newspaper comic strip that is the in-universe equivalent of Funky Winkerbean itself. The strip is created by Batton Thomas, who is an Author Avatar of Batiuk (see above).
  • Spin-Off: Two in John Darling and Crankshaft.
  • Spirit Advisor: Lisa, although it's probably safe to assume this is just a figment of Les's imagination. Though, knowing Funky Cancercancer, the guide Lisa is probably actually a brain tumor.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Funky's reaction when he discovers he's back in 1980 and it's just as bewildering and strange as 2010.
  • Straw Critic: The parents who don't like the drama class performing the play Wit because "School plays are for fun and relaxation, not art."
  • Sudden Name Change: Pete Roberts' last name was abruptly changed to Reynolds in 2015, with no explanation given. The character graphic on the official website still uses his old name.
  • Take That!: To fellow cartoonist Johnny Hart, for using B.C. as a medium to share his Christian beliefs.
  • Take That, Critics!: Batiuk has used this comic and his other strip, Crankshaft, to dish out some lumps of his own over criticism that the strip was overly dramatic.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Lisa went through this, giving birth to Darin Fairgood, whom she gave up for adoption.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Funky's stepson Corey steals Lisa's cancer charity money and it's implied it's just his latest brush with the law. Funky covers for him by replacing the money himself...while appearing as a "good guy" because he makes a grand gesture of apparent generosity without telling Les where the money went. The plot has yet to be revisited.
  • Terrible Pick-Up Lines: One strip had Crazy Harry lamenting his lack of success with women and Lisa offering to let him practice his lines with her. His first one, "So, got a name?" causes her to get up and walk off without another word.
  • Theme Initials: The one-armed teacher has the same first initial as her three sisters (something like Beth, Becky, Berenice, and Bella).
  • Time Skip: Two of them! The first one also signaled the comic's shift into more dramatic storylines.
  • Time Travel: Funky travels back in time after crashing his car. Maybe.
  • The Un-Reveal: What Cindy thought was an American military contractor being swapped in a prisoner exchange turned out to be Funky's cousin, Wally. The dramatic effect was blunted by Wally himself telling the story as a flashback.
  • Very Special Episode:
    • After 16-plus years of following the tried-and-true gag-a-day format, Batiuk began a recurring story arc to address teen pregnancy. Lisa Crawford, a mousy outcast of a student who was butt ugly, had somehow caught the eye of all-star wide receiver Francis "Frankie" Pierce... only for the relationship to go straight downhill after the two get drunk at a party and have sex. Frankie reveals his true colors and beats up Lisa after learning she got pregnant; her parents at home are zero help, leaving Lisa to turn to her only friend left... the even worse outcast named Les Moore. Ultimately, Lisa gives birth to a baby boy and gives him up for adoption (unknown to her, the parents are her high school principal and his wife, Fred and Ann Fairgood, who give baby Darin the stable environment he needs).
    • After the success and critical acclaim of the "teen pregnancy" storyline, Very Special Strips would follow. While some storylines were rather mundane, several had very dark themes, most notably a recurring arc centering on Lisa contracting breast cancer that began in 2002 and continued for more than five years; it ultimately ended with her death. Other common Very Special Strip themes dealt with war issues and alcoholism.
  • Wall of Text: This strip, which could possibly also count as an Author Filibuster. See Writer on Board for the background.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Plenty of readers are wondering what happened to the other driver in Funky's July 2010 car crash.
  • What Year Is This?: Funky asks this during his trip back through time.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Westview is apparently located somewhere in Ohio (Batiuk's an Akron native), but precisely where is never specified.
  • White Mask of Doom: Who could it be but Masky?
  • Wish-Fulfillment: In his early 20s, Tom Batiuk went to New York and was turned down for writing/illustration jobs with both DC and Marvel. But in Funky Winkerbean, an extraordinary number of characters are successful authors (including Les and Harry), and many of them are wildly successful comic book writers. Pete is the highest paid writer in the business, and by the 2010s it is unquestioned in the Funkyverse that the single greatest form of human endeavor is writing and creating (preferably comics).
  • Would Hit a Girl:
    • It's clear that when she was dating Frankie Pierce, Lisa was the victim of dating abuse. This was only referred to until a June 2013 strip, when a panel explicitly showed Frankie raising his hand to punch Lisa. However, this assault is averted when a young man and his girlfriend — who were out jogging and happened to witness the goings-on — ran Frankie off. The witness to this imminent assault tells his story to Les Moore (the man Lisa would eventually marry) and Darin Fairgood (the biological child of Frankie and Lisa) as Les gathers evidence to thwart Frankie's plans to make a reality show based on a "reunion" between him and Darin, and in the process desecrate the memory of Lisa (who thanks in-universe died almost two decades ago).
    • Around 2001, while Lisa was pregnant (with Summer) and working part-time at Montoni's (to pay off student loans and awaiting her first job as an attorney), Frankie — aware that their biological son Darin, now teen-aged, was also working at Montoni's — arrived at the restaurant to force a reconciliation. After the two got into an argument and Lisa told Frankie to leave or else the police would be called, Frankie shoves her down! Lisa goes into premature labor while, as Darin and others are tending to her, Frankie flees the scene on foot. (It is never known whether he got arrested, but fortunately, Lisa is able to deliver her baby with few problems.)
  • Writer on Board:
    • A plotline in which angry parents protest a school play about cancer and death and Les gets to defend it, a clear analogy for the reaction to the strip's own cancer storyline.
    • Les in general, really. He clearly has an unhealthy obsession with his late wife's death and is using his writing career as a platform for talking about it. Kind of like Tom Batiuk.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: For most of the last few years, the Sunday strips were dedicated to watching Crazy Harry build up a collection of Tarzan novels; this seems to be so that he'd have to sell them off to pay the bills after the post office shutdown arc.
  • You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost: When Funky encounters his pre-Time Skip I self.
  • Younger Than They Look: Despite looking old enough to be his son's grandfather, Funky is only 54 years old. This could be applied to everyone, since they share the same world-weary appearance whether they're elderly or in high school. From internal evidence (the day his birthday party ran in the papers), Funky was born on March 29, 1964 and is therefore the same age to the day as Elle MacPherson. He looks old enough to be Elle MacPherson's father.

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