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Comic Strip / Funky Winkerbean

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A long-running Newspaper Comic strip, written and drawn by Tom Batiuknote  since 1972. Chuck Ayers has assisted on the artwork since the 1990s.

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.

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 Time Skip...


And then there was 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).

And then in 2008, Batiuk decided there needed to be a second Time Skip to turn things over to the kids of the original cast. Even then, the majority of the storylines have focused 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 storylines and strips being structured around wordplay: Les Moore has become a successful writer, Pete Roberts (er, Reynolds) has become a successful comic writer, Derrin Fairgood has become a succesful comic writer, Harry Dingle 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 is a recovering one.
  • 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 Derin sneaking onto a cargo ship to steal some pens, which, this being Funky Winkerbein, ends with Derrin 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: Funky isn't even seen that often; the strip now focuses much more on Les. This has apparently been true for decades, even back when it was a Lighter and Softer strip, if the stage musical Funky Winkerbean's Homecoming (where Les is the main character and Funky only has two scenes) is anything to go by. These days, it's debatable which is the bigger artifact, the fact that the title character doesn't show up that often or that the title "Funky Winkerbean" suggests the Lighter and Softer strip it was at the start 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. Some of Batton's appearances have been played for Self-Deprecating Humor, but one was an Author Filibuster about how good The Flash #123 ("Flash Of Two Worlds") was.
  • 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 2010, a storyline involving Funky being involved in a car accident (caused by a young woman whose car veers into the path of Funky's car while she was talking on a cellular telephone while driving) sees Funky be knocked unconscious and drift back to the year 1980. During the flashback, Funky is seen in his present-day self, having been involved in an accident where he was forced off the road to avoid a collision; he has his phone with him but is unable to call for help (since cell phones as we know them today were things of the future).
    • 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 Darrin's conception into outright rape.
  • 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. (And this is further complicated by the strip's relationship with its Spin-Off. Crankshaft also seems to take place in the present day, even though it didn't participate in the second time skip...)
    • In the original timeline, the characters were ca. 15 years old in 1972, which presupposes a birth year of roughly 1957.
    • The first timeshift had them graduate in 1988, implying that they were born in 1970.
    • The third timeshift 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..
  • 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.
  • 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 later 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.)
  • 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 Mc Death 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.
  • 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 twaddle created by money-grubbing weasels. Taken to absurd lengths in the Lust For Lisa storyline, where Les's film script is rejected for being "a beautiful work of art." Really.
  • 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. Because that is how depressing this comic is.
  • 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:
    • Les Moore.
    • Several early characters, including bandleader Harry Dinkle and the late football coach Jack Stropp.
  • 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 Comittee 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: Also somewhat of an Artifact Title, in that Funky originally was the main character, or at least shared the spotlight with Les. Nowadays, it's pretty clear who the main character is and that this trope currently applies.
  • 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.
  • 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." The snarking blogs and readers' comments note that Wit wouldn't be easy to mount with teen performers and would risk losing the school's money if their peers and families don't come to see it — not a smart move at a time when arts programs are suffering due to a recession. Also, good luck finding a female high school drama student willing to shave her head for a school play. All things considered, the Strawman Has a Point. Other critics noted that a logical response to the Straw Critic's suggestion of doing Spamalot would have been to point out the prohibitive costs of licensing and producing a currently running musical versus the small cast and minimal set needed for Wit - but the comic naturally featured a pretentious lecture about the arts instead.
  • 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. Which, given Batiuk's tendency to go into comic-tantrums when someone speaks out against his cancer-centric plotlines, is like a cannibal mocking someone for being a vegan.
  • 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 Darrin 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).
  • 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.
  • Time Skip: Two of them! The first one also signaled the comic's shift into more dramatic storylines.
    • The first strips to directly reference "the pandemic" came out in April 2021, and referred to it in the past tense—as something that had happened, but was now over. There was no sign of a pandemic in earlier strips. It is currently unclear if this was a "stealth" Time Skip or a straight-up Retcon.
  • 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?
  • 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. Golly, that couldn't possibly be related to anything that happened in Batiuk's career that he's still pointlessly bitter about, right?
    • 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 poorly-researched 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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