That's not funny, its sad.
September 7, 2011 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Comic blogger Chris Sims, of the Invincible Super-Blog fame, has been making a convincing case over the last year or so at Comics Alliance for Funky Winkerbean being the most depressing long form comic ever written.
posted by rtimmel (84 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
(Nota bene: Chris Sims is neither the guy that loved to throw interceptions for the Longhorns nor the misogynist asshat that wrote about an aardvark.)
posted by kmz at 2:50 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


For supplemental reading, see also Comics Curmudgeon's Funkyverse coverage (as mentioned by on the CA writeups as well). The true masochist completist should of course be reading Crankshaft on the side.
posted by cortex at 2:51 PM on September 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


the comics curmudgeon also likes to rip on funky winkerbean, and somewhere there are some hilarious medium large strips (done by the guy who writes sally forth) that funky winkersatire.
posted by beefetish at 2:53 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


GOD DAMN YOU CORTEX
posted by beefetish at 2:53 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Funky Cancercancer
posted by Iridic at 2:55 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


and somewhere there are some hilarious medium large strips (done by the guy who writes sally forth) that funky winkersatire.

Not sure how to search reliably for them, but here are three.
posted by cortex at 3:02 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


not funky winkerbean but medium large andy capp still cracks me up
posted by beefetish at 3:05 PM on September 7, 2011


Jesus. I got about three months of recaps in and got to the part where Batiuk brought back a now-adult version of a character who was in the strip 15 years earlier as an underage student who was in love with one of the characters who then tried to kill herself when he rejected her... to be the third wheel in a love triangle with the same character... who rejects her.

Reading Funky Winkerbean is like looking at a giant red button on the wall that says "press to have giant boot kick you in penis" and then it cuts to you ten seconds later on the floor spitting blood wondering what the fuck made you think anything else was going to happen.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:07 PM on September 7, 2011 [12 favorites]


Never read it. I love it just for the name. Nothing is funner to say than "funky winkerbean".
posted by DU at 3:07 PM on September 7, 2011


Is it weird that I’m now interested in reading Funky Winkerbean? I had no idea this was still going, much less the turn it had taken.

Strangely, half an hour ago I was waiting at the car repair place and looked at the comics, thinking about how long it was since I’d read newspaper comic strips, and wondering if there was anything interesting I was missing out on.
posted by bongo_x at 3:08 PM on September 7, 2011


Those comics aren't depressing, they have heart.

Or some other bullshit people say when they reminisce nostalgically about sad episodes of the Simpsons and depressing Calvin & Hobbes strips.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:11 PM on September 7, 2011


Comic blogger Chris Sims, of the Invincible Super-Blog fame, has been making a convincing case over the last year or so at Comics Alliance for Funky Winkerbean being the most depressing long form comic ever written.

You write this as if it required a case to be made. This is like "Top Scientists determine that water is likely wet!"

Nice post, though.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:11 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is it weird that I’m now interested in reading Funky Winkerbean? I had no idea this was still going, much less the turn it had taken.

That's just eccentricity. Weird is when you end up following Mary Worth more or less religiously.

Troubled is when you start cosplaying Mallard Filmore.
posted by cortex at 3:13 PM on September 7, 2011 [15 favorites]


By the way I saw that as someone who has a cursory knowledge of FW being a darkly melodramatic comic. I think most people, myself included, just don't read it and are unaware how depressing it is on a daily basis. I also think a big part of it might just be that the style is far more "cartoony" than most soap opera strips. No one really goes "oh man, Mary Worth is just so serious all the time!" and I think a lot of people just assume FW is still this cartoony strip about high school students.

The only credit I'll continue to give Batiuk is that whatever you think of the quality, for godssakes at least he's trying to do something to advance and improve both himself and his wheezing, life-support-reliant representative of the syndicated newspaper comic industry. "My daughter just got brain damage" someone, in some bizarre way, beats 25 straight years of "I hate Mondays" and "Aaaack!"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:15 PM on September 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


live action mary worth

funky winkerbean's winkerdrama really reminds me more of webcomics that decide to inject a panoply of human suffering into the plot to make it ..... SERIOUS
posted by beefetish at 3:18 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


when they reminisce nostalgically about sad episodes of the Simpsons

What.
posted by The World Famous at 3:18 PM on September 7, 2011


I guess it does beat Mallard Fillmore for depressing-ness (mostly) although at least they're trying to tell a story.
posted by GuyZero at 3:21 PM on September 7, 2011


Mary Worth? That strip still exists? I remember in high school, one day our English teacher gave our class 5 copies yesterday's newspaper and a list of words to locate in the paper. We were totally stumped on one word, spent the whole class searching for it. At the end, the teacher said, "Ha, I knew none of you would read Mary Worth."

Okay.. Nobody has read Mary Worth for at least 40 years. It is actually invisible to newspaper readers, they look at it and do not see it. Why does anyone still publish it?
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:25 PM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Those comics aren't depressing, they have heart.

Or some other bullshit people say when they reminisce nostalgically about sad episodes of the Simpsons and depressing Calvin & Hobbes strips.


Futurama - Jurassic Bark.

I win. And lose. *sniff*
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:28 PM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Troubled is when you start cosplaying Mallard Filmore.

That's some high octane nightmare fuel right there. Gah.

And wait, this is actually serious? I thought this was like those mock serious sites that deeply analyze Marmaduke or Garfield or something.

In my defense, the local papers never carried Funky Winkerbean when I was a kid so I just assumed it was something like Hi and Lois or Blondie. Oops.

Though, if you want to talk about a newspaper comic that went off the rails, exhibit A has to be For Better or For Worse.
posted by kmz at 3:28 PM on September 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


when they reminisce nostalgically about sad episodes of the Simpsons

What.


Here, I'll fix it:

...when they reminisce nostalgically about sad touching episodes of the Simpsons...

To be clear, I was joking about Funky Winkerbean having heart. But I was not joking that heart usually just means depressing.

Futurama - Jurassic Bark.

I win.


Hands down.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:33 PM on September 7, 2011


Troubled is when you start cosplaying Mallard Filmore.

Prepare to feel the sharp beak of Clan Muskovy! *Activates Lure of Millet*
posted by benzenedream at 3:35 PM on September 7, 2011


Yikes, I’d never even heard of Mallard Fillmore. Now that I’ve looked it up, I’m not even sure what to say, except Ugh.
posted by bongo_x at 3:39 PM on September 7, 2011


Sick is pretty depressing.
posted by juv3nal at 3:39 PM on September 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


I can see Funky having heart, via an All That Jazz inspired montage that juxtaposes technical drawings of open-heart surgery while a character revisits all the tragedies of his life before finally falling into the void in a panel that's half The Jilting of Granny Weatherall and half Jack Chick.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:40 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Troubled is when you start cosplaying Mallard Filmore.

Or writing Mallard Filmore/Shoe slash.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:42 PM on September 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


That's just eccentricity. Weird is when you end up following Mary Worth more or less religiously.

That's the thing... I don't think it's weird: Mary Worth is from another planet how could it be read without irony? What's weird is writing a comic whose audience consists of Grandpa Simpson and people looking for irony and lulz.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:42 PM on September 7, 2011


Does Mallard Fillmore even have characters, except for the titular avian mouthpiece? There's not even anything to cosplay.
posted by GuyZero at 3:42 PM on September 7, 2011


Mallard Fillmore attempts to be a conservative Doonesbury, the primary difference is that Trudeau at least grudgingly respectful in his treatment of conservative characters like BD, while I've never seen Tinsley be anything other than mean-spirited in his caricatures.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:45 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


THE WINKERBEANER
posted by The Whelk at 3:46 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Though, if you want to talk about a newspaper comic that went off the rails, exhibit A has to be For Better or For Worse.


Holy shit. What is going on here.
posted by griphus at 3:51 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look, for all its calamity, Funky Winkerbean has the merit of giving its characters a life which doesn't entirely suck because they don't all kill each other and things actually happen to them.

Cathy, on the other hand, is a fucking microscope jammed into the pathetic diary of the most horribly wretched creature ever who is trapped in an endless "Groundhog Day" of shitty work, shitty dates, shitty lunches with friends, shitty calls to mom, shitty shopping mishaps at shitty shopping malls, and worst of all shitty pet tricks. Over, and over, and over, and over ....

Think about it: if Cathy would only get breast cancer or be knocked into a coma by a baseball, something new would happen to her and maybe she could get out of that job / relationship / apartment / mall / kitchen / juice bar / endless phonecall / pile of dog shit.

DEAR GOD PLEASE someone kill her now!
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:52 PM on September 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


I love Chris Sims, but Comics Curmudgeon is really the authoritative source for documenting the unrelentingly dismal Funky Winkerbean, while also keeping an eye on some of the other insanity on the comics pages.
posted by straight at 3:59 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Holy shit. What is going on here.

Just to clarify, what I linked isn't an actual FBOFW strip, but a parody that nonetheless outlines the Anthony and Liz storyline pretty accurately. Though I'm sure Lynn Johnston would disagree.
posted by kmz at 4:02 PM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ahh, Okay. I thought this was about For Better Or For Worse. I always get confused whenever I look at Funky Winkerbean and think "Hey, isn't this Crankshaft?"
posted by P.o.B. at 4:06 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


on the FBoFW front, Kate Beaton had a nice take as well. That strip is its whole own can of worms, of which previously and previouslier.
posted by cortex at 4:14 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am always confusing the two strips.
posted by Monochrome at 4:15 PM on September 7, 2011


I always defend it in the comments. I think if it was an indie autobiographical comic strip it would be lauded, and putting that kind of despair in the comics page is pretty brave. Besides, isn't that what life is? A never ending series of despair and depression, ending in death? Its more true than Garfield.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:21 PM on September 7, 2011


DEAR GOD PLEASE someone kill her now!

I'd willingly spend a month with Cathy before I'd spend a day in the Family Circus.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:21 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]



I always defend it in the comments. I think if it was an indie autobiographical comic strip it would be lauded, and putting that kind of despair in the comics page is pretty brave. Besides, isn't that what life is? A never ending series of despair and depression, ending in death? Its more true than Garfield.


Actually, now that I think about it Garfield is also a never ending parade of despair.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:23 PM on September 7, 2011


OK, the huge volume of what amounts to FBOFW slash is really frightening.
posted by GuyZero at 4:24 PM on September 7, 2011


Its more true than Garfield.

That's going to be my new go-to phrase in any discussion about Star Wars.
posted by The World Famous at 4:25 PM on September 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


So, based on the August strips Chris linked, I went to see what happened to that poor pitcher. Y'know, like when you go to a baseball game and someone gets knocked out but then they wave as they're being taken out on a stretcher? Or the announcer lets you know what happened?

Yeah, the last few Crankshaft strips congratulation Cayla on checking on the girl she beaned, getting tagged out, and... being congratulated by her father... and... WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PITCHER? Jesus.
posted by maryr at 4:25 PM on September 7, 2011


I find it depressing that someone has taken a year to make a case about anything about a comic.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:27 PM on September 7, 2011


Sick is pretty depressing.

Holy shit. Sick is very depressing.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:30 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing that I can't seem to get over vis a vis comics (and I'm not a fan, generally) is the train wreck that is Luann. It's a paean to passive-aggressiveness and has a disturbing creepy vibe to accompany the fact that every character is a total douche. You could easily put rage faces in every panel and it would only improve it.

I think Arlo and Janis may be the best "daily" strip out there in newspaperland.
posted by maxwelton at 4:32 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


In all fairness, I think his case was made well before a year had passed.
posted by maryr at 4:34 PM on September 7, 2011


Holy shit. Sick is very depressing.

Well, I hear it's no Funky Winkerbean ;P

(glad I was able to inflict that on at least one unsuspecting link follower)
posted by juv3nal at 4:35 PM on September 7, 2011


I'd willingly spend a month with Cathy before I'd spend a day in the Family Circus.

I had this idea, years and years ago, to do a satirical graphic novel that revisits the whole oval-headed family thirty years on. Billy's running for the Senate, the scion and also the only really Republican-electable member of the whole clan; Dolly is a burnout bartender and tattoo aficionado, Jeffy is a daytrader by day, hackspace cult figure by night, coke addict 24/7, P.J is a radical environmentalist activist. Barfy is long dead, but Barfy IV lives with Billy and his wife and children.

Thel and Bil split years and years earlier, she's living a late-out-of-the closet life with her girlfriend in New York and Bil is off who knows where, estranged from the whole family.

Billy's senate run is looking great on paper, he's a shooting star politically, the Great Ovular Hope as far as the establishment is concerned, not even in the Senate yet but people look at him and whisper about the presidency. But he's cracking up; what was dismissed in childhood as a silly family joke and suppressed by brute force in his twenties and thirties as he buried himself in school and business and networking is now taking over his life: the chiding, staring presence of his dead grandfather, always there, always watching, always judging, refusing to let him escape from the long-held secrets of his family's past, the secrets that tore them all apart and left father Bil persona non grata after their idyllic suburban existence finally exploded under the strain.

The cover would be grey-templed Billy clenching a podium at a rally, grinning a little too hard into a crowd while a twenty-foot-high poster of his polished, smiling candidate headshot filled the frame behind him. I was going to call it Citizen Keane.
posted by cortex at 4:39 PM on September 7, 2011 [61 favorites]


That's pretty ... uh ... comprehensive, cortex. I can only hope that Billy gets caught red handed in a series of scandals that Jeffy secretly exposes using his underground hacking community. Billy, of course, blames the leaked emails and Facebook messages to underage interns on Not Me.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:46 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I always thought Nietzsche Family Circus was great.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:48 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


*slow clap*
posted by zombieflanders at 4:48 PM on September 7, 2011


*catches the beat with head nod*

*starts singing "War-riors! Come out and play-eay!*
posted by P.o.B. at 4:59 PM on September 7, 2011


That's pretty ... uh ... comprehensive, cortex.

I spent a weekend at the beach thinking about it off and on, even did a little bit of rough storyboarding. Ultimately I decided I didn't want to work that hard just to get sued, but maybe my judgement will slip in the other direction at some point. Part of the problem is I'm not up to the job of drawing it right.
posted by cortex at 5:00 PM on September 7, 2011


Billy's senate run is looking great on paper

I will look forward to the section where Politico uncovers that most of the scandals in his campaign were committed by two interns - code-named "Ida Know" and "Not Me."
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:00 PM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Part of the problem is I'm not up to the job of drawing it right.

That's about the point I got to with my Ayn Rand and Objectivism ABC's Coloring Book
posted by P.o.B. at 5:02 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]




Dude cortex, I will totally do the art for it if you send me a script. DMCA be damned
posted by hellojed at 5:08 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think Arlo and Janis may be the best "daily" strip out there in newspaperland.
This needs to be repeated because "Arlo and Janis" is so awesome.
posted by wintermind at 5:23 PM on September 7, 2011


As someone who hasn't read Funky Winkerbean since it was still well within the phase of being a relatively light-hearted take on high school life--which dates me, I know--and therefore doesn't have anything invested in it, I really don't have a problem with this approach. (Then again, I've disinvested my attention in newspaper comics so much that I had to go check my local paper to see if they still have a comics page; they do, and the only one that I think I'd be interested in keeping up with on a regular basis would be Get Fuzzy.)

Also, that Shortpacked strip linked above reminded me, yet again, that if any cartoonist has cause to make fun of a cartoon strip for being excessively angsty and melodramatic, it sure as fuck isn't Dave Willis.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:33 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tell me again why I needed to be reminded about this? Except for the Lynda Barry part, which is measured and just.
posted by sneebler at 5:34 PM on September 7, 2011


funky winkerbean's winkerdrama really reminds me more of webcomics that decide to inject a panoply of human suffering into the plot to make it ..... SERIOUS

I'm looking at you, Unshelved. Even worse when the strip creators out and out say, 'We think the strip is getting boring, so for the next month you get Totally.Artificial.Drama!'

Also, when I was a kid I thought the comics were supposed to be read one by one and I used to make my way down the page very......slowly. It took me a long time to figure out that you were allowed to pick or choose which comics you read based on if you liked them or not. I have to say I was very relieved the day I stopped reading Mary Worth (so confusing! old people all the time!) and Doonesbury (boring and ugly to my mind then).

Finally, I decided that none of the comics on the comic page were anything other than middle of the road humor in the same vein as Jay Leno and David Letterman and I said 'fuck it' to comics (and Leno and Letterman). Many years later, I discovered the subversive humor and awesomely relevant storylines in webcomics. I don't think I'll ever read a newspaper comic again--and if I do, I guarantee you I won't be reading the sobfest that is Funky Winkerbean.
posted by librarylis at 5:41 PM on September 7, 2011


Holy shit. Sick is very depressing.

I am about to cry, how could everything have gone so wrong?

That might be the most depressing thing I have ever seen.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:42 PM on September 7, 2011


No mention of the Dysfunctional Family Circus yet?
posted by Chrysostom at 6:01 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Think about it: if Cathy would only get breast cancer or be knocked into a coma by a baseball, something new would happen to her and maybe she could get out of that job / relationship / apartment / mall / kitchen / juice bar / endless phonecall / pile of dog shit.

Didn't Cathy end a year or two back?

My own favorite current strip is Cul De Sac. I get a pretty strong Watterson vibe from it.
posted by JHarris at 6:09 PM on September 7, 2011


Oh, and don't forget that Winkerbean creator and artist Batiuk spun a character, John Darling, off into his own strip, then later over a syndicate contract dispute later had that character murdered that character right there on the comics page.
posted by JHarris at 6:14 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn lack of edit window. Well you get what I'm talking about at least.
posted by JHarris at 6:15 PM on September 7, 2011


introduction-via-smirking-self-deprecation

oh god I totally do the "yeah I'm a writer, but I don't write much" thing. ouch.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:25 PM on September 7, 2011


Y'know, the Cathy-as-Groundhog-Day approach makes things suddenly make a lot more sense.

On the other hand, it's hard to know whether it becomes horrifying or just remains utterly un-care-able about. She's not exactly a sympathetic protagonist.

UNLESS

UNLESS it is supposed to be US experiencing the Groundhog Day phenomenon

in which case someone out there must have done something very, very right to rid us of this endless cycle of pseudo-Buddhist "Ack!"ing
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:01 PM on September 7, 2011


Scott Meets Family Circus.
posted by sinnesloeschen at 7:32 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aw, now I'm nostalgic for the days of bitching endlessly on LJ about the Settlepocalypse again.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:18 PM on September 7, 2011


I'd like to nominate Sally Forth as another standout comic page presence. Especially since we've mentioned Medium Large.
posted by maryr at 8:41 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's weird that Funky Winkerbean used to be fairly silly high school strip and then morphed into a sullen grown up drama. Has any other strip taken such a strange left turn like that?
posted by octothorpe at 8:47 PM on September 7, 2011


I just figured it out. Funky Winkerbean isn't a comic strip.

It's a tragic strip.
posted by JHarris at 8:52 PM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Dude cortex, I will totally do the art for it if you send me a script. DMCA be damned

This could be an interesting fairly-open collaboration. The goal: "A cross-platform graphic n
posted by five fresh fish at 8:53 PM on September 7, 2011


I think that what you really meant to say w
posted by JHarris at 8:57 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


[sigh]

…novel". It could incorporate movement, sound, interaction, whatever. You've already got one offer for artwork!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:58 PM on September 7, 2011


Sorry for the fumble fin
posted by five fresh fish at 8:59 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite Shortpacked FW parody...

...well, if you don't follow Funky Winkerbean, you might not know that main character Les is often brooding over his passed-on wife Lisa, even as he courts Cayla. Lisa, in ghost-form, often looks on approvingly at Les from on high. Shortpacked took that trope to its natural conclusion.
posted by mreleganza at 12:53 AM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sick is pretty depressing.

I don't think I remember what it was like to feel happy.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:07 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, that Shortpacked strip linked above reminded me, yet again, that if any cartoonist has cause to make fun of a cartoon strip for being excessively angsty and melodramatic, it sure as fuck isn't Dave Willis.

To be fair to Dave Willis, he makes fun of himself for this.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:28 AM on September 8, 2011


Come for the Funky Winkerbean misery parade, stay for Sims' and David Uzumeri's incredible Remedial Batmanology series, where they break down each cinematic outing of the Caped Crusader. They actually got me to reconsider Batman & Robin.

Previously, the same team had a series of hilarious reviews of the final season of Smallville. As a lifelong Superman fan, it broke my heart to see the atrocities that show put the character through.
posted by mgrichmond at 10:57 AM on September 8, 2011


stay for Sims' and David Uzumeri's incredible Remedial Batmanology series

Which I am loving. In an exercise of great restraint and not inconsiderable risk, I have promised myself to wait until they finish recapping The Dark Knight in a couple weeks to make a post about the whole series, as it really is a wonderful (and very funny) piece of continuity criticism across the arc of Batman cinema since Burton kicked things off again in 89.
posted by cortex at 11:38 AM on September 8, 2011


I've jumped ship with the most recent entry, since now its them gushing over Dark Knight. Wish they'd mocked more stuff like Smallville.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:41 PM on September 8, 2011


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