Funky Winkerbean

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Smiling (and smirking) in spite of their impending doom.[1]

If Coleman Francis were to have drawn a comic strip, it would go something like this. No, really.

In the beginning, namely, The Seventies, this was a simple gag-per-day strip set at a High School in "Westview," a nondescript suburb[2] of Cleveland, Ohio. With a literal hurricane of Punny Names, corny jokes that would rival Pearls Before Swine, and all characters locked in Comic Book Time, this strip was a dependable, if not remarkable, fixture on the comics page.

Lead character Funky Winkerbean was a happy-go-lucky student, Les Moore was the lovable loser nerd, "Crazy" Harry Klinghorn was the Class Clown, Holly Budd was the marching band majorette, "Bull" Buska was the class bully, and Cindy Summers was the popular girl. Other regulars were Principal Burch, secretary Betty Reynolds, counselor Fred Fairgood, football coach Jack Stropp, band director Harold Dinkle and pizzeria owner Tony Montoni. Lisa Crawford also appeared as a nerd equally as socially awkward as Les. And then there were minor characters like Barry Balderman, Junebug, Roland and Livinia.

Regular gags/stories during "Act I" involved, among other things, silly answers to test questions, Les Moore's incompetence at gym, a sentient school computer with a transporter beam, Holly Budd's ability to burst into flames whenever she performed her routine, the follies of the perpetually winless high school football team -- nicknamed the Westview Scapegoats -- and Harold Dinkle's attempts to win the Battle of the Bands (which was generally rained out). As Funky primarily had the most appeal in the Cleveland area, cameos by celebrities from the region occasionally took place. Basically, it was light-hearted fare, even when Lisa became pregnant in a 1986 teen-pregnancy storyline.

In 1992, Tom Batiuk, the creator of the strip, quite deliberately decided to initiate Cerebus Syndrome (not that it was called that then): he figured that 17 years in high school was long enough. He ran a graduation storyline, and to indicate - and hammer in - the change of tone, he had the class overachiever suffer a complete nervous breakdown 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 "Act II." And 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). The nature of Lisa's death attracted a significant level of notoriety, as it was made known to the general public by Batiuk a full year in advance.

And then in 2008, immediately following the death of Lisa, 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 in "Act III" 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.

The comic today is widely seen as Snark Bait for being unrealistically and relentlessly depressing in some storylines (some of which abruptly end with no denouement to speak of), and almost totally inappropriate in others with Batiuk's continued usage of incredibly lame puns and accompanying smirks. Regardless, it's a Long Runner, and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.

Two strips were spun off from Funky Winkerbean: Crankshaft, about a perpetually grumpy 80-year-old high school bus driver whose punchlines are almost always a ridiculous mangling of the English language, and John Darling, about a pompous talk show host who was murdered in the penultimate strip.

Tropes used in Funky Winkerbean include:
  • 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.
  • Age Is Relative: Cindy Summers - one of the few Act I characters to not age badly - was transferred from ABC News in New York back to their Cleveland affiliate because of her age. Never mind that ABC's real-life primary evening news anchor at the time is about 20 years older than Cindy[3], and that networks don't reassign network talent to non-owned network affiliates (ABC does not own their real-life Cleveland affiliate).
  • The Alcoholic: Funky is a recovering one. And Wally has had issues with alcohol as well (his future wife, Becky Blackburn, lost her arm in a drunk driving accident with him behind the wheel).
  • Always Someone Better: Keisha, Summer's basketball rival whose great talent overshadows her and thus deprives her of her love for athletics. And now Keisha and Summer are step-sisters.
  • 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. Even Les' Act III appearance is arguably a self-portrait of Batiuk.
  • Breakout Character: Les Moore, and even Lisa Crawford to an extent. John Darling and Ed Crankshaft were two popular bit players that wound up with their own respective strips.
  • Business as Unusual: Funky took over the town pizzeria from founder Tony Montoni. For unexplained reasons, during the second time skip, Funky was able to build a chain of Montoni's pizzerias, and even launched one in New York City. After Funky instituted cost-cutting measures that cut down on the quality of the pizzas made, the franchise collapsed with all the locations - excluding the one in Westview - closed in early 2010. Les and Funky's dialog following the failure of Montoni's - in which they blame "greedy, amoral morons" - could be considered as a thinly veiled attack at the comics' critics by Batiuk.
  • Call Back: Funky's time traveling is real since he's the "old geezer" who told his younger self to save the comic book.
  • Can You Hear Me Now?: For unknown reasons, early in Act III, Les never bothered to use a cellphone - or any phone, for that matter - to call home and check and see how his teenage daughter is doing. Nor did people at home call him. This resulted in bizarre situations like the February 6, 2011 strip, where for for some reason he was completely shocked that his daughter got injured.
  • Cerebus Retcon: Several sitcom-y plot points were retconned into something significantly less funny.
    • The most recent retcon (as of October 2010) has Les reminiscing about the book tour and lectures he gave after the publication of his book about John Darling. In the original strip, however, Les lost the Darling manuscript; although it was later found, he never published or promoted it. Bizarrely, Les looks the same age in the reminiscences as he does now, even though the Darling book was supposedly published before the Time Skip.
      • I'm missing a lot of details but it seems Les' agent/publicist found the book and got it printed. Less believable is that she found it while digging in the trash because she was homeless and her flashback never mentioned telling Les about finding it.
    • 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.)
    • Even the past appearances of characters haven't been immune, as Lisa's teenage self was redrawn into a less mousy appearance in the most recent retelling of her teenage pregnancy. Most recently, a high school yearbook shot of the cast now featured Mary Summers without the distinctive spike in her hair, and Funky's modest nose was redrawn into the bulbous nose his current incarnation has.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: possibly the biggest example, short of the Trope Namer (and that's debatable).
  • Chew Toy: Several of these have existed throughout the years.
    • Lisa never could catch a break. A teenage pregnancy (later retold as having being a date-rape victim), being injured in a post office bombing, and two long cancer storylines, the second of which resulted in her suffering a long and agonizing death. 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 to the point of becoming an obvious Creator's Pet. Possibly to make up for years of torture, and possibly because Batiuk has started to identify with him more, the latter of which is more distressing when you consider how much of an unlikable Jerkass Les has become.
    • In recent years, Funky has become subjected to facing his own deteriorating health, a dying father, a cancer scare, a car accident that led into a near-death experience, the failure of the Montoni's franchise, and his own stepson - a juvenile delinquent in high school - serving for the military in Afghanistan.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Remember Rana Winkerbean, Jinx Bushka or Maddie Klinghorn - all members of the "younger cast" that the strip was supposedly going to focus on after the second time skip? Exactly.
  • 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:
    • 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 second timeshift has them at roughly 46 years of age in 2010, giving them a birth date of about 1964.
    • And then there are some high school students in the current timeline (namely Owen, Cody and Alex) who are apparently still juniors... in their SIXTH year of high school.
    • Compare that to Crankshaft, which has held the same continuity as the original timeline. Crankshaft and Funky are as much as 20 years apart from each other, yet both strips are clearly set in the same present time.
  • 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.
  • Creator's Pet: It says a lot when the strip's Author Avatar and current lead character is also the strip's least-likable character. But Les achieved this feat thanks to his Jerkass nature, self-centeredness, and overall smugness. Summer has also been this, but to a lesser extent now, as her college career has barely been mentioned, if at all.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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..
  • Did Not Do the Research: Oh so many. A few examples:
    • 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.
    • 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" -- a Take That at the Dark Age and Modern Age -- but the retro hero he holds up as an example is Marvel's Speedball. Apparently, Tom Batiuk is unfamiliar with what happened to Speedball in Civil War. Comics Curmudgeon commenters who are familiar thought this blunder hilarious and joked that Speedball/Penance would fit into the miserable Funkyverse perfectly.
      • Arguably, Speedball fits into Harry's rant about the Dark Age perfectly for this very reason, and Batiuk is knowledgeable enough about comics that he may be well aware of his fate (see Shout-Out below for evidence). It's the total failure to see that he's doing the exact same thing to his own comic that makes it hilarious.
      • And then in November 2011 he wrote a strip in which Crazy Harry is asked if he reads the newspaper, and answers, "No, it's too depressing... and the funnies aren't even funny anymore." It's hard to tell whether this too is self-awareness failure or Batiuk using Harry as a Straw Critic.
    • 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.)
    • Apparently everything about Les's book tour as well. In the words of one reader: "I spent nearly 20 years in the book publishing biz, and I don’t even want to START on how much shit Batiuk is getting wrong."
      • Les's book is published in a matter of weeks by a small university press. His agent is also his publicist - which, even if it weren't a gross conflict of interest, is highly unlikely as they are completely different professions - and he has a long, passive-aggressive discussion with Cayla and Susan about the proposed cover design (which he apparently has complete control over), even though the book has already been printed and is in stores.
    • 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.
    • The vast majority of the storyline where Les has his book turned into a cable TV movie. Les objected so much to the network's insistence that Lisa live at the end that he was happy to see the movie get canceled.
  • 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.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The principle this universe runs on.
  • Fan Nickname: "Masky McDeath", "Funky Cancerbean," "Funky Cancercancer". Occasionally, the comic is called the Chunkyverse as the readers noticed how most the cast put on considerable weight during the Time Skip, some to the point of being unrecognizable (especially Funky and his new wife).
  • Flashback Effects: shading flashback panels to look like old photographs in an album. The little corners meant to hold photos in place are typically included (but not always).
  • Fully-Absorbed Finale: The Funky Winkerbean spin-off John Darling ended very suddenly in August of 1990 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 Darling itself, as John was murdered in the penultimate strip, with the final strip showing his funeral. 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.
    • John's daughter Jessica - who always identifies her late father as "My Father, John Darling" - later emerged to marry Darin Fairgood (Lisa's first child) and attempted to film a documentary about John's life and career. The documentary went nowhere after all the interviews she conducted were almost universal in their disdain and hatred towards John; then again, it served to the reader as an affirmation for how pompous and arrogant John was in the first place.
  • Hatedom: Many of the strip's older readers only hang on to know what they're complaining about.
  • Hide Your Gays: 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 gay teens everywhere (but just the light-skinned ones). Most notably, after the storyline ended, the couple that was at the center of the controversy has no longer appeared in the comic.
  • Hometown Hero: Tom Batiuk is still regarded as such in Northern Ohio, particularly in his hometowns of Akron and Elyria, and his current residence of Medina. Funky Winkerbean's flagship paper, the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, has carried the strip since its pre-syndication days, when it was a one-panel weekly in the paper's teen page.
  • 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.
  • Jaded Washout: Played straight with Bull and Funky, averted with Crazy Harry.
  • Jerkass: It depends on the era of the strip:
    • The gag-a-day incarnation had Bull Buska in the role. Originally Played for Laughs until revealed much later on that Bull had abusive parents. He's still a jerkass, though, as he openly hates his dual role as athletic director and head football coach, openly thinking little of his players and interviewing for a college coaching role in his office during the school day.
    • Funky's personality had the most abrupt change after the second time skip into an unabashed selfish, greedy jerk.[4] In recent years, however, this has become somewhat justified as he's now become the strip's subject for repeated abuse. After all, he's seen:
      • His attempted expansion of Montoni's Pizza into New York City failing in spectacular fashion...
      • His mounting health and weight issues, notable as he is supposed to be in his late 40s, yet looks 20 years older.
      • His father's terminal illness and residence in a nursing home...
      • ...and his son's current stint in the military.
    • Les has also veered into Jerkass territory alongside Funky, especially with:
      • His recruitment of both Cayla (a fellow teacher and his eventual second wife) and Susan (a former student turned fellow teacher who always had a crush on Les) to assist him with his latest book, under the premise that they would both be vying for his affections.
      • His utter disdain towards Susan after she resigned from her teaching job... when her affections towards Les became publicly known.
      • His failure to remember his second wife's first anniversary (while still blatantly obsessing over Lisa), and then following that up with a graphic novel script for the second anniversary gift. To be printed in Hong Kong.
      • His reaction of joy when an attempt to adapt his book on Lisa into a cable TV movie failed, mainly because the network demanded a rewrite from Les that Lisa live at the end.
      • His reputation for making lame puns and smirking regardless of the nature of the situation. While Les is far from the only character who does this, Les engages in it the most.
  • Karma Houdini: In Crazy Harry's case, it's escaping the bad karma the rest of the original cast soaks up. But even he lost his job as a postman and had to sell off his comic book collection[5] to John Howard, owner of the comic book store in town, who later employs Harry on a part-time basis. And yet, Crazy Harry is both at peace and relatively happy with his life in comparison to everyone else.
  • Love Triangle: Between the post-Time Skip II Les, his former suicidal student turned colleage Susan, and fellow post-Time Skip II teacher Cayla. The latter of whom seems to have been given the approval of Lisa's ghost.
    • When she was in high school, Summer Moore (Les and Lisa's daughter) was liked by both Cody (a nerdy boy who looks suspiciously like Les) and Owen (his slacker best friend who's defined by his goofy hat[6]). However, there was no proof she liked either, and critics were thankful that Generation Xerox was avoided... for now. Complicating matters was an unnamed blonde girl who liked Cody but he didn't know she existed... even after she texted him, thanks to a prank by Owen.
      • As most storyline arcs go in Funky Winkerbean, this storyline did not have any denouement or conclusion. Moreover, Owen and Cody somehow remain as sixth-year juniors at Westview, and the unnamed blonde has not been seen or heard from since.
  • Motif: Several exist:
    • Falling leaves are bountiful in Funky strips published during the autumn months.
    • No one knows how to properly use adhesive tape in Westview. Any and all signs that are affixed to a wall or window that uses the tape are put up in a haphazard, messy manner.
    • The gag-a-day era featured the regular thoughts of inanimate objects like trees, rocks covered with graffiti, and a sentient computer.
  • The Neidermeyer: The gag-a-day incarnation of Harold L. Dinkle, the self-titled "World's Greatest Band Director" who always wore his military-style conductor uniform and cap. Played almost exclusively for laughs back then.
  • New Media Are Evil: Or at least stupid, as parodied in this strip.
  • Off the Wagon: Teased in a 2010 strip, though subverted - while the Saturday strip showed him 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.
  • Off-Model: John Byrne's infamous stint as a guest artist was notorious for this. Even Batiuk has failed to properly follow the model sheets for his own characters, and those model sheets were at one point posted on his own website.
  • Out of Focus: Funky himself hasn't been the strip's central character in a long time; see Secondary Character Title, below.
  • Parent with New Paramour: Time Skip II has had two instances of this:
    • Becky, following the assumed death of her first husband Wally, married John, the comic book store owner. The reappearance of Wally after years of captivity in Iraq made her life somewhat awkward, and nearly destroyed Wally's life altogether (he eventually remarried).
    • Les then started dating colleague Cayla, the mother of Summer's bitter rival Keisha. They married a few years later, making Summer and Keisha step-sisters.
  • Police Are Useless: Useless? Try nonexistent! Westview appears to have no police force to speak of.
    • It says a lot when Les - a high school English teacher - solved the murder of John Darling years after it took place. And that happened almost by accident, as he was simply writing a book about the murder.
    • The 1996 bombing of the Westview Post Office (a Very Special Episode drawn in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing) was never really solved. Or if it was solved, the culprit was never publicly apprehended, as the strip focused on the trauma of Lisa as a victim of the attack.
    • It should also be noted that the upcoming crossover with Dick Tracy will be the first portrayal of a law enforcement officer of any kind in Funky Winkerbean.
    • And then there's Nate Green, the principal of Westview High School, who is either oblivious to, or condoning of, multiple instances of dalliances and obvious violations by his teachers that would get them fired in more realistic surroundings.
  • Prom Is for Straight Kids: A spring 2012 storyline featured a gay couple wanting to attend prom together. When town activist Roberta Blackburn (mother of the school's music teacher, Becky Blackburn Winkerbean-Howard) finds out, she launches a demonstration to force the school officials' hand and stop the couple from attending. However, the gay couple find unexpected support from their classmates who begin a counter-demonstration and even the principal who holds an assembly to point out that there's no discrimination based on sexual-orientation in the school handbook. After the storyline ended, the couple has vanished with no explanation.
  • Punny Name: The vast majority of the strip's original cast. Les Moore, Holly Budd, Crazy Harry, Tony Montoni, Fred Fairgood, John Darling, Ed Crankshaft, "Bull" Buska, Harry Dinkle, Jack Stropp[7]...
  • 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. That generation initially focused solely on Summer Moore, but is strictly limited now to occasional appearances by Cody, Owen and Alex.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Batiuk himself is a prostrate cancer survivor, and used that as the impetus for Lisa's second cancer storyline.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: For a comic-strip that claims on its' site description to be "a reality-based comic strip that depicts contemporary issues affecting young adults in a thought-provoking and sensitive manner..."
  • Running Gag: Dating back to the gag-a-day era, the strip has featured annual fundraisers by the marching band. Regardless if the item is band candy, band turkeys, a novelty item, or a Harry Dinkle autobiography, they are all sold for the same goal: to raise money for new band uniforms.
  • 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).
  • 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: The latest plot twist involving Wally is that he stopped going to his therapy sessions so he can sit in a crappy apartment and drink to forget; given that a recent 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 dogs support, he has become mentally and emotionally stable 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.
  • 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.[8] This has manifested itself in other Shout-Out moments during the strip.
  • Show, Don't Tell: Completely averted when it comes to any storyline involving high school football. Batiuk has rarely, if ever, portrayed a proper high school football game unless it involves unrealistic situations like putting the costumed mascot in as a wide receiver for the final seconds of the game. Westview only plays two games a year, and both involve rival Big Walnut Tech. In almost every situation, the game is avoided as the characters discuss what happened off-panel.
  • Smug Smiler: Les Moore is the prime offender. Bonus points if his smirks are accompanied with an Incredibly Lame Pun.
  • 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. Same with Le Chat Bleu, a talking cat who speaks to Les in a depressive and negative tone.[9]
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land / You Can't Go Home Again: 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. All things considered, the Straw Man 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.
  • 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 (see above, and below) 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. In recent years, he's even name-called in-strip those who critique and/or snark on the strips as "internuts" and "Twitter tots."
  • 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. In what is pretty much standard among Funky Winkerbean storyline arcs, the plot has yet to be revisited.
  • The Merch: Yes, Dinkles Marching Band Shoes do exist.
  • Theme Initials: Becky Blackburn Winkerbean-Howard, the one-armed music teacher, has the same first initial as her three sisters (something like Beth, Becky, Berenice, and Bella).
  • Time Skip: Two of them!
  • Time Travel: Funky travels back in time after crashing his car. Maybe.
  • The Faceless: Harold Dinkle's wife, Harriet, was never shown in Act I. Their conversations usually took place while the reader only saw the exterior of the Dinkle's split-level suburban ranch house (with musical notes affixed to the garage door).
  • 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, in what was more of a Shout-Out than a Take That, as Batiuk's artwork of "Masky" was reused in Pearls with Batiuk's blessing.
    • 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.) But 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.[10]
  • 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.
  • Urine Trouble: Several current strips featuring Funky have focused on his repeated getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Because that's precisely the type of "reality-based situation" that someone in their late 40s would be dealing with.
  • 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 Frankie Miller ... 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?: A penchant of Funky Winkerbean is that many storyline arcs fail to have a proper denouement. For instance:
    • Harry Dinkle, the self-titled "World's Greatest Marching Band Director" lost his hearing and was forced to retire. But he has reemerged as an unpaid assistant to his successor, Becky Howard, apparently free to roam the halls of Westview... and with his hearing intact.
    • Summer graduated from Westview, and is supposedly a student at Kent State University[11], but little has been mentioned about her studies, if anything. And neither of her parents, Les or Cayla, bring it up.
    • Plenty of readers are wondering what happened to the other driver in Funky's July 2010 car crash.
    • The 1996 bombing of the Westview Post Office was never resolved with the capture of the perpetrator(s) on-panel, if anyone was apprehended.
    • After the gay prom story arc, which netted attention for Batiuk, said couple has not been seen or heard from since.
    • Bull was never penalized by the state high school athletic association for his inserting of a costumed mascot into the actual game as a substitution for the wide receiver (a game that the Scapegoats actually won) nor was he reprimanded by the school district for his interview for a college coaching role, both of which became cases of Move Along, Nothing to See Here.
  • 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, likely as a composite, nondescript suburb of Cleveland (Batiuk's an Akron native). But precisely where is never specified.
  • White Mask of Doom: Who could it be but Masky?
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Seriously. Think about it. Funky Winkerbean. A ridiculous and nonsensical name back in the original gag-a-day format, and certainly qualifies as a Funny Aneurysm today. Even Tom Batiuk has admitted that he wouldn't have used that name had he known the strip would become a Long Runner.
  • 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.
  • You Look Like You've Just Seen A Ghost: When Funky encounters his pre-Time Skip I self.
  • Younger Than They Look: Excluding Les Moore and Cindy Summers, virtually everyone from the original cast have not aged well at all, seemingly bearing the same world-weary appearance. Funky aged the most, now looking almost exactly like his own father, and now sports a bulbous nose just like Ed Crankshaft. Holly Budd and Donna Klinghorn also aged badly, and Crazy Harry's beard now is almost completely snow-white. Remember, these are all characters that are all supposed to be in their early 50s.
    • 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, but he looks like Elle MacPherson's father. For point of comparison, Tom Batiuk was still a junior in high school when Funky was born.

  1. From left to right: Les Moore, Summer Moore, Donna Klinghorn, Maddie Klinghorn, "Crazy" Harry Klinghorn, Becky Blackburn Winkerbean-Howard, Rana Winkerbean, Linda Lopez-Bushka, Bull Bushka, Jinx Bushka, Funky Winkerbean, Cory Winkerbean, Holly Budd.
  2. Westview High School was modeled primarily after Midview High School in Grafton Township, of which Batiuk graduated from in 1965 [dead link] and still visits regularly. Montoni's Pizza was based off of Luigi's Pizza in Akron, and the town square has loosely been modeled after the town square in Medina.
  3. Moreover, Diane Sawyer retired from ABC at age 68 on her own volition, six months after Cindy's reassignment.
  4. Then again, this is a Crapsack World, it's enough to turn even the most idealistic heart to stone.
  5. Which would have possibly been unnecessary, as being a former federal employee, Harry would have been entitled to a reasonable pension of some sort. YMMV here.
  6. Not to be confused with Maddie Klinghorn, who sported the same goofy green cap that her father, Crazy Harry, wore when he in high school.
  7. That would now be the late Jack Stropp, since he recently passed away from... wait for it... prostate cancer.
  8. Batiuk draws with his feet?
  9. Though, knowing Funky Cancercancer, the guide Lisa and Le Chat Bleu are probably brain tumors.
  10. This is likely also a dig at the Funky Winkerbean musical that was once popular as a high school production, in addition to the then-recent Funky Winkerbean plot about the school doing a production of Wit.
  11. Batiuk is a real-life alumni of Kent State, and was commissioned to paint a series of murals at the Kent campus several years ago.