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FunkyWatch: The Most Mind-Bendingly Depressing ‘Funky Winkerbean’ Strips of July

Over the past few months, thanks largely to Josh Fruhlinger at The Comics Curmudgeon, I’ve become increasingly obsessed with Tom Batiuk’s “Funky Winkerbean.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a newspaper comic strip that, since its debut in the early ’70s as a high school comedy, has slowly transitioned into becoming a daily oasis of mind-boggling depression right next to the Junior Jumble.

It’s endlessly fascinating, which is why I’ve dedicated myself to chronicling just how far down it goes. So sit back, make sure you’ve hidden all sharp objects, and enjoy nine of the most monumentally depressing “Funky Winkerbean” strips ever printed… in July.

#1. July 9

When we last saw Funky Winkerbean, he had been in a car accident (which occurred, of course, while he was driving back from dropping his father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, off at the nursing home) that saw his body rendered comatose while his mind traveled back in time to his high school days, where he was confronted with a younger version of himself.

Young Funky has yet to have all optimism beaten out of him by life, but that doesn’t stop Old Funky from using this incredible opportunity to bring up his prostate troubles.

#2. July 13

Another great opportunity provided by time travel: Seeing your wife in the years before you completely ruined her life by shackling her to you in a grotesque parody of matrimony.

Seriously, Funky does not seem to have a very high opinion of himself. Admittedly, he’s going through a rough patch, but a good 90% of these strips wouldn’t be so full of despair if someone was there to give him an awkward pat on the shoulder and just be like “Hey, man… it’s not so bad.” Clearly, Les Moore has been shirking his duties as Funky’s designated Best Friend.

#3. July 19

When Funky finally returns to the present and comes out of his coma (which, admittedly, is actually a nice scene of him reaching out to his wife), he emerges into a world in which all of medical science is built around trickery and mocking the ill.

#4. July 23

In the entire time I’ve been reading the strip, this is the most emotion I’ve ever seen Funky display, and i’ve got to admit, he has a pretty good reason for it. I mean, dude did travel back in time, and everyone else is interested in the crumple zones of a PT Cruiser. You’d be shouting too.

Still, the fact that Funky’s friends and family are more concerned with a lifeless machine rather than the shrieking, possibly insane human being in the next room is probably to be expected at this point.

#5. July 24

Two things to note about this one. First there’s the joke itself, which, in any other strip, would be completed with Funky saying something like “…I wouldn’t have been in the accident in the first place.” This being “Funky Winkerbean,” though, I would not have been at all surprised if there was a fourth panel where Funky completed his thought with “…I wouldn’t have woken up.”

Second, there’s the fact that despite Bull’s half smile at Funky’s “joke,” Funky is dead serious. He is so miserable that he refuses to acknowledge that he is lucky to be alive. All that sympathy I had for Funky back on June 13? Forget it.

#6. July 27

Funky believes that every animal he encounters, no matter how friendly it seems, wants nothing more than to murder him and drink his blood. That is literally what is going on here.

#7. July 30

For those of you who have forgotten, the economy has taken a bit of a downturn over the past few years, which — from what I understand, which to be honest isn’t a whole lot — is largely due to a collapse in the housing market resulting from sub-prime loans, which are loans issued to people who don’t seem like they’re actually going to pay them back.

That might seem complicated, so for those of you who need a handier way to keep things straight, just keep in mind that the economy right now sucks so bad that it is the only thing Funky Winkerbean is comfortable comparing his life to.

Now, up to this point, you may have noticed that I’ve been keeping the strips in their daily order, both because I want the narrative to be understandable to ComicsAlliance readers and because really, once it gets to a certain point, trying to decide which installment of “Funky Winkerbean” is more depressing than another is like trying to figure out which Waffle House has the cleanest bathrooms. There are two, however, that stick out even by normal “FW” standards:

#8. July 25

As I mentioned earlier, “Funky Winkerbean” started out as a much more comedy-oriented gag strip before it became known more for melodrama and stories about land mines and arms being severed on prom night (really), and in this strip, Funky himself has noticed this and realized that while these things used to be out of the ordinary, he now exists in order to suffer for the pleasure of a merciless “God.” In other words, he has been reading “Funky Winkerbean.”

That’s right, y’all: Funky Winkerbean just got meta all over your ass.

And finally…

#9. July 14

I am not kidding when I say that this thing is Batiuk’s masterpiece.

I’ll be honest: I’m not even sure what that last panel means (is Funky referring to the “killer-shark issues” that are ahead for his younger self, or is he predicting even more hardships for his own future?), but that doesn’t even matter because the first two panels are a portrait of despair so monumental that they make Sylvia Plath look like Dr. Seuss.

Funky goes from ripping away the foolish optimism of youth (and again, just a reminder, this runs right under “Garfield”) in the first panel to literally talking about someone dying on the bathroom floor next to a toilet in the second. Two panels! That’s all it took for Tom Batiuk to create what I have dubbed The Perfect Sad.

If anyone out there from King Features is reading this, trust me: These two panels need to be on coffee mugs, t-shirts and greeting cards yesterday.

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