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Tom Batiuk

FunkyWatch: August 2014 Was Funky Winkerbean & Crankshaft’s Most Depressing Ever

FunkyWatch: August 2014

Over the past 40 years, Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean has transitioned from a gag-a-day comic strip about a high school to an ongoing chronicle of pure, abject misery. Thanks to the ongoing commentary on Josh Fruhlinger’s Comics Curmudgeon, I am now completely obsessed with it, which is why I spend a little time every month rounding up its finest examples of crushing despair.

This month... oh brother, this month. Tom Batiuk's offerings over the past few weeks have made August 2014, without question, the single worst and most mind-bogglingly bizarre month on record. If you haven't been reading my recaps of the strip over the past few years, this is the one you're going to want to start with, if only to see how completely irate one man can get over a newspaper comic strip about a man trying to write a made-for-cable movie about his dead wife.

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FunkyWatch: July’s Most Depressing ‘Funky Winkerbean’ And ‘Crankshaft’ Strips

FunkyWatch

Over the past 40 years, Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean has transitioned from a gag-a-day comic strip about a high school to an ongoing chronicle of pure, abject misery. Thanks to the ongoing commentary on Josh Fruhlinger’s Comics Curmudgeon, I am now completely obsessed with it, which is why I spend a little time every month rounding up its finest examples of crushing despair.

After last month's strips involved an intervention from the Almighty Himself voicing his disapproval for even the slightest bit of happiness, you might think that Tommy B would take a few weeks to ease off the pressure a little bit, but you would be a fool. A fool. Things never actually get any better in the Batiukverse, and never is that more evident than this month, when the strip heads to that most nightmarish of all places: San Diego Comic-Con. Seriously.

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FunkyWatch: June’s Most Depressing ‘Funky Winkerbean’ And ‘Crankshaft’ Strips

FunkyJun00

Over the past 40 years, Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean has transitioned from a gag-a-day comic strip about a high school to an ongoing chronicle of pure, abject misery. Thanks to the ongoing commentary on Josh Fruhlinger’s Comics Curmudgeon, I am now completely obsessed with it, which is why I spend a little time every month rounding up its finest examples of crushing despair.

This month, Batiuk took to the page to chronicle a few things that, if you weren't familiar with how this strip actually worked, would seem to be a few of life's happier moments: There's a marriage for Wally and Rachel, a trip out west for Les to work on the movie based on his most successful book, and in Crankshaft, it's summertime and the bus drivers are off on vacation! If, however you are familiar with how this strip works, then you'll know that this is all pretty much just setup for misery, hatred, and the actual wrath of God Himself. In other words, it's business as usual in Westview.

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FunkyWatch: May’s Most Depressing ‘Funky Winkerbean’ And ‘Crankshaft’ Strips

FunkyWatch for May 2014

Over the past 40 years, Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean has transitioned from a gag-a-day comic strip about a high school to an ongoing chronicle of pure, abject misery. Thanks to the ongoing commentary on Josh Fruhlinger’s Comics Curmudgeon, I am now completely obsessed with it, which is why I spend a little time every month rounding up its finest examples of crushing despair.

One of the interesting things about the FunkyVerse -- well, interesting to me as someone who obsesses over this endless march towards oblivion to a truly unhealthy degree -- is that there seems to be a sort of tradeoff between the two strips. Crankshaft has traditionally been the more lighthearted and pun-based experience (relatively speaking), but whenever Funky dips its toes out of the miasma of despair and decides to do a little slapstick comedy, Crankshaft takes up the slack so that the total amount of depression remains unchanged. And that's how you get three-panel gags about drone strikes. Seriously.

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FunkyWatch: April’s Most Depressing ‘Funky Winkerbean’ And ‘Crankshaft’ Strips

FunkyWatchApr

Over the past 40 years, Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean has transitioned from a gag-a-day comic strip about a high school to an ongoing chronicle of pure, abject misery. Thanks to the ongoing commentary on Josh Fruhlinger’s Comics Curmudgeon, I am now completely obsessed with it, which is why I spend a little time every month rounding up its finest examples of crushing despair.

As noted by T.S. Eliot in The Wasteland, everyone's favorite super-pretentious reference, April is the cruelest month, and it seems that Tom Batiuk has taken that to heart. After going all out with a military tragedy that left sixteen dead in last month's strips, this month's have involved a young woman going to prison to confront the man who murdered her father, and also some jokes about collecting comics. Here's what's bananas: It's the bit in the prison with the murderer that made me laugh the hardest. Look at that panel up there! It's hilarious!

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FunkyWatch: March’s Most Depressing ‘Funky Winkerbean’ And ‘Crankshaft’ Strips

FunkyMar

Over the past 40 years, Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean has transitioned from a gag-a-day comic strip about a high school to an ongoing chronicle of pure, abject misery. Thanks to the ongoing commentary on Josh Fruhlinger’s Comics Curmudgeon, I am now completely obsessed with it, which is why I spend a little time every month rounding up its finest examples of crushing despair.

I'll admit it, folks. I did not think it was possible. After February rocked through the month with an actual appearance by Death itself, I did not think that things could get any darker. Oh, what a fool was I. Not only do things get darker this month, but they go with a full-on body count of 16 people, plus the potential for even more cancer than before. And that's before we get to the torturous pain of Crankshaft. I'll warn you now, everyone:this is not the day to stop sniffing glue.

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FunkyWatch: February’s Most Depressing ‘Funky Winkerbean’ And ‘Crankshaft’ Strips

FunkyWatch

Over the past 40 years, Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean has transitioned from a gag-a-day comic strip about a high school to an ongoing chronicle of pure, abject misery. Thanks to the ongoing commentary on Josh Fruhlinger’s Comics Curmudgeon, I am now completely obsessed with it, which is why I spend a little time every month rounding up its finest examples of crushing despair.

You might think that February might not lend itself all that well to the Funkyverse's usual brand of complete and utter soul-crushing despair. I mean at the very least, there's Valentine's Day, and we should at least get a few strips about lovey-dovey romance and happiness, right? Wrong. So, so wrong. February may be the shortest month, but that just means that Batiuk and Ayers have to work even harder to cram every ounce of existential dread into their comics -- and just in case you think I'm exaggerating, consider that DEATH ITSELF MADE AN APPEARANCE last month, and that's not even the weirdest part.

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FunkyWatch: January’s Most Depressing ‘Funky Winkerbean’ And ‘Crankshaft’ Strips

FunkyWatchJan

Over the past 40 years, Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean has transitioned from a gag-a-day comic strip about a high school to an ongoing chronicle of pure, abject misery. Thanks to the ongoing commentary on Josh Fruhlinger’s Comics Curmudgeon, I am now completely obsessed with it, which is why I spend a little time every month rounding up its finest examples of crushing despair.

For most people, a new year represents a fresh new start, but for Batiuk, 2014 is apparently the year he gets down to friggin' business in his flagship strip. After letting Crankshaft handle the majority of the despair over the past few months, January marked a return in force to Funky Winkerbean being the single most depressing thing in the newspaper. Not just the comics page, you understand, but the entire newspaper. Seriously, this month is all bankruptcy and land mines. Don't say I didn't warn you.

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FunkyWatch: December’s Most Depressing ‘Funky Winkerbean’ And ‘Crankshaft’ Strips

FunkyWatch

Over the past 40 years, Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean has transitioned from a gag-a-day comic strip about a high school to an ongoing chronicle of pure, abject misery. Thanks to the ongoing commentary on Josh Fruhlinger’s Comics Curmudgeon, I am now completely obsessed with it, which is why I spend a little time every month rounding up its finest examples of crushing despair.

One of my Christmas gift this year came from devoted FunkyWatch reader and radio DJ Evan "Funk" Davies, who gave me a year-long membership to King Features' Comics Kingdom website. Not only does this give me access to an archive of high-res Funky and Crankshaft strips, but it also means that I can have those strips emailed to me so that they're the very first thing I see when I wake up every single day for the entirety of 2014. Maybe "gift" is not the right word, but "Christmas horrifying curse" doesn't really sound right. Either way Batiuk and Chuck Ayers closed out this past year with all the uplifting joy you'd expect from a month marked by bitter cold and seasonal depression. Let's get to it!

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FunkyWatch: November’s Most Depressing ‘Funky Winkerbean’ And ‘Crankshaft’ Strips

FunkyWatch

Over the past 40 years, Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean has transitioned from a gag-a-day comic strip about a high school to an ongoing chronicle of pure, abject misery. Thanks to the ongoing commentary on Josh Fruhlinger’s Comics Curmudgeon, I am now completely obsessed with it, which is why I spend a little time every month rounding up its finest examples of crushing despair.

Before we dive into the horrors that November had to offer, a quick word of warning. I've been doing this column for, what, three years now? It's been a long time, and I've seen a lot of pretty grim stuff from Batiuk and Ayers, but this month... This month is quite possibly the single most depressing month of theFunkyverse that I have ever seen. It is unceasing, unstoppable, wall to wall hate, bitterness and misfortune. Even more than it usually is, I mean. Don't say I didn't warn you.

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