Funky Dick: ‘Funky Winkerbean’ And ‘Dick Tracy’ Are Crossing Over In January
For some reason, Variety, the Hollywood newspaper known mainly for a tendency to go hard on pun headlines, did a piece today on the endless march of depression that is Funky Winkerbean and how the creeping despair that infests every inch of Westview is actually something of a blessing for the floundering newspaper comics page. It's an interesting take on a brand of misery that we've become pretty familiar with over the years here at ComicsAlliance, but buried towards the end of the article is one of the most exciting announcements I've seen all year:
"In January, Funky characters are slated to meet Dick Tracy, who is published by a different syndicate, the result of a meeting with Dick Tracy artist Joe Staton at a comics convention."
Please, Santa Claus, if you're listening, let this be a story about Dick Tracy being called in to investigate the murder of Les Moore.
While a crossover between Funky (a King Features strip) and Dick Tracy (published by Tribune Media Services) is pretty interesting in terms of seeing characters from two different syndicates team up, it's worth noting that Tracy has spent most of 2014 traveling all over the comics page. Most notably, Joe Staton and Mike Curtis have sent the detective on a sprawling adventure to rescue Little Orphan Annie...
...whose own strip ended after 84 years on a bizarre cliffhanger involving Annie being kidnapped by a murderous villain from Daddy Warbucks' younger years who was out for revenge. That's not the only one, though -- a recent strip found Tracy trying to make it back to the city from Hootin' Holler, the hometown of the strange hillbillies of Snuffy Smith.
For its part, Tom Batiuk's Funky has recently crossed over with Batiuk and Chuck Ayers' Crankshaft, and while those strips are set in the same universe, they're separated by about ten years thanks to a couple of "time jumps" that allowed Batiuk to have his characters grow up in more-or-less "real time" and heap the miseries of aging upon them. In the four years that I've been reading, there's never been anything as ambitious as a crossover. In fact, I don't actually recall ever seeing a police presence in the strip, which is why John Darling's murder -- a strip-ending stunt that's almost as depressing as Annie being locked in a concrete cell with no food in her last strip -- had to be solved by a high school English teacher.
What's really weird about this, though, is how different the strips are. Since Curtis and Staton's arrival, Dick Tracy has been marked by an attempt to revive elements from the strip's past that were forgotten after the strange "sci-fi" period of the '60s, which briefly saw Tracy working as the sheriff of the Moon. In a typically Funky WInkerbeanean fashion, that period ended when the Princess of the Moon was killed in a car bomb and the Lunarians cut diplomatic ties with Earth, but still, it's been making a return lately, and that would seem to be at odds with a universe like Funky Winkerbean's, which is primarily concerned with cancer, land mines, and smirking.
Then again, it was only a few years ago that a Tracy strip ended with a villain being killed by being torn apart by dogs, so maybe things are a little closer than I thought.
Personally, I'm hoping that Tracy is called in to investigate the violent murder of the infinitely hateable Les Moore, but if I had to guess, I'd say it was far more likely that we'll be seeing a story where Pete Mossman (alias Plantman, John Darling's murderer) escapes from prison and tries to get revenge on Les for putting him there with his poorly received book, and Tracy has to prevent his murder. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we sincerely hope he fails.
The crossover will be running through the strips in January, and rest assured that we'll be staying on top of things.