October 5, 2007, is the first Funky Winkerbean strip after the death of Lisa Moore. And, as promised, the strip has jumped forward 10 years into the future.
This has proved, among Comics Curmudgeon fans, anyway, to be just as controversial as Lisa Moore’s death. By skipping the funeral and the period of grief afterward, it seems to have denied the death the dignity and importance it deserved. Others chastise Mr. Batiuk for turning Les into such as sad sack that he’s still obsessed over his wife’s death 10 years into the future.
Me? I think it’s a novel storytelling device. Honestly, I have not seen any other strip do this before. The funny pages are inhabited by comic strips that are trapped in time, and the ones that do progress don’t take an immediate leap but rather take things one day at a time (For Better or For Worse and Gasoline Alley are the two most obvious examples). Leaping forward 10 years is a common theme in novels, but not so much in comic strips. So it IS a little refreshing to see Batiuk do this.
As for the flash forward being a cop-out: Batiuk already dealt with the character’s reactions to Lisa’s death while she was alive, and lingering over the death in the aftermath would seem repetitive and unnecessary. As Les mentions in today’s strip, there’s an awful lot of paperwork to handle during the mourning period (lots of which has to be done in less than a week), and I don’t think the strip would do justice to the hectic activity without fans complaining that the characters weren’t taking time to reflect on Lisa.
And if the characters WERE reflecting on Lisa all that time… well, did we need the characters to be mopey for months on end? I thought that WAS the main issue with the depressing Funky Winkerbean storylines in the first place.
So, all in all, I have no problem with this strip. Batiuk is framing the first “10 Years After” strip in a psychiatrist’s office mainly to bridge the gap between the 10 years; most anything else would’ve been too abrupt. Personally, I might have had Les visiting Lisa’s grave and reflecting. There’s far less baggage in that scenario. But the psychiatrist’s office is fine by me.
I think the time of super-maudlin storylines HAS to come to an end… starting NOW. Batiuk has a clean slate at this point. He can reshape his character’s destinies. I have no problem about him airing serious issues in the comics, but over the past year it’s been maudlin to the point of absurdity. There’s a reason snarky fans call it “Funky Cancercancer,” and it’s not for good reasons.
In other words: Tom Batiuk, if you are reading this, please lighten the strip up.