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January 1, 2008

The Funky Bowl

Filed under: Bill Bickel, CIDU, comic strips, comics, football, Funky Winkerbean, humor, Les Moore, Tom Batiuk — Cidu Bill @ 1:02 am

Updated: Okay, so I was promptly informed that Summer did not in fact throw Les a human heart, and that what looks like one in his hand is merely the design on his sweatshirt (which still doesn’t explain what she’s throwing in panel 3, what he’s picking up in panel 5, and what he’s looking at in panel 7).

But here’s what I’m really wondering now, and maybe because of my near-legendary lack of artistic skills (seriously, you’d rather have Les as your quarterback than have me as your Pictionary teammate):

When you take a photograph, I can understand how an unfortunate camera angle can give you tree branches appearing to come out of somebody’s ears, or two heads appearing to be attacked to the same body, or somebody seeming to be holding a human heart — because that’s what the camera is “seeing” at the time.

But when you’re drawing a picture, starting with a white sheet of paper and adding exactly what you want to add, how do you just happen to end up with, say, Les holding a human heart? How are you not aware of this as you’re drawing it?

This really is a serious question, and not a criticism of Tom Batiuk. I sincerely do not know how this sort of thing happens, though it clearly is not uncommon.


  1. The human heart thing is a picture on his shirt.

    What’s happening at the end though? Heart attack? Why does that piss the big guy off?

    Comment by dd — January 1, 2008 @ 12:39 am

  2. Nothing is shown as being thrown to Les within the strip, but I don’t claim to know exactly why Les is looking at his hand (I would tend to believe that is something to do with him losing his eyeglasses). I do notice that the “heart” is merely a picture on his shirt (a turkey or peacock?) and can be seen in the previous two panels. Whatever the picture is, it was just an unfortunate choice because it does give the illusion of an object in his hand in the final panel. Going back to what is actually going on in that last panel, I am stumped. Did Summer high-five him too hard?

    Comment by M. Dabney — January 1, 2008 @ 12:50 am

  3. Maybe he has girl cooties from Summer’s high-five.

    Comment by PepperjackCandy — January 1, 2008 @ 2:28 am

  4. Thats funny. Good eye. I believe bill was asking rhetorically, right? If not, the humor is about the winners of the football in 2007. The comic is mocking the patriots and their cheating ways over the past year which caused them to wrap up with a perfect season. Both the heart caption and the comic is pretty comical. At least enough for me to respond to this right?

    Comment by Ots — January 1, 2008 @ 4:21 am

  5. P.S. The cheating in the comic is sticky stuff that transfered from the girl QBs hand to the human heart guy.

    Comment by Ots — January 1, 2008 @ 4:23 am

  6. I have to say, suddenly being tossed a human heart certainly explains the surprised look on Les’s face, which otherwise I can’t come up with an explanation for. Well, apart from the obvious–that he’s having a heart attack. This is Funky Winkerbean after all.

    Comment by dagbrown in Tokyo — January 1, 2008 @ 5:52 am

  7. I don’t think the quarterback wants “sticky stuff” on his/her hands – it’s the receivers who used to get “gooped up.”

    Comment by Curmudgeon — January 1, 2008 @ 8:53 am

  8. “(which still doesn’t explain what she’s throwing in panel 3, what he’s picking up in panel 5, and what he’s looking at in panel 7)”

    She’s throwing a football, he’s picking up his glasses (which were knocked off in panel 3), and we have no idea what he’s looking at in panel 7.

    As for your question, Bill, I believe it’s because the artist knows what it is he or she is drawing and thus his or her brain doesn’t have to try to interpret the lines on the page. Readers, on the other hand, are viewing the lines fresh and if they are ambiguous in form, the reader’s brain doesn’t have “author’s intent” on which to rely.

    Comment by Powers — January 1, 2008 @ 9:33 am

  9. Ah. Okay, Powers, I can see that now. and I guess in the final panel Les is looking at his hand because it stings from Summer slapping it. Because he really is that much of a wimp.

    Oddly enough Les began the strip as a wimp, matured after the first leap forward, and then rewimpified (in addition to becoming, as Summer points out, really creepy) in the more recent leap forward.

    Comment by Cidu Bill — January 1, 2008 @ 9:54 am

  10. I think the picking up the glasses and looking at his, aparently, hurting hand is a way of pointing out, he’s still trying to keep up with his daughter (and everyone else) but he’s definitely getting, and feeling, older.

    Comment by BF — January 1, 2008 @ 10:03 am

  11. I think Powers’ explanation is mostly the correct one, but I’d also point out that the artist is working out with a number of other constraints—i.e. he wants to show Les staring in a certain direction, he wants a certain hand gesture, he wants Les in the foreground with celebratory high-fives in the background, he may have already drawn the shirt pattern in the previous panels, etc. . . So even Batuik notices the possibility for a little confusion, he may find it difficult to rearrange everything and satisfy the other constraints, and may just not think it worth the bother.

    To me, it looks as if Les is staring ahead, and groping at his chest, which makes me think this is a heart attack. We’ll see tomorrow.

    Comment by Autumnal Harvest — January 1, 2008 @ 10:10 am

  12. As for unfortunate drawing choices, check the bottom left panel. Why draw a hoodie drawstring snaking across a cheek like an unfortunate tattoo? Most newspapers print the Sunday comics pretty small, plus the color comics tend to be fuzzier than monochrome daily strips (and sometimes downright muddy). The most important thing I learned as an art major in college was when to stop, what to leave out. This strip is so busy over every square millimeter thast it makes my head hurt! Very distracting!

    BTW – I’m no fan of Funky, but I’m really annoyed by Les’ returning dorkiness (multiplied ten-fold) and newfound creepiness. In a “realistic” strip like this, I prefer characters I can relate to in some way – not ridiculous goofballs who don’t even seem likeable any more and are only there to be laughed at. It doesn’t seem like Batiuk has any respect for his characters, even though they got him success. I loved the way Kurt Vonnegut respected Kilgore Trout and treated him like a real human being – he even set Kilgore free at one point! He treated Kilgore like an equal, not like a mindless puppet to be abused for cheap laughs.

    Comment by L.B. Wylie — January 1, 2008 @ 11:07 am

  13. Panel 3 – Les’ glasses get knocked off in collision with earmuff-guy.

    Panel 5 – Les picks up glasses

    Panel 6 – Summer high fives Les’ left hand

    Panel 7 –
    option a: Ow, that high five hurt!
    option b: Oof, I’m out of breath
    option c: blowing on glasses to melt the snow (I’ve done this many times, then you wipe them with a cloth)
    option d: all of the above

    Comment by Charles — January 1, 2008 @ 11:39 am

  14. If you look closely at the final panel, you can see little “pain” lines drawn coming from Les’ fingertips, which would support “option a” from Charles.

    Comment by eeyore19 — January 1, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

  15. But…. why’s the guy in the back so angry?

    Comment by dd — January 1, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

  16. If you woke up one morning and you were suddenly ten years older, how would YOU feel?

    Comment by Cidu Bill — January 1, 2008 @ 9:04 pm

  17. The guy in the back is frowning because he was on the losing team, obviously!

    Comment by alley cat — January 1, 2008 @ 9:26 pm

  18. I seem to be seeing something else along the “Creepy Les” line of thinking. Think far back to childhood when there was another person that you liked. Every now and then something would happen like a handshake or a brush past or a high five and you would look at your hand thinking something along the lines of “Wow, (his / her) hand actually touched mine!”. That’s the impression I got, but if I hadn’t known it was his daughter and hadn’t known the creepy thing, I’m sure I would have guessed something else. He does seem to be more surprised than content, so maybe it is a heart attack or stroke or pain. It is the left arm, so the first two are likely.

    The 6th panel does go out of its way to show the high five, so the last should have something to do with that. Maybe she reminds him of his wife? I must admit that I haven’t read enough to know what she looks like.

    Comment by bAT L. — January 2, 2008 @ 12:10 am

  19. I think is reaction is primarily psychological – which fits well with the current trend in this strip. Lately, it’s about how he is dealing with her growing up, and not being “his little girl” anymore.

    I think the game, and the subsequent high-five, really brought the issue home for him (for some unexplained reason). The look on his face looks more like shock/surprise than pain to me.

    At least, that’s the way I saw it when I first saw the strip, and none of the other explanations really satisfy.

    Comment by src — January 2, 2008 @ 1:00 pm

  20. I thought his glasses were broken.

    And yes, I agree that authorial intent is the problem with the logo vs. heart. Writers have editors and beta readers to correct mistakes like this: cartoonists generally don’t.

    Comment by Blurgle — January 2, 2008 @ 2:09 pm

  21. So, let me get this straight. It took seven panels to tell the hilarious joke of “Les is a wimp.” My sides are aching from the laughter 😐

    Comment by Susan T-O — January 2, 2008 @ 8:24 pm

  22. Wouldn’t it be so much easier for the reader to see those little pain lines in the last panel if they weren’t superimposed on a lumpy brown heart-turkey-college-seal thingy? I’m just saying….

    Oh, and there shouldn’t be any reason why the shirt design couldn’t have been modified/erased. Artists change their minds and paint over things all the time, and this is a small area to change. And I believe that cartoonists draw the black lines of the whole strip first and then color in the whole thing later, so this should have been even easier. Even if he’d just barely sketched the lines to see how things fit, the overlap still should’ve been clearly evident and could’ve been avoided. I’m just saying…

    Oh, and when I saw that hand I assumed he was having a stroke, which would explain his preceding creepy behavioy. I’m just saying… ;))

    Comment by L.B. Wylie — January 3, 2008 @ 1:47 am

  23. Wait, those aren’t pain lines! Pain lines are typically drawn as lightning bolt-shaped lines, not straight lines. It may be different with this particular cartoonist, but usually those are what’s known as “attention lines” and are meant to show something important. This would show that Les is looking at his hand and not something past it or into the distance.

    Comment by bAT L. — January 3, 2008 @ 8:30 am

  24. Does Les want to get involved with Summer? I don’t get the strip in my paper, so I haven’t been following the storyline, but I understand he is knows as Creepy Les. If he does want her, then perhaps it is like someone said above… “She touched my hand!”, and even the placement of the heart logo was on purpose. His “heart” is in his hand now.

    Comment by Jeff S. — January 3, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

  25. Note that Summer’s turtleneck changed color from purple during the week to yellow in the Sunday strip, so the squashed human heart thing on Les’ shirt certainly could have been changed. I do believe that the message of the strip is “Les is a wimp.” Him’s widdle hand gots hurt by the strong jock girlchild.

    Comment by alley cat — January 3, 2008 @ 1:00 pm

  26. RE 24–Jeff, Summer is Les’s daughter. However, there have been some, shall we say, interactions between the two in the past that just don’t go over too well. Nothing blatant, just. . . creepy.

    Comment by Susan T-O — January 3, 2008 @ 9:07 pm

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