Dear NBM Publishers,
I wouldn't have been surprised to see Andy or Barney walk down the big front steps of Westview High as I read your comic strip anthology of Funky Winkerbean. That isn't because it's an imitation of TV's The Andy Griffith Show, but because both share a subtle small town feeling and a philosophy of quiet order and gentle humor based on human dignity. I like that.
I also like the sudden intrusion of hurt and tragedy made even more poignant by its irony and rarity. If it is true that Mr. Moors, the English teacher at Westview, reflects the even keel of his town, it is also true that he suffers its earned and unearned bruises.
He and the cast of Funky also read like real, complicated people, both talented and mundane, foolish and wise, beautiful and faulted. I really like that.
But I didn't like everything.
On the heels of my high praise, the idea of a radio talk show (Rush Limbaugh) making someone blow up the post office (the federal building in Oklahoma City) is worse than ridiculous. Rush has never advocated anything more violent than voting. And if the media were that powerful and people that malleable we'd all be as gentle and harmless as the folks in Funky just by reading the comic strip. Human beings are more complicated than that.
In addition, Funky's justification for his friends living together because it's the '90s' is just silliness. Pretending to be married doesn't guarantee happiness any more than pretending to be Michael Jordan guarantees one can hit a basketball hoop from half-court.
Although we are worlds apart politically and philosophically, I enjoyed the 127 pages of Funky Winkerbean: Could Be A Book Deal Here, and agree that Tom Batiuk is among the best cartoonists around. It is no surprise that Tom is as wise and foolish as his characters, or that this collection is worth every penny of its $9.95, and more!
Review by Michael Vance
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