Archive for August 14th, 2009

Funky Winkerbean: The Comics’ Most Interesting Failure

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This* is not an unusual strip of Funky Winkerbean—the bane of the “funny pages.” Funky Winkerbean is not a funny comic strip, and it isn’t a particularly good one. I do not read it with any kind of regularity. In spite of, or maybe even because of, these reasons, though, Funky Winkerbean is by far the most interesting strip to ever appear in the Comics.

*In the current plot line, Wally returns home to a wife that thought he had been killed in action. Hilarious!

First, a little history.* Tom Batiuk started Funky Winkerbean as a high school teacher in 1972. The strip was about high schoolers. I suppose it was funny (in a bland, unoffensive comic strip way), containing stereotypical characters such as the high school principal, teachers, coaches, and the titular student. It also included a computer that became (not was programmed to, but “became”) an avid fan of Star Trek. Suffice to say, Batiuk wasn’t breaking new ground.

*Admittedly with the help of Wikipedia’s Funky Winkerbean page.

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What Happened to the Baseball Card?

jason-isringhausenThrough the 1990s, elementary school cafeterias across the country were pervaded with ambitious young children frantically flipping through multiple binders full of baseball cards. Many children also had the Beckett Baseball Price Guide, which listed the value of virtually every card and was often consulted during a trade to determine whether one was about to get ripped off.* Children became young economists in addition to sports fans, trading based on market value.

*One problem with the Beckett Price Guide is that it encouraged children to trade not based on their preferences but on some dubious market value. But frankly, for more than almost anyone, preferences really do matter for children. A Mets fan is going to get way more pleasure out of a Jason Isringhausen rookie card (this was my favorite card as a child) than a Yankees fan. The fact that this card may be fifty cents less in value than a Jimmy Key rookie card does not mean I shouldn’t have traded for it. Yet, Beckett sometimes would promote this non-pleasure maximizing behavior. (H/T to John S. for reminding me of this Beckett criticism.)
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