Video Essay: Funky Winkerbean Comic Turns 40
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Like aging baby boomers, the cartoon strip Funky Winkerbean and its creator Tom Batiuk have turned gray with life's ups and downs in a 40-year run on the funny pages. (May 30)


[Location - Date:Medina, Ohio 4/16/2012][Source:AP]SOUNDBITE: "In conjunction with Funky's 40th anniversary, the Kent State University press is going to be reprinting the entire run of Funky."(Tom Batiuk/Cartoonist)Batiuk sketching "Funky Winkerbean" cartoonSOUNDBITE: "They're going to bring out a volume a year for the next 14 years. If I continue to do the strip and the strip continues running, they won't catch me. In fact, I hope they don't catch me actually."(Tom Batiuk/Cartoonist)Photo: Batiuk drawing comic stripSOUNDBITE: "When Funky started out there was a bunch of teen strips that were getting a little long in tooth. They had sorta covered the territory of parent - teen conflict. Parents arguing with the kids about the car or the phone or telling them to go clean their room. I wanted funky to be anything but that - just to stay away from all that stuff. They dealt with 2% of the school football team and cheerleaders so I was left with everything else."(Tom Batiuk/Cartoonist)Batiuk sketching "Funky Winkerbean" cartoonCU: Funky Winkerbean comic stripSOUNDBITE: "I kinda went inside to the inner conflict so I wrote about less waking up in the morning and feeling sick because you knew you had to go to the gym and climb the rope to the ceiling that day. Or you knew there was going to be somebody waiting after school to beat him up."(Tom Batiuk/Cartoonist)CU: Funky Winkerbean comic stripSOUNDBITE: "I used to go out to my old high school to sketch, I still do. I just sketch and hang around and keep up with things. So if I draw a drinking fountain, it looks like a real drinking fountain. And one day I'm looking through my sketch book and there's this girl in high school who I'd sketched who was pregnant and I thought if i'm going to deal with reality, deal with things in the moment I should do this as well. so I wrote this story where a girl in high school was pregnant. And that girl was lisa. And les wasn't the father but he was her best friend and her birthing partner through this whole process. And once they'd gone through that it was going to be very difficult to have les hanging from the gym class rope during the middle of the homecoming dance."(Tom Batiuk/Cartoonist)CU: Cover of Lisa's story: funky winkerbeanSOUNDBITE: "So the characters were telling me they were ready to move on, I was older. And it was just a good time for me to start using the experiences that I had since I got out of school, I was just out of school practically when I started funky. And now as i've grown, the strips could grow and the characters could grow up."(Tom Batiuk/Cartoonist)CU: Sketches of characters from Funky WinkerbeanSOUNDBITE: "Les is trying to get a date in high school was rather simplistic stuff, just surface stuff. But once they grew up, les and his realtionship with lisa was much more nuance, much more complicated and I liked writing about those things. And the other thing that complicates life is that things change, that things happen to people. I'd reached a stage where i was starting to hear about friends, relatives where someone was dealing with breast cancer. And i took that stuff and internalized it to create an inner landscape that i could draw upon to write a story like that, so i did. Lisa became diagnosed with breast cancer."CU: Sketch where Lisa is diagnosed with breast cancerMS: Characters Lisa and Les from Funky WinkerbeanMS: Lisa's story the other shoe coverSOUNDBITE: "But i think it's important to deal with stuff like this, i think that art at it's core helps us to share the human experience. And sometimes it provides us with insights, sometimes it confirms our worst suspicions. But it's a shared experience. And comic strips are uniquely positioned to do that sort of thing because they are there every day in people's lives and their just sorta interwoven in the fabric of their lives. i think that helps you to share that work in a much more intimate way, especially in a strip where the characters are aging and growing older. Each strip then becomes like a breath, like a passing movement. I think that's nice if you get even close to that."(Tom Batiuk/Cartoonist)Batiuk signing his name on "funky Winkerbean" cartoon