October 26, 2014

Medina
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‘Funky Winkerbean’ comic creator contributes to anti-bullying campaign

Tom Batiuk, creator of the “Funky Winkerbean” and “Crankshaft” comic strips, holds up a strip set for publication in September 2015. The strip showcases characters Owen and Cody, who are now seniors in high school, deciding they’re not cut out to bully freshmen like the seniors bullied them. Batiuk contributed to a compilation of anti-bullying comic strips “Bullying Is No Laughing Matter,” which is available now.  (NICK GLUNT / GAZETTE)

Tom Batiuk, creator of the “Funky Winkerbean” and “Crankshaft” comic strips, holds up a strip set for publication in September 2015. The strip showcases characters Owen and Cody, who are now seniors in high school, deciding they’re not cut out to bully freshmen like the seniors bullied them. Batiuk contributed to a compilation of anti-bullying comic strips “Bullying Is No Laughing Matter,” which is available now. (NICK GLUNT / GAZETTE)

When nationally syndicated newspaper comic strip writer Tom Batiuk was in grade school, he once saw a girl bullied by his peers and did nothing.

The memory has stuck with him and will be echoed in a “Funky Winkerbean” storyline next year.

“My whole life, I’ve thought what it’s like to be that person,” Batiuk said in an interview at his Medina Township home Wednesday. “I’ve always wondered if by not doing anything, am I equally culpable?

“If I do nothing, have I done something wrong?”

Batiuk said he’s been touching on the issue of bullying since the comic strip’s beginning in 1972 — and that’s why he was asked to contribute to “Bullying Is No Laughing Matter,” a compilation of anti-bullying newspaper comics.

In earlier strips, one of Batiuk’s character was threatened by a bully to fight after school. As the comic grew and matured, he said he was able to touch on more contemporary and serious issues like the 2012 strip he contributed to the book.

The storyline focused on a gay couple wanting to go to prom together only to be harassed by students and staff. In the strip, the school’s principal intervenes and says bullying the couple won’t be tolerated.

Batiuk’s comics have covered other contemporary issues, including teen pregnancy, suicide, alcoholism and cancer.

He said teens and children today have an especially hard time dealing with bullies.

“The Internet has made bullying so much worse,” he said, explaining it’s made teens unable to escape their peers. “I hope this book does something to spread awareness.”

The Medina County community has worked to combat bullying after several teen suicides last year. Efforts have included the county’s chapter of the United Way and District Library working with schools to have every sixth-grader in the county read an anti-bullying novel over the summer.

In addition to contributing his work to the book, Batiuk also wrote a preface to a full-length issue of Kurt Kolka’s “The Cardinal,” a superhero who deals with bullying and other social issues affecting teens.

“Comics today are accused of presenting a dystopian view of the world, but the first dystopian world I ever encountered was called a junior high school,” Batiuk wrote. “Junior high is where social and physical bullying are distilled and refined and turned into an art form.

“It’s where you run smack into the real world and learn that people can do things that are not always nice, not always fair, and which are sometimes downright evil.”

Batiuk said it’s hard for teens because their problems seem very important to them.

“While it’s happening, it’s hard to sort it out,” he said, “but things do get better.”

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter @ngfalcon.


  • Son of Stuck Funky

    “Batiuk said he’s been touching on the issue of bullying since the comic strip’s beginning in 1972…”

    This is true, but until recently Batiuk used bullying for laughs. This strip from 1983 is just one example: http://bit.ly/XkjP8s

    In 2011 he “retconned” the story line to suggest that Bull the jock was only pretending to pick on Les the nerd. I guess Batiuk saw a chance to exploit the topic of bullying for publicity, much as he did with cancer.

  • Facebook User

    Teaching children about kindness and tolerance should help
    combat bullying. Kids can learn from songs, like “Be a Buddy, not a Bully” on YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or7WPUtUnRo

  • http://dougputhoff.livejournal.com Doug Puthoff

    Instead producing his strips so far ahead, Batiuk should take the time to improved upon their quality. Since the last time jump, the strip has become sub-literate.