By: E&P Staff
“Funky Winkerbean” readers are currently focused on the impending death of Lisa Moore, who will succumb to cancer next Thursday.
But a scant 17 days after that, readers will watch Tom Batiuk jump his comic 10 years into the future.
The decade-ahead seque takes place in the Sunday, Oct. 21 strip — which is set in New York City’s Central Park despite the comic’s usual Ohio milieu. Suddenly, Lisa’s widowed husband, Les, is shown as a 46-year-old man with receding, slightly gray hair and a goatee, while his daughter Summer becomes a 15-year-old teen. In an ironic twist, Summer turns out to be a popular basketball star in the high school where her father was not exactly part of the “in crowd” as a student.
Other characters looking quite different, according to materials in a King Features Syndicate press kit, include Funky Winkerbean himself, coach Bull Bushka, and mail-carrier Crazy — all three of whom are also 46 with teen children (Cory, Jinx, and Maddie) after the Oct. 21 changeover. High school band director Becky, who’s 33 after the comic’s leap into the future, also has a 15-year-old child (Rana).
Meanwhile, Funky has expanded the Montoni’s pizza restaurant into different locations — including New York City.
Why did Batiuk decide to flash-forward his characters for the second time in his comic’s 35-year history? “There were several reasons,” he said. “First, I didn’t want to present an extended grieving process, but instead wanted to show how the characters have gotten on with their lives.
“Second … I wanted the new freshman class to be the sons and daughters of my original core characters.
“Finally, I wanted to bring the ages of my characters in line with those of my long-time readers to better reflect the changes in their lives.”
The 1947-born Batiuk does “Funky Winkerbean” for more than 400 newspapers.