The Complete Funky Winkerbean, Volume 3 (1978-1980)

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Entering any of the Black Squirrel Books reprint anthologies of The Complete Funky Winkerbean is like opening a time capsule. That's because Tom Batiuk's daily comic strips weren't just humorous, but they were consistently on topic to the current events of the day. At times, it's a moment of remembering how things were; at others, it's a reminder of just how much things haven't changed that much at all.

As you read years' of strips in a marathon, you can see how this strip evolves over time. Student protestor Roland was phased out in earlier volumes, but his armchair sports fanatic father had remained behind to provide commentary on professional athletics. Now even he is gone, his role taken over by Westview's perpetually losing coach, Jack Stropp. The "Sayings from the I Chong" continue, and are accompanied by other regular book quotes, such as "Winning Tennis" by Hy Lobb, and "Winning with Wine. To add further "pun"itive damage, one could always rely on the sequences of "Sherlock Holmes' Secret Cases or the descriptions from each new year's class registration forms.

But even though the humor remained intact, Batiuk had begun incorporating some of the more serious issues of the times, such as nuclear plant accidents and teachers' union strikes. And when Batiuk wants a political figure to appear in one of his strips, he doesn't rely on a gimmick or an icon to represent said figure -- he simply draws the person in, as was the case when Westview High received a visit from First Lady Rosalynn Carter to stump for Class President candidate Barry Balderman. It's a situation where Batiuk even has her commit a gaffe that promotes the qualities of Ronald Reagan over husband Jimmy Carter!

Other notable events from these three years would have to be guidance counselor Fred Fairgood entering -- and running in -- the Boston Marathon, Harry L. Dinkle (World's Greatest Band Director) initiating the idea of selling Thanksgiving band turkeys as a fundraiser, nuclear energy plant disasters, and Crazy Harry taking up residence (when he's not living in his locker) at The Lighthouse, a home for runaway teens. We also, in just a single strip, see Les Moore for once ask out a girl other than Mary Sue Sweetwater. He screws it up, of course, and gets denied -- but the girl's name is Lisa, and it had me wondering if this wasn't, perhaps, the first encounter Les would have with the woman who would eventually be his wife when the series made the shift from comedy to drama.

With a foreward by Joe Walsh, and an introduction that delivers even more Funky hidden history, The Complete Funky Winkerbean, Volume 3 (1978-1980) also wins with me for including an appendix of three corrected strips that were misprinted in Volume 2. It's a fun trip down memory lane, and the countdown from this point forward, should the current pace of "3 years per volume" continue, toward the historical time-jump and tone shift of 1992, is 3 and 2/3. I'm looking forward to the journey just as much as I am the destination!

5.0 / 5.0