It’s the end of an era.
And the end of the story for “Funky Winkerbean.”
Akron-born Tom Batiuk has announced that the 50-year story arc of the newspaper comic strip “Funky Winkerbean” will end on Dec. 31.
Batiuk, who now lives in Medina, took readers on a life’s journey with the cast of characters from “Funky Winkerbean” that began on March 27, 1972.
Tom Batiuk’s career in comics
A 1969 graduate of Kent State, Batiuk began his career as a teacher for Elyria schools.
He started a side gig drawing a panel called “Rapping Around” for the Teen Page of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram in 1970. Just two years later, the “Funky Winkerbean” comic strip was born.
Other comic strips would come later including “John Darling,” that followed the life of a fictional talk show host, in 1979. This strip was in collaboration with artist Tom Armstrong.
The comic strip “Crankshaft” with artist Chuck Ayers would come in 1987. Batiuk now collaborates with Dan Davis on the strip that features the day in the life of a school bus driver.
But he perhaps is best known for creating “Funky Winkerbean” that was often humorous, but wasn’t afraid to confront serious topics, too, from suicide to teen pregnancy to war.
The cancer journey of one its characters, Lisa Crawford Moore, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2008.
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Batiuk’s Ohio ties were sometimes evident in his work.
The fictional Montoni’s Restaurant frequented by the characters in “Funky Winkerbean” is a not so subtle nod to Luigi’s Restaurant in Akron.
But at the center of the story was the fictional Westview High School that was home to characters like Funky and other notable personalities like band director Harry L. Dinkle.
Tom Batiuk’s future plans
Batiuk said while the daily comic strip is going away, some of the characters might still show up now and then in “Crankshaft,” which is still going strong and perhaps a new offering every “now and then” on his personal website tombatiuk.com.
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A new “Funky Winkerbean” complication book “The Complete Funky Winkerbean (Volume 12: 2005-2007)” came out earlier this month.
“Between the blog, the books and the pop-ups in ‘Crankshaft,’ it’ll be like the Funky gang never left,” he said in a statement. “Which I hope makes you feel as good as it does me.
“The carousel isn’t stopping, just slowing down a little.”
Craig Webb can be reached at email@example.com.