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Funky Winkerbean depiction of IED blowing up american soldier generates angry response

Friday’s Funky Winkerbean generated an angry response in two communities that ran Tom Batiuk’s feature. The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (GA) received a call from an Army staff sergeant from Fort Benning and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (AK) received a call from an offended parent over the depiction of Funky Winkerbean’s brother being blown up from an I.E.D (improvised explosive device). The comic’s earlier installments, Monday through Thursday, showed Funky’s brother serving in Iraq on what looked like a foot patrol with Friday’s depiction of the IED going off. It’s not until Saturday’s comic that Friday’s events is placed in the context of a video game that the brother was playing.

As a result of the phone call, the executive editor of the Ledger-Enquirer responded by saying, that this particular comic…

“should never have run in our paper. For the failure to identify the problem and spike the material, I take full responsibility and apologize to the men and women of our Armed Forces.

We have internally implemented review steps to more closely monitor syndicated material.

Tom has written a response that went out to both papers that includes the following:

I wanted to let you know that I’m sorry for any concern, anger or confusion that today’s Funky Winkerbean strip may have caused with your readers. Obviously, any strip removed from the context of it’s (sic) surrounding story is open to misinterpretation, and such appears to be the case here. It was most certainly wasn’t intended to disparage our soldiers in any way.

“To the contrary, anyone following the Iraq story arcs in Funky, knows that I’m not only sympathetic to what our soldiers are facing in Iraq, but the focus throughout has been on the sacrifices they make in being separated from family and in the dangers they face in the theater. Treating them with disrespect is not something I would ever do…

Community Comments

#1 Jeff Stanson
February/26/2007
@ 6:27 am

That’s not Funky serving in Iraq, it’s his kid brother.

#2 Alan Gardner
February/26/2007
@ 6:49 am

Thanks for the clarification Jeff. I’ve been following FW for the last few months but still haven’t been able to catch on to all of the who’s who. It’s a rather large cast of characters.

#3 Danny Burleson
February/26/2007
@ 9:00 am

Yes, because if it’s in a comic strip it automatically means it’s making fun of our troops. Whatever. Why don’t people understand that just because it’s labelled a comic strip, doesn’t means it’s always about comedy?

What if he had ‘really’ killed off the character? Is it not okay for him to make the statement that war is, um, dangerous? It’s not like he had someone laughingly uncontrollably at the corpse then yelling, “Gotcha!” *insert rim shot* If he would have written a 700-1400 word, boring article about the dangers of IEDs, no one would have batted an eyelash.

#4 Jeff Stanson
February/26/2007
@ 6:33 pm

I should have mentioned that Funky’s brother is Wally.

#5 MJ, Editorial Cartoonist
February/26/2007
@ 6:41 pm

I was under the impression that cartoonists should be able to draw whatever they feel like drawing. Artistic expression. I am strongly against any form of censorship when it comes to cartooning, that’s why a majority of editorial toons are bland. Boo to censorhip! As long as a cartoonist is responsible enough to know what crosses the line, we should be allowed to express ourselves as we see fit. I guess we should change Artistic expression to Artistic oppression when it comes to some editors of publications.

#6 Mike Peterson
February/27/2007
@ 4:04 am

I don’t know nothin’ about freedom of expression. I just want to know where you get that videogame that puts your own face in the graphics and prints your name across your helmet. (I guess there might be games that suddenly switch to another person’s POV to show things like the hand on the cell phone detonator, though it would make the games hard to play.)

Anyway, I blame myself for not being up to date. If I’d known they had games that could do that, I wouldn’t have felt this was such a totally bogus “surprise twist.”

#7 Chris Shipton
February/27/2007
@ 6:41 am

Reading out of context i thought ‘ooh thats quite daring’. Reading it in context its more like a cop out.

#8 Eric Keeton
February/27/2007
@ 11:02 am

Maybe it’s time for Fort Benning Staff Sgt. James G. Clanton to go AWOL.. if a comic strip is a little to real for him, I can’t imagine how he’d react to reality.
I imagine he complains to the auto industry when he hears a car backfire.
A special Funky Winkerbean should be drawn just for him and others like him. The characters will just stare out and do nothing interactive. The discription would be something along the lines of ‘A special release with no commentary, place your own imagination here’
Once censorship succeeds, imagination will be next.

#9 Rich
February/27/2007
@ 11:29 am

It seems that Tom Batiuk was quite clear about what he was trying to accomplish and handled the flap well. It also seems clear that those complaining overreacted and are probably looking for reasons to complain. I’m guessing the news overreacted too by reporting that there were 2 complaints … 2? Big deal … I bet Peanuts probably gets 2 complaints a day somewhere in the country. Slow news day maybe.

#10 Sharon
February/28/2007
@ 11:09 am

I chose to view the strip as Wally putting his OWN face on the soldier in the “game.” Some people are too literal — it wasn’t what was going on on the view/screen, it was Wally placing himself into the situation. Y’all remember “imagination?” Well, if most guys didn’t do just that when playing video games, there wouldn’t be half the attraction for games associated with sex, violence and war. Assigning yourself the role in RPGs and video games, I’m told is more than half the fun.

#11 Debbie
February/28/2007
@ 8:03 pm

Please return Funky Winkerbean to your newspaper, I miss it!

#12 David
July/30/2007
@ 6:40 pm

Good heavens that comic is slowly paced. It recently took a week just for a character to open a letter!

#13 FunkyFan
September/28/2007
@ 3:28 pm

Wally is not Funky’s brother, they are cousins.

#14 Dean Bailey
November/14/2007
@ 2:47 am

I’m confused….are you going to stay in the future? I want to know what the characters are doing in the present day. This jump into the future is losing my interest.

#15 Mike Edge
February/6/2008
@ 2:06 pm

I want to know where Wally went and how Becky ended up with John the comic book store owner.

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