In what may be remembered as one of the most memorable deaths in comic strip history, the Funky Winkerbean character, Lisa Moore, has passed away bring this story-line closer to a definite conclusion. Tom Batuik’s portrayal of Lisa’s second battle with cancer – and especially the decision not to have her fight the disease has provoked readers across the country to debate its appropriateness on the funny pages. While the debate may continue, it’s clear to me that Tom has succeeded in reminding readers that comic strips are fundamentally storytelling and not all stories end with a smile and a quip. When we think of comics as only “the funnies,” we’re selling the art form short. It has a much greater capacity to touch and inspire readers than we often give it credit. Meaningful drama can be had 3 or 4 frames at a time.
It’s not a coincidence that Lisa’s death comes during National Breast Cancer month. The story-line was not only able to elevate the visibility of the strip but has also elevated our awareness of the disease at a time when a national campaign is underway to raise money for medical research to find better treatment options for those with the disease. How many of you would have passed though this month without any pause or knowledge of the campaign? But you know now, and hopefully you’ll find a way to help the cause.
And lastly, I hope the story demonstrates that there can be a certain dignity in dying and that opting for quality of life over quantity of life when faced with an inevitable death should be respected.
This story-line isn’t quite finished. It won’t end until October 24th. For the next couple of weeks, we’ll see the aftermath of such a tragic death. I’m sure Tom will treat the topic with as much respect as he did with the story thus far.