“Funky Winkerbean,” the rare comic strip that allows its characters to grow and age, starts a 10-week story line on Monday that contains a tragedy. Fans of the long-running strip who would like to be surprised by what happens to a major character may not want to read further.
Though the sub-head did give a bit more:
The comic strip, a newspaper staple since 1972, has a story line for the fall that will end with the death of a central character.
The Times explains the background of the current Funky Winkerbean story:
A newspaper staple since 1972, “Funky Winkerbean,” by the cartoonist Tom Batiuk, will focus this fall on sports-related concussions, which, in extreme cases, can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a form of degenerative dementia. The idea started close to home.
“The symptoms of C.T.E. really kind of mimic a clinical depression: the confusion, the anxiety, the agitation,” Mr. Batiuk, 72, said during a telephone interview.
He said he had been through a couple of bouts of depression himself, which gave him some insight into what will befall one of the strip’s recurring characters, a onetime high school football star, Jerome Bushka, who is known as Bull, and his wife, Linda.
“It’s not just the person that goes through that,” Mr. Batiuk said. “It’s also their spouse or whomever happens to be their caregiver.”
The strip’s author laid the groundwork for the events of the coming weeks well in advance, with a 2016 installment of the strip in which Bull learned he had C.T.E.
Beginning today, there will be a ten week storyline in which one of the characters, Jerome “Bull” Bushka, who is suffering from a sports-related concussion or “CTE,” is getting worse. He will decide to take his own life.
More from the Times:
In subsequent episodes, Bull’s friends deal with guilt (“Some of those hits he took on the field were from me”) and frustration (Linda receives a rejection letter regarding Bull’s application for disability benefits). In another strip, Bull visits his high school playing field, which a friend describes as “the scene of the crime.”