Funky Winkerbean and its creator graying together

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A strip lasting 40 years is notable but ranks behind the nearly half-century of “Peanuts” or, with some interruptions, the century-plus of the “Katzenjammer Kids,” Thompson said.

The strip is a “very profitable” superstar, said Brendan Burford, comics editor at the strip’s King Features Syndicate, who added that the aging of Funky has sharpened Batiuk’s storytelling.

“He’s been there and he’s traveled that path himself. He’s able to provide perspective from different generations,” Burford said.

Like Baby Boomers facing wrinkles, Social Security and worse, there’s no turning back for Batiuk’s minions.

“That’s a funny thing,” he says, turning the idea over. “Once you’ve taken your characters to a certain point and they’ve experienced certain things, it sort of trivializes that experience if you go back and regress them and go back to a more childish time.”

Aging opens another door for Batiuk: What happens if?

Batiuk wouldn’t criticize end-of-career cartoonists who have passed their strips onto relatives or collaborators, but said he doubted he would do it.

“I haven’t put anything in place like that, but I don’t have an ending in mind,” he said. Still, he allowed, “Occasionally you think about it.”

Batiuk hinted at a possible handling of the story lines.

“When it comes time to finish Funky, I don’t think anything’s going to be solved, I don’t think anything’s going to really be resolved. It’s just going to end.”

Mulling over the idea, Batiuk said it would be hard for someone else to do Funky “because Funky is a very personal idiosyncratic work.”

“My suspicion is when the time comes, Funky will just stop.”

The 40th anniversary was marked by the publication of the start of a multi-volume complete set of the strips. The first volume has years 1972-74 and includes comments from comics chronicler Robert Harvey, who recognized Batiuk’s improving artistry in those early years.

Batiuk’s drawings become somewhat crisper as he achieved greater assurance in rendering the wrinkles in clothing, for instance,” Harvey said in a foreward.

“And over the years, Batiuk would become better and better at depicting his characters and telling their stories.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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