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MEDINA, Ohio (AP) — Like two aging baby boomers, “Funky Winkerbean” and creator Tom Batiuk have turned gray and have experienced their share of life’s ups and downs in a 40-year run on the funny pages.
Batiuk, 65, has morphed his characters over the years from mop-headed beatniks to graying 60-somethings, much like the changes for Batiuk, his hair over his collar in the 1970s but now graying and cut short.
The story lines have changed, too, from high school hijinks and awkward teen dating moments in the early years to dealing with more adult issues like alcoholism, suicide and fighting cancer. His latest hot topic story line during May: two boys who want to go to the high school prom together.
The strip debuted in more than 70 papers on March 27, 1972, and has grown to about 400. The first strip introduced the high school-age characters, including Funky (“I’m just an average kid”) and Les (“I really want to be far out like Roland”) and issues important to teens, including meeting a girl, getting a date and dealing with acne.
To Batiuk, delving back into the high school years with the gay prom issue underscores the generational changes and contemporary challenges his characters faced once he decided to let them begin aging along with Batiuk and the rest of us.
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