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October 13, 2015
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Since 1972, Medina resident and Kent State University grad Tom Batiuk has brought the adventures of Funky Winkerbean and his friends to the comic pages. What began as a daily strip about the awkward high school years has developed into much more as the characters aged and were affected by "real life." In 1999, Lisa Moore found out that she had breast cancer. Her journey through surgery and into remission was captured in the book Lisa's Story. Seven years later, the cancer returned. This time, there was no happy ending.

The strips covering Lisa's final battle with breast cancer are now in a new book, Lisa's Story: The Other Shoe from The Kent State University Press, with proceeds going to Lisa's Legacy Fund. Throughout October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Batiuk will be presenting excerpts of the book at signings, beginning with a book launch at Akron's Luigi's Restaurant (the model for the strip's Montoni's) on Oct. 6.

Funky Winkerbean's Lisa Loses Her Fight With Breast Cancer
Medina Cartoonist Tom Batiuk Brings an End to a Tragedy in the Comics and Stretches the Medium
Thursday, October 4, 2007

Tomorrow (Saturday) at a pizza place in Akron, fans of the comic strip Funky Winkerbean will gather in memory of Lisa Moore. She died of breast cancer yesterday (Thursday) right in front of our eyes, where she had suffered for so long, on the comics page. It's a tragedy in the funnies that stretches the boundaries of the medium.

Vivian Goodman
WKSU's Vivian Goodman reports:

Realplayer / Windows Media / MP3 Download (7:02)

An interview with Tom Batiuk

Tom Batiuk tells us how Funky Winkerbean came into being, about the real-life person upon whom the character of Funky was based, about how Les Moore was based on his best friend at Kent State University, about the friends who led him to deal with the issue of breast cancer in his strip , and about how he sees Lisa's as not only a cancer story but also a love story. He also explains his philosophy that comic strips should be comical, but should also deal with real issues and get to the heart of things.

Realplayer / Windows Media / MP3 Download (39:50)

Tom Batiuk at his drawing board. He's had the same one for more than three decades. This is where Lisa was born.

Tom Batiuk's studio over his garage in Medina is filled with the things he loves, including comic books and music posters from the sixties.

Richard Wittig of Berea is a big fan of Funky Winkerbean. He felt so attached to the character Lisa that he wrote a letter to the editor of the Plain Dealer begging Batiuk to spare her life.

It's Ted Diadiun's job as Ombudsman at the Plain Dealer to respond to complaints from readers. He received some calls and letters from those who oppose sadness in the comics, but a majority of readers polled like the cancer theme in Funky Winkerbean.

Chuck Ayers is the illustrator for Funky Winkerbean. He also collaborates with Tom Batiuk on the strip Crankshaft. Ayers admits to tearing up a little when he drew the last panel showing Lisa's death.

Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers
Funky Winkerbean at King Features
Breast Cancer Information from The National Institutes of Health
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Kent State University Press
Lisa's Legacy Fund

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Listener Comments:

I was so hoping that Lisa would have a good outcome; something to bolster the spirit. When the outcome was not what I was hoping for, it was extremely difficult to continue to read the strip. 2007 wasn't a good year and when this happened to Lisa, the year seemed to become more dismal.

Posted by: Jill (Iowa) on February 20, 2013 10:20PM
To place this disease in terms that all can relate to, is simply outstanding! The outcome is not always positive and needs to be dealt with.I am a nurse, and would like to "Thank You" for the courage to address this in your comic strip.

Posted by: Joyce Kaufman (Geneva,Ohio) on November 7, 2007 10:32AM
I am a cancer patient with 2 types of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I worked for the cancer society for 7 years between and i have and have heard many stories. Your strip about Lisa and the all the Elephants in the room have helped myself open to my family about the final outcome. The strip where she fights her cancer with a sword is hanging in my oncologist office. Lisa's story is a sad one but you handled it with dignity and panache. Thanks

Posted by: Judith Koke (San Marcos, TX) on October 21, 2007 2:21AM
I work as a clinical specialist in oncology. You did a beautiful job handling Lisa's illness and death. Well done! P.S. The guy who wants dibs on what's in her purse because she's "now officially at room temperature" needs help. That's one sick and twisted individual...

Posted by: Abbie MacMillan (Waterford Works NJ) on October 11, 2007 6:25PM
I was hoping that Lisa's would have a fairy tale ending, but life is not a fairy tale. I lost my mother at a young age to cancer (brain tumor to be exact). The agony of watching a loved one succumb to the ravishes of cancer is heartbreaking. Reading about Lisa brought back many memories. Although my Mom is gone a long time, her memory is etched forever in my heart and in my mind. Lisa - we will never forget you. But your legacy will live on through your daughter.

Posted by: Joan (New Jersey) on October 7, 2007 4:05PM
I have to mirror several of the comments that have already been made. At first I was aghast that the pain of dealing with such a terminal illness was being shared outside the painful realisation of dealing with it within a family/loved ones. Then, part of me was grateful, despite the loss of Lisa - who was such a trooper in dealing with the disease. I'm grateful that the strip deals with all of the physical realities of the disease - and the ways they were addressed - which it did rather accurately. It hit terribly too close to home - I lost my mom to metastasized breast cancer in 1999 - the "monster" came back exactly 4 years and 11 months after the first diagnosis of breast cancer (so much for the "5-year" mark that many hospitals/doctors purport!) Among the many emotions I dealt with that year, were the emotions and resentment of how little attention is given to the fact that breast cancer almost ALWAYS comes back - it may be the next year, it may be 20 years from the time of the initial identification. I find myself reliving the pain and sorrow of losing my mom through losing Lisa - a cartoon character for whom I had a great deal of respect. Batiuk couched the scenario tactfully with the introduction of a "non-threatening" "god of death", while still allowing a very humane aspect to all of the characters, including the "reaper". For this, I am eternally grateful! The "reaper"/"god of death" was represented more like the "heavenly guides" found in the movie "Ghost" and far less like the proverbial vision associated with the "reaper". And thank you for accurately representing all of the emotions of "after" (the loved one has gone - did "I/we" do the right thing????) Lisa will be missed. Please continue to share the emotions that transpired in a family who loses one to cancer!

Posted by: Cat ((Richmond)) on October 6, 2007 11:58PM
At first I was aghast at what was obviously to follow in the story line. But Funky's Story has been brutally honest over the years and so I expected the worst. Wars, alcoholism, failure, success and the usual street-repair aggravations were subjects touched by humorous daily living.. I lived in Ohio for 7 years and had been exposed to Batiuk/Ayers style of artistry for only a brief time, but have followed them wherever they grew, and now that they're National and OnLine, they've been part of my daily reading.. Talk about 'tearing up' about the drawing of the strip, it's taken me several tries at getting myself together just to type THIS.. Of course, it's sympathetic that I lost an intelligent girlfriend who refused to believe that "It" couldn't happen to her, and so, "It" did.. She's dead, I grieve, and I gripe. argh.

Posted by: Jim Selfridge (Lady Lake, FL) on October 6, 2007 3:57PM
It was thought provoking to read in a comic strip about Lisa's battle with breast cancer. My mother died from liver cancer four years ago. The trajedy of cancer, any cancer, is a message that should be told everyday. Thank you for bringing it to a new forum.

Posted by: Juanita Smith (Columbus, OH) on October 6, 2007 9:28AM
I was really touched by this strip! I recently was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am deeply saddened about your loss. I admire your strength for being able to do this in her honor. You are in the prayers of many. God Bless.

Posted by: Amanda (Dover,OH) on October 6, 2007 1:40AM
I'm not sure what to make of the story, to be honest. I'm still digesting it. It brought back a lot of memories from when my Mom died last May. Though my Mom died of heart disease and complications from diabetes, the parallels of watching a loved one wasting away are impossible to ignore. Thank you for sharing this story.

Posted by: Jim (Beloit, WI) on October 5, 2007 7:39PM
I read each day's issue with dread and sadness, almost as though Lisa was a personal friend of mine; I started reading her story during her first bout with cancer, and followed it daily since then; I guess I really related to her because she was an attorney, and I was a legal assistant (paralegal) for 30 years....

Posted by: Jacque Glick (El Cajon, CA) on October 5, 2007 6:46PM
Thank you for a perspective and forum to deal with life's frailties. And yes, I did shed a tear. This has been a touching series of foibles associated with something we'll all deal with, and I hope that parents of all ages have used this as a tool to illustrate to their children, what we will all face one day. Do it with grace and love for all to remember.

Posted by: Mike Novak (Austin Texas) on October 5, 2007 9:54AM
GREAT story, per usual...

Posted by: Diana () on October 5, 2007 9:17AM
As a two-time breast cancer survivor myself, I have avidly followed Lisa Moore's odyssey with the disease. I am saddened that she died, but I have seen several of my patients succumb, and also my sister-in-law, who at a very young age also left a young daughter when breast cancer took her. This is not the first time that Funky has dealt with serious issues--but it is a "comic strip" that mirrors a lot of life. The death of Lisa was handled beautifully and I admire the sensitivity of Mr. Batiuk in his presentation.

Posted by: Linda Parenti, MD (Akron) on October 5, 2007 7:17AM
I was hoping for a miracle when I read that Lisa's cancer had returned. I do, however, commend you for dealing with such an emotional issue with such tenderness and caring. Thanx!

Posted by: Darlene Musgrave (Akron) on October 4, 2007 10:10PM

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