Cartoonist Tom Batiuk Strikes Up the Band for Music Educators


 Caartoonist Tom Batiuk

From the time he knew wanted to be a cartoonist, Tom Batiuk, Funky Winkerbean’s creator, also knew what kind of comic strip he wanted to create.

“I wanted to tackle tough issues, keep things in the moment but also let characters grow older in real time,” he said recently. The comic strip revolves around fictional Westview High School where the title character attended school, with friends like Bull Bushka, Holly Budd, and Crazy Harry Klinghorn.

Teachers and school administrators, including Principal Burch and band director Harry Dinkle, also play prominent roles.

Batiuk stayed true to his goals, as characters in the comic strip experienced teen pregnancy, breast cancer, divorce, and other life-altering issues since 1972, when the comic strip had its debut.

In 2012 The Funky strip celebrated 40 years with the publication of The Complete Funky Winkerbean, Volume 1, 1972–1974. Subsequent volumes will give readers a chance to return to Funky’s roots and watch characters evolve.

In February Batiuk, an Akron native, attended the 2012 Ohio Music Education Association Professional Development Conference where OMEA leaders presented him, with the Honorary Service Award for Meritorious Contributions to Music Education. The award includes an image of Harry Dinkle. He autographed copies of the book at the conference for OMEA members/

Batiuk said he is very fond of Harry, who he describes as one of his first “breakout characters.” “I am working on the second volume, which involves providing some background for the characters, so I have been thinking about Harry a lot,” Batiuk said.

“Harry is singularly focused on his music program, the marching band in particular, because he believes it is so important in students’ lives,” Batiuk said.

“There are a lot of Harrys out there, devoted to music, devoted to teaching kids. As you know, music teachers are some of the most organized educators out there. It is no small task to teach 100 kids music and how to march, as well as organizational skills. And kids come out of a music program with other skills that they can use throughout their lives,” he said.

Batiuk shows his support for music education and music educators in other ways. A few times a year he draws a comic strip called Halle Dinkle that is posted on the NAfME website  Halle, a general music teacher, follows in her father’s footsteps but has her own world view.

The continuing adventures of a general music teacher

A selection of Halle Dinkle comic strips

The Complete Funky Winkerbean


Roz Fehr, NAfME managing editor for news, November 28, 2012. © National Association for Music Education (