Ohio connection: Birth
As the creator of both “Funky Winkerbean” and “Crankshaft,” Tom Batiuk (rhymes with “attic”) has been able to critique, in comic form, the vagaries of both young adulthood and the golden years. Born in Akron in 1947, Batiuk’s natural talent for illustration first bore fruit in the cartoons that he published in his elementary school newspaper. In high school, he won a prestigious national Scholastic art award, and later graduated from Kent State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree and a Certificate in Education. While teaching fine arts and crafts at Elyria’s Eastern Heights Junior High School, Batiuk drew the forerunner for what later became his first breakthrough. At the age of 25, he delved into his own experiences and the reality of truth that is stranger than fiction, and created the syndicated comic strip, “Funky Winkerbean.” Initially a fractured take on the ups and downs of high school existence, he gradually matured the strip to tackle “real life” sensitive issues, including those of alcoholism, dating, abuse, and suicide. The strip has earned its creator several awards since its inception in 1972, and is syndicated in more than 400 newspapers worldwide. The visual background of “Funky’s” alter ego, “Crankshaft,” is set in Wilmington College, with representations often included of actual campus buildings. The college is the very same one that Batiuk’s son, Brian, attended. Created in 1986, the wit and wisdom of “Crankshaft” can now be enjoyed by readers in over 325 American markets. Tom Batiuk’s style is remarkable for its authentic, natural humor. His comic characters react, just as living people might, to a variety of situations, ranging from the humorous to the tragic. An avid reader, Batiuk also enjoys music, tennis, and sharing his life with two special people: his wife, Cathy, and their son, Brian.
Batiuk has received the 2002 Friend of Education Award from the Ohio Education Association, the 2001 Ohioana Citation in the Field of Art by the Ohioana Library Association. In 1999, the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center presented Batiuk with the Jonquil, an award presented to distinguished individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions in the fight against breast cancer. He received the Ohio Governor’s Award in 1996, and, for the body of his work, the coveted Media Citation Award from the Journalism in Education Association in 1995. Tom Batiuk was also a finalist for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.