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Comic strip “Funky Winkerbean,” created by Tom Batiuk, is celebrating a profitable 40-year-run in American newspapers. The strip debuted in 1972, featuring Funky, Les and other high-school age characters. But as Batiuk got older, he decided to let the characters age along with him. And like Batiuk and other boomers, they began dealing with (not so comical) adult problems, too.

I had crossed the threshold and I had grown up and the characters wanted to grow up too, it seemed like,” Batiuk said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Now running in about 400 papers, “Funky” arrived just a year after “Doonesbury” (newspaper debut: 1971), that fellow funny page chronicler of boomer life and politics. And like the characters in Doonesbury, Funky and his friends have morphed from “mop-headed beatniks” to “graying 60-somethings” facing suicide, cancer and alcoholism.

“It became more nuanced and it became more complicated,” Batiuk said. “And that’s just a lot of fun. The job became more interesting. That’s probably what drives it, gave me a chance to go into these more complicated, more interesting adult areas.”

According to AP, “Funky” started as a gag cartoon in the early years, only becoming “more issue-oriented” in the 1990s. The strip’s latest hot topic story line involved two high school boys who want to go to the prom together.

Wednesday Quick Hits:

  • The unstable stock market has young investors wanting to flee, according to a new Charles Schwab retirement survey. Almost 30 percent of workers 18 to 34 said they plan to pull retirement savings out of the market; only 11 percent of older workers said they would do so.

Photo: Amy Sancetta/AP

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