Saturday, May 23, 2020

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

Today is the start of the Memorial Day weekend, when people look forward to three days away from the office. At least that's the way it was when people used to leave their homes each day to work in an office.

We were busy here at Bizarro Studios North, sending out our usual daily doses of humor into the world. Perhaps these will provide a few moments of diversion for you.



It's a good friend who'll let you know when you're being too clingy.

I enjoy using inanimate objects as cartoon characters, and usually avoid adding facial features or human-like limbs. I find that funnier than anthropomorphized objects. I was particularly pleased when I realized that a sticky note wouldn't need a word balloon to communicate in a cartoon.



There's even a handy storage compartment for some of your native soil.
Just another day at the Department of Understatement.

Humans aren't the only ones who like to wear bibs sporting a picture of what they're about to eat.

Friday's cartoon elicited my favorite comment of the week:
As a plumber I appreciate this, and this is honestly not the weirdest thing I’ve found in a toilet.
Saturday's gag seems a little sadder than intended, given our current state of self-isolation, but it was written as nothing more than an extreme simplification of one of those mall maps. It's a trope we've played with before, and are sure to visit again.

Bonus Rerun Cartoon
Tuesday, May 19 was the 75th birthday of musician Pete Townshend. To celebrate, I posted an old WaynoVision gag that featured a young Pete.

Thanks for following Bizarro for another week. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog for more commentary and weirdness, plus a new Sunday Bizarro page.



Bonus Track


Sharing the Pete Townshend cartoon reminded me to once again look up and enjoy this stunning 1968 Who performance of A Quick One, While He's Away, the "mini-opera" that Townshend described as "Tommy's parents."

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Girl Can't Help It

Sheltering in place has all of us spending a lot more time in front of our devices' screens. In the spirit of encouraging readers to get out and enjoy some fresh air (at a safe distance), I'll do my best to keep my comments brief this week.

With that in mind, here's a look at the week's cartoon offerings.
This character is impervious to spyware and tracking apps. The downside is he's unable to use navigation software.
 The strip version of Monday's gag used a different setting and swapped out a Secret Symbol.


 He also has advice on buying a toilet.


Many people commented on the hooded character being an homage to Marty Feldman's performance in the Mel Brooks film, Young Frankenstein. Although it's not really a caricature or likeness of the comedic actor, he definitely influenced the drawing. As Dr. Frankenstein's humpbacked assistant, I do think of Feldman rather than Dwight Frye, who appeared in Jame's Whale's 1931 Frankenstein film. I still picture Karloff as the monster, but certainly acknowledge Peter Boyle's greatness.
The unanswered question: Is this guy an arms dealer or a drug dealer?


At one point, Poe was so strapped for cash that he is said to have burned his furniture to heat his home. Few biographers have noted that the furniture was from IKEA.

Writing is all about editing, and editing is about choices.

This past week, the world lost Little Richard, one of the founders or rock and roll, and certainly its most electrifying performer. When I hear his music, I wonder what it was like to have seen him when he burst onto the scene. He must have looked like a visitor from another universe. His music will live forever, which gives us some comfort.

I had to dig through the archives, but I located a partial portrait of Little Richard that I did in 1988.
I believe I read about this in Charles White's excellent book, The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock. Apparently, Richard was fond of Paul McCartney, who was a worshipful acolyte. Lennon loved Richard's music, but he was more irreverent.

If you're looking for additional comical reading material, you might enjoy visiting Dan Piraro's blog. In addition to insightful commentary, and well-crafted expressions of outrage and despair at the prospects for humankind, Dan also showcases his latest beautiful Bizarro Sunday page.


Bonus Track

The magnificent Richard Wayne Penniman. Enjoy.


Saturday, May 09, 2020

Thrifty, Brave, Clean, & Flammable

Last week's dung beetle beetle cartoon triggered an angry response from a reader we pushed to the breaking point.
Comics are supposed to be cute, funny, entertaining, not gross and disgusting as yours are. Why you are allowed on the comics page or even in the paper at all is a total mystery to me. I've kept my silence for a long, long, time but today's "comic" strip was the last straw. It and you are disgusting and revolting and should be banned from the papers. It's obvious that your strip mirrors your dark, sick mind. I think it's time to get a petition started to take you out and bring back entertaining comics.
I never expected such a rant in response to a juvenile but harmless gag. I composed a reply, but decided not to send it. In many cases, when readers are upset by a cartoon, I'll write back and explain my motivations and intent, and quite often the outcome is amiable. In this case, it was apparent there'd be no point in engaging with this person who had apparently been stewing over Bizarro for "a long, long time."

I'm sure the same writer has rules for what every film, book, and painting is supposed to be as well. I'm guessing he's also certain that every meal should consist of well-done steak drowning in ketchup.


I was equally surprised, not to mention delighted, to see the comic shared on Facebook by multi-talented actor, voice performer, and comedian Philip Proctor. Mister Proctor is one of my heroes of humor, thanks to his work with the Firesign Theatre. I've been a fan since my high school days, and the Firesign Theatre were a formative influence on my sense of the absurd. I highly recommend Proctor's memoir, Where's My Fortune Cookie?
Philip Proctor with Firesign colleague Peter Bergman
Let's see what offensive material we unleashed on our readership this week.
I can recall the day I was drawing this gag, thanks to this Facebook memory.
My cartooning colleague Dave Blazek, creator of Loose Parts, noted similarities between the staging of our respective panels on Monday. He sent this photo from the comics page of the Philadelphia Inquirer, where Bizarro and Loose Parts are neighbors.
Dave's characters observed proper social distancing, while my robots had sanitzed their metallic surfaces before posing for the drawing.
By the way, Dave and I are both nominees for the National Cartoonists Society's annual Reuben Award in the newspaper panels division, along with Off the Mark cartoonist Mark Parisi. I'm honored to be named alongside these two colleagues.

Surprisingly, this one didn't prompt any hate mail.

My initial sketch of Wednesday's gag showed Peter Parker in plainclothes, with just a glimpse of his Spider-Man suit.
I liked his facial expression, but we ultimately decided that it might not be clear who the character is supposed to be. The red suit would be obvious when printed in color, but as a small black & white newspaper panel, it would be difficult to make out.

The final version, showing the full superhero costume, relies on the character's body language to show his eagerness for approval, which is satisfying in its own way.

After it was published, I wished I had used the word "extruded" instead of "spun," but that's a minor regret.

Thursday's panel is an outtake from the TV series Insects and the City.

Someone's hoping to get a Fire Safety merit badge.

The customer is displaying a valuable antique sheet of Zip-A-Tone shading film.
 He may have been inspired by Ernie Bushmiller's Sluggo.
I wrote an early version of this gag back in 2007, when I spent several months submitting cartoons to The New Yorker. I never managed to get one published, which was probably wise of their cartoon editor. However, as a result of multiple drop-offs to the Art Department, I did an illustration for the magazine, so I at least achieved New Yorker footnote status.

Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog. Dan always has something interesting to say about the week's comics (as well as the week's news), and reveals his latest panoramic Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track
Johnny "Hammond" Smith: Brother John

While I draw, I usually have music playing in my workspace. This week, I was listening to a lot of mid- to late-1960s soul jazz albums. It felt appropriate to include a track from
Johnny "Hammond" Smith's The Stinger, with its superhero cover art.

The credit line in the lower left corner reads, "Design/Pop Art: Don Schlitten."

Schlitten, born in 1932, was a prolific jazz record producer. For ten years, he was president of Prestige Records (who released The Stinger), and was also art director (both designer and photographer), in charge of album covers. Music nerd speculation posits that the cover image was appropriated from a Green Lantern comic book panel, and, nervous about possible lawsuits, Schlitten changed the costume from green to red and made the brown-haired hero a blond.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Pirate Radio

Congratulations to us all for surviving another week of sheltering in place. Thanks to everyone who showed basic concern for fellow humans by limiting travel and wearing appropriate face coverings, especially where they're specifically required, in places like, oh, I don't know, perhaps the Mayo Clinic.

As we do every Saturday, here's a look back at this week's cartoon output.

Monday's panel references the familiar phrase, "my life is an open book." I was thinking of a litter box with its contents uncovered, but some readers pointed out that cats are unable to resist an open cardboard box.


The drawing of the composer in this gag is based on Brian Eno, who is generally acknowledged to have coined the term "ambient music," and whose surname pops up frequently in the New York Times crossword puzzle.
This gag wasn't the first time I've drawn Eno. The image below was done in 1978 for a music fanzine I published with a friend, and commemorates the release of Devo's first album, which was produced by Brian Eno.


We all tend to embellish our stories over time, but that Ishmael really is full of krill.
The first version of this panel showed Ahab wearing a sort of Greek fisherman's cap. I drew it this way because in the past when I drew the character in that weird tapered stovepipe hat, more than a few people mistakenly thought it was supposed to be Abe Lincoln. I ultimately decided to model the character after Gregory Peck's portrayal, with the tall hat. That cap just looked wrong.


After a lofty literary reference, it was time for a scatological joke. We bounce from high to low humor here at Bizarro Studios.


In recent decades, humanity has been working overtime in an effort to exceed historical standards of malefaction, and the Dark One decided to do an add-on. If Dante could only see us now.

I suspect that this product may already exist.

Thanks for making Bizarro a part of your self-isolation. Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog, to see what he has to say about this batch of drollery, and to admire his latest glorious Sunday page.

Stay safe, Jazz Pickles. We'll get through the weird times.

Bonus Track


An artifact from my record collection that fits in with the midweek cartoons. Cliff Ferré sounds to me like a poor man's Tom Lehrer, but I must admit to enjoying this shitty ditty.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

This Wheel's on Fire

I was scheduled to get a haircut today, but social distancing requirements put the kibosh on that, for the second month in a row. I may have to resort to Willie Nelson braids if we remain in isolation much longer.

What was I up to while hunkering down? Cranking out another batch of cartoon foolishness, the same as every other week. Here's the latest pile for your amusement.

The ultimate small plate dining experience.

Tuesday's comic hit home with many Bizarro readers, as do a lot of our gags featuring cats or dogs. I'm glad to know that a significant portion of our readership are animal lovers. Here at Bizarro Studios North, we share our space with two feline companions, or more accurately, they share their space with us. Begrudgingly.

The greater achievement was designing boxer shorts, trousers, and a lab coat to accommodate their luxuriant tails.

Thursday's panel was foreshadowed by a gag from last week. Actually, after drawing the earlier one, we realized we could squeeze out a separate tattoo joke. This provided an opportunity to place a bunch of Secret Symbols in the background.
With some shuffling, we managed to fit all ten symbols into the strip layout.

As readers of this blog know, I slot what I consider to be the week's strongest gag for Friday. This week I repeatedly swapped the skunk and caveman panels before settling on the final sequence. I decided that the gag depicting the first hot rodder delivered its payoff in a more surprising manner, while the skunk cartoon was funny, but more straightforward. I awarded extra points for the weird logic in the cave gag.

I believe that this panel marks the first occurrence of an inverted cardinal (in both meanings) as a Secret Symbol.

I hope we provided a few laughs as a counterpoint to the weird and frightening state of the world this week. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog. He always offers additional insight and commentary, as well as his latest Sunday Bizarro page.

Bonus Track

The title of this week's post was taken from a song written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko. Over the years, it's been recorded by Dylan and the Band (who also did their own version), Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Byrds and even Kylie Minogue.

Julie Driscoll did a groovy psychedelic cover with Brian Auger and Trinity, which made the UK top five in 1968.




Saturday, April 18, 2020

Poe Boy, Long Way from Home

Happy Saturday, Jazz Pickles. Here's hoping you and your loved ones are safe and well as we negotiate these weird and unsettling times. 

We recently acquired a lovely and functional handcrafted face mask. The owner of my neighborhood coffee shop made these and sold them to raise money for the Pittsburgh Food Bank. I was delighted to find that she'd chosen one with a coffee bean pattern for me.
Thanks to Elizabeth B., a true local hero.

To accompany your morning coffee, or other beverage of choice, here's a review of the past week's Bizarro cartoons, for your amusement and/or indignation.
Monday's gag featured two figures associated with Easter encountering each other on the morning after. Bizarro World HQ received a few angry emails forbidding us from ever touching on this subject, but our CEO politely replied that other believers thought the cartoon was funny.

I saw one comment online describing the gag as "revolting blasphemy," but otherwise, it was well received. An old friend forwarded his pastor's weekly  newsletter, which included a photo of the cartoon snapped from their local paper.

I'd like to extend my thanks to Father Tom in Ohio for sharing the comic with his flock, and for maintaining a sense or humor about things he obviously takes seriously.

It's a little surprising that this form of immunotherapy isn't more common in vampire literature.

Wednesday's gag, written and drawn many weeks ago, was meant to run on the traditional income tax filing deadline date of April 15, but the coronavirus crisis has pushed it back. The good news is Bub has a job at least through mid-July.

Your cartoonist enjoyed drawing and coloring this gag mimicking 1930s animated cartoons, and imagining how the flying saucer and eyeball Secret Symbols might have looked in that context.

Friday's offering was freely adapted from an Edgar Allan Poe collection titled Tales of Mystery and Respiration. At least I think that's what is was called.

We wrapped up the week with a look at talent night in Frankenstein Village. The monster was known to be a fan of Patsy Cline.

Thanks for making Bizarro a part of your sheltering-in-place. We sincerely hope that we provide some much-needed laughter. Speaking of which, don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog, and check out his newest Sunday page.

Bonus Track